The Differences Between Bagless and Bagged Vacuum Cleaners

Which Is Better?

Woman vacuuming
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One of the newest ways to categorize vacuum cleaners is bagged or bagless. A bagged vacuum cleaner works in the traditional way of using a replaceable bag as a filter to trap dirt while allowing air to flow through the bag. Bags must be replaced when they are full. Bagless vacuum cleaners use filters to trap dirt and debris in a dirt cup or chamber that can then be emptied. Is a bagless model better than one that needs vacuum cleaner bags? It truly depends on your family and its needs.

Vacuum Cleaner Bags

Bagged vacuum cleaners require that you change the bag when it becomes full. Replacing the bag isn't a huge chore and most vacuum cleaner bags are not expensive, though it may be inconvenient to have to remember to check if the bag is full. Some models requiring vacuum cleaner bags now have an indicator light that will let you know when the bag needs to be changed. A benefit of vacuum cleaner bags is that there is not a lot of contact with the dust and debris in the bag. Slip out the old bag and throw it away.

Pros:

  • Less mess. With a bag, there's little to no chance that your dust will wind up back on the floor or in your face.
  • Better for allergy sufferers. Bags keep dust and allergens completely separate from the person who is doing the vacuuming. As a result, disposing of dust is much less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
  • Less maintenance required. Vacuum cleaner bags take a lot of stress off your vacuum cleaner for several reasons. First, filters are built into the bags themselves, so you don't need to clean the filters. Second, the bags hold more dirt than their bagless counterparts, so you don't need to dump the dirt as often.

Cons:

  • Eco-unfriendly. While most vacuum cleaner bags are made largely of paper, they also contain other materials and may thus be unrecyclable. As a result, you toss both the bag and the trash and they will likely wind up in a landfill.
  • Expensive. While vacuum bags are unlikely to break the bank, they do cost money—money that is, quite literally, thrown away.

Bagless Vacuum Cleaners

With a bagless vacuum cleaner, there is less worry about forgetting to empty the vacuum cleaner because there is a clear view of the dirt and debris in the cup. Once the dirt meets the fill line, it's time to empty the cup. Sounds easy, right?

But, many models also have filters that either need to be brushed, washed and fully dried, or completely replaced. Emptying the dirt cup itself can be a messy process depending on your vacuum cleaner. Dust often billows back out of the cup, or you may even have to shake or pull out compacted dirt from the bottom of the container. However, if you accidentally vacuumed up something that you need to retrieve, it is easily removed from a dirt cup.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly. Bagless vacuum cleaners have reusable filters and, of course, there are no bags that wind up in the unrecyclable trash.
  • Less costly. Once you buy your bagless vacuum cleaner your spending is complete—no need to keep investing in bags to keep your house clean

Cons:

  • Messier. Dumping the vacuum cup means sticking your fingers in dust and dirt, and coping with the resulting dusty residue.
  • More time-consuming. With a bag, you just pull out one bag and pop in another. Bagless cups, however, require careful cleaning and drying. Even worse, you'll probably need to clean out the cup more often than you'd have to replace a bag.
  • More likely to cause allergic reactions. The dusty "blowback" from a bagless vacuum filter can easily set off an allergic response.

The Bottom Line

There is no "best" choice when it comes to vacuum cleaners. The decision will depend on your needs, cleaning habits, pocketbook, and allergies.