Do you struggle with allergies? Are you sensitive to dust or pet hair? Have you found that your vacuum isn’t cleaning as effectively as you hoped it would? If so, you should definitely be considering a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
HEPA vacuums aren’t the standard (yet), but they can change the way you clean. They’re the machines of choice for folks with allergies and those looking to deep clean.
HEPA filters are growing in popularity and we’re going to show you some of our favorites. We’ll explain exactly how HEPA filters work, and review seven of the best HEPA vacuums currently on the market.
- Wet/dry capabilities
- Powerful suction
- Genuine HEPA
- Excellent for carpets
- Parquet floor brush
- Zero-M brushroll
- Affordable alternative
- DuoClean technology
- It’s quiet
- Pet specific
- Swivel steering
- 25 feet long cord
- Great accessories
- Less noise produced
- Side sweepers
HEPA Filters Explained
Vacuums are excellent tools for tidying. But when it comes to deep cleaning, you need more than just suction.
Depending on who you ask, HEPA either stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air or High-Energy Particulate Arresting. They meet the same end. HEPA filters trap allergens and irritants like dust, dander and pollen, leaving you with cleaner and fresher air (1).
They work by pushing air through mesh screens that trap the pollutants standard filters let through. True HEPA filters can clean up to 99 percent of allergens and contaminants. It’s for this reason that they are often used in industrial or medical environments.
These filters work so well because they’re based on the technology used in gas masks during World War II. Then, the US Army Chemical Corps, scientists and engineers involved in nuclear testing used more advanced versions (2).
HEPA filters in most home vacuum cleaners may be smaller than industrial ones, but they’re just as effective. They can combat dirt, debris, pet hair, pollen and other pollutants just as commercial units will. As you clean your surfaces, they do the same to the air. They are the most effective filters your vacuum cleaner could have.
Why You Should Buy a HEPA Vacuum
Beyond more effective cleaning, there are other advantages to investing in a HEPA filter. While their main purpose is to leave you with healthier air, they have benefits you simply won’t find in a standard vacuum.
Perhaps the most sought-after benefit of a HEPA filter is that it can prevent the symptoms of allergies. For those with sensitivities to pet hair or dust, they’ll make a world of difference in your symptoms.
If you vacuum daily to fight allergens, you’ll find HEPA filters extra useful. They’re also helpful if you have asthma and can improve or relieve other respiratory disorders.
Did you know that HEPA filters can even trap contaminants released by asbestos? It goes without saying that if you are living with asbestos, you should call in experts immediately. Still, HEPA filters can clean up and effectively contain the harmful pollutants that make asbestos so dangerous.
This has everything to do with size. Dust particles, allergens and the like are measured in microns. Asbestos particles vary between 0.7 and 90 microns, while HEPA filters can trap particles as small as 0.3 microns.
If you have a smoker in your household, HEPA filters can clear the air they pollute. These filters don’t just trap smoke particles in the filter; they flush fresh air out in its place. So, a HEPA filter won’t only protect you from second-hand smoke but will reduce the unpleasant odor too.
Go One Step Further
Mold and Germs
As with asbestos, mold is not something you should tackle on your own. It’s good to know however that HEPA filters are effective enough to contain it. Likewise, they can sometimes trap bacteria too (3).
So, to be safe, double check your filter’s specs and capabilities. Make sure that it’s been approved or accredited by trusted quality control.
Types of HEPA Vacuums
There is little variation between HEPA filters. The main traits that set one apart from the other are size, utilization, and manufacturer. Beyond this, the engineering and function of an industrial-sized filter is the same as in a little handheld vacuum.
When it comes to vacuums, the type of machine you purchase will determine the way you use it. That, in turn, will impact how well your HEPA filter works for you.
Upright vacuums are perhaps the most traditional. But they’re slightly flawed when HEPA filters come into play. These vacuums are designed for floors only and rarely come with versatile attachments.
Also, if allergies are a problem, you should rather go for a machine that can clean vertically too.
- Powerful suction.
- Better for your posture.
- Easy storage.
- Not versatile.
- For floors/carpets only.
These can be thought of as a middle ground between upright and stick vacuums. They’re affordable, use little effort and are versatile through their accessories.
