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Clean carpet, clean air
The right vacuum is key for good health. "Dust can trigger allergies and asthma," says James Sublett, MD, a spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Vacuuming with a good machine cuts the amount of dust you inhale. We tested models with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which filters out 99.7% of small particles. Here, our top picks.
Best home buys winner
Miele Dynamic U1Jazz Vacuum ($549; amazon.com)
If you want to actually capture all that dust, dander, and other allergens—and not just blow them back out into the room—your vacuum must have a sealed HEPA filter. Miele vacuums are known for their super suction power (even the less expensive models have 1,200-watt motors) and crazy longevity (20 years isn’t uncommon).
Best of the best
Hoover Anniversary Edition WindTunnel Self-Propelled Bagged Upright ($150; amazon.com)
The dirt: The WindTunnel nabbed deeply lodged crumbs and dirt, even when used on a sheepskin rug. Our testers loved the "dirt finder"—a red light tells you there’s dirt; green means you’re dust-free. The dust bag is made of a HEPA-grade weave, so irritating particles can’t escape.
Extra credit: You can turn on the self-propel feature for extra gliding power. "It saved my back," reported one tester.
Eureka AS ONE Bagless Upright ($55; amazon.com)
The dirt: It may be small and light, but our budget pick packs a powerful punch. At only 8 pounds, you’ll be able to breeze through your chores with no strain on your shoulders or back. Plus, without all the bells and whistles of more expensive vacuums, you’ll be able to operate this machine without even reading the instruction manual.
Extra credit: A washable, reusable filter keeps allergens out, and cuts down on the amount of money you need to spend replacing parts.
Best for pets
Bissell PowerGlide Pet Vacuum ($130; amazon.com)
The dirt: Suction is key on this model that sucks up everything in its path—yes, even pet hair, and yes, on both hard and soft surfaces. The added Pet TurboEraser tool eliminates unsightly pet hair in hard-to-reach places like the stairs and the upholstery of your couch.
Extra credit: A 27-foot power cord lets you clean a ton of space without having to change outlets.
Best for small spaces
Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Vacuum ($600; target.com)
The dirt: The Ball rolls on, well, a large silver ball, which allows it to move back and forth and in circles. So it’s a cinch to get at cereal crumbs between the dining room chair legs, and stray hairs on the bathroom floor. It’s got a big price tag, but at least you’ll save money on the HEPA filter, which only needs to be rinsed with water. (Once the filter is wet, allergens should go down the drain rather than becoming airborne, but if you’re an allergic family, rinse it outside to be safe.)
Photo: Getty Images
Tips from the allergist
Check the filter: Generally, you should replace HEPA filters every six months, but check the manual—each machine is different.
Time it right: Don’t vacuum right before bed; even HEPA vacuums kick up a bit of dust, and it takes time for it to settle.
Consider the crowd: Don’t become Ms. Clean when the kids are around, since they’re closer to the ground where the dirt is.
Go outside: Reduce indoor irritants by taking your vacuum and trash can outside to remove the dust bag or empty the canister.