Adventures In Unclogging A Vacuum Hose

Posted: 3rd September 2008 by Luc "Sandman" G. in Tips

I’ve recently had to deal with a clogged central vacuum hose. I didn’t peak under the bed before passing the vacuum and sucked up a facecloth. As soon as I had heard something big being sucked up I turned off the vacuum but it was too late. The cloth had jammed itself in real tight inside the hose and there was next to no suction making it all the way through. At least I had managed to vacuum most of the house before guests came over, with only our bedroom still showing the odd signs of cat hair.

There’s a few things that I knew to try that would clear up a clogged central vac hose. The first thing I did was stick an unbent wire hanger at each end to see if the clog was close to one of the plugs. Unfortunately I couldn’t reach the blockage with the hanger so this meant the cloth was at least 3 feet into the tube. I slid in a screwdriver and the sound it made sliding inside the tube allowed me to discover that the clog was about 7 feet in. I shook the hose with the screwdriver still inside to see if I could dislodge the cloth. This had worked once in the past when the hose had gotten clogged with cat hair, but this time this trick wouldn’t work. After trying to dislodge it with the screwdriver for an hour, I had managed to move it by at most 6 inches. I couldn’t use a broom handle or anything that was solid as the clog was 7 feet in where the curved handle is. With a 40 foot hose, I had nothing at my disposal that was at least 35 feet long, so there was no way to attack the problem from the other end. My central vac isn’t equipped with a reverse switch, so that was not an option that I could try.

I made a quick trip to the local Home Depot and bought myself a 40 foot long fish tape. Fish tape is a metal wire that is normally used to fish wire through walls, ceilings and in between floors. I had to bend the end a little, fashioning it to something resembling a hook. I inserted the metal fish tape into the opening closest to the clog and stopped when I felt the cloth. It took a few jabs to move the wire past the blockage .

Being careful, I then proceeded to pull the wire back, but it would not snag the cloth at first. It took quite a few tries to snag the cloth inside the hose. The trick was to pull the wire in quick, small pulls. This allowed me to pull the cloth without damaging the tube or the electrical wiring. After 45 minutes or so, I finally managed to pull out the cloth. The vacuum was then tested to insure that the tube had not been pierced or that the electrical wiring had not been damaged.

In brief, here are some things you can try in order to try and unclog a central vac hose.

  • If your central vac unit has a reverse switch, try this first to see if you can dislodge the blocking.
  • You can insert a screwdriver or a couple of golf balls, slide them to the blockage and then shake the tube to dislodge the item. Make sure that you don’t insert any object that you can’t slide back out.
  • If the blockage is close to one of the ends, try using a broomstick (or something similar) if the shape of your hose allows you to do this.
  • If you use a metal hanger, a fish tape or a plumber’s snake, make sure to be careful as to not damage or pierce the hose or the electrical wire inside the hose.
  • Don’t try and loosen the object by using the vacuum. If you manage to dislodge the object inside the hose, you run the risk of blocking the pipes inside your walls or damaging the central vac unit itself.

Finally, the lesson learned here is to always look when vacuuming an area, and that includes looking under the beds to make sure that you don’t clog up your hose to begin with.

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