Learn how to remove bad smells in your vacuum cleaner in this tutorial.

If you're looking for guidance on how to remove bad vacuum cleaner smells, you've come to the right place.

In this guide, you'll learn why your vacuum smells bad, and how to clean your vacuum to remove bad smells.

Read on!

Why Does My Vacuum Cleaner Smell Bad?

Odor can quickly develop in any vacuum cleaner. Here are some of the causes of it.

1. Pet Hair

It's no secret that pets can be messy animals.

Even if you clean them as you should, their pet hair can cling to your upholstery, floors, and settle into the dust on the surfaces of your electronics.

Pet hair also contains dander, dead skin cells that develop bacteria and result in the inside of your vacuum cleaner smelling fowl.

Urine from pets can also create odor.

Even if you regularly clean, these kinds of smells aren't likely to come out without disinfecting the source of the smells at the same time.

Which is something you should do as the odor could be difficult to get rid of once the urine dries completely out.

Cats, dogs, rabbits, and rodents regularly shed their fur, which cakes onto unclean surfaces, especially fabric.

2. Mold

Even if you're not a pet owner, you can still become the victim to odors emanating from your vacuum cleaner.

Mold plays a big part in this.

Fungal spores are everywhere, in the air that you breathe, the food that you eat, and the food that you consume.

A high collection of fungal spores increases the chance of fungal growth, such as mold.

Mold is present in vacuum bags and containers, usually in large quantities.

Even though you can't see it, the spores and mold are there without a doubt.

Mold and the spores that it flakes off easily create stench, even when you can't see it with the naked eye.

Mold is also found in vacuum filters, both disposable, reusable, and HEPA filters.

When all of these containers and filters aren't emptied after each use, the smell of fungal spores arising from the mold will overpower the space nearby during the cleaning or opening of the vacuum.

Mold growth can also pose a health hazard, especially for pets, small children, and the elderly.

3. Belt Got Burned

Think of your vacuum cleaner's motor as you would a vehicle engine. They both rely on interchangeable parts to create motion.

In the case of your vacuum, a belt is needed to keep the brush in motion, allowing larger and stubborn pieces of debris to be scooped into the interior container.

Unfortunately, the belt can lead to unwanted smells. But what causes it?

Vacuum belts can create odor due to the material they're made of. Most consist of a thick rubber, which clings to the brush and allows it to roll as normal.

Without it, you wouldn't have the luxury to pick up nearly as much pet and human hair.

However, if too much debris gets jammed into the brush and belt, it can lead to it having to work harder, rubbing against the brush and vacuuming material it comes into contact with.

When this happens, you may notice a sour or faint burning smell from the rubber material.

4. Excessive Dust

Dust is everywhere, much like the aforementioned fungal spores. But that doesn't mean that you should give up on getting it out of your vacuum.

It's argued that an accumulation of dust can age vacuum motors quicker than anything else. Still, it won't get out of your vacuum by itself, even with some of the self-cleaning models.

Dust itself can create bad smells. Remember, fine dust is a collection of dead skin cells from humans and pets, pet fur, human hair, lint, and allergens such as pollen.

This mixture of unwanted substances in abundance will surely result in some unfavorable scents.

This accumulation is greatest in your vacuum cleaner. When you vacuum, all of the dust ends up in the bag or container. In one place for a long period, dust can be more toxic and allergy-inducing than mold.

How To Remove Bad Vacuum Cleaner Smells

It wouldn't be worth your time in understanding how odor develops in vacuums if there's no clean solution to getting rid of it.

With this in mind, here's what you can do to eliminate those smells once and for all.

1. Empty The Dust Bag Or Bin

As you might have guessed, dust bags can be a magnet for odor. Which is to be expected in a sense. Without them, where else would the harmful things that you pick up go?

Truth be told, swapping out the vacuum bag for the one that's new, or washing the one that you have already will usually take away odors faster than anything else.

For people with attached vacuum containers, taking out the bag and scrubbing away all the scum and residue can freshen up the vacuum's insides.

If you've never done this before, consider soaking it in soapy warm water for at least an hour. Depending on how strong the odor is, it's fine to extend the soaking time a bit longer.

If you have it handy in your kitchen, add a bit of baking soda or vinegar to the mix. This will help keep the container fresh for a bit longer in between the time that you clean it again.

