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Updated December 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 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 pet vacuums

 A pet vacuum cleaner is one of the most effective pieces of machinery when it comes to dealing with unwanted fur and other animal messes. Pet vacuums are engineered with the capabilities necessary to handle a variety of pet fur types and domestic spaces, including carpeting and hardwood flooring. When shopping for a vacuum cleaner that can eradicate fur and dander, it helps to educate yourself about the available products first.

A pet vacuum reduces hair, dander, and allergens in your home, all of which can trigger allergies. Pet vacuums are available in several types, including handheld vacuums, canister vacuums, and upright vacuums. Some robotic vacuums are also equipped to pick up pet hair, although these tend to be pricier offerings. Upright vacuums often have the type of suction power required for large pet messes and thick fur. Handheld and canister models are better suited for smaller spaces and lighter pet messes. The quality of the pet tools included with a vacuum, such as the attachments and accessories you snap on to enhance your cleaning session, also impacts the efficiency of the machine.

a hand petting a dog
Does someone in your home suffer from pet allergies? A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will help eradicate a range of allergens from your environment, including pet dander.

Types of pet vacuums

The first step to selecting your new pet vacuum is deciding which type you want. Three primary varieties exist: handheld pet vacuums, canister pet vacuums, and upright pet vacuums. Overall, we believe upright vacuum cleaners are the best choice to pick up cat and dog hair, and as such, this review focuses primarily on upright varieties.

a woman using a vacuum cleaner
Testing pet vacuums
After considering 32 models of pet vacuums, we purchased and tested our top pick on a variety of floors with a variety of dander.
STAFF
BestReviews

Handheld vacuums

A handheld vacuum is suitable for spot cleaning or cleaning upholstery when you don't want to get out your primary upright vacuum cleaner. The best handheld vacuum cleaners are lightweight with decent battery life and good suction. Note: While a handheld vacuum certainly has its place in your cleaning arsenal, it isn't large or powerful enough to function as your one and only vacuum cleaner.

Canister vacuums

A canister vacuum has a separate motor in the main body of the unit, with the intake port attached by a hose. Due to its compact size, it is usually easier to store than its upright counterparts. A canister vacuum has a narrow cleaning path and a range of attachments that make it suitable for homes with a lot of furniture. On the downside, more time may be required to clean a large, open area with a canister vac. Further, in most cases, a canister vacuum doesn't have a beater brush, so it may not lift hair from as deep within the carpet fibers as an upright vacuum would.

Upright vacuums

An upright vacuum cleaner has a one-piece construction with the brush bristles and intake port (where the vacuum suctions up dirt) on the bottom of the unit, the motor in the middle, and the handle at the top. Usually, an upright vacuum has a rotating brush roll, also sometimes known as a "beater brush", which is highly efficient at lifting hair from the carpet.

If you have a large home, an upright vacuum will clean it faster, as it has a wider cleaning path and can quickly move over wide, open spaces. However, unless you choose a folding model, an upright vacuum will require taller storage space.

Pet vacuum features

Filter

A pet vacuum cleaner should have a quality air filter to help prevent all the dust and dander from being blown back out into your home with the air expelled through the exhaust port. We recommend a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air filter, also commonly known as a HEPA filter. These are the gold standard of air filtration systems.

Brushes

On carpeted floors, a brush roll is essential for pulling pet hair from the pile so it can then be sucked up by the vacuum. The trouble when you have pets, especially long-haired cats and dogs, is that the shed hairs get wrapped around the rotating brush and regularly need to be cut out and removed. A good pet vacuum will have an easy-clean beater brush with effective bristles to save you time and effort.

Power

Pet vacuums are generally more powerful than regular vacuums, as you need strong suction in order to pick up the hair, dander, and dirt left behind by furry bodies and muddy paws. Power is measured in "air watts" and should be listed in the manufacturer's specifications. Anything offering less than 200 air watts of juice is likely insufficient for the task at hand.

