My husband and daughter both have horrible year-round allergies. You’d think they’d feel better in the winter when there’s no pollen floating around, but actually they both sneeze even more. We don’t have pets, and I vacuum the carpets every week. My husband says the problem is my vacuum — one of those incredibly expensive, bagless ones sold by the guy with the great English accent. Is my husband right?
Dear Mrs. Sneezy,
As a fellow allergy sufferer, your husband and little girl have my complete sympathies. As a wife, who hates it when her husband’s right about anything domestic, you have my sympathies, too… because in this case, your husband is right.
Those bagless vacuums are impressive, and not just due to their high price tag. They have powerful motors capable of sucking up a lot of filth other vacuums leave behind. Plus, let’s face it, there’s something rewarding about seeing a pile of dirt and debris grow in the removable dust canister.
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But there’s more to using those vacuums than the commercials imply. They need to be washed and air-dried regularly to keep bacteria and mold spores from breeding. You’ll need to buy replacement filters eventually, too. Also, if you’re not careful when emptying the dust canister you’ll get dust on your clothes that would re-enter the house.
Vacuums with bags tend to have higher horsepower and, therefore, greater suction. You don’t have to wash a canister, either: just remove the bag and toss it in the trash. (These days, bags have HEPA-filtration to prevent allergens from escaping as you vacuum.)
Personally, I own both types. I have a Shark upright bagless vacuum as well as an expensive Kirby Sentria upright, which uses a bag. Now, while the Shark works better than any vacuum I’d owned before (including a Dyson that died after five months), the Kirby picks up things they miss. I like the ease of using the attachments on the Shark, but my allergies need the thoroughness of the Kirby.
Should you go out and spend over $1,000 on a vacuum? Well, Consumer Reports agrees with me that the vacuums with bags really do get more dirt and dust out of carpeting than their bagless counterparts. For those who don’t have carpeting, a bagless vacuum works just fine.
Just remember that the key to vacuuming well is to go over the same spot four times (back and forth, then back and forth again) before moving on to the next.
Vacuuming often enough is also key. The general rule of thumb is to vacuum deeply once a week, getting the edges of walls and moving small furniture to vacuum beneath it. Then add one more day of high-traffic vacuuming for every person in the house. (If you have pets that shed a lot, you’ll want to add more days.) In our house where two adults, one teen, two cats and a dog live, I wind up vacuuming deeply once per week, then two to three times a week I hit the high-traffic areas. And, yes, that feels like a LOT of vacuuming but my allergies require it.
Whatever vacuum you decide on, be sure you clean your vacuum regularly since all sorts of gunk will build up on the filters and in the hoses that will eventually cause it to lose suction. Carpet fibers, threads and hair can also snarl around the beater brush and, while not causing a loss of suction per se, your vacuum won’t clean nearly as well. Finally, you need to carefully wipe off the rim of the canister and the gasket surrounding it every time you empty the thing to make sure there’s no debris preventing a tight seal.