What's the best vacuum? Homeowners across the country (and around the world!) obsess over this question, since having clean, dust-free floors is a high priority. Yet here's a little-known secret: There is no best. At least not for everyone.
“As our testers will tell you, there is no perfect [vacuum],” reveals Mary H.J. Farrell, senior editor for Consumer Reports. The reason: The product that will work best for you will “depend on the type of floor you have—rugs, hard surfaces, or mixed—and the style of your house,” Farrell explains. It will also depend on what you need it to suck up—certain vacuums excel at dog hair, while others are pros at handling outdoor stuff, like dirt from your garden. Meanwhile, you should also factor in your own personal preferences. How much do you want to spend, and are you willing to haul around a huge behemoth, or do you prefer a little robotic vacuum that roams around on its own?
So if you're in the market for a vacuum, here's a guide to the different types, as well as the pros and cons of each, so you can pick a dust buster that's right for you.
When you picture “vacuum cleaner,” an upright style will likely be what comes to mind. These traditional floor sweepers collect dirt and pet hair either in a bag you’ll need to periodically change or a bin you can empty into the trash when it gets full.
Pros: Uprights are able to vacuum a large area at once and tend to be cheaper than other types of vacuums. They’re best if you have wall-to-wall carpeting or a lot of area rugs, says Farrell. “All the weight of the vacuum is over the head of the vacuum, which makes it better at getting the grit out,” she says.
Cons: Uprights tend to be noisy, not to mention heavy. If you have a bagless model, emptying the collected dust can be messy – especially if you have allergies.
Canister vacuums have two components: a motor and a separate hose and wand. Like uprights, they can have either a bag to contain the gunk you collect or a container you’ll need to empty.
Pros: Canisters tend to be quieter than their upright cousins. And besides hardwood floors, they’re capable of cleaning curtains, in between cushions and under furniture. Canisters are also excellent for stairs. “The weight is distributed between the canister and the head, so it's easier to vacuum,” says Farrell.
Cons: The canister’s two-part design can make it cumbersome to store. And while this type of vacuum is quite versatile, it lags behind uprights when it comes to cleaning carpets.
Just as you’d expect from the name, these cleaners have no long, annoying cord that needs to be plugged into an outlet. Instead, they run on batteries, which are often recharged at a charging station.
Pros: Cordless vacuums "make cleaning feel a little bit less of a chore,” says Liam McCabe, senior writer for gadget blog The Sweethome. In smaller homes with tight floor plans, he adds, “it can be a life-changer to not deal with a cord getting caught on corners.”
Cons: Cordless vacuums are likely to cost more than corded models, although most may not have the battery life to clean your entire house in one pass.
These gadgets can be programmed to patrol your house on their own, sensing debris and sucking it up.
Pros: When they first rolled onto the scene, robotic vacuums were arguably more cool than functional. Today, “Robotic vacuums are getting better,” Farrell says. “They're also the most fun, if you can use the word fun and vacuum in the same sentence.” Some new models can even be controlled with an app from your phone.
Cons: Although daily cleaning’s no prob for a robotic vacuum, it’ll have a harder time removing deep-down dirt.
From hatchback to back patio, this lightweight vacuum can literally go anywhere.
Pros: “Handhelds are great if you have small children who lose their Cheerios in the kitchen or in the car, and for quick cleanups,” says Farrell. They’re easy to maneuver and can reach into hard-to-reach spaces.
Cons: Don’t expect a handheld to match the power of an upright. And while a handheld can easily scoop up a few bits of cereal, it doesn’t have the capacity to tackle, say, an entire spilled box of cereal.