How to Get Rid of Bad Smell in Vacuum Cleaner – DIY 2023 and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

When it comes to our daily cleaning regimes, vacuums are always on top. Often, once you finish the cleaning process, you might end up noticing that your vacuum smells awful. Now to prevent the smell, it is critical to find out the root cause of the smell. There can be few to so many reasons to be the cause of the odor and trust me; sometimes, it can get very complicated. Well, based on my experience, I’m going to share some excellent ways to handle it, and by the end of this guide, you’ll surely know how to get rid of the bad smell in vacuum cleaners.

Common Causes of Bad Smell

Firstly, if you are a pet owner and using a cleaner for pets, the significant portion of the smell can be due to pet hair. Dander and pet hair are very smelly, even outside the machine, and these carry the odor inside the vacuum too. The stench can also be a result of pet urine as an extra by-product. It is unlikely to carry the pet urine directly, but dust and pet hair can stick the liquid with them. After vacuuming, an amalgam of pet hair and dried urine can form an excellent recipe for a horrible smell. Maybe that’s why you shouldn’t go for just any vacuum cleaner, but focus on the ones like Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro here, which are ideal for houses with pets.

Secondly, we’ll take account of the accumulation of mold. Mold spores are present everywhere in our environment, and they grow where they get optimal conditions. If mold growth stays unattended, they may create a foul smell. You should check out for mold growth, especially if you are using the machine in a wet or humid area. The mold growth can take the smells to the next level and trust me, you don’t want that – see here how to get rid of it!

Thirdly, talking of the belt of the machine. The brushes of the cleaner roll due to the movement of the rubber belt, thus cleaning hair and dust. These brushes require regular cleaning, and if they are not maintained well, the brushes can get stuck due to the stacked hair. These can further cause damage to the rubber. An overused and stretched belt can produce a specific burning smell — lastly, the dust. Dust never comes alone, debris and other messes also join the ride whenever you are vacuuming.

All of these messes together compound to the smelling vacuum. So too much dirt or debris in the dust bag will eventually affect the performance of your vacuum cleaner (see ‘How To Clean a Vacuum Cleaner‘).

How to get rid of bad smell

The following are some of the useful ways to get rid of bad odor easily and quickly.

Bag Replacement

The bag, if it start smelling, can be the cause of the bad smell of the vacuum cleaner. If your cleaning unit is bag-less, obviously you will just need to empty the bin and wash it. But If you have a unit that is bagged, you should work on replacing the bags. Bags are usually essential to prevent musty odors and nowadays excellent lightweight vacuums are perfect in terms of baggage. Some kits have few layers that are meant for filtration. These are generally more preferable compared to the simple paper ones. Depending upon the size and frequency of vacuuming, you should replace the bags within a 1 to 6 months period. Also, washable bags should be adequately dried after cleaning.

Essential Cleaning

Make sure that your vacuum cleaner is clean and takes account of the second step. You can take a cleaning cloth and dampen it with soapy as well as clean water, respectively. Take the cloth and wipe the entire surface of the cleaner thoroughly, removing any stains and dust with the fabric. If you wish to be more friendly towards your environment, you can incorporate baking soda into the cleaning regime. For this purpose, prepare a mixture that contains one teaspoon of baking soda and add a reasonable amount of water in it. You can use this solution to clean the filters, hose, and the compartments of the bag. You can use fresh, clean water to clean and then dry the metallic or plastic parts of the device.

Filter Cleaning & Replacement

The vacuum cleaners have filters that are supposed to keep the dirt, dust, and allergens from escaping back into the environment. These filters with time and due to usage get old, and it becomes necessary to change them and get new ones. Filters are essential for health, not only for your own health but also the health of your loved ones. It is suggested that you should change your filters every 3 to 12 months. Moreover, always go for the original quality filter, and do not choose the one from the third party manufacturers. Furthermore, there are others which are washable, you can wash them, and air dry them for 24 hours, and then after all parts are dry put all the parts together (see here how to clean Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro). Lastly, even the washable filters are likely to wear out, so do not be afraid and get a new filter.

