How to Unclog Your Central Vacuum.

The one thing you want in your house to completely suck, is your vacuum.  Have a clogged central vacuum that doesn’t suck?  Here’s how to fix it.

Skip right to the tutorial.


When I first moved into my house many years ago I was pretty upset it didn’t have a central vacuum.  But since it also didn’t have a laundry room, a dishwasher,  air conditioning, or a miniature stage with velvet curtains and performing mice wearing teensy, tiny top hats,  I wasn’t really surprised.  Disappointed, yes.  Surprised, no.

I was however surprised to find out when I first wrote this post 7 or so years ago that not everyone knows what a central vacuum is.  They seem to be much more popular in Canada than in the United States.  In Canada for instance, Costco has a selection of 13 central vacuum systems for you to choose from.  In the United States, Costco has a selection of 2.

What is a Central Vacuum?

A Central Vacuum (otherwise known as Central Vac.) is vacuum system that runs by a series of tubes throughout your house. The tubes are hidden behind the walls, with the actual vacuum canister being housed in either the garage, basement or utility room. Access to the vacuum is achieved through ports around the house.  Just plug in the hose and GO.  You empty the canister whenever it gets full. Depending on the size of your house and canister that could be as infrequently as once a year.

Most people have them professionally installed but it’s also something you can DIY.

One day, not long after I bought my home, after a particularly hard day of fixing up the house and searching for talented mice, I laid my weary head down on the spare room bed to take a nap.  Which in itself is highly unusual for me.  Now I see, it was kind of divine intervention by the large appliance God in the sky.

You see, I dreamed, (and it was one of those reallyyyyy realistic dreams where you swear it’s actually happening) … that my house had central vac.  It was hidden behind the bed in the spare room.  In my dream.

When I woke up, I took a peek behind the bed in my spare room.  No central vac.  Not even a performing mouse.  Just a wall.

So, the next day I went up to Costco, bought myself a central vac kit, brought it home and installed it.  It’s really not as hard as you think.

In Canada I’d recommend Costco for buying your kit. If you’re in the States I’d also recommend Costco or Amazon if you want a larger selection.

Just don’t forget that in addition to the Central Vacuum unit you ALSO have to buy an installation kit which is all the pipes and inlets you need to instal the system.

That central vacuum I installed worked for 11 years with NO problem.   Suck, suck, suck. Then one day it didn’t. It sucked a little, but it didn’t have enough pressure to even gobble up a bit of cat fluff.

If you too have a central vac that sucks but not nearly enough you have a few options.  Low suction on your central vac. can be one of a few things. It could be as simple as needing to clean your filter or empty  out the canister.  If that doesn’t do the trick chances are you have a blockage.

Here’s what you do to fix your blockage.  First have a big hot cup of coffee and a popcorn sized bowl of prunes.  No … wait.  Wrong blockage.

How to Unclog a Central Vacuum


1.  Determine where your hose is blocked.  If you get low suction at all of your outlets, it means your blockage is either in the hose or more likely, between the first outlet and your canister.   If you only have low suction on one outlet, the blockage is between that one and the one that’s working fine.

My blockage was between my first outlet and the canister so any of the outlets past that didn’t work either.

The solution is simple and almost guaranteed to work.  The only problem is … you need a second vacuum.  Something powerful like a shop vac. or a one of those little car vacuums.  Which is what I used.

2.  To unclog your central vac., just stick the hose from your portable vacuum into the offending central vac. outlet and let ‘er suck.


The hose should just fit right in the outlet and create good suction.  If not just wrap a towel or your hands around it to create a good seal.


For me, a big hunk of cat hair came up right away.  I pulled it away with my fingers.  Then I gave it another suck.


This time, I got cat hair and a little bit of Christmas.  It was quite exciting and fulfilling.



I pulled that out too and figured I was done, but decided to give her one extra suck.  And this happened …



It may have been the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.

And yes.  That is an After Eight wrapper.

