Is dust, pollen, or pet dander making you sick when you vacuum? Many vacuum cleaners blow allergens back into the air as you use them, rather than keeping them in the bag or canister.
But don’t worry if you’re allergic! A HEPA filter vacuum is certified to keep most small particles out of the air, so you won’t breathe them in.
In this guide, we’ll tell you all about the eight best HEPA vacuums, so you can choose the right one for your home.
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Are HEPA Vacuums Worth It?
Yes, HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaners are great for cleaning appliances for keeping unwanted particles out of the air. This is especially important if you have allergies or breathing difficulties.
One common cause of allergies is a protein found in dust mite droppings. This protein, called DER p1, varies in size between 10-24 microns. In other words, to prevent this allergen from entering the air, a vacuum needs to be able to filter out very tiny particles.
A HEPA filter can do this! HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air.” HEPA filters are mechanical filters, so they work by pushing air through very fine mesh. This mesh then traps small particles, such as dust, pollen, pet dander, and tobacco smoke. HEPA filters are certified to trap 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns (1).
Because HEPA filters remove such a high percentage of debris in the air, they reduce health risks associated with inhaling these particles. Depending on the particles and exposure, the risks include anything from eye and lung irritation to severe ones, such as cancer (2).
A typical non-HEPA vacuum filter will only remove about 96% of the particulates in the air. If you have allergies or trouble breathing, this can make a big difference. Only a HEPA filter is certified to remove such a high percentage of allergens and dirt.
What to Look For in a HEPA Vacuum
Now you know a little more about HEPA filters and how they trap allergens. But there are a few more things to consider about your HEPA vacuum that will also help keep your air pristine.
There are lots of bagless vacuum options that come with HEPA filters, and these vacuums will trap dirt particles just as efficiently as bagged models. However, the bagless design requires you to empty the dust cup of the vacuum, and this process can release the collected particles back into the air.
If you do want a bagless vacuum, try to have someone else empty the dust cup for you. And if you can, always empty the dust cup into the trash outdoors. This Tineco, for example, is a bagless vacuum with a HEPA filtration system.
One way to check this is to look at the amperage of the motor, which gives you an idea of the power it has. An upright vacuum typically has a 7- to 12- amp motor. And most experts say that 12-amp motors are the best.
Amps, however, are not the only way to measure suction power. You also need to check the airflow, which is normally measured in CFM.
Hepa vacuum cleaners with a high CFM rating will generally work more efficiently, but they will also be more expensive.
Sometimes you’ll see a rating called airwatts, which is also a measure of airflow. Unfortunately, this is mostly used by Dyson. Therefore, it’s not a useful measure if you’re comparing different brands. But if you’re comparing different Dyson HEPA vacuums, it can be useful. For example, this Dyson has a rating of 115 AW.
Certified HEPA Filter
Some filters, however, are labeled as “HEPA-like” or “HEPA-type.” These are not held to the same standards as a certified HEPA filter. Therefore, they won’t remove the very tiny particles that a real HEPA filter will (3).
Companies like Miele, Lindhaus, and Nilfisk make certified HEPA filter vacuum cleaners, so you know the filters are high-quality.
Sealed Vacuum Cleaner
Look for a sealed design that will keep all of the collected dust and debris inside the bag or canister so you can dispose of it safely.
For example, this Miele upright model has a sealed design.
The Best HEPA Vacuums of 2021
Now that you’re familiar with the features to look for in a HEPA vacuum, here is our list of the eight best HEPA vacuums. We’ve spent hours reading expert advice and comparing different brands and models. We know you’ll find the perfect tool to keep allergens inside your vacuum and out of the air.
1. Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum
This Shark upright vacuum features Anti-Allergen Complete Seal technology, in addition to a HEPA filter. This means no airborne particles will escape the vacuum cleaner as you clean.
This is a very versatile upright vacuum that you can use for cleaning many floor types. The brush roll shut-off feature allows you to change from deep-cleaning high-pile carpets to vacuuming hardwood floors without scratching them. You can clean just about any surface!
You can also take advantage of the Lift Away design for cleaning hard to reach areas that are high up or awkward, like stairs. The canister and wand detach from the main body, so you don’t have to take the entire upright vacuum with you.
If you have lots of furniture, the swivel steering makes it very easy for you to maneuver the vacuum head around chairs, tables, and sofas.
The included accessories also allow you to deep-clean upholstery. You can use the dusting brush on sofas and chairs, and the crevice tools to clean between cushions.
