Investing in a good quality vacuum can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your home free of messes, germs and particles — and they’re especially useful if you have kids and pets running around, too. “Vacuuming your home on a weekly basis is one of those household tasks that requires relatively minimal effort and instantly makes your home look cleaner,” said Caroline Solomon, a home organizing expert.
The type of vacuum you buy — whether canister, stick, handheld or robot — dictates what features to look for. Here's a summary of the qualities that experts we spoke to recommended and the questions you should consider while shopping for a quality option:
- Bagged vs bagless: Some vacuums come with a reusable dustbin; others have a disposable bag that needs to be replaced. Do you want to spend the extra money to replace the bags, which are easy to toss when you’re done vacuuming? Or, do you prefer the convenience of the reusable dustbin, which is harder to empty in the garbage and might cause dust to fly everywhere?
- Vacuum size and weight: The square footage of your home, the number of floors and the amount of storage space you have are all major considerations when choosing a vacuum. Also ask yourself: besides the annoyance of dragging it around, is the vacuum too heavy to pick up? Is the vacuum tall enough so that you won’t have to stoop over?
- Floor settings: Does the vacuum accommodate all types of flooring?
- Attachments: Vacuums come with a range of attachments to fit your specific cleaning needs. Do you have a pet that sheds? Are you planning to vacuum your curtains and upholstery? Does your home have a lot of nooks and crevices?
- HEPA filter: Particles in the air can cause airborne diseases and allergic and respiratory reactions. Does the vacuum contain a good HEPA filter to remove 99.7% of fine dust and air particles?
To help you sift through the many options out there, we talked to home cleaning experts about the different types of vacuums and how to shop for one. We also compiled expert-recommended vacuums, as well as ones that have been tested and recommended by Consumer Reports’ test engineers.
Best vacuums to shop in 2023
We spoke to experts about the different types of vacuums and the benefits of each, as well as key features to look for like attachments and HEPA filtration. Below are our experts’ picks for their favorite vacuums, as well as some recommended by Consumer Reports’ engineers. In line with expert guidance, each of the following vacuums features a HEPA filter that can remove up to 99.7% of fine dust and airborne particles.
Best overall vacuum: Miele
Our experts agreed Miele is the best overall brand for vacuums. Despite its hefty price tag, Kadi Dulude, owner of cleaning company Wizard of Homes, said that among her staff, “Miele is everyone's favorite [vacuum brand] hands down.” The Miele Complete C3 Marin is Consumer Reports’ pick for the best bagged canister vacuum. It can be used on either carpet or bare floor and comes with multiple attachments, including a dusting brush, upholstery tool and crevice nozzle. The brand’s Parquet Twister, an extra-large smooth floor brush, rotates 180 degrees and its stainless-steel wand, together with its one-touch auto-rewind electrical cord, has a cleaning radius of 36 feet, according to the brand.
Best bagless upright vacuum: Shark
This anti-allergen Shark vacuum, a favorite of Solomon’s, comes with a detachable canister for portability and a brushroll shutoff option that lets you easily switch from deep carpet cleaning to bare floor cleaning, according to the brand. The vacuum was designed with Shark’s “Swivel Steering,” which the brand says can help you maneuver around tight corners and furniture. It also comes with an upholstery tool and two crevice tools for access to hard-to-reach spaces. Former Select editor Morgan Greenwald owns this vacuum and she loves how easy it is to switch from vacuuming her hardwood floors to her many Ruggable rugs.
Best bagged upright vacuum: Kenmore
This bagged upright vacuum from Kenmore is pet-friendly thanks to its powerful inducer motor. According to the brand, this motor produces 20% more air power than the conventional Kenmore upright vacuum motor, enabling the brush roll to spin at a speed high enough to remove dander and stubborn pet hair. It has five height adjustment options and comes with multiple attachments, including a crevice tool, bristle brush and power roller. It also equips a lightweight aluminum wand that can extend up to 10 feet for hard-to-reach spaces, Kenmore says. Dulude recommended the bagged canister version from Kenmore, which she said “can handle the endless hair from a shedding lab without constantly getting clogged.”
Best bagless canister vacuum: Miele
The Miele Blizzard CX1 — Consumer Reports’ pick for the best bagless canister vacuum — lets you switch between four suction power settings for different surfaces, including curtains, rugs, carpets and hard floors with the turn of a rotary dial. It also comes with multiple attachments, including a handheld mini turbo brush for picking up pet hair, a dusting brush and a crevice and upholstery nozzle. The brand’s hygienic emptying system can also separate fine and coarse dust so it isn’t distributed back into the air when emptying, according to Miele.
