Background: High-efficiency particulate-arrest-filter vacuum cleaners are recommended to allergy sufferers although their use increases personal cat allergen exposure. We aimed to measure personal mite allergen exposure during vacuum cleaning by nasal air sampling and to compare exposures while vacuuming and emptying the vacuum cleaner bag. Methods: Five brand new high-efficiency vacuum cleaners were selected. An old, previously used vacuum cleaner with its original microfilter in situ was used as a control. Nasal air samples were taken prior to and during vacuum cleaning in 10 homes. Samples were processed by HALOgen assay. Personal mite and cat allergen exposure was measured as the dust compartments were emptied. Results: There was an increase in personal mite allergen exposure with vacuum cleaning, which approached significance (P = 0.058). There was no difference between the high-efficiency vacuum cleaners and the control vacuum cleaner (P = 0.141). When the dust compartments were emptied, personal mite and cat allergen exposure increased (P <0.02). Conclusions. The increase in personal mite allergen exposure while vacuum cleaning in an area with mild to moderate mite allergen exposure is small. High-efficiency vacuum cleaners confer no benefit and cannot currently be recommended to allergy sufferers as a means of reducing personal mite allergen exposure. Copyright © Blackwell Munksgaard 2005.