Dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, bacteria -- all of these things can contaminate the air you breathe inside your home. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental risks to public health, and because the agency also reports that most Americans spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors, that's quite a high level of exposure to airborne particles that can affect your, your children's and even your pets' health. If any resident of your home suffers from allergies or asthma, the need to clean up your air is even higher.
Though you may have invested in air purifiers and though you may dust and clean religiously, one of the best advantages you can give yourself is by upgrading to an anti-allergen vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air filter. If your budget constraints do not allow for an investment in a $100-plus vacuum, switch to anti-allergen vacuum bags.
*Anti-Allergen Vacuum Cleaners
The secret to the new class of anti-allergen vacuums is high-powered HEPA air filters. These filters remove a reported 99.97 percent of harmful air particles, including dust, mold spores, pet dander and other particles, and they also may kill 98 percent of viruses, bacteria, black mold and germs, reducing allergy symptoms and providing for cleaner air.
A vacuum with a high-powered HEPA filter can remove dust mites, mite eggs and dead mites -- in addition to dust and other debris -- from carpets, couch upholstery, curtains, pillows and especially stuffed animals that your children enjoy in close proximity. You'll find a variety of vacuum types, sizes and weights tested and rated by Consumer Reports (accessed with a paid subscription) in the categories of upright, canister and small vacuums. Bagless vacuums are the new wave in vacuum innovations, with cyclone technology gathering your vacuumed-up debris into a clear container for easy emptying and impressive visual results of your efforts. The new vacuums also have upgraded features, such as multilayered filters and charcoal to remove odors.
*About HEPA Filters
According to Sarah Aguirre, the About.com guide to housekeeping, HEPA filters can trap many tiny particles that filters on other vacuum cleaners would recirculate into the air of your home.
"True, or absolute, HEPA filters must pass a test to be considered HEPA-worthy," Aguirre says. "True HEPA filters will have a serial number assigned to them if they are able to trap at least 99.97 percent of particles of 0.3 microns. These test results will be printed on the filter." This type of high-functioning filter may be more expensive than other filters.
"HEPA-type, or HEPA-like, filters may be made in similar ways to true HEPA filters and may even resemble them," Aguirre says. "They do not have to meet the same standards as true or absolute HEPA filters. They often capture only 85 to 90 percent of particles, and that percentage can fall even lower for particles of 1 micron or less."
When you consider the performance level of a HEPA filter, you may find that a less expensive brand of vacuum performs at a stronger capacity than a brand with a popular name. Never buy a vacuum based on the reputation of a brand name alone. If you look at Consumer Reports' ratings and recommendations, you'll see some surprising brand names at the tops -- and bottoms -- of lists.
*Anti-Allergen Vacuum Bags
Changing to anti-allergen vacuum bags is as easy as changing your everyday vacuum bag. Most brands now offer anti-allergen bags in their lines, and they are available at big-box stores, such as Target and Walmart, as well as at many department stores, such as Sears.
Keep in mind that vacuuming stirs dust into the air for about a half-hour. Ordinary vacuum cleaners often have bags that are quite porous, which can expel dust, dander and mites out through the vacuum's exhaust. Improved vacuum bags with allergen capability catch these particles and keep you from breathing them during and after your cleaning session.
Check the websites for the vacuum brands that interest you. Many companies offer coupons and rebates for your purchases. RetailMeNot.com can deliver an impressive discount at stores and websites, and PriceGrabber.com and Nextag can show you where to find the most inexpensive vacuums on the market.