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Shopping Guide for Best Vacuum Cleaners

When you have a busy household, keeping your floors clean can seem like an impossible task.

Kids track dirt in from outside and trail cookie crumbs in their wake, while your favorite furry friends leave pet hair everywhere they go.

And that’s not even taking into account all the other dust and debris that may be swirling around.

A vacuum cleaner is a necessity in every home. It’s the only way to ensure that both your carpets and hard flooring are truly clean.

With the right attachments, your vacuum can even help you clean other surfaces, such as your drapes and upholstery.

But while a vacuum cleaner may be a must-have, shopping for an upright model can be overwhelming.

There are so many options available on the market and so many features that you have to consider: suction power, weight, and maneuverability, to name just a few.

At BestReviews we purchase our own products, which allows us to provide unbiased reviews. We also conduct field research to analyze and understand the top vacuum cleaners on the market, inside and out.

Our cleaning expert, Allen Rathey, draws upon 30 years of experience in the home cleaning industry to explain how to choose the most effective vacuum cleaner for your home.

Ready to head out and buy a vacuum cleaner? Check our matrix above for our top five recommendations for upright models.

If you just want some general info about shopping for a vacuum, continue reading our shopping guide.

Allen
EXPERT CONSULTANT

Allen Rathey is a cleaning expert who promotes healthier indoor spaces. He is past-president of the Housekeeping Channel and the Healthy House Institute, and principal of the Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI) culminating more than 30 years of experience in making indoor places cleaner. He has been tapped as an expert by the New York Times, Real Simple, U.S. News & World Report, and other national media.


Allen  |  Indoor Cleaning Expert

Types of Vacuum Cleaners

When it comes to full-size, manual vacuum cleaners for the home, there are three main types: upright, canister, and stick.

Types

Upright Vacuums

An upright vacuum cleaner is usually what people picture when they think about vacuums. The vacuum head, motor, and dirt receptacle are housed in a single component that you push in front of you.

Uprights tend to offer the most powerful suction, and work equally well on carpeting and hard flooring.

They’re available in both bagged and bagless models, but don’t usually have as many attachments as other vacuum styles.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

BISSELL CleanView Upright Vacuum with OnePass

Design

With its patented OnePass technology, the BISSELL CleanView Upright Vacuum delivers intense suction power using state-of-the-art cyclonic technology. Cyclonic separation creates a high-speed, rotating vortex that removes and isolates large particles from the air. The filtration system of the BISSELL can also remove most indoor allergens, which are known to trigger perennial allergies.

Types

Canister Vacuums

A canister vacuum cleaner consists of a vacuum head that’s connected to a tank by a long hose. You move the vacuum head in front of yourself, picking up dirt and debris that is sucked into the tank that trails along behind you.

The main benefit of a canister vacuum is that it usually offers a wide range of accessories, allowing you to clean curtains, furniture, walls, and ceilings, in addition to flooring.

Dragging the canister tank behind you can be annoying, though, especially when you have to lug the vacuum up stairs, or around a large room. Because of its bulk, it can also be difficult to find a spot to store a canister vacuum.

EXPERT TIP

Other factors being equal, a vacuum that is lightweight but often used is better than a heavy one that costs a lot of money, but is seldom used.


Allen  | Indoor Cleaning Expert
Types

Stick Vacuums

A stick vacuum cleaner is a lightweight, slim style that utilizes light suction and a rotating brush to pull dirt into a bag or container.

You can choose from corded and cordless models.

Because of their weaker suction, stick vacuums don’t work well as a main vacuum, and typically work best for light cleaning or touch-ups.

The first powered vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth, a British engineer, in 1901.

Vacuum Cleaner Feature Considerations

Considerations

Weight

A vacuum cleaner’s weight plays a big role in how easy it is to use and how much maneuverability it has. Upright and canister vacuums are usually heavier than stick vacuums, but they often have increased suction power to make up for it.

If you live in a multistory home, it’s particularly important to consider a vacuum’s weight before purchasing – you’ll have to lug it up and down stairs. In most cases, it’s best to look for a vacuum that weighs no more than 17 pounds.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Plus

Features

The Hoover WindTunnel is noted for its cord rewind feature. The 25 foot cord retracts into the vacuum body with the tap of a pedal. It also employs a HEPA filter, which is useful for trapping allergens. The filter even has an indicator to help with timely replacement. From changing the belts to clearing clogs, owners report that the unit is very easy to self-service.

Considerations

Bagged vs. Bagless

Vacuum cleaners typically come in two styles: bagged and bagless.

Bagged vacuums cleaners have a disposable bag that collects the dirt and must be emptied when it’s full. Most vacuums have an indicator light, alerting you when the bag needs to be emptied.

With a bagged vacuum, there is the added expense of purchasing bags. However, it usually holds more dirt and doesn’t release as much dust and debris in the air when emptied.

A bagless vacuum cleaner has a bin or container that collects the dirt the vacuum picks up. You don’t have to pay for any replacement bags, but it’s easy to release dirt and dander in the air when you empty the dirt container, which can be a problem if you have allergies.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bagged vacuum cleaners usually work best for homes with pets, because pet hair can escape when you empty a bagless dirt container.

Considerations

Filters

A vacuum cleaner is usually equipped with some type of filter to help remove small particles from the air, such as dust, dander, and other allergens. Some filters must be replaced periodically, while others are reusable and must be cleaned every so often. A vacuum with reusable filters will save you money.

It’s also important to pay attention to the type of filter that a vacuum uses. Standard filters provide the lowest level of filtration, while micron filters can remove smaller particles for higher filtration.

