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How to Get a Dog Smell Out of a Vacuum Cleaner

Written by James Hall |

How to get a dog smell out of a vacuum cleaner

Does your vacuum cleaner make the whole house smell of dog? Here are some simple tips for getting that “doggie” smell out of your vacuum.

How to Remove a Dog Smell From a Vacuum

To remove a dog smell from a vacuum, start by washing the filters (if they are washable) or replacing them. Empty the vacuum, then clean the bin interior if your vacuum is a bagless model.

Next, cut away hairs on the brush bar and give it a gentle wash, before cleaning and deodorising the hose. Finish by adding a small amount of cinnamon to the vacuum bag or canister.

What Causes a Vacuum Cleaner to Smell of Dog?

Before you can fix a vacuum that smells bad, it’s important to understand what’s causing the odours.

In most cases, a musty dog smell is either caused by dog hair or pet dander. If your dog sometimes has accidents on the carpet, then urine can also stick to dust and be sucked into your vacuum.

A small amount of hair or dander won’t cause a bad smell. But if left uncleaned, the vacuum’s exhaust air will start to have a noticeable odour. This can cause the entire house to smell unpleasant every time you vacuum.

Fortunately, there’s usually an easy fix!

Other Reasons for Your Vacuum to Smell Bad

Dogs (and other pets) aren’t the only cause of bad odours in a vacuum cleaner. Mould particles, bacteria build-up, damp dirt, and a burnt-out belt cause also contribute to a vacuum that smells unpleasant.

How to Remove a Dog Smell From Your Vacuum Cleaner

Now you know what causes bad odours, here are some simple steps you can take to eliminate them.

1. Wash Your Vacuum’s Filters

Vacuum filters are one of the most common culprits for a bad odour. They are designed to catch pet dander before it can escape into the air, so these odorous particles can quickly build-up.

There are generally two options for cleaning a bad-smelling filter:

  1. If the filter is washable, then you can gently run it under cold water. Keep rinsing the filter until the water doesn’t look dirty, then allow the filter to fully dry before using it again (this often takes at least 24 hours.)
  2. If the filter is not washable, you may be able to use gloves or a gentle brush to remove most dust, dirt, and pet dander. But if the filter is beyond cleaning, then you’ll need to replace it.

Make sure you check whether a filter is washable before running it under water. If the filter isn’t designed for washing, then water will damage it.

2. Empty the Bin (and Clean Inside)

A downside of bagless vacuums is that dirt, dander, and other odorous substances can become caked to the side of the bin.

To fix this issue, fully empty the bin (making sure to pull out any clumps of hair or dust), then gently wash the interior with soapy water and a soft cloth. This is easiest if you can detach the canister fully. If you can’t, then make sure you check the manual to see whether it’s safe to clean inside.

Once clean, allow the bin to fully dry before you use the vacuum again. Otherwise you’ll end up with even more grime stuck on the sides!

What About Bagged Vacuums?

For bagged vacuums, replacing the bag with a new one – even if it’s not yet full – can often resolve a bad odour.

3. Clean the Hose (If You Have One)

Hoses are another common source of a bad vacuum odour – particularly if you’re using a cylinder vacuum where all the dirt is sucked up through the hose.

Here’s a simple method for cleaning your vacuum’s hose:

  • Switch off the vacuum and detach the hose (you may need to check the manual for this.) Remove any floorheads and other tools.
  • Do a quick visual inspection of the hose using a torch. Are there any visible clogs? Or is there a build-up of grime inside the hose? Along with a dog smell, a blockage could cause your vacuum to lose suction.
  • Remove any blockages by pushing a broom or thin stick through the vacuum hose. Don’t use anything sharp or apply too much force though – it’s important not to damage the delicate hose.
  • Put the hose in a sink and rinse it out with cold water. At the same time, clean any dirt on the hose exterior with a soft cloth.
  • Add a few inches of water to the sink, along with some washing up liquid. Submerge the hose in the sink and move it around to ensure that the water reaches everywhere.
  • Rinse the hose thoroughly with cold water, then gently shake off as much as possible.
  • Finally, allow the hose to fully dry. This can take a long time, but it’s vital the hose is completely dry before you use it again.

Only use cold water when cleaning your vacuum’s hose, as warm water could damage it.

4. Remove Hair and Dirt from the Roller

If your dog has long hair, then this is likely to get caught around the vacuum’s roller bar. Rollers also collect dirt, dander, and other grime, which can cause odours.

For this reason, it’s important to periodically clean your vacuum’s rollers.

  1. Unplug your vacuum and remove the brush from the floor head (if possible.)
  2. Cut away hair that’s wrapped around the bar using scissors. Avoid cutting any of the bristles.
  3. If you’ve been able to remove the brush, give it a gentle clean with water.
  4. Allow the brush to dry for at least 24 hours.

Tip: Did you know that many of Shark’s latest vacuums have anti-hair wrap technology? This system automatically cuts hairs, so they are much less likely to get caught around the roller. A good example is the Shark NZ801UKT.

5. Check the Rest of the Vacuum for Blockages

Once you’ve cleaned the main culprits for a bad vacuum smell, it’s a good idea to check for clogging in the rest of the vacuum. Take a look at intake tubes, wands, valves, and anywhere else where there might be blockages.

This is also the time to check your vacuum’s tools and accessories. Look for patches of grime, hair, or clogging that could cause dog smells.

How to Keep Your Vacuum Smelling Fresh

Once your vacuum has been cleaned, there are a few steps you can take to keep it smelling fresh for longer.

  • Empty your vacuum more regularly (especially if you have a bagless vac.) The longer dirt, hair, and other debris sits in the bin, the more chance there is for bacteria to grow.
  • Avoid vacuuming damp patches of rugs, carpets, and mats. Vacuums are not designed for cleaning damp areas, and doing so can lead to a musty smell. You should also avoid vacuuming up damp dirt.
  • Some people place a dryer sheet into a new vacuum bag before inserting it into the vacuum. This keeps the bag smelling fresh for longer.
  • Some pet vacuums come with charcoal filters. These actively absorb bad odours before they are released into the air, making them a great choice if you’re constantly battling with dog smells.
  • Set a reminder in your calendar or task management app to clean your vacuum regularly. The more frequently you clean the vacuum, the less chance there is for bad odours to develop.

It’s also important to do a thorough clean of your vacuum cleaner every 10-12 months.


No-one wants a vacuum cleaner that smells of dog. Fortunately, preventing these smells is often a simple process.

The key is to keep all parts of your vacuum as clean as possible. This includes the bin, hose, and rollers. It’s also important to wash or change the filters regularly, as these are often the primary source of bad odours from a vacuum.

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