On the downside, though storage is a hassle. Plus, they usually require assembly for use, and dismantling for maintenance.
- Stronger suction.
- Versatile hose and wand.
- Compatible with accessories.
- Assembly or dismantling required.
- Inconvenient storage.
These are the easiest to use, the lightest and the most versatile. They’re often cordless and easily adjust to different surfaces. Some can even transform into handheld vacuums for extra convenience. Sadly, however, stick models aren’t always as powerful or durable as traditional vacuums.
- Most versatile.
- Easy storage.
- Cordless options.
- Not as durable as traditional models.
- If cordless, charging is required.
- Higher cost.
A handheld will give you less suction and isn’t meant for heavy duty cleaning. They tend to be handy for quick cleaning and typically cost the least. However, while they’re excellent for furniture and upholstery, range and suction are sacrificed.
- Most portable.
- Convenient storage.
- Easy maintenance.
- Not suitable for deeper cleaning.
- Weaker suction.
- Charging required.
If all else fails, go for a commercial machine. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t always massive. Since they’re designed for industrial purposes, they are power-packed and give you more bang for your buck. They can cost more, though, and be somewhat basic in their utility.
- Strongest suction.
- Widest range.
- Most efficient filters.
- Heavy-duty capacity.
- Cost more.
- Basic accessories.
- Not as versatile.
The focus of robot vacuums is, without a doubt, convenience. They eliminate the need for manual operation and are tailored to fit your lifestyle. Unfortunately, although they have sophisticated programming, their functionality is limited to flat surfaces only.
- No manual effort.
- Automated functions.
- Easy maintenance.
- More control.
- Flat surfaces only.
- Weaker suction.
- Smaller capacity.
It’s best to go for a vacuum you’re comfortable using, can afford and that will meet your needs. It’s not necessary to buy a commercial model, for example, if all you need is to spring clean your pillows. Likewise, a handheld won’t help if you have severe allergies and need something for deep cleaning.
How to Choose a HEPA Vacuum
Before you buy a HEPA vacuum, there are a few things you should take into account. Be sure that you’re buying a suitable and efficient product by asking yourself the following:
Bagged or Bagless?
We can’t tell you which type of vacuum is ultimately superior – it’s a matter of personal preference. Bagged vacuums are often more affordable, while bagless models win in terms of convenience. When it comes to HEPA filters, though, bagless vacuums could be better for your health.
With bagged vacuums, there is a risk of releasing more dust and dirt back into the air as you empty it. So, to make the most of one, be sure that the bag has a tight seal. It also helps to empty it often before it fills entirely.
Bagless models, especially smaller vacuums, often come with a release button that deposits dirt without you needing to handle it. It could prevent dirt and allergens from getting on your skin, and makes maintenance easier.
Is the Filter Washable?
Again, we can’t say which is best for you, but you have a say in how long your HEPA filter will last. Disposable HEPA filters can last anywhere from three months to three years. The only way to know for sure is to look at the manufacturer’s specs.
Washable filters, in comparison, are made to last a lifetime. However, they demand a bit of attention, because you will have to wash them every once in a while.
Also, using a washable filter could cost you more initially. But over time, it will spare you the cost and hassle of replacements.
Is It a True HEPA Filter?
Don’t be fooled by filters listed as “HEPA-type.” They function much the same as true HEPAs, but aren’t as efficient. Manufacturers choose to use them because they’re cheaper to produce.
A True HEPA filter, on the other hand, adheres to quality standards. It meets the requirements established by the US Department of Energy (DOE) (4).
If you’re not looking for one to fight allergies, you may not feel the difference. To those who need all the power of a HEPA filter, however, it will be hard to miss.
How Is It Designed?
The installation of your vacuum’s components can reduce the efficiency of the HEPA filter inside it. If the machine’s motor is placed above the filter, for example, exiting air will have traces of dirt. The filter should be the last thing that air travels through before leaving the vacuum.
If possible, find out if any of the components obstruct or restrict the filter. The placement of certain parts, like gaskets, can interfere with the airflow. And this can essentially render your HEPA filter largely ineffective.
What’s the Rating?
You may have to do some digging to find this out. Filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value or MERV.
Simply put, this ranks how effective the filter will be at cleaning the air. It’s rated from 1 to 20, and the higher the number, the more effective the filter.
