10-quart container. Designed to be whisper quiet and perfect for classrooms and offices. Powerful four-level filtration system. 50-foot cord. Received gold-level certification by the Carpet and Rug Institute. Only weighs 11 pounds. Comes with a commercial kit full of detailing tools.
This fully featured model is an expensive option for a vacuum.
Weighs 12 pounds. Comes with different attachments like a crevice tool and upholstery tool. 30-foot cord. Five-position height adjustment. Good for all floor services. Bright green color.
This vacuum requires bags that must be purchased separately.
35-foot cord. Top-filling inner bag design. Designed for low-pile carpets and hardwood floors. Arthritis Foundation approves this vacuum for ease of use. 6,500 RPM for maximum cleaning power. Weighs only 8.2 pounds. 12-inch wide cleaning path.
Although the cord is long, it isn't retractable and tangles easily.
48-foot cord is made with a three-wire design for added durability. Comes with an accessory pack that features six useful tools. Weighs only 9.2 pounds. Bagless design saves money and is good for the environment. Comes with safety harness.
This Hoover model is not compatible with other Hoover vacuum attachments.
50-foot reinforced power cord won't fray or bend. Powerful motor and suction at seven amps. Disposable bags can be bought online or in stores. Specifically designed for carpet.
At nearly 22 pounds, this is a heavy vacuum.
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.
For some people, a commercial vacuum cleaner is a powerful beast with a 30-inch mouth capable of quickly cleaning hundreds of square feet of floor space. For others, it's a steel bucket that can suck up piles of workshop debris. And for others, it's much like any other vacuum used for cleaning laminate floors and carpeting around the office.
One of the main things that differentiate commercial vacuums from the machine you have at home is that they're more durable. Whatever the business environment, people expect them to work harder longer. Other differences are more functional, which can make it challenging to choose the right model.
There are four main types of commercial vacuum: handheld, canister, upright, and backpack.
Handheld vacuum cleaners resemble large metal briefcases. These are intended for cleaning upholstery, stairs, blinds, drapes, and other textiles. They're not as good with floors. These are very light but have relatively low power and modest capacity. Handhelds are quite specialized but great at what they do.
Canister vacuum cleaners can be horizontal cylinders, but more usually are a vertical can-type design with wheels. Shop vacs are a basic form of canister vacuum. They are very maneuverable, and it's easy to get the flexible hose into nooks and crannies. These vacuums are best in situations where there's lots of furniture or other obstacles to maneuver around. They're fine for larger areas, but it's not their main strength.
Upright vacuum cleaners are the most recognizable. While power and efficiency have increased, the design is pretty much the same as it was almost a hundred years ago. These excel at cleaning hard floors and carpeting – they cover the ground more quickly than other models, have roller brushes that help free trapped dirt, and are height adjustable to cope with different surfaces. The upright is best if you have long corridors and large rooms to clean. An additional hose allows you to work in tight corners or at different heights, but these vacuums are not as nimble as canisters.
Backpack vacuum cleaners take the main dirt container off the floor, giving them the high mobility of handheld vacuums but the power of canisters and uprights. Added to that, the capacity is usually twice or three times that of other models. With only one hand needed for the hose, the other is free to move objects out of the way. They're perhaps not quite as efficient on carpets as upright vacuums, but backpacks excel everywhere else. They’re undoubtedly the best all-rounders. The reason you don't see more of them? Mostly, price is the reason.
Bag vs. bagless
A lot of commercial upright vacuums use a bag, but both uprights and backpacks can be bagged or bagless. So, which is better?
While bags are an additional expense, their big advantage is that they close the dirt inside, so disposing of it is less likely to cause a mess. Good bags act as part of the filtration system, and some seal completely as you remove them from the vacuum. This is particularly good for allergy or asthma sufferers. However, poor-quality bags let plenty of particles escape, so these should be avoided.
