Buyer’s Guide: HEPA Vacuums
Minimize indoor allergens with the right HEPA filter vacuum for your needs.
As part of a comprehensive plan to reduce dust, pet dander, and other indoor allergens, consider using a vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. These vacuums trap a higher amount of airborne allergens, so the air in your home stays healthier. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping and to find out why we’ve chosen the below models as the very best HEPA vacuum options out there.
- BEST OVERALL: Dyson Ball Multi Floor Vacuum
- BEST FOR PET OWNERS: Miele C3 Cat and Dog Vacuum
- BEST HANDHELD: APOSEN Handheld Vacuum
The HEPA Difference
All vacuums work on a similar principle—they suck up dirt and debris, deposit it in either a vacuum bag or a collection bin, and expel the sucked-in air back into the room. Also, all vacuums have filters designed to keep debris from entering and damaging the machine’s motor, and some even come with additional exhaust filters to help keep dust and other tiny particulates from recirculating back into the room. However, according to Energy Star, only a HEPA filter (which is an exhaust filter) can trap as much as 99.97 percent of particulates—even those as tiny as mold spores and flakes of human skin measuring 0.3 microns or larger in size (a micron is a microscopic particle, measuring less than 1/25,400 of an inch long). Vacuums with HEPA filters are available in a range of styles, each with its own best use.
Key Considerations for Choosing a HEPA Vacuum
To Bag or Not to Bag
Some vacuums use a disposable bag for collecting dirt and debris. Others utilize a collection bin that can be removed from the vacuum unit to be dumped out when full. For allergy sufferers, carefully removing and discarding a vacuum bag is less like to reintroduce allergens into the air than dumping a removable bin. If you opt for a HEPA vacuum with a collection bin, it’s a good idea to take it outdoors to dump.
Types of HEPA Vacuums
There are several different types of vacuums in common use today, and all are available with HEPA filters.
- Upright: Like a canister vacuum, an upright HEPA vacuum typically features a powerhead, so it’s good at picking up pet hair. An upright tends to be easier to maneuver than a canister, but not all models include an additional hose and attachments. Upright vacuums may require disposable bags or come with a collection bin, depending on the individual model.
- Canister: A canister vacuum featuring a large canister (often with a handle and wheels), a detachable hose, and a wand with a powerhead—a spinning brush that dislodges dirt so it can be sucked into the vacuum. The powerhead is especially good at picking up animal fur, making these vacuums well suited to homes with pets. Most HEPA canister models also come with attachments for furniture and draperies and, a boon to allergy sufferers, collect dust and debris in a disposable bag.
- Stick: Similar to an upright in style, but smaller and usually lighter in weight, HEPA stick vacuum is convenient to grab if you need to vacuum up a small mess quickly. This type of vacuum usually comes with a powerhead and a collection bin rather than a bag and, because the collection bin is typically small, it must be dumped more frequently than a full-size vacuum. Many people use a stick vacuum is a good supplemental unit, keeping it in an upstairs closet rather than hauling a canister or upright up and down the stairs when cleaning.
- Handheld: Designed for cleaning up small messes, a handheld HEPA vacuum may be either corded or cordless (these usually sit on a rechargeable base when not in use). While a handheld vacuum will help remove dust and allergens from upholstery and draperies, it won’t produce enough suction to remove dirt embedded in carpeting. A handheld HEPA vacuum should be considered as a supplement to a larger, more powerful vacuum.
- Central: Sometimes called a “whole-house” vacuum, a central HEPA vacuum must be installed during the construction of the home, or during a major remodel. With this type of vacuum, a large collection canister is located in a basement, utility room, or garage, and then flexible ducting is run between the wall studs to multiple outlets in the home. The homeowner simply connects a hose with a powerhead wand to one of the outlets in order to vacuum. All dirt and debris are collected in the large canister. Some central vacuums require large disposable bags and others have collection bins.
- Robot: A robot vacuum pilots itself around your home, no human required except to program and control it via a remote or a smartphone. Only a limited number of robot models have HEPA filters, and they’re all bagless, so not the best HEPA vacuum choice for allergy sufferers. They simply don’t have as much power as an upright or canister either, but if deployed daily a robot vacuum can help keep dust and allergens in check.
Our Top Picks
BEST OVERALL: Dyson Ball Multi Floor Vacuum
The Dyson Ball Multi Floor Vacuum, featuring an exceptionally easy-to-maneuver cleaning head, delivers an almost astonishing amount of suction power. In addition, it features whole-machine HEPA filtration for the absolute ultimate in protection against allergens and pollutants. The included wand accessories, including a useful stair tool and drapery brush, make the Dyson as versatile and convenient as it is powerful.
BEST FOR PET OWNERS: Miele C3 Cat and Dog Vacuum
If you’re serious about reducing allergens—and you refuse to give up Fluffy and Fido—opt for the Miele C3 Cat and Dog Vacuum. This is a HEPA canister model powerful enough to pick up even the tiniest bits of fur and pet dander, and the unit’s well designed, low-profile powerhead wand makes it easy to clean under the sofa, bed, and other low pieces of furniture.
BEST HANDHELD: APOSEN Handheld Vacuum
To banish small messes quickly, the cordless APOSEN Handheld Vacuum boasts three super handy tip accessories, such as a crevice nozzle to get the dirt out of corners and tight spots. This small collection-bin vacuum comes with two HEPA filters (one in the vacuum, plus a replacement), and it works as both a dry vac and a wet vac for cleaning up small liquid spills.