The Best HEPA Vacuum Reviews of 2020
As you can see, HEPA vacuums aren’t complicated. If you understand what they should do and how to use them, shopping for one will be a breeze.
To make things even easier for you, we’ve selected seven of our favorites. We spent hours researching these products, as well as what customers think of them. So, we’ve chosen the following based on their effect, customer satisfaction, and value for money.
1. Novete Cordless Handheld Vacuum
This handheld boasts a 100-watt motor, giving you 7000 pascals of suction. It has a detachable battery that lasts for up to 30 minutes.
At only two pounds, it’s lightweight and makes very little noise. The ergonomic handle provides extra comfort and maneuverability. There’s an LED light for easy power monitoring too.
The dust cup holds up to 0.6 liters of dirt — a good amount for a handheld.
This vacuum comes with three attachments. It has a crevice tool for hard-to-reach spots, a brush nozzle for stubborn dirt, and a rubber nozzle for spills. There’s also a cleaning brush for the machine.
Why We Love It
Vacuums that clean up liquids are always appreciated, and this handheld comes through. Its wet capacity makes it all the more useful and convenient. HEPA vacuums are typically for dry surfaces and substances only, so this machine stands out.
7000 pascals is a lot, especially for a handheld vacuum. This model supplies consistent suction that comes close to many traditional vacuums in terms of strength. And, better suction will improve your HEPA filter’s efficiency, so this is a definite win.
The combination of its suction and wet/dry capabilities make this machine a true all-rounder. So you can imagine our joy when we found out that it’s also multi-surface!
Yes, the Novete Handheld is suitable for hard surfaces, carpets, stairs, car interiors, furniture and upholstery. Plus, it’s cordless and portable too.
Keep In Mind
HEPA Filters Need Regular Maintenance
Novete recommends you clean the filter after each use. You may have to replace them often too.
However, they’re inexpensive and not difficult to find. Plus, even with the extra cost, this machine is still more affordable than almost anything we’ve seen.
Not the Best Choice for Allergies
Don’t get us wrong, this vacuum is fantastic and effective. But, it’s still a handheld and won’t have the same efficiency as a bigger, traditional machine. So, if you’re aiming to vacuum large areas or clean frequently, you might want to consider one of the other models.
|Special Features||Wet/Dry capacity, detachable battery, LED light, Ergonomic handle|
|Accessories||Crevice tool, brush nozzle, rubber nozzle, cleaning brush, charging dock|
2. Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister
Here’s a multi-floor vacuum with a 1200 watt motor. The patented Miele Powerhead works extra-well on carpets. You’ll also get the Parquet Floor Brush which twists up to 90 degrees for reaching into and under tight spots.
This machine has a telescoping wand, automatic cord rewind and a cleaning radius of 33 feet. Included are a genuine HEPA filter, four pre-filters, and 16 filter bags. The Airclean system is sealed and is great for allergies, asthma and other sensitivities.
On average, this model will last you for 20 years. It’s made of impact-resistant stainless steel and specialized plastic.
Why We Love It
We like that Miele takes time to produce quality HEPA filters that can’t be disputed. Not all manufacturers do this, so it’s a huge pro that this one does. You won’t have to worry that you’ve been duped or go through the extra hassle of having your vacuum tested.
Excellent for Carpets
If allergies are your concern, a vacuum that specializes in carpets is ideal. This model will clean all types of carpets and can sometimes even restore worn ones. It’s efficient at removing pet hair as well.
Parquet Floor Brush
This tool is a great addition to an already fantastic machine. The Parquet Floor Brush is made to clean all the spots you can’t reach under and behind your furniture. It’s a nifty add-on that makes the machine all the more versatile.
Keep In Mind
Handling It Is Tricky
A few customers have mentioned that the attachments don’t always connect easily, and can be a hassle to utilize. Users also mention how easily they come loose, making it even more difficult to handle.
The attachments are not as ergonomic as customers expected, and a few users state that it’s cumbersome to carry. Regardless, users who touched on these flaws still appreciate the vacuum’s efficiency.
