Why do my allergies get worse after vacuuming? Expert tips to eliminate symptoms

Vacuuming our homes can sometimes cause our allergies to flare up. Learn why this happens and what steps you can take to prevent it from happening again.

(Image credit: Sherwin-Williams)

Vacuuming your home is meant to clean your floors of dust and pet dander, so why can allergies worsen afterwards? The answer is simpler than you'd think, and luckily, there are plenty of steps to reduce our allergic symptoms when vacuuming.

The best cordless vacuums use powerful motors to suck up dirt, dust and debris from the floor - and included in this mix is a variety of allergens that trigger symptoms. To really understand exactly how they affect you, our guide to the common allergens that live in our homes covers it all in much more detail.

We spoke to the experts to find out why allergies get worse after vacuuming and to learn all the steps we can take to reduce or eliminate the symptoms.

Why do my allergies get worse after vacuuming?

If your allergies worsen after vacuuming, there's a big chance that you're allergic to what's being cleaned. Think: dust mites, pollen and pet dander - these are the allergens that build up on our floors and furniture.

'Vacuuming disturbs settled dust and other allergens, propelling them into the air,' explains Dr Elena Salagean (MD), an allergist working at Holistic Allergy.

Airborne particles are much easier to breathe in. So, although there may be the same number of allergens in the room, you're more likely to have allergic symptoms once they're in the air than when they're on the floor.

'If you already have an air purifier which measures the air quality, you would see a temporary increase in the number of particles >2.5pm in size,' Elena adds.


(Image credit: Future/James Merrell)

What can I do to reduce allergies after vacuuming?

Capturing and removing airborne allergens is exactly what the best air purifiers are designed to do. The most effective ones use HEPA filters, that are able to trap at least 99.97% of small and micro-sized particles, including allergens like dust, pollen and dander.

Running an air purifier while vacuuming the house will catch those particles that are sent into the air by your vacuum cleaner.

'If you use an air purifier while vacuuming, this can capture more of the small particulates and allergens that have been disturbed by the vacuuming,' says Elena. We agree, as we understand just how well air purifiers help with allergies. By removing these super-fine particles from the air, they massively reduce allergic symptoms.

So, to reduce allergies after vacuuming, it's a good idea to bring an air purifier into your home - especially one with a HEPA filter. Air purifiers that track your air quality are particularly useful too, as you can see just how much vacuuming affects your home environment. As H&G's home tech editor and an air purifier tester (and an allergy sufferer!), these are my recommendations to help with allergies:

An air purifier will capture particles sent into the air, but really, your vacuum cleaner shouldn't be doing this. The best vacuum cleaners are meant to trap everything they pick up. If yours isn't, you might need to give it a clean.

'Washing your vacuum filter regularly is particularly important. If the filter isn't cleaned the vacuum becomes less effective, and can emit dust particles into the air whilst using it,' says Heather Nixon, sustainability, NPD and regulatory manager at Bio-D. 'Vacuuming more often with a regularly cleaned vacuum can also help to reduce chances of allergy flare ups,' she adds.

If you already clean your home and your vacuum regularly, it might be worth considering upgrading to a better vacuum cleaner.

'You can minimize this by using a vacuum cleaner with strong suction and quality filters. Without proper filtration, the aeroallergens will pass through the vacuum cleaner and back into the surrounding air,' says Elena.

Like with air purifiers, this is where a HEPA filter makes all the difference. To truly remove allergens from your home, your vacuum needs a filter that's capable of trapping those super-fine particles:

For more reliable choices, our expert guide to the best vacuums for pet hair covers everything from picking up pet dander to anti-allergen features.

Dan Fauzi
Home Tech Editor

Dan is the Home Tech Editor for Homes & Gardens, covering all things cleaning, smart home, sound and automation across the Solved section. Having worked for Future PLC since July 2023, Dan was previously the Features Editor for Top Ten Reviews and looked after the wide variety of home and outdoor content across the site, but their writing about homes, gardens, tech and products started back in 2021 on brands like BBC Science Focus, YourHomeStyle, Homes & Antiques and Gardens Illustrated.

Dan is based in Bristol, UK with a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Magazine Journalism. Outside of work, you'll find them at gigs and art galleries, cycling somewhere scenic, or cooking up something good in the kitchen.