Can You Vacuum Broken Glass? Here’s How to Handle It

Vacuuming broken glass can be dangerous if not done properly. Glass shards are sharp and can easily cut through vacuums, spreading around the home and potentially causing injury. Here are some tips on whether and how to vacuum broken glass safely:

Assess if Vacuuming is Appropriate

Not all broken glass situations are suited for vacuuming. Here are some things to consider:

  • Amount of glass – Vacuuming small broken glass accidents like a dropped glass is often fine. But for large amounts like a broken window, the shards may be too dangerous for a vacuum.
  • Glass type – Tempered or safety glassshardss are typically less sharp. Regular glass can have very sharp dagger-like shards that can easily pierce through vacuums.
  • Glass location – Vacuuming glass on hard surfaces like tile or wood is safer than on carpets, where shards can get embedded deep in the pile.

If unsure, it’s better to carefully sweep up or wipe up the glass instead of vacuuming.

Prepare the Vacuum

If vacuuming seems appropriate, prepare the vacuum to handle glass:

  • Use a shop vacuum – A heavy duty shop vacuum with thicker hoses and stronger suction works better than a regular house vacuum.
  • Check filters – Remove any cloth or paper vacuum filters which could tear. Keep the HEPA filter if it does not obstruct suction.
  • Use disposable bags – Glass shards can tear reusable cloth vacuum bags. Use a disposable bag.
  • Protect the interior – Duct tape around hose connections and the upper half of disposable bags prevents shards entering the vacuum interior.

Vacuum Carefully

When ready, vacuum slowly and carefully:

  • Go slow – Make very slow passes over the glass to avoid flinging shards. Avoid aggressive back and forth motions. Let the vacuum do the work.
  • Use appropriate attachments – Use a hard floor tool for tile, wood, etc. For carpet, use a tool with bristles to avoid direct contact with glass. Keep the vacuum head close to the surface.
  • Cover electrical outlets – Use tape to cover any nearby outlets to prevent glass getting in.
  • Watch bag/canister fill levels – Turn off and change bags/canisters before they get too full and risk spillage or tears.
  • Check surroundings – Look for any remaining glass shards after vacuuming. Use a towel or broom to carefully remove them.

Dispose of Glass Properly

Discard the glass carefully:

  • Seal bags tightly – Seal vacuum bags containing glass tightly and place inside another sealed bag before disposal.
  • Empty canisters carefully – When emptying canisters, do so low to the ground and away from yourself and others.
  • Mark hazard – Label any waste bags as containing broken glass to alert sanitation workers.
  • Watch for shards – Some glass may stick to the vacuum’s interior or hose. Wipe thoroughly with damp towels before next use. Dispose of towels carefully.

Alternative Cleaning Methods

For situations where vacuuming broken glass is not recommended, safer alternatives include:

  • Carefully pick up larger shards by hand, wearing thick gloves
  • Sweep up glass gently using a dustpan and stiff broom
  • Use sticky tape or wet towels to pick up smaller pieces
  • Wipe the area thoroughly with damp paper towels
  • On carpets, sprinkle salt to help shards cling to towels during wiping

With care and preparation, vacuums can help efficiently clean up broken glass. But assess the situation carefully first, and take all precautions to stay safe. When in doubt, go for manual clean-up instead.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vacuuming Broken Glass

Here are some common questions about vacuum cleaning broken glass:

Can you vacuum broken glass on carpet?

Yes, you can vacuum broken glass spilled on carpet. But use extreme care as glass easily gets trapped deep in carpet piles. Go very slowly to avoid scattering shards. An attachment with bristles helps avoid direct contact.

What kind of vacuum is best for picking up broken glass?

A shop vacuum with a hard hose, disposable bag, strong suction, and covered inlets/outlets is ideal. Household vacuums easily get damaged by glass shards.

Is it safe to vacuum tempered glass?

Tempered glass breaks into small cubed-shaped pieces rather than sharp shards, making vacuuming marginally safer. But any broken glass poses risks, so take all recommended precautions.

Should I use a vacuum without a bag for glass?

No, bagless vacuums allow glass to accumulate in the canister, eventually leading to leaks/tears and glass scattering inside the vacuum. Use disposable vacuum bags.

Can glass shards remain trapped in vacuum hoses?

Yes, small glass pieces can get stuck in hoses even after vacuuming. Carefully wipe out the hoses with a damp towel after use and check for any lodged shards before future use.

Can I vacuum a broken light bulb?

No, regular and compact fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury vapor, making vacuuming extremely hazardous. Carefully hand pick larger pieces and wipe with sticky tape for smaller ones.


Vacuuming broken glass poses risks, but taking proper precautions can allow safe clean-up of glass accidents. Assess if vacuuming is appropriate based on the amount and location of glass as well as glass type. Prepare the vacuum using disposable bags, protected inlets, appropriate attachments and other measures. Vacuum slowly and watch fill levels. Discard glass carefully in sealed bags. For very small or carpeted glass breaks, manual cleaning may be the safest approach. With care, vacuums can help tidily remove this common household hazard.