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Vacuum cleaners can be seen as a mundane everyday household appliance, but a good quality one can help keep your home free of messes, germs and particles, even if you’re short on time. “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.
In order to maintain a frequent and consistent vacuuming schedule, you’ll need to invest in an appliance that’s both durable and versatile. 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 to shop, as well as ones that have been tested and recommended by Consumer Reports’ test engineers.
Best vacuums to shop in 2022
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 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 it comes with multiple attachments, including a dusting brush, upholstery tool and crevice nozzle. It also includes the brand’s Parquet Twister, which can rotate 180 degrees, and a stainless steel wand that can reach up to 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 features Shark’s “Swivel Steering” construction, which it 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. Select editor Morgan Greenwald owns this vacuum and she loves how easy it is to switch from vacuuming her hardwood floors to her many Ruggables.
Best bagged upright vacuum: Kenmore
This bagged upright vacuum from Kenmore — a Consumer Reports favorite — is pet-friendly thanks to its air-driven turbine that spins the brush roll at a speed high enough to remove dander and stubborn pet hair, according to the brand. 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.
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 using a rotary dial for different surfaces, including curtains, rugs, carpets and hard floors. It also comes with multiple attachments, including a hand-held 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 specifically called out 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
Dulude recommended cordless vacuum models from Dyson like the V11 Torque because “they’re strong, easy to use in small spaces and more comfortable to reach corners,” she said. This model is one of the lightest vacuums on this light, 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. Dulude said she loves that the vacuum comes with various useful attachments, including a crevice tool, dusting brush and a mini-motorized tool for removing pet hair. For larger families, the similar Dyson Outsize Absolute is one of the brand’s latest cordless models that Dyson says features up to 120 minutes of run time.
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.
Best handheld vacuum: Shark
The Shark Ion W1 WV201, recommended by Consumer Reports engineers, weighs 1.4 pounds, making it the lightest vacuum on this list. 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 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, all of which depend on your different cleaning needs and preferences. To help you simplify your search, we spoke to experts about 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. Canister vacuums are typically quieter and “far easier to maneuver than upright vacuums,” Solomon said.
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 can be great for cleaning large areas since they are typically easier to maneuver than canister vacuums. "The whole vacuum moves with you, making it less cumbersome than a canister model” that requires you to move the bin around, said Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics.
Upright vacuums can 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 they tend to be heavier and they’re usually difficult to use on stairs and vertical surfaces like walls, upholstery, and curtains.
Stick vacuums are slim and lightweight, making them a good option for 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 can typically 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 — the cleaning experts we consulted shared their guidance on the many elements to look for when shopping for one.
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 dust bin, that collects the dirt and debris. “You'll want to be sure the size of the dust bin is big enough to accommodate your areas — having a small dust bin means you'll need to empty it out frequently, which makes vacuuming your home take a lot longer,” Prouty said.
“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’re older or have an injury like a bad back, 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, cushions, and 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 upholstery cleaners that can collect pet hair on furniture and a detachable beater brush (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 where investing in a vacuum with a good HEPA filter can come in handy: 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 air-tight, 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.