Best cordless stick vacuum: Tineco
Dulude said she’s a fan of cordless vacuums, noting that they’re lightweight and convenient. She recommended the Tineco Pure One as a powerful option for hardwood floors: It has a runtime of up to 40 minutes and features an LED panel on the top of the handle that displays the adjustable power level and battery time remaining, according to the brand. The brand’s smart dust sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly and it alerts you if the vacuum ever becomes clogged.
Best lightweight stick vacuum: Dyson
Solomon recommended Dyson’s cordless vacuums because they’re great for “compact apartments with minimal storage space.” This model from Dyson is one of the lightest vacuums on this list, weighing just a little over 6 pounds. It has a run time of up to 60 minutes on a single charge and the time remaining is displayed on the vacuum’s LCD screen, according to the brand. It comes with various useful attachments, including a crevice tool, dusting brush and a mini-motorized tool for removing pet hair. For larger spaces, the similar Dyson V11 Outsize has a larger dust bin and features up to 120 minutes of run time, Dyson says.
Best robot vacuum: iRobot
This robotic vacuum from iRobot is a Consumer Reports favorite — it can map out an entire floor of your home to clean it more efficiently, and you can set boundaries using the iRobot Home app to prevent it from going into specific areas, according to the brand. It can also empty its own canister and return to its base when it knows it needs a charge, the brand says. The Roomba is compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants.
Best handheld vacuum: Shark
The Shark WANDVAC WV201, recommended by Consumer Reports engineers, weighs 1.4 pounds. It comes with a charging base and two attachments: a multi-surface pet tool that can clean pet hair, delicate fabrics and furniture, and a duster crevice tool to reach tight spaces, according to the brand. The WV200 model is the same base vacuum, sold without the dual onboard accessory storage. The vacuum also has a one-touch emptying debris bin to help avoid getting your hands dirty, according to Shark.
What are the different types of vacuums?
There are a few different types of vacuums to consider, depending on your different cleaning needs and preferences. To help you simplify your search, we spoke to experts about the differences between the five types of vacuums available: canister, upright, stick, handheld and robot.
This type of vacuum has a separate canister that contains the motor and receptacle and equips a long hose that can be fitted with interchangeable attachments. A great option for the homeowner who has a mixture of stairs and surfaces to clean, since canister vacuums are “much lighter and far easier to maneuver than upright vacuums,” Solomon said, adding that they also are typically quieter. Canister vacuums also have fewer moving parts than upright vacuums, which means they typically require less maintenance and fewer repairs. They provide excellent suction, “which is especially handy for bare floors,” Solomon added. However, canister vacuums can often be more difficult to store due to their hose, wand and bulkier base, she said.
Upright vacuums are great for homeowners who have large, wide-open spaces, since they are typically easier to maneuver than canister vacuums. "The whole vacuum moves with you, making it less cumbersome than a canister model,” which requires you to move the bin around, said Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics. Upright vacuums also work well on both carpet and bare floors, making it easier to clean in multiple areas of your house, especially if you have pets that shed regularly, Solomon said. However, she cautioned that upright vacuums also tend to be heavier than canister vacuums – weighing as much as 20 pounds – making it difficult to lift them up and down the stairs. And unless the upright comes with a wand, they can’t clean vertical surfaces like walls, upholstery and curtains.
Stick vacuums are slim and lightweight, making them a good option for both quick cleanups and homes with minimal storage space. “Cordless models are simple to take around the whole home, and battery life on cordless versions is constantly improving,” said Prouty. He noted that these models are best for people with smaller spaces to clean, since they’re not as powerful as canister vacuums. They’re also good for those who have kids and are constantly cleaning up spills and messes, he said.
A handheld vacuum is a compact cordless vacuum — it’s similar to a stick vacuum but it’s smaller and more portable, making it a good option for vacuuming out your car or spot cleaning. Since they’re typically the least powerful type of vacuum, our experts noted that a cordless vacuum should complement a heavier-duty model like a canister or upright vacuum, not replace it.
A "smart" counterpart to the traditional vacuum, robotic models typically can run at any time — even when you’re not home — and reset themselves to charge. They help tackle forgotten corners and clean under furniture that larger models may not be able to. “These are the best option for people on the go, people with shedding pets or those who simply like tech,” said Prouty.
