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Shopping Guide for Best Canister Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuuming might never be the highlight of your day, but with a good vacuum cleaner, it’s a chore that does render some satisfaction. A freshly vacuumed carpet, complete with vacuum cleaner lines, can be strangely gratifying. When it comes to choosing a vacuum cleaner, however, things can get a little complicated. There are so many types, brands, and features to choose from, it’s enough to make your head spin.

That’s where we come in. At BestReviews, we’re here to make your life easier by providing helpful recommendations and buying information on the products you use. We don’t accept manufacturer perks or free items in exchange for a recommendation; we do our own research, talk with experts in the field, and listen to feedback from owners of the item in question.

So if you’re ready to buy a canister vacuum cleaner, check out our recommendations in the matrix above. If you’d like to learn more about canister vacuum cleaners in general, including why you’d want one, how to choose the best one for your needs, and features to look for, please read on.

If you’re looking for an appliance that will allow you to easily vacuum pet hair or dust off your couch or curtains, a canister vacuum cleaner is a great choice.

Why Choose a Canister Vacuum Cleaner?

When it comes to basic floor care, there are three common types of vacuum cleaners: upright vacuums, stick vacuums, and canister vacuums. Each type offers its own strengths and weaknesses.

Upright vacuums are usually the best choice if you have a home that’s mostly carpeted. A good upright vacuum cleaner has considerable suction power and, generally speaking, a wider cleaning path than a canister vacuum cleaner. On the downside, upright vacuums are heavy, can be difficult to maneuver, and are extremely tricky to use on the stairs.

Stick vacuums are best reserved for quick cleanups. Unless you live in a very small home, a stick vacuum isn’t going to replace your regular vacuum cleaner. But a stick vacuum is great for vacuuming up crumbs or spills, getting your place presentable before company arrives, and sucking up pet hair. Cons include a lack of power, a small dirt collector, and a so-so performance on carpeting.

When vacuuming a carpet, take the time to make a few passes over each area of flooring. Most vacuums require at least two or three passes to adequately lift out embedded dirt and hair.

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Canister vacuums are excellent for hard floors, and depending on the model, they do a fair-to-good job on carpeting as well. Canister vacs are also much easier to maneuver than uprights. They reach further underneath furniture, and because of their design, they feel much lighter during use.

If your home has a staircase, you’ll appreciate the long hose and separate head of a canister vacuum cleaner. Plus, you can use a canister vac on drapes, upholstery, and even the interior of your car.

There are a few drawbacks to canister vacuum cleaners. Many cannot compete with an upright vac when it comes to carpeting, particularly if the carpet has a high pile. The smaller head of a canister vacuum takes longer to cover a large expanse of floor, and it’s harder to store a canister vacuum than it is an upright.

Still, if your home has stairs, lots of hard flooring, tight corners, and/or furniture raised up on legs (as is common with midcentury modern design), a canister vacuum could well be your best choice.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re planning on a full housecleaning, save the for vacuuming last. That way, you’ll gather up all the dust and crumbs dislodged by your other cleaning activities.


Staff  | BestReviews

Bagged Canister Vacuums vs. Bagless Canister Vacuums

In the battle of bagged versus bagless vacuum cleaners, owners are evenly divided in terms of preference. Both sides have pros and cons, of course, so the answer to which one is better is a definite “it depends.”

Comparison

Bagged Canister Vacuums

Bagged vacuum cleaners hold collected dirt and dust in a bag that is tossed in the garbage when full. Many bags have HEPA-filtering capabilities that greatly cut down on allergens and prevent dust from collecting inside the vacuum or blowing back into the room.

  • Pros: Bagged vacuums are the best choice if allergies are a major problem in your home. You won’t need to replace or clean the filter as frequently, and you won’t be exposed to allergens or dust when replacing the bag.

  • Cons: You’ll need to buy bags, and most vacuums start losing suction power as the bag becomes full.

Resist the urge to vacuum up small metal items like paper clips or coins. It’s also smart to avoid picking up leaves shed from potted plants, balls of paper, and other large items with a vacuum cleaner. Attempting to suction up these items would likely clog the hose or damage the motor fan.

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BestReviews
Comparison

Bagless Canister Vacuums

Bagless vacuums have a plastic chamber that collects dust and litter. You empty the chamber when it’s full.

Frequently, this is a messy process that exposes you to all the allergens and grit inside the chamber.

  • Pros: There are no bags to buy, thus reducing your ongoing expense. And bagless vacuums are more environmentally friendly, since you aren’t tossing a paper bag.

