I know a lot of people that suffer from asthma or allergies, and I bet you do too (or better yet you’re one of them). If with asthma, things are pretty clear, with allergies is not always black or white: they can be developed over time, and healthy people may end up sick. Humans live and breathe in environments where millions of airborne particles accumulate. This report doesn’t target these. The main focus of this guide is on particles laying on the floor which are picked up by the airflow produced by the vacuum cleaner and are exhausted back into the living space. A lot of dirt, dust, debris, pet hairs and tiny particles are lifted off several surfaces when cleaning a surface using a vacuum cleaner, and the last you would expect is the same being exhausted back onto the airstream. This is precisely why you need a powerful vacuum cleaner filtration system, with filters being replaced from time to time, to ensure that the environment you live in remains clean.
Filtration system buying guide
There is a progressive inflow of vacuum cleaner filters into the market and unless you know what each does and the most ideal for your home or office environment, you might end up spending more than you had planned. There are two broad classes of vacuum cleaner filters:
Primary vacuum filters
Owing to the type of work that they perform, vacuum cleaners are fitted with more than one filter these days. In such a case, one of the filters serves as the primary filter. Its work is to collect a good proportion of the dust and dirt from the air that has been sucked into the vacuum cleaner before it is exhausted back to the environment.
These will further filter the air that has passed through the primary filters. It further cleans the air before it gets in touch with the most crucial parts of the machine and the external environment as well. If you are concerned with airborne microbes, pet dander and allergens, a powerful secondary filter is all you need.
Types of filters
Cartridge vacuum cleaner filters are disposable, and should therefore be replaced from time to time. Before changing the filter, however, you can detach them and tap off the dust to increase the efficiency of an appliance. They are very easy to fix and replace because cartridge filters are fitted with rubber casings, which slide softly into the tight spaces provided within the vacuum cleaner.
Depending on the model of your vacuum cleaner, cartridge filters can serve as primary or secondary filters. They can be made from materials such as foam, pleated paper and synthetic products.
These filters are used in large vacuum cleaners which are meant to clear large particles from areas such as construction sites, shops and industrial settings. They are washable, tough and less temporary compared to other filter types. You can find these in shop-vacs, older vacuum cleaner models, integrated vacuum systems and others. As you can infer from their name, these filters can be washed and reused for many times before purchasing new ones.
Most foam filters serve a secondary purpose in vacuums where they are used. They can only filter air that has been separated from dust, dirt and other particles before it gets to the sensitive parts and ultimately the external environment. One advantage with these filters is that, some of them can be washed and re-used. Before opting to re-use a foam filter, however, one must read through the manufacturer’s manual to ascertain whether such a provision is given.
These are mostly primary filters, which draw their name from the shape that they assume. They look like coffee filters, and are mostly made of cloth or paper. Disk filters are used in portable machines such as the latest cordless models, or in robotic vacuum cleaners. They can sustain a low to reasonable amount of dust before they need to be rewashed/replaced, and due to their structure, are usually more expensive than those presented above.
Features of vacuum cleaner filters
At times there is a confusion regarding the types of vacuum cleaner filters available in the market. What some people call a type of vacuum cleaner filter is actually a feature that is found in one or more of the filters that have been covered above. Here is a list of some common features:
HEPA is an acronym for high efficiency particulate air. Initially, this was a system meant to serve air filtration needs under special or sensitive circumstances such as radioactive particles from the air. Since the invention of these filters, however, their use has been diversified and they are now into vacuum cleaners.
The filters are capable of removing 99.995% of all air particles from the size of 0.3 microns. This is because thee filters use special-size fibres and an electrostatic field. It therefore means that a well-fitted and rated HEPA filter will get rid of all pathogens, allergens and particles that cause asthma. It is the most ideal addition to vacuums used by individuals who are allergic or asthmatic.
However, HEPA filters are only efficient alongside vacuum cleaners which are air-tight. If some air escapes through loose ends in the appliance, the filters may not be so assuring. If you are using such filters for health reasons, check the appliance first to ascertain whether it will produce the best results with such filters.
MicroFresh refers to a non-hazardous chemical element which is added to prevent the development and accumulation of fungi algae and bacteria. Rather than recognizing it as a type of filter, it will make more sense to group it as a chemical substance that is added to most filters, ensuring that air is sterilized before release back to the environment. In the left image I’ve posted an image with a bag of C-type filters from Dirt Devil. There are however a lot of producers that use MicroFresh filters within their dust bags, such as Kenmore, Hoover or Eureka to name a few. A MicroFresh bag usually costs around $2-$3 and lasts up to 6-8 months, depending on the cleaning frequency.
This is yet another type of labeling that you will find with most filters. Ideally, it means that the filter has been designed in such a way to trap the smallest particles from air, which a standard or ordinary filter cannot do. However, their filtration capacity does not exceed that of HEPA-labelled filters, meaning the HEPA filtration is better. The Hoover bags from the left image use this technology and cost only $2 each on Amazon.
Some filters have been engineered in such a way that they can be washed, dried and used again. This extends the shelf life of a filter and reduces the cost of running a vacuum cleaner. Not all filters are washable, and the few that are endowed with such a capability must always be labelled as such.
Some manufacturers will also advertise a group called pet filters, specifically engineered to pick pet hairs from the air. Similarly, they may be used to get rid of pet odor, if baking soda has been added to such a filter.
These are special filters which must be used with wet/dry vacuum cleaners. A number of people make a mistake by fitting such a vacuum cleaner with standard filters and in such a case, its efficiency is watered down.
Sometimes you could be cleaning air which has been contaminated by odor. Once the vacuum has sucked such air, a scented filter can be an effective way of adding some pleasant smell to before it is released to the environment. Different filters may be endowed with these characters, and it is good to remember that there are various scents for you to choose from.
Just like HEPA, this is an acronym that represents a performance standard. It stands for ultra-low penetration air, a specification depicting the filters which are used in environments such as pharmaceutical labs where a high standard of clean air should be maintained. These however wear out pretty fast and are usually non-washable.
In conclusion, there are several types of vacuum cleaner filters, and each has its unique properties. When shopping for one, consider the environment where it will be used, the kind of work it will be doing, the type of vacuum cleaner that you own, and health concerns if any.
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