Accessories Aren’t as Durable
Customers mention that the accessories are not as high quality as the machine itself. Though they enjoy the vacuum, users criticize the durability of its accessories. Apparently, some add-ons seem flimsy, so be sure to handle them with care.
|Special Features||Miele Powerhead, AirClean filtration system, telescoping wand|
|Accessories||Parquet floor brush, Electro Comfort Electrobrush, crevice tool, dusting brush|
3. Shark APEX DuoClean Upright Vacuum AZ1002
This model features all the best of Shark. It has patented DuoClean technology that customers love, which deep-cleans carpets and polishes hard floors. Additionally, it includes Powered Lift-Away technology for extra maneuverability.
The canister can detach from the cleaner head, giving you more reach and versatility. For pet owners, there’s the Zero-M self-cleaning brush roll — a must have in removing hair from your machine’s head.
It also incorporates Advanced Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology. This feature, combined with a HEPA filter ensures better air quality. Another nifty feature is the LED light, for better visibility in dark spaces.
Why We Love It
How great is it that the brush roll cleans itself? We won’t lie, you’ll still have to pay some attention to the vacuum as a whole. But the automatic removal of pet-hair is an amazing feature.
It not only saves you time on maintenance but also prevents clogging and loss of suction.
Shark is a customer favorite because it produces competitive models at prices our wallets will agree with. So, if you’re looking for a good upright vacuum that won’t cost an arm and a leg, we recommend this one.
This multi-floor vacuum is excellent because it deep cleans carpets and shines your hard floors. It’s a feature unique to Shark, and users love it. It has an upholstery tool included, so you can use it on your furniture too.
Keep In Mind
Can Be Finicky
A few have reported that this vacuum is a bit tricky to find your way around. Though the features are fantastic, some find the placement of its components to be counter-intuitive.
It May Be Unstable
Customers have also mentioned that sometimes this vacuum occasionally shuts down for no reason. It’s worth noting that users who mention this are still satisfied with the model.
|Special Features||DuoClean technology, Zero-M brush roll, Powered Lift-Away technology, Advanced Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology, LED light|
|Accessories||Upholstery tool, crevice tool, Pet Power brush|
4. Onson Cordless Stick Vacuum
When it comes to power, this model matches our top choice at 7000 pascals of suction. It’s a multi-surface vacuum that’s suitable for use on floors, furniture and upholstery. We also love that it’s a handheld convertible for extra convenience.
This Onson Cordless is engineered to produce less noise. The motor works at a lower frequency than most vacuums. So you won’t be bothered and your pets won’t be frightened.
You get some handy tools with this one as well. Included are a sweeping brush, 2-in-1 dusting brush, crevice tool, charging adapter and an extra washable HEPA filter.
Why We Love It
A perk of stick vacuums is that you can use them almost anywhere and on everything. This cordless model is handheld convertible, so it can clean your car, cupboards or other tight spots.
It’s great for fabrics, carpets, and hard floors, and you can use it to reach high spots too.
We like that this vacuum was built to make less noise. It’s easier to work around the sound it makes, and it won’t disturb or scare your pets. This is a huge benefit if you have kids too.
This machine uses batteries, so you’ll save energy and money. It definitely adds to how maneuverable the machine is. You won’t have to bother with cords, power sources or awkward storage.
Keep In Mind
It Sacrificed Some Suction
This is a powerful machine, no doubt. However, some customers mention that although it makes less noise, the suction doesn’t feel as strong as it could because of this. So, if you’re looking to deep clean, a traditional machine may be a better choice.
It Requires Charging
It’s a cordless model, so you will have to charge its batteries in between use. It will last up to 45 minutes a run and will take four hours to charge fully.
|Special Features||Handheld convertible, washable filter|
|Accessories||Sweeping brush, 2-in-1 dusting brush, charging adapter, extra HEPA filter|
5. Shark Navigator NV352 Upright Vacuum
Swivel steering makes this model more maneuverable and stable. It’s also lightweight compared to other upright models and comes with a 25-foot cord. It includes lift-away technology and is suitable for carpets and hard floors.
For pet owners, there’s the Anti-Allergen Complete Seal technology and HEPA filter. This combination will take care of hair, dander, and other irritants.
You also get a Wide Pet Upholstery tool, which will change the way you remove pet hair from your furniture. We like this machine for its versatility and feel it’s extra handy in pet-friendly homes.
