Vacuum Cleaners: Choosing Bagless vs. Bagged

Should you choose bagless or bagged for your next vacuum? We explain. Check out the pros, cons, and features of each vacuum type.

Are bagless or bagged vacuum cleaners best?

When it comes to vacuums, there's a big debate: bagless vs bagged, which is better? While it may not be as epic a battle for the ages as, say, the whole Coke vs. Pepsi debate, if you’re in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, you may find yourself questioning which type you should buy. Reading reviews online, you’ll find that each type has its own proponents, along with plenty of gripes as well. So, while there’s not one single answer on which type is best, let’s explore the pros and cons of both to help guide you towards your personal preference.

Bagless Vacuum Pros

The good news for bagless owners it that, as the name implies, these types of vacuums require no bags. This can end up saving you money over the life of the product, as the cost of ownership for a bagless vacuum is less than that for a bagged model.

Not only are bagless vacuums more cost-effective, they are also the eco-friendlier option since you aren’t contributing used bags to the landfill.

You also won’t have to worry about changing a bag out midway through a cleaning session, as many bagged vacuum owners can attest. You simply turn the machine on, let it suck up your dirt, and dump out the container. Ready, set, done!

Bagless Vacuum Cons

Just because it’s bag-free, doesn’t mean your vacuum is maintenance free. You’ll still need to clean or even periodically replace the vacuum’s filter, especially if it’s a HEPA. Fortunately, filters are relatively cheap, starting at around $3 and can last for up to six months, so the ongoing costs are minimal.

But perhaps the biggest con of owning a bagless vacuum cleaner is the dust cloud that comes from emptying the container. That means particles of stray cat litter, dog hair, and muddy footprints will come back up to haunt you (and your sinuses!) as you dump the vacuum’s dirt cup in the trash. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, you’ll really want to take this into consideration before purchasing a bagless vacuum, as the dust and dander particles may potentially aggravate your sinuses or trigger an asthma episode.

Bagged Vacuum Pros

If you prefer a more traditional vacuum, you’ll likely lean towards purchasing a bagged model. According to Consumer Reports, bagged vacuums are superior to their bagless counterparts when it comes to deep cleaning, which is great news if you have wall-to-wall carpeting or high-pile rugs.

Another plus to bagged vacuums is not having to fuss with a filter, since most models now have them built right into the bag. So instead of wasting time cleaning or replacing a dirty filter, you simply remove and toss the vacuum’s bag.

But perhaps the greatest advantage offered by bagged vacuums is their ability to keep all debris locked inside a sealed bag, making this by far the most hygienic option. Not only does the dirt stay in place as you remove the bag, the dust won’t puff out at you as it gets tossed into the trash. Bagless vacuums tend to spill debris upon removal of the dirt chamber from the unit, and release particles when dumped.

Bagged Vacuum Cons

Bagged vacuums will always cost more to operate then bagless models, since they frequently require a new bag, typically about once per month. Depending on the model, expect to pay around $25 for 25 bags. So, while a dollar a month won’t break your budget, it can be a minor annoyance, as you’re basically paying to operate something you already own.

Another frustrating part of owning a bagged vacuum is that since the bag is sealed, you can’t see the dirt you’ve vacuumed up (which is surprisingly satisfying to watch!) This lack of transparency can lead to uncertainty over when it’s time to change the bag out. Also, the fuller the bag becomes, the less efficiently the machine operates, which can mean less suction power on those dirty carpets.

Basically, bagged owners get stuck between two worlds: Change out the bag too frequently and throw away money, or let it ride to the bitter end and have a vacuum that won’t suck.

And, although unlikely, there’s always the possibility the manufacturer may discontinue your vacuum cleaner model and cease production on its bags. Which means you’ll be left with a $200 paperweight.

So Is A Bagless or bagged vacuum best?

Now that you know the pros and cons of both, you likely have the type you want to purchase in mind. Overall, if you need a quick clean, and are budget and eco-conscious, keep an eye out for deals on bagless vacuums. However, if you suffer from allergies, are a germaphobe, or have thick, high-pile carpet, a bagged vacuum will likely be your best choice.

Resources—Consumer Reports, Merry Maids