How to pick the best vacuum

Staying ahead of the grit, dust, and lint in your home can (literally) suck. So it’s important to choose a handy vacuum that works for you and your space. Not all of us are fortunate to have a central vac in our homes. A good vacuum will run you at least $200, so lets look at some options and items to look out for.

Type of vacuum:

Canister, upright, stick-vac, handheld

Overall stick-vacs are the lightest and easiest to store. Stick-vacs are small and great for small messes.

Upright vacuums have a bigger motor and will usually last longer depending on use. Upright vacuums are best for cleaning carpets.

Canister vacuums are better for tight spaces and hard surfaces.

If you have mostly bare floors:

Hardwood and tile still need to be vacuumed, a versatile canister vac might be your best option. Canister vacuums usually come with many attachments including a bare-floor brush; you can get into corners and other tight spaces easily. If you prefer an upright, choose one that allows you to turn the brush roll off; in case you find it scattering debris on a bare floor.

If you have a lot of wall-to-wall carpeting:

A canister with a motorized power head attachment is great for carpet, but if you have a lot of space to cover, you’ll probably prefer the ease of an upright. Look for an adjustable-height brush roll to improve cleaning and pushing across various carpet-pile heights. Some Uprights are self-adjusting. Other models even have dirt sensors, good for making sure you’ve gotten the last of the grime without lots of extra back-and-forth.

If you have stairs:

A canister with a long hose and attachments for getting in and around railings is a smart pick. However, if you only want one vacuum for the entire house, a cumbersome canister that you’ll need to drag between floors may not be your cup of tea. Opt for a lightweight upright as your solo machine, or buy a second, less expensive model for upstairs cleaning.

If you want to vacuum more than the floors:

A vacuum can be a great cleaning tool, make sure you consider the attachments it comes with. Most vacuums have standard a crevice tool, dusting brush, and upholstery brush, many models have specially designed extras for cleaning mattresses, removing pet hair, and even dusting ceiling fans and the tops of bookcases.

Variable suction is also helpful for cleaning delicate items like drapery sheers and small area rugs without damaging them. Look for models with extra long cords (up to 35 feet) to extend your reach even more. Longer cords, sometimes with quick change set-ups are usually standard on commercial models.

If your family suffers from allergies:

A vacuum works by drawing air (and dust and debris) in and sending exhaust air out. One with poor filtration or a lot of crevices in the body can scatter irritants that make you sneeze. Choose a vacuum that’s both sealed and has a HEPA filter, which traps 99.97% of dust, dander, pollen, and mold spores in the machine. I recommend a bagging model with HEPA filtration this way disposing of the waste is quick and easy.

If you prefer quick cleanups:

Newer cordless models may clean just as well as traditional corded uprights and aren’t tethered to an outlet. Their shortcoming is the battery life — they run for minutes, not hours (or even half hours), before needing a recharge. So if you like to clean the whole house in one swoop, skip them.

Stick vacs and handhelds (both corded and cordless) are also great for quick pick-ups, but they lack the power and versatility to be your primary vacuum.

If you really hate vacuuming:

Go full-on hands off with a robotic vac (the latest are even better at area mapping so as not to miss a spot). Some both vacuum and wet-clean, but all told, robotic vacs are pricey and aren’t super-powerful, so they won’t replace your regular vac. Robotic vacs also have their short-comings. These make for some funny youtube videos

If you’re weighing bagged vs. bagless:

There’s no difference in cleaning ability, so it comes down to preference. Bags less messy, but you need to have replacements on hand. Bagless vacs while more convenient are more likely to spread dust around causing irritation if your family have allergies.