How to Make Your Vacuum Smell Better

Vacuum cleaners are great tools for keeping your home dust and mess free. You may have spent quite a lot of money on an expensive brand vacuum to make sure it does exactly what you want it to with as little effort as possible on your part. But, great as they may be, vacuum cleaners are not magical, and over time, they may develop a foul odor that comes out whenever you vacuum.

The first step is giving it a thorough deep clean. You’ll need to get rid of any clogs and blockages, wash down the cylinder or the outer bag, replace the bag, remove all hair from the rotary brush, and wash down the exterior, too. Next, it’s time to look to the future and start regular maintenance. The best way to do this is putting perfume pads, dryer sheets, or essential oils into your vacuum bag or cylinder canister. This way you’ll get a wonderful fresh smell every time you use it. 

We have all the step-by-step guides and information you need right here to get the job done. We’ll start with the diagnostics of what exactly is making your vacuum smell bad, and move through to getting rid of that smell and replacing it with pleasant scents, including the scents of your favorite essential oils, instead. It’s time to get excited, because by the time we’re done here, your home will be smelling of sugar, spice and all things nice!

how to make your vacuum cleaner smell better

Reasons Why a Vacuum Cleaner Smells Bad

You have to look after your vacuum if you want it to continue giving you peak performance. So when you start to notice a foul odor wafting about while you’re vacuuming, you shouldn’t be getting angry at your vacuum.

Bad smells are a sign that you haven’t been giving it as much TLC as it needs. Fortunately, vacuum smells can be fixed with just a bit of extra work on your part, and the end result should be a tremendous improvement.

You want to aim to get that vacuum cleaner looking as beautiful as the day you bought it. And once all that is done, you’ll be able to think about what you can do going forward to keep the vacuum clean and smelling fresh.

Here are some of the main reasons why your vacuum smells are far from perfect.

Clogged debris

Debris picked up by your vacuum can get lodged inside and form a blockage that grows over time. This is especially true if you let your vacuum pick up larger pieces of debris like coins, buttons, bobby pins, and cigarettes.

These blockages can lead to bad smells by affecting the suction power and air flow throughout the machine, causing an overall stagnated smell. They can also get lodged next to moving parts of the vacuum and end up smoldering due to the friction. This can result in a burning smell coming from your vacuum. 

Hair is also one of the main culprits of clogging, especially in the rotary brush (which is in the floor head attachment, something like , it’s a little easier, because you can see what’s inside the canister. If things still seem to be getting sucked up, it’s easy to tell yourself ‘there must be a little more room left in there’. Trust us, we’ve been there, so we speak from experience when we say that unfortunately, the problem won’t fix itself.

If left unattended, eventually those vacuum bags will start to smell, and if you leave them for too long, getting rid of the odor will be a little more difficult than just replacing the bag or emptying the canister. 

Depending on what it is you’re vacuuming up, smells can develop at different speeds. If you have pets, for example, their fur and pet hair can turn nasty quite quickly inside your machine. Particles of leftover pet urine can also end up there, mixed with carpet fibers. If you often vacuum up larger pieces of food, these can also begin to rot and give off bad odors. The result? Unpleasant vacuum smells.

Fortunately, fixing this is often as simple as swapping out the bag, but if that doesn’t help, make sure you keep reading our full guide below.

Damaged vacuum belt

The vacuum belt is spun around by the electric motor in your vacuum, and in turn, makes the rotary brush spin. But the belts don’t last forever, and once they wear down, the friction will start to become too much for them and it will produce a burnt rubber smell that may scare you a little. Don’t worry, your vacuum is probably not about to set on fire! However, it’s always a good idea to unplug it whenever something smells like burning or smoke. Better safe than sorry!

The burnt belt can be replaced easily and the problem will be fixed. You will need a screwdriver to access the vacuum belt, so if you’re not comfortable with this level of DIY and maintenance, you can always call in a professional or a friend to help out. However, rest assured that almost anyone can fix this, provided you’re feeling up to it.

Grime build up

Whether you empty your canister/bag frequently or not at all, grime will build up eventually either way. When you start to notice that the bad smells don’t abate even right after an emptying, it’s probably because too much grime is now built up on the inside of the canister or the bag holder.

The vacuum head, hose, and main body will also all get dirty over time. When you feel like the odors have become intolerable, you might as well give your vacuum a full reset and clean it all at once. This will help you avoid replacing any parts of your vacuum for a while longer.

Dirty filters

Lastly, dirty filters can also create a nasty smell in your vacuum by obstructing airflow. It can make the electric motor have to work harder, leading to increased heat, less suction power and eventually burning smells.

