One thing we receive questions about all the time is HEPA filtration. It’s a term you’ll see all over online, especially when you’re shopping for vacuums. Even if you don’t know what it means, you can easily tell that HEPA vacuums cost more than their non-HEPA counterparts, but they’re supposed to be better for people with allergies. Why exactly is that? Are they really worth the difference in cost? We’ll answer all your questions about HEPA filtration in this guide! We’ll go into what makes HEPA filters different, and why you should be using a vacuum with them on board.
As much as we love to think a vacuum magically sucks up all the dirt in our homes, that’s not always true. Sure, just about any vacuum will suck up kitty litter or cheerios, but many vacuums either leave the finest dust particles untouched or spit them right back out the other end. It’s those smallest particles which make the best test of a vacuum and its filtration system!
Things like pet dander, pollen and mold spores are too small to be contained by traditional vacuum filters. That’s why vacuuming moldy areas with a conventional vacuum is actually worse than letting the mold be! The spores are sprayed into the air, where you easily breathe them in. Likewise, when someone with pet allergies uses a traditional vacuum with non-HEPA filters, they can often expose themselves to even more allergens than they would have without cleaning. HEPA filtration traps those microscopic spores and particles. It’s a no-brainer if you or someone in your living space have allergies!
How does HEPA work?
This filter type is specifically designed to trap the smallest particles which traditionally passed right through vacuums. HEPA-grade filters trap 99.97% of particles small as 0.3 microns. That’s very, very small, and covers every type of allergen we’ve talked about. Even a blood cell is 6-8 microns across, so we’re really talking microscopic filtration! These filters are much more tightly-knit than your average vacuum components. They can be either washable or replaceable, but the replaceable ones tend to do the best job.
There are a number of reasons you want to be using a HEPA vacuum. First of all, in order to work with these intense filters, a vacuum needs to have very high-powered suction. That’s only good news for you! Plus, you’ll do a much, much better job capturing allergens around the house. Not only will you not be spewing them around while you clean, but you’ll make the whole space healthier for whomever has allergies.
Tip: Check whether the vacuum is HEPA certified, or just the filters! You want the former. The certification requires a completely sealed air system. Some vacuums just use HEPA filters, and skirt the sealed-air-system requirement. That’s no good, since allergens will just find other places to escape from. Find true HEPA-certified vacuums on our homepage!
This kind of filtration system is intended for people with allergies, and it’s become fairly common across the market. Thanks to increasing awareness around allergies, you can now find HEPA filtration on your vacuum, air conditioner units, HVAC system, and air purifier. Look for models that have been certified by third party lab testing, rather than those which use a “HEPA-like” filter or some such knock-off. You can look for a specific rating, as well as the general certification. HEPA grades have a letter followed by a number, and they run from E10-U17. The higher the number, the better the filter
Look for “true” HEPA filtration listed in the product description.This indicates a product that has been tested independently, and one in which all the air does actually pass through the HEPA filter.
What vacuuming with HEPA filtration will do
You can expect a HEPA vacuum to clean up and trap any allergens on your floors, furnishings, etc. It’ll handle fine dust and dander from pets, as well as pollen and general household messes. In short, it’s your new best friend for cleaning the whole house. Anywhere allergens can settle in loose particles, you can suck them up! Since HEPA vacuums emit far fewer particles into the air, they can make a big difference in improving your air quality! While most people with allergies should also be using an air purifier, investing in a good vacuum will do wonders all by itself.
What it won’t do
Keep you from spreading allergens when you pet/snuggle your animals. You’ll still be getting allergenic oils and dander on your hands and clothes, so you need to be careful to wash your hands after interacting with pets. You’ll also want to be sure to launder all your clothing and bedding at least weekly, using high heat settings.
Completely solve airborne allergens. A vacuum cycles through a lot of air, but you use it to focus on surfaces. It’s not designed to clean all the air in your home. So, we suggest using a HEPA-certified air purifier in conjunction with a regular cleaning routine. You’ll find that one of these will knock out huge amounts of airborne allergens.
Stop your pets producing dander to begin with. Your pets will still produce the proteins that cause allergies, and they’ll still be shedding and producing dander. In order to reduce those two things, you’ll have to have a regular, thorough grooming routine and make sure they get plenty of healthy fats in their diet. If your pet will tolerate vacuuming (cats don’t usually like it, but some dogs LOVE being vacuumed gently), that’s one way to reduce allergens on your pets.
Contain allergens, unless it has a bag! We don’t suggest bagless vacuums for most folks with allergies. You can get away with them if you don’t have allergies yourself, but are cleaning a home where someone is allergic. Just be sure to empty the dust chamber carefully, and try to do it outside of the house
Remove allergens which are stuck on (at least, not completely). A good brush head should get the vast majority of stuck-on particles, but if there are allergenic oils and proteins from pet saliva on floors, say, or cabinetry, the vacuum won’t help. Be sure to make steam mopping part of your routine, and use some sort of steam cleaner or sanitizing wipe-down to address surface allergens.