Nowadays, allergy/asthma sufferers have so many options and can choose from a wide selection of HEPA systems. I might add that vacuum cleaners are some of the few appliances where paying a bit more yields a lot more dividends in terms of convenience, reliability and performance. But choosing a new vacuum can be a daunting task, as all big manufactures seemingly offer you the same choices. Don’t worry, I’ll help you take a closer look, so you can distinguish between them and choose the unit that best suits your needs.
Type of vacuum cleaner – You’ll have to choose between an upright or a canister. If you have wall to wall carpets, then you may have to invest in a traditional upright vacuum, as they have a beater bar or a brushroll mechanism that will quickly churn up the dirt embedded deep below the surface of carpeting. On the other hand, if you have just a few scattered rugs and lots of bare floors, a canister vacuum can seamlessly move around from one place to another. With the recent technological advances, you can also get a highly efficient lightweight which works best for elderly, disabled, or those with arthritis or back problems.
Filtration system – No matter the type of vacuum cleaner you choose, its filtration system must be impeccable. No dust should escape from vacuum cleaner’s exhaust system. These days, many vacuum cleaners come with a good post motor HEPA filter and in some models, the entire airflow is sealed. Washable filers usually degrade over time, so make sure you replace these regularly. Some of the latest vacuum cleaners even have a “clean filter” indicator, that alerts you when it’s time to change the filters.
Bagged or bagless – If you recall, a while ago I made a small round up on this theme. The result is trivial: bagless vacuum cleaners are still very allergy unfriendly. So, all those who have allergy should go with vacuums that use dirt bags, as these provide an extra layer of protection. Another important factor is the way you get rid of the dirt an debris. In bagless models, the bin opens usually at the bottom, by pressing a button. This will effectively put you in contact with the contents of the bin. Most of the units that use bags have an auto-seal feature that doesn’t allow any dust to escape from the bag. In other words, what gets inside the bag stays there. One good piece of advice I might add here: always buy original bags, even though they are a bit more expensive, as these are made of high-quality materials, unlike their China brothers which may easily tear up, break or lose contents.
Odor filtration – Filtering dust, mites, pollen and other airborne particles is not everything. There is also the smell, an inconvenience for most. Luckily, today there are available models that handle this, using active charcoal, UV lighting and other technologies.
Maneuverability and comfort – Many units come with handles that easily fit in your hand, and some high end products even have all the speed and mode controls right on the handle, which helps you in conveniently managing the vac from your standing position rather than bending down all the time (which is a risk factor for allergy/asthma sufferers). Moreover, today almost every unit is equipped with a head that can turn and swivel in all directions, making vacuuming much easier. Some great designs allow you to lie the unit flat, so you can easily get underneath beds and couches where dust usually accumulates.
Attachments – Allergy sufferers need to cleaner like freaks. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ll find pretty useful a galore of attachments. If you’re basic cleaner then you don’t need them, but if you’re a cleaning pro, you cannot do without them. Also make sure you read my complete guide to vacuum cleaner accessories.
Noise – If you don’t like when your pet flees at the sight of vacuum cleaner, you should consider buying a low-noise vacuum cleaner. While the noise is not really a factor in choosing an unit for asthma/allergy conditions, these models come with proper insulating materials and better made fans and motors so they are most likely better for your condition too. Also check out my small talk on quiet vacuum cleaners.
Motor Power (amps) – Higher amps doesn’t necessarily mean more cleaning power. In fact, airflow is a truer test of vacuum’s effectiveness. Uprights may reach up to 300 AWS (Air Watts), while canisters can be much powerful (400 AWS). If you’re an allergy sufferer, you need a unit with a good suction, but this is completely tied to the effectiveness of the filtration system. If you’re getting an unit with high AWS and weak filters, it will do you more harm than good. A useful feature is the air volume adjustment. If you’re tired of sucking your expensive Persian rug off the floor or curtains off the window, this will prove useful.
Automatic height adjustment – Need to keep going from rugs to bare carpets? This useful feature will make a life lot easier, and will ensure a completely sealed airflow, from floors to bag.
Edge cleaner – Edges are particularly important, because they house some of the highest concentrations of bacteria and dust mites. Many upright vacuums have a special edge extension tool that is effective in edge cleaning, others have their nozzle engineered to handle this issue. If you don’t have this, you can always use one of the sharp attachments.
Vacuum cleaner producers often appeal to 3rd party organisms for certifying their products. One such initiative is the Asthma & Allergy friendly™ Certification Program. As you can imagine, these services are paid by the manufacturers. This should raise distortion/misrepresentation issues, but I believe the 3rd party services maintain an undeniable quality standard. Excluding the financial part, if the products pass the tests, they get a badge that certifies their compliance to the organization’s standards, such as the one from the left image.