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How to choose the right style vacuum cleaner for your home

Vacuