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Everything You Need to Know About Vacuum Cleaners Filters

Published by: Katherine Frame

Vacuum Cleaners Filters

If you are a bit aware of how a Vacuum cleaner works, you would know that the appliance uses filters for preventing dust and any other allergens from fleeing back into your home’s clean atmosphere. A lot of vacuum cleaners available in the market today feature a primary filter and a secondary filter. 

This article will enlighten you on everything you need to know about these vacuum cleaner filters. 

Why Vacuums Need Filters?

In a gist, a vacuum cleaner sucks dirt & dust particles and throws them all into its bag/container. As this process goes on, the vacuum cleaners cannot keep sucking the air. To function appropriately, they also need to give out some air back into the room.

Now, imagine a vacuum cleaner expelling the dusty air that it just captured back into your room. That won’t be of any use, right? This is where the vacuum cleaner’s filter comes into play. The filter fitted inside a vacuum cleaner ensures that the vacuum exhausts clean air into the surrounding. 

Hence, you won’t have to worry about allergens getting back into the air. As the types of vacuums come with various features, the strength & effectiveness of their filters change accordingly. 

One needs to note that most vacuum cleaners come with multiple filters. These filters are mainly divided into two categories:

  • Primary Filter
  • Secondary Filter

Primary Filter

As most vacuum cleaners come with two separate filters, the job of a primary filter is to keep ahold of most of the dirt & dust particles that have been collected by the vacuum cleaner while cleaning.

The primary filter basically keeps the dirt & dust intact while the vacuum expels air and then puts it back into the vacuum cleaner’s bag. 

If we talk about bagged vacuum cleaners, the vacuum bag acts as a primary filter itself. In that case, the bag has tiny holes that allow the air to pass through them, while the dirt & dust are left inside the bag. 

A bagless vacuum cleaner comes equipped with a pre-filter that acts as the primary filter. 

Secondary Filter

Once the air passes through the vacuum’s primary filters, the secondary filters further filter the air to make it even cleaner. This ensures that the air in contact with your clean surroundings does not contain any dust, dirt, or unwanted particles.

With a powerful secondary vacuum filter in hand, you won’t ever have to worry about pet dander & hair, allergens, and unwanted microbes making their way back into your home. 

A secondary filter acts as an extra layer of protection that backs up the primary filter. Hence, any particles that get missed by the primary filter are grabbed by the secondary filter. 

In the case of bagged vacuum cleaners, the secondary filters can be found fitted behind the bag. On the other hand, the secondary filter will be found behind the canister in the bagless vacuum cleaner. 

Note: Most vacuum cleaners do come with multiple filters, but this is not the case for all the vacuum cleaners available in the market. There are some bagged vacuum cleaners that you may find that only have a bag as their filter. 

You should also note that the vacuum cleaner’s design plays a crucial role apart from filters. If a vacuum is made in such a way that it leaks air, in that case, a filter won’t be able to stop the dust & dirt from getting out. 

Types of Vacuum Cleaner Filters

All the different kinds of filters for a vacuum cleaner have essentially the same objective. However, they feature distinct sizes and shapes. The most popular of these are as follows:

1. Bags

Bags in a vacuum cleaner play the role of an initial filter. In the case of the cylinder and bagged upright vacuums, this bag acts as the central system for filtration. 

These vacuum bags are prepared from artificial materials, such as paper or cloth. As air goes on to reach this bag, it may flee through tiny holes. Any dust or dirt bigger than these holes gets trapped and put into the vacuum bag.

Now, as you would know, tinier particles have a probability of fleeing away. Therefore, the best kind of bagged vacuum also features a secondary vacuum filter.

2. Cyclonic Action

A lot of bagless vacuums make use of cyclonic action for their primary filter.

Air gets rotated around in a cyclone right in the center of the vacuum canister rather than featuring a physical vacuum cleaner filter. Dirt or dust particles get pressed towards the exterior in the same way that one feels outer pressure while sitting on a carousel.

As dust particles get forced towards the outer region, it escapes the air and then slips to accumulate in the vacuum cleaner canister. Air is instead forced to the top, where it frequently gets departed from the secondary vacuum filter.

3. Cartridge Filters

Filters in Cartridge vacuums are essentially disposable, and therefore, you will need to change them regularly. Before you replace the cartridge filter, you can easily separate them and then tap off any dust to increase the gadget’s efficiency. 

They are effortless to repair and replace as cartridge vacuum cleaner filters are equipped with casings of rubber, which softly slip into the closed areas that are equipped within the vacuum machine.

Benefits of HEPA Filter in Vacuum Cleaners

A cartridge filter may fulfill the purpose of functioning as a primary as well as a secondary filter. However, that may keep varying according to your vacuum’s model. They may be prepared from substances like pleated paper, foam, or synthetic products.

