How to Remove Bad Vacuum Cleaner Smells

Jeneva Aaron
Jeneva is the founder and CEO of where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products. She is a cleaning enthusiast. She got inspired to build her own cleaning blog when she realized how cleaning can make an impact on our lives and how a cleaner home can affect a person's mood.
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Updated April 25, 2023

Freshen up your vacuum by cleaning out foul odors

Freshen up your vacuum by cleaning out foul odors

How To Remove Bad Smell From Vacuum
If you’re a vacuum owner you know the pain of vacuum cleaner smells. Whether it smells like dogs, burnt, musty, or like chemicals, cleaning with a stinky vacuum is unpleasant. It can also be unhygienic and a sign of too much dirt harbored inside.

Luckily, there are some simple methods you can use to quickly remove vacuum cleaner smells. With the right maintenance tips, you can easily freshen up your vacuum by removing the odor-causing culprits.

With our step-by-step guide on how to remove bad vacuum cleaner smells, your vacuum will be odor-free. So you can enjoy the most out of your vacuum with no hassle and no smells.

How to Remove Bad Vacuum Cleaner Smells

  • Unplug your vacuum and remove the bin.
  • Wash the bin using cold soapy water or a damp cloth. Sanitize using a mix of water and vinegar. Let dry and replace the bin.
  • Remove the filter and clean using cold water. Dry and replace the filter.
  • Remove the rotating brushes and remove debris from the brush bar.
  • Remove the hose and get rid of any clogs. Reassemble the vacuum cleaner.

Why Does My Vacuum Cleaner Smell Bad?

There are many different reasons for a smelly vacuum cleaner. Here are the different types of vacuum smells and their reasons.

Doggy Smell

For vacuum cleaners that have a doggy smell, the source of the strong smell is obvious. You have a dog in the house and your vacuum cleaner is sucking up the pet hair.

And dogs are prone to smelling bad. They have a lot of dirt, body odor, sweat, and other bodily functions that can lead to a strong unpleasant odor.

When you vacuum an area of your house that your dog has been lying in, odors from their hair can get stuck in the machine. Oil from your dog’s coat can cling inside of the vacuum brush roller and hose. It can also form a sticky paste inside the cyclone chambers of a bagless vacuum cleaner.

And even if you regularly bathe your dog, you’re likely to still notice a dog smell around.

However, some dogs have coats that don’t produce as much oil, so their hair doesn’t smell as much. Regarding cats, it’s a different story. Cats don’t have a lot of oil in their hair, so don’t produce any fur odor.

Damp or Musty Smell

A damp or musty smell inside your vacuum can occur when your vacuum comes into contact with water that’s left unattended.

It’s important to note that this can happen even if your vacuum does not come into direct contact with water. For example, vacuuming a wet carpet with pet urine or pet hair that is slightly damp can cause musty unpleasant smells.

If you don’t keep your vacuum dry, moisture can combine with dust particles in the cyclone chamber causing this type of vacuum smell.

The foul smell can also be caused by a wet filter being placed back into the vacuum.

Burning Rubber

The smell of burning rubber in your vacuum can indicate an issue in the foot area of the vacuum.

Something may be caught and is stopping the rotating brush. For example, hair, string, or dust can get bound up in the endcap of the brush roller. And this can make it difficult for the roller to spin properly.

When this happens the motor shaft will keep spinning and rubbing away, causing it to burn through the belt. If there is a lot of resistance due to a lot of buildups, the belt heats up quickly and slips. It can then eventually burn up and cause a burning rubber smell from your vacuum.

Chemical Odor

When a chemical or acrid burning smell occurs in your vacuum, this can be due to motor failure. Motor failure can be caused by a lack of vacuum maintenance. It can also result from vacuuming excessive amounts of fine dust or water.

How Do I Get Rid of the Smell in My Vacuum Cleaner?


If you have a burning chemical or odd smell coming from your vacuum cleaner, you’ll need to replace the motor or exhaust filter. So make sure you contact your manufacturer or check the owner’s manual if you notice a burning smell.

For other types of vacuum smells, there are a few different steps you can take to remove the unpleasant odors. All of these methods can be used on any vacuum cleaners as well as any type of vacuum. Including canister, robot, cordless stick, or upright vacuum cleaners.

Clean the Bin or Replace the Bag

This method can remove dog odors as well as damp or musty smells in your vacuum.

1. Switch Your Vacuum Off

First, turn off your vacuum cleaner and disconnect it from the power source if it’s corded.

2. Remove The Bin

How To Remove Smell from Vacuum - Emptying the Bin
Next, remove the bin or bag. Make sure you hold it over a trash receptacle while removing it so that the dust doesn’t spill on your floor. If you have a bagged vacuum, place the bag in the trash. Otherwise, open the bin and empty the debris and dust into your trash.

3. Clean With a Damp Cloth

How To Remove Smell from Vacuum - Cleaning with Cloth
Use a damp cloth to clean your vacuum bin. Or, you can wash it in your sink with water and a few drops of dish soap.

4. Sanitize

Sanitize your bin with a mix of water and vinegar. White vinegar can be used as a household cleaning agent to remove mold, mildew, and mineral deposits. It also acts as a deodorizer (1).

5. Let Dry

Let your vacuum cleaner air dry for up to 24 hours or a few days if you can. Make sure the vacuum bin is dry completely before replacing it.

6. Refit The Bin

Refit the bin when it’s completely dry. If you have a bagged vacuum you can simply replace the bag.