- Sealed design is great for allergy sufferers
- Beater bar works well for thick carpets
- Picks up pet litter and hair
- Relatively light, particularly when using the Lift Away feature
- 5-year warranty
- Power cord placement is a tripping hazard
- Longer power cord would be useful
|Bin Volume||1.2 quarts|
|Cord Length||25 feet|
|Included Accessories||Dusting brush, 2 crevice tools|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Carpets, Pet hair, Hard to reach areas|
2. Hoover MAXLife Pro Pet Swivel Bagless Vacuum
This HEPA vacuum cleaner features a Sealed Allergen system in addition to the HEPA filter, so your air will stay clear of allergens like dust and pet dander.
Because this upright vacuum has an on/off brush roll feature, you can switch between bare floors and carpets with the touch of a button.
The MAXLife System allows the HEPA vacuum cleaner to run more smoothly for longer without regular filter maintenance.
This quality hepa vacuum is a great option for pet owners because it comes with a pet upholstery tool. You can easily pull hair and embedded dirt off your furniture with this accessory. The high-intensity headlights on this upright vacuum let you see dirt in dark corners that you might have missed.
The quick-release wand lets you access places up to 13 feet away, including high up shelves or ceiling molding.
Check also: The 8 Best Cheap Vacuums in 2021
- Relatively quiet
- Great for pets that shed a lot
- Good value
- Long, 30-foot power cord
- You have to wind the cord by hand
- Relatively heavy
- Model has been discontinued, so it might be hard to find parts
|Bin Volume||1.5 liters|
|Cord Length||30 feet|
|Included Accessories||Crevice tool, dusting brush, pet upholstery tool|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Carpet, Pet hair, Hard to reach areas|
3. Dyson V11 Torque Cordless Vacuum
This Dyson cordless HEPA vacuum cleaner senses different floor types, and it will automatically adjust the motor speed to match. This means you can easily switch between bare floors and carpet.
It also comes with 5 attachments in addition to the regular vacuum head, so you can deep-clean upholstery or pick up pet hair.
This powerful pet hair vacuum cleaner has a low profile, so you can easily clean under furniture. And if you need to pick up small messes, this vacuum cleaner also converts into a handheld vacuum.
The LCD screen shows you exactly how the HEPA vacuum is running. It tells you how much run time you have left, when you need to clean your filter, and if there’s a blockage problem.
This cordless stick vacuum cleaner is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and it will run up to 60 minutes, depending on the mode setting. When you need to recharge it, simply drop the HEPA vacuum into the docking station to recharge it.
- Dyson has great customer service if anything goes wrong
- Very lightweight at under 7 pounds
- Great suction, especially for a cordless vacuum
- Good at getting pet hair out of carpeting
- High power mode drains the battery quickly
- Some users report issues with the spinning brush rolls in the torque cleaning head
- Have to hold the trigger button while vacuuming
|Bin Volume||3.15 ounces|
|Included Accessories||Torque drive head, mini-motorized tool, crevice tool, stubborn dirt brush, soft dusting brush, and combination tool|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Carpet, Pet hair, Hard to reach areas|
4. Kenmore Pet-Friendly Upright Vacuum
This Kenmore upright vacuum has a triple HEPA filtration system that traps dust particles and other allergens. This powerful vacuum also has a 2-motor system for excellent suction, as well as Power Flow technology to keep air flowing continuously.
You can clean lots of different surfaces with this upright vacuum. There’s a switch to shut off the rotating agitator so that you can clean your bare floors without scratching them. There are also 4 height adjustment settings, so you can choose the correct setting to efficiently clean any floor type.
The wand telescopes out, so you can access hard to reach spots, such as ceiling fans.
The control buttons are conveniently located on the handle, so you can manage the vacuum easily. Additionally, the headlights allow you to see dust in dark places that you might have missed.
- Strong suction power
- Relatively quiet
- Very durable
- Pet attachment works efficiently
- Difficult to maneuver in tight spaces
- Hose extension doesn’t stretch easily
- Exhaust outlet may blow some dust particles around
|Cord Length||30 feet|
|Included Accessories||Combo brush/dusting tool, crevice tool, Pet HandiMate|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Carpet, Pet hair|
5. Uplift Handheld Vacuum
The HEPA filter on this handheld vacuum is washable, so there’s no extra cost associated with filter maintenance.
At less than 3 pounds, this handheld vacuum is easy to use and carry with one hand. It won’t tire you out!