While some of the cartridge vacuum filters may be cleaned, some others require to be changed entirely every once in a while. The sizes of the filter are varied for every varied model of the vacuum cleaner, so you need to keep in mind that you have a check on the dimensions of your former filter before you go on to purchase a fresh one. 

Some of the most popular types of cartridge filters for a vacuum cleaner are as follows:

  1. HEPA Filter
  2. ULPA Filter

Let’s take a look at both of these filters in detail!

HEPA Filter

HEPA means High-Efficiency Particulate Air. This kind of filter is prepared from glass fibers. Studies have indicated that a HEPA vacuum filter can catch 99.97% of matter which is 0.3 microns or bugger.

HEPA Filter

However, this should not imply that a HEPA filter cannot trap particles tinier than the micron size of 0.3 as some HEPA filters truly can. It works to block every single dirt particle and allergen. Moreover, at last, it also discharges back clean air into your home atmosphere.

While HEPA filters may be incapable of removing any awful smell, you won’t be able to clean or reuse these types of filters. After a particular point in time, you will need to change your HEPA filter. 

Note: The HEPA filter is suitable for those who may have dust allergies or asthma.

ULPA Filter 

ULPA means Ultra-low penetration air. The ULPA filter has the potential to eliminate 99.99% of dust, dirt, mold, bacteria, or any other airborne particles 0.12-micron size in diameters. These filters are specifically formulated for practice in school classrooms and, to be precise, assembly halls. 

The ULPA filter comprises fragile as well as dense substances have asthma. This substance traps a significant number of dust particles that are present in the atmosphere and infiltrates it.

It is recommended that you crumple the filtration substance for achieving adequate airspeed from the top of the ULPA filter. It has also been verified that this filter works way more efficiently as compared to the HEPA filter.

The ULPA filter features the benefit of preventing previous shortcomings in HEPA filters.

4. Cloth Filters

Cloth filters in a vacuum cleaner are mainly used for huge vacuums, which are supposed to clean massive particles from construction areas, stores, marts, and industrial locations. These filters are luckily washable, strong, and less momentary compared to most other kinds of vacuum cleaner filters. 

You will be able to find these filters in some older models of vacuum cleaners, shop-vacs, incorporated vacuum cleaner systems, among others.

As you may have already inferred from its name, this filter is easy to be washed as well as reused plenty of times before you would need to buy new ones.

5. Foam Filters

The majority of the foam filters fulfill a secondary objective in the vacuum cleaner where they get equipped.

They have the potential to merely cleanse the air, which has already been segregated from dirt, dust, or any other particles that were present in the atmosphere before it can make its way to the delicate components and eventually the outer atmosphere. 

One significant benefit of using a foam filter is that many of these filters are easy to wash and reuse.

However, before you choose to reuse foam filters, we suggest you have a thorough look at the manual that the manufacturer must provide to make sure whether a provision like this has been provided or not.

6. Disk Filters

These filters are largely primary filters in a vacuum cleaner, which derive their term from the structure they infer. They mostly seem like a coffee filter and are prepared from paper or cloth.

STARDISC vacuum disc filter operation

A disk filter is utilized in portable appliances, including the recently introduced cordless vacuum cleaner models and robotic vacuums. 

They are constructed to maintain a poor to an adequate amount of particles before they require to be cleaned or replaced, and because of their configuration, disk filters are generally costlier than the other kinds of vacuum cleaner filters we mentioned above.

Types of Filtration Methods

Besides the kind of vacuum cleaner filter, the filtration method may also differ across different models and types of machines. 

1. Multi-Stage Filtration

A multi-stage filtration system is an oversized and graduated method designed for a lot of vacuum cleaners. In this classification, incredibly smaller dust, dirt, or other airborne particles get trapped as the air enters the vacuum.

2. Mechanical Filtration

Many vacuum cleaner models make use of mechanical filtration. In this method, dust particles get trapped and detained with the help of a physical impediment. 

A vacuum cleaner equipped with this technique accomplishes so with a caravan of cloth and polyethylene (and sometimes also a paper filter), which purifies the working air in the vacuum cleaner full of particulate and discharges purified air back into the vacuum’s surrounding atmosphere.

Factors that Affect Mechanical Filtration

There are a total of four factors that may affect the process of mechanical filtration in the vacuum cleaner: 

  1. The atom size of the element that is being trapped.  ,
  2. The airspeed or velocity of the material when it is traveling. 
  3. Filter media that is trapping the material. 
  4. Ultimately the fraction of time the vacuum filter has been utilized.

3. Chemical Filtration

Many vacuum cleaner models make use of this filtration method which is known as chemical filtration. This method of filtration truly alters the physical facets of a vapor or gas.

