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Updated May 2022
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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 buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best canister vacuum cleaners

Every home needs a vacuum cleaner, but which one is right for you? One thing is certain: The ability to clean floors quickly and easily is a top priority in your home. And if you have hardwood floors, you know just how luxurious and beautiful your home can look when your bare floors are cleaned right.

Finding the best vacuum cleaner for your home is not a straightforward process when you consider all of the available options. Would an upright vac from a traditional brand like Hoover or Eureka suit your needs best? What about a lightweight stick vac with a swivel head? Or perhaps a canister vac with an array of cleaning tools and powerful suction would render the cleanup you’re looking for.

When it comes to cleaning hardwood floors and other bare surfaces, a canister vacuum is hands-down the best choice. Bear in mind that the versatile canister vac can also clean up carpets and rugs with ease, so the various rooms in your home would all be covered by one machine. 

In short, a canister vac would make a great standalone purchase for any home — especially a home with hardwood flooring. It would also be a fantastic complementary addition to any 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 vacuum cleaners. Each type offers its own strengths and weaknesses.

Upright vacuums

An upright vacuum is probably the best choice if you have a home that’s mostly carpeted. A high-quality upright vacuum cleaner delivers powerful suction and, generally speaking, a wider cleaning path than a canister vacuum cleaner. The best uprights have settings that allow them to clean both high-pile carpets and low-pile carpets. On the downside, upright vacuums are heavy and sometimes clunky, making them difficult to maneuver and tricky to manipulate in tight spaces and on staircases.

Stick vacuums

A stick vacuum is best reserved for quick cleanups. Furthermore, unless you live in a very small home, a stick vacuum isn’t an ideal replacement for your regular vacuum cleaner. For most people, it’s a complementary purchase rather than a primary cleaning tool.

A stick vacuum is suitable for vacuuming up crumbs, last-minute cleanup to make your home presentable before company arrives, and the ongoing task of sucking up pet hair. Many stick vacs have swivel heads that make them easy to maneuver, especially in tight spaces.

The drawbacks of stick vacs include a comparative lack of power, a smaller dustbin, and not-so-powerful suction on carpet, particularly in rooms with high-pile carpeting.

Expert Tip
Canister vacuums require more storage space than some other types of vacuum cleaners because, although low to the floor, they tend to be bulky. 
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Canister vacuums

As mentioned, canister vacuum cleaners excel at the task of hard floor cleaning. Depending on the model, they also do a fair job cleaning up low-pile carpeting. Canister vacs are easier to maneuver than upright vacuum cleaners. They reach further underneath furniture, and because of their design, they feel much lighter in the hand.

If your home has a staircase, you’ll appreciate the long hose and separate head of a canister vacuum cleaner. Plus, with the right cleaning tools, 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 cleaning carpeting — particularly high-pile carpeting. The smaller head of a canister vacuum takes longer to cover a large expanse of floor, and it’s more difficult to store a bulky canister vacuum than it is a sleek upright vac.

Still, if your home has stairs, lots of hard flooring, tight spaces, or furniture raised on legs (as is common with mid-century modern design), a canister vacuum cleaner could well be worth your while.

Bagged canister vacuums vs. bagless canister vacuums

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

Bagged canister vacuums

Bagged canister vacuum cleaners hold collected dirt and dust in a bag that is tossed in the garbage when full. Many bags have a HEPA filter that greatly cuts down on allergens and prevents dust from collecting inside the vacuum or blowing back into the room.

  • Pros: A bagged canister vacuum is the best choice if allergies pose 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 their ability to pick up debris as the bag becomes full.

Expert Tip
When deciding whether to get a canister vacuum cleaner with wheels, you'll want to consider how easy it is for you to bend over and retrieve items. A model with wheels allows you to move the vacuum around without bending and lifting.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Bagless canister vacuums

A bagless vacuum has a plastic chamber, a dustbin, that collects dust and debris. You empty the dustbin when it becomes full. Frequently, this is a messy process that exposes the user to all the allergens and grit inside the chamber.

