Why Does My Vacuum Cleaner Smell Bad

5 Reasons Your Vacuum Cleaner Smells Bad

5 Reasons Your Vacuum Cleaner Smells Bad 1024 726 Jennifer Dean

The other day, I was vacuuming my living room as usual when suddenly a foul, musty odor started wafting up from the vacuum. I gagged and nearly lost my lunch – it smelled like a dead animal had crawled in there and decayed!

After dry heaving for a few minutes, I set out on a mission to diagnose why my trusty old vacuum cleaner had turned traitor and become stinkier than my gym socks.

Dealing with a stinky vacuum is no picnic. It’s enough to make any cleaning day downright nauseating. As someone who has battled her fair share of malodorous vacuums, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to eliminate those nasty smells for good.

Take it from me – there are some simple tricks to freshen up your foul-smelling machine.

Join me on this smelly journey to discover the reasons your vacuum kicks up a stink, plus tips to troubleshoot each cause. With a bit of detective work, we’ll have you breathing easy and enjoying clean, fresh scents in no time.

Say goodbye to holding your breath around vacuum time! Now plug that nose, and let’s dig into why your vacuum reeks.

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Reason 1 – Clogged Filters

Clogged filters are one of the most common culprits behind vacuum odor.

As debris and dust build up over time, your filters get clogged. This restricts airflow and causes odor to build up. Yuck!

How do you prevent it?

The best way to prevent smelly filters is to replace them regularly. I recommend checking and replacing your filters every 3-6 months.

Also, clean your filters between replacements by tapping them or using your vacuum’s rinse feature.

How to fix it?

If you already have stinky clogged filters, start by removing and inspecting them. If they are overly dirty, replace them.

But if they seem salvageable, wash them thoroughly with warm water and mild detergent. Rinse and air dry completely before reinstalling.

Reason 2 – Dust buildup

Just like your filters, dust and debris can accumulate in your vacuum’s bin, hoses, and other areas.

This buildup can start to smell over time.

How do you prevent it?

To prevent buildup, empty your vacuum bin frequently and clean all parts regularly.

I like wiping out my vacuum bin with a dry or lightly dampened cloth weekly.

How to fix it?

To eliminate odors from dust buildup, take your vacuum apart and give it a deep clean.

Remove and empty the bin, then wipe out with a cloth and vacuum cleaner cleaning solution or mild detergent.

Use a vacuum brush to clean hoses and extensions.

Reason 3 – Mold and mildew

If moisture gets trapped in your vacuum, it can allow mold and mildew to grow.

This is especially common if you vacuum up wet spills frequently. The moldy smell is not pleasant!

How do you prevent it?

Prevent mold growth by avoiding vacuuming up wet messes if possible.

If you do, empty the bin immediately and leave the parts open to dry fully. Also replace filters if they get damp.

How to fix it?

To remove mold smells, clean your vacuum bin and hoses with an antimicrobial cleaner or bleach solution. Let all parts dry thoroughly before reassembling.

If the smell persists, your vacuum may need professional cleaning.

Reason 4 – Hair and debris

Hair, crumbs, and other debris getting trapped can also cause bad vacuum odors.

Pet hair is a big culprit!

How do you prevent it?

Clean your vacuum regularly and empty the bin frequently. I always like to cut long hair off the beater brush and rinse it out monthly.

How to fix it?

If you already have debris buildup, take your vacuum apart. Remove all accessible hair, crumbs, and gunk with scissors, a vacuum brush or toothbrush.

For stubborn pet hair, rub the beater brush with a rubber glove. Rinse or wipe down all parts before reassembling.

Reason 5 – Old vacuum

If your vacuum is getting up there in years, general wear and tear could be causing odors.

Plastic parts break down over time and can start to smell.

How do you prevent it?

Not much you can do to prevent an old vacuum from getting stinky other than replacing it before it gets too old!

I try to replace mine every 5-7 years.

How to fix it?

For an older smelly vacuum that is still functioning, try giving it a deep clean as described above.

If odors persist despite a thorough cleaning, it may be time to replace your old vacuum with a nice, new fresh-smelling model.

Frequently asked questions about smelly vacuum cleaners

Why does my vacuum cleaner smell bad when I first turn it on?

This smell when you first start vacuuming is usually caused by dust that has settled in the vacuum.

The odor is released into the air as the dust is agitated.

Regularly cleaning the vacuum bin, filters, and other parts will help reduce dust buildup that leads to this initial smell.

I cleaned my vacuum filters but it still smells musty. What should I do?

If your vacuum still smells musty even after cleaning the filters, the odor is likely caused by mold or mildew buildup. This can happen if moisture got trapped in the vacuum.

Try cleaning the bin, hoses, and other parts with an antimicrobial cleaner or bleach solution. Make sure to rinse and dry fully.

If the smell continues, professional cleaning or replacing the vacuum may be needed.

Why does my vacuum smell like burning rubber?

That unpleasant burning rubber smell coming from your vacuum is usually an indication that the belt needs to be replaced. Vacuum belts wear out over time from use.

As they start to deteriorate, the smell of burning rubber will become noticeable when vacuuming. Simply replacing the old worn belt with a new one should eliminate the odor.


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Well, there you have it – the top causes and fixes for a stinky vacuum cleaner!

With some occasional TLC and regular maintenance, you can keep your vacuum smelling fresh and clean.

No more holding your breath while vacuuming.

Follow these tips and you and your vacuum will be smelling great in no time.

Let me know if you have any other vacuum odor cures I should try.

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    Jennifer Dean

    Jennifer Dean is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, author and mother of two beautiful kids. You can visit her at www.CarpetGurus.com

    All stories by: Jennifer Dean

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