Vacuum Cleaners: How to Make Your Allergies Suck Less


Allergy sufferers often wish they could live in a bubble because watery, itchy eyes and a red nose aren’t the best look for most of us. A hermetically-sealed life would be rather complicated, however, so we just have to do the best we can. Vacuum cleaners are often our first line of defense against sneeze-inducing pet hair and other buggers, so it’s important to choose one that will get the job done.

The first thing you want to look for is a vacuum with a HEPA filter system that traps mites, dust, spores, and other ickies in between layers of microfiber. Buyer beware, not all HEPA systems are created equal. Some low-end vacuums slap a single HEPA filter near the vacuum bag and call it good enough. You want a full-blown HEPA system that seals to the vacuum cleaner with rubber gaskets at every point where dust and can escape and redistribute itself back into the air. You don’t need to spend megabucks to get a good vacuum, just look for one that’s solid and well-constructed, with a nod to keeping allergens in the vacuum and out of your lungs.

Next up, you want a vacuum that can handle bare floors. Sure, you could just sweep tile or wood flooring with a broom, but that will kick up loads of pet dander, hair, and dust in the process. In a pinch, you can use a damp mop to corral the mess, but the key to staying sneeze-free is sucking all the nastiness into a vacuum for permanent disposal. Not all vacuum cleaners are created equal, so don’t just assume you can use yours on a bare floor. Unless it has settings to accommodate flooring, you could end up breaking the carpet-beater roller or scratching the bare surface.

Some allergy experts recommend checking the air flow rating of a vacuum cleaner before you buy to make sure it will effectively suck up all those tiny particulates you want to avoid. The higher the air flow rating, the more efficiently the unit will move dirt and dust into the disposable vacuum bag or removable dust bin.

Speaking of bags versus bins, a vacuum with sealable HEPA filter bags may have a slight edge over bagless varieties since emptying a dusty vacuum bin into a trash can is likely to release allergens into the air. By contrast, a vacuum cleaner bag can be removed and disposed of with a lesser chance of re-contaminating the air around you. Of course, those bags ultimately end up in landfills so you’ll need to weigh your health needs against your environmental concerns and do what works best for you.

Vacuum cleaner shopping isn’t glamorous or exciting, but if you’re an allergy sufferer, it’s one of the most important household appliance purchases you can make. We’d love to hear from readers about what vacuum features and techniques help keep your sneezes and watery eyes in check. Let us know in the comments.

Image: garethjmsaunders