Can you vacuum cat litter? A short answer

Cat running after a 
robotic vacuum.

You should not vacuum cat litter. Doing so can cause damage to the mechanical or electrical components of your vacuum. What’s more, dust from clay particles can clog the filters, and make the vacuum smell like cat litter until you replace them. That being said, it also depends on the type of vacuum you are using.

Additionally, there is a hygiene aspect – vacuums shouldn’t be anywhere near cat feces, since they will be used later on furniture and upholstery. There are potential health risks involved when dealing with ammonia, such as respiratory diseases or toxoplasmosis.

A better option would be choosing a shop vac which is designed to handle bigger and heavier particles. Their reinforced construction allows them to suck up strong and clunky objects such as nails, wood scrapings, and small rocks.

Using a standard vacuum cleaner could potentially destroy mechanical and electrical elements, due to the fact, that litter is composed mainly of small clay particles and other minerals. Those when sucked inside at high speed could potentially ruin the hose or canister of your vacuum. Since standard vacuum cleaners were not made for this type of debris, there are a few risks.

Why you should not vacuum cat litter?

Destroyed hose and canister

Small and tough clay particles mixed with other minerals, sucked up at high speed can cause damage to your hose and canister. A ripped hose will reduce the suction power or cause the vacuum to stop working completely.

Broken motor

Some of the litter can get to the motor, especially if the vacuum is made out of soft plastic materials. A broken motor can cause the vacuum to shut off a few minutes after starting, or to not start at all. Unfortunately, repair of a broken motor can be quite pricey going up to 200$.

Clogged filters

Small clay dust particles can potentially clog the filters of your vacuum, making the machine less efficient. This can also lead to losing suction completely when continued over time.

Vacuum smelling like litter

Vacuum filled with small clay particles will eventually start smelling like litter. Replacing mechanical elements may be necessary to completely remove the smell.

Vacuum cleaning alternatives for cat litter

When being a cat owner, eventually you will have to clean up scattered litter. If using a vacuum cleaner is not an option, then how should you deal with this mess? Don’t worry as there are many answers to this question.

Different cleaning method

Since vacuuming cat litter is not the best idea, we would recommend using a different cleaning tool. The market is full of options, however, there is a high chance you have one of the following in your house:

  • Carpet rake
  • Sweeper
  • Broom
  • Mop

Each one of those should do a decent job when cleaning cat litter. Although be sure to check there are no electrical components near the nozzle, that can get damaged during the cleaning process. We also strongly advise you to read the user’s manual when not sure about using a particular tool.

Handheld vacuum cleaner

Handheld vacuum cleaners have one strong advantage over regular vacuum cleaners in this scenario – the lack of hose. A handheld vacuum also usually characterizes by lower suction power which makes litter particles less dangerous. It’s also a good idea to pick a lightweight vacuum when cleaning smaller spots. Small side note: If you really have to use a regular vacuum cleaner, we recommend at least putting on a crevice tool.

Since there is no perfect vacuum for cat litter, there are a few handheld models which would be the best choice:

  • Black+Decker DustBuster
  • Shark WV201
  • Hoover ONEPWR
  • iRobot H1

Those small vacuums come with some limitations such as the capacity of dirt canister, not-so-powerful suction, short power cord or low battery capacity, lack of detail brush, and so on. That being said, each one is a versatile vacuum that can be used to quickly clean up small spills and scatters.

Shop vacuum cleaner

Shop vacuums are made to withstand cleaning rough debris, such as small stones, wood scraps, and even nails. The reinforced construction doesn’t even compare to an upright vacuum cleaner, therefore, kitty litter shouldn’t be a problem.

Even though, it’s not your everyday household vacuum cleaner we highly recommend to think whether you could make your life easier by investing in one. It’s also probably the best vacuum for this task.

How to pick the safest vacuum for cat litter?

Different vacuum models

Nowadays, the market is flooded with vacuum cleaners and it’s pretty hard to pick the right one for your household. There is so much to choose from, it’s actually overwhelming for a regular person.

There are a few standard vacuum models available on the market right now:

  • Upright vacuum
  • Hard surface vacuum
  • Stick vacuum
  • Canister vacuum
  • Robot vacuum
  • Handheld vacuum

Upright vacuums are comfortable to use because you don’t have to bend down. Many consider those to be the best vacuums overall. You can just simply push them and move, which makes cleaning large areas easy. Those are also hard surface vacuums most of the time.

Stick vacuums don’t differ that much, they are a more compact version of upright vacuums.

Canister vacuums come with a bulky bin, which may be awkward to move around. You also have to bend down when cleaning, and we know it gets uncomfortable quite quickly. Nevertheless, they are a good everyday household cleaning vacuum. They also come with a large variety of accessories, including a crevice tool which is useful during cat litter cleanup.

Robot vacuums can be a comfortable choice, however, those usually don’t work well with pets. Your cat may quickly grow hatred for a new visitor, making cleaning almost impossible. That being said, as long as you can keep your cat away, it’s a game changer when it comes to keeping your house clean. Term robot vacuum often gets used interchangeably with, what many acknowledge to be, the best robot vacuum – Roomba.

Handheld vacuums are the most compact of this bunch and what’s more important, they don’t have a hose. There’s also no strong suction power, which makes this type of vacuum good only for small cleanups. Those also come often with a crevice tool.