BISSELL Febreze Style 1214 Cleanview & PowerGlide Pet Replacement Filter - 12141

Clogged filters don’t just smell bad, and the adverse effects could potentially lead you to buy a new vacuum. Increased heat eventually leads to overheating, and bad thermals are one of the leading causes of vacuum cleaners breaking down. You can get replacement filters easily, but they can also be cleaned if you’re not ready to swap them out.

How to Get Rid of the Smell in a Vacuum Cleaner

Whether you’ve identified the problem or not, it’s never a bad idea to give your trusty vacuum a good, thorough cleaning. In this guide, we’ll go over the steps one by one, and by the end of it, your vacuum will look as good as new!

Things You Need

To tackle the problem, make sure you come prepared with a few useful tools. This will make the whole process painless and easy.


  • Mild soap/dishwashing soap or white vinegar
  • Warm to hot water 
  • Cloth or sponge
  • Anti-mold/disinfectant spray
  • Paper towels


This is a list of potential things you can use to make your vacuum smell amazing. You don’t need to collect everything! Some vacuums, such as the Bissell Featherweight, come with perfume pads of their own, making this whole part a whole lot easier.

  • Perfume pads
  • Essential oils
  • Cotton balls
  • Dryer sheet
  • Cinnamon
  • Orange peel
  • Vacuum cleaner crystals
  • Commercial deodorants
  • Baking soda

Step-by-Step Process

With all the tools ready in your arsenal, it’s time to get cleaning! Don’t forget to put on a pair of rubber gloves, because things might get a little icky before they become beautiful. Any pair of dishwashing gloves will do.

Step 1 – Take it apart

You’ll want to clean as much of the vacuum as possible, so the best first step is to disconnect the various parts and see what you’re dealing with. You will likely end up with the main body of the vacuum, the filter, the canister (or vacuum bag), the hose, and the vacuum head.

Step 2 – Clearing out debris

Before you get to work with your warm water and soap, you need to clear away as much dust and debris as possible. Put on a pair of gloves and get rid of everything you can. When you empty the canister of a bagless vacuum cleaner, scrape up anything that’s leftover at the bottom.

When you empty the vacuum bag, check if any wild debris has found its way into the main body of the vacuum. When you clear out the roller brush, grab some scissors and a pair of old tweezers so you can carefully cut and remove every pet hair on there—it’s a bit of an annoying job but it’s actually super satisfying when you manage to get rid of every single hair! It’s not a bad idea to buy a separate set of tweezers for this if you have pets, because you’ll find yourself doing this more often than you may have envisioned. Vacuum smells have an alarming tendency to build up when you have a furry friend (or a few) at home.

Stick a broom handle down the vacuum hose to dislodge any major blockages, and stick your fingers into the hole where the hose connects to the main body. These are all places where you’re likely to find build-ups of dust and other nasty things. Be meticulous and take your time with this.

Step 3 – The vacuum filter

Your vacuum cleaner may or may not have a washable filter. The first thing you need to do here is to check which type you have. It may be labeled right on the filter or on the vacuum around where the filter is installed. If not, you can check the manual or give it a quick online search.

If you cannot wash your filter, you will need to replace it instead. Going forward, you will be better off replacing it every few months, so it may be best to buy a multi-pack of filters so you have them on hand next time.

If you can wash your filter, all you need to do is put it under the tap and use your hands and some cold water to remove dust and grime build-up. Don’t use any soap or disinfectant spray on the filter, only water.

Once it’s all clear, you will need to leave it to dry completely for around 24 hours. You should also check the filter cavity as there will likely be some leftover dust build-up there as well.

Step 4 – Clean with soap and warm water

Next, it’s time to give your vacuum cleaner a deep cleaning and get rid of all the grime and dirt that has stuck to various places on the inside and outside of the vacuum. This is one of the main things that will help get rid of bad vacuum cleaner smells and get your house smelling fresh.

To do this, fill a bucket with warm water and add some mild dishwashing soap. Keep your gloves on and grab a soft cloth or sponge, and start wiping down the outsides and insides of the various vacuum parts. You may want to consider doing this part outside, as the water will come off quite dirty and have a potentially foul smell. If you can’t, then at least open up the windows in your room.

Once you’re done, leaving the parts outside to air dry is also a good idea. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a dry cloth or paper towel to get rid of all the moisture on the vacuum cleaner parts. Water and vacuum cleaners do not mix, so we need to make sure everything is completely dry before we put it back together.

Once everything is dry, it’s time to put your vacuum back together. It should be pretty much like new, with no blockages, and no dirt inside or outside the machine. Be careful to make extra sure that everything, including the filter, is completely and utterly dry. Add a new dust bag if you haven’t already, and get ready to make your house smell great!

Note: if you’ve followed all of the steps so far and still have a stinky vacuum, you may need to seek professional advice. If you have a knack for electronic repairs, you can disassemble the vacuum yourself and try to find the cause, but we don’t recommend doing this unless you’re quite the handyman yourself.

