What are Vacuum Bags?

wiseGEEK Writer

Vacuum bags are dirt collection devices that are used in many canister and upright vacuum cleaners. They are located inside the vacuum and may be made of materials like heavy paper or fabric. These bags tend to be disposable. When they are full, they are merely removed from the vacuum cleaner, discarded, and a fresh bag is placed in the machine.

Vacuum bags are housed in the main body of an upright vacuum.
Vacuum bags are housed in the main body of an upright vacuum.

Today’s models of vacuum cleaners represent numerous choices for the consumer, and since the 1990s, many companies have created bagless models. Some people favor these as “greener” alternatives to using paper vacuum bags, though others don’t like the hassle of cleaning out and dumping dust and dirt collection receptacles and filters on a regular basis. There are still a number of vacuum cleaners that require bags, and these may be preferred.

Some canister vacuums use bags.
Some canister vacuums use bags.

As anyone who vacuums frequently knows, these bags absolutely need changing when they are full. A full bag reduces suction ability, and in some cleaners an overfull bag may even cause the vacuum cleaner to spit out dirt instead of sucking it up. Capacity of the bag is variable, and it’s a good idea to read manufacturer’s guidelines on how often the bag needs to be replaced. Those who vacuum huge surfaces everyday may need to replace bags once a week or more often.

One of the issues with vacuum bags today, however, is that it can be difficult to find bags for older models of cleaners. Bags differ in shape and size and not all kinds fit in any cleaner. Once, it wasn’t uncommon to be able to purchase a huge variety of bags for vacuum cleaners at just about any store that sold the cleaners, including lots of department stores.

Now, for earlier vacuum models, customers may have to do some hunting. They may find vacuum bags for cleaners not made anymore at some stores devoted to selling cleaners, or they might have to search online. Usually with some diligent searching, it’s possible to find the right bag for a cleaner. One good place to look is at the websites of companies that made the cleaner, but sometimes people even have luck finding bags for their vacuum model on sites like eBay.

It’s a good idea to buy several vacuum bags at the same time, since they tend to be used quickly. Some people extend the use of the bags by trying to dump the contents of them out after each use. While this may occasionally work, it’s also possible to rip the bag while doing this, which tends to render it nonfunctional. Additionally, it’s not a good idea to try using a non-bagless vacuum cleaner without a bag, since this will cause more dirt to be blown out of the cleaner, rendering any vacuuming ineffectual.

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Discussion Comments


Someone gave us a really nice canister vacuum cleaner for our wedding, and it was the best one I ever used. The problem was I couldn't find any replacement vacuum cleaner bags for it. The manufacturer discontinued the model, and the newer version took a different size. The only store in town that carried that brand stopped carrying the size I needed.

I managed to find a vacuum cleaner supply store that still carried those replacement bags, but the price per bag was a little steep. We decided to sell that canister vac at a yard sale and buy an upright vacuum cleaner that took a very common vacuum bag size. It doesn't have all the features of the canister vac, but at least I can buy the bags at any store that sells that upright model.

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