Bagged vs Bagless Vacuum: Which Is Better?

Bagged vs Bagless Vacuum

Shopping for a vacuum cleaner may seem uncomplicated, but things can get confusing once you get to the nitty-gritty.

You’ll have to figure out what type of vacuum to pick up, how much you’re willing to spend, whether or not to go cordless, and perhaps the biggest question – going for a bagged or bagless vacuum.

Choosing between the two is perhaps the most critical decision you’ll make.

Picking one over the other will depend on your health, the amount of money you’re willing to spend on replacement bags, the size of your home, and the flooring inside it.

Bagged vs. Bagless Vacuum: How are they different?

What’s a bagged and bagless vacuum?

How are they different?

Simply put, this is how a vacuum cleaner stores dirt, affecting how you dispose of it.

Currently, three types of dirt storage are available – water, bagged, and bagless.

With vacuums that use water, the filth collected goes inside a water tank.

An excellent example of a vacuum using water would be the Rainbow vacuum.

Water represents the purest form of filtration available.

Unfortunately, few manufacturers make these because of the costs involved, and there isn’t much demand.

Bagged vacuums store dirt in a bag, usually made of paper. When this receptacle is full, you pull out the bag and throw it away.

Bagless vacuums don’t use any bags but utilize a reusable plastic container for debris storage.

When it’s full, detach the container and empty it over a trash bin or plastic vessel.

This article won’t discuss water filtration since it’s outside the scope and these are costly.

A brand-new Rainbow vacuum will cost a few thousand dollars, and unless you’re a neat freak who wants the best filtration money can buy, this may be out of your price range.

Also, these vacuums aren’t available brand new in online stores.

Rainbow uses a direct selling model that requires potential customers to schedule a demonstration before purchasing, which can be time-consuming.

Some like it, while others don’t, depending on their preference.

A Brief History

If you look at the history of vacuum cleaners, the popular options were bagged vacuums since the first mass-produced ones utilized a cloth bag wrapped around another bag.

That was until James Dyson introduced the bagless vacuum in the early 80s.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. Bagless vacuums are more popular than bagged vacuums.

Some manufacturers, like Shark and Dyson, exclusively manufacture bagless cleaners because there is a demand.

People like bagless vacuums because there is more variety, and some of the most innovative alternatives don’t have a bag.

Even manufacturers that exclusively manufacture bagged vacuums now have bagless options.

A prime example would be Miele’s introduction of its first bagless model – the Triflex HX1.

Miele Triflex HX1 upright configuration

Advantages of a Bagged Vacuum

Bagged Vacuum

First, we’ll discuss the pros of a bagged vacuum. Please note that these are general observations across all brands.

1. Almost Zero Exposure to Allergens

Bagged vacuums, because they use a sealed bag, should provide (in theory) the best filtration possible from allergen exposure.

First-generation bagged cleaners did an excellent job of keeping dirt inside the bag, but dust tends to leak out during disposal.

The latest models (high-end variants) have improved upon this weakness and have a feature that automatically seals the bag when you detach it.

It makes disposing of dirt easier and virtually mess-free.

Also, these bags have multiple layers (in some cases, four sheets) stacked on top of one another, which provide an extra layer of protection from allergens seeping back out.

Imagine dumping dirt inside four brown bags, one stacked on top of another.

Do you think that dust will seep through that thick layer? I don’t think so.

2. An Excellent Option for Allergy Sufferers

This is why a bagged vacuum is generally recommended for people with allergies, such as asthma or allergic rhinitis.

The top-tier brands offer filtration in the bag and a post-motor HEPA filter to further sift allergens where the exhaust air blows out.

Since these bags are airtight and have multiple layers, dirt will stay inside. There is minimal risk of exposure to dust clouds.

3. HEPA Filtration

If you’re buying a bagged vacuum, I strongly suggest using a variant with HEPA filtration to utilize the bags fully.

HEPA filtration is an extra layer of protection that blocks allergy-inducing dust and pollen from exiting the bags and exhaust.

Top brands like Miele and Sebo provide this type of filtration, blocking up to 0.3 microns.

4. Not Too Much Upkeep

Aside from replacing bags and filters, there isn’t much maintenance needed in a bagged vacuum as there is less accumulation of contaminants, and it’s generally easier to clean.

Some brands have bags that hold more than a gallon of dry dirt, so unless you’re cleaning a filthy carpet, you don’t need to replace it for at least a month.

Brands with a post-motor HEPA filter must only be replaced once or twice a year.

