Bag vs Bagless Vacuum: The Complete Vacuum Comparison

bag vs bagless vacuum

From the time the first portable domestic vacuum cleaners were invented in 1905, dust bags have been an integral part of a vacuum cleaner. Well, not exactly dust bags as we know, but versions of them.

A good example is the first-ever portable electric vacuum cleaner that was invented and patented by a department store janitor, James Murray Spangler, in 1907. Spangler’s design, apart from utilizing suction from an electric fan to blow dirt and debris into a soapbox and one of his wife’s pillows, added on a rotating brush that loosened debris.

Wait, perhaps a walk down memory is in order here. After all, to best solve the bag vs. bagless debate, a bit of their history and the purpose behind the inventions may help put things in perspective.

Bag Vs. Bagless Vacuum Cleaners: the History Behind the World’s Best Cleaning Utility

vacuum history

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Back to James Spangler and his revolutionary cleaning device.

Unfortunately for Spangler, he failed to secure the funding that was needed to take his invention commercial and he was forced to sell the patent in 1908 to a local leather goods manufacturer in order to keep his invention alive.

That leather goods manufacturer is none other than William Henry Hoover.

Hoover improved on Spangler’s design by giving the machine a steel outer casing, casters, and attachments. Spangler’s invention led to Hoover redirecting and rebranding his company to the Hoover Company in 1922.  The Hoover Company then grew to be one of the major players in the vacuum cleaner industry, so much so that in some countries, vacuum cleaners are called Hoovers.

The race to make the best vacuum cleaner was on.

With each subsequent design, the vacuum became better and better. And in the race to be unique, different types of vacuums were invented including, but not limited, to canister vacuums, backpack vacuums, wet/dry vacuums (commonly known as shop vacs), hand-held vacuums, robotic vacuums, and a whole lot more.

But for a long time, the one category of vacuums that dominated the vacuum market was the bagged vacuum cleaner, which at one point fueled a £100 million market in the UK alone.

That was until Sir James Dyson of the famous Dyson Company decided to break the status quo (and bank for the vacuum bag market) by designing a bagless vacuum cleaner that took the world by storm. Perhaps that’s why it was aptly named the G-Force.

Dyson Bagless Vacuum, Fuschia

Dyson’s invention was fueled by his frustration over his Hoover Junior losing suction as the bag filled up, and the bores got clogged up. It took Dyson, 5 years, 5100 prototypes, and his wife’s teacher’s salary to see the first successful bagless vacuum being launched in 1983.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

With the invention of the bagless vacuum cleaner, a feud was started – the bag vs. bagless vacuum feud.

Both sides have their die-hard proponents who swear by their vacuum type of choice. But putting rose-colored glasses aside, which of these two vacuum types is better?

This is not as simple a debate as putting the two side by side and choosing one based on aesthetic beauty. When it comes to bag vs. bagless vacuum cleaners, it’s what’s inside that really matters.

So let’s dig deep into the qualities of these two life (and time) saving cleaning tools and sort out the trash from the treasure in terms of what they really bring to the table.

Bag Vs. Bagless Vacuum Cleaners

In order to settle this debate without blowing too much hot air, we’ll look at these two types of vacuums and compare them in the most critical areas that make a vacuum cleaner worthy of being an integral part of your cleaning arsenal (or ghost-hunting equipment if you’d rather use it to suck up ghouls).

2. Cleanliness and Hygiene

This is exactly what vacuum cleaners are for, isn’t it?

The reason you purchase a vacuum is that you want to keep your house clean, but have you ever wondered how clean the vacuum itself is?

This is where bagged vacuum cleaners trump bagless cleaners.

For one, because the dirt is trapped in a sealed bag, emptying a bagged vacuum is more hygienic than emptying a bagless vacuum. And because the bag is sealed, the risk of spilling the dirt is next to none with a bagged vacuum as compared to bagless vacuums that are prone to spilling out the dirt at the point of emptying.

In short, it’s easier to empty a vacuum bag than a vacuum canister – and less messy too.

Besides the emptying process, these two types of vacuum cleaners don’t clean your house the same way.

When it comes to air purity, the bagless cleaner does a better job of collecting more dust and retaining it than its counterpart.

Bagged vacuums are the recommended type of vacuum cleaner for allergy sufferers because the bag itself works as a great filter and is very effective at trapping dust, debris, and other contaminants. This is because the bags are airtight, making it virtually impossible for the trapped dust and allergens to escape back into the air.

Bagless vacuums, on the other hand, are not so effective in this respect. They have a greater chance of exposing you to allergens as the dust is not kept in an airtight container as is the case with vacuum bags.

Even though some do have HEPA air filters (which are basically a standard in bagged vacuums) that improve their efficiency vastly, they just can’t compare to bagged vacuums.

With bagged vacuums, your floor is left clean, and so is the air around the house.

3. Ergonomics and Ease of Use

When it comes to equipment of any kind, ergonomics and ease of use play a big role in selecting the ideal piece of equipment for you.

With vacuum cleaners, ergonomics play a bigger role in your cleaning experience than many other factors. This is because the easier to handle and use a vacuum is, the more efficiently you can do your job.

A vacuum that is difficult to use and difficult to move around makes for a terrible cleaning experience and eventually results in less cleaning being done.

