A lot of vacuum cleaners come with a HEPA filter nowadays. In my view, they are a godsend because when I have one in my vacuum it stops me from sneezing when I clean the house. Not only that, the house smells fresh and the air is cleaner than before I started vacuuming.
If you took the HEPA filter out of your vacuum because it was clogged you might be wondering whether your vacuum will work without the HEPA filter.
If your particular vacuum continues to work without its HEPA filter then you can certainly use it without one. You might find the suction gets better. However, without the HEPA filter, your vacuum can’t filter out some of the tiny dust particles it sucked up from your floor. Some of the dust will be sent out into the air around you making you sneeze and then settling on other surfaces around your home. As a consequence, you may have more dust to clean up later.
I sometimes use affiliate links. When you click these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission. It won’t cost you anything but it helps me to run this site.
Should you use your vacuum without the HEPA filter?
I thought I was being clever when I took out my HEPA filter. Suddenly the vacuum had amazing suction. It seemed to work so much better than before!
Is it really necessary to use a HEPA filter in your vacuum?
I thought I was saving money by not replacing the HEPA in my vacuum, but in fact, I was paying for that saving instead with a smelly and dusty house.
- I found myself sneezing and sniffing a lot more.
- The vacuum began to smell of my dog more.
- The room smelled more of dog when I finished vacuuming than when I started.
- I found myself dusting much more.
When I finally realised it was the lack of a HEPA filter in my vacuum that was causing all these problems I wasted no time in getting a new filter.
What is a HEPA filter?
HEPA is a type of air filter. It stands for ‘High-Efficiency Particulate Air’. Vacuum cleaners, particularly those designed for cleaning up after pets, often contain HEPA filters. If you have allergies, you will want to look out for a vacuum that contains this type of filter.
What makes a HEPA filter so good at filtering air?
A HEPA air filter is comprised of thousands of fine fibres that can trap tiny airborne particles. All HEPA filters will have been tested and approved against a standard that ensures close to 100% of air particles are removed.
If your vacuum cleaner contains a HEPA filter you can be confident that any air pushed out by the vacuum is clean air. In fact, it can make the air cleaner than it was before you started to vacuum.
If you have family members who are sensitive to airborne dust and pollen, a HEPA filter will help tremendously when it comes to cleaning up.
What happens when you remove the HEPA filter?
Provided your vacuum continues to work without its HEPA filter (the Shark Duoclean does not) removing it will result in fine dust circulating in the air when you vacuum your floor.
You might see your carpet or hard floor getting cleaner as you vacuum, but the tiny dust particles that you can’t see will end up in the air around you until eventually, they settle on other surfaces in your home. Before that happens you will most certainly have suffered an allergic reaction if you are sensitive to the allergens in the dust particles.
I noticed a big difference when I ran my Miele without the HEPA. I found myself sneezing and blowing my nose. It wasn’t very nice at all. The effect was made worse because we have a dog. Fortunately, I’m not allergic to dogs, but the additional pet hair and dander in the hair can’t have helped.
Can you use a Shark vacuum without HEPA filter?
For my particular Shark vacuum (the DuoClean) the vacuum does not work if you remove the filter. So there is no benefit in doing so. Fortunately, the filters can be washed so there is no need to wait for an order to arrive. I can simply wash them, let them dry and then put them back in the vacuum.
I bought a second set of filters so that I could switch them out quickly without having to wait for them to dry.
Can you use a Miele vacuum without the HEPA filter?
I have a Miele vacuum and I found it can be used without the HEPA filter which is what I did before I realised what an essential part of the vacuum the HEPA filter is.
On the plus side, I found that the suction level on my vacuum went up considerably after I removed the HEPA filter. What didn’t help is that the HEPA filter I removed was very clogged and was actually stopping the vacuum from working.
I ran my vacuum without the HEPA filter for a few days before I got a replacement filter. I definitely noticed how much more I was sneezing. Also, the dog smell coming from my vacuum was a lot worse.
Once the new HEPA filter arrived the dog smell vanished immediately, the air felt so much cleaner, and the suction level on the machine was high.
Can you use a Dyson vacuum without the HEPA filter?
Yes, you can use your Dyson without its HEPA filter. However, it isn’t a great idea because the dust you suck up from the carpet will circulate in the air and then rest on other surfaces so you will have more to clean up later. If you have allergies then you might find yourself having an allergic reaction whilst cleaning.
Can you wash HEPA vacuum filters?
Sometimes you can wash HEPA filters. This is very handy because it means you don’t have to keep shelling out for a new filter. The downside of this is that you are exposing yourself to the dust as you take it out to wash it. This would not be the case for a self-contained HEPA that has to be replaced.
To wash your HEPA filter:
- Remove it from the vacuum.
- Tap it on a hard surface to remove as much dust as you can.
- Wash it in cold water.
- Allow it to dry naturally before you put it back in your machine.
Foam filters vs HEPA filters
Foam filters are very different to HEPA filters. Foam is usually used as a secondary filter because it can’t cope with larger particles of debris.
Foam filters can become quickly clogged and air can get around them which makes them less effective at filtering than the rigid design of the HEPA filter.
On the plus side, foam filters are usually washable which makes your vacuum cheaper to maintain.
How to clean a HEPA filter
How you clean your filter will depend on your vacuum and the particular HEPA it contains. Always check the manual. Cleaning your HEPA filter by vacuuming it or washing it could damage the fibres inside making them less efficient at filtering out the tiny particles.
In some cases, it might not be possible to clean your HEPA filter. The only option will be to replace it.
For my Miele Cat and Dog vacuum, the HEPA filter cannot be cleaned it can only be replaced. Fortunately, replacement HEPA filters can be bought easily online. There are cheaper pattern versions available to buy which may or may not do an effective job.
My tip would be to find the model number for your HEPA filter and search online for that. You should find both original and cheaper copies. I bought both an original and a copy for my Miele and found that both worked very well. It’s difficult to say for sure how effective the copy is but they both cured my smelly vacuum.
My Shark DuoClean vacuum has a washable HEPA filter. The filter and the outer foam can be washed in cold water. I found it useful to buy a second set of filters so I could quickly switch them out when required.
Frequently asked questions
Does a HEPA filter out the COVID virus?
Yes, it is possible that a HEPA filter can remove the COVID virus from the air.
According to WebMD HEPA filters may actually clean airborne particles containing viruses. In a study carried out at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge U.K in their COVID wards, air samples were taken both with and without an air filter in use. Air samples taken when using an air filter with a HEPA were found to be free of the virus.