Typically after vacuuming or dusting I go into a sneezing session which lasts about one to two minutes and leaves me with watery eyes and a runny nose.
If anyone sees me like this they beginning consoling me and offering to help with all my life problems causing these tears!
Does this sound a little bit like you? If so you may be responsive to some allergens like I am (and may also have asthma, like I do), and also like me, you probably don’t want to go triggering your allergy by blowing particles into the air every time you vacuum. All sorts of nasty allergy causing gunk lives in our carpet; dust mites, pet hairs, mold, and pollen to name a few.
Side note: We have specific guides for pet hair vacuum cleaners and vacuum cleaners for people with asthma, if these sounds a little bit more relevant for you.
Some vacuum cleaners are better than others for people with allergies. Buying specific anti-allergy vacuum cleaners means you spend less time sneezing and dreading the weekly (or monthly for some?) dusting and vacuuming.
Lets look the features of the best anti-allergy vacuum cleaners and why you need to choose a vacuum that excels in these areas.
Quality HEPA Filter
A HEPA filter is essentially a mat of randomly arranged fibres that are trapped through a combination of three different mechanisms. Vacuum cleaners that have a HEPA filter pass air through this filter before discharging it back into the room you are vacuuming.
A good HEPA Filter (High Efficiency Particulate Absorption, for the nerds reading this) will remove up to 99.9% of allergy-causing particles from the air that passes through it.
See what I emphasised there? That leads us to ask, what about the air that doesn’t pass through the HEPA filter? In many vacuums a good percentage of air enters the vacuum then leaks through tiny openings along the vacuum system before even getting to the HEPA filter.
If your vacuum doesn’t have a sealed system, perhaps it isn’t the best vacuum for allergies after all! The filter is of little use if dirty air is being sucked out of your carpet, then blown back out into the air you’re breathing while vacuuming.
Sealed Vacuum System
Now we know that you need a quality HEPA filter, but also that it is not operating at 100% efficiency if all the air isn’t passing through it. It’s like blowing into a balloon that has holes all through it. It’s not very effective, and all that dirty air you are blowing into it is just leaking straight back out into the air!
The best vacuum cleaners for allergy prevention must also have a sealed system that ensures all the air that enters the vacuum cleaner, passes through the filter, before being blown back into the room. Using the above example, this would be like blowing into a standard balloon which traps all the air, with the only way the air can get out of the balloon being straight through a filter. Perfect!
Both bagged and bagless vacuums can come as a sealed system.
In a bagless vacuum, high quality anti-allergy vacuums with incorporate some type of gasketing between the dirt canister and the HEPA filter.
Bagged vacuum cleaners will have a similar mechanism that sits between the bag itself, and the HEPA filter compartment.
You can choose to purchase either of these options. But have a quick read below to find out why we always recommend bagged vacuum cleaners for people with allergies.
Are bagged vacuums better for allergies?
The answer is generally yes.
I’ve written a lot about bagged vs bagless vacuum cleaners in general. I’ve also done specific guides on the benefits of a bagged vacuum cleaner, and reviews of bagless vacuum cleaners.
Bagless vacuum cleaners are touted as being more convenient than alternatives that uses bags. You don’t need to worry about buying bags, or knowing how to remove and add a new bag when one gets full (it’s actually quite simple).
But for people with allergies, choosing a vacuum cleaner with a bag has numerous benefits. For me personally, I dread having to empty the dirt canister of my bagless vacuum cleaner. For any reader that hasn’t emptied a bagless vacuum cleaner before, it’s hard to avoid the little plume of dust it creates as all the dust you have vacuumed over the previous weeks falls into a plastic bag or rubbish bin.
In my vacuum cleaner for asthma article I wrote a lot about why people with asthma should use a bagged vacuum cleaner. I practice what I preach, and have just recently purchased a bagged vacuum after my asthma flared up for the first time in 16 years. A new inhaler, two sessions of prednisone, two bottles of deep lung support, and a new bagged vacuum cleaner seem to have minimised my symptoms….at least for now.
What about robot vacuum cleaners?
When my allergies started being a nuisance, I considered purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner.
Robot vacuum cleaners are the small circular vacuums, about the size of a dinner plate, that roam around your flooring and vacuum your house autonomously.
It sounds perfect right?! For allergy and asthma sufferers it means you don’t need to be anywhere near your vacuum as it picks up the dust! You could even be in another room, out for a meal, or at the doctors getting new allergy medication!
Something to consider is that most robot vacuum cleaners aren’t perfect. They aren’t smart enough to know if they do a poor job, which can be the case when they drive over a clump of pet hair and leave it stuck into the carpet. If a human is vacuuming and sees that they pass over a wad of cat hair that is sticking to the carpet, they are likely to go over it a few more times until it is removed.
If you have an allergy it is also not good enough to vacuum just 80% of the room. You need to get into every corner, under all furniture, and sometimes on high surfaces (which includes on top of upholstered furniture). A robot vacuum cleaner will never get any of these areas, so perhaps it is best just getting an upright or canister vacuum cleaner which ticks all boxes, or possibly a robot and a handheld vacuum cleaner and use the handheld to get the spaces the robot misses.
If you do want to buy a robot vacuum cleaner, be sure to learn a little bit more about them here before choosing one. We have have reviewed the best robot vacuum cleaners so you don’t have to do all the tough thinking yourself!
If you have allergies, I’d recommend buying the best vacuum cleaner you can reasonably afford. This doesn’t mean buying the most expensive, or the most well known brand of vacuum cleaner. It simply means getting a bagged vacuum to ensure you don’t have to empty out a canister causing a puff of dust and dirt every few weeks, ensuring it has a high quality HEPA filter, and a sealed system to ensure no dirty air escapes.
Tick all three of these boxes and you should be fine.
Also, consider doing what I’ve done. Offer to do the dishes, the gardening, or washing while someone in your else vacuums!