Best Vacuums for Allergy Sufferers

Top picks from Kenmore and Miele that ace CR's emissions tests

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A good vacuum can be a game-changer for anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies. But if your vacuum spews more dust and debris than it picks up, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.

That’s one reason Consumer Reports measures emissions when we test vacuum cleaners. The best vacuums keep dirt well-contained and the air clear.

If you’re especially sensitive to dust and allergens, buying a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is a good starting point.

“There are newer vacuum cleaners that have different filtration systems, but we always recommend that a HEPA filter is there somewhere,” says Sanaz Eftekhari, vice president of corporate affairs and research at The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “The HEPA filter will trap the matters and molecules that are coming in, so they won’t go back into the air."

Another consideration is whether the vacuum has a bag. Though many of the bagless vacuums in our tests have low emissions, emptying the bin of a bagless vacuum can create a dust cloud that's difficult to escape.

We asked Sue Booth and Frank Rizzi, who conduct our vacuum tests, to recommend bagged vacuums with the lowest emissions, and they suggested several solid picks from Kenmore and Miele. As a bonus, most of these options perform well at picking up another allergy trigger—pet hair.

Below—in alphabetical order, not in order of CR rank—are the bagged upright and canister vacuums from our tests with the lowest emissions. For more choices, see our full vacuum ratings and recommendations.

CR's take: Strong airflow for tools and superb pet-hair pickup are top attractions of the bagged Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly 31150. Though you can get a fine performer for less, its price includes helpful features, such as a brush on/off switch, which safeguards a bare floor's finish and prevents scattering of debris; suction control, which protects drapes; and manual carpet pile-height adjustment. It earns an Excellent rating for clean emissions.

CR's take: A Very Good upright vacuum cleaner overall, the Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog does an impressive job removing embedded dirt from carpets and hardwood floors. It spits little if any dust or debris back into the room, earning an Excellent rating for clean emissions. Its pet-hair pickup is a benefit for dog and cat owners who might be tackling piles of fur on carpets or bare floors. It’s easy to handle and quieter than many vacuums in our tests.

CR's take: The Miele Dynamic U1 Maverick boasts an Excellent rating for its performance on our emissions tests. It fares well at carpet cleaning and has superb pet-hair pickup but could be better at cleaning bare floors. The Miele also includes a brush on/off switch to safeguard bare floors and prevent scattered dust and debris. It's easy to handle but noisier than some of the vacuums in our tests.

CR's take: The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly UltraPlush 81714 is indeed friendly for pet owners and earns an Excellent on our pet-hair test. It’s also a champ at cleaning bare floors and a solid performer at cleaning carpet, making it a smart choice if you have a combination of flooring. Although it made the grade in our emissions test, there are quieter choices.

CR's take: If you have bare floors and a dog, the Kenmore 81614 is the vacuum for you because it aces both of those tests. It doesn't do quite as well on carpet. And of the two Kenmore canisters, it’s the better deal for pet lovers. Emissions are clean, although you’ll find that this vacuum is a bit noisy as you work. This vacuum is a CR Best Buy for its top performance at a good price.

CR's take: Even though it’s a bit pricey, the Miele Complete C3 Marin is worth a look for its fine cleaning and pet-hair pickup. It earns an Excellent rating on our emissions test. Carpet cleaning and airflow for tools are both impressive, and pickup on bare floors is superb. Other pluses include manual carpet pile-height adjustment, suction control for drapes, and a brush on/off switch for bare floors. The Miele is one of the quietest vacuums in our tests.