Best Vacuum Cleaners

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
204 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best vacuum cleaners

Vacuuming is a task few people relish, but with the right vacuum cleaner at your fingertips, vacuuming can cease to be an unpleasant chore.

Whether your tool of choice is an upright vacuum cleaner, a canister vacuum cleaner, or a stick vac, the best vacuum cleaner is one that gets the job done to your satisfaction. Many of today’s cleaners include a variety of attachments that facilitate cleaning tight locations. For example, an upholstery tool with lint-catching bristles can assist in removing unwanted bits from your drapes. A crevice tool can delve deep within your couch cushions to remove wayward crumbs and other debris.

Beyond upholstery and crevice tools, you may be curious as to which features would benefit you the most. For the answer to that question, you have come to the right place. In this guide, we address common consumer queries when shopping for a new vacuum cleaner. Continue reading for more top-notch information.

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Some items and types of debris should never be sucked into a vacuum cleaner because they could damage the machine. For example, coins could damage the motor; shards of glass could puncture or scratch the inner mechanisms; and water (and wet items) could damage the electrical parts.

Key considerations

Vacuum cleaner type

When it comes to full-size manual vacuum cleaners for the home, there are three main types from which to choose: upright, canister, and stick vacuums. We concentrate on these three in this review, though a few less-traditional options also exist.

Upright vacuums

When people picture a vacuum cleaner, the traditional upright is usually what springs to mind. Housed in a single component are the vacuum head, motor, and dirt receptacle, which you push in front of you as you clean the carpet. Uprights tend to provide the most powerful suction, and they perform equally well on high-pile carpeting and low-pile carpeting. Some even work on bare floors. You can find them in bagged and bagless styles, but notably, an upright purchase typically does not come with as many additional attachments as other vacuum types.

Canister vacuums

A canister vacuum cleaner boasts a unique design consisting of a vacuum head connected to a tank by a long hose. To operate it, you move the vacuum head in front of you, slurping dirt and debris into the tank as it trails behind you. The best canister vacuums deliver on versatility with a wide range of accessories, allowing you to clean curtains, furniture, walls, ceilings, and of course, flooring.

On the downside, dragging a canister tank behind you can be cumbersome, especially if you must carry it up flights of stairs, down narrow hallways, or from one large room to another. Heavy canister vacuums demand muscle power, and because of their bulk, it can be difficult to find a convenient storage spot for them between cleaning sessions.

Stick vacuums

Lightweight and sleek, a stick vacuum cleaner is the slimline choice of the bunch. This machinery employs light suction and a rotating brush to extract dirt from carpet fibers into a bag or container. You can choose from corded and cordless stick models. (We’ll address the advantages and disadvantages of both types in a moment.) Because stick vacs have weaker suction, this should not necessarily be your primary vacuum. That said, a stick vacuum makes a great secondary vacuum — a handy tool for light cleaning days and simple touch-ups.

Robotic vacuum cleaners

Although this type of vacuum, also known as a robot vacuum, is not covered in depth in this article, we would be remiss not to mention it. A robotic cleaner is a solid and unique choice in the world of vacuum cleaners. There is so much to say about them, in fact, that we have created a separate shopping guide for you to learn about them. If you would like to obtain information about the best robot vacuums on the market, we invite you to check out our robotic vacuum cleaner review.

For consumers who find themselves debating between a robot vacuum and a traditional vacuum, we offer the following tips for your consideration.

