For indoor allergy sufferers, an effective vacuum is a key tool for managing symptoms. The best vacuum for allergies cleans indoor allergens like dust, pet dander, and pollen from carpets, hard floors, and other home surfaces.
When it comes to eliminating indoor allergens, a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is the gold standard. HEPA filters trap as much as 99.97 percent of particulates that are 0.3 microns in size. These filters can trap common allergens like dust, mold spores, pet dander, and pollen. Read on to learn more about what to look for in the best vacuum for allergies, and discover why these models are some of the top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Shark NV356E S2 Navigator Lift-Away Professional
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BISSELL, 2999 MultiClean Allergen Upright Vacuum
- BEST FOR PET HAIR: Shark ZU561 Navigator Lift-Away Speed Self Cleaning
- BEST CORDLESS: Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner
- BEST UPRIGHT: Hoover WindTunnel 3 Max Performance Upright Vacuum
- BEST CANISTER: Kenmore 81414 400 Series Pet Friendly Canister Vacuum
- BEST HANDHELD: Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Vacuum for Allergies
The best vacuum for allergies won’t circulate allergens around the home. Instead, it should suck up and trap allergens as well as dust, dirt, and debris. When shopping for a vacuum, look for a model that can clean a variety of surfaces in your home, including hard floors, thick carpet, and upholstery. You may also want to give some thought as to whether the vacuum is upright or handheld, how it is designed, and its suction power, filtration system, and ease of use.
There are a variety of vacuum types that can help alleviate allergy sufferers’ symptoms, including canister, upright, stick, handheld, and robotic vacuums.
- Canister: A canister vacuum consists of a wheeled canister, a vacuum hose, and a wand with a vacuum head. Their moving parts can make these machines feel unwieldy to wheel around, but their long hoses offer a fair amount of reach. Since the vacuum head is attached to a hose that’s separate from the canister (unlike upright vacuums), they can be easier to maneuver for some jobs, like cleaning upholstery and drapes. Most canister vacuums are corded and come with a variety of attachments.
- Upright: Unlike a canister vacuum, which has distinctly separate parts, an upright vacuum operates as one unit. While they are heavier and bulkier than stick vacuums, they are reasonably easy to maneuver. Because an upright vacuum is one piece, its usefulness for cleaning stairs, drapes, and upholstery is limited. However, many have extendable hoses and attachments to tackle these types of jobs. Most upright vacuums are corded.
- Stick: Stick vacuums are similar to upright vacuums, but they are smaller and lighter in weight. They are easy to maneuver with one hand and are useful in cleaning stairs, furniture, and everyday messes. Stick vacuums can be corded or cordless.
- Handheld: For minor spills and messes, consider a compact handheld vacuum. Since they are smaller and less powerful than full-size vacuums, they’re not good picks for cleaning entire floors. These devices are convenient for eliminating crumbs, pet hair, or small messes from furniture, drapery, and cars. Handheld vacuums can be corded or cordless.
- Robotic: A robot vacuum does the work for you, puttering around the home with no help required (except to program and empty the vacuum). They don’t have as much cleaning power as full-size vacuums, but they are a convenient device for tidying up accumulating crumbs and dust.
Corded vs. Cordless
Corded vacuums are powered by electricity and need to be plugged into an outlet for use. The radius in which they can be used is limited by the length of their cords, but unlike cordless models, they will run for as long as they’re plugged in. Canister, upright, stick, and handheld vacuums are available in corded designs.
Cordless vacuums are powered by rechargeable batteries, with most lasting between 15 to 45 minutes on a full charge. These vacuums are lightweight and portable, allowing the user to vacuum freely without the cord getting in the way. The biggest downside to cordless vacuums is the battery can run out before the job is done. Due to their smaller size, cordless vacuums also tend to have a smaller capacity for debris and a less powerful motor. Cordless vacuums are available in stick, robot, and handheld vacuum types.
Bagged vs. Bagless
Bagged vacuums have a disposable bag that collects dust and dirt. For severe allergy sufferers, a bagged vacuum is usually a smarter pick. The bags contain the dust and dirt and are then disposed of, so there’s less chance of reintroducing allergens into the air when emptying the vacuum.
Bagless options have a canister or dust cup that needs to be dumped out when full. Since the dust and dirt aren’t contained in a bag, there’s more risk of exposure to allergens. However, a bagless vacuum can still be a suitable choice for allergy sufferers if the canister is emptied into an outdoor trash can. Doing this will ensure that dust and allergens don’t make their way back into the house.
Cost is another factor to consider when choosing between a bagged and bagless vacuum. Bagged vacuums will have ongoing bag replacement costs, while bagless vacuums will not. Keep in mind, though, that a bagless vacuum will still require filter cleanings and replacements.
Suction power refers to the amount of suction strength a vacuum produces, but it’s not the only factor that determines effective cleaning. The vacuum’s design, and accessories like beater brushes and upholstery add-ons, will also affect its cleaning power.