For the proponents of the bagless vacuums, this is one of the strongest points they stand on – the ease of use of a bagless vacuum.

Bagless vacuums are more mobile than their bagged counterparts due to their lightweight design, making them a favorite for those who don’t want to spend too much time vacuuming. And the fact that bagless vacuums are generally lighter than their bagged counterparts becomes more evident as the bag in the bagless vacuum gets heavier with use. This makes bagless vacuums a better choice for those with weak wrists and backs.

Besides the ease of use when it comes to vacuuming, bagless vacuums also make it easy to retrieve lost items that find themselves in the canister. For starters, it’s easy to look into the canister, a feature that makes it easy to tell when the canister needs emptying. And to retrieve whatever you’ve lost, all you have to do is open the canister and get your prized possession.

With a bagged vacuum, retrieving anything can pose to be more work since you will have to tear the bag open first. And if the bag is not full, that just makes it worse as it will be a bag down the drain.

For ease of use and ergonomics, bagless vacuums seem to take the cup.

But this is not a clear-cut case as your house will determine which vacuum type is easier for you.

For instance, if your house has many stairs or hardwood floors, then a bagless vacuum is easier to use as it has greater mobility than a bagged vacuum. If your house has a lot of carpets (especially if they’re wall-to-wall) and rugs, then you will find that a bagged vacuum will do a better job of cleaning your floors.

4. General Maintenance

When it comes to keeping your house clean, the best tool is the one that requires the least maintenance. And so, as we tackle the bag vs. bagless vacuum debate, maintenance plays a big role too.

Which of these two types of maintenance requires less maintenance?

This is another win for the bagged vacuum.

Vacuum cleaners that use bags generally require less maintenance than bagless vacuums for a number of reasons, of which we will explore a couple.

One of the main reasons bagged vacuums need less maintenance than their bagless counterparts is that the dust bags can carry a lot of dirt (up to two pounds of debris), meaning they won’t need to be emptied as often as a bagless vacuum would.

Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Bagged Corded Upright Vacuum UH30300, Blue

With a bagless vacuum, because of its smaller capacity, you will need to empty it more often than its bagged counterpart.

And then there’s the issue of the filters.

Because the filter in a bagged vacuum is built directly into the bag, the filter never needs to be cleaned – it gets thrown away with the bag. And all bagged vacuum filters are HEPA certified, so you know they are safe for those with allergen sensitivities.

With bagless vacuums, HEPA air filters are not a standard. You will have to check the specifications of each vacuum to ensure the filter is HEPA certified. Besides the certification, you will have to clean the filter regularly, and when it gets worn out, you will have to replace it.

5. Performance

There’s nothing as a frustrating as getting a cleaning tool that doesn’t deliver on its promises of giving your floors and house a spotless clean.

Both the bagged and bagless vacuums promise to help you keep your house spick and span, and they do. But, which one does a better, more efficient job?

If performance can be measured by suction power (of which I believe it can), then bagged vacuums take the cup here also.

With bagged vacuums, air travels through a more straightforward path, that is, from the hose straight through the bag, then through the motor and filters, and finally, out through the exhaust of the machine. This set-up is more efficient as it allows for more efficient and powerful sucking.

The set-up in bagless vacuum cleaners is a different story. The air flow of most bagless vacuums is channeled along twisting and turning pathways. The result is that the delivery of the suction and airflow generated by the motor is negatively impacted. In short, bagless vacuums have less suction power than bagged vacuums.

The practical implication of this is that bagged vacuums are more efficient than bagless vacuums. This is made more evident when cleaning areas in which dust and debris can be held by the cleaning surface more firmly – surfaces like rugs and carpets.

But it’s not all peaches and roses for the bagged vacuum in the area of performance. This is because the bagged vacuums greatest strength is also its Achilles’ heel. When a vacuum bag begins to fill up, the suction power decreases, thereby reducing its performance.

The bottom line, however, is that bagged vacuum cleaners generally perform better than their bagless counterparts.

6. Storage

If storage space is an issue for you, then your best bet would be a bagless vacuum. This is because bagless vacuums usually feature a slim design that can be stored almost anywhere, even by simply hanging on a wall.

Bagged vacuums, on the other hand, are bulkier and require more storage space. Especially if you are living in a small apartment, you’ll notice just how bulky a bagged vacuum can be – especially considering that you will also have to find space to store the bags and other accessories.

When it comes to ease of storage, bagless vacuums score more points than bagged vacuums.

Bagged VS. Bagless Vacuums – Which Vacuum Type is Best for You?

With all these differences between bagged and bagless vacuum cleaners, which one is the ultimate cleaning tool?

These differences may not necessarily make one vacuum better than the other, but they do help point you in the direction of the vacuum best suited for you.

For example, if you are sensitive to allergens, then you’re better off with a bagged vacuum as it will do a better job of protecting you from them.

And if you have back or wrist problems, then a bagless vacuum would be your better option due to bagless vacuums being generally lighter than bagged vacuums.

Choosing a vacuum for your specific needs is not an easy task, especially if you don’t know the pros and cons each vacuum brings to the table.

And when it comes to making a decision between a bag vs. bagless vacuum, the more informed you are, the easier it becomes to make the perfect purchase for your home. And a good vacuum cleaner will put the fun back in cleaning your house.

Here’s to your clean home.


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