  • Robot vacuums cost more than regular vacuums. Whereas you can get a quality stick vacuum for as little as $50 and a quality upright vacuum for as little as $80, the cheapest robot vacuums still cost a minimum of $200. Some consumers find the benefits to be worth it, but others hesitate due to the inherent drawbacks of this newer technology.
  • Robot vacuums possess the ability to “map” your home and clean it accordingly. Theoretically, no human intervention is required. Many work with Alexa for a truly handso-ff experience. However, these evolving machines are not yet perfect. They tend to perform slowly, and maneuverability can be a problem: they have been known to get stuck underneath furniture, in tight spaces, and against obstacles, necessitating human intervention after all.
  • The cleaning performance of a robot often cannot compete with that of a regular vac. Granted, you could easily program a robot to lightly clean your flooring every day, which may have the same effect as a once-a-week deep cleaning. However, your machine would be unlikely to give you the deep cleaning of a rigorous human-led cleaning session. People who invest in robotic cleaners often prefer to keep a manual vacuum on hand as well, just in case they need it.
  • You have a lot of choices these days. Many reputable companies make robotic vacuums, including iRobot Roomba and eufy. Recently, the highly revered Dyson company also placed an exciting offering on the market. Prices are still high, but as choices expand, the cost of these coveted machines may eventually begin to decrease.

Weight

The weight of a vacuum cleaner affects how easy (or difficult) it is to use. Upright and canister vacuums are usually heftier than stick vacuums, but they often have increased suction to make up for it. If you are buying a vacuum for a person with limited arm or grip strength, select a model with a lower weight to avoid muscle fatigue and strain. One with a swivel head for enhanced maneuverability may be ideal.

Similarly, if you live in a multi-story home, it’s important to pause and consider a vacuum’s weight before purchasing it because, unless you have a machine on each floor, you will likely find yourself carrying it up and down the stairs. In most cases, a vacuum that weighs no more than about 17 pounds is preferred.

A note about handheld vacuums

Although this review is not really about handheld vacuums, we’d like to insert a note here. Handheld vacuums weigh just a few pounds — think of the iconic “dustbuster” made by BLACK+DECKER. This low weight may sound appealing, but we are not suggesting that a machine like this should take the place of your regular vacuum. Hand vacuums are excellent lightweight tools for supplementary cleaning when you need it, but to clean an entire home with a hand vacuum would be painstakingly long.

Interested in a handheld vac? A number of reliable companies make them, including (of course) BLACK+DECKER as well as Bissell, Shark, Hoover, and Dirt Devil. Check out our page on handheld vacuums if this is the type of tool you need.

Bagged vs. bagless

Vacuum cleaners may be bagged or bagless. Bagged vacuums cleaners accommodate a disposable bag that collects the dirt and must be emptied when full. Most bagged vacuums have an indicator light that alerts you when the bag is full and needs to be changed or emptied. Notably, with a bagged vacuum, there is the added expense of purchasing replacement  bags. However, these bags usually hold far more dirt before they must be changed, and they do not release as many particles into the air when emptied.

A bagless vacuum cleaner has a container that collects dirt as the machine suctions it up. You don’t have to pay for replacement bags, and the removal and emptying of the dustbin is a fairly simple process. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that you will release dirt and other irritants into the air when you empty the dustbin of a bagless vacuum. For allergy sufferers, this can be particularly problematic.

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.
STAFF
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Features

Filters

A vacuum cleaner is usually equipped with some type of filter to help remove small particles from the air, such as dust and dander. Some filters must be replaced periodically, while others are washable reusable. The latter must be cleaned every so often, but you can save money on filter purchases this way.

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

Corded vs. cordless

Nearly all upright and canister vacuums are corded, as are some stick vacuums. A corded vacuum usually provides more effective suction than a cordless vacuum, 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 work. In general, look for a vacuum cleaner with a cord that’s at least 25 feet long.

The best cordless vacuums tend to be stick vacuums that run on rechargeable battery power. If you are wondering if it’s time for you to go cordless, here’s a look at some significant differences between corded and cordless vacuum cleaners.

  • Cordless vacuum cleaners are lightweight and easy to store. Some people find it quite liberating not to be tethered to a wall outlet while cleaning up.
  • Cordless vacuum cleaners have a limited runtime. Once the battery depletes, you must stop cleaning until it has recharged, which could interrupt your workflow.
  • Tight spaces may be easier to clean with a cordless vac. Because of their slimline designs, you can reach places with a cordless that may be harder to access with a corded vacuum.
  • Cordless vacuum cleaners tend to have smaller dustbins. The bin must be emptied more often, which is a deal-breaker for some people, especially allergy sufferers.