There are also bagless vacuum cleaners which usually don’t lose their suction as fast. They also allow you to save some money on all the reusable bags which are essential in other vacuum types. A bagless vacuum is also usually very compact and easy to empty.

Best vacuum for cat litter

While there are no best vacuums for cat litter, shop vacs are your safe bet. The second best option is a handheld vacuum which wins by being the most compact, and safest option. Lower suction, compared to larger household vacuums, makes the cat litter less dangerous. Keep in mind though, we still do not recommend vacuuming cat litter with this type of cleaning tool.

Is it worth investing in a cat litter vacuum?

Buying a vacuum just for this purpose may be overkill, however, if you are going to use the vacuum for everyday household maintenance it may be worth it. Be sure to pick a vacuum that has a wide variety of uses, so you don’t get limited to cleaning up soiled litter.

How to clean cat litter?

If you are still struggling to clean cat litter, here is a quick guide that can help you get rid of the mess your kitty made.

Litter box

Start the process by thoroughly cleaning the cat litter box. Since there are many products on the market, it may differ a little. Start by scooping out any droppings of your cat, and put them inside a plastic bag. You can dispose of those outdoors or by throwing them into the trash can.

Another way is to prepare a special litter waste can, designed to hold only cat litter. Place it near your litter box and dump the waste when needed.

The litter box itself should be scrubbed at least once a week, with hot water and some light detergent. Sinking the litter box in hot water may also help with neutralizing unpleasant smells. After that, leave the litter box to completely dry for 4-8 hours. Automatic litter boxes may need special treatment.

When you’ve done all of the steps above, the box should be ready to use. Fill it with the proper amount of litter and let your cat do its thing.

Litter mat

To take care of the litter mat, grab it and shake off any scattered cat litter. Ideally, you should not use any scented soap, as your cat may develop an aversion to the smell. Soak the litter mat in hot water with soap or detergent and then scrub it clean by hand. Chances are there was some damp litter with urine, therefore, we would highly recommend spraying the mat with odor neutralizer.

Litter area

If you have a carpet near your litter area, you should start by removing excess litter with a damp paper towel. After that, wait until the cat litter dries and try to rake it from the carpet. Alternatively, you can use a carpet cleaner or just clean it by hand. Apply urine spray to prevent odor buildup on the carpet according to instructions on the package and let it dry. Litter from hardwood floors can be removed using a broom or a sweeper.

3 tips for cat owners

Litter mat

While a litter mat doesn’t make a huge difference, it can definitely help contain wet messes inside the litter box area. It’s also surely better than just a litter box laying on the floor. Additionally, the mat is soft and comfortable which can make your cat’s paws happy. To handle cat litter on your mat, you just have to shake it outside, and throw it into the washing machine.

Automatic litter box

Self-cleaning litter boxes are a new technology, that allows for quick and easy clean-up. However, it’s important to remember that your cat may not like it. The overall construction, weird sounds, and often enclosed space may intimidate your cat, leaving kitty litter untouched.

High-sided litter box

High-sided litter boxes come with a set of benefits one of which is preventing cat urine from splashing. Those also allow for easy clean-up coming with special handles, and a smooth interior. That being said, the risks are still there and your kitty may not like the new litter box.


Does cat litter ruin vacuums?

A short answer to this question is – yes, cat litter can ruin vacuums. Only a few vacuum types are suitable for handling litter. One of those should bypass the flow motor when vacuuming, be resistant to pet hair, and ideally include a crevice tool. That being said, there is no ideal cat litter vacuum cleaner.

Can you vacuum cat litter with Dyson?

Cat litter shouldn’t be vacuumed with a regular vacuum cleaner at all, as it can cause serious damage. Dyson vacuums unfortunately are not an exception here. We would recommend choosing a different cleaning tool such as a shop vac, sweeper, broom, or a smaller handheld vacuum cleaner instead.

Can you vacuum kitty litter from the carpet?

Kitty litter should not be vacuumed in most cases. Those tiny dangerous rocks could potentially do a lot of harm to your regular carpet vacuum cleaner. In order to quickly remove litter from the carpet, you can use a carpet rake, wet towel, shop vac, carpet cleaner, or a handheld vacuum for cat litter.

What vacuum will pick up cat litter?

Stick vacuums should not be used for vacuuming cat litter. The same unfortunately applies to a robot vacuum. We strongly advise choosing a handheld vacuum or a shop vac.

What is the best way to clean cat litter?

Cat litter can be easily cleaned using a shop vac, broom, sweeper, or by hand. Regular vacuum cleaners can easily get damaged by hard clay cat litter particles or even pet hair. You should use a different cleaning tool such as a broom, sweeper, or shop vac.

How often should you clean cat litter?

Firstly, it’s important to address that it depends on the number of cats you own. Owners with multiple cats will have to repeat the whole process more often. Any waste should be scooped out on daily basis, while cat litter should be replaced twice a week. Cat pee in the form of clumps should also be removed every day. All litter boxes should be cleaned approximately once every week.

Should I wear a mask when cleaning cat litter?

It’s strongly recommended, that you always wear a mask when cleaning cat litter. Breathing in ammonia fumes can be dangerous for humans, and lead to respiratory diseases. What’s more, cat feces can transmit toxoplasmosis – a parasite which is harmful, especially for people with a weak immune system.

To sum up, no you can’t vacuum cat litter, or at the very least you shouldn’t. Doing so can cause a lot of damage to your cleaning tool, potentially completely breaking it.