What should I tell my 8-year old who thinks that it is amusing to stick the shop-vac hose in their mouth?

For the record, I took it away and said if they did that again, they don't get to help with vacuuming. (We were doing pretty good as a team cleaning up the family car.) We talked about how dangerous it could be, but it was one of those times when my child pretends not to hear what I'm saying and then argues, so I gave them a different task.

I am actually not sure how dangerous this is. Could it cause suffocation or ear damage? Regardless, I don't want my child doing it, and I also worry is that my 8-year old may trick a younger child into doing it.

  • 1
    If you're asking how dangerous it is, that's a good question, but not necessarily a Parenting one. Your question as it stands is not really clear what you're asking... If you're asking how to talk to them about it, then clarify your question to that, please.
    – Joe
    Sep 30, 2015 at 16:50
  • Is a shop-vac a normal household-strength vacuum cleaner or is it some kind of stronger one?
    – Murphy
    Sep 30, 2015 at 17:53
  • Shop vac differs from a household vacuum cleaner largely in what it sucks up (can often handle water or fairly large chunks of stuff) and where the stuff is deposited (into a large canister, rather than a bag). The suction power depends on the model, but they're often stronger since they're used on sawdust and chunks rather than, say, dust.
    – Acire
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:34
  • 2
    At the last, tell them that the hose is really dirty. Since you drag the vacuum hose over the floor, putting it in their mouth is like licking a really dirty floor.
    – user14172
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:54
  • 1
    I've focused this more on "how do I tell my child about it" rather than the physical effects of having a vacuum hose in one's mouth. While I would like to know what exactly that does cause, there are other possibly bigger issues (Kai mentions a dirty hose, OP mentions tricking other children into the same behavior) that are very much about Parenting. (I am not sure whether Health.SE or Physics.SE might be best for learning what the physical effects might be, but I do know that particular portion less on-topic here than it would be on a sister site.)
    – Acire
    Oct 1, 2015 at 10:49

4 Answers 4


Explaining why you didn't want him/her to stick the shop-vac hose in their mouth didn't work. The reason it didn't work could be because you yourself are not convinced that it's dangerous.

We talked about how dangerous it could be, but it was one of those times when my child pretends not to hear ... I am actually not sure how dangerous this is.

If your child had been putting a sharp knife or a blowtorch or something obviously dangerous in their mouth, I'm sure your discussion with him/her would have been more emphatic and clear...and the kid would have stopped.

In this case, however, you probably shouldn't react the same way as if it were a knife or blowtorch... it's not about preventing him/her from doing it because it's extremely dangerous, but more ambiguously because it might be dangerous and you just don't think it's a good idea. That's harder for kids to understand and take seriously

Approach it like any other rule you set down for your family. Kids at this age can't be expected to understand or agree with all the reasons for the rules you have. To help ensure they comply with the rules nonetheless:

  1. Make your expectations clear. e.g. We don't put shopvac hoses in our mouths.
  2. Make the consequences clear. e.g. If you put the shopvac hose in your mouth, you will have a time out for 5 minutes.
  3. Be consistent and follow through
  4. Keep the rules simple and minimal. e.g. if you have a rule for every small little thing, it's hard to remember them all.

Consistent reactions and consequences help ensure kids know what is expected of them. Too many little rules that are sometimes followed, sometimes not, make it confusing and difficult for kids to do what is expected of them.

  • 1
    The consequence should be a bit more proportional to the "crime". If a child disobeyed and ran into a street with traffic, a 5 minute time out would not impress. On the other hand, when the child ruptures both eardrums (quite possible if the nose is stuffy), paying the doctor visits would be too much.
    – anongoodnurse
    Oct 1, 2015 at 20:01

Why can't you just tell him "Do not put the vacuum cleaner in your mouth I use it to clean up kitty litter / dirt from outside / metal shavings / moldy ripped up cardboard / pump the sewer system."

This doesn't even have to be a safety issue. The hose is dirty and disgusting.

And after telling him "Do not do ______" and he does it again, it is then a behavior issue and you can discipline him for not listening, it doesn't even matter what the original command was. He ignored you, so its time out / whatever you see fit.


If the concern is (at least it seems plausible) that the shop vacuum is much more powerful than a regular one, one way to teach the child would be to demonstrate it in impactful yet less-dangerous-than-their-mouth way.

Often, experiencing something is infinitely more effective than being told in abstract.

Offer to apply to some other part of their body - first, protected by cloths and then skin alone - while turned on. (First, obviously, do research and test on yourself how painful/damaging it would be).


Since you're posting this, I would assume that, since you last told him, that he has done it again. The response should then be to not let him help with the vacuuming anymore, at least until he's proven himself trustworthy and able to follow directions.

Also, shop vacs (and any kind of vacuum, for that matter) ARE dangerous when used improperly. If the vacuum were to be turned on while the hose were in his mouth, he could very possibly suffocate from an inability to inhale. It is also possible to stretch/tear tissues in his mouth or even prolapse a portion of esophagus/stomach. The severity would depend a bit on the force of the vacuum but none should be taken lightly.

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