Noise output

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.

Accessories

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. For example, many vacuum cleaners come with accessories that allow you enhanced cleaning performance. Your purchase might come with a narrow tool for tight crevices, a round brush for dusting surfaces, or a smaller brush for upholstery. And, although not exactly an “accessory,” some vacuum cleaners feature a retractable cord that makes the machine easier to put away when chores are complete.

Floor settings

You can tailor your mode of cleaning to the type of flooring you have with many vacuum cleaners. A machine 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 want a vacuum cleaner you can use on hardwood floors as well, look for one with a bare floor setting. The setting usually allows you to turn off the brush so your hardwood, tile, or linoleum does not become scratched or otherwise damaged during cleaning.

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.
STAFF
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Vacuum cleaner prices

Low-end: For a basic upright cleaner with adequate suction, expect to pay $80 to $120. If you opt for a handheld vacuum, you can expect to pay less, but note that these machines are not traditional “vacuum cleaners.” Rather, they are handy tools designed for spot cleaning.

Mid-range: For an upright vacuum with a lightweight design and powerful suction, you will likely pay between $180 and $390. Many excellent vacuums can be found in this price range, but there may be a few duds, too. Our best advice, especially if you are unsure of a brand, is to purchase a new vacuum with a reassuring warranty.

High-end: We consider the aforementioned robotic vacuum cleaners to be “high-end” because they cost a lot more: the least-expensive models run around $200 when on sale. There are also some non-robotic machines from top-notch makers like Miele that sell ultra-versatile and powerful vacuums for more than $390. Again, if you are going to be investing this much, we advise you to seek a product with a warranty that backs up your purchase for a generous amount of time.

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

  • When you vacuum, work the machine in multiple directions. If you only move the machine in one direction, you may miss some of the dirt, dust, and debris. Regardless of whether you have shag or low-pile carpet, it’s recommended to agitate the fibers up, down, and side-to-side for the best clean.
  • 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.
  • Change or clean your vacuum cleaner filter regularly. As wonderful as these filters are, they won’t effectively remove allergens from home if they are clogged or dirty. If your vacuum employs a HEPA filter, change it every six months. Notably, vacuums with reusable filters can save you money in upkeep costs.
  • Don’t wait until your carpet or floor looks dirty to vacuum it. Dust and debris can accumulate under carpeting and other items before you actually see visible dirt, which may trigger allergies.
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When cleaning carpet, one pass is often not enough. After you have moved over carpet in one direction, turn your machine 90 degrees and go over it again. Agitating the carpet fibers from several different directions results in a more thorough clean.

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 the brush and vacuum. A dual-motor vacuum cleaner has two motors: one for the brush and another for the vacuum. This duality 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 at removing pet hair from carpeting and furniture. In general, bagged pet vacuums tend to render a better clean because, when you clean out a bagless container, pet hair can easily escape back into the atmosphere (and settle back onto your surfaces).

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

A. It depends on your vacuum cleaner model and the degree of dirt and debris it encounters on a regular basis. 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 is 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.

Q. Can I get an inexpensive pet vacuum cleaner?

A. It depends on what you consider expensive when it comes to a machine’s ability to eliminate pet hair from your carpet and draperies. Generally speaking, vacuums designed expressly for pet hair cleanup tend to cost a bit more than traditional vacuum cleaners. For example, a low-end pet hair vacuum may cost between $100 and $200. As we have mentioned, if you were to purchase a vacuum that was not expressly made for cleaning up pet hair, you might pay a little less — a minimum of $80 is possible.

Similarly, a high-end pet hair vacuum may cost up to $500, whereas most “regular” top-end vacuums cost no more than $390. So, to answer this question, you can certainly get a relatively inexpensive pet vacuum cleaner, but you still may find yourself paying a bit more than you would for a regular vacuum. The additional cost is a tradeoff for the machine’s enhanced suction and “lift-away” ability to remove stubborn cat and dog hair. For pet owners and people who suffer seasonal or pet allergies, the investment is usually worth it.

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