While some manufacturers advertise vacuum power output, this does not necessarily refer to suction power. The best way to determine if a vacuum is powerful enough for your needs is to test out the vacuum before ordering online or read user reviews. A high-quality vacuum from a reputable brand should have enough suction power for effective cleaning. Canister and upright vacuums are generally more powerful than stick and handheld vacuums.
There is such a thing as too much suction. Strong suction can cause the vacuum to become stuck, especially in thick carpets. For ultimate flexibility, consider a vacuum with adjustable suction power. If you have high-pile carpets, consider a vacuum for thick carpets to ensure the device can effectively clean all your floor coverings.
Vacuums suck up dirt and dust, trap it in a vacuum bag or a canister, and recirculate the suctioned air back into the room. For those with airborne allergies, it’s important to make sure allergens stay in the vacuum rather than circulating back into the air.
The most effective and widely available vacuum for trapping allergens is one with HEPA filtration. These filters trap as much as 99.97 percent of particulates that are 0.3 microns in size. Most airborne indoor allergens like mold spores, pet dander, pollen, and dust, are larger than 0.3 microns and will be trapped by a HEPA filter.
While other filtration systems may be as effective as HEPA filters, true HEPA filters meet the U.S. Department of Energy standard, making them a highly recommended pick for allergy sufferers.
HEPA filters need occasional cleaning or replacing. Some vacuums have disposable filters, while others have washable versions. Many vacuums include a multistep filtration system to capture larger particles, which helps the HEPA filter last longer.
Allergens can settle on every surface in the home. Although cleaning flooring is a vacuum’s main purpose, canister, upright, and stick vacuums usually come with accessories that make it easier to clean specific surfaces. Attachments include upholstery tools, crevice tools, extension wands, pet hair-removal brushes, and dust brushes. These add-ons remove dust and dander from a variety of surfaces, from hardwood floors to upholstered couches.
Handheld vacuums are primarily used to clean minor messes and are handy for smaller surface areas, such as upholstery, curtains, and car interiors. Robot vacuums only clean flooring.
Shoppers who live in homes with a lot of carpeting should look for a vacuum with a motorized brush roll to clean deep between the carpets’ fibers. These rotating brushes agitate the carpet fibers so the vacuum can suck out embedded dust and debris. Those who have pets in the home should consider vacuums designed to pick up pet hair.
Ease of Use
When weighing the myriad vacuum-cleaning options, remember that heavier vacuums are harder to push, pull, and carry, while lightweight models are easier to maneuver and take up and down stairs. The ideal choice for your home will depend on your home layout and the surfaces you need to clean.
A vacuum’s weight is usually directly proportional to how powerful it is. Canister and upright vacuums tend to be the heaviest, but they are also usually more powerful. Stick and handheld vacuums are lighter, but they may have a less robust motor.
While shopping for vacuums, don’t forget to weigh the small details that can make using a vacuum easier. Cordless models or corded models with long power cords are more likely to reach hard-to-access areas of your home. Vacuums that have wheels or swiveling heads are more maneuverable than those that do not. Features like ergonomic handle grips make all-day chore sessions more comfortable and manageable.
The noise level of a vacuum is another important factor to think about while making a selection. Most users expect a vacuum to be loud, but there’s no reason to settle on an excessively noisy model if there are comparable options available that are quieter.
Most vacuum cleaners operate at about 70 to 75 decibels. To put those figures in perspective, a garbage disposal has an average noise level of 80 decibels, while a quiet indoor conversation is about 50 decibels.
Some vacuums are specially designed to be quieter, and these are good picks for those who are sensitive to loud noises. If the noise level is a concern, research vacuums that operate at less than 70 decibels.
Our Top Picks
On top of being powerful, maneuverable, and easy to use, the best vacuums for those with allergies have effective filtration systems that trap allergens for good. The top picks on this list are all equipped with HEPA filters to capture allergens. Read on to learn why these vacuums are some of the top choices for allergy sufferers.
From plush carpets to ceilings, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuum can remove allergens from a variety of surfaces. To access hard-to-clean spaces, simply detach the canister pod and hose of this corded upright vacuum from the bulky handle and head and voilà—the vacuum is now portable.
This Lift-Away pod is ideal for cleaning stairs, furniture, and non-floor surfaces. Its 5-foot hose offers a wide reach and cleans dust from other areas in the home such as ceiling fixtures and baseboards. Included with the vacuum is a Pet Power brush accessory for capturing pet hair and a crevice tool to clean tight spaces.
When used as an upright vacuum, the Shark Navigator’s swivel-steering design is easy to maneuver on bare floors and deep carpets alike (an optional brush-roll feature makes the latter a breeze). With a sealed bagless design and HEPA filter, the Navigator traps 99.9 percent of dust and allergens—and once trapped, it doesn’t release them back into the home.
This corded upright vacuum from Bissell boasts the allergen-trapping features of pricier vacuums at an affordable price. Its sealed HEPA filtration system traps 99.97 percent of particles, and it’s specifically designed to tackle pet hair and allergens. Its bagless canister is easy to empty with the touch of a button.
