How To Get The Smell Out Of Vacuum Cleaners – 10 Effective Tips

Updated on April 13, 2020 by Joseph D. Nielson

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How To Get The Smell Out Of Vacuum Cleaners – 10 Effective Tips

The house is clean and the floors are sparkling but an unpleasant odor is still lingering. Before cleaning for a second time, there has to be an easier way to find the source of the smell. Assuming the garbage has been taken out and there are no hidden spots to clean, there’s a good chance the odor is from a cleaning tool, or most likely the vacuum smells.

Keeping your living space clean is more or less a normal routine, but not everyone knows how to clean all parts of a vacuum cleaner. However, it is easy to figure out if the vacuum cleaner smells without taking it apart, just get close and take a whiff.

After the smell test, if the vacuum stinks there’s a good chance the odor is a result of dirt deposits. For those experienced with using but not so much cleaning a smelly vacuum cleaner, the following 10-tips will help effectively deodorize unwanted vacuum smells.

1. Change The Dirt Bag

The most common way to neutralize vacuum smells is by cleaning out or changing the vacuums dirt bag. Although this seems like a pretty obvious solution, most of the time we will only check the dirt bag once it is full.

The issue with only emptying the dirt bag when it’s full is that it can take multiple uses of the vacuum before the dirt bag reaches capacity. That means all the dirt and odors cleaned off the floor are now festering in the compartment of the vacuum where the dirt bag is held.

Depending on how frequently the vacuum cleaner is used, models like the best wet dry vacuums available nowadays will have substantial capacity in the dirt canister to last over various uses. Although a great feature, that means there can be last weeks pet fur and yesterdays mashed potatoes still sitting in your vacuum.

The safest bet, in any case, is to clean out or even replace the dirt bag when a vacuum smells.

2. Clean The Dirt Canister

Similar to step one, if a bagless vacuum cleaner smells bad it may be time to give the dirt canister a thorough cleaning. A quality carpet vacuum feature these days is to be eco-friendly, so having no dirt bag to replace is good for the environment and your wallet.

The source of why the vacuum smells will likely be resolved by cleaning out the dirt canister. Since there is no bag in this compartment of the vacuum cleaner, you will need to completely remove the dirt canister to properly empty and clean it.

Quick Tip: Wash The Dirt Canister

After removing the vacuums dirt canister, empty all contents then wash it thoroughly with a mild detergent. Washing with the detergent will ensure the odors are neutralized and that the canister is left smelling fresh. For the best results, make sure the dirt canister is completely dry before reattaching it to the vacuum cleaner. Attaching the dirt canister with moisture still on it can lead to odors caused by wetness, or even worse mould.

3. Check For Blockage

The dirt bag or canister has been cleaned but the vacuum stinks just as much as before. That means the source of the smell is likely the result of an odor causing blockage. Depending on the model, there are two common vacuum issues that are most likely the culprit for why the vacuum smells funky instead of fresh.

The first place to investigate is the vacuums rotating brush head. Especially for those that have pets, there’s a good chance that pieces of fur, which are stinky with dander, have become tangled in the rotating brush head. Check the rotating brush and remove any hair, fur or obvious particles that may be causing the odor responsible for why the vacuum cleaner smells.

Alternatively, there may be an odorous obstruction in the air path of the vacuum. For those cleaning with a leading stick vacuum, pop off the vacuum brush and take a peek in the stick to check if there is any dirt clogged in the air path. For a proper visual, use a flashlight or phone flashlight app to get a good look down the vacuum stick.

Quick Tip: Test The Suction

The easiest way to determine if something is stuck in the vacuum stick or hose is to turn the device on and test the suction. If the vacuum dirt canister isn’t full but the suction is compromised, there’s a good chance that whatever is stuck in the air path will be the source of why the vacuum smells.

4. Use Baking Soda To Clean Vacuum Parts

A sure way to deodorize vacuum cleaner smells is to clean it piece by piece. Since baking soda is known for it’s odor absorbing qualities, it is the perfect cleaning agent to remedy against stubborn vacuum smells.

Start by removing the dirt canister, filters, nozzles and any detachable parts, such as the stick, from the vacuum. Use a damp wash cloth with mild baking soda to extensively wipe down all the detached parts. Once each of the parts has been properly cleaned, use a clean dry cloth to absorb any moisture before reassembling the vacuum.

Quick Tip: Wait To Reassemble Filters

After the filters have been cleaned, do not use the dry cloth but leave them out to air dry. Wait until the filters are completely air dried before the vacuum is reassembled.

