vacuum cleaner smells

4 Reasons your Vacuum Cleaner Smells Bad

A vacuum cleaner does an excellent job at sucking all sorts of dirt and debris in your home. However, at some point, it can also develop bad odor that can prompt you to throw it to the nearest bin.

Well! If you have gotten to this point, you are probably wondering why your vacuum cleaner smells bad. Before answering this question, I will first address the kinds of odors that vacuum cleaners release.

What Kinds of Odors do Vacuum Cleaners Release?

The odor your vacuum cleaner is releasing is probably not the same your neighbor’s is releasing. You might also notice the odor from your vacuum changing from time to time. Most commonly vacuum cleaners produce odors that smell like dog, vomit and burning rubber.

In summary, your vacuum cleaner smells like dog because of vacuuming pet dander, pet hairs and any other form of pet waste. It produces a musty odor because of vacuuming wet or dampy surfaces with a regular vacuum. It smells like burning rubber because the belt is worn out and you probably need to get a replacement. Lastly, your vacuum smells like vomit because of traces of food particles and spills left in the vacuum components long after cleaning.

1. Vacuum cleaner smells like dog

If you have pets in your house, there is no doubt the vacuum cleaner is picking pet hairs, dander, traces of litter and other dirt from areas where the animals spend most of their time. Pets and especially felines release odor that is hard to eliminate. The problem even gets more pronounced if the animals happen to urinate in the house.  I am a big fan of cats and I get to deal with this challenge occasionally.

If this smell gets to the vacuum cleaner through pet hairs and other forms of dirt and builds up over time, the vacuum begins to stink so badly.

Since you cannot keep your vacuum from picking pet hairs and dander, you can avoid the smell by emptying the canister more regularly. Another way is to avoid picking pet waste from damp areas. Instead, sweep the places and use a dustpan to collect the waste.

2. Vacuum cleaner releases musty odor

Do not be surprised if you notice your vacuum cleaner releasing mold-like smell. In most cases, this happens when moisture finds its way into the inside of the vacuum. Thereafter, it combines with dust and the foul-smelling odor becomes noticeable after some time.

Moisture can get into the vacuum if you suck damp pet hairs and dirt. As such, always ensure that you use your vacuum on dry floors and carpets.

Water can also get into the vacuum if you wash filters and put them back before they are completely dry. Ultimately, this can cause permanent damage to your vacuum.

If you intend to vacuum water and damp surfaces, always use a shop vacuum. And even with this option, you have to empty the canister and wash the components immediately after use. Since a shop vac serves both wet and dry purposes, here is a step by step guide on how to use it.

To extract water from a carpet, use a shop vacuum with a subsurface extraction tool.

3. Vacuum cleaner smells like burnt rubber

The third common description for vacuum cleaner odor is burnt rubber. This kind of smell is mainly caused by a damaged belt. Essentially, vacuum belts get worn out over time and this can cause stretching, snapping, and tearing.

Whichever it is, the smell from the belt is the same.

For this problem, you might need a technician to replace the belt. You can check the model number of your vacuum and buy a belt online or you can physically go to a retail that sell vacuums and see if can find the right belt.

4. Vacuum smells like vomit

If your vacuum smells like vomit, it is probably because you use it to suck sections with food and beverage spills. It could also be because of food particles that begin to rot once they are left inside the vacuum for a prolonged period of time.

If you have kids around, food spills are unavoidable. And even in homes with adults only, accidents can happen. Make sure that your vacuum does not begin to smell like vomit by emptying immediately after cleaning.

5. Smell that is hard to describe

Sometimes the odor coming from your vacuum may be hard to describe. However, this does not take away the fact that it is unpleasant.

In this case, the dirt in the bag or canister might be the culprit.  

What are the Challenges of a Smelly Vacuum Cleaner?

Since a smelly vacuum is caused by accumulation of various kinds of dirt or a damage belt, the quality of its functionality diminishes. As such, you are left to deal with both the smell and poor cleaning. Ideally, the vacuum begins to pick dirt sparingly or stops to pick completely.

In most cases, poor picking results from a filled bag/canister or a clogged filter, whereas complete failure results from a damaged belt.

In some occasions, the problem can also arise from the vent or brush roll.