However, if you have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, or there are pets in your home, you may want to invest in a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. It can remove microscopic particles of dirt, dust, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and even tobacco smoke from your home, providing the highest level of filtration.

EXPERT TIP

If you have the right filters and tools, using a vacuum for dusting is a good use of technology, as this method puts less dust in the air than a feather duster. It can reduce resettling dust over time.


Allen  | Indoor Cleaning Expert
Considerations

Cord Length

Nearly all upright and canister vacuums are corded, as are some stick vacuums. A corded vacuum usually provides more effective suction than a cordless model, but it’s important to pay attention to the length of the cord.

If you have large areas or staircases to vacuum, you need a model with a long enough cord that you won’t have to unplug and replug the machine as you’re working.

In general, look for a vacuum cleaner with a cord that’s at least 25 feet long.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

BISSELL CleanView Upright Vacuum with OnePass

Construction

The BISSELL CleanView weighs in at 15.1 pounds, making it one of the lightest vacuum cleaners on the market. It has five height adjustment settings, on par with those offered by the others, and in keeping with expectations from a brand of this standard. However, user reviews suggest it could be quieter. The extension wand and dusting brush make it even easier to handle all your cleaning tasks with one tool.

Considerations

Noise

All vacuum cleaners make some amount of noise when they’re in use, but some are noisier than others. If you’re sensitive to noise, or live in an apartment where loud noise may disrupt your neighbors, it’s important to choose a quieter model.

A vacuum’s noise level is reflected in its decibel (dB) level, which is usually included in the product specifications. For a quiet vacuum, look for one with a decibel level between 60 and 65.

A vacuum cleaner with a decibel level of 70 dB or greater will be fairly noisy.

EXPERT TIP

Vacuum cleaners are often sold on bells and whistles, but particles in vs. particles out is the key metric.


Allen  | Indoor Cleaning Expert
Considerations

Other Features

Depending on your home’s layout and other details, there are certain special features that may make a vacuum cleaner better suited to meet your needs.

  • Many vacuum cleaners come with accessories, which allow you to clean more effectively. For example, you may get a narrow tool for tight crevices, a round brush for dusting surfaces, a smaller brush for upholstery, and other tools.

  • A vacuum cleaner with pile adjustment allows you to change the height of the brush roll, accommodating your carpet’s pile thickness for easier and more effective cleaning.

  • If you plan to use a vacuum cleaner on hard flooring, a model with a bare floor option is a good choice. The setting usually allows you to turn off the brush, so hard flooring isn’t scratched or otherwise damaged during cleaning.

  • Some vacuum cleaners feature a retractable cord, so it’s easier to put away.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Plug equipment directly into an approved power source. Plugging one adaptor into another may not have overcurrent protection and could cause electrical injury and fire.

How Much Should I Pay for a Vacuum Cleaner?

Vacuum cleaners are available at a variety of price points, but depending on the model, you can typically expect to spend between $50 and $400.

For a basic upright vacuum with adequate suction, expect to pay $80 to $120.

For a higher-end, upright model with a lightweight design and powerful suction, you will likely pay between $180 and $390.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Plus

Performance

In terms of raw suction power, the Hoover WindTunnel is a definite standout. The remarkable power output comes from its use of multi-cyclonic core technology that ensures that the unit never loses suction. Furthermore, the cleaning head is fitted with Hoover’s patented WindTunnel technology, providing a supercharge that can loosen even the most deeply lodged dirt and debris. The brush roll lacks a shutoff switch, which is often a desirable feature for people with both carpet and hard floors, but owners still report high satisfaction with the WindTunnel’s effectiveness on wood floors.

Tips and Tricks

  • When you vacuum, work in both directions. If you only move the machine in one direction, you may miss some of the dirt, dust, and debris, so be sure to work up and down, as well as side to side.

  • Dust the surfaces in a room before you vacuum. That way, you won’t have to vacuum a second time just to remove any dust and dirt that you shake loose with your rag.

  • It’s important to change or clean your vacuum cleaner’s filter regularly. It won’t effectively remove the allergens from home if it’s clogged or dirty. If your vacuum employes a HEPA filter, change it every six months.

  • Don’t wait until your carpet or floor looks dirty to use your vacuum cleaner. Dust, debris, and allergens can actually build up under carpeting and other items before you actually see any visible dirt, which may trigger allergies.

  • Vacuums with reusable filters can save you money in upkeep costs.

Hooded salon hair dryers, which were developed in the 1920s, actually borrowed much of their technology from vacuum cleaners.

FAQ

Q. What’s the difference between a single-motor and a dual-motor vacuum cleaner?

A. A single-motor vacuum cleaner uses one motor to power both the brush and vacuum. A dual-motor vacuum cleaner has a separate motor for the brush and another for the vacuum, which provides increased power and more effective suction.

Q. What type of vacuum cleaner works best for pet hair?

A. Some vacuum cleaners are designed specifically for pet hair, and feature tangle-free brushes and counter-rotating heads that are extremely effective in removing pet hair from carpeting and furniture. In general, bagged models tend to work better because pet hair can easily escape when you clean out a bagless dirt container.

Q. How often do you have to change the bag in a bagged vacuum cleaner?

A. It depends on your vacuum cleaner model and how much dirt and debris it picks up. Many vacuums have an indicator light that tells you when the bag is full and requires changing. If your model doesn’t have a light, check the bag to see how full it is, or pay attention to the suction, which will weaken if the bag’s too full. It’s best to change the bag before it’s completely full – try to catch it when it’s between halfway and three-quarters full.

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