Step 4 – How to use fragrances

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the unpleasant smells, it’s time to add some pleasant ones. No more foul odors here!

Essential oils – The first thing you can try to add a pleasant scent to your vacuum cleaner is essential oils. And before you exclaim ‘what a great idea!’ and start pouring oil straight into your vacuum cleaner—please don’t! If you want to use essential oil in your vacuum cleaner, you’ll need to put a few drops on some cotton balls first. Then you can put those cotton balls into your vacuum cleaner’s canister or dust bag. Once you do, you should have a pleasant fragrance that lasts a few weeks while you vacuum. The good news is that you can use any kind of essential oils for this method as long as you don’t pour them straight into the machine.

Spices – Another thing you can do is try out spices in your vacuum bag or canister. Powdered cinnamon, allspice, orange peel, vanilla extract, and anything else you think smells amazing. You can sprinkle these directly into your canister or vacuum bag, or alternatively, you can sprinkle them onto the floor and vacuum them up. Either way, they’ll end up inside your vacuum and should produce a fresh scent for a couple of weeks. There are also specialized scents you can buy for this purpose.

Dyer sheet – A dryer sheet is another way to get your vacuum smelling great for a couple of weeks. Their scents will be activated every time you use your vacuum cleaner and will help prevent unpleasant smells from forming. Again, you can put them straight into your dust bin or dust bag.

How to Make Your Vacuum Always Smell Good

Giving your vacuum cleaner a deep cleaning and adding some fragrance will keep it nice for a few weeks, but now that you’ve put so much effort into it, you might as well go the whole way. This is what you can do to make sure your vacuum cleaner always smells good with minimal effort.

Tip 1 – Regularly clean your vacuum

This may seem obvious (and a bit like maximum effort rather than minimal), but when it comes to cleaning, you can do a lot of good by doing little things regularly. You may feel a little resistant, but it is without a doubt the best and most effective way of preventing a bad smell from forming in your vacuum cleaner.

When we say ‘regularly clean’, we don’t mean getting out the soap and water again. That will only need to be done every 6 months or so, as long as you keep up the regular cleaning maintenance. The only things you need to do are keep your vacuum emptied regularly, remove all hair from the vacuum brush regularly, and clean the vacuum filters regularly. Replace parts as needed, too. For example, vacuum filters are cheap to get and not a big hassle to replace, so if you can’t get yours in perfect shape, consider moving on to a new set.

Tip 2 – Baking soda

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Fridge-N-Freezer Odor Absorber, 14 oz.

When it comes to preventing bad smells, baking soda is one of the best friends you could wish for. It has special cleaning properties and is known for being really good at absorbing pretty much any strong smell. It’s the perfect tool to keep your machine from becoming a stinky vacuum.

We recommend that you always add at least one tablespoon of baking soda to your vacuum bag or canister every time you change or empty it. As a part of your regular maintenance, it’s also a good idea to get used to changing your bags and emptying your canister more regularly. The latter only applies if you have a bagless vacuum cleaner.

You can add baking soda by itself just to neutralize any unpleasant odor you might be experiencing, or you can use it alongside some vanilla extract or another fragrance to deodorize and scent the vacuum as air passes through it. You can also get baking soda into your vacuum by sprinkling it on the floor and vacuuming it up.

Tip 3 – Adding a perfume pad

As well as using essential oils and other types of natural fragrances, you can also use commercial deodorants to make sure your vacuum cleaner smells good. These come in various scents and in various forms, such as a perfume pad or perfumed beads, or various types of tablets. Just a pad, a handful of beads, or one tablet to the canister or dust bag of your vacuum cleaner and you will find that your vacuum cleaner smells like a dream for multiple months!


The main takeaways you need to remember if you want to make sure your vacuum cleaner smells great are these: give it a deep clean, maintain a good cleaning schedule, use baking soda to keep it deodorized, and add fragrances to your liking.

If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to enjoy a vacuum that smells as fresh as a daisy, even if you are vacuuming up pet hair, human hair, dust, dirt, and all the bad stuff that was making it smell bad in the first place.

Maintaining a cleaning schedule is definitely the hardest part about all of this, but once you’ve experienced how great it is when your vacuum smells pleasant aromas around your house, it should give some good motivation. If it helps you should try to make a proper routine or schedule out of it, to help you build some discipline.

More than the baking soda, the fragrances, or the soapy water deep clean, the regular cleaning maintenance is what will really make the most difference to the health and well-being of your vacuum.

We hope this article has given you all the information you need to get your vacuum cleaner in tip-top condition and spread wonderful smells all around your house. Happy vacuuming!

Leave a Comment