Differences Between Sweeping & Vacuuming

April Sanders

Some people reach for a broom the minute a mess hits the floor. Others drag out the vacuum. Although both sweeping and vacuuming are effective at cleaning up most messes, knowing the differences between the two can make the chore a lot easier. In some situations, a vacuum is best.

Brooms are best, depending on the mess.

Other situations call for a broom and dustpan. It all depends on the constitution of the mess and where it landed.


Sweeping is a method of cleaning floors that involves moving dirt around until you can dispose of it. The person wielding the broom pushes or pulls dirt and debris across the floor and into a pile. Once in a pile, the dirt is swept into a dustpan and thrown into the garbage. Large, wide brooms are made for pushing dirt and are often used outdoors. Small, thinner brooms are made for pulling dirt toward you and are most commonly used indoors. Brooms are handy for getting into small corners and the crevices between and under furniture, such as in the crack between the wall and fridge or under the dishwasher.

When to Sweep

Sweeping is usually done on hardwood, ceramic or stone tile floors. This is because vacuums usually have a beater bar. Although the beater bar is terrific for getting deep bits of dirt out of carpet fibers, it can damage or scratch hardwood and ceramic tile floors. A broom can also easily reach and dislodge dirt and debris that gather in the cracks between pieces of hardwood, or in the grout around ceramic or stone tiles.


Vacuuming is a method of cleaning floors that removes dirt and debris by sucking it up rather than pushing or pulling it. Vacuums, which are powered by electricity, suck up dirt from the floor and into a reservoir, which may be a disposable bag or a non-disposable container. This eliminates the need to gather up the dirt manually with a dustpan, as you do when you sweep. The reservoir does, however, need to be emptied into the garbage when it fills up. Containers may need to be washed occasionally.

When to Vacuum

Vacuums are commonly used on carpets, where sweeping is usually ineffective due to the fibers. Special vacuums that can handle liquids are used on wet spills, where brooms are ineffective. Vacuums that have a "bare floor" setting can also be used on vinyl or laminate floors, as they are durable enough to withstand the beater bar. Some high-end vacuums have an option to withdraw or turn off the beater bar, which means you can then use them on hardwood or tile floors if you are careful when handling the vacuum.