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A Guide to Vacuum Cleaners for the Chemically Sensitive and Allergic

by Michelle Beers
February 1997

I used to clean houses for a living so I have had some experience with several different brands and kinds of vacuums. It was prior to my sensitivities though, so I cannot tell you how well some of them will handle that, but I trust trying any of them for two minutes would let us all know how well they work for that now.

I will answer some of the latest questions to the best of my knowledge. I had a lot of trouble scrounging up some of these resources when I became ill, so I thought that I would pass that information along as well.

The vacuum that I have now is a Miele, Model S4381, Allergy Control with HEPA, Air Clean Plus: It will filter 99.9% of .3 microns. Watts: 1100, Waterlift: 94.5", Airflow: 118 CFM.

Features: canister type, variable cord rewind, bags have a dust flap that closes while changing the bag, hose shutter to close the hose opening when hose is removed from the canister, accessory storage compartment includes accessories, height adjustable telescopic wand. Mine is the deluxe model which has six speed settings for adjustable suction without opening a valve. 1 year manufacturer's warranty. Motor made in U.S.A., gauranteed for 5 years.

Price- Standard Model $535.95, Deluxe Model $599.95, powerbrush is extra- $185.00 (from Allergy Control Products, Inc.) You may find a better price, they are also sold at some vacuum stores, that's where I get all my bags, etc. you can check the yellow pages.

I've had it for about 2 years and I'm very satisfied with it. I have used vacuums that are a little more convenient, like Electrolux is great for doing stairs, but it's the most effective machine that I have ever used personally. As I said before, I can use it myself and it doesn't bother me at all and dust is my highest allergen. I also purchased a special attachment that I can even use for dusting bookcases tops of furniture, etc.

Central/Whole house vacuums have the advantage of being very easy on the back. Not much to lug around. Again, I don't know about allergies, because I didn't have them at the time. They seem to work rather well on the first floor, but a second story of the house is a whole different matter. I found the effectiveness markedly reduced upstairs. The further that one gets away from the unit itself, the worse the performance will be. (They may have been improved since then). I would recommend asking to visit a customer with a house designed like yours if possible. Also had difficulty reaching every crevice floor to ceiling with the length of the hose which left some corners perpetually undone. Note: If you accidently vacuum up something important, you will be in for a heck of a search!

Rainbow is sold in the U.S. under a MLM organization. My experience with them is from 15 years ago. I don't know about the allergy filtration claims. The canister is all metal and it got VERY hot and was not safe around small children, therefore the lady returned it and she ranted about further problems dealing with the company but I cannot remember any more specifics. They may have improved a lot since then.

Models that I know of but have no personal experience with are:

There is a Nilfisk GS 90 Allergy Vacuum with 0.30 HEPA filter - (Important to make the distinction between HEPA-type and true HEPA filter, they are not the same), canister type, claims filtration of 99.99% @ 0.3, (or 99.97% depending on which catalog, I look at), Watts: 850. Waterlift: 75 inches, Airflow: 87 CFM. Separate accessory holder/ not stored on the canister. Price- $519.99, carpet nozzles run extra for $82.00 or the motorized $169.00, 2 year warranty and unconditional 30 day return privilege (from National Allergy Supply or Allergy Control Products, Inc.). Allergy Free, Inc. has same price for basic model, HEPA w/ power nozzle is $744.95. Allergy Control Products sells it for $525.95 and the powerbrush is $150.00. (My experience with them is that they will match any price, though). Nilfisk also makes a GS 90 HEPA-type filter model for $479.00.

There is an upright model by Lindhaus DP-5, it claims a five step method of filtration, (nothing specifically mentioned about a HEPA),claims 99.7% of allergenic particles, no mention of wattage, Price- $479.00, costs extra for 8 pc. tool set $33.95, hardwood floor attachment $28.95, 2 year warranty and unconditional 30 day return privilege (from National Allergy Supply).

There is an all-metal canister type, Allergy Free Filter Vac Model 4650 w/ powerhead $434.95, it is a HEPA-type. Claims filtration of 99% @ 0.3 microns, 5 year factory warranty w/ limited warranty on housing. (from Allergy Free, Inc.)

Prices may have changed since I received the catalogs. These are the order numbers, I believe you can request a new catalog:

Allergy Control Products, Inc 1-(800)-422-DUST

Allergy Free, Inc. 1-(800)-ALLERGY, M-F 7am-7:30pm CST, SAT 8am-4pm CST

National Allergy Supply 1-(800)-522-1448, FAX (770)-623-5568

NOTE: I am merely sharing my experiences and the information that I have found helpful and I do not have any financial interest in any of the mentioned companies.

I believe that if one has an air filtering system and cannot afford a new vacuum, it is best to have someone else do it in your absence with regular bags and use a room or whole house filter during and for a time before returning. Even though a regular vacuum will throw it up in the air, the air filter will catch the same percent of particles in the air as a good vacuum. At least, that's what I found worked best for me before I purchased the Miele.

If that is impossible then special filters and bags for an old vacuum are definitely better than nothing. Some models of vacuums are particularly hard to find the special bags for, though. There are several different types and all claim to be more effective than their competitors so trial and error would probably be the best course of action since some of us have different sensitivities to different materials.

As an added piece of information for dust allergy sufferers: I use dust rags that have been electrostatically charged. They have no odor, contain no chemicals, no tacky film or tacky feel to them either. I have found them to work best for me. They claim to still work after 100 washes, too. I haven't washed them that many times yet myself but they are still working fine. (I purchased them through National Allergy Supply, Inc.)

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