However, robot vacuums tend to be slower than most other types of vacuums, so they’re not the best option if you’re looking for a quick cleanup. “If you’re manually vacuuming, it might take 20 to 30 minutes, but it can take up to 90 minutes using a robot vacuum,” said Solomon. These vacuums also require some level of tidying up beforehand since they can move around more efficiently when the floor is decluttered.
What should you look for in a vacuum?
There are several features to consider before buying a new vacuum. Below, the cleaning experts we consulted shared their guidance.
Bagged versus bagless
Both upright and canister vacuums come in bagged and bagless models—the difference lies in where the dirt goes as it gets sucked up.
“Bagged vacuums generally do a better job of keeping dust and debris contained when you're emptying them, but the bags are a one-time-use product so you'll need to purchase new ones every once in a while,” said Prouty. Because bagged vacuums tend to keep these particles contained, Prouty added that they’re typically a better choice for people with severe allergies.
Bagless vacuums, on the other hand, can be great for those who don't want to have to worry about buying and changing out bags—these models employ a container, called a dustbin, that collects the dirt and debris. “You'll want to be sure the size of the dustbin is big enough to accommodate your areas — having a small dustbin means you'll need to empty it out frequently, which makes vacuuming your home take a lot longer,” Prouty said. He recommends looking for a dustbin with minimum .25 gallon capacity for an upright bagless option, or .15 gallon capacity for a stick vacuum.
“Vacuum size is a major factor if you live in a small space with limited storage,” Solomon noted. She added that weight can also be an important consideration if you have mobility issues, which can sometimes make lugging around a canister or upright vacuum more difficult. In these cases, our experts suggested looking into a vacuum that’s lightweight and tall enough that you don't have to stoop or bend over too much when using it.
If you have different types of flooring in your home, you'll want to look for a vacuum that can accommodate them all. And keep in mind that different types of carpets also require different settings. “Choosing the right floor setting is important to make sure you don't ruin or scratch the surface,” Dulude said.
The lowest setting on most vacuums works well for bare floors and thin carpets, whereas the highest setting is optimal for thicker carpets and area rugs, Solomon said. A thick high pile rug, for example, needs a higher setting, while bare wood floors need a low setting and no automatic roll brush, Dulude noted.
Different vacuum models come with a range of accessories to fit your specific cleaning needs, especially when it comes to hard floors, upholstery and crevices. The most common attachments are the brush tool, which comes in handy when cleaning upholstery or curtains, and the crevice tool, which is “excellent at cleaning all the nooks and crannies of your home, particularly in between cushions and in between cabinets and vents,” according to Solomon.
Some vacuums may also include pet-friendly attachments, including an upholstery cleaner that can collect pet hair on furniture, and a detachable beater brush (like the rotating brush under the vacuum) that commonly gets clogged when met with large amounts of pet hair, Solomon said.
The “dirtiest” place in your home may be the invisible air you breathe, explained environmental consultant and building materials specialist Marilee Nelson, co-founder of Branch Basics. “Particles in the air can not only be a vehicle for the spread of airborne disease and the major cause of many allergic and respiratory reactions, but also a carrier for harmful chemicals called SVOCs, which ride on dust," she said, adding that dust may expose us to bacteria, viruses, mold, pollens, harmful chemicals and more.
That’s why investing in a vacuum with a good HEPA filter is worthwhile: It can not only minimize the dirt on your floors, but also impact the air you breathe. Similar to air purifiers, vacuums with at least one High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filter can remove 99.7% of fine dust and airborne particles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. They’re sealed and airtight, so all air sucked through the machine passes through the filter and no dust escapes back out at any point, even when emptying it.
"Cleaning regularly with a certified sealed HEPA vacuum dramatically improves air quality by reducing the amount of airborne allergens, dust and harmful chemicals in your home," Nelson said. You can use a HEPA vacuum to address dust on virtually any surface, including stuffed animals, books, furniture, walls, ceilings, lampshades and cars, she added.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Caroline Solomon is a home organizing and lifestyle expert based in New York City.
- Kadi Dulude is the owner of domestic referral agency Wizard of Homes, which outsources housekeeping jobs to independent domestic workers.
- Carl Prouty is a tech expert and media specialist at Abt Electronics.
- Marilee Nelson is a board-certified nutritionist and co-founder of eco-friendly cleaning brand Branch Basics.