Also in that pile were some twist ties, pine needles, little bits of bark, unidentifiable gross stuff and a sequin.


With about 5 minutes of work (including dragging the car vacuum out of the shed) I  got the vacuum fixed, free of charge and immediately.  Had I called someone my best guess is it would have cost between $100 and $150 to have someone come out and diagnose the problem and fix it.  This way, I got the thrill of seeing the actual blockage and I didn’t have to listen to some repairman pretend like this was a way bigger job than it was.

The absolute BEST part of all of this was I had enough cat hair to knit those little mice some suits, plus the sequin was perfect for their Liberace tribute.

All in all.  The day I unclogged my central vacuum sucked.  And I couldn’t have been happier about it.

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How to Unclog  Your Central Vacuum.


  1. Ash says:

    I want to thank you for helping all of us who are out struggling with central vacuum and paying so much to the people who can fix was so easy that I am still can’t believe I did it central vacuum was clogged and just did what u described and now it’s like new was a kid sock in my hose 🤦🏻‍♀️.thank u so much.

  2. Jay says:

    Thanks for the advice! This solved my problem. I used my handheld vacuum and an empty toilet paper roll to help it fit into the socket

  3. Spencer says:

    Hey thanks for this post! I pluged my car vac into one end of the hose and worked a 10-gauge wire through the other end. Although I didn’t manage to get the wire all the way through the hose, the blockage of pet fur that has been “dogging me” for weeks, is now at the bottom of my Shop Vac. Nice share!

  4. Yolanda Burrell says:

    What’s the best way to unclog the hose?

  5. Jacquie Gariano says:

    My folks built a house in Grass Valley, CA and built a central vac in at that time. I loved it. So easy to clean all the rooms different floors and the rugs, so easy. My daughter in VT has a central vac that was put in when she bought the house as it is 150 years old and didn’t have one…LOL. I love it. It does have the floor outlet in the kitchen which makes it so easy to sweep up spills, etc. I wish I had one in the house I live in now….you encourage me to look into getting one and installing it. There is always cat hair all over. Thanks for the visuals and laughs.

  6. Paula says:

    I can’t imagine life without a central vac. Our worst clog involved a pencil stuck in the line. We had to actually cut the pipe to get that one out. No amount of reverse sucking or pipe snaking would break it loose. Our house was built in the ’70s and still has the original unit. We did finally have to replace the motor a couple of years ago but it was cheap and easy and not it’s ready to go for another 40 years or so.

  7. PMMK says:

    Great tip for unclogging the central vac, Karen. I’m keeping yours and the other commenters’ replies in my arsenal.

    Right around the time of your original post, I lost both the central vac and main floor laundry battles to the Handsome-Man-Unit who neither vacuums nor does laundry. He will hunt for dust bunnies a couple of times a year and slurp up any he finds but has never the vacuum all over the place. Ever.

    I know my house is newer and much bigger than yours. I’m sure I can find a place for a central vac canister and whatever other paraphernalia it needs. What I really want to know is how did you actually install the pipes and all the other stuff? Is installing one of these a DIY or did you get someone else to do it. Is this an “Ain’t hard” job or do I need a contractor? I don’t really want to shell out many thousands of $$ to someone who may or may not do a good job of it. I’m thinking, if this is a DIY, I can have central for little more than a Dyson.

    I figure so maybe I lost the battle but if I buy it and install it, I win the war, right?

    As for the question about how you burn through multiple standalone vacs in a short period of time, the answer is simple. They are made out of crap. I finally found one that had the features I wanted and, in less than one year, I turned it off to answer the phone. When I came back it would not turn on. Ever again. It had a replacement warranty. The manufacturer replaced it with a model that had none of the features I liked. Not even a light, for crying out loud. When I complained about it they simply said it was the best they could do. They are made to be junked in the shortest amount of time.

