Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Vacuum Cleaner for Allergies

If you suffer from an airborne allergy, it’s vital to choose a vacuum that helps relieve your symptoms. In this article, I’ll show you how to buy an allergy-friendly vac that prevents allergens escaping into the air.

Why Do Allergies Affect Which Vacuum Cleaner You Should Buy?

Airborne allergies are caused by allergenic particles, such as pollen or dust mites. When breathed in by someone with an allergy, the immune system thinks the particles are dangerous. This leads to symptoms such as coughing and a runny nose.

The key to relieving allergies is reducing allergens in the home – and one of the fastest ways to remove large quantities is by vacuuming. The problem is that many vacuums either don’t come with an effective filter or are poorly sealed.

When these vacuums suck up dust, pollen and other allergens, some escape back into the air via the exhaust. So instead of being stuck in carpet fibres, they are now floating around the house. This is why a lot of people find their allergy symptoms get worse after they’ve vacuumed.

How to Choose an Allergy-Friendly Vacuum

The good news is there are vacuums with excellent filters on the market. These catch nearly all allergenic particles and prevent them re-entering your home. Here’s a summary of what you need to look for.


The most important consideration when buying an allergy-friendly vacuum is the filter. There are four categories of filter, which I’ve listed from the least-to-most effective.

  • Bag: the bag in a bagged vacuum cleaner acts as the first filter. It’s great for removing larger particles, but usually isn’t so effective for small allergens.
  • Standard: standard filters are usually found in bagless vacuums. Like bags, they do a good job of removing larger particles. Smaller particles, including dust mites and pollen, can pass through the gaps though.
  • S-Class: The S-Class filter is made by SEBO and is more effective than a standard filter. While it’s not a true HEPA filter, it comes fairly close.
  • HEPA: the ultimate filter for an allergy sufferer is a high-energy particulate (HEPA) filter. Unlike standard filters, which work in a similar way to a sieve, HEPA filters use a variety of methods to remove particles. This means they can catch allergens as small as 0.3 microns in diameter with a 99.97% efficiency.

There’s no doubt the HEPA filter is the best type available on domestic vacuum cleaners. If you suffer from allergies, a HEPA filter is an essential purchase.

The only exception is if you’re buying a handheld vacuum cleaner, such as the ones reviewed by SpotlessVacuum.co.uk. These typically don’t come with a HEPA filter, so you need to look for an effective standard filter instead.

Also, be wary of vacuums that claim to have “HEPA-like” filters or “HEPA-style” bags. These are not HEPA filters and are unlikely to remove anywhere close to the same number of particles.


Just having an efficient filter isn’t enough to stop allergens escaping. Some vacuums have a great filter, but are let down by poor-quality sealing throughout the interior. This means particles can escape without needing to pass through the filter.

Judging the sealing of a vacuum is difficult, as it’s not obvious from promotional photos. That’s why it’s a good idea to read vacuum reviews from a trusted source before you buy.

Bagged or Bagless?

Another consideration is whether to buy a bagged or bagless vacuum cleaner.

The bag in a bagged vacuum acts as the first layer of filtration. When air enters the bag, larger particles are caught as air passes through the walls. Smaller particles escape, however, which is why an extra filter is required if a vacuum is to be allergy-friendly.

The best bagless vacuums use “cyclonic” design to remove particles. Air filled with dust and dirt enters the cylinder at the bottom, where it’s spun in a circle. Dust and other particles are forced to the side, where they drop down into the bin.Like bagged vacuums, most bagless models have a post-bin filter to remove additional particles.

Both bagged and bagless vacuums can do a great job with the right filters. The problem is bagless vacuums are difficult to empty without spraying dust. Bagged vacuums, on the other hand, often have self-sealing bags so nothing escapes.

For this reason, allergy sufferers should look for a bagged vacuum – unless someone else will empty it.

Suction Power

It might seem strange to put suction power as the last item on a list of what to look for in a vacuum cleaner. While it’s true strong suction removes more allergenic particles, filtration is simply more important for allergy sufferers.

With that said, you should also ensure the vacuum has great cleaning performance. Aside from strong suction, a beater bar can stir up allergens from carpets and upholstery. Extra tools for cleaning in crevices, stairs and even mattresses can help to relieve allergies.


Choosing an allergy-friendly vacuum cleaner can relieve symptoms and even prevent asthma attacks. But a poor-quality vacuum can potentially make allergies worse – so it’s vital to get the right one.

Allergy sufferers should try to buy a bagged vac with a HEPA filter, efficient sealing and strong cleaning performance. This will allow fewer allergens to escape into the air and provide relief from allergies.

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