Just be sure that no dirt is in the container. Even a small amount could multiply and lead to odor. Have trouble getting some of the debris out? Try a toothbrush or scotch pad for scrubbing.

2. Clean Or Replace The Filters

Filters are placed in vacuums to trap pathogens and other harmful substances. They're stored separately from vacuum bags and filters since the items can be very small.

But much like containers and bags, they too will become dirty and need replacing or cleaning.

For reusable filters, take the dust out by rinsing it under the sink in lukewarm or cool water.

Filters are typically made of very sensitive material, so you don't want to do anything that could potentially damage its mesh body.

If the dirt is caked on, gently scrub it in clockwise and counterclockwise motions until it comes off.

For disposable filters, replacing them is the best option. Try to replace them based on the recommendations of the vacuum or filter brand.

Nevertheless, it's also great to throw a filter away before the suggested time if you're picking up items that you know are causing odor to rapidly develop, such as large quantities of pet hair.

3. Check The Brushes

Even if you're not smelling anything coming from the brush, it's a good idea to keep them clean.

Although suggestions by brand and model vary, try to clean the brush at least two times annually.

This is a conservative amount. If using the vacuum every day or every other day, brush cleaning is best done quarterly.

Even with a clean brush, the lint, gunk, and residue begin to cling to the brittles.

Therefore, always inspect the brushes when you can to see if anything is clinging on that may stink up the place you're storing the vacuum.

Here's how you can detach most removable brushes for cleaning:

  • Turn off and unplug the vacuum, then gently remove it from its connected base.
  • Grab a pair of scissors and cut off large tangled masses of hair where you notice it. Be careful not to cut any of the brush's bristles.
  • Soak the brush in warm, soapy water, adding vinegar if you have it. If you don't have vinegar, a small amount of bleach will do, though not too much.
  • Use a comb to scrape all the additional hai that you might have had trouble getting through with the scores.
  • Let the brush soak in the soapy water for at least an hour, then dry it out. You should only reattach the brush when it's fully dry, a process that could take up to a day.

4. Wash The Hose

Don't let it shock you to see odors coming from your vacuum's hoses.

Biofilm and dirty will cake on to the siding and cause bacteria to grow, especially on vacuums that aren't used very often.

Vacuum hoses can make up the accessories you attach to the unit or be permanently fixed to the body of your cleaner.

To get rid of buildup inside, you can first soak in a solution if the hose is short enough to fit in a bucket or sink.

For longer hoses, you may have to use the bathtub. During soaking, use a long, thin brush to get the inside.

A clean toilet brush could work. If you don't have one, try pushing a thin and long cloth as far down into the hose as it'll go.

Unless you see noticeable clogging into the hose, not everyone will have to do this step.

A good soak for a couple of hours should be enough.

Flexible hoses are a bit easier since you can turn them to fit in smaller areas. Use the same technique for flexible hoses, and let it soak for a while.

How To Prevent Bad Odors In Your Vacuum

What Can You Put In Your Vacuum Cleaner To Make It Smell Better?

Read the tips below to keep bad vacuum smells from getting into your unit.

1. Use Baking Soda

You're probably aware of baking soda's ability to get rid of smells. It's strong enough to keep odors away for a while, even after you use the vacuum a couple of times.

You can clean with baking soda, then add a bit to the container or dust bags of your vacuum. You don't have to add a lot to the container, a tablespoon or two should do the trick.

2. Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are fragrant oils that contain a concentrated amount of leaves and other plant material that's used for therapeutic and odor-eliminating purposes.

There are many to find, and they're easy to purchase. You might already have some in your home.

If not, choose a fragrance that you like most, such as vanilla. You can add some to your vacuum's container, bag, or filter. After you've added the oil, vacuum as normal.

You'll instantly notice how the fragrance spreads across your home.

Essential oils produce a fragrance that travels outside of the vacuum's vents, making anywhere your vacuum smell great.

3. Use Cinnamon

An alternative to essential oils, cinnamon is a powerful odor eliminator that's perfectly safe to use in a vacuum cleaner. Powered cinnamon works best.

Don't worry about the cinnamon spoiling inside of the vacuum. Use about a tablespoon and let your cleaner air freshen as you clean the floors.