Attachments

Like most vacuum cleaners, pet vacuums tend to be accompanied by a range of attachments. If you're like most people, you probably won't spend too much time thinking about the purpose of each accessory and will probably only use a couple of them regularly, if at all. The two attachments we find most useful are the upholstery tool, which strips all the dog and cat hair from the fabric of your couch cushions, and the crevice tool, which is specifically shaped and engineered to remove the pet hair that collects in corners.

Dustbin

When shopping for your new vacuum cleaner, if you opt for a bagless model, take note of the size of the dustbin. The larger the dustbin (also called a dust cup or a dirt cup), the less frequently you will have to open up the machine and empty debris into your garbage can. Of course, if you elect to purchase a bagged vacuum cleaner rather than a bagless one, you will not be dealing with a dustbin at all.

a man setting up a vacuum cleaner
Expert Tip
Back to School & Black Friday sales are the best times of the year to purchase a vacuum. Amazon and Walmart are two great online marketplaces to start your search.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

What to consider in your search for the best pet hair vacuum

How large is the area you'll be cleaning?

If you plan to clean a spacious area, your choice of a vacuum cleaner is paramount, as you could make the job a lot easier or harder on yourself depending on which machine you select. Look for a model that covers a wide cleaning path, as it will remove more dirt in each pass. Self-propelled models also make your chore quicker and easier, as you don't need to put much effort into pushing them; you simply navigate the handle as you move along.

What type of flooring do you have?

If you have pets, a beater brush is a must-have for carpeted floors, but it is unnecessary—and could even be detrimental—for cleaning hardwood floors, laminate, tile, and other non-carpeted floors.

Most beater brushes are height-adjustable, so you can raise the brush up and out of the way when you clean your floors without carpets. If you live in a home without carpeting or area rugs, you may decide to remove the beater brush altogether.

Do you prefer a bagged or bagless vacuum cleaner?

Despite the hype, bagless vacuum cleaners perform with the same efficiency as equivalent bagged vacuums, so your choice really comes down to personal preference. It can be less messy and less problematic for people with allergies to simply throw away a bag instead of emptying a dust cup or dustbin after a cleaning session. That said, bagless varieties are more environmentally friendly, as you're not throwing an extra item into the trash, and you can avoid stale smells by emptying them more often than you might replace a bag. Furthermore, with pets, you may find that you fill up vacuum bags faster than average, so you could theoretically end up spending a lot of money on replacements.

Do you want a corded or a cordless model?

Vacuuming is not a chore most people relish. After all, you have to lug your vacuum cleaner out of the closet, plug it into an outlet, haul it around, and continue unplugging it and plugging it back in when you run out of length from the power cord. A cordless vacuum cuts down the effort involved in cleaning your carpets. However, cordless vacuums have a limited battery life of about 15 to 30 minutes, and they aren't quite as powerful as corded models—although newer cordless vacuums are starting to catch up.

Note: If you're extremely reluctant to vacuum and believe a cordless model would encourage you to vacuum every few days (instead of once a month), you may decide to go cordless even though these models aren’t quite as efficient.

vacuum cleaner
Expert Tip
Clean your vacuum's filter regularly between uses. Most upright vacuums have washable filters and are easy to maintain. I also recommend only using water to clean the filters. Using detergent or bleach could ruin them.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

How much does a pet vacuum cleaner cost?

Inexpensive

Many of the best budget pet vacuums cost between $100 and $200. A vacuum in this price range should be perfectly serviceable for most people, but you shouldn’t expect miracles. In other words, if you have a couple of constantly shedding 200-pound Saint Bernard, a low-end model is unlikely to be powerful enough to keep all of their daily messes at bay. Furthermore, inexpensive pet vacuums are likely to be bulkier and heavier than the pricier choices, and they tend to lack the extra features offered by more costly models.

Mid-range

A mid-range pet vacuum should cost between $200 and $300. While these machines offer some handy features, they lack some of the extra bells and whistles you often find on high-end models. They'll usually have a few disadvantages, too, such as a smaller dust cup or hoses and attachments that are less efficient.

