The right vacuum is key for good health. “Dust can trigger allergies and asthma,” says James Sublett, MD, a spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Vacuuming with a good machine cuts the amount of dust you inhale. We tested models with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which filters out 99.7% of small particles. Here, our top picks.
Next Page: Best of the best [ pagebreak ]
The dirt: The WindTunnel nabbed deeply lodged crumbs and dirt, even when used on a sheepskin rug. Our testers loved the “dirt finder”—a red light tells you theres dirt; green means youre dust-free. The dust bag is made of a HEPA-grade weave, so irritating particles cant escape.
Extra credit: You can turn on the self-propel feature for extra gliding power—“it saved my back,” reported one tester.
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The dirt: The Eureka, with 8 amps, isnt as powerful as some other vacuums. But this bargain-shoppers delight gets the job done. It aced our spilled-dry-oatmeal test, and its low-maintenance: The bagless canister was the easiest we tested to dump, take apart, and wash. “Theres nothing fancy about this vac, but it did a great job picking up spilled potting soil from my carpet and mystery food bits from under my fridge,” commented one tester.
Extra credit: Its light and compact (about the same size as the Dyson, our “Best for Small Spaces” winner).
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The dirt: The Erasers secret weapon: a felt lint brush in front of the suction foot picks up fur and hair, while a rotating brush sucks it all inside. Theres a myriad of useful attachments, too, including a flexible contour tool for hard-to-get spots, like armrests and stairs where pet hair can collect. The vacuum also gets rid of chunky pet-food bits.
Extra credit: No need to mark your calendar for when to change the HEPA filter—the “clean filter” indicator light will come on when its time to get a new one.
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The dirt: The Ball rolls on, well, a large yellow ball, which allows it to move back and forth and in circles. So its a cinch to get at cereal crumbs between the dining room chair legs, and stray hairs on the bathroom floor. Its got a big price tag, but at least youll save money on the HEPA filter, which only needs to be rinsed with water. (Once the filter is wet, allergens should go down the drain rather than becoming airborne, but if youre an allergic family, rinse it outside to be safe.)
Extra credit: The Dyson is petite, so you can stash it in a small closet.
Next Page: Tips from the allergist [ pagebreak ]
Tips from the allergist
Check the filter. Generally, you should replace HEPA filters every six months, but check the manual—each machine is different.
Time it right. Dont vacuum right before bed; even HEPA vacuums kick up a bit of dust, and it takes time for it to settle.
Consider the crowd. Dont become Ms. Clean when the kids are around, since theyre closer to the ground where the dirt is.
Go outside. Reduce indoor irritants by taking your vacuum and trash can outside to remove the dust bag or empty the canister.