A vacuum cleaner can pick up anything from dust and dirt to hair and debris, which it then stores in either a bag or some kind of compartment.
All vacuum machines must have some type of air filter in order to prevent the dirt from getting back out. This is necessary because vacuums can’t just store all the air that it pulls in. The filters are designed to trap the dirt particles in while letting only the air back out.
In the process, some dust and other particles may get back out, depending on the type of filter present.
For some people, dust particles are mere irritants which make them sneeze or cough. For those who have allergies or suffer from other respiratory conditions, it’s a completely different story.
The tiny particles found in the air including dust, pollen from plants, spores of bugs etc. can cause havoc by causing or worsening allergy symptoms. Such particles are called allergens. Preventing allergens from getting back out of the machine requires the right kind of filter to be used (which is why it’s important to consider the filtration system of a vacuum before buying, especially if you’re looking for a pet vacuum).
Standard filters in vacuum cleaners are porous filters of cloth and paper, much like air filters in cars. They can trap dust and dirt particles larger than 1/100 of a millimeter, or 10 microns (for reference, hair is between 50 and 100 microns thick). This means that the filters pores are around 10 microns in size. Anything smaller gets back into the surrounding air.
For surfaces which are relatively free of small dust particles, or those causing allergy, this works fine. However, if you clean surfaces where fine dust accumulates, or if you and others around you suffer from allergies, or other respiratory conditions like asthma, standard filters are not sufficient. In fact, they will probably make things worse because these allergy-causing particles are actually thrown right into the air, instead of just being on surfaces.
The right kind of filter for trapping allergens need to have a pore size of 0.1 to 1 micron. A commonly referenced name for such a filter is an S-class or HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. There are now different types of allergen-removing filters made of different materials such as electrostatic filters, which cause allergens to stick to them through static electricity.
Essentially though, the purpose of all allergen removal filters is to stop allergens from getting back out and into the surrounding air.
Apart from filters, another important factor in vacuum cleaners is whether they are ‘sealed’. This means whether the air and the dust in it can get out through any leaks in its tubing etc. If not sealed, the allergens can leak out in spite of a good filter. Therefore, to be effective at reducing allergens, a vacuum cleaner needs to have a great air filter and have a sturdy build without any leaks.
The Main Benefits of Good Allergen Removing Filters
- They prevent air and other surfaces from getting dusty after vacuuming.
- They reduce the amount of spores, pet dander and plant pollen in the air.
- They prevent the starting or worsening of allergy symptoms, asthma or other respiratory conditions.
- They allow you to breathe truly clean air indoors.