Expensive

A high-end pet vacuum should cost between $300 and $500. These machines offer superior cleaning power and all the bells and whistles you could hope for, and they tend to be lightweight and easy to maneuver. You'll often find that models on the lower end of this price range are as good as, or almost as good as, the priciest units. A primary difference is that they may not have the same brand recognition.

vacuum cleaner
DID YOU KNOW?
Hard-to-reach spots are often the places where pet hair lurks and lingers—in corners, under beds and couches, and next to baseboards. Select a vac with a powerful brush roll and a crevice tool for grabbing fur and pet dander.
STAFF
BestReviews

How to use your pet vacuum cleaner

You may be wondering if there is a certain technique that would make your vacuuming sessions with your new machine more efficient. The answer to this question is yes. One of the most important techniques to keep in mind is to vacuum slowly, giving your machine plenty of time to pick up pet hair, dander, and debris.

The directionality of your vacuuming path also matters. Not only should you move back and forth in a straight line, you should also turn your vacuum 90 degrees and vacuum in that direction as well. By vacuuming the fibers of your carpet from different angles, you are more likely to pick up hair and other debris.

Lastly, don’t just empty the dustbin when you are finished. Clean the bristles on the brush roll, too. The bristles will trap hair (human hair as well as pet hair) which, left unattended, could hamper the effectiveness of the machine.

two cats and a vacuum cleaner
A more expensive pet vacuum isn’t necessarily superior. Check out customer reviews to gauge whether it's worth the extra money.

FAQ

Q. How often should I change the air filter in my pet vac?

A. It's generally recommended that you change the air filter about once a year, or sooner if you begin to notice a musty odor when you vacuum. Some air filters can be removed and cleaned, but this action is likely to damage a HEPA filter. Check the manual to learn how to change the filter in your particular machine.

Q. Should I replace my regular vacuum with a pet vacuum?

A. We're not ones to fall for marketing gimmicks, but we absolutely recommend pet vacuums for dog and cat owners. If your current vacuum cleaner is doing a sufficient job, you might not need to upgrade to a pet model until it needs replacing. However, many pet-owning customers have said they didn't realize how much dirt was getting left behind, deep in their carpet, until they switched to a pet vacuum.

Q. Are there any robot vacuums strong enough to pick up pet hair?

A. Yes. Although we do not focus on robot vacuums for pet hair in this guide, there are plenty of excellent robotic vacuum cleaners available that are built to take on pet hair challenges. For example, several competent products exist in the iRobot Roomba line that we would recommend. Eufy and Shark also make high-quality robotic vacuums that are able to eliminate pet hair. If you opt for a robotic vacuum, take note of its runtime, battery life, and customer reviews before making a purchase.

Q. How often do I need to vacuum up pet hair?

A. This really depends on how much your pet sheds and how clean you prefer your carpets to be. If you run a tight ship, you might find yourself vacuuming daily, whereas others with more relaxed standards might only perform a deep clean once every week or two, plus the occasional bit of spot cleaning where needed. In short, do whatever works for your situation.

Q. My pet vacuum seems to have lost its suction power. What should I do?

A. This is a common complaint with vacuum cleaners of all types, especially those in the lower price ranges. If your cleaner appears to have lost suction, the first order of business is to check the dirt cup. If it’s full, empty it. Take note of any other areas of the vacuum cleaner where debris, including long pet hairs, may have created a clog as well. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the detachable parts of your vacuum cleaner so you don’t inadvertently miss the chance to clean out any pesky clogs.

Sometimes, when a vacuum cleaner is taken apart and emptied, it is not put back together properly, resulting in an air leak or other issues. This could be the cause of the malfunction. Make sure all snap-on parts and joints are fitted correctly.

Lastly, check the filters of your vacuum cleaner. They may need to be cleaned or replaced, depending on the type of vacuum you have. If you’re unsure what to do with a dirty filter, check the product manual. If you don’t have the product manual at home, look it up online. Most manufacturers keep digital copies in an online library for consumer reference.

 

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