Why bagless vacuum cleaner smells bad? How can you fix it?

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Ewwww that smell!

bagless vacuum cleaner smells bad

You know that feeling…you start to vacuum and your stomach sinks while your nose twitches in disgust. Oh no! What died in there?! Something smells bad and you become a warrior against all things stinky or gross. The bad smell in your bagless vacuum doesn’t have a chance.

The Options to Get Rid of the Smell

Only problem is how best to get rid of it. Let’s discuss the options:

  1. Cover it up
  2. Decontamination
  3. Maintenance

This list goes in the order of immediacy and probably easiest to most labor intensive. I suppose you could start at number one and stop when the smell is gone, but really going all the way through number three will be your best bet. You don’t want to cover it up only to have it creep back in a few days.

How to Make Bagless Vacuum Smell Better?

Replace the “Odor” with a Scent

Covering up the stench is the first line of defense, especially if it is just a faint odor. Some bad smells are just temporary. In any event, some things to try include:

  • Placing a scented dryer sheet in the canister prior to vacuuming, replace when it stops working
  • Apply baking soda to the carpet thirty minutes before vacuuming – this eliminates any new odor from entering the vacuum and will neutralize them inside the canister
  • Essential oils – some people like to add a small amount of essential oils in their favorite scents to the baking soda as a sort of preemptive strike
  • Buy and insert scented vacuum filters into your bagless vacuum

Most of these ideas will last long after you have won this battle, but they only help if the odor is relatively minor. And believe me, it is a battle to regain the ability to vacuum freely in your home without cringing. No doubt you want to eliminate the source of the problem.


Time to bring in the smell sniper here. Let’s face it, we all do our best to avoid anything that stinks but the scents will only cover it up temporarily. You need to get rid of the source of the problem. Follow these steps to de-stink your bagless vacuum.

  1. Take it outside on a nice day and take it apart. Separate out all the filters. You might even have to read that manual to find them all and to be sure they are washable. (Note: There are some filters that cannot be washed with water or detergent.) Rinse each one with dish soap and water. An alternative is to use baking soda and water.  Allow to completely dry before replacing them.
  2. Then the canister is next for decontamination. Same as the filters, simple dish soap will do the trick. Dry and allow to air dry.
  3. Find a sunny spot and let all the parts get some sunshine. For some reason, I have found exposure to sunlight to help remove odors and best of all, it’s free and easy!
  4. In extreme cases where the odor has persisted for too long already, the smell is recurrent. In that case, you may need to replace the filters but I would try cleaning them first!
  5. Next, separate all the hoses. You will need a tote or some other larger container about one-third full of baking soda or detergent and water. Swoosh them around to try to dislodge any debris. A washcloth on the end of a broom handle works well to clear it. Rinse well and allow to dry thoroughly.
  6. The roller area can be a little tricky. If you roller comes out, it is much easier. Using scissors or a razor blade, cut any hair that has wrapped around the rollers. Then, use a damp, soapy cloth to wipe clean anywhere you can possibly reach.
  7. Reassemble and you should be in good shape to vacuum stench free!

Special Tricks to Get Rid of Odors and Smells


Obviously prevention is the cure, so they say. Try to avoid creating stinky situations where possible. Some ideas to avoid the bad smell battle:

  • Neutralize odors in the carpet every one to two months-stop it before it enters
  • Regular maintenance is always a good idea
  • Know your machine – taking a few moments to scan through the manual might save a lot of time and effort
  • Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT EV-er vacuum up water. It is even harder to get the mildewy smell out of a vacuum than pet odors. Once water gets into the vacuum and all the dust sticks to it, it forms clumps that sit inside having a little stink party that just gets worse.

Maintenance is Key

The mission: Stop bad smells from every starting. This all starts with good maintenance routines.

Of course, everyone is busy and we don’t have time to fully disassemble the vacuum every time you take out the vacuum, but the more often it gets done, the less like the stench later.

One of the beauties of a bagless vacuum is the ability to simply dump the canister contents and be done with it quickly.

Yet, a few simple steps whenever you have the time for it will keep you from having the awful nose-tingling smell creep up on you. Follow these maintenance steps as often as possible:

  1. Rinse the canister with mild detergent (dishsoap works) and water. Towel dry and let air dry completely. Then replace it.
  2. Clean filters with either air or water. If you are just looking to do it quickly, a leaf blower or air compressor works wonderfully, outside of course.
  3. Persistent smell? Give it the sniff test when you have it apart. If you have cleaned it and it still has an odor, using one part white vinegar to three parts water solution, rinse all the parts.
  4. Then rinse with clear water thoroughly. Allow to air dry, always, before replacing.

Carpet – a Special Case

Carpet is the one area that can present a huge challenge with bad smells. Sometimes you just can’t seem to get it out and then it takes up residence inside your vacuum cleaner.

I advise against renting the steam cleaner unless your carpet really has no other option because sometimes these leave a soapy residue that actually makes dirt and debris stick to it afterward. If you can freshen up your carpet with dry methods, this is always optimal.

Tried and true is the baking soda method. The steps are outlined below:

  1. Vacuum the carpet
  2. Sprinkle baking soda generously around your room.
  3. Allow to sit, the longer the better so it can absorb odors.
  4. Vacuum again.
  5. Repeat, if necessary.   

This should do the trick! If you stop the stink before it goes into the vacuum, you won’t have to worry about having to get it out.

Great Vacuum – It’s All You Need

Now, in order to complete the carpet cleaning suggested above, or to really just keep your home sparkling clean, a great vacuum is a must. The one I suggest strongly, as I have used a Bissell for several years now, is the Bissell Clearview Bagless Vacuum.

This Bissell vacuum has several features that make it a frontrunner for any home. The fact that it is bagless is a huge plus. Simply disengage the bin, flip the switch and dump the contents in the trash. No ordering bags online! This is one of my favorite features as I always seem to run out of bags at the worst time. Plus, maybe I am just weird, but I like to be able to see it fill up and then have the satisfaction of dumping it out.

Another great feature is that with a quick switch of the knob, you can do bare floor with ease. It has removable and washable filters that can help keep those musty odors out of your house.

It couple one pass technology with powerful multi cyclonic suction so that you don’t have to go over areas again and again. It is lightweight and “includes specialized tools including a dusting brush, crevice tool, and Turbo brush tool that are perfect for cleaning furniture, stairs, upholstery, and more,” according to Amazon.

Don’t believe me? More than 80% of Amazon customers rated it 4 or 5 stars. At a reasonable price, it is great for most households.

Bad smells be gone!

Heck, sometimes I feel good that I just ran the vacuum. However, bad smells showing up in your bagless vacuum cannot always be avoided entirely, but there are many ways to prevent them, deal with them and overcome them when they do rear their ugly heads.

If it does happen, follow these steps, but more importantly, try to prevent smelly issues. Now, I am feeling like I should go and do some maintenance on my vacuum!

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