Allergen Containment Abilities of Vacuum Cleaners

A study designed to assess the allergen-containing abilities of vacuum cleaners and vacuum filters conducted by the University of Virginia Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center has shown that sufferers may benefit from using vacuums with multi-layer micro-filtration bags.

The study report entitled, “Assessment of Vacuum Cleaners and Vacuum Cleaner Bags Recommended for Allergic Subjects” evaluated the allergen-trapping capabilities of various machines and filter bags.

Tests were conducted in an 18-m3 laboratory laden with elevated amounts of cat dander.1 Air samples were obtained with the help of a parallel filter configuration and a particle counter. Each filter was checked for the feline allergen (Fel d 1) using the ELISA2 method. Vacuum bags also were assessed via a newer dust trap method set up to catch house dust that included cat dander released from the vacuum’s bag.

The results showed that most “allergy-control” vacuums tested did indeed release fewer allergens (<0.5-4.04 ng/m3) than vacuums previously tested (<0.5-100 ng/m3). (Note: “ng” stands for nanogram. A nanogram (ng) is one billionth of a gram.)

Single-layer bags did not perform as well as the majority of their two- and three-layer counterparts (1250-2640 ng recovered versus 0.53-2450 ng). The extent of the antigen released by the two-layer bags (0.93-2450 ng) emphasized inconsistencies among manufacturers.

These findings suggest that a testing procedure that incorporates cat dander (Fel d 1) should be used for those vacuums and bags prescribed for allergy sufferers.


1 – Cat dander is very fine and can remain airborne for some time. It is often brought into schools on the clothing of children with cats at home.
2 – ELISA or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, enzyme immunoassay or EIA is used in immunology to detect an antibody or antigen in a particular sampling.

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Nov;104(5):1079-83.


Vaughan JW, Woodfolk JA, Platts-Mills TA.
University of Virginia Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.

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