The LED light allows you to see dust and dirt you might have missed in dark areas. The dust cup is also easy to empty, and it opens with the click of a button.
This HEPA vacuum is cordless, so you don’t need to worry about finding an outlet or storing a cord.
Read Next: The Best Handheld Vacuums in 2021
- Great for cleaning car interiors
- Good value for the price
- Comes with a storage bag
- Limited run time of up to 25 minutes
- Takes 3-4 hours to fully charge the battery
- As with most handheld vacuums, the suction is not as powerful as with a full-sized vacuum
|Bin Volume||5 liters|
|Included Accessories||Crevice nozzle, brush nozzle, extension hose|
|Ideal for||Small areas, Car interiors, Wet/dry messes|
6. OPODEE Robot Vacuum Cleaner
This vacuum cleaner has 5 cleaning modes, including “Spot Cleaning” and “Edge Cleaning.” It also follows an s-shaped cleaning path to ensure that it covers all of your floor area. You won’t have any “dead zones” with this vacuum cleaner.
With a height of less than 3 inches, this robot vacuum can glide underneath furniture to remove dust. The two large wheels also allow it to move over obstacles such as door ledges or mid-pile carpet.
The lithium-ion battery on this model runs for about 100 minutes before it needs to be recharged. And when the robot senses that the battery is low, it will automatically return to its charging dock.
To prevent mishaps, this HEPA vacuum has 360-degree anti-collision and drop sensors. You can also place the included boundary strips around your house to prevent the vacuum from entering certain areas.
Read Next: The Best Robot Vacuums for Pet hair in 2021
- Picks up dirt and pet hair well, even on carpet
- Affordable option for a robot vacuum
- Efficient cleaning pattern
- You cannot operate this vacuum via smartphone. You have to use the included remote.
- Make sure to remove any large obstacles or huge messes the robot vacuum can’t handle
- Requires daily maintenance
|Bin Volume||0.16 gallons|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Low- to mid-pile carpet|
7. ProTeam Super CoachVac Backpack VacuumBackpack vacuums are great options for professional cleaners or people with large houses. They are a lot more comfortable to use for extended periods of time than upright or canister vacuums.
The harness on this HEPA vacuum is designed to distribute the appliance’s weight evenly over your body. This prevents fatigue and strain. There’s also an integrated tool belt, so you can carry all of your accessories with you.
The design of a backpack vacuum also allows you to clean more efficiently. You can clean almost double the square footage with a backpack model as opposed to an upright.
This ProTeam is fantastic for allergy sufferers because of its 4-level HEPA filtration system. ProTeam has even partnered with the American Lung Association as part of a program to promote lung health and educate the public on indoor air quality.
This is an extremely quiet backpack vacuum that produces only 66 dBA of sound.
The extra-long 50-foot power cord lets you clean for longer without needing to find a new outlet. This is great for cleaning large spaces, such as classrooms or auditoriums.
This model received a Silver Rating from the Carpet and Rug Institute, the leading trade association for the carpet industry in North America. So you know it will work well on your carpets!
- Long-lasting and durable
- Excellent suction
- HEPA filter works perfectly
- Comfortable to wear
- Large, 10-quart capacity
- Not intended for delicate surfaces, such as laminate or hardwood floors
- Not effective for high-pile carpet
- Some users have trouble with the attachments staying on
|Bin Volume||10 quarts|
|Cord Length||50 feet|
|Included Accessories||Crevice tool, Xover multi-surface floor tool, soft dusting brush, upholstery tool|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Low- to mid-pile carpet, Large areas, Professional applications|
8. Miele Complete C3 PowerLine Canister Vacuum
This Miele HEPA canister vacuum uses an AirClean Sealed System design, which prevents dust particles and debris from getting out of the vacuum. This keeps your air clean as you work!
In addition to the HEPA filter, this canister vacuum comes with 16 filter bags and 4 pre-motor protection filters.
This model is easy to maneuver around obstacles because it has 90-degree twisting rotation. It also works on multiple floor types. On the automatic setting, the vacuum cleaner will adjust its suction to match your floor type.
In addition, the main powerhead restores crushed carpet nap and gets pet hair out of your carpet fibers. And if you have delicate floors, you can switch to the parquet floor brush.
The cleaning radius on this model is 36 feet, so you can vacuum a large area before you need to find a new outlet. And when you’re done cleaning, the power cord on the canister vacuum auto-retracts for easy storage.
The LED lights allow you to see dirt and dust in spaces you might have missed.