  • Pros: There are no bags to buy, thus reducing your ongoing expense. And bagless vacuums tend to be more environmentally friendly because you aren’t tossing a paper bag every time you fill it up with debris.
  • 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 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.
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Canister vacuum features to look for

Canister vacuum cleaners come with a wide array of possible features, and some of those features might satisfy 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 power cord length of 20 feet or longer is ideal. This generous cord length cuts down on the number of times you would need to repeat this action.

Cord rewind

Cord rewind is a handy feature that automatically rewinds the power cord at the push of a button or with a slight tug of the cord.

Hose length

While many canister vacuums have a hose that is 5 or 6 feet long, a long hose (greater than 5 or 6 feet) simplifies the task of accessing tight spaces and 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.

Expert Tip
When choosing a canister vacuum, knowing the size canister you need for your size home is very important.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Dirt collection capacity

Bagless vacuums have a plastic dustbin container for collecting dirt. If this dustbin sports a compact design, note that you will have to stop working and empty it frequently.

Carpet height adjustability

Cleaning high-pile carpets is no problem if you have the best vacuum cleaner for the job. There is usually a lever or knob that allows you to set the roller brush height for different piles of carpet.

Cleaning path

If you want additional cleaning power in a shorter amount of time, check out the width of your chosen vacuum head. The wider the floorhead, the less passes you must make to cover 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.
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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. Take note of the weight of any potential canister vac you might purchase.

Power settings

Some canister vacuums allow you to make adjustments to the power level so you can use lower suction while working on delicate surfaces and higher suction when cleaning carpets and big messes.

Roller brush switch

The roller brush, also called a beater brush, loosens and lifts grime and hair out of carpeting. However, it could potentially scratch wooden flooring or other hard-surface flooring. Some canister vacuums have a switch that allows you to turn the roller brush off while cleaning your 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 pet hair and dander on a regular basis. Canister vacuums marketed as “for pets” generally come with a powered pet hair head, which is basically a miniature vacuum head that excels at picking up pet hair and dander from carpets, upholstery, and drapes.

Resist the urge to pick up small metal items like paper clips or coins with your vacuum. 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 pick up these items would likely clog the hose or damage the motor fan.

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Headlight

More common on upright vacuums than canisters, a headlight is highly convenient when vacuuming underneath furniture and beds.

Sound level

Vacuum cleaners are noisy; there’s just no getting around it. That said, some models and brands are put out a little less noise than others.

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.

How much does a canister vacuum cost?

Inexpensive

As a general rule, canister vacuums are more expensive than upright vacuums. However, you can certainly find some compact canister vacuum cleaners that are priced under $80. Two quality companies with several superior offerings in this price range are Eureka and Bissell.

Mid-range

Between $80 and $150, you can find mid-range canister vacuums from the likes of top companies like Hoover and Oreck. Though the vacuums may or may not be cordless at this price range, they employ a few more desirable features than the cheapest of canister vacs. Helpful clean up tools are usually included with these options, such as an attachment for bare floors and swivel steering. Some of these choices offer an air filtration system, as well.

Expensive

If you want a canister vac with many desirable bells and whistles — HEPA filtration system, powerful suction, cordless capabilities and/or a long power cord — be prepared to spend $150 or greater. In our research, we have discovered high-end canister vacs from the likes of Miele, Dyson, and Kenmore that cost several hundred dollars.

canister vacuum
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 is enough. If you have pets, kids, lots of foot traffic, or live in a dusty area, however, you’ll probably need to vacuum two to three times a week. And in some households, daily vacuuming is necessary to keep all areas sparkling clean.

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.

Q. I bought a Hoover canister vac with an upholstery tool, but what am I supposed to use this tool for?

A. An upholstery tool is an attachment that allows you to clean items other than your flooring, such as your couch cushions, curtains, and mattresses. Some people take their canister vac outside and use their upholstery tool to clean the inside of their cars. But Hoover isn’t the only company that makes this handy attachment. Look for an upholstery tool in any vacuum cleaner product’s list of included cleaning tools before you consider making a purchase.

 

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