Check the Brushes

Cleaning of the brushes is another crucial step for the maintenance of your vacuum cleaners. So you should work to clean your brushes just twice in the whole year. Brushes gather a lot of dirt and debris, so make sure you clean them. Unplug your vacuum cleaner. If the brush is removable, detach the brushes from the floor head attachment. Now take a pair of scissors and cut any hair stuck within the bristles very carefully. Stay careful as you would not want to reduce the bristles. Wash the brushes using water and soap. If the brushes are not removable, you can spray water and vinegar and let them air dry. Assemble all the parts after they have been dried completely.

Cleaning the Hose

If you want to maintain your vacuum cleaner, you should learn how to clean the vacuum hose which is also very important. Little particles can also get stuck in the tube’s inner layer. These particles decay over time and create a strong odor. Cleaning the hose is a simple step. You should simply detach the hose and place it on a flat surface. Use any stick or broom and push to remove any blockage. Gather a few inches of hot water in the sink and add two tablespoons of bleach. Take one spoon of dish soap. You can also use vinegar or baking soda instead of bleach. Now move the tube around the running tap water and make sure to clean the entire tube. Now dry it entirely before assembling all the parts. You are suggested to hang the hose for almost 24 to 48 hours.

Use Perfume Pads

Perfume pads are also very important. These scented tablets are capable of producing beautiful scents and keeping the bad ones. These scented or perfumed pads can be incorporated on the top of the vacuum filters and I’d suggest you go for top portable vacuum cleaners. After putting the pads, turn your device on, and you would notice that it produces a fresh and gentle scent while cleaning as the air passes the pads.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a well-known ingredient that is very good at cleaning and is not limited to cleaning vacuums only as you can use it to clean your kitchen cabinets easily, as well. The powder is capable of absorbing any unpleasant smells. You simply have to take the powder and sprinkle on the dust bag as well as all over the inner walls of the bin.


Cinnamon is also known to absorb the smells. It deals with the foul odors that can be produced in the component. If you are among those who don’t want to use perfumed pads, you can thus use cinnamon to keep the odors in check.

Essential Oils

Essential oils can add extra benefits. Thyme or lemongrass are also known for their scents. These not only fight mold growth but also keep the vacuum smell in check. You can take 20 to 30 drops of oil and add it to a spray bottle. Also, add a spoon of baking soda and some water.

These are some of the excellent and easy ways you can use to make sure your vacuum doesn’t smell bad. In case you’ve any queries or suggestions which you’d like me to include here, then don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


1. How do you freshen up a vacuum cleaner?

While it's a good idea to vacuum your carpets at least once a week, it's even more important to clean your vacuum cleaner at least once a month. All of the dust and residue can clog the filters and even damage your vacuum's motor over time. When you do clean it, make sure you take out the filters and clean them. You can easily clean your filters in the dishwasher, or you can use warm soapy water and a little rub. 

2. How do you deodorize a vacuum?

First of all, never pour water in a vacuum cleaner, as it could result in an electrical shock. In order to deodorize your vacuum, you can use a few drops of an essential oil, such as lavender. If the smell persists, then you can try using baking soda and dishwashing liquid, mixing them in a bowl and applying the mixture to the dirty parts of your vacuum cleaner, letting it dry overnight.

3. Can you put air freshener in vacuum cleaner?

By adding smells to your vacuum cleaner, you can brighten your home while you clean. It is possible to use vacuum smells to freshen the air in your entire home and leave behind a long-lasting scent. There is a misconception that you can just add any scent to your vacuum cleaner.

4. Why does my vacuum smell burnt?

Hoovers and other vacuum cleaners emit a burning odor when their suction belts wear out. If the belt has been damaged by heat blistering, tears, or stretching, it may emit an odor similar to burning rubber.

5. Can I put baking soda in my vacuum?

Baking soda can cause vacuum cleaners (see canister and upright vacuums compared) to become clogged, which could damage the motor. It is possible that a bagless vacuum's cyclonic filters and post-motor HEPA filter can be a chokepoint.

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