Vacuum sucking up confetti

Marketers can make some pretty bold claims in an effort to sell more vacuums. “Our vacuum stops the flu”, “Our vacuum can suck up a bowling ball”, or even “Oh yeah? Our vacuum can suck up a Volkswagen!”

The biggest hype in the vacuum market lately has been the obsession over HEPA filtration. Consumers recognize it as something they are supposed to want in their vacuum, but what’s the real science behind it? (Oh, man, no one told me there was going to be science in this article!)

HEPA – The History

Dusty old book

Filters are meant to screen out the undesirables from a substance that flows through them. Your colander filters the spaghetti from the water. We filter UV rays from the sun, pollutants from our water, and the air used by our vehicles and home air conditioning units.

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters have been around a long time. Scientists working on the atomic bomb needed the air where they were working to be really clean; which means, they needed a filter that could pick out tiny radioactive particles from the air passing through it.

That’s what it means to be a HEPA filter: It filters at least 99.97% of particles that are bigger than .3 microns. It’s a rigid and strict standard and why HEPA filters are the only choice for places like cleanrooms, hospitals, electronics manufacturers, and even the CDC.

A lot of your not-so-good vacuum cleaners pick up dirt, dust, pollen, and the allergens from your carpet and deposit most of it into a container. They also blow a lot of it right back out into the air circulating through your home, too.

At some point, manufacturers realized it would be a good idea to put an air filter in the line to try and contain the pollutants, particularly in bagless vacuums. Naturally, this idea progressed to using the high-end HEPA filters that prevent allergens, bacteria, and even viruses from being systematically blown throughout the air in your home.

What to watch for

Crazy woman thinking

“HEPA-like Filtration!”

A true HEPA filter is an investment, usually having a price tag many times greater than a standard-duty media filter. To cut corners, some vacuums will use a “HEPA-like filter”, referred to by various names, meaning that it is not a genuine product and is not certified. It might be a filter, but there is no telling how efficient it is at air filtration. A true HEPA filter will have a serial number and test results printed on it.

Bad Seals or Air Leaks

The best filter in the world is useless if the air can go around it instead of through it. Poorly-made vacuums might use a HEPA filter, but the gasket around it doesn’t seal properly. A lot of vacuums also leak, so air, dirt, and dust get out of the vacuum cleaner at certain places. These issues negate the benefits of the HEPA filter.


HEPA filters offer a lot of resistance to the air flow in a vacuum. That means they need to be paired with a powerful motor that can easily overcome this pressure drop. The motor needs to be designed to provide a balance of airflow and pressure.


The performance of your vacuum depends upon clean filters. Most vacuums will have a normal filter in-line, leaving only the smaller particles to be processed by your HEPA filter. If you can keep the pre-filter clean, your HEPA filter is likely to last a year or two. There is no need to clean a dirty HEPA filter; be prepared to replace it once it’s reached the end of its life cycle.

Don’t just rearrange the dirt

Vacuum dust and left overs

The whole reason we are using a vacuum in the first place is to remove dirt from our home. Good filtration ensures that as few contaminants as possible escape containment and pollute the air; this is especially important for families sensitive to allergies and sickness.

HEPA filtration is a great option for those with high-standards of health and cleanliness in their home, too.

Now that you know the difference between marketing hype and the real deal, come see us for an in-store demonstration of the best vacuums on the market.

Jones Sew and Vac has a wide variety of vacuums that use real HEPA filters that really work!


For the love of vacuums!

Jones Sew & Vac Team