Choosing the right type of vacuum cleaner is essential for a clean home. But knowing the best type of vacuum to buy can be tricky. It seems there’s an endless choice of upright, canister, robotic, stick, or handheld vacuum cleaners. If that’s not enough, you sometimes have the option of battery-powered cleaners or corded appliances.
Picking the ideal vacuum cleaner for your needs depends on several factors. You should consider things like the type of flooring, if you have pets and the amount of debris you need to clean. Vacuum cleaners such as upright and canister models are generally best for deep cleaning. However, robotic and handheld vacuum appliances are best for light cleaning. Then there are stick vacuums which are somewhere in between canister ones and handheld vacuums.
This article is a guide to choosing the best vacuum cleaner. To help make an informed choice, you’ll find descriptions of each type of vacuum cleaner and its pros and cons.
Upright Vacuum Cleaners
Upright vacuums are all-in-one home cleaning appliances that are effective for vacuuming carpets and hardwood floors. Upright vacuum cleaners have a powered beater brush that loosens dirt and grime. The powerful motor removes dirt through suction. Upright vacuums are either bagged or bag less appliances.
Most upright models come with a series of attachments such as a hose and nozzles to adapt to various cleaning needs.
Depending on your needs, you can choose upright vacuums with a vast array of features. For example, some have height adjustments to switch between hardwood floors and carpets. Or some have HEPA filters, headlights, and variable suction control. To make cleaning easier, some of the best upright models are self-propelling.
- Ideal for deep-cleaning carpets
- Cheaper than canister vacuums
- Easy to store
- Attachments make upright models adaptable
- They have a wide cleaning path, so ideal for cleaning large areas
- Uprights are heavier and noisier than other types of vacuum cleaners
- Impractical for cleaning stairs
- Difficult to clean hard-to-reach places
Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
As the name suggests, handheld vacuums are small, lightweight appliances that are easy to carry. Most handheld cleaning appliances are cordless, making them versatile for a wide range of cleaning tasks. Compared to canister and upright vacuums, they are quieter but not as powerful.
Most people have handheld vacuums in addition to larger vacuum cleaners. These small units are perfect for cleaning small areas, upholstery, car interiors, stairs, and tight corners. Handheld appliances are also ideal for cleaning pet hair and dander.
Depending on your cleaning needs, there are various types of handheld vacuums to choose from. Some high-end handheld cleaners have an air-powered brush nozzle that is ideal for picking up pet hair. Other models have various nozzle attachments for cleaning in awkward spaces.
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Ideal for quick cleaning
- Cordless handheld vacuums cleaners can be used anywhere
- Cheap to buy
- Quiet motor
- Excellent for cleaning pet hair from upholstery
- Not practical for general cleaning
- Less powerful than upright or canister-style vacuums
Canister Vacuum Cleaners
Canister-style vacuums are popular choices because they are relatively compact and can be as powerful as upright models. Typically, canister vacuum cleaners have a long flexible hose, telescopic wand, and a canister that includes the motor, dust collection, and retractable cord.
Canister models usually come with a variety of attachments to take the hard work out of cleaning. Some of the best canister vacuums have a powered brush nozzle for cleaning deep-pile carpets. The telescopic wand makes it easy to clean places that are difficult to reach.
Canister vacuum cleaners are the best choice of vacuum for versatility. The lightweight hose and wand make it easy to clean floors, drapes, stairs, car interiors, and upholstery. Compared to upright vacuums, canister models are better for hardwood floors and furniture.
- Versatile cleaning appliance for home and car
- Lightweight and easy to use
- A range of attachments make it easy to clean most surfaces
- Quieter than uprights
- The canister and separate hose mean they can be bulky to store
- Usually require assembling before use
- Costlier than upright vacuums
Robotic Vacuum Cleaners
Robotic vacuums are the latest trend in smart home cleaning appliances. The small round vacuum cleaners are programmable to clean the areas you want in your house. The versatile units can clean carpets, hardwood floors, and under furniture while you’re home or away.
Robot vacuum cleaners can ‘learn’ their way around your home. They avoid stairs, extension cords, or other objects. You can also program the units via remote control or smartphone app to avoid certain areas.
Similar to handheld vacuum cleaners, most people have robotic vacuums in addition to their primary cleaning appliance. By setting the robot to do light daily cleaning, you reduce the amount of housework you must do. However, the convenience of robot vacuums comes at a price—the best models can cost between $300 and $1,000.
