Best Canister Vacuums

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best canister vacuum cleaners

Getting your floors clean quickly and easily is a priority, but it’s not a straightforward choice when choosing your tool — with upright, canister and stick vacuums to choose from.

Hands down, canisters win out over the competition when it comes to hardwood floors and other bare surfaces, in addition to carpets and rugs. Canisters also have better maneuverability and clean up the competition when it comes to blinds, curtains, and overhead fixtures, making them a useful addition to your cleaning arsenal.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Cord rewind

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

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.

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.

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.

Carpet height adjustment

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

Cleaning path

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

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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.


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.

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.

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.

Powered 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.

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.

"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."


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

Sound level

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


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.


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.

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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.


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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