Do not use strong detergents, polishes, or air fresheners to clean your vacuum bin. Also, don’t put your bin in a dishwasher as this could damage it.

Wash the Vacuum Filters

This is another method that can remove musty vacuum smells as well as pet odors.

1. Switch Vacuum Off

Again, make sure you switch off and disconnect your vacuum before you begin cleaning.

2. Remove and Wash Filter

How To Remove Smell from Vacuum - Washing the Filter
Remove the filter from the vacuum. Wash your filter in cold water only. Make sure you rinse and remove dust and dirt from the filter until the water runs clear.

3. Dry Filter

Dry your filter cavity by leaving it in a warm space for up to 24 hours. Make sure your filters are completely dry.

4. Replace

Replace your filters back in the vacuum.


  • Do not use detergents or soapy water on your filters. This can ruin the filters and the solution can get stuck in the microfibers.
  • Don’t place the filters in a dishwasher.
  • Also, do not place your filters in a tumble dryer, microwave, or near a naked flame.
  • Consider replacing your filters if they are not washable.

Clean the Brushes

How To Remove Smell from Vacuum - Cleaning the Brush
When you vacuum, hair, threads, and debris can get tangled around the brush causing the roller to become caught. This causes friction and can cause the vacuum belt to burn and create a burnt smell. It can also cause musty or doggy smells.

So these tips can help to remove a burning smell from your vacuum as well as dog and must odors.

  • Turn off the vacuum
  • Remove the extension hose
  • Often jammed or stuck brushes are easy to clean. Simply remove debris gently from the brush bar.
  • If you have a blockage, you can remove the brush bar to clean it more thoroughly. There may be a release button on your vacuum. Or, you may need to use a screwdriver or coin to remove it. But, usually, the process is straightforward.
  • Cut any fibers or hair stuck to your brush roll.
  • With the brush roll cover removed you can wipe the brush roll clean with a dry paper towel.
  • Replace the brush roll back on the vacuum.

Clean the Hose

How To Remove Smell from Vacuum - Check the Opening
If your hose is clogged it can cause a musty bad smell or doggy scent. Follow these tips to unclog your hose.
How To Remove Smell from Vacuum - Cleaning the Hose

  • Switch your vacuum off and disconnect it from the power source before looking for any blockages.
  • Depending on your vacuum model, detach the hose from either the handle, wand, cleaner head or dust cap. There may be a release button or you’ll need to twist the hose to detach it.
  • When you disconnect the hose completely, check the openings. You can use a flashlight to help you find clogs or obstructions inside the vacuum hose.
  • Use a wire hanger, stick, or broomstick handle to remove the clogs.
  • If your hose is very dirty, we recommend cleaning it in your sink with clean water.
  • To sanitize your hose, you can use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to clean it. Vinegar is made from acetic acid (2). So it’s a great household disinfectant to use. On the other hand, baking soda is a mineral abrasive so can clean efficiently grease, stains, and food particles.
  • Make sure you wash and rinse your hose completely. Then, let it dry for up to 24 hours before replacing it.
  • Reassemble the vacuum cleaner properly before you switch it back on.

How Do I Prevent My Vacuum From Smelling?

Here are a few tips to help you prevent bad odors in your vacuum.


Regular Maintenance

Keeping a regular maintenance schedule can ensure your vacuum runs smoothly.

  • Make sure you regularly empty the dust bin after every vacuum session.
  • If you can, remove and wash the filters each time too. Or clean them once a week. This will ensure your vacuum filters stay clean and undamaged.

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural odor absorber and PH neutralizer that has many cleaning properties. Most smells are acidic in nature, so the baking soda can help to balance this (3).

Sprinkle baking soda on your floor before you begin vacuuming.


Use Fresheners

Using powder or scent tabs to freshen your carpet can also help to prevent vacuum odors. For example, this fresh scent tab.

And if you have a canister model vacuum cleaner you can also use a Christmas Tree car freshener in the canister. This can make your house smell nice every time you vacuum.

If you want a more eco-friendly solution you can use lemon or orange peel placed in your vacuum bags. Or, vanilla extract on cotton balls or perfume pads placed in your bag.


Use Essential Oils

Another way to prevent vacuum smells is to use essential oils. You can put a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the spongy filter. But, make sure you don’t put it on the front HEPA filter.

Also, you can place drops of essential oil on a perfume pad and place them into your vacuum bag or dust canister. The motor will diffuse it around your home as the air passes when you’re vacuuming.

Simply, make sure you wait a few minutes to allow the oil to dry before placing it in your vacuum. And the best part is that you can refresh the oil as often as you want.

We recommend using lavender oil, but you can choose any of your favorite various scents.

Odor-Free Vacuuming

A lot of people don’t know why their vacuum cleaners smell. Finding the root cause of your vacuum smell can help you remove it so your vacuum cleaner is fresh smelling for your next clean.

Keeping your vacuum cleaner free of foul odor can make all the difference when you’re vacuuming. Follow our cleaning methods and proper maintenance tips to make sure your vacuum stays smelling fresh and odor-free.

Clean your filter regularly as well as your hose to keep it unclogged. And use baking soda to deodorize your machine. Or try any of the other easy and effective solutions to prevent your vacuum from smelling. Enjoy essential oils, perfume pads, or the fresh smell of orange and lemon during your next clean!

With our tips, you’ll be able to get rid of all kinds of smells, including pet odor and mustiness.

Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips for removing vacuum smells! Or tell us which method is your favorite. And if you enjoyed these tips, share this article with a friend!

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