I too have had to deal with stinky vacuums and smells in carpeting from cats and dogs. The best thing that I have found was the enzyme odor cleaner at the local Oreck store. The quart is slightly expensive, but you only need 8 oz to each gallon of water and it really makes the smell go away.
Disassemble your vacuum and wash the outer bag by hand then spray it while wet with the enzyme odor cleaner. Then let it air dry. Remove the brush roller and wash and spray it too. Then wipe all parts that you can get to with an all purpose cleaner mixed with the odor cleaner. It works like a charm. The Oreck store will also do it for a price if you do not want to, and they do a really good job.
The odor cleaner also works well on carpets but you have to keep the spot wet for at least 30 minutes to make it work, but if you are cleaning stinky carpets anyway with a steam cleaner put about half the bottle in the clean water part of the carpet cleaner and it works while it slowly dries. Pet odors are gone!
Source: Myself with the help of the local Oreck employee.
By cathy cleans from Wilkes Barre, PA
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My vacuum cleaner bag (Hoover vacuum) smells terrible and stinks up the whole house when I vacuum. I tried several things to freshen it such as, a downy sheet, carpet fresh, a cotton ball soaked with perfume inside the bag, etc. Nothing has worked. I used to store the vacuum in my coat closet but it made the whole closet stink so I've moved it to the garage. I currently change the bag once a month and feel it would be too expensive to change it more often, so I'm asking for any advice to solve my dilemma.
You might want to actually try to manually empty the contents of the vacuum bag you can pull the contents out with a opened up coat hanger. Also you might want to put baking soda with essential oil mixed in on your carpets before you use your next new vacuum bag. Then when you vacuum it up it will stay in the bag so you get a good smell when you vacuum and again in the bag. Healthfood stores sell some nice scents I use honeysuckle.
The first thing I do when I change my vacuum bag is open one of those scented sachet bags that people use to scent their linens or dressers and pour some of the contents on the rug. I suck it into the vacuum and every time I use it, it's the first thing I smell. Works great for me. (09/20/2004)
Look to see if your vacuum has a filter. If it does you need to change it when you change your bag. The filters are what hold the odors. If your filter isn't available at your local mart or vacuum service center then pull out your owners manual. You can order from them or they will give you the name of a service where you can purchase them. Good luck. (02/22/2005)
Are you aware you should not fill your vacuum cleaner bag fuller than 1/2 full, regardless of the time it takes to fill to that level? Any more than that and it puts extra stress on the motor and will wear out sooner. If it gets full in one month, you will need to change the bag much sooner. The longer you leave the bag in, the more it smells. (06/22/2005)
If you are thinking about replacing your vacuum, you could go with one that does not have a bag. I just got the Hoover Z Vacuum and it has a HEPA filter and a clear canister that you empty after you vacuum. I am astonished at how much it is picks up. There is no smell and it is very quiet. It is an upright that comes with all the tools attached. (01/12/2006)
If it's time to replace that vacuum, you should strongly consider a bagless one. I just got the Hoover Z Bagless right before Christmas and it works great. You know how when you vacuum up the pine needles from the Christmas tree, it stinks with a bag vacuum. Not this baby. You just dump out the canister and voila! I love it. (01/13/2006)
By Tracy J
I have the same problem with a stinky vacuum, I am now on my 2nd one, and 2nd new house! I am actually starting to think that possibly the smell is coming from dog hair? possibly getting burned into the motor or something? my parents are having trouble with their vacuum all of a sudden and they got a dog about 6 months ago. Anyone else have this problem and have a dog? I've also done all the oils, scents and changing bags CONSTANTLY! Nothing works! (01/30/2006)
I know I had the same problem at one point and I found out it was because I had vacuumed a little bit of cat litter that she had flung outside of her littler box. So if you have a cat and have done that, that might be the problem. Just a thought! (01/30/2006)
I took my vacuum outside on a sunny day, threw out the bag and washed the whole thing with the garden hose. I put dishsoap inside the hoses and sprayed them out, washed all the little tools with soap and water and even sprayed down inside the collection areas of the vacuum. The vacuum was wiped dry on the outside and left out in the sun until the inside was dry. It doesn't smell anymore. (07/06/2006)
I think it IS the dog hair! In my case anyway. I moved into a house and the people who lived here before had 2 dogs and they didn't clean very well before they left. I was vacuuming up dog hair (in some cases that was an inch thick) in the carpet! But it was a couple weeks after that that I smelled an AWFUL smell coming from my vacuum! I LOVE my vacuum and don't really want to replace it but I've tried EVERYTHING: the carpet fresheners, the baking soda, baby powder. I have a 7 month old who is crawling all over the house and I worry about her "catching" something from my stinky vacuum!
Editor's Note: Vacuums need to be cleaned out regularly. If it is a bagless vacuum, there is usually a filter that you can remove. Take it outside and wrap it against the garbage can. You can also sometimes wash them in hot soapy water. Look in your manual for places that can be cleaned. It may be clogged with all that dog hair somewhere so it's actually putting dirt back into the room. Also check the brushes, they can also be clogged with hair and it could also be hampering the action of the belt.
By Mia's Mama
I had the WORST smell coming from my vacuum, and looking back I realize that it was from the tons of dog hair that I had to clean up when we moved to our new house. Anyway, it smelled like something crawled up in there and died! I read the ideas on this site and decided to try the essential oil mixed with baking soda. I didn't have essential oil, but I had a very nice scented massage oi, which I'm sure has some essential extracts in it. I mixed it with the baking soda to a dry pasty consistency, sprinkled in onto a rug and vacuumed it up, and NO MORE SMELL! :) I can't believe it! I was so thrilled that I immediately vacuumed the entire house! Thanks for the advice! (02/19/2007)
Anise seeds will do the trick. I poured about 2 tablespoons into a clean Hoover bag. No more stinky vacuuming! (12/08/2007)
I have a bagless Hoover and have the same problem, it's horrible. I also have 2 dogs but a very clean house, I vacuum almost everyday. I empty the canister when it's 1/2 full, I have washed the entire canister and filter with the garden hose, let it dry in the sun and once I vacuum once, it smells horrible again.
Had I known I was going to have to wash my vacuum every time I used it, I would have never gotten a bagless. I would much rather throw a bag away. I know, not very green but now my house smells. What to do? (01/24/2009)