Why Does Your Vacuum Smell? (And How To Fix)

DEEBOT T8 cleaning next to woman who is reading and enjoying coffee

Picture owning a new robot vacuum that effortlessly navigates and cleans your home. With a preset schedule, you enjoy returning to a spotless house. However, you soon detect a suspicious smell coming from the vacuum, leaving you curious about its cause and urgently looking for a solution. Addressing this issue is essential to avoid an unpleasant-smelling home. Find out the potential reasons and the best solutions, as well as learn preventive measures to ensure your home always smell fresh and clean. After all, maintaining a pleasant atmosphere is key to a satisfying cleaning experience.

Common Reasons Behind Vacuum Smells


There are plenty of reasons why your vacuum smells, and finding the source is the key to the best solutions.

Clogged Filters

One of the main reasons for vacuum smells is clogged filters. When the filters are overloaded with dust, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, resulting in musty odors. Over time, the smell can become stronger, making it challenging to use the vacuum.

Overheating Motors

Another common reason is overheating motors. If the belt is worn out, it can cause the motor to overheat, producing a burnt smell. In severe cases, the motor may burn out entirely and need repairing.

Trapped Debris

Trapped debris, such as pet hair or food crumbs, can cause vacuum smells. They can accumulate and rot in the filter, hose or brush, leading to unpleasant smells. This issue typically happens in vacuum cleaners that used to clean spaces with high traffic, for examples households with pets or children.

Solutions to Eliminate Vacuum Smells

man taking robot vacuum components out for maintenance

After locating the source of unpleasant smells, we can work on eliminating them with the following solutions.

Empty Dust Bag Or Bin

First, if you have a clogged filter or trapped debris in your robot vacuum, emptying the dust bag or bin regularly can help avoid bad odors from developing. Try to do this after each use, especially if you're vacuuming a high-traffic area, such as kitchen and living room. This can prevent debris from rotting and become smelly.

Clean Or Replace Filters

Check the filter and if it is clogged, cleaning or replacing it should fix the issue right away. To prevent dust and debris from accumulating, check it regularly can help. It is recommended to refer to the vacuum's user manual for specific instructions on how to clean its filter.

Check The Brushes

Check and clean the brushes in case there is debris trapped in between. The brushes are the first contact to different debris and especially after cleaning the high-traffic area, debris like pet hair and food crumbs may be stuck there. If your vacuum has a rotating brush, you should be able to take it out and clean. Always refer to the manual on how to clean the brushes.

Wash The Hose

If you are using an upright vacuum, remove the vacuum hose and wash it with soapy water, either dish soap or mild detergents are fine. It is best to let it submerge totally, allowing water to move through the inside and cleanse. After that, rinse thoroughly and let it dry before reattaching it to the vacuum.

Wash The Mop If You Use A Vacuum Mop

It is getting popular to get a vacuum and mop combo for home cleaning. Wash the mop after each use to prevent smells. While some mop heads in microfiber are machine washable, for those that couldn’t be put in a washing machine, you can soak them in a bleach and water mix solution, then rinse it completely and hang it dry.

Replace With Robot Vacuums

For a smarter and hands-free cleaning solution, consider upgrading from a traditional vacuum cleaner to a robot vacuum. Top-tier models such as the DEEBOT T20 OMNI, offer exceptional features, including an All-in-one docking station – other than charging the robot after each use, it also empties the debris, wash and hot-air dry the mop head automatically. The OMNI station has a large dust bin that can hold months of debris, while washing the mop head with hot water can dissolve stubborn stains and removes odors, keeping the robot fresh. On top of it, robot vacuums are equipped with sensors that send alerts to apps to notify users when it's time to replace filters or empty dust bins, preventing the accumulation of unpleasant smells.

Preventive Maintenance In Keeping Your Vacuum From Bad Smell

a close up of vacuum cleaner brush

Take the following preventive measures and maintain your vacuums regularly can keep them fresh and lengthen their lifespan.

Regular Cleaning Maintenance

Most vacuum manufacturers recommend consistent preventive maintenance. Based on your schedule, empty the dust bins or bags to prevent overstuffing. It maybe too obvious to mention, but vacuums need air to flow through in order to work properly, and overstuffed dust bins will block the airflow.

Cleaning the filter, brushes and hoses are also important to keep your vacuum fresh. Ensure that you check all the filters present, as some vacuums have one filter, while others have more. Replace disposable filters and wash the washable filters, which are getting more popular now. Rinse and allow them to dry completely before attaching it back to the device.

Brushes collect hair, floss and string-like debris that can wrap around themselves, which draw more power to function and potentially stop them from spinning freely. Untangle the brushes by simply cutting the tangle with scissors or a blade. Certain models also allow users to take the brush rolls out for a thorough clean.

The hoses can be a common place for clogs. Disconnect and clean them frequently, and it is also a good idea to let soapy water run through them in order to dissolve stubborn stains. Ensure they are completely dry before reattaching.

Overall, keep an eye out for any unusual performance. For instance, if your vacuum cleaner is not picking up debris, smelling, or even spitting stuff back out, stop the operation and find out the issue immediately. If the issues continue, it is highly recommended to bring it to the manufacturer for professional assistance.

Storing The Vacuum In A Well-Ventilated Area

Other than regular maintenance, it is a good practice to store your vacuum cleaner in a well-ventilated area. After all, molds, mildew and bacteria grows faster in dark, enclosed places, therefore storing the vacuum in a dry, cool space with adequate air circulation is key to prolong its lifespan and stay away from unpleasant smells.

Consider A Self-Emptying Robot Vacuum

A robot vacuum can take over the cleaning tasks in your household, and it requires minimal effort to maintain. Even though regular cleaning is still recommended to keep them at optimal performance, they are ‘smart’ enough to notify users when filters need cleaning or replacement, or if something is jammed in the brushes, keeping it away from odors and maintain freshness.


Why does my vacuum smell burn? Is it dangerous?

If you notice a burnt smell coming from your vacuum, it could be a sign that the motor is overheating. Turn it off immediately and let it cool down, otherwise using an overheating vacuum can cause the motor to burn out entirely, leading to costly repairs.

How do you get rid of bad smells in a bagless vacuum cleaner?

Start by emptying the dust bin. Wash the dust bin with soap and warm water, then air dry it thoroughly. Next, remove the filter, clean it, and let it dry before reattaching it to the vacuum. Refer to the manual for specific instructions.

Is using baking soda harmful to a vacuum cleaner?

While it is a viral hack to use baking soda with a vacuum cleaner, for example, sprinkle it on the carpet to let it absorb the smell, then run the vacuum cleaner over it. However, several manufacturers have addressed that this action may cause the baking soda clogged in the filter, and eventually lead to damages, particularly the motor.

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