Monday, November 23, 2009

Shopping for a New Vacuum

I'm allergic to cats. And now I live with four of them.

A little more than a year ago, a lovely midlife wedding resulted in the addition of a new husband and stepfather, along with his two mature cats, to our household.

And a couple of weeks ago, a fairly spur-of-the-moment decision resulted in the addition of two much younger cats to our family.

Foolish; yes indeed. A rare act of heedless spontaneity, love and goodwill. The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.

As a partial defense I will point out that I seem somewhat less sensitive to cat dander than I used to be, it's quite a big house so it doesn't get too concentrated, and we take reasonable steps to reduce the allergen load.

We keep the cats out of our bedroom; the door stays closed all the time. The whole lowest level of the house, including a family room where I can retreat to watch DVDs or read, is cat-free (though there is some air exchange between the levels, so certainly some dander is making its way down there, as well as into the bedroom). I limit my direct contact with the cats, and wash my hands and even change my clothes if necessary after I handle them. We keep sheets over the living room furniture and launder them regularly.

I am entering new arenas of house-cleaning. I am now going over the hard floors on the main level with a microfiber floor cleaning pad and/or damp mop almost daily. The grit and dust bunnies that once lurked in every corner of the den with the hardwood floor are gone. Dave vacuums the carpeting in the living and dining rooms every few days when I am out of the house. I take loratadine (generic Claritin) and use Flonase nasal spray daily. It's all an improvement, and following this regimen I almost never get sneezy or congested -- but Dave and I are both still finding that we are wheezing a bit at the end of the day.

So we are researching vacuum cleaners. We have an inexpensive bagless Eureka that has a HEPA filter and does a pretty decent job of picking up dirt, but vacuuming seems to make things worse before it makes them better - the stirred-up particles have to have several hours to settle back down again before the air quality is actually better than it was before vacuuming.

So, though I rarely buy big-ticket items, I'm now looking at high-end vacuum cleaners as an important investment in our health. Lots of people love Dyson, or Hoover, or Kirby, but many of the reviews I'm reading aimed at allergy-sufferers seem to really come down in favor of the German brand Miele for durability, power, and a really effective interior seal which means that all exhaust goes through the filter and no measurable particulates are being expelled back out into the air.

I know I've got quite a few readers who like animals, at least in the wild. I assume many of you are also pet owners. And I'm guessing that some of you, like me, are pet owners despite allergies.

So if you've got any experiences to share on great vacuum cleaners that are easy to use, reliable, and really leave the air cleaner during and immediately after use, I'd love to hear them. Thank you!


Mary S. said...

We've had a Panasonic Performance Plus (with a HEPA filter) vacuum for over 10 years now. It was a huge improvement over the Oreck we had before, in cleaning power and in reducing allergens and the suffering of those with allergies. Of course, we don't have cats, but we do have an old dog who sheds a bit.

Richard said...

We had a Kirby while worked pretty good (we thought) but we got the Dyson ball..the one for pets. There is such a difference. We went over the carpet with the Kirby first and then went over with the Dyson. I just didn't believe all the dog hairs and dust that came out of the carpet. I would recommend the Dyson any day. It's easy to use and even easier to clean,

Penelope said...

Thanks for the suggestions. We ended up going with the Miele. We got a good price (though still one that required taking a deep breath) on a close-out model from Warners' Stellian. It had so many good reviews about being a dream to use for allergy/asthma sufferers. So far it is living up to its reputation in that regard. There is no "somebody just vacuumed" dust/heat odor, and it is very quiet. After Dave did a deep upholstery vacuuming (our old cleaner didn't have a very good upholstery tool), it appears I will be able to spend time in the living room again! Now maybe I can do some better birdwatching at our new feeder set-up outside the living room window and Penelopedia can start having some proper content again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. While I don't have advice on a vacuum (I have hardwood and use the dust mop and my shop vac mostly), one thing that should help is to put a really good filter on your furnace--that will trap a lot of the airborne particles from recirculating.

Penelope said...

flyingtomato: Unfortunately we have radiators, so we're not running a system that has an air filter in the winter. There is actually a good filter for the separate AC system, so thanks for the reminder that that will help when we run it in the summer. But the AC unit and quite a bit of the ductwork are in the unheated attic, so it wouldn't be a good idea to run the fan in the winter. Thanks for your comment!