Filters for Vacuum Cleaners and How They Work

Filters for Vacuum Cleaners and How They Work Infographic

A vacuum cleaner – how complicated could it be to replace it, right? After all, all that you need it for is to suck up the dirt and keep your home clean. Unfortunately, the manufacturers did not seem to get that memo.

Not only do you get several different kinds of sweepers, but you also have to pay attention to how they work at filtering out the dirt. This is particularly important if you have people in the home with allergies or asthma.

So, you have to consider which option is going to be most important for your needs. Is it worth paying the extra and getting one that uses HEPA technology? How often will you be able to replace the consumables? What kind of budget do you have for doing so?

Not understanding this very important issue can impact the effectiveness of your cleaning efforts and also affect how well your cleaner lasts. In this post, we will go through the several vacuum filters with you.

Different Types of Filters

Cartridge Filters

These need to be changed out from time to time when they get clogged up. It is a good idea to remove these every second or third time you use the machine. Remove them and gently tap to get rid of dust. This action helps them last longer. They can be made from a variety of materials.

Foam Filters

Foam filters are often secondary ones. They cannot actually filter out dirt particles as such but will filter the air remaining after these have been removed by the primary filtration method.

These do last longer than the cartridges and can often be removed and washed. But do read the manufacturer’s instructions in this regard.

Cloth Filters

You will usually cloth filters in commercial use vacuums as they are meant to handle very big particles of dust like you would get from construction. So, your standard home machine is not likely to have these at all. However, if you do get one, the cloth is strong, washable and completely reusable.

Disk Filters

This is very likely to be the main filter. They resemble a coffee filter and will be made either of paper or cloth. The cloth ones are often washable, but the paper ones will need to be replaced fairly regularly.

This is one of the most popular options when it comes to cordless vacuums.

Vacuum Bag


In this case, the bag that all the dust is collected in is also the primary filter. It is either a loose weave fabric or paper. This allows the air to escape and traps bigger particles in the machine itself.

Depending on the type of model that you have, the bag from the vacuum might also be the only filtration system used.


In this case, there will be a separate filtration system. Often this will include a primary filter to get rid of the big bits of dirt and a secondary one to further purify the air. The area where the dirt is collected will also have a basic filtration system.

These will usually work by using the weight of the dirt – larger particles will sink to the bottom easily. If you’re still interested, then check out our bagless vacuum guide.

Common Features of Vacuum Cleaner Filters

Most sweepers work on an exhaust filtration system. This means that the air is sucked up into the machine and then filtered before being released at the other end. Filtration systems differ – they can be a simple bag, or a cartridge or any of the options that we talked about above.

MicroFresh Filters

These contain a chemical that will help to prevent fungi, bacteria or algae building up inside. The chemical effectively sterilizes the air output before it is released back into the open. The chemical is not dangerous to humans, but it makes short work of dangerous micro-organisms.

Overall, it is an effective way to keep your family healthier.

Allergen Filters

Allergen Filters

These are designed so that even the tiniest particles are trapped, and the air that comes out is free of most allergens. HEPA filtration works better than this basic type, but these may be a little less expensive.

If you are working within a tight budget, this type is a good option to consider.

Washable Filters

This type is made to last longer and can be washed a good few times over. All you need to make sure of is that it gets a chance to dry out well before putting it back in the machine.

We must just add here, though, that not all cloth options are meant to be washed so check the instructions beforehand.

Washable Filters

UPLA Filters

ULPA or Ultra Low Penetration Air specifies a type that is extremely high performance. The kind of option that is necessary for a laboratory situation or clean room.

Generally speaking, these are not the most suitable for home use, unless you have to have the cleanest environment. These do not last very well and are not likely to be washable.

Water Filtration

These are where water is used to remove all dust and particles out of the air before it is pushed back out again. It is a highly effective way to trap dust of varying sizes and helping at cleaning out allergens.

The water does need to be emptied out and replaced every time it is used.

HEPA Filter

HEPA or High-Efficiency Particle Arrest Vacuums use fibers of a particular size along with an electrostatic field to remove even the smallest speck of dust. These are highly efficient as long as the sweeper has been made airtight and will remove around 99.95% of dust.

They cost a fair amount more but can be invaluable if you have asthma or allergies.

Vacuum Cleaner Water Filter vs. HEPA

Both types are very effective when it comes to removing even the tiniest bits of dust and allergens. HEPA performs slightly better in this area, but the difference is not all that significant.

The disadvantage with the water-based option is that it can be quite mucky when it comes to cleaning it. That said, there are fewer consumables needed with this choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


Where can I replace my HEPA filter?

A: Check online at Amazon for the best deals when it comes to replacements here. Alternatively, you will often also be able to buy these from the store you got your cleaner from in the first place.

When choosing the make and model of sweeper you will buy, it is a good idea to check first how easily you can replace the consumables.


Can you wash and reuse vacuum filters?

A: That really depends on the type you get in the first place. Check what the manufacturer says and use a little common sense here as well. If the material used is cloth or foam, there is a good chance that you could wash and reuse it. If it is paper, you have to replace it.

Final Thoughts

And, there you have it – what you don’t know about the different filtration systems now is probably not worth knowing. You have plenty of information about what works best for which applications and can now narrow down your best choices.

Other things to consider include how often you will use the cleaner, how much dirt it would have to handle, and whether or not you really need something that can remove allergens.

You will also want to consider what the budgetary implications of each choice will be down the line. Models that use paper instead of cloth are bound to be cheaper initially, but over the long haul, you will need to buy more consumables.

The best advice is to get the best option that you can afford. This is one area where it really does not pay to cheap out. Not exchanging or cleaning these items regularly can cause serious issues with your machine so choose wisely.

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I’ve been a dedicated writer for Clean That Floor for approximately 3 years. I’ve written about various topics, mostly focusing on cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, mops, and simple cleaning solutions for homeowners. I enjoy testing tips and tricks on house maintenance, reviewing both the process and results.

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