Among the MultiClean’s advantages are its swivel steering design and its extendable wand, which helps users reach dust, spiderwebs, and debris from ceiling to carpet. The quick-release wand has a 12-foot reach and can be used with the included pet TurboEraser tool, which effectively grabs pet hair, or the 2-in-1 dust and crevice tool. The machine’s tangle-free brush roll is ideal for carpeted floors, picking up hair and fur without clogging the machine.
Pets are our best friends, but their fur and dander can exacerbate allergies. For cleaning up after a furry friend, consider this corded upright vacuum from Shark. One of its best features is a self-cleaning, motorized beater brush that picks up pet hair without causing annoying tangles. This feature, plus the vacuum’s swivel steering and adjustable suction power, makes the Shark a terrific choice for those who often have to clean pet messes from floors.
Another feature that makes this vacuum worth considering is Shark’s Lift-Away design. Its canister and attached hose can detach from the rest of the vacuum to clean stairs, drapes, and pet beds with ease. This vacuum’s HEPA filters and sealed design work in tandem to trap over 99.9 percent of dust, fur, pet dander, and other allergens. The bagless canister has an easy to remove dust cup for quick emptying.
This cordless stick vacuum is equipped with a HEPA filter, and it traps dust and allergens in its bagless canister. With its lightweight and maneuverable design, the Dyson V8 Animal vacuum can deep clean every corner of the home.
The Animal’s motorized beater brush has stiff nylon bristles to agitate carpet fibers; to clean high surfaces, simply remove the vacuum head. Detaching its long wand transforms this cordless vacuum into a convenient handheld vacuum.
A floor cleaning head, a soft dusting brush, a crevice tool, a mini brush tool, and a multisurface tool are all included with the vacuum. These accessories help to make full-home cleaning—including upholstery, drapes, and furniture—easy. The vacuum takes about 4 hours to reach a full charge. Each charge lasts up to 40 minutes or up to 25 minutes when using the motorized beater brush.
The corded, bagless WindTunnel vacuum from Hoover has a wide 15-inch vacuum head that makes quick work of large rooms. It’s easy to switch from hard floors to carpets, too—the optional brush roll can be switched on or off with the touch of a button.
WindTunnel’s 15-foot extendable wand is convenient for tidying out-of-reach surfaces, particularly when it is used in conjunction with the accompanying attachments: The vacuum’s Pet Turbo tool, pivoting dusting brush, and crevice tool all capture dust and allergens from up high or in corners. If this wand isn’t reason enough to give the WindTunnel serious consideration, its allergy-alleviating HEPA filter and odor-reducing carbon filter should help to persuade allergy sufferers.
Those who prefer a bagged vacuum should consider this corded canister vacuum from Kenmore. Its bag-style design and HEPA filtration system keep allergens contained, even when the bag is being emptied.
This vacuum handles hard floors and carpets equally well; it comes packaged with a bare floor cleaning head and a carpet cleaning head with a beater brush that are both easy to attach. The carpet cleaning head has four adjustable heights to accommodate low- and high-pile carpets.
A 26-foot retractable cord and a 9-foot wand means that every nook and cranny of larger rooms can be reached without having to find a new electrical outlet. Two specialized attachments—a dusting brush for cleaning upholstery and a crevice tool for vacuuming along baseboards and in corners—remove dust and dander from often overlooked spots.
Cleaning localized debris—like cereal under the kitchen table or dirt on a stair tread—is easy with the Bissell Cleanview Deluxe. This small handheld vacuum has a HEPA media filter to contain allergens while cleaning up dust and crumbs. With a comfortable handle and an 18-foot power cord, it’s the ideal tool for cleaning quick messes.
One of the Cleanview Deluxe’s best features is its flexible rubber nozzle head that removes dirt and hair from fabrics. When the rubber nozzle is replaced with the hose attachment, it becomes a vacuum that can access high shelves, nooks and crannies between seats in the car, and other hard to reach places. The vacuum’s hose can be capped with the wide-mouth tool or the crevice tool to reach even more surfaces. When the cleaning job is done, the bagless dust canister is easily emptied.
FAQs About Vacuums for Allergies
For those who suffer from airborne allergies, a powerful vacuum is a key part of an effective allergy management plan. A vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter can clean surfaces and prevent allergens from circulating back into the air. If you’re still looking for the best vacuum for allergies for your home, consider the answers to the following frequently asked questions.
Q. What is the best vacuum for pet hair and dander?
With a self-cleaning brush roll and adjustable suction power, the Shark ZU561 Navigator Speed Vacuum with Lift-Away is one of the best options for cleaning pet hair, dander, and other animal-related allergens.
Q. How often should I vacuum if I have allergies?
For those who suffer with allergies, it is best to vacuum once or twice per week. Regular vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum can remove common indoor allergens like pet hair, dander, mold spores, and dust mite particles to alleviate allergy symptoms.
Q. How do I take care of a vacuum for allergies?
Maintaining a vacuum for allergies is like maintaining any vacuum cleaner: It should be emptied and cleaned regularly, and its filters should be replaced when needed. Allergy sufferers are advised to empty the vacuum promptly and make sure the filters are washed or replaced regularly. With proper maintenance, the vacuum will trap allergens more effectively.