  8. M J says:

    Thanks so much for replying‼️ I’m totally impressed as I know how busy you are or maybe the mice 🐁 did it🤣⁉️ Yes, I’m an emoji junkie‼️🤣…they make me happy😊‼️

  9. Jack Ledger says:

    A 10 foot wire plumbing drain auger also works well. Just wind it down the vacuum pipe and “voila”, it grabs the obstruction and you can then extricate the problem.

  10. Jody says:

    You found my lost kitty!

  11. Katie says:

    I had never had a house with a central vac, having grown up in Ohio and now living in North Carolina…that being said, I now have a house with a central vac and don’t know how I ever lived without it! I love them!! We have lived here for about 3 years and I just a couple of months ago learned it had a filter (not that I thought it didn’t, I just never thought about it)…our sucking sucked. It took my brother coming to town and checking out the carpet-attachment and then attempting to vacuum some carpet…it only required reading the directions! My *brother* read the directions!! He than ventured into our poorly-organized, and overly full garage with a flashlight and a mirror and fixed the sucky thing. So now we have great suck on the central vac. I am glad to hear that one can make this a DIY, so if/when we move, we can get this in the next abode!

  12. Lynn says:

    Mouse costumes! Now I know what to do with all the cat hair I’ve been saving and spinning into yarn. Now if I could just find some itty, bitty knitting needles…

    Also, thank you for the motivation to try to fix my clothes dryer problem myself. The vent be-bops through half the house before it comes out up high on the second floor, so conventional vent cleaning methods don’t apply. But, I’m feeling like a bit of drain snake and a shop vac and I might be in business again. Thank you!

  13. Jenny W says:

    …and for our viewing pleasure, you styled all of the “yuck” in a Golden Frame.
    THAT my friends is Blogger-Styling Dedication! :)

  14. Lora Hyatt says:

    Great story! Lol I have a central vac and my high point of it is when I get to go out and dump the canister which I can attest to is several times a year since I have a very hairy German Shepherd! The things I find amongst the mass of hair, and yes I actually sift through it all with an old kitchen colander. You probably are shaking your head thinking I’ve totally lost it, but I lost a diamond stud earring several years ago and just keep hoping it might glimmer through the gunk I collect.
    You do know that you should run a damp scrap of a paper towel through your hose into the canister every now and again . . .right?
    And as for not knowing about Central Vacs?? How can that even possibly be? My very first apartment after graduation in 1972 had a Central Vac! I must of been living the ritzy life lol

    • Karen says:

      Damp scrap of paper towel?? No! I’ve never heard that! Why do you do that?? ~ karen!

      • Lora Hyatt says:

        They sell them online at retailers who sell accessories for Central Vacs. I had ordered a super power head and they sent me a complimentary cleaning cloth kit to suck into your hose to go all the way through to your canister.
        It pretty much was a paper towel cut in half, said to dampen it and send it through your system 🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️ I used it and then just started using my own paper towels instead of using their 10x the price ones. But it does work, I sent it on it’s merry way at the farthest port from the canister, then opened my canister up to see what it collected on it’s merry way, it was NASTY!

  15. Bambi Mayer says:

    You sure that wasn’t a dessicated mouse in that third picture of ick? Sure looks to me like you sucked one out head first :).

  16. M J says:

    I see your original post for unclogging the central vac was in 2012. Did you do a blog of DIY central vac installation with the mice supervising of course⁉️

    • Karen says:

      I have not! I installed my vac prior to having a blog. :/ And yes, I originally published this post in 2012. Once a week or so I pull an old one out that I think is still relevant and hasn’t been seen by most people. I redo the photos, a bit of the writing and republish it. :) ~ karen!

  17. Cathy Reeves says:

    Karen, I think the last clog hanging out of the hole has eyes!

  18. Brian. ONeil says:

    When our canister is full the vacuum can not lift the heavy cat litter granules so I have to clean the port by hand. Once lines and canister clean I no longer have to clean the ports.
    Great posting. With 5 cats I recognize the dreck in the pictures. Thanks for this

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