Vacuum cleaner filter types and descriptions
Most of the more popular department store brands like Eureka, Bissell, Hoover and Dirt Devil make vacuums that utilize more than one type of filter. You really need to check the manual to find out what your manufacturer recommends. Below is an overview descibing the functionality of types of filters are found in most vacuums.
S-Class and HEPA - most s-class and HEPA filters are the only or final stage of filtration. Air must pass through one of these filters before it exits the vacuum. S-class filtration is common in Europe and the difference between a filters that has s-class filtration versus HEPA filtration is negligible in our opinion. Either is desirable to keep dust and debris from reentering the environment you are trying to clean. Most of the better vacuum cleaners feature HEPA or S-Class exhaust filters. Sebo vacuums are made overseas but are sold in America. They are probably the most popular brand in the US that offers S-class filters.
Chamber and Pre-Motor - Chamber or pre motor filters are typically made of foam or a synthetic fiber. These filters clean the air before it is sucked in the vacuum motor area, keeping the motor free of debris. Chamber filters are typically found inside of canister vacuum cleaners but are becoming increasing popular in upright models as well. Chamber and Pre Motor filters need to be maintained to keep air circulating properly through the vacuum during use. A clogged pre motor or chamber filter will put additional strain on your vac motor. Chamber filters that filter air before it enters the motor in a vacuum that uses more than one filter or a bag are typically flat and square or rectangular in shape. Kenmore and Miele are popular manufacturers of canisters vacuum cleaners that utilize chamber filters.
Charcoal Activated - Activated charcoal filters are designed to absorb scents during cleaning. Charcoal filtration can be desirable to a pet owner. Filters that combine HEPA filtration with charcoal filtration are becoming more common. Typically you will notice one side of a filter is white and the other is black. Some bags are now making use of activated charcoal as well.
Bagless Vacuum - Most bagless vacuums utilize what is commonly referred to as dust cup filter or a chamber filter. While it is common for bagless vacuums to use more than one filter it is not always the case. Older bagless vacs and new models that are relatively inexpensive may depend solely on the filter inside the dirt cup for filtration.
Nowadays it is common for vacuums that use vacuum bags also have some kind of exhaust or a motor filter. Regardless of what or where a filter is located on a vacuum it should be either cleaned if possible or replaced eventually to remain effective. A clogged filter can and will eventually shorten the life and efficiency of any vacuum that requires one.
Vacuum bags play an important role in the filtration process. Synthetic cloth disposable vacuum bags are a preference because they offer superior filtration and do not typically tear. In some cases they have a larger capacity than paper vac bags. Synthetic cloth bags are becoming increasing available for newer models that require a disposable bag. Oreck, Kenmore and Panasonic offer synthetic cloth bags for newer vacuum cleaners.
Most vacuum manufacturers recommend that your vac filter should be changed every 6 months to maintain optimal performance. This obviously depends on how often you use your vacuum and what you are cleaning. If you have a home where a lot of dirt is tracked in or you have pets then you probably should be changing your filter every 4 to 6 months. Pet free homes with little foot traffic can usually stretch this out to 6 to 8 months before there is any degradation in performance. It is our experience that customers who make an effort to maintain their vacuum filters tend to keep a vacuum cleaner running longer and avoid commonly needed repairs.