- Relax while the robot vacuum cleaner cleans your floors
- The best models are excellent at learning your home’s layout for efficient cleaning
- Some models have a smartphone app or voice control for remote operation
- Don’t take up a lot of room
- Ideal for regular, light cleaning
- Quiet operation
- High-quality models are expensive, but cheap robotic vacuums are inefficient and break easily
- Not ideal for shag carpets or deep cleaning
- Small dust bin capacity
- Can get stuck
Stick Vacuum Cleaners
Also called sweeper vacuums, stick models are lightweight, corded or cordless vacuums with a bag less dust collecting unit. Stick vacuums are popular because they clean effectively, are easy to use, and don’t take up a lot of space. Typically, stick vacuum cleaners have a power head and dust cylinder at the unit’s top or middle.
Stick vacuums are more powerful than small, handheld units but not as powerful as canister vacuums. However, they are lightweight cleaning solutions to clean dust, pet hair, and other debris quickly. Stick cleaning appliances are ideal for cleaning tiled or hardwood floors.
Some stick vacuum models have a detachable handheld vacuum. This type of unit combines the ease of cleaning like an upright vacuum with the versatility of a handheld unit.
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Easy to store
- Ideal for light cleaning and quickly cleaning small spills
- Corded models are reasonably priced
- Some models double up as a handheld vacuum
- Small dirt cylinder capacity
- Noisier than other types of vacuums
- Not ideal for deep-cleaning carpets or rugs
- Cordless stick vacuums are relatively expensive
Backpack Vacuum Cleaners
Backpack vacuums are popular choices for cleaning large floor areas. Backpack vacuum cleaners are generally more powerful than upright models but have the versatility of canister-style vacuums. As the name implies, the vacuum motor and dirt bin are on a comfortable harness. A flexible hose and wand are attached, and you can walk around freely, vacuuming debris.
For some people, the advantage of a backpack vacuum is that they are easy to use. The weight of the unit is evenly distributed, and your hands are free to operate the hose. Also, backpacks tend to be safer, as there is no heavy vacuum to push or canister to drag behind you. Additionally, because the motor is typically commercial-grade, you can get more done in a faster time.
Of course, if you have a small house or apartment, a backpack vacuum may be too large. However, backpack units take the effort out of cleaning carpeted, tiled, or hardwood floors for a large home or commercial property.
- Easy to get around to vacuum large areas
- It can double up as a blower
- No heavy units to push or drag behind you
- Ideal for vacuuming large areas
- Perfect for cleaning stairways
- Most have high-grade HEPA filters
- A bulky unit that attaches to your back
- Impractical for most residential homes or apartments
- It’s easier to cause damage if you mistakenly bump into things
Bag vs. Bagless Vacuum Cleaner — Which is Best?
One of the most important factors when choosing the right vacuum is to buy a bagged or bagless model. On the one hand, bagless vacuums seem more cost-effective as there are no replacement bags to buy. However, bagged vacuums tend to be more hygienic.
Here are some considerations about buying a vacuum cleaner with or without bags:
- Hygiene—Bagless vacuums are less hygienic because you have to remove the debris physically. This can cause extra dust and allergens in the air. With bagged vacuums, it’s easy to remove the bag and dispose of it hygienically in the trash.
- HEPA filtration—While both bagged and bagless vacuums can have HEPA filters, the bag itself acts as an extra filter. If you have allergies, then a bagged vacuum with a HEPA filter is the best option. Also, the air filters on bagless units tend to clog up faster.
- Maintenance—Because you don’t have any bags to dispose of, bagless units are cheaper to maintain. Also, because there is no bag, you can empty the canister as often as you wish. However, it can be a messy task to clean out a bagless vacuum.
Does A Vacuum Cleaner Need to Have HEPA Filter?
A high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) traps microscopic airborne particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter. The HEPA filter means that no dust, dander, or allergens should get into the air after vacuuming. That sounds like an excellent solution for anyone who has allergies or keeps pets. However, do you really need a HEPA filter in a vacuum cleaner?
Studies seem to be inconclusive if HEPA vacuum filters reduce exposure to allergens. A study published on WebMD reported that, compared to vacuum cleaners without special filters, HEPA vacuums only slightly improved air quality. So, HEPA filters have some effect—albeit a minimal one. Therefore, doctors recommend that HEPA vacuums should be part of an overall strategy to reduce airborne allergens at home.
However, scientific studies have not found conclusive evidence that HEPA filters help to reduce allergic symptoms.
So, in our opinion, when choosing a vacuum to buy for allergy control, it’s best to buy a high-quality bagged vacuum cleaner. If you choose one with a HEPA filter, you can be sure that your home’s air quality will be somewhat better.