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Product Review 3: Carpet Cleaning

Bagged vs. Bagless Home Vacuum Cleaner Review

One of the very first decisions confronting the Homeowner when researching what make and type of new vacuum cleaner to buy for the home is whether to buy a bagged or a bagless vacuum cleaner. There are a few other types of designs – i.e., water bath, cyclonic filter cone system; however, the two most basic design choices are simply bagged or bagless.

It is necessary to understand the characteristics and function of each type of design to effectively arrive at an intelligent understanding of which system is more suitable.

Bagged vacuum cleaners have been the norm – with few exceptions – for about 100 years. The original bagged vacuum cleaners simply used a cloth bag attached to the discharge of a rudimentary vacuum cleaner to capture as many particles as possible. This obviously provided only the most basic filtration (everyone could enjoy breathing the myriad of particles spewed back into the air – NOT) and also provided a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria (odors, anyone?).

Subsequently, the bagged design evolved to incorporate a paper bag inside of either a chamber or inside of a cloth (type) bag. This increased the filtration abilities and made it a lot cleaner process to empty as oneself simply removed and replaced a paper bag; however, the smallest – and, from a health perspective, the most damaging – particles were still being injected into the air in the millions per minute as the vacuuming process was taking place. The paper media added a layer of filtration; but, it was hardly a substantially effective addition.

With the advent of micro-fibers, the nature of an interior bag was changed to enable considerably better filtration. Ultimately, advances in understanding and implementing bag manufacturing technology made a quantum leap in engineering inner filter bags. Companies such as Miele (a leading German appliance manufacturer) understood that, by utilizing the characteristics of melt-blown technology, the micro-fiber material created for vacuum cleaner bags could be made to perform so that not only would considerably smaller micro-particles be effectively retained within the bag micro-media; but, that the airflow could be substantially maintained at a higher level. This latter ability is vital since, with any vacuum cleaner, the accumulation of particles within the dirt chamber(s) will always affect, in whatever degree, airflow. Reduced airflow negatively impacts cleaning ability for obvious reasons.

It is obvious that a properly designed residential vacuum cleaner needs to accomplish two necessary tasks: it needs to perform effectively to remove as many particles (read “allergens”) as possible from the indoor environment and it needs to retain all – or, as close to “all” as is possible – of these particles (including the tiny, lung-damaging particles – ldp’s) within the confines of the vacuum cleaner.

Let’s move for a minute to bagless technology. Original bagless technology – cyclonic air movement – has been around for, as this article is written in 2013, over three-quarters of a century. It essentially came into being to enable in the commercial sector (and, is still so-used today) the removal of quantities of very fine particles while attempting to maintain the necessary airflow of the vacuum cleaner being so used. For example, if a steady volume of fine particles are being emitted from a production machine in a manufacturing facility it is necessary for a variety of reasons to capture these particles without having to empty the particle collection chamber every few minutes.
This means, for one thing, that the airflow of the vacuum cleaner being used must be maintained to as high a level as is possible over the longest possible time frame.

A cyclonic/bagless vacuum is designed to help maintain airflow. Manufacturers and vacuum cleaner retailers typically inform the public that this design will help maintain (cleaning) suction. However, this is a misleading statement as suction will remain about the same on a vacuum cleaner whether the dirt chamber is full or empty – what actually changes is the airflow. To prove this, place your hand over the end of a vacuum hose while a vacuum cleaner is operating so as to shut off the orifice, and confirm that the hose end is still firmly gripping your hand. That is suction. Your airflow has gone down to about zero as no air can intake into the hose end; but, the suction is still existent. Airflow is linked to suction; but, is a distinct mechanism in the cleaning process.

The process of cyclonic action is to spin the incoming air and particles to take advantage of centrifugal force. The concept is that the particles are flung to the outside of the dirt chamber and thus do not impede the airflow. This is great – as far as it goes.

In the residential vacuum market bagless vacuums have primarily been introduced to prompt the customer to buy a new vacuum cleaner – one that doesn’t use bags. The concept is that the savings on bags is substantial. The reality is, as stated by the Hoover Company – one of the oldest and largest vacuum cleaner manufacturers – that the expense to replace filters will greatly exceed the expense of replacing inner bags.

This is due to the simple reality that the vacuum cleaner – since no initial bag is present – is assailed with millions of particles per minute during the vacuum process. A bagging system – especially a first-quality bagging system such as Miele has engineered – is the first mechanism to effectively capture and retain particles. Without this mechanism, the vacuum is beleaguered with huge numbers of particles – all of which is to the detriment of the vacuum cleaner and component parts including filters. Even in commercial situations as noted above, it is routine to use a bagging system to collect and contain particles – the initial chamber is cyclonic and then the dirt is funneled into a bagging chamber.

As well, very few people clean or change filters as necessary, and we’re back to the reality of the old cloth-bag units which provide a terrific haven and breeding ground for every conceivable bacteria. On top of this, emptying the container is pretty much a dirty, outside job. In a word (or, two) a bagless design is, by nature, a very dirty system – defeating the very purpose of a vacuum cleaner to make a home environment cleaner and with better air quality. In contrast, a well-designed bagging system allows for continued, high airflow yet makes the entire dirt collection and emptying process a sanitary one.

Typically, the best vacuum cleaners for home use today are made in Germany and Italy. Names like Miele, Sebo, Lindhaus, etc. ensure that the vacuums are airtight, powerful, use high quality bag systems, are smooth and easy to use. Plus, they’re durable – a major distinction from the prevalent, throw-away Chinese machines.