Why Does My Vacuum Cleaner Smell Like Death?

Some years ago, about the time Carolyn's eyesight started to get bad, she discovered I liked vacuuming. Since she couldn't see how bad I was at it, and I had the opportunity to buy a machine that did something I would otherwise have to do by hand, it was a win win.

Since then, pretty much every Saturday, I've had a date with a purple and red (Linfield colors!) Dyson to mitigate construction dust and cat dander. Vacuuming had the additional benefit of completely freaking out the cats so I've been pretty much guaranteed a cat-free afternoon simply by rolling the purple and red monster out of the closet.

It's been a steady, reliable machine over the last seven years. It's had a few scrapes. OK, the handle broke off. Carrying it upstairs is like wrestling an unhappy toddler out of a shopping cart. So maybe it's not in the best of shape. Then there was the bee thing. All those sucked up honey bees from the wood stove exacted one last act of vengance on me by coating the inside of the machine with honey. And while that might have been a contributing factor, I don't think it fully explains why, when I pulled out the wand out last Sunday and connected it to the hose I was greeted with an odor.

Not just any odor. This was the Worst Smell In The World. Authors have written about it, or at least they tried to. In movies it's the smell they talk about right before a terrified teenager says "It's right behind you." You might have thought you smelled it passing road kill. This is worse. Much worse. If you took that odor, mixed it with the smell of an open septic tank, spoiled food and combined that with the feeling of getting dumped, fired, and posting something really stupid on Facebook, you might get close. This was the kind of smell that makes your soul curl up in a ball because there's no room in the world for joy and that stench to coexist.

And it is coming from my vacuum cleaner.

I have no idea why. All our cats are present and accounted for and they appear to have all their limbs so I don't think there was any alcohol related accident with the rotary brush attachment. I can't imagine a dead mouse could smell this bad. If Eber brought down a water buffalo and left it under the couch for a week, well, yeah, maybe, but I emptied the canister and there were no animal carcasses. The smell just showed up, like a door to the underworld opened somewhere just behind the wheels where the hose connects.

Those of you who do the vacuuming in your household know that the sucking is just half of how a vacuum works. They blow as much air as they suck. This is a problem. It's like I'm going around the house with a huge can of "Stench of Hell" air freshener when I try to suck up the cat fur which is getting pretty thick in here as I write this.

I have a plan to try and clean it. It involves 5 gallons of industrial cleaner, some old towels and a stick. I'm kind of afraid something might grab the stick when I push it through the hose.
For now, the Dyson has been exiled to the side porch where the trash can is stationed. It's actually kind of refreshing to open the can up and get the reassuring smell of normal garbage. The death vacuum smell is beginning to seep under the kitchen door.

The worst part of this is I can't engage in one of the few things that can cheer me up on a bad day. I can have a horrible, humiliating day but if I get up and push the vacuum around, I may be a failure at work or at a race but hey, the floors are spotless! Now, I may be a failure at work or at a race and I've made the house smell like Hell's public toilet.

I have to wonder if I'm the only one this has happened to. Is this how all our vacuums meet their end and we just don't talk about it? Dad never taught me to tie a necktie, maybe this is something else he skipped. Do vacuum cleaners just reach a critical mass of inhaled dirt and death and just start exhaling it back into the world? Are there other people in the world pushing a machine around blowing a smell that keeps reminding you that you are mortal and your flesh will rot from your bones? It makes a sort of sense but I'm worried rinsing out the HEPA filter isn't going to fix that degree of existential filth.

I have the manual upstairs. I'll have to check.


Anonymous said…
Fantastic piece, Jonathan. I once vacuumed some cat feces and paid for it the next 7 or 8 times I used the damn thing.
Unknown said…
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Unknown said…
I'm sorry that you had to go through such inconvenience, Jonathan. The stench may be coming from a stain of some dirt your vacuum sucked, how is it now? Were you able to fix it? Large vacuums might be troublesome to move around, one could choose from varieties of smaller and compact vacuums from trusted sellers. This will greatly help in terms of cleaning efficiency.

Deldra Shaefer @ Minute Man Intl
Unknown said…
Fantastic one, we have no of choices of vacuum cleaners.we can buy robotic vacuum cleaners for making our work easier.
Eliza Hobson said…
I am sorry that you have such a terrible vacuum experience, I still choose to clean the room every day, without using a vacuum cleaner.
Joseph said…
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Mrs b said…
I was vacuuming just a minute ago & about 3 minutes after I started I noticed that all the things I had just vacuumed up (Christmas tree needles, cat hair, etc.) was now back on the carpet on the opposite side of the room from the Christmas tree. I emptied the canister and started again but it wasn't sucking. It is a great vacuum so I decided to unplug it and look underneath. The roller brush looked clean so I pulled out the hose & noticed it was full of gray hair. It just looked weird so I got a screwdriver & started pulling at the clog. I got some clumps of something out and then i screamed it horror because there was a dead mouse clogging the hose. It was pretty fresh but none the less so disgusting. The vacuum is now outside waiting for my husband to clean it. Yes! I am a total baby when it comes to stuff like that. I just wanted to let you know you might want to check your hose for something because I found that a mouse can definitely get stuck in it
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