If Your Vacuum Smells Burnt, Check These 3 Things

old vacuum

Despite their high velocity and intense suction power, vacuum cleaners don't actually operate at high temperatures. While it's certainly common for a freshly vacuumed area of rug to feel warm to the touch, the machinery itself should never get so hot that you smell smoke. Any kind of burning smell coming from your vacuum is not normal and is a major red flag that something is wrong.

If you notice a burning smell coming from your vacuum, switch it off right away and try to diagnose the problem.

Look for these three signs, and based on what you see, you should be able to determine the culprit.

1. Do You See Smoke?

Multiple things can cause a vacuum cleaner to smoke. The electric motor can run too hot, the drive belt can jam, or a lighted cigarette end has been sucked into the machine and is smoldering inside the bag.

Electric Motor

The electric motor smoking isn't always one caused by one thing, nor is it always obvious. A vacuum motor runs hot if the filters are blocked or if the vacuum bag is full. Clean the filters at the intake end of the machine, and empty the bag.

Drive Belt

Upright cleaners have a belt-driven rotary brush at the head of the machine. Check that the belt is still in position and that the rotary brush turns freely. You may find that a large piece of debris has been drawn into the front of the machine and jammed the drive belt. The friction of the drive pulley on the electric motor and the drive belt will create a great deal of heat and a burning smell.

Lighted Cigarette

If you've vacuumed up an ember from a cigarette or other flame, the only way to deal with it is to empty the vacuum cleaner bag. Fortunately, most of the dirt your vacuum cleaner bag contains is unlikely to burst into flames when you remove the bag from the cleaner, but you should be careful in disposing of it.

2. Is Your Cable or Wall Plug Hot?

A hot cable or wall plug can be caused by an overworked motor.

After cleaning the filters and emptying the bag, run the vacuum cleaner again to see if the cable or plug gets hot again.

If the either the cable or plug gets hot, it means that there is a loose connection between the vacuum cable and the mains. Check that the wires from the cable are held tightly in the terminals in the plug. This should solve the problem.

If the plug still gets hot, check that there is a tight fit between the plug and the socket. If it is difficult to tell, plug the vacuum cleaner into a different socket. If the plug still gets hot, you need to seek help from an electrician.

3. Has Hair Gotten Tangled in the Rotary Brush?

Hair may get wrapped around the ends of the rotary brush and pulled in toward the bearings. The friction against this hair can create heat and produce a burning smell. The hair will have to be cleaned out thoroughly.

Burnt Vacuum Smells FAQ

How do you know if your vacuum motor is burnt out?

Vacuum motors rarely stop working without any warning whatsoever. If your vacuum motor is burning out, you will probably notice several warning signs before the motor simply stops working entirely.

When a vacuum motor is wearing out, you will notice odd noises, a weakened amount of suction power, and a burning smell. The smell comes from the shellac used on the coil windings inside the motor, and it may have an odor similar to smoke.

Why does my Shark vacuum smell like burning rubber?

There are a few different reasons why you may notice a burning rubber type of smell while you are using your vacuum. Usually, this odor is the result of a broken belt but it could also indicate that something is stuck in one of the roller brushes on the vacuum.

Turn off the vacuum and let it cool down for about 30 minutes before you inspect the belts and the rollers. You may notice hair or other debris caught up in the roller, or find frayed pieces of rubber that let you know a belt has broken.

How do you fix a bad smelly vacuum?

It may seem a bit ironic, but sometimes the things you use to clean your home must be cleaned themselves. The vacuum in any typical household encounters a lot of hair, dust, crumbs, and other little bits of dirt and grime that, over time, can cause the machine to have a bad smell.

To fix the problem, clean the vacuum filter. Often, this is the culprit when your vacuum cleaner is smelly.

Remove the filter, run it under cool water from the faucet, and allow it to dry thoroughly. Change the vacuum bag, if there is one present, or empty and rinse out the canister used to collect dirt.

Cleaning these two parts of the vacuum is typically enough to eliminate bad odors. If your vacuum is experiencing mechanical failure or some other problem that is causing the smell, however, cleaning will not help with the odor.

How do you deep clean a vacuum?

Deep cleaning a vacuum might seem a bit silly, since the vacuum is the thing that's supposed to clean everything else, but it's a good idea to deep clean the vacuum once a month to prevent bad smells and keep it operating at peak efficiency.

To deep clean this machine, unplug it and turn it to the off position first. Next, check the rolling brush at the bottom and remove any hair, threads, or debris you find here.

Check the filter and lint trap, if present. Some vacuums are made with filters and/or lint traps, which should be cleaned or replaced as needed.

Remove all the vacuum attachments and clean them out. Shake them thoroughly to get any dirt and debris out, pull hair and threads out of brushes, and remove any hair or dirt that's stuck onto these attachments.

Place all the removed attachments and separate pieces in a tub of warm, soapy water to wash them. Rinse them and allow them to dry before re-attaching them.

Wipe down the exterior of the vacuum with warm, soapy water and then a second time with plain water to rinse off all the soap residue. Keep water away from all electrical cords and electrical parts of the vacuum.

Use a can of compressed air to blow around the suction area of the vacuum to loosen any debris that may be caught up in there.

How often do I need to replace my vacuum?

Vacuum cleaners are not made to last for a long time. Unless you're buying very high-end, luxury vacuum cleaners that cost a lot of money, you can expect to replace your vacuum cleaner every four to six years.