Disadvantages of a Bagged Vacuum

As great as a bagged vacuum at keeping dirt inside the bag, there are some drawbacks.

1. Bag Availability

The first problem would be the availability of bags.

This only applies to early-generation bagged vacuums.

If you own anything from the mid-80s to the 2000s, it’s probably harder to find bags for it unless it’s a popular model.

So, stock up on bags and purchase a relatively popular variant (if budget permits) to minimize this issue.

2. Running Costs

The second problem would be running costs. To be more specific, the prices of bags.

Cheap bags don’t cost a lot, but these are prone to leakage.

More expensive HEPA bags are the opposite. These are excellent at preventing allergens from leaking out but are expensive.

Depending on how often you’ll need to replace the bags (around two per month on average), the cost of cheap bags may not seem significant, but it adds up over time.

The cost will skyrocket if you use HEPA bags, which you should strongly consider if you opt for a bagged vacuum.

Also, check the bag type of the vacuum you’re eyeing and the corresponding prices.

Some models offer reusable bags, which will slash the cost of ownership. If this is a deciding factor, consider these alternatives.

Please check the calculator I have below to compute the accumulated costs of bags over an extended time frame.

It should give you an idea of how much you’ll spend.

3. Performance Issues When the Bag is Bull

The last issue would be the degrading performance as the bags fill up. But the newer bagged vacuums don’t seem to have to issue based on tests.

Vacuum Wars compared bagless vacuums and concluded that a bagged vacuum has little difference with suction loss, even as dirt piles up in the bag or dustbin.

This shouldn’t be a concern if you buy from a reputable brand.

4. High-end Bagged Vacuums are EXPENSIVE

For some reason, high-end upright bagged vacuums (Sebo, Miele) are two or three times more expensive than their bagless counterparts.

You can purchase two high-end Dyson Ball Animal or Shark APEX upright vacuums for the price of a top-of-the-line Sebo upright.

One reason would be that these brands are imported from other countries, which adds to the cost.

Pros and Cons of a Bagless Vacuum

Bagless Vacuum

Before James Dyson invented the bagless vacuum in 1978, nearly all the vacuums in the market used bags.

However, times have changed. Manufacturers that pioneered bagged cleaners, like Hoover and Eureka, now have bagless vacuums in their product line.

Some have also copied the cyclonic filtration system invented by James Dyson.

Advantages of a Bagless Vacuum

1. Cheaper to Operate

In my book, the most significant advantage of a bagless vacuum would be operational costs or the lack thereof.

Since the dirt canister is reusable, you don’t need to buy extra bags.

You need only replace the filters. Some brands, like Dyson, have washable filters that will last the vacuum’s lifetime.

If the bagless vacuum you’re buying does have HEPA filtration, please do your due diligence and check if the HEPA filter is washable.

These filters use a paper element that will degrade if soaked in liquid. So you’ll have to replace them at least once a year, but always check the manual for the interval.

2. You’ll Know When To Empty

Most bagless vacuum cleaners utilize a transparent dirt receptacle with a max line, giving consumers a visual of when to empty it, something impossible with a bagged vacuum since you can’t see what’s inside.

3. Eco-friendlier Option

Bagless vacuums are eco-friendly since you don’t need to dispose of bags that end up in landfills.

The good news is some manufacturers offer guidance on where to dispose of the bag for recycling, but it’s an added step.

If you don’t want this hassle, opt for a bagless vacuum.

4. Variety and Innovation

Bagless vacuums are more popular than bagged alternatives.

Want proof? Do a quick search on Amazon for vacuum cleaners, and you’ll see what I mean.

Manufacturers have put most of their R&D funds into developing bagless products because of consumer demand.

The most innovative vacuum cleaners I’ve seen over the last five years are primarily bagless.

These innovations are evident in brands like Dyson, Shark, Neato, and iRobot. You won’t find these innovations in a bagged vacuum as we speak.

Disadvantages of a Bagless Vacuum

Despite the popularity of bagless vacuums, there are some things you’ll have to consider before making that purchase.

While these products are cheaper to own long-term, they are not for everyone.

1. Tedious Maintenance

The most significant disadvantage of a bagged vacuum is its constant upkeep.

To maintain a high level of performance, you’ll have to continually clean different components of a bagless vacuum, which can be messy and tedious.

Fortunately, some brands like Tineco and Shark make this process easier with washable dust containers.

Always read the manual to confirm if your vacuum receptacle is washable.

2. Allergen & Dust Exposure

You’ll be exposed to allergens regardless.

