Bagged vs bagless vacuum: what's best for you?
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Bagged vs bagless vacuum: what's best for you?

Dec 07, 2023

Surprisingly, there's a big difference

Bagged or bagless? BaggedCapacity: 6 litresCord length: 87ft / 26.8mWeight: 7.5kg / 16lbsThis bagged vacuum cleaner is the smallest canister vacuum in the Numatic Henry range. On test, we found that no mess was too big for it, with the vacuum remaining unfazed by even by the rubble that landed in front of it. It comes with crevice, dusting and brush tools for detailed cleaning, although we mainly use it with the combi floor tool on carpeted and hard floors.

Bagged or bagless? BaglessCapacity: 2 litresCord length: 4.67ft / 1.4mWeight: 10.2lbs / 4.6kg

The Bissell Zing is a lightweight, easy to maneuver canister vacuum cleaner. As a bagless model, there are no ongoing costs in the form of replacement bags, and the dirt cup is relatively easy to empty. The capacity is small, though, so regular emptying is required. In addition, its power cord is short, and reviewers didn't find its performance great on carpet.

When comparing bagged vs bagless vacuums, the differences between them go far beyond the obvious, and these aren't very well known. To help you in your search to find the best vacuum cleaner for the home, we've looked at the pros and cons of both bagged and bagless models, and within that frame both corded and cordless vacuums, to provide the key differences between the two.

Whichever option you choose, the fundamentals of how to vacuum remain the same. The two vacuum cleaners we compare (above) are just two examples of the types of bagged and bagless vacuum cleaners available. Read on to find out more.





We put bagged and bagless vacuum cleaners through the same set of tests, although in terms of maintenance, their needs will differ some.

First we see how easy a model is to set up, thereafter using the appliance to clean a variety of surfaces around the home to ensure use of the majority (if not all) of the attachments. Then we'll remove its bag or empty the canister, removing any hair or other debris that has become entangled, in the case of the latter. If we're reviewing the vacuum cleaners for a few months, then models may also go through a filter clean or change and removal of a blockage.

Having tested a particular model, we may compare its performance to other cleaners we've tested, since our experience has shown us that all clean in different ways and we all have homes that demand different levels of attention.

Bagged vacuum cleaners have been around far longer than their bagless vacuum counterparts. The very first vacuum cleaner was launched in 1901 and it was horse-drawn, petrol-powered unit that required six people to operate it, using hoses and nozzles to suck out air through a filter. Dirt collected could be seen in a glass chamber inside the machine.

Brands such as Hoover and Electrolux took the original vacuum cleaner and made it smaller, more portable and more affordable. The idea of an electric broomstick-like cleaner with a cloth filter and dust-collection bag attached to a long handle was sold to William Hoover in 1908, and the design of a bagged upright vacuum cleaner has remained unchanged to this day.

The Hoover Complete Performance corded bagged upright vacuum cleaner can be picked up for $154.99 on Amazon, while the Hoover bagged cylinder pet vacuum cleaner costs £149 direct from the brand. These are some of the more affordable Hoover bagged vacuum cleaners we could find – which are a lot cheaper than bagless models but limited in range.

Another brand of bagged vacuum cleaners of which we're big fans is Numatic Henry. These robust, friendly-looking vacuum cleaners are brilliant for all manner of vacuum cleaning. More difficult to get hold of in the US, we have found a few models on Amazon; but you'll be spending between $300-$900. In the UK, you'd be best heading to The range is all bagged with capacities between 1 and 1 litres, and prices between £149.99 and £249.99. The brand has also launched the first bagged corded stick vacuum (that we're aware of), the Henry Quick, which impressed in our review.

You get a much wider choice of opting for bagless vacuum cleaners, with prices starting from as little as $54.99 for the Dirt Devil Vibe 3-in-1 vacuum cleaner. However, there are also models at the top end that come in at a more eye-watering price of up to $1000 / £822 / AU$1446. The Dyson V15 sits somewhere in the middle at $749 /£499 / AU$1083; it's one of the most popular vacuum cleaners with our readers, and performed brilliantly when we reviewed it.

Aside from bagless stick vacuum cleaners, you can also choose between canister, upright and handheld vacuum cleaners. These all differ vastly in size and ability, but where they're the same is that there's no bag for collecting the dirt; all debris is sucked into canister, which you empty once it is full.

Then, of course, there are the best robot vacuums to consider. These rarely have a bag to dispose of; they, too, feature a dust cup or canister. One of the advantages of a robot vacuum cleaner is that you'll be notified via the accompanying app when the cleaner requires emptying.

The capacity of a robot vacuum cleaner is usually no greater than 14oz / 0.4 liters, with models ranging in price from $299 / £149.99 / AU$432 for the Trifo Emma to $1,099.99 / £1,499.99 / AU$2,899 for the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus.

The answer to that question depends on your specific needs and requirements. A bagged vacuum cleaner is almost always likely to be the best option for those who suffer with allergies, those requiring a vacuum for the more heavy-duty cleaning, or those who are averse to getting their hands dirty to remove blockages. On the other hand, a bagless vacuum would be more suitable for those looking for a nimble, lightweight and versatile cleaner for use on multiple surfaces in and around the home.

If you're still unsure about the type of cleaner to opt for, read some reviews and customer reviews of the product before you buy. It could also be worth popping into a store (if you can) to get a feel for a vacuum cleaner before making a decision.

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Jennifer Oksien is TechRadar's Homes Editor. Jennifer (Jenny) has over a decade of experience as a digital product writer specialising in appliances, smart tech and mattresses for some of the UKs leading retailers and magazine titles such as Real Homes, Ideal Home and Livingetc. Generally, you’ll find her watching the latest Netflix series, digging around in the garden or attempting to make a cake that is edible.

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Bagged or bagless? Capacity Cord length: Weight: Bagged or bagless? Capacity Cord length: Weight: Strengths Good for allergies Mess-free to empty Generally come with large capacities Less cleaning of the vacuum required Weaknesses Costs (a little) more money Not so great for the environment Bag availability is limited Options for cordless vacuums limited Strengths Can see when it's full Cheaper maintenance Better for the environment Weaknesses Messy to empty Will need emptying more often More prone to blockages Less robust than bagged vacuums Takes up more storage space More involved maintenance