Bagless vacuums usually have more filter elements because they don’t have a bag as part of the filtration system. These vacuums have to be cleaned and/or replaced regularly, thus decreasing the money that was saved on bags in the first place. Emptying has to be done carefully or you could end up in a cloud of dust. Emptying the vacuum outdoors is advised but not always practical.
If clean air is the absolute priority, a vacuum that uses a high-quality self-sealing bag is recommended. Otherwise, it's more a question of personal preference.
Suction: The amount of air a vacuum moves, and therefore the suction it creates, is rated in cubic feet per minute (cfm). It's a useful comparison, though manufacturers sometimes seem reluctant to provide the information. In truth, buyer comments are an equally valid source of real-world capabilities.
Filtration: Filtration is important for capturing nuisance elements like pet dander and potentially harmful elements like allergens and bacteria. What emphasis you put on the latter will depend on the environment you're cleaning. Manufacturers will typically quote high percentages of particles trapped – 99% or more – but the key specification is the size of those particles. Capturing 99.9% of 3.0 micron particles (a common capability) is nowhere near as effective as capturing 99% of 0.3 micron particles.
Noise: The sound made by normal conversation is around 55 decibels, and some modern vacuums are that quiet. However, most are in the 60 to 65 dB range. Not particularly loud, but you wouldn't want to try to hold a phone conversation with one running next to you. Large commercial models can be noisier still, so it's worth checking. At 85 dB and above, some form of ear protection is necessary.
Cord: Power cords should be as long as possible so you don't have to keep stopping to find another outlet. Many commercial vacuum cleaners sold today have cords between 30 and 50 feet in length.
Adjustments: On upright cleaners, check if it cleans right up to the wall. Some cheap models don't. Also look at height adjustments to cope with different thicknesses of carpet. Several high-end models will adjust automatically, meaning you don't have to stop and fiddle around.
Wand: On canister and backpack vacuums, the wand (the steel tube part) can be two-piece or telescopic. The latter can give variable length and greater flexibility, and it is usually more convenient for storage.
Power: Motor power is often quoted but of minimal importance. Most are between eight and ten amps.
The cheapest commercial vacuum cleaners are usually robust little shop vacs, which start at around $65. They're basic, but there's little better for cleaning up a dirty garage floor.
Budget upright and canister vacuums cost about $120 to $200. The price inevitably rises as you add features and accessories. At the upper end of that range, you'll get top quality from a leading manufacturer.
Backpack vacuums are generally more expensive, priced from $250 to $700.
Wide-area vacuums are a class apart. You'll pay well over $1,000 for a 24- or 26-inch machine, and as much as $2,500 for a 30-inch model.
Look for a vacuum with onboard attachment storage. It’s particularly convenient if you don't want to have to wander back and forth when you need a different tool.
Don't be tempted by cheap vacuum cleaner bags. Usually they're thinner, so you get inferior filtration and strength. Having a bag full of dust split on you is no fun at all.
Q. Is there a difference between HEPA-type and true HEPA filtration?
A. There is. It all comes down to the size of particles the filter traps. HEPA-type filters can handle 99% of particles down to 2.0 microns, which is okay for general household or office dust and dirt. True HEPA filters take care of 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns – fine enough to trap many of the particles that cause odors and allergies. True HEPA filters are the only ones that can be termed “air purifiers.”
Q. Can I buy extra accessories if what I need doesn't come with the machine?
A. Yes. All kinds of extra brushes and tools are available, and you don't have to buy them from the maker of your machine. Just check the fitting diameter before ordering (the most common are 1 1/4, 1 1/2, and 2 inches). Although they're not interchangeable, “step-down” converters give you the option of using smaller-diameter accessories on a larger hose.
Q. Would a wet/dry vacuum be a sensible option?
A. If it's likely you'll need to clean up spilled liquids on a regular basis, absolutely. They are very versatile machines and particularly suited to workshops. However, good wet/dry vacuums are expensive and often loud – loud enough to require ear protection. If you only have an occasional need, a mop and bucket are cheap and they get the job done just as quickly.