For instance, a mercury vacuum cleaner by Nilfisk functions on this kind of filtration method wherein it absorbs all the harmful mercury vapors while discharging purified air back into the atmosphere. 

4. Standard

A standard vacuum cleaner filter functions by coercing air from a nice mesh in the same manner as a sieve.

Air can get passed through the tiny holes, while any dust or dirt particles that are bigger than these holes are trapped. There is a specific limit to how tiny these holes may be without reducing the appliance’s suction power.

As you may have probably surmised, this kind of vacuum cleaner filter is not useful in discarding the tiniest dust particles or any other allergens. It’s merely an easy way of eliminating most of the dust particles from your atmosphere, though.

5. S-Class

Many SEBO vacuum cleaners are equipped with filtration systems known as S-Class. While they may not be as powerful as the HEPA filter, they can nonetheless cleanse at least 99.9% of airborne particles of the  0.3-micron size or smaller.

6. Activated Charcoal

A charcoal filter in a vacuum cleaner is designed to remove odors, which is primarily why these filters are generally equipped in most pet vacuum cleaners.

Activated charcoal, in simple terms, is carbon with oxygen put into it. While this filter makes way for the working air passing through, it lures only specific substances and dismisses the rest.

The consequence is that most of the smells get assimilated, and the formerly contaminated air gets discharged from the machine with a fresher and cleaner formulation and odor.

A filter made of activated charcoal features only a restricted quantity of what is called the “bonding” sites. Once these bonding sites have been seized, your filter will stop working and require to be changed.

How do Vacuum Cleaner Filters Work?

No matter which type of vacuum cleaner you pick for your house, it is sure that it will come with one or more filters inside of it. The filtration system of a vacuum cleaner is meant to ensure that the dust particles don’t leave the vacuum at any cost. If you’ve always wondered how the vacuum cleaner filters work, this section is for you. 

The filtration system of a vacuum cleaner is what makes it effective. The process of how filtration works is easier than it seems.

To break it down for you, what happens is that after the vacuum cleaner sucks all the dust particles of different sizes along with the air, it also needs to expel this air back while keeping in mind that the unwanted particles should not be thrown back into your space. 

Hence, the vacuum cleaner uses a filter that keeps all the unwanted particles intact and releases the clean air from the vacuum cleaner. These filters are designed in such a way that they have very tiny holes in them. These holes let the air leave while they hold back the dust & dirt particles. 

You need to note that the vacuum cleaner needs to be airtight and sealed for the filtration system to work effectively, as that will force the air to pass through the filters only.

If the vacuum is not sealed appropriately, the chances are that the air will pass through along with the dust particles. 

Can I Use My Vacuum Without a Filter?

A vacuum cleaner can be used without a filter, but that will do you no good as, without a filter, the vacuum will basically keep sucking and releasing the dust & dirt particles in and around your house. 

Hence, if you use a vacuum cleaner that does not have a filter, you’ll be throwing the allergens back into your surroundings. Vacuum filters play a vital role in the process, and we recommend you only purchase a vacuum cleaner that comes with appropriate filters.

Can You Wash Vacuum Filters?

Yes! A vacuum cleaner’s filters can be washed. Imagine turning on your vacuum cleaner to clean your mat, and instead of cleaning, it gives out a foul smell. This can happen when your vacuum cleaner is not clean. 

We need to understand that to keep our surroundings clean, and our vacuum cleaner needs to be clean itself. It becomes vital to wash & clean different important tools & parts of the vacuum cleaner to ensure that it works efficiently & allows you to clean your house in the best ways possible. 


As you could see above, there are various kinds of filters in a vacuum cleaner, and each one of them features its distinctive properties. 

While shopping for a vacuum for your home, you must keep in mind various aspects of the filter, such as the environment of its usage, the type of task it is supposed to do, the kind of vacuum cleaner you are planning to purchase, as well as health concerns in case there are any.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the different types of vacuum filters?

Different kinds of filters in a vacuum cleaner are bags, cyclonic action, cartridge filters (HEPA & ULPA), cloth filters, foam filters, and disk filters.

What does a filter do in a vacuum cleaner?

The primary purpose of a filter in a vacuum cleaner is to trap dust and any other allergens that may present on the surface.

Do all vacuum cleaners have filters?

Yes, all vacuums have filters as they have a great role to play in your cleaning process. Without a decent vacuum cleaner filter, one will only be distributing the dust and dirt, together with other allergens around your house.

How many filters does a vacuum cleaner have?

A vacuum cleaner may have 2-3 filters that are fitted at different locations inside the machine. One is called the primary filter, and the others are known as secondary vacuum filters.

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Article by:

Katherine Frame

Katherine Frame is a professional writer and reviewer who worked in higher education for eight years before working on The Hardware Hub. She has written for multiple home magazines and blogs.

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