There are more options for vacuum cleaners than ever before – so many, in fact, that they’re advertised for certain needs! Almost every vacuum manufacturer has a “Cat & Dog” or “Pet” machine in their lineup. A lot of these machines are not really durable enough for pet owners, and can sometimes be way overpriced.
Allow me to show you what you actually need to clean a furry home.
An Aggressive, Durable Powerhead (For Carpeted Homes)
If you have carpet and pets that shed, a powerhead is non-negotiable. An air-powered spinning brush (or no spinning brush at all) just isn’t strong enough to pull pet hair and dander out of carpeting. An aggressive powerhead is capable of agitating the fibers of the carpet, which in turn allows the machine suction to pick up more debris. However, power isn’t the only concern when it comes to powerheads. The agitator (brush roll) needs to be durable. Hair will inevitably get wrapped around it the roll itself, as well as get stuck in bearings. An agitator made from soft material will get scratched, dented, or even break in extreme cases.
If you have a vacuum cleaner with a powerhead (or any spinning brush), the spinning brush should be doing most of the work for you – not the suction. Many carpets are dense and therefore have poor airflow. Turning up the suction won’t increase airflow, it will just cause your machine to overheat faster!
Strong (Optionally Variable) Suction
You’re probably thinking I’m contradicting myself here, but bear with me (no pun intended) for a moment. If you have bare floors, strong suction is paramount. Ideally you should be using a designated bare floor tool. The spinning brush is not going to help pick up debris. So, now that your powerhead isn’t doing the work for you (or isn’t attached), you need more suction.
In addition, stronger suction means your machine is less likely to clog. If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably very familiar with a clogged vacuum cleaner. Stronger suction pulls debris into the machine faster, which prevents anything from getting stuck in hoses or curved parts. Less clogging means less cleaning time for you!
At this point, I think it’s important to mention that bagless machines clog easier than machines with bags. Bagless machines typically only have one pre-motor filter. This filter is the only thing that prevents fur and dust from getting into the motor. As the filter is used, debris gets stuck to it and prevents airflow to the motor. Because of this reduced airflow, your suction will suffer – and eventually your machine will overheat. A bagged vacuum cleaner essentially has two pre-motor filters. The bag acts as another filter that debris can move around in – meaning better airflow. When the bag is full, the airflow is reduced, but you can quickly (and cheaply) replace it!
One more thing to consider before we move on: variable suction. Although it is not necessary, many people find it helpful to be able to control the suction of their machine. As I mentioned earlier, extremely strong suction is fantastic for bare floors. For wall-to-wall carpets, slightly lower suction is required to maintain airflow. Most people have area rugs and upholstery that collects pet hair, too! In both of these cases, a low suction works wonderfully – you won’t need a team to hold down the area rug, and you won’t be pulling the upholstery off the chair!
We’re almost there, folks – stay with me! Nobody likes pet dander or the smell of wet dog. Although some of this is inevitable, having high-quality filters in your machine will drastically reduce both of these problems.
Filtration is another reason why we prefer bagged machines over bagless (sorry, Dyson). Vacuum bags actually act as a filter for your machine. Paper bags offer some filtration, but fabric bags offer more. In addition, bags keep all of the fur and dust contained, even when you have to replace them. Replacing an entire bag means that no fur is left in the machine to stink later.
In most vacuum cleaners, there are technically two filters (because the bag isn’t officially called a filter). Your first filter is called the premotor, or primary filter. This filter prevents most debris from entering the motor compartment. If a lot of debris did enter the motor compartment, it would smell and eventually overheat the motor. The main purpose of this filter is to protect the motor, not your allergies.
The final filter, or post-motor filter, is the one that will make a noticeable difference. If you have a HEPA filter, this is where it goes. The final filter is extremely fine, and prevents any carbon dust (from the motor) from being dispersed in the air. It also keeps any debris that made it into the motor compartment from coming out. Some machines even have charcoal filters – these do not filter as well as a HEPA, but drastically reduce smell. Charcoal filters are still more effective than a standard filter.
Ease of Cleaning
Finally, I want to briefly touch on ease of cleaning. Nobody wants to spend half an hour cutting dog hair from a roller brush or wait 72 hours for a filter to dry (seriously, don’t run your vacuum with a wet filter). If you have pets, you’re going to have to occasionally clean your vacuum cleaner. Bags already make this job a lot easier. Some machines have brush rolls that are easily removed, so you can quickly pull or cut hair and fur away. In the case of a clog, canisters have components that are (usually) easier to access.
When you’re looking at a vacuum, keep cleaning in mind. Consider how long it will take you, or how long you’ll have to wait for components to dry.
I know it’s a lot of information. There are a lot of vacuums out on the market. Unfortunately, vacuums are marketed incorrectly sometimes. Before buying a vacuum, always do your research and look at multiple options.