How To Get Pet Smell Out Of A Vacuum Cleaner

how to get pet smell out of vacuum cleaner

Does your vacuum smell like your dog? I had the same problem not so long ago, and I was quite amazed (and relieved) at how easy it was to solve in the end. It was getting to the point where I loathed getting the vacuum out. I presumed that the only way to solve the issue was to get a new vacuum. So today, I want to share how I got the pet smell out of my old vacuum cleaner for good.

I’m quite a new pet owner. We got our dog, Xena, only a couple of years ago. She is my first ever dog, so the whole dog owning business was a learning experience for me, including how to keep the house smelling fresh.

our dog xena
Our dog Xena

If you need to get pet odor out of your vacuum cleaner, especially dog smell, the number one thing you should do is to change the filter. HEPA filters are the most effective for eliminating dog odor. To make your vacuum smell gorgeous, put a dryer sheet in the bag or some sweet-smelling potpourri.

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What causes a vacuum to smell bad?

Before we start, let’s have a look at the causes of a smelly vacuum because they aren’t all caused by pets.

Pet hair (especially dog hair)

Before I owned a dog, we had a couple of cats. Hence I purchased a Miele Cat & Dog vacuum many years ago. Cats don’t smell, but they drop a lot of hair, so I needed a vacuum that would be effective at that.

If your dog sheds a lot of hair (as mine does) then you will need to vacuum pretty frequently. If the breed of dog you have is smelly (as mine is again), then your vacuum will begin to take on the smell of your dog. I use my vacuum to clean the dog’s bed too, so no wonder it smells!

Tip for keeping on top of dog hair: Keep more than one vacuum at the ready. I use my Miele vacuum at least once a week. In between, I use my cordless Shark vacuum that I can shoot around the house with daily. Both of these vacuums have HEPA filters (which I will talk about later).

Mold ( vacuuming a wet carpet)

A vacuum that has been used to clean damp areas and then left to sit for a while will begin to smell musty. When you next use it, the vacuum will waft that musty smell around the house.


I find that dust, when left to sit for a while, takes on house smells such as cooking and pet odors. If you then hoover it up, you have that aroma within your vacuum cleaner.

Related reading

How to remove pet odor from a vacuum cleaner

Change the filter or wash it

Changing the HEPA filter on my Miele vacuum had an immediate and long-lasting effect on my vacuum.

If your vacuum has a filter, then either change it or wash it. You will need to check the instructions for your particular vacuum.

My Shark cordless vacuum has a washable filter. I bought a replacement filter, so I could switch them out more quickly. If you have several dogs or a particularly bad hair issue, then you might want to switch out filters after every vacuum.

Don’t be tempted to use your vacuum without the HEPA filter. Your vacuum might have better suction, but more dust will spread around your house as a consequence.

HEPA filters are best

HEPA filters are a godsend because they can filter out fine dust particles from the air, including allergens. If you have a HEPA filter in your vacuum, you may well find that the air is cleaner after you vacuumed than before.

If your smelly vacuum has a HEPA filter, consider replacing the filter ASAP, it will make a huge difference.

Put a dryer sheet inside the bag or similar

To make your vacuum cleaner smell sweeter, put a dryer sheet inside the dust bag. You could also use some orange peel or put a few drops of essential oil on a paper towel. I like to use orange oil or lavender.

If you have some potpourri to hand, add that to the bag and your vacuum cleaner will smell lovely.

Sprinkle baking soda on your carpet and vacuum

My dog regularly likes to roll around on our carpet, imparting her unique scent. This trick gets rid of it effectively.

I call this the ‘shake and vac’ method, and it involves liberally sprinkling baking soda on the carpet and letting it sit for a while before vacuuming it up. You can also do this with washing powder.

Baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda) has a unique ability to absorb odors, which is perfect for eliminating pet smells from your home.

Not only will you have a fresh smelling carpet, but your vacuum will benefit too.

  1. Before you begin, change the dust bag or empty the canister
  2. Grab some baking soda and sprinkle it liberally on your carpet.
  3. Leave it to sit for an hour or so
  4. Vacuum it up

Swap out the baking soda for cinnamon

If you adore the scent of cinnamon, then you will love this! Cinnamon has a unique ability to absorb odors as well as impart a gorgeous spicy smell, which is particularly welcome in our house during the winter months. Instead of baking soda for your ‘shake and vac’ use cinnamon if you can spare it or mix it in with some baking soda.

Your carpet should smell of the lovely spice, and your vacuum should smell of it too the next time you use it.

Wash out the hose

If your vacuum is still smelly after changing the filter, the next thing to do is to clean the vacuum hose.

Check the brush head and release caught up hair

A brush head that is free of hair will be more effective at picking up more hair. It should be straightforward to perform some maintenance on your brush head. Check the instructions for your particular vacuum.

Read next:

How to prevent odor building up in a vacuum cleaner

dog smelling some herbs

Once you have your vacuum smelling sweet, you will want to keep it that way!

Replace filters and dust bags regularly

One thing I have learned since owning a pet is that you must keep your vacuum well maintained. This means regularly checking the dust bag and changing it even if it isn’t quite full, and switching out or cleaning the filter regularly too. If you look after your vacuum, it will look after you, and it might even last longer.

For my Shark cordless vacuum, I bought a second set of filters, so I could wash one set while using the other. My Miele has a HEPA filter, so I bought a new cassette, and I will switch it out as soon as the performance appears to be reduced.

If your vacuum uses dust bags, avoid using the cheapest bags. Either use the bags recommended by the manufacturer or use the best compatible ones you can afford. The best ones are made of breathable materials that avoid blasting out particles back into the air.

Keep your pet groomed and washed

How you groom and keep your pet smelling sweet, of course, depends on the breed of dog. I’m not an expert dog owner, but one thing I am aware of is that you shouldn’t over wash your dog because it can cause skin issues.

If you can’t wash your dog as much as you would like, consider making your own dog spray to keep your dog fresh between bathing.

Never hoover anything wet or damp

Vacuums aren’t designed, of course, to clean up anything damp or wet. However, sometimes it happens by mistake (as I have done). If you do, switch out the dust bag or empty the canister ASAP to minimize damage.

Related reading:

How to get dog smell out of a bagless vacuum

If you have a bagless vacuum, such as a Dyson, you don’t have the option to simply switch out the bag. So, what can you do to keep your bagless vacuum smelling lovely too?

Regularly empty the canister

It goes without saying, of course. If your vacuum smells, then don’t let the canister get too full before you empty it.

Wipe out the inside of the canister with a wet wipe

Take a wet wipe or a microfiber cloth and wipe out the canister. Check the instructions for your particular make of vacuum before you attempt this.

Replace or clean the filters

Check the instructions and replace the filter or wash it according to the manufacturer’s advice.

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Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys and one dog, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.