If you’re looking to purchase a new vacuum, or are buying one for the first time, there’s going to be things to know that you probably didn’t consider before. It’s just a vacuum right? Who cares what it looks like or what the features are, I just want my floors cleaned! Sure, that’s one way to look at it…but with all that dirt and nasty particles you’ll be sucking up with your new vacuum, well, it’s got to go somewhere right? No matter what brand or style of vacuum you choose, it’s got to be cleaned at some point, and when that day comes, you may be wishing you had done a little more research into choosing a vacuum before handing over your debit card. Luckily, we’ve done that research for you and have listed out the pros and cons of bagged vs bagless vacuum cleaners. Let’s dive in! 

Vacuum Bags are Hygienic and Improve Filtration, Suction and Cleaning Performance – Filter bags are essential components of high-performance vacuum cleaners because they hold virtually all the dirt captured by the machines, which improves the effectiveness and useful life of the vacuum. This is true because only a tiny fraction of the particles escapes from the bag, and are then easily trapped by highly effective microfilters. Most quality bagged machines also have a “sealing cap” that covers the opening, which keeps dust sealed inside to maintain excellent hygienic conditions. This is particularly important for users with allergies or asthma. 

According to the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indoor pollution is one of the five biggest environmental risks for our health. If you have lived in Arizona for any length of time you know this to be true.

In terms of capacity, most bagged vacuums can handle up to 3 dry quarts of material collection for vacuuming. This is an extremely effective way to clean a carpet or hard floor, especially if you have a medium-to-large home that needs to be cleaned.

Bagless containers typically hold 1.5 dry liters or less and they need to be emptied before they reach their maximum capacity for best results. That means you can vacuum faster when using a bagged vacuum in many circumstances, as compared to the debris capacity of the dirt cups found on typical bagless vacuums. “Top-fill” bags also ensure continuously strong suction because dirt enters from the top, deposits at the bottom, accumulates upward, and air exits through the sides, which allows unimpeded airflow as they fill to capacity. Depending on the type of vacuum bags you buy (ie paper or cloth) expect to spend anywhere from $12.99 for an 8 pack of regular paper bags to 24.99 for an 8 pack of high filtration HEPA bags. 

Bagless Vacuums are Not Hygienic and Diminish Filtration, Suction and Cleaning Performance Without bags to hold nearly all the captured dirt, the microfilters on bagless vacuums quickly clog from excessive dirt build-up and must be replaced often or a loss of suction and cleaning effectiveness will occur. Bagless vacuum manufacturers emphasize the benefit to owning one of their machines is that you will never have to buy bags. True, however, filter replacements can be a hidden cost of bagless vacuum cleaners. Because the filters on a bagless vacuum are the life’s blood of the machine, you will need to clean and replace the filter more often, and these filters can be expensive. Most people who own bagless machines have a tendency to only  empty the dirt cup and pay little attention to cleaning the filters. This can certainly limit the life of the machine.

Perhaps the most annoying problem is that dust and other allergens become airborne when emptying bagless vacuum dirt containers. Have you ever tried to dump out the container of a bagless vacuum? Unless you have an empty trash bag or a deep trash can, there will be dust flying out everywhere when you dump the stuff out. Then, even if you do get everything where it should be, there’s a good chance that the surface of your trash bag is going to be lined with dust. Anything you place into that bag will cause more dust to go into the air. With a vacuum bag, you can remove it, toss it, and then forget about it.

 Best practice when emptying a bagless vacuum chamber is to wear a protective mask (found at most home improvement stores) and maybe something to guard your eyes just in case something ends up in your cornea. Another recommendation is to empty it outside rather than in the home as to not expose yourself to the nasty particles you have collected only to breathe it back in later.

 In terms of suction, the air on most brands of bagless vacuum cleaners is passed through a series of small cyclones (multi-cyclone system) which requires many deflections to the direction of travel of the air which, in turn, wastes lots of power and causes high noise levels.

Why are Bagless Vacuums So Popular? Bagless vacuums outsell bagged vacuums in today’s USA marketplace. This should not happen, if one considers the substantial advantages bagged vacuums offer, as compared to bagless machines. But there is a reasonable explanation for this situation. Simply put, bagless vacuums are popular for two reasons: 1) the perception that money is saved by not buying vacuum bags, and 2) it is easier to empty a bagless dirt container than to replace a full vacuum bag. Slick manufacturer advertising campaigns further support these notions. In reality, however, these perceived advantages are more than offset by the high cost and inconvenience of frequent microfilter changes, diminished filtration and suction performance, the shortened life of vacuum motors caused by clogged microfilters, and the hassle of emptying perpetually full dirt containers.