Why Your Vacuum Smells Bad (and How to Fix It)
Even if vacuuming is one of you least-favorite chores, when you consider what life was like before the appliance existed--beating rugs and sweeping floors manually--you have to admit its ability to make messes disappear is pretty amazing.
While it might seem like magic, the reality is that all the gross things you vacuum up have to go somewhere, and travel through the appliance to get there. Over time, this process can make your vacuum start to smell bad. Here are some of the most common causes of vacuum odor, and how to get rid of the stench.
Why does my vacuum smell bad?
Most bad smells coming from vacuums are the result of these four sources:
A musty smell coming from your vacuum could mean that mold has grown and/or accumulated inside the bag or filters. Mold thrives in moist environments, so if you vacuumed a carpet while it was wet or damp, that could be the culprit.
If you have furry pets that roam free throughout your home, then you can assume that your floors are covered in their hair, dander, and urine particles. When you vacuum and these materials accumulate inside, their odor may linger--even after emptying the canister or changing the bag.
Yes, vacuums are designed to get rid of dust, but if you don't empty and clean the appliance regularly, that dust can build up and start to smell awful. Dust itself is pretty disgusting, given that it's made up of flakes of dead skin (from humans and pets), pollen, textile and paper fibers, dried food particles, microscopic specks of plastic, soil particles, bacteria, dust mite droppings, and dust mite body fragments. So when it accumulates, it's not hard to see why it can reek.
A burnt belt
When a vacuum hasn't been cleaned in a while, all the hair, string, and other materials wrapped around the bristles can cause its brushes to stop rotating, and the rubber belt to burn.
How to get rid of bad vacuum smells
If it gets to the point that your vacuum stinks, then it is absolutely in need of a thorough cleaning. It's not just a matter of living with the bad smell: The stench is the sign of a bigger problem that, if left untouched, could damage your vacuum cleaner and shorten its lifespan.
Set aside a decent chunk of time to clean your vacuum: It's a multi-step process that requires allowing parts to air dry. This Lifehacker post from 2022 breaks down the various steps involved in the process, but when in doubt, check your vacuum's owner's manual for specific instructions.
Once you've cleaned and reassembled the vacuum, give it a whirl. If the bad smell is still present, you likely need to take it to a professional, or invest in a new one.