For some, cinnamon is an acquired or seasonal smell that brings out the winter season.

Cinnamon is strong enough to block odors of all kinds, including those from pet hairs.

So if you do like the scent and have pets, try it out in your cleaner or the entire year.

Alternatively, use lemon or orange peels if cinnamon just doesn't appeal to your senses.

4. Regularly Clean Your Vacuum

Performing regular upkeep to your vacuum is a surefire way to keep the odor from getting in the machine, and spreading throughout your house.

This means emptying the container or bag after every use, checking under the base for caked hair and lint, and watching what you vacuum in the machine.

Debris such as insects, a large amount of dust, and damp material is strongly recommended to avoid unless you have a wet dry vacuum.

5. Use Commercial Deodorants

Vacuum deodorants are sold, sometimes by companies that build vacuums.

Deodorants exist for vacuum containers and dust bags. Some are powders and others simply go in the bag or debris slot.

Where they are sold, you'll find different scents such as potpourri, fabric softener, and pine.

Some companies produce them in tablet form, where you either vacuum the tablet or place it in a strategic spot before running the machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get the smell out of a bagless vacuum cleaner?

You can kill the odor coming from bagless cleaners by thoroughly washing and adding a mixture of baking soda or essential oils.

Containers are usually easier to get rid of smells since they're made of non-porous plastic or metal materials.

Keeping the container clean by dumping the debris in the trash helps too, something you should especially do if you're not using fragrances.

Perfume pads are built for bagless vacuums. Try to go for fragrances that are pleasant but strong, not too light.
incorporate perfume pads

How do you get the musty smell out of a vacuum filter?

The sour smells found in the vacuum interior usually persist after washing the cleaner without care.

If you assemble the drying parts too early and use the vacuum, the damp inside will quickly develop bacteria and the bad scents that come along with it.

In short, hook up your vacuum if its parts haven't fully dried out after washing, and be careful to not vacuum anything on damp surfaces. When you inevitably do suck up something wet, take it out of the container or bag right away.

Why does my vacuum smell burn?

Pet hair, when layered onto the brush and belt that turns it, can produce a distinct burning smell unlike the other odors found in vacuums. This is pure to occur if you've neglected cleaning the brush for some time.

Why does my vacuum smell like burning rubber?

Rubber, plastic, and metal are known for producing burning smells, particularly when they come into contact with debris. Clogging can lead to this as well.

Check that your vacuum's motor is functioning properly and not overheating. The burning smell could be a sign that it's time to get a new cleaner or have it replaced if the warranty hasn't expired yet.

Why does my vacuum smell like poop?

If your vacuum has a smell that reminds you of soiled material, that could very well be what you picked up.

Pets are the usual cause. Do you vacuum in areas where there are pets?

Even dried urine can smell soiled. Pet hair can also be the source, common among dogs and cats that are shedding.

Any wet material can exhibit a bad smell when it's confined in a closed space like a vacuum bag or bagless container. Get out the residue whenever your cleaning session is through.

Why does my Dyson vacuum smell and how do I make it smell better?

You can freshen Dyson vacuums the same way that you would most other vacuums.

For the pet and general-purpose cleaners manufactured by Dyson, use a strong fragrance after you've cleaned out the inside. Scented oils are good, as are the cylinder-shaped fresheners.

Why does my vacuum smell when I turn it on?

When noticing a smell that appears after you've turned on the cleaner, it could be the dirt and bacteria from the brush, hose, container, or a combination of each has created it.

Vacuums have many moving parts that churn up debris when agitated, which escapes from the vents. When this occurs, you can guarantee that smells will be noticed on a dirty vacuum unit.

How do I get my vacuum to stop smelling like my dog?

Get rid of pet hair as quickly as you can if you're tired of your vacuum smelling the same as your pet before bathing them.

All of their body odor rests on the hair that comes from their fur as it breaks free from their body. This ends up in your vacuum, where the odor grows in strength when allowed to sit in the bag or debris holder.

Wrap Up

Even while vacuum cleaners do a fantastic job of keeping spaces clean, they also must be sanitized to work as you expect them to.

Don't neglect your vacuum and clean it when you can. You'll find that it lasts longer, works better, and freshens up the air that you breathe at home.

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