Factors to consider when choosing between a bag-less vacuum or one with a bag

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A vacuum cleaner is a big purchase, and when it’s time for a new one you’re going to be faced with a lot of choices. If you’re looking at upright models, you’ll have to pick between units with a bag, or a bag-less vac one with a clear bin that collects all the dirt.

Consumer Reports has vigorously tested vacuums, over thousands of miles of carpeting, to see how well they pick up dirt and debris, how easy they are to maneuver and how they perform on different types of flooring.

The perception is that bag-less are easier to maintain. People assume with no bags to replace, bag-less units are cheaper to own. But some bag-less machines actually have more filters to clean and replace than bagged models. And to keep it running its best, the bin and surrounding parts should be cleaned from time to time.

You’re apt to empty a bag-less vacuum more often because the dirt is visible in the canister. But there’s a drawback -- emptying the dirt bin can be messy. When you open it up, you’re releasing some of the particles back into the air. That’s something to take into consideration if you have allergies or dust sensitivity.

Vacuums that rely on one big main filter - the bag that collects the dirt - might be the best bet for people with dust sensitivities. Some bags can even be sealed with sliding closures or stickers when you remove them.

Bagged models also have HEPA filters to clean, although they don’t need to be changed as often because dirt goes directly to the bag.

Whatever style you choose, the suction should stay the same no matter how full the container is. CR found the bag-less Shark Navigator Powered Lift-Away does well cleaning carpets and excels on bare floors.

CR also recommends the bagged Kenmore Pet Friendly, which testers say does an excellent job picking up pet hair.

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