Old-school bagged vacuum cleaners are pretty rare these days. This makes some amount of sense: If you can order a brand-new, lightweight canister vacuum off Amazon for less than $200, why bother with a heavier, noisier relic of a machine that requires replacement bags?
To put it bluntly, because bagged vacuums are fucking great. Last summer, I bought a refurbished Kirby Sentria II off Craigslist for $80 and it instantly changed my life. Yes, it’s heavy and not particularly nimble, but what it lacks in agility it more than makes up for with pure function. (This thing vacuums up cat hair like an $800 Dyson stick vacuum—it absolutely rules.)
But, as I’ve learned, bagged vacuum cleaners offer more than no-frills functionality. They have at least three distinct (and huge) advantages over all but the fanciest bagless models. If you don’t have hundreds of dollars to blow on a Dyson, pretty much any bagged vacuum cleaner in your price range is the next best thing, and I would love to tell you why.
Bagged vacuums are a lifesaver for allergy sufferers
Having used bagless vacuum cleaners for most of my adult life, I assumed that sneezing fits were part of the deal. Running the vacuum always kicked up some amount of dust, and emptying the canister sent clouds of it billowing into the air. If you’re at all allergic to anything that ends up in a vacuum—dust, dust mites, pet hair—the whole process can be more irritating than it’s worth.
None of this happens with bagged vacuums. As long as the tube that connects the head and the bag is properly sealed, all that dust and hair and other fine particulate matter goes straight into a bag that’s specifically designed to trap fine particulate matter. Changing the bag may release a small puff of loose dust, but it’s nothing compared to the vortex you get from emptying a canister. If you or anyone you live with suffers from indoor allergies, you seriously owe it to yourself to check out bagged vacuums. You can even buy HEPA-rated bags if that’s what you need.
Bagged vacuums are greener than you think
I know what you’re thinking: Vacuum cleaner bags are incredibly bad for the environment. Every time you change the bag, you’re sending loads of dust and hair to the landfill in a bag that won’t break down.
Two things here. First, while it’s true that many vacuum bags—especially those designed to meet HEPA standards—are made of synthetic cloth that doesn’t biodegrade, plenty of others actually do. You can buy bags made of literal paper and other compostable materials that fit most models of bagged vacuums. Second, which do you think is more polluting: Increasingly obscure vacuum bags, some of which are biodegradable—or a global industry churning out more plastic canister vacuums every year, which inevitably end up in landfills when they break?
You can actually fix bagged vacuums
This brings me to the final advantage, and it’s a big one: Unlike the vast majority of cheap canister vacuums, bagged vacuums are designed to be repaired. Parts that wear out regularly (especially belts) are so cheap and easy to replace that you can do it yourself after watching a few YouTube videos. For the harder stuff, there’s always vacuum repair shops, which are less obscure than they sound. Pretty much every metropolitan area in the U.S. has at least one because commercial cleaning firms need to keep their vacuums in working order. If you live within driving distance of a town or city with lots of hotels or office buildings, there’s a good chance you’ll find a vacuum repair shop, too.
Being able to maintain and repair your vacuum as needed sounds like such a small thing, but it’s surprisingly rare. Using the same vacuum for several years keeps your carpet clean, keeps money in your pocket, and keeps your vacuum out of the landfill—which are pretty great goals.