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Bagless vacuum cleaners

By Matthew Knight

Trying to choose between a bagged or bagless vacuum cleaner? There are some differences that you should know about – especially if you suffer from allergies.

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Bagless vacuum cleaners

It has been more than three decades since Sir James Dyson first introduced his cyclonic bagless vacuum to the world, and today, many competing major manufacturers such as Vax and Bosch, Miele and Shark have produced their own bagless vacuums. Below, you'll find the pros and cons of choosing a bagless model over traditional bagged versions. 

Regardless of what you end up buying, make sure it's a vacuum cleaner that will suck up dust, large debris and hair and not skip over it. Our independent reviews reveal the best on the market, and we've tested more than 150 models.

Want to know which vacuum cleaner is best for your home? Take a look at all of our vacuum cleaner reviews.

Bagless versus bagged vacuums

Bagless vacuum cleaners trap all the dust and dirt from your floors inside a canister that you then empty into a bin. This saves you having to replace bags, which can be costly and fiddly.

The big advantage of a bagless vacuum is the reduced running cost. The ongoing cost of replacement bags for a bagged vacuum cleaner can mount up as the years go on.

On the downside, bagless vacuums tend to have smaller dust capacities than bagged models. The average upright bagged vacuum will hold around 4.2 litres of dust, but bagless upright vacuums hold an average of 2.6 litres – considerably less.

Emptying a bagless vacuum cleaner can also be a messy job, potentially making them a bad choice for those with allergies. You need to be careful not to spill anything as you remove and tip out the dust canister into your bin, many bagless models also require you to put your hand into the cylinder to remove every last bit of the hair and fluff that your vacuum cleaner will suck up.

When we conducted an investigation into the dust cloud emitted by various types of vacuum cleaner, bagless vacuum cleaners emitted much more dust back into the home during emptying than bagged vacuums. Top emptying bagless vacuum cleaners were the worst for creating a large dust cloud.

Emptying the canister into an outside bin may protect you from releasing the fine dust particles back into your home, but it is still a messy job. Some bagless vacuum manufacturers, and Allergy UK, recommend that you empty the canister into a bag, and use a mask and gloves, to protect yourself from the dust.

Allergen retention

We test every vacuum to see how well it retains the dust particles and allergens that you vacuum up – as the last thing you want is a vacuum cleaner that leaks.

But it’s not just how hygienic it is to empty that needs to be considered by people with allergies.

Our tests show that, on average, there is no real difference between how well bagged and bagless vacuum cleaners trap the fine dust and allergens that they do suck up, so this shouldn't be a barrier to choosing either a bagged or bagless model as we have found examples of both that are fantastic at retaining allergens. 

Hepa and S-class filters can help a vacuum retain dust and allergens, but they aren't always a guarantee of good performance. To make sure you get a vacuum that keeps everything in, search for vacuum cleaners with four or more stars for allergen retention in our vacuum cleaner reviews.


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