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How to Get Bad Smells out of Your Vacuum Cleaner

vacuum cleaner with bad smell

That smell of ‘newness’ when you open up a new appliance, straight out of the box, lets you know that you have something brand-new, never used before. And like a freshly painted room, or a room with new flooring, a new appliance gives off a nice boxfresh odour that lingers. 

After a time, that new smell fades away. But some appliances, such as a vacuum cleaner, will begin to give off bad smells. 

Vacuum cleaners are powerful appliances that suck up dust, dirt, pet hairs, and debris on floors and furniture. Unfortunately, there may come a time when your vacuum starts to blow out unpleasant odours. But why does this happen?

In short, vacuums start to smell bad because of smelly items in the bag or cylinder, dirty air filters, pet hairs, and in some cases, a burnt vacuum belt. To make your vacuum smell fresh again, you could start by emptying and washing the bag or canister and filter. Burnt vacuum belts need to be replaced.

In this article, we’re going to help you stop your vacuum from smelling bad. First, we’ll explore the reasons why this problem happens. Then, you’ll read about easy ways of not only removing the odour but also making your vacuum smell brand new again.

Let us begin.

Why Does My Vacuum Smell Bad?

As mentioned before, there are usually four reasons why your vacuum might smell bad: something smelly in the bag or canister, mould or mildew growth, dirty air filters, or a problematic vacuum belt.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Smelly Items In The Bag Or Canister

dirty vacuum cleaner cylinder

A vacuum sucks air through its hose and passes it through either a bag or canister. That’s where all of the dirt, debris, and other items get trapped for you to dispose of later.

Unfortunately, people sometimes vacuum items that give off a bad odour, perhaps something like a rotten piece of food.

That smelly item will stay in the bag or canister until it’s removed. Meanwhile, the vacuum continues to drive air through the bag and out the back of the vacuum, spreading that nasty smell all over the room and the rest of your home.

Pet Hairs

If you don’t shampoo your dog often you’ll notice that a ‘dog smell’ can build up in your home, which doesn’t smell great. This bad smell will transfer to upholstery and carpets, and when you vacuum, the smell makes its way into the internal filters of your vacuum cleaner. 

Then, every time you vacuum the motor will blow out bad-smelling air. Simple solution – clean all your filters regularly, with a perfumed, anti-bacterial mix.

Dirty Air Filters

Remember: air flows just one way through a vacuum cleaner. It gets sucked in through the hose and passes through the machine (where dust and dirt will get trapped) before it’s pushed out the back of the vacuum cleaner.

As the air makes its way through the appliance, it passes through one or more air filters. Typically, those filters remove much smaller particles that didn’t get trapped in the bag or canister. That way, none of it gets pushed out of the vacuum and circulated back into the air.

Some vacuums also come with a second filter that’s made of carbon. This secondary filter is meant to remove any odour from the air on its way out.

Unfortunately, a vacuum’s air filters will get dirty over time. That’s especially true if the machine is used frequently, as they trap even more particles at a much higher rate. If those filters aren’t cleaned regularly, they, too, will start to smell.

And yes, you’ve probably guessed it by now: those smells will be recirculated into the air around you whenever you turn the vacuum on, even the best cordless vacuums with HEPA filters.

Vacuum Belt

Some upright style vacuum cleaners have a unique design that involves a rotating brush that ‘sweeps’ the floor to pick up more dirt. These vacuum models rely on a belt that continuously spins those brushes whenever the vacuum is on. That can also be a source of bad smells coming from a vacuum.

Over time, the vacuum’s brushes may get dirty and make it very tough for the belt to turn them. As a result, the excess friction and heat may cause the vacuum belt to burn and give off a burnt rubber smell that fills up the room.

Why Does My Vacuum Give Off A Burning Smell?

Suppose you notice a burning smell coming from your vacuum when you use it. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to shut the vacuum off immediately!

A vacuum that’s in good working order isn’t supposed to smell at all. But if it gives off a burnt smell, in particular, that can be a terrible sign. There are a few possible causes behind that smell, namely:

  • A burnt vacuum belt.
  • A problematic motor.
  • Overheating dust or debris inside the bag or canister.

Burnt Vacuum Belt

We covered this part earlier. Some vacuum models rely on a belt to turn a brush that sweeps the floor as you vacuum. Dirty brushes can make it difficult for the belt to turn, leading to excess friction and heat. That can cause a burning smell to come from the vacuum.

Problematic Motor

All of your vacuum’s power comes from its motor inside. That’s where the noise comes from, as it allows the vacuum to suck plenty of air through the machine to capture all that dust.

Just like any other kind of motor, one can become faulty and overheat. When that happens, it, too, can give off a burning smell that quickly circulates in the air around you.

Overheating Dust or Debris

When it comes to vacuums, a burning smell may also result from there being too much dust or debris inside. Perhaps the bag or canister is already full, and there may be clogs somewhere along the way where the air is supposed to pass through freely.

Combine that with the heat generated by the vacuum’s motor, and you may end up experiencing a burning smell coming from inside the machine.

How To Make A Vacuum Smell Fresh

Here’s some excellent news: making your vacuum smell good again is very straightforward and easy!

As you’ve seen above, most of the causes behind a smelly vacuum have something to do with a lack of regular cleaning. The canister or bag, the hose, and the filters are the vacuum parts you should clean as part of your vacuum’s routine maintenance. Whether you have a cordless budget vacuum or a more expensive Dyson, regular cleaning is necessary and will keep foul smells under control.

Cleaning The Bag/Canister, Hose, And Air Filters

cleaning odours from vacuum filter

Doing so is relatively simple. If you’re using a vacuum with a bag, change it as often as possible. If you have a bagless vacuum, you’ll want to wash the canister thoroughly to remove any trapped dirt inside.

Oh, and don’t forget to wash the hose as well. There may be dust and other items trapped inside there!

Following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, clean all dust and air filters regularly, as they can clog up with all kinds of smelly particles. This is usually the primary cause of a vacuum cleaner that is giving off a bad smell.

Tip: When cleaning these filters, use a small amount of fabric softener or Zoflora in the water to really freshen them up. That way, you’ll spread pleasant smells throughout your home every time you use your vacuum cleaner.

Make sure that all filters are completely dry before putting them back in and using the vacuum, as damp filters will clog and you’ll have a bigger problem than you started with.

Burnt Belt Or Motor

If, however, the cause behind your vacuum smelling bad is the burnt belt or motor, then you’ll need to get those components replaced. But before you spend your hard-earned money on any repairs, be sure to think about the prices first.

In some cases, you might find that upgrading to a newer model might be a better use of your money, rather than trying to fix the model that you already have.