A white vacuum cleaner

How to Get Rid of Vacuum Smells

Your vacuum helps to keep your floors looking tidy and can cut down on dust and fine particulates in your home. Unfortunately, vacuuming can also be stinky business. You may find that your vacuum smells like dog or as if it’s burning. Both odors can make running the vacuum more of a chore, but there are steps you can take if you find yourself thinking “my vacuum smells” every time you use it. Read on to discover the answers to the question “why does my vacuum smell?” and what you can do about it.

Why Does My Vacuum Smell Bad? 

Vacuums can smell bad for a number of reasons. Determining the cause is the first step toward solving the problem. Some possible sources of smells include:

  • Debris buildup: Everything you sweep up from the floor ends up inside of your vacuum bag or waste chamber. All that pet hair and human hair, those food crumbs and other particles stay inside. When you run the vacuum, the appliance becomes hot, and the waste may give off foul odors. Also, food waste may decompose inside, releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that you can smell.
  • Mold: If you notice a musty smell, there may be mold inside your vacuum. Mold can accumulate if your vacuum is exposed to moisture or if you use it to clean up an area where water damage occurred.
  • Dust: Even if your vacuum cleaner only contains what seems to be dust, there could be scent-causing substances hidden inside. One study found that the average vacuum contains mold and bacteria as well as dust. These substances give off VOCs that contribute to foul odors.
  • Worn out belt: If your vacuum smells like it’s burning, it may be time to replace the belt. The belt is the part inside your vacuum that allows the brush roller inside to turn. Belts don’t last forever. Most need to be changed after 3 to 6 months of regular use. As a belt gets old, it can stretch out and make it harder for the roller to turn. When this happens, the motor has to work harder, and the vacuum cleaner may overheat, leading to that burnt smell.
  • Other mechanical problems: Other mechanical problems may be the answer to the question “why does my vacuum smell burnt?” If replacing the belt doesn’t resolve the problem, have a professional inspect the floor care appliance to find out what else might be wrong.

Step by Step on How to Get Rid of Bad Vacuum Smells

Banish those bad vacuum smells by following these steps:

Step 1: Empty It

Removing the waste from inside of your vacuum is an important first step toward removing odors. Depending on the design of your vacuum, you may need to replace your bag or simply empty the waste reservoir. Because you don’t know what might be lurking in the dust and debris, wear gloves and eye and face protection. Dump the waste into a garbage bag and close it immediately. If possible, do the messy job outdoors. If you have to work inside, choose a well-ventilated area.

Step 2: Clean or Replace the Filter

The bag or reservoir isn’t the only place where impurities can hide. Vacuum filters can also harbor odor-causing substances. If your vacuum has replaceable filters, swap the existing one out for a new one. Rinse a washable filter outdoors with a hose if possible. Otherwise, rinse it off in the sink. Turn the filter while you rinse and continue until the water running off of it appears clean.

Step 3: Inspect Everything

Hair and debris clogs can happen in other parts of your vacuum. Look for them by opening up your vacuum completely. Wear eye and face protection while you work to reduce your exposure to dust. If you locate any clogs, slip on a pair of gloves before you remove them. If hair or debris is tightly wrapped or coiled, carefully use scissors or a knife to cut it but be careful not to nick any internal parts.

Step 4: Give it a Soak

If your vacuum has any removable parts, take them out and give them a deep clean. Soak them in a mix of baking soda and water for a few hours, then allow them to air dry completely. You may also want to consider placing the parts in a zipper plastic bag along with odor-absorbing beads for a day or so to neutralize lingering odors.

How to Maintain a Clean Smelling Vacuum

Once you have deep cleaned your vacuum and gotten rid of bad scents, you’ll want to keep it that way going forward. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding bag, belt and filter replacements and other routine maintenance, but keep in mind that these are just recommendations. If you have many pets or a large number of people living in your home, you may need to conduct maintenance more frequently.

Fresh Wave Vacuum Odor Eliminating Beads can also help you preserve a fresh-smelling vacuum. Simply add a capful to your vacuum bag or canister to fight odors and freshen your home. Plant oils give the beads their pleasing scent, so you don’t have to worry about releasing harmful perfumes and chemicals into your home. Plus, the beads are water based, making them safe to use on carpets as well as hard flooring. One container provides enough beads to last through 10 to 14 uses for ongoing odor-fighting benefits.