How to Get Rid of Bad Smell from a Vacuum Cleaner

1. Empty the bag or canister

The first and most obvious step for eliminating bad odor is dealing with the mess in the canister or bag. Your vacuum features one or the other.

If yours has a bag, check and see whether it is anywhere from half full to completely full of dirt. Replace the bag and observe whether the smell disappears.

If what you have is a canister, separate the two main parts and empty the dirt. Wash the container-like part and blow out dirt from the other part. Follow up by assembling the parts and putting them back in the vacuum.

2. Clean the Filter

The next step for clearing your vacuum’s smell is cleaning the filter. This is the other place where dirt accumulates thereby clogging the pores and preventing proper functioning.

Simply remove the filter and dust it. Follow up by checking your machine’s manual to determine whether it is washable.

If so, wash the parts with room temperature water and mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly and let dry for at least 24 hours.

The drying step is critical because a poorly dried filter is one of the reasons you might be going through all this trouble in the first place.

3. Change the belt

Deal with the burnt rubber smell by getting a new belt. Besides helping with odor elimination, this allows your vacuum to function as new.

Since getting a new belt and replacing the old one might seem a bit technical, you can use the model number of your vacuum to find the appropriate belt in the manufacturer’s website. Secondly, try searching for belt replacement videos on YouTube.

4. Inspect the hose

Now that the belt, canister and filter are okay, it is time to inspect the hose.

Ensure that it is clear from the top to the bottom by sticking a broom stick inside. The presence of obstructions in that area can interfere with the functionality of your vacuum.

If it needs cleaning, detach it from the rest of the vacuum and wash it with warm water and detergent. Allow it to soak for about 30 minutes so that the dirt can loosen up. You can also push a soft wash cloth in the inside with a stick. It will help clear sticky and hard to remove dirt.

 Rinse by passing clean water from one end of the hose to the other. Hang to dry completely before placing back in the vacuum.

5. Clean the brush roll

The rotating brush and beater bar in your vacuum also require cleaning once in a while. Begin by inspecting it for any trapped hairs and carpet fibers.

If detachable, separate it from the rest of the vacuum and remove the hairs from the bristles. You can use scissors to cut them off carefully. Follow up by cleaning the brush with warm water and mild detergent.

Dry it completely before putting it back to the vacuum.

How to Keep Your Vacuum Smelling Fresh

Your vacuum comes smelling fresh when you buy it. It only begins to acquire bad odor after several uses. This means that the machine can remain odorless if you develop a habit of cleaning it after each use. But this is not always easy especially for pet owners.

Pet dander has its unique odor that tends to stick forever on surfaces everything else. With this in mind, you might need to use some scent absorbers and enhancers to keep the vacuum smelling fresh.

Artificial scent enhancers

An artificial scent enhancer comes in form of scented crystals that bring a breath of fresh air to your room. Some scent enhances have a strong fragrance that lasts long after cleaning while others have a mild aroma that only keeps your vacuum from smelling bad. For this option I recommend Fragrant Scent vacuum cleaner crystals.

Essential Oils

Essential oils and herbs have sweet natural aromas that many of us like. One way that we can benefit from these fragrances is by infusing them in our vacuum cleaners. You can simply combine a few drops of your favorite essential oil with water when cleaning your vacuum components or pour a few drops of the oil on a surface you intend to vacuum and let the aroma get absorbed into the vacuum as you clean. If using spices, just pour a spoonful on the floor and vacuum up.

Baking Soda

Pour a spoonful of baking soda on the floor or carpet and vacuum up. Baking soda absorbs bad smell and this gives your vacuum a chance to smell fresh throughout.

Tips for Maintaining Your Vacuum Cleaner

  • Clean your vacuum cleaner every once in a while but also ensure that everything is completely dry before you put it back together.
  • Inspect the canister or bag regularly to avoid excessive accumulation of dirt.
  • Do not use your vacuum cleaner to suck on wet or damp surfaces.
  • Make it a habit to change the belt before it begins to cause major problems such as reducing the efficiency of your vacuum.

One comment

  1. I never knew vacuum cleaners accumulate dirt as you use them and may give out an unpleasant odor. I like your suggestion to have its dirt bag removed and cleaned, or its component replaced if necessary. Since my uncle is thinking about getting a vacuum, I believe this information can end up being handy for his needs.

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