Why Does My Vacuum Smell?

Whenever you have a cleaning tool that gathers dirt particles and other debris from off your floors and keeps the stuff stored in an onboard compartment, chances are – some foul smells are going to come from there and enter your nostrils.

That said, while it is normal to expect that during a cleaning task something starts smelling horrible, the reasons behind these smells are not always just the stuff you’ve picked up a couple of minutes ago.

In fact, most vacuum cleaners and similar cleaning contraptions with bags or canisters shouldn’t emit any smells at all. (other than the dust that gets raised from off the floor as you’re vacuuming, of course) So, if you do end up sensing those bad smells, anyway, there’s a good chance that something else is causing these altogether.

In this article, we’re going to answer the question of ‘Why does my vacuum smell?’ As you will see, vacuum cleaners can emit foul odors for a variety of reasons, so if you think that your vacuum cleaner smells ‘fishy’, you’ll probably have to do some inspection work first.

Alright then folks, without further ado, here’s the deal.

Why Does My Vacuum Cleaner Smell So Bad?

Accumulated Mold

One of the most common culprits for a foul-smelling vacuum cleaner would be mold.

Although most vacuum cleaners don’t use water for their cleaning, it’s enough for you to pass a damp carpet with your vacuum cleaner and then tiny mold particles can end up in your cleaner’s trash bag or canister.

The troubling part about these is that they can be tough to see at first, so if they manage to get in and then you don’t empty the canister of your vacuum properly and then don’t use it in a while when you go back to pick it up the smell can be horrifyingly bad.

To prevent this sorry turn of events, make sure to thoroughly clean out the vacuum cleaner bag or canister. This should prevent mold from developing there, so you won’t have to worry about it if you are about to not use your vacuum for a while. (If you’re off on holiday, for example.)

Pet Hairs

Another common source of bad smells that come from your vacuum cleaner would certainly be pet hairs.

The thing is, pet hairs smell bad as they are, but what makes them worse is that they often get stuck to pet feces, urine, and just generally the dust and other pollutants in the area. This can make your vacuum canister smell ten times as bad.

So, the recipe for preventing this would be the same as for the mold – after every use, clean up the dust receptacle, whatever it is (a bag or a canister) and make sure you dry it off before laying it off.

A Burnt Belt

In case you smell a strong odor of burnt rubber, you should immediately turn off the power in your vacuum cleaner and inspect what’s causing the smell. The thing is, if you smell rubber, there are probably going to be some bad news for you.

Burnt rubber usually means a broken belt, which means that the vacuum cleaner won’t be able to work until you replace it with a new one. Generally speaking, a burnt belt isn’t that much of a problem as it’s a fairly easy and inexpensive fix. That said, if you don’t turn off your vacuum after you smell this, the damage can get worse, so you better do it as quickly as you can.


Last but not least, if your vacuum cleaner produces a lot of bad smells for no apparent reason, the culprit may be a simple accumulation of dust.

The thing is, dust is not only that grey thing you see after someplace wasn’t cleaned for a week. It represents a mixture of various particles each of which carries its own smell. So, depending on whether or not you have pets, plants, and what you are doing in your house on a daily basis, the dust inside that place can be smellier than just normal dust – which can cause your vacuum cleaner to smell bad as a result.

The bottom line, unless your vacuum cleaner’s motor fails, all the bad smells coming from your vacuum cleaner can be easily taken care of. It only takes one thorough cleaning session and your vacuum cleaner will be as good as new.