Wehrli's Vacuum Center

Bag vs. Bagless Vacuums


Bagless vacuums – those without a disposable dust bag – seem to be a relatively new and sensible improvement in vacuum design.  After all, who wants to pay for replacement bags (and remember to buy more!) when they could simply empty a container?


It may surprise you to know that once upon a time, all vacuums were bagless.  From the early 1900’s up until the 1950’s, most vacuums had a permanent cloth bag that the user emptied out after each use.  Some used a container with a  filter that was changed periodically.  Central vacuum systems, then found only in very large homes and public buildings, were emptied by shoveling the dirt out!


During that period, the Air-Way Corporation of Toledo, Ohio patented the disposable paper filter bag.  Millions of Air-Way vacuums were sold to people who were tired of the filthy job of emptying their vacuums.  Once Air-Way’s patents ran out in 1952, nearly every other manufacturer quickly brought out their own vacuums with paper bags.  It was the new, hygienic way to dispose of the dust your vacuum picked up.


From then until a few years ago, the vast majority of vacuums had paper bags, some cleaner and more convenient to replace than others.  Every manufacturer used a different paper bag, some having many different types to fit different styles of vacuums they made.  This made finding replacement bags an increasingly complicated process.


Frustration with disposable bags led to several manufacturers introducing a new type of “bagless” vacuum.  These cleaners had clear removable dirt cups with filters inside.  They were viewed as more convenient, because buying replacement bags wasn’t necessary, and the cleaner could be emptied for no cost.  Quickly gaining popularity, these vacuums made “bagged” cleaners seem old-fashioned and obsolete.


Now, several years later, bagged vacuums are beginning to make a comeback, as people become aware of issues with their bagless vacuums.  First, a bag contains the dirt far better than a bagless dirt cup, which often produces a cloud of dust when emptied.  There’s also the tendency of a bagless vacuum to “fluff up” the dirt as it spins around – much like clothes in your dryer.  This makes the dirt take up more room, and requires more frequent emptying.  Also, many people don’t realize until after they buy a bagless that it’s not as simple to maintain as they’ve been led to believe.  In addition to emptying the dirt cup, every bagless vacuum contains at least one (and usually more than one) filter which will need regular cleaning or replacement, sometimes after every time you use the vacuum.  Disposable filters usually cost around $20 each, and reusable filters are never quick or easy to clean – some have dozens of small pleats the dirt needs to be picked out of, while others require rinsing and drying before the vacuum can be used again.  If these filters aren’t regularly maintained, they will plug with dust until the vacuum barely has any suction at all – even if the dirt cup is completely empty.


Contrast that with emptying a bagged vacuum – when the bag is full (usually after four to six weeks of use), remove it, throw it away and install a new one.  The secondary filters on bagged vacuums rarely need attention, because the bag is doing most of the filtering.  Newer bagged vacuums hold their suction longer, too – thanks to an increased filtering surface area, and modern synthetic multilayered bag materials which increase air permeability, while maintaining a high, allergy-safe degree of filtration.


In conclusion, we believe the disposable bag system is superior overall.  While it does necessitate buying replacement bags, it provides less frequent emptying, far cleaner dirt disposal, higher sustained airflow for better cleaning, and longer vacuum life.







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