5. Put A Citrus Peel In The Filter Cavity

The next time you make a fresh lemonade or cut orange slices for the kids soccer practice, save the peel! For anyone that feels like nothing works and the vacuum stinks no matter how well you try to clean, citrus may be the solution.

The most cost efficient, eco-friendly way to neutralize vacuum cleaner smells is to try putting a lemon or orange peel directly into the filter cavity. The the lemon or orange peel will create a citrus aroma throughout the vacuum cleaner.

Replace the scent of unpleasant odor and make everyday smell like spring vacuum cleaning with a citrus peel in the filter cavity.

6. Use A Sprinkle Of Cinnamon

Grab the cinnamon from the pantry and that smelly vacuum cleaner from the closet, because it’s time to spice things up. Staying in the eco-friendly theme like the citrus tip, cinnamon is another organic solution to fight vacuum cleaner smells.

Cinnamon is known to be a wonderful cooking spice, but it also absorbs odors and releases a uniquely fresh scent. To combat unpleasant vacuum smells, sprinkle some cinnamon in the dirt bag or canister.

Quick Tip: Sprinkle Cinnamon On Carpet

The next time cleaning day rolls around, enhance the aroma by sprinkling cinnamon on the carpet before cleaning it. This will keep your vacuum and home smelling cinnamon fresh. 

7. Change The Filter

Out of all the devices we own the vacuum cleaner has one of toughest jobs by far. Some even serve with a dual purpose that can vacuum and mop at the same time. With how much cleaning we can put it through it’s no wonder the vacuum smells after a while.

Noticing the vacuum stinks can mean that the filters have been used for too long. Considering how much dirt a vacuum collects, it’s not surprising that a particularly foul odor will develop over time.

It’s important to regularly clean the vacuum filters to help eliminate smell and maintain proper functionality. However, even if the filters are washable, they will need to be replaced after a certain amount of time.

For filters that cannot be washed or cleaned, frequent upkeep and filter replacements are essential.

8. Try Perfume Pads In The Filter

For a more personal approach to vacuum smells, there are perfume pads. A surprisingly common product found around the globe, perfume pads come in a variety of aromas and sizes to choose from.

Check the size and accessibility of your vacuum filter before selecting the perfume pad of preference. In most cases, the perfume pad will be inserted into the vacuum filter, so you want to make sure it will not take up too much space.

The purpose of the perfume pad is to gently release the aroma into the air every time the vacuum cleaner is used.

9. Put Potpourri In The Dirt Bag

Another cost saving and natural way to rid of offensive vacuum smells is potpourri. After all, if potpourri can help with bathroom odors it can surely tackle a smelly vacuum cleaner. Depending on personal preference, potpourri can be purchased in various scents via retail options or homemade.

Similar to the cinnamon tip, you can sprinkle the potpourri directly into the vacuums dirt bag or even onto the floor to get sucked up while leaving a pleasant fragrance behind.

Quick Tip: Check Available Canister Space

Make sure to check the size of the vacuums dirt bag or canister before sprinkling in the potpourri so it doesn’t take up too much of the available space. For instance, those using a top of line cordless vacuum will likely have a relatively small dirt canister, and should make sure just enough potpourri is used for scent, not to take up space.

10. Try Vanilla Extract

The deodorizing properties in vanilla extract make it a choice contender in the battle against vacuum cleaner smells. Available in liquid or spray form, vanilla extract is among the easiest ways to eliminate odor with two simple solutions.

For fast, effective relief of vacuum smells, spray a couple spritz of vanilla extract on the dirt bag or into the dirt canister.

To experience the full capability of what vanilla extract has to offer, put a few drops onto a couple pieces of paper towel and then vacuum up the pieces. Doing so will inhale the aromas of the vanilla extract throughout the vacuum cleaner, giving it an overall fresh smell.

Summary Of How To Get Smell Out Of Vacuum Cleaners

Hopefully there is no lingering smell and your vacuum cleaner is as fresh as the rest of your home. Even if your vacuum smells at another time down the road, the good news is there are many ways to combat the odor without breaking the bank.

Any time an odor may arise, start by cleaning the dirt canister and checking for blockages. After knowing the smell is not caused by collected dirt, try natural, eco-friendly remedies like lemon peel, cinnamon or vanilla extract. If natural remedies don’t do the trick, before buying a new vacuum, clean each part with mild baking soda or replace any filters.

Most importantly, always remember what you have vacuumed up to avoid leaving festering odors in your vacuum cleaner. Don’t wait until the dirt canister is full to find out if your vacuum stinks!

Joseph and Family
About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!