Cheap bagless vacuums have poor seals and inferior filters – dust will seep through these gaps and the exhaust.

Shark WandVac fog test

Higher-end options won’t have this issue, but emptying it exposes you to dust clouds, which brings me to the next point.

3. Messy to Empty

Bagless vacuums can be messy to empty.

The messiness level will depend on the design of the dustbin.

If it has many tight crevices or a narrow pathway, you’ll need to use your fingers to dislodge dust or hair.

Fortunately, newer bagless vacuums, like the Dyson V10 and V11, have a hygienic system that streamlines this process.

How to empty a Dyson cordless bin?

Here’s how each Dyson cordless vacuum disposes of dirt – from left to right V6, V7, V8, V10, V11.

Other brands like Shark have so much space where dirt drops when the trap door opens.

Shark ION P50 Dust Cup

Older models like the Dyson V6 Mattress that still utilize the old trap-door-style dustbin can be tedious and messy to empty.

Statically charged dirt sticks on the narrow area between the walls and the mesh filter in the middle.

When you clean lots of dust or hair, these particles stick in that narrow area.


You’d have to remove the whole bin to clean it, which will get your hands dirty.

There’s also the issue of dust clouds when emptying bagless vacuums. Unless you empty in on a plastic container wearing a mask, you’ll be exposed to allergens.

Why are Bagged Vacuums Better?

When you compare entry-level options, yes, bagged vacuums are better than bagless vacuums in terms of air quality.

Cheap bagless vacuums have poor seals and will leak badly compared to a cheap bagged alternative.

However, mid-priced and premium bagless vacuums have better seals and filters.

The most reputable brands I’ve tested didn’t leak during the fog test, a visual experiment to check filtration.

Dyson Gen5 Detect fog test

Nonetheless, if your primary concern is avoiding allergen exposure, you’re better off opting for a bagged vacuum since these offer superior filtration and protection from dust clouds.

Are Bagless Vacuums Any Good?

Yes, I’ve tested many vacuums, and some of the most innovative products don’t have bags!

Some examples I could give you are the Dyson Gen5 Detect, V15 Detect, Shark Vertex, Lupe Pure Cordless, and more!

As I’ve said, many vacuum cleaner innovations are done with bagless models.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because of market demand, but that’s the trend I see.

Bagged vacuums will cost more, factoring in purchasing bags, so that limits their popularity.

Bagged or Bagless Vacuum for Pet Hair?

I don’t think a bagged or bagless design affects how it cleans pet hair. I would lean towards a bagless one since there are options with excellent anti-tangle systems that keep the pet hair from wrapping around the brush roll.

Some examples include the Shark APEX Upright with Zero-M and the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser upright, which are very good at picking up pet hair on hard floors and carpets.

The specific issue with using a bagged system for pet hair is that the bags fill up quickly, especially if you have a herd at home.

The running costs of these purchasing bags would surely skyrocket.

The Verdict: Which is Better?

Bagged and bagless vacuums each have strengths and weaknesses. There isn’t a clear winner between the two, as each caters to a specific group.

For entry-level models, a bagged vacuum is better than a bagless vacuum for filtration.

There’s a lower risk of allergen exposure, especially with newer models with multi-layer bags that seal themselves shut when you pull them out.

However, mid-priced to high-end bagless vacuums can be as good thanks to their HEPA filtration and sealed systems, but there’s an inherent risk of allergen exposure emptying them.

Because of how these vacuums are designed, there’s no way around it unless you wear an N95 mask.

So consider a bagless vacuum in the higher-priced spectrum.

Consider a bagless vacuum if you don’t have any allergies or don’t mind the risks involved with dust exposure when disposing of dirt.

About the author: Garrick, the visionary behind Cordless Vacuum Guide, brings over a decade of hands-on expertise in cordless vacuum testing to his insightful reviews showcased on this platform. Beyond his passion for empowering consumers with informed choices, he cherishes precious moments with his family, exploring global cuisines and exploring different horizons with his beloved wife and son. Follow him on Youtube, Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jason Nov 10, 2018 @ 19:44

    I’ve used bagless vacuum cleaners for many years. Due to my wife’s allergy to dust, we switched to a bagged vacuum cleaner and she immediately commented on how much cleaner and fresher the air is due to all the airbourne dust being stored in the bag as well as surface dust.
    I won’t ever buy a bagless machine again. Having to spend money on replacement bags is a small price to pay for having an atmosphere inside the house which is far cleaner and fresher.