Why We Love It
Not all vacuums are suitable for pet owners, but this one is. We love the addition of the pet-specific upholstery brush. It will make a huge difference in keeping your home free of shedding hair and fur.
This feature makes the vacuum so much easier to use and control. Combined with how lightweight it is, this will make cleaning more effortless. You’ll also get more precise suction from it.
Wide Cleaning Reach
Though this is a corded model, its cord is 25 feet long. The weight of the machine also makes it highly maneuverable, and it’s not as limited as other corded vacuums. It’s a product that you can use almost everywhere inside your home.
Keep In Mind
Customers note that there is a design flaw in this machine. It’s top-heavy and tends to tip over if left to stand on its own. This is not a dealbreaker, but could be slightly annoying when in use.
It’s Tricky to Work Around
Some users say that the controls on this vacuum are oddly placed and counter-intuitive. Customers also say that the position of the cord is awkward, and it could potentially get in the way.
|Special Features||Swivel Steering, 25-foot cord, Lift-Away technology|
|Accessories||Wide Pet Upholstery Tool, dusting brush, 24-inch crevice tool, 5.5-inch crevice tool|
6. Vacmaster VF408 Industrial Vacuum
Though this model is industrial, it’s not oversized. It’s a powerful, multi-purpose machine with a five horsepower motor and a four-gallon tank. Onboard storage for each of its components and accessories is an added convenience.
Included are three extension wands, a crevice tool, a 2-in-1 utility tool, a floor nozzle, and a dust brush. There’s also the HEPA filters, foam sleeve, cartridge filter, and dust bag.
The 18-foot cable has automatic rewind and at 72 decibels, this is a fairly quiet option too. It also has wet/dry capabilities. Plus, users have reported that it’s excellent for outdoor use as well.
Why We Love It
This machine goes above and beyond in cleaning. You can use it on almost anything, anywhere. It’s good for all surfaces, outdoors and can handle liquids too. These capabilities aren’t often found in traditional or residential vacuums.
It stands out compared to other commercial vacuums because it’s a complete package. Most of the time, vacuums for industrial use only come with the basics. But we like the add-ons included here, as they’re handy and add extra value.
Again, don’t be fooled by its industrial build. This machine doesn’t make as much noise as you’d expect. It’s engineered to be as quiet as possible, without losing power or efficiency.
Keep In Mind
It Could Be Better
Some customers complain that for all its charm, this vacuum is standard. We think you’ll only see its flaws if you intend to use it for industrial purposes. For home use, the majority of customers are satisfied with this machine.
More Maintenance Required
Users have also noted that the filters here fill faster than they expected. You’ll have to pay a little more attention to this machine, but we feel it’s worth the extra effort.
|Special Features||Onboard storage, wet/dry capabilities, insulated motor, automatic cord rewind|
|Accessories||3 extension wands, crevice tool, 2-in-1 utility nozzle, dust brush|
7. Pure Clean PUCRC95 Robot Vacuum
Once it’s been scheduled, this model will activate itself to get to work. This is a self-charging machine, and the battery will last for a 90-minute run.
It’s suitable for tiles, wood, and carpets. There are sweeping brushes for corners and skirting, and sensors that prevent bumps falls. It’s also small enough to fit under furniture, and won’t struggle when left to its devices.
As for allergies, this is a great robot vacuum. On top of the HEPA filter, it’s good for pet hairs and debris and is built to avoid clogging.
Why We Love It
There’s little for you to do when you invest in this vacuum. It’s self-charging, can be scheduled for activation, and has safety features that help it find its way. You can sit back and relax, and still reap all the rewards of the HEPA filter.
If you’d rather be in control of it, it comes with a handy remote. Either way, it’s extremely convenient. Since it’s a robot vacuum, no manual operation is necessary.
Some robot vacuums are ineffective at cleaning corners and edges. But the dual rotating brushes solve this problem. They’re great for cleaning your skirting, corners, or other linings on your walls.
This feature might even come in handy when the machine cleans under furniture. The side sweepers are a great addition.
You can use this robot on your carpets and hard floors, and it will effectively pick up pet hair too. We also like that it’s unlikely to clog. It even comes with a mopping attachment.