This incredible vacuum cleaner is made to last, and the average lifespan of this HEPA vacuum is 20 years.
- The hidden tool compartment allows you to carry your accessories with you
- Relatively quiet
- Durable and high-quality
- Buttons are easily accessible, either on the handle or as foot pedals.
- Relatively expensive
- As with other canister vacuums, it can be difficult to store in small spaces
|Bin Volume||4.76 quarts|
|Cord Length||24 feet|
|Ideal for||Hard floors, Delicate floors, Carpet, Pet hair|
HEPA Vacuum Comparison Chart
|Product||Weight||Bin Volume||Cord Length||Ideal for|
|Shark Navigator Lift Away Upright Vacuum||14 pounds||1.2 quarts||25 feet||Hard floors, Carpets
Pet hair, Hard to reach areas
|Hoover MAXLife Pro Pet Bagless Vacuum||17 pounds||1.5 liters||30 feet||Hard floors, Carpets
Pet hair, Hard to reach areas
|Dyson V11 Torque Drive Vacuum||6.68 pounds||3.15 ounces||N/A||Hard floors, Carpets
Pet hair, Hard to reach areas
|Kenmore Pet-Friendly Upright Vacuum||19.5 pounds||N/A||30 feet||Hard floors, Carpets
|Uplift Handheld Vacuum||2.53 pounds||5 liters||30 feet||Small areas, Car interiors, Wet/dry messes
|OPODEE Robot Vacuum Cleaner||5.95 pounds||0.16 gallons||N/A||Hard floors, Low- to mid-pile carpet
|ProTeam Super CoachVac Backpack Vacuum||11 pounds||10 quarts||50 feet||Hard floors, Low- to mid-pile carpet
|Miele Complete C3 Canister Vacuum||23 pounds||4.76 quarts||24 feet||Hard floors, Delicate floors, Carpet, Pet hair
FAQs About HEPA Vacuums
If you still have any lingering questions, check out our frequently asked questions below.
How Often Should I Vacuum if I Have Allergies?
- If you have carpets and rugs, you should vacuum at least once a week.
- In bedrooms or high-traffic places, you should vacuum at least twice a week.
- Vacuum curtains, upholstery, and mattresses once a week.
- If you have pets, you should vacuum every day.
Are HEPA Filters Washable?
You can tap the dust off your filters, vacuum them, or even rinse them. However, this can damage the fibers of the filter, which will allow dust and other particles to pass through.
Even if the HEPA exhaust filter looks fine, there can be invisible damage. HEPA filters work so well because of the “weave” of the fibers. If the fibers get moved or stretched, they will no longer trap dust and dirt.
In addition to the fibers, make sure that the frame or gasket around the filter remains unharmed. If that gets bent or damaged, air will flow around the filter rather than through it. That means that dust and allergens won’t be stopped by the HEPA filter.
How Often Should You Change a HEPA Filter?
If you start smelling a musty odor from your vacuum, it’s probably time to change the filter. That smell can indicate that the filter is no longer working properly, even if it’s been less than 2 years.
Do HEPA Vacuums Really Help With Allergies?
Yes, HEPA vacuum cleaners help with allergies. But there are some other factors that you also need to consider.
A HEPA vacuum cleaner will help keep your sneezes to a minimum, but how and when you use your vacuum will also affect your allergies (4).
If you adopt certain cleaning strategies, you can reduce allergens in your house. For example, you can keep your pets outside to reduce hair and dander indoors. In addition, you can replace fabric curtains and drapes with roll-up shades. Also, make sure you don’t just vacuum your floors — vacuum your furniture and change your bedding frequently, as dust can collect there.
You can also check different HEPA vacuums for CRI certification. The Carpet and Rug Institute rates models and gives them a Seal of Approval if they meet the rigorous testing standards. There are many models on the CRI list that don’t have HEPA filters but still effectively trap and contain dust and debris.
Also, HEPA filters aren’t the only good filters out there. Alternatives like micron and electrostatic filters will trap dust about as efficiently as HEPA filters. Like HEPA filters, these alternatives also collect about 98% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns. They trap fine particles by creating an electrostatic charge as the air passes through.
Some vacuums also have water filtration. This type of filtration removes 99.95% of the dust in the air. The debris from the vacuum is trapped and dissolved in water, which is then filtered again.
Finally, if you or your family members have asthma, a central vacuum system is the best option. In these systems, the debris from vacuuming is put in a container or pumped directly outside your home.