Why Does A Vacuum Cleaner Smell So Bad? [Repair Guide]

Have you ever wondered why does a vacuum cleaner smell so bad when you are using it?

It’s a common problem many vacuum owners face at some point.

There are many steps you can take to eliminate foul smells, but only once you have found the problem.

The two main reasons for a smelly vacuum are:

  1. Foul contents like excessive dust contents, dried liquids like milk or even pet urine. These can linger within the vacuum, and the smell gets exhausted out when you are using it.
  2. The rolling brush bar, or head, can become stuck, which will cause friction with the vacuum belt. You will tend to notice this problem a bit easier, because it will smell like burning, and the vacuum will not be working to full suction.

Now we know the leading causes, here’s how you can fix the problem.

How To Stop A Vacuum Cleaner From Smelling

First of all, you need to understand what vacuum cleaner you own. If it’s a bagged one, then you instantly want to replace it with a new one.

You can get scented bags which are excellent for producing a great after smell. Once you have changed the bag, and the smell persists, you will need to remove the roller bar and give it a good clean.

If you have a bagless vacuum, you will need to check and empty your dust container. Inspected it for smells and contents that may be causing an issue. When you’re happy that it’s good and clean, again remove the bar brush, clean it thoroughly and use your vacuum again.

A bagless may still smell after these steps. What you will then need to do is clean or replace the filter. On the majority of vacuums, these are easy to get to and are located – refer to the manual.

Cleaning your filter is easy, and takes less than a minute. Give it a quick rinse and remove any excessive dirt. You must dry the filter either by hand or leave it for a few hours; otherwise, the water can cause damage and a fire hazard. Once complete, re-install the filter, and carry on.

Finally, when cleaning components of your vacuum, use odour neutralizers like baking soda, and other products to eliminate any lingering smells that may still be present.

After using these tips, your vacuum should be back to smelling fresh, and in full working order.

Maintaining Your Vacuum Cleaners Fresh Smell

Before your vacuum starts smelling, you will want to prevent it from happening.

Here are some quick checks you can do before these bad odours start emitting within your home:

1. Empty your vacuum regularly

With a bagged or bagless vac, you need to empty it before it gets to full capacity. Regularly emptying it will prevent build up and blockages, and prevent the creation of smells. With a bagged vac you might need to exchange it, rather than empty. However, this depends if you use disposable bags or not.

2. Clean the brush head often

If you are a pet owner, you will understand how quickly the hairs can become tangled in the rolling bar brush. The hairs, along with tiny dust particles will build up and cause friction against the belt, which can produce a bad smell every time you go to use it. This can also create a bigger problem, in which you will need to replace your vacuums belt. To prevent this from happening, we recommend you check it every four uses.

3. Maintain the filter

The job of a filter is very important in a vacuum cleaner. It removes a lot of bad odours from the air. The best ones you can get are HEPA filters, they are found in a lot of the expensive vacuums. These can eliminate particles which can cause allergies like hay-fever and even trigger off asthma attacks. We recommend you clean your filter every three months, to prevent an overload. This will slash the chances of a severe issue, where your vacuum cleaner will completely stop working. Not all filters are washable, so make sure you know if yours is before you do!

4. Freshen it up

Use odour eliminating products to go that extra step. Things like baking soda and vinegar can be used when cleaning parts. Those two will wipe out any remaining particles causing a bad smell after you have followed the steps. We do not recommend you do this every time you clean your vacuum, but once every six months will be just fine.

Other Reasons Why Your Vacuum Smells

So far, we have covered the main reasons why your vacuum cleaner smells bad.

Following our points, you can fix the issue at home.

However, those reasons are not always the case, and if you have done all of them to your vacuum and it still smells you may need to take yours to a professional repair centre.

Motor Damage/Burnt out

This is common on older vacuum cleaners. The motor has a life span of up to 8 years. If you think it’s the motor, you will notice a terrible burning smell accompanied by a bad noise. In case of a burnt-out motor, it is recommended you take it to a specialist who will need to repair or replace the motor.

As some motors may just be overheating, before you take it to a trusted centre of repairs, let it cool down for an hour or two before you use it again. If you can locate and expose it, you may also find the motor will get dusty, from vacuuming. Removing additional dirt and debris will fix your vacuum and the bad smells it emits.

Other Problems

Very rarely any problems causing a vacuum to smell will not be any of the above. If you have done all your checks and maintenance, and the problem still proceeds, we recommend you take it to a hoover repair centre or contact the manufacturer as soon as possible. Do not use your vacuum if you believe there to be a bigger problem, because the circumstances can get worse, in which you can get seriously hurt. Therefore a professional will be able to diagnose the issue, repair it and complete any other fixes it requires.


There are many reasons and simple ways to fix your smelly vacuum cleaner. Most of which can be done, by you, at home. If you cannot locate the cause, make sure you take it to a professional maintenance specialist. They will be able to give your vacuum the treatment it needs and eliminate any future problems. Also, home maintenance is essential.

Vacuums are expensive and require your attention from time to time.

Do not wait until there is a problem for you to fix.

Keep your vacuum cleaner and healthy, and it will keep your home clean and fresh!

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