  • Cons: Along with the potential for a dusty mess when emptying the chamber, you’ll also have to clean the vacuum filter more frequently, as the dust tends to escape and gather in the filter.

EXPERT TIP

Cut down on your need to vacuum by keeping doormats inside and outside all of the entrances to your home. If you really want to reduce dust, take off your shoes when entering your home, and have family members do the same.


Staff  | BestReviews

Canister Vacuum Features to Look For

Canister vacuum cleaners come with a wide range of possible features, and some of those features might suit your needs better than others. Here’s a list of the most common features to consider.

Features

Long Power Cord

Unless you live in a tiny space, vacuuming your entire home generally means unplugging and replugging your vacuum cleaner cord at least once or twice as you work. A long power cord – 20 feet or longer is best – cuts down on how often you’ll need to do this.

Features

Cord Rewind

This handy feature automatically rewinds the power cord at the push of a button or with a slight tug.

The length of a vacuum cleaner’s power cord can make all the difference when your busy cleaning and don’t feel like stopping to unplug the vacuum. We recommend opting for a vacuum cleaner with a cord at least 20 feet long.

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Features

Hose Length

While many canister vacuums have a hose that is five or six feet long, a longer hose makes it easier to reach behind or underneath furniture.

Features

Filtering Ability

Every vacuum cleaner has at least one filter, but some have more than one. And some have HEPA filters to catch even the tiniest allergens and dust particles. In the case of bagged vacuums, the bag itself serves as a filter.

Features

Dirt Collection Capacity

Bagless vacuums have a plastic container for collecting dirt. If this container is very small, you’ll have to stop and empty it frequently.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Clean or change your vacuum’s filter on a regular basis. Clogged filters prevent the vacuum from suctioning at full power and scatter dust and allergens back into your room.

Features

Carpet Height Adjustment

This is usually a lever or knob that lets you set the roller brush height for different piles of carpet.

Features

Cleaning Path

The wider the cleaning head of your canister vac, the less passes you’ll have to make to clean the entire floor.

Features

Weight

While you won’t be lifting or pushing a canister vacuum cleaner in the same way you would an upright vac, it’s still easier to work with a reasonably light vacuum cleaner.

Features

Power Settings

Some canister vacuums let you adjust the power level so you can use lower suction while working on delicate surfaces and higher suction on carpets or big messes.

DID YOU KNOW?

Switching directions while you vacuum will dislodge dirt, hair, and other grime from your carpets.

Features

Roller Brush Switch

The roller brush – also called a beater brush – loosens and lifts grime and hair out of carpeting, but it could potentially scratch wooden or other hard-surface floors. Some canister vacuums have a switch to turn the roller brush off while working on wooden floors.

Features

Motorized Head

When the roller head is powered by electricity instead of air, you’ll get much more powerful and effective suction on carpet and rugs.

Features

Pet Head

If you have pets, you probably deal with shed hair on a regular basis. Canister vacuums marketed as “for pets” generally come with a powered pet head, which is basically a miniature vacuum head that excels at picking up hair from carpets, upholstery, and drapes.

EXPERT TIP

Check your vacuum cleaner’s roller brush periodically, especially if the vacuum stops working effectively. It’s common for hair and string to tangle in the brush’s bristles. This can prevent the brush from spinning, and it can also burn out the motor.


Staff  | BestReviews
Features

Headlight

More common on upright vacuums than canisters, a headlight is very convenient when vacuuming underneath furniture or a bed.

Features

Sound Level

Vacuum cleaners are noisy; there’s no getting around it. But some models and brands are a little quieter than others.

Features

Accessories

Your canister vacuum will probably include a set of accessories. Typically, a hose extender, upholstery brush, and crevice tool are in this set. Higher-end vacuums may include other useful accessories, as well.

Features

Price

As a general rule, canister vacuums are more expensive than uprights, although you’ll certainly find many bargain vacuum cleaners priced under $100. For a superior canister vacuum with many desirable bells and whistles, however, be prepared to spend $200 or more.

For a thorough clean, make the most of your vacuum cleaner attachments. These handy tools can help you reach underneath furniture, behind the toilet, and along the baseboards.

FAQ

Q. How often should I use my canister vacuum cleaner?

A. For many homes, a weekly session with the canister vacuum usually suffices. If you have pets, kids, lots of foot traffic, or live in a dusty area, however, you’ll probably need to vacuum more often.

Q. How often should I replace my canister vacuum bag?

A. It’s recommended that you replace your canister vacuum bag when it’s approximately two-thirds full. Beyond that point, your vacuum will start losing suction power.

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