Vacuum cleaners are essential to maintain a clean place which helps to have a general sense of order and peace, and having the vacuum most apt to deal with particular needs will help to do so efficiently while preventing disappointment and/or further shopping. As different vacuums work best for different situations, and there is an extensive variety of vacuums, it might be confusing to choose the best fit. This guide helps to prioritize needs and preferences by looking at the available types of vacuum cleaners, their most relevant features, and final remarks.

Types of vacuums

Canister or Barrel Vacuums

Canister Vacuum Cleaner

200These vacuums are light and maneuverable. They come as a single unit where the vacuum head that is short can be detached from the body and put it on the end of the wire, they are usually mounted on 2 wheels and their reach from the plug socket averages at 10 meters. All of these helps to reach under furniture and small or awkward spaces while allowing the cleaning of the stairs.

Most of them are designed to be used with bags but some bagless options are also available. Most models have increased functionality by including special heads for dusting furniture and different types of surfaces such as thick and thin carpets or hardwood; please check our “Vacuum Attachments” section for more information. They are not particularly noisy vacuums; however, they may require more storage space for the long hose and tube, and some effort to be pushed over thick carpets.

Upright Vacuums

Upright vacuums generally deliver effective deep cleaning in large floor areas, some do so even over thick carpets. As they stand upright, they are easy to use from a standing position making them a good choice for those suffering from back pain. They are based on a single segment stick that supports the head, handle and the body. The head contains the rotating brush-roll which swipes away the surfaces to remove dust and to breath, and the recipient that holds everything that has been picked up is within the body. This one-piece built makes them easy to move and store, although it may be tricky to reach under furniture and tight corners. Yet, many models include attachments and an extendable hose to help with those spots.

According to their structural design, there are two types of upright vacuums. Direct-fan and fan-bypass; the first uses less power and has less cleaning power while the second requires two times more power but is suitable for carpet and floor alike. If the vacuum comes with a separate drive-bell for the main suction motor and the roller, it permits the roller to be turned off if needed. Upright vacuums can be bag or bagless.

Handheld or Stick Vacuums

Light and compact, these are easy to move from place to place and can be stored in a cupboard. A good choice to remove dust, pet hair, stains and spills from small and narrow spaces such as in-between sofa cushions, intricate furniture pieces, cars and even clothing. They have limited capacity due to their size, they are usually battery-powered, bagless, and not as powerful as a full-size vacuum, so do not expect them to perform full-time duty in a large home.

Robotic Vacuums

These vacuums are good for flat and uncluttered rooms with hard or upholstered floors, and for those with limited mobility. Once they are set up, they find their way around the house using a tracking system to clean the floor, then go back to their docking station to recharge the battery. They work well in hard to reach places as they are low height, most can move easily between carpet and hard surfaces, but they are generally not as powerful as an upright or canister, so their cleaning may not be as thorough. They could also be used in between the times a full-sized vacuum is used for deeper cleaning.

Their storage capacity is small while -depending on the model- their battery may last from 14 minutes to nearly two hours, hence, they may have to stop before finishing up a large space. Some robots can restart where they stopped, but none is able to detect missed spots nor to climb stairs. The most advanced models use spinning brushes or variable airflows to clean tight corners and can clean thin carpets. The more high-tech features they include, the higher the cost, but the tradeoff is the convenience they offer.

Purpose-specific Vacuums

There are some functions that regular vacuums cannot perform that were dreamt of years ago and thanks to new processes and technologies are now a reality. Here we have the two most relevant ones. 

  • Wet-Dry or Shop-Vacs
    Suitable for indoors and outdoors, these can reverse the airflow to blow dust and garbage unto a corner to easily get rid of them. They are relatively cheap and wit a wide range of tasks including cleaning wet/liquid stains, unclog the hose, and clearing the garden and garage. 
  • Steam Vacuums
    Made for carpets, and not to be mistaken by steam mops, these are vacuum cleaners featuring a steam function that vacuums up the dirt and water simultaneously while throwing steam. They do not need previous sweeping to leave deep grout, carpets and upholstery surfaces deeply clean and relatively dry. However, they are bulkier, heavier and noisier than a regular vacuum. 

Features

Suction Power

Suction Power is the main indicator of how good a vacuum is to clean as it expresses how much lift the vacuum cleaner can produce. It is measured in watts or amperes but is not to be mistaken by electrical power which is only one of the aspects that determine suction power. Make sure that both are included in the specs, if there is only one specification, it is likely to refer to the electrical power. In such cases, check the airflow and electrical power where the higher capacity would help to increase the suction power, and look for minimal gaps between the nozzle of the vacuum and the surface to be cleaned.

Filters

Filters are not only key to hold back the dust effectively and to protect the motor if the container or bag were to be broken, but to prevent tiny dust particles -with potential microorganisms- to get into the lungs of users. We list four of the most common ones. 

  • Disposable filters with a high upkeep and in need of replacement every few months. 
  • Washable filters can last for years and are made of foam-like materials. They can be wash in dishwashers and washing machines and place them back into the vacuum. It is especially important to let them dry fully. 
  • Cyclonic separation filters where the air sucked into the vacuum is cycled so fast that the dust particles fall into the dust container due to centrifugal force. 
  • HEPA filters are certified to remove at least 99.97% of harmful particles from the air preventing the recirculation of mold, dust and dander from your carpet while vacuuming as it will trap nearly all of it. They are perfect to protect those who suffer from asthma and allergies.

Containers or bags

A container is simple and environmentally friendly. Everything it takes it to empty the container into the rubbish, no need to buy bags nor to plan on shopping them to be able to vacuum.  However, when the container is emptied, some of the captured dust can fly in the air or get back onto the floor. If the vacuum´s body is see-through, the container can be emptied when it reaches three quarters to maintain the suction power at its best.

In contrast, bag vacuums are dust-free, as keeping the dust in the bag will prevent it from going back into the air or the floor. Usually, branded bags also prevent allergens from scaping, and some are self-seal, but they are more costly, involve a larger carbon footprint, and the suction power may suffer a bit once the bag starts reaching its fill.

Vacuum attachments

These increase the functionality of a vacuum and most vacuums include a standard dusting brush, a crevice tool, an upholstery tool for furniture, and an extension wand to reach the unreachable. Canister vacuums are usually more accessory-equipped than uprights and may include a motorized brush head for thicker carpets and a bare floor brush.

Most vacuuming tasks can be done with the attachments mentioned above, however, there are innovative tools customized to make tricky tasks easier including the power/turbo brush with rubber parts that grabs and removes pet hair stuck in between sofa cushions, mattresses or car interiors; the mattress tool removes dust and allergens; the ceiling fan for the top of fan blades and between blinds; and the pet groomer to vacuum your own dog. Some of this might come with a vacuum but they also can be bought separately.

Final remarks

As the filters and dust bag/container play such a big part in vacuum performance, they must be easy to reach, remove and reinstall. To ensure comfort, check out that the level of noise, weight, and way to handle the vacuum is appropriate for the user. Also verify there is enough room to store it. 

Our team has considered all the factors outlined in this buying guide, along with their expertise and knowledge in Vacuums, to recommend the top choice for you. You can shop being confident that someone has considered all relevant information and you will get the best Vacuums to meet your needs. Happy shopping!