Keep In Mind
It’s for Floors Only
A drawback to all robot vacuums is that they only work on flat surfaces. If you have severe allergies, you may want to consider a handheld to supplement this one. It won’t work on your upholstery.
Some customers say that this robot vacuum is quite loud. This is a problem if you have pets who might be frightened by it. Keep in mind, though, that you can schedule it to run whenever it’s most convenient for you.
|Special Features||Self-activating, self-charging, pre-programmed safety features|
|Accessories||Mop accessory, Dual Rotating Brushes, charging station, remote control|
|Novete Handheld||Best Value||100 W||Handheld||2 lbs|
|Miele Complete||Most Trusted||1200 W||Canister||10.35 lbs|
|Shark APEX||Affordable Alternative||1350 W||Stick||16 lbs|
|Onson Cordless||Most Versatile||100 W||Stick||5.07 lbs|
|Shark Navigator||Best For Pet Owners||1200 W||Stick||12.5 lbs|
|Vacmaster Industrial||Most Efficient||960 W||Canister||15 lbs|
|Pure Clean||Most Convenient||24 W||Robot||5.96 lbs|
Considerations Before Buying a HEPA Vacuum
HEPA filters are handy, and may even be a necessity for you, but you shouldn’t buy one blindly. They’re not perfect and there are a few drawbacks you should know about.
- They can be pricey: HEPA filters aren’t standard, so you will probably pay more for one. It’s a special feature that adds value – and cost – to your vacuum. This shouldn’t be a dealbreaker though, as the extra money will be spent on a high-quality and useful product.
- There are some things they can’t do: HEPA filters don’t have a perfect record. They can clean almost 100 percent of allergens, but still, a tiny fraction of contaminants will bypass them. For example, while HEPA filters can (and do) kill bacteria, they have no effect on viruses.
- You must maintain them: You should always keep an eye on your vacuum’s condition, but you may have to do so more often with HEPA filters. To make the most of one, keep it clean.
- They aren’t regulated: Vacuum manufacturers are not required by law to regulate or verify their filters. HEPA filters don’t have standard testing, so pretty much anything goes. You should, therefore, check your manufacturer’s credentials. If possible, even test the product before you buy it.
- They’re supplements: A HEPA vacuum will help, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement to healthy living. If you do struggle with allergies or asthma, don’t rely on a HEPA vacuum alone. It’ll make a significant difference but isn’t a cure.
Make The Most of Your HEPA Vacuum
Careful maintenance can prolong your HEPA vacuum’s lifespan. While you can maintain your machine as usual, your filter may require some extra attention. Here’s what you can do to keep it running effectively:
- Keep an eye on it: A residential HEPA filter, including those in vacuums, could last for years – but you should check it regularly. If it has extensive damage or is irreversibly stained, replace it.
- Check for odors: Apart from the usual freshly vacuumed smell, your vacuum shouldn’t stink when it’s in use. If you pick up a musty smell when it’s in operation, your HEPA filter might need cleaning (or washing, if it’s reusable).
- Check your pre-filters: Not all HEPA vacuums have them, but if yours does, you should check and maintain it at least every three months. If pre-filters become clogged or obstructed, they’ll restrict the efficiency of the HEPA.
- Tidy first: Dusting your furniture before you vacuum could help your machine trap more dirt. When you dust, you loosen dirt, often causing it to settle on the floor. If you want a HEPA vacuum for sensitivities, this little bit of extra work could leave you with cleaner air and shinier surfaces (5).
- Keep it dry: If you’re using a washable filter, make sure that it’s completely dry before you use it again. Using a wet filter could damage your vacuum’s motor. Even worse, it breeds mold in your machine. A 24-hour drying time is usually recommended.
- Clean your other filters too: Some HEPA vacuums will come with extra foam or activated charcoal filters. Don’t forget to wash these as well.
HEPA filters are a useful addition to vacuum cleaners. They’re simple to understand and make a significant difference in the air quality of your home. You can find them in all sorts of vacuums.
If you live with allergies, sensitivities or pets, HEPA filters are well worth it. Standard vacuum filters do a good job of cleaning, but these purify the surrounding air too.
Our favorites are some of the best models available. What do you think? Leave us your questions and comments below — we enjoy hearing from you.