Is your vacuum a little stinky? Here’s how to clean it and keep it that way


It’s a necessity of modern life, whether you have floorboards or carpet, but sometimes vacuums need cleaning too.

Often the first sign is the smell. Vacuums, by their very nature, push a lot of air around, and if anything is wrong internally, things can get a little stinky, which means it’s time to freshen up your floor’s best friend.

First, maybe it’s time to sort out where the smell is coming from. Generally, the smell is due to a few common reasons, including pet hair, mould, a burnt belt, something rotting in the bin or bag and excessive dust.

If your machine is hot and smells ‘mechanical’, and unless you know what you are doing, take it straight to the experts as there could be something wrong internally.

If it’s not something mechanical the first step is the easiest – empty the bin or bag. Replace a bag if you can and clean a bin-type as well you can.

Before cleaning any part of your vacuum cleaner, check the manufacturer’s instructions so you don’t void your warranty.

What to clean and how

Clean all filters. This can be tricky, but technology is your friend here.

Simply type your make and model into YouTube and unless it’s a model from the 1950s, I guarantee a tutorial video on how to clean your filter and, indeed, your whole vacuum will turn up. There is an army of people who want to share how to clean your vacuum cleaner, from nannas to grumpy tradies.

Anyway, the tutorials are way, way better than the product manual and if you can’t follow one, just find another.

Whatever your method, make sure the filter is thoroughly dry when you return it to the machine.

Is there a blockage?

So if you’ve put it back together and it still smells, maybe there’s a blockage?

Check all tubing and intake valves and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to give it a shake, you probably feel like doing it by now anyway.

It may not dislodge the blockage, but where the dust is coming from may give you a hint where it is.

Check the brushes as well. I don’t have a pet, but I have a teenage daughter with hair halfway down her back and the brushes are regularly choked with hair. All it takes is one piece of food to be caught up in there and you have a stinky vacuum.

If the brush head is removable, clean it regularly with mild, soapy water and let it dry completely before reattaching.

If it’s not possible to unattach it from the machine, cut away as much hair and debris as you can and give it a vigorous brushing with a stiff, dry brush.

While you are at it, you might as well clean the flexible hose, or the bits you can detach from the machine anyway.

Fill a laundry sink up with warm soapy water, submerge the hose and agitate it until all the hose is full. Empty the sink and replace with plain water and repeat to rinse.

Keeping the vacuum clean

Okay, you’ve cleaned everything you can and now it smells as fresh as it can. There are a few tips to keep it that way.

  • Vacuum up some bicarb soda, it’s a natural odour and moisture absorber and having it sitting around in the bag or bin will neutralise any existing or future smelliness.
  • Use essential oils. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oils to a 750ml spray bottle and spray inside the bag or bin, just a few squirts should do it.
  • Vacuum up about a tablespoon of cinnamon or crushed cloves. As well as the smell, they both have antibacterial properties.
  • Sprinkle an essential oil or vanilla extract on to a paper towel, tear up into tiny pieces and vacuum it up.
  • There are commercial vacuum deodorants, generally they are sticks you can pop in the bag or grains you can vacuum up, but they are not common in Australian supermarkets and may have to be ordered online.

What do you think makes a vacuum smelly. Do you have any other cleaning tips? Share them in the comments section below.

Also read: Easy home maintenance chores to avoid insurance claims

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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