Bagged vs Bagless Vacuum: Which One Is Better? Pros & Cons of Each

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Shopping for a vacuum cleaner may look like a simple task. But once you get to the nitty-gritty, things can get confusing.

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 of them all.

One of the features to look at is whether to choose a bagged or bagless vacuum.

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

Choosing one over the other will depend on your health, type of money you’re willing to spend for 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? And how are they different?

Simply put, this is how a vacuum cleaner stores dirt, and it affects the way you dispose of it.

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

In vacuums that use water, dirt collected goes inside a water tank.

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

Water represents the purest form of filtration available.

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

Bagged vacuums use a bag, usually from paper, to store dirt. When the container is full, all you need to do is pull out the bag and throw it.

Bagless vacuums don’t use any bags but utilize a reusable plastic dirt bin. When it’s full, detach the container and empty it over a trash can or plastic container.

For this article, I’m not going to talk about water filtration because these machines are costly.

A Rainbow vacuum will cost at least $4,000 brand new, and unless you’re a neat freak that wants the best filtration money can buy, this may be out of your price range.

Benefits of a bagged vacuum

Once upon a time before James Dyson revolutionized the bagless vacuum, the bagged vacuum was the default option.

The first vacuums mass-produced utilized a cloth bag that wraps around another bag inside it.

As you vacuum around your home, dirt, gunk, and nasty allergens all go inside that paper bag. Once full, you pull out the bag and throw it away.

1. Almost zero exposure to allergens

Bagged vacuums will provide the best filtration possible from allergen exposure because it uses a sealed bag.

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

The latest products 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 another that provide an extra layer of protection from allergens seeping going back out.

Imagine dumping dirt inside four brown bags, one stacked top of another. Do you think that dust will seep through that thick layer of paper? I don’t think so.

2. An excellent option for allergy sufferers

It is why a bagged vacuum is generally a recommendation for people who suffer from any allergies like asthma or allergic rhinitis. Top tier brands offer filtration not only in the bag but also post-motor where the exhaust air blows out.

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

3. HEPA filtration

If you’re buying a bagged vacuum, I strongly suggest you go with a variant that has HEPA filtration to take advantage of the bags fully. HEPA filtration is an extra layer of protection that blocks allergy-inducing dust and pollen from exiting the bags.

And the top brands like Miele or Sebo do provide the filtration, blocking up to 0.3 microns.

4. Not too much upkeep

Aside from replacing bags, there isn’t much maintenance needed in a bagged vacuum.

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.

Some products have post-motor filters that need replacing at least once a year.

Disadvantages of a bagged vacuum

As great as a bagged vacuum is in deep cleaning and 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 vacuums that are more than ten years old. If you have a first-generation bagged cleaner, chances are you’ll have a hard time finding replacement bags. So it’s essential to stock up and purchase a relatively popular variant, so this would not be an issue.

2. Running costs

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

The good thing is replacement bags aren’t expensive, but the costs do add up. Make sure to buy something with a big bag, so you don’t have to replace it as often.

3. Performance issues when the bag is full

The last issue would be the degrading performance as the bags fills up. This is an issue in bagged vacuums where airflow is not optimal.

What’s worst is when performance degrades, you’d almost have to throw away the bag before it fills up.

One way around this would be choosing a vacuum that has air vents around the bag to promote airflow.

Another thing to look for is something with a full bin indicator that tells you when the bag is full. This removes any guesswork on when you should empty it.

It helps you maximize every bag you put in and save money over time by not throwing away bags that are only half full.

Benefits of a bagless vacuum

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

How times have changed, manufacturers that pioneered bagged cleaners now suck has Hoover and Eureka now have bagless vacuums in their line.

And some of them use the same cyclonic filtration that was invented by James Dyson himself.

1. Cheaper to operate

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

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

All you need to do is wash the filters. Some brands like Dyson also have washable HEPA filters that will last the lifetime of the vacuum itself.

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

Most of the time, these parts use a paper element that will dissolve when you soak it in liquid. So you’ll have to replace these at least once every six months to a year.

2. You’ll know when it’s time to empty

Most bagless cleaners available right now utilize a transparent bin that quickly gives you a visual of how full it is. So you’ll know when it’s time to empty.

Even if it isn’t full, there’s no harm in emptying it more often because you’re not wasting any bags since it doesn’t have any.

3. Eco-friendlier option

Time of the amount of bags you’ll use during the lifetime a bagged vacuum – easily hundreds. If you’re conscious about not filling up landfills with paper bags, then a bagless would be a more eco-friendly option.

4. Diversity & Innovation

Easily bagless vacuums are more popular than their bagged counterpart in terms of options. For instance, I have not seen a robot vacuum or a cordless vacuum that uses a bag. The sheer demand for these types of cleaners is clearly on the rise, and manufacturers are finding ways to innovate and attract more of the market share.

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 run in the long term, it’s not for everyone.

1. Allergen exposure

First and the most significant issue would be exposure to allergens. There is exposure to all the dirt that goes inside the bin because there’s no bag that shields you from it.

When you open the bin, dirt that falls may or may not end up inside the trash bin.

There’s also a risk of dust clouds if you’re emptying a big dust cup from an upright. Even if you wrap plastic around the bin, there is still exposure since part of it is open.

If you’re suffering from a severe case of allergic rhinitis or asthma, a bagless vacuum isn’t a great option, which brings me to the next issue.

2. Messy to empty

Bagless vacuums can be messy to empty. The messiness level will depend on the design of the dust cup. If it has lots of tight crevices and a narrow pathway, there’s a high probability that you’ll need to use your fingers to dislodge dirt.

Fortunately, newer bagless vacuums like the Dyson V10 and V11 have the hygienic system that makes this process much more streamlined.

How to empty a Dyson cordless bin?
How each Dyson cordless vacuum dispose dirt – from left to right V6, V7, V8, V10, V11.

Other brands like the Shark ION P50 have so much clearance that dirt just 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 dust bin can be tedious and messy to empty.

Statically charge dirt tends to stick on the narrow area between the walls and mesh filter in the middle.

What happens is 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 completely.

Key takeaways

Bagless and bagged vacuums each have their strengths and weaknesses that are effective at what they do – clean your home.

There isn’t a clear winner between these two because each will cater to a particular set of people.

Bagged vacuums work great for people who have allergies and need something that won’t expose them to allergens.

Bagless vacuums work great for folks who don’t want to buy extra bags.

I hope this article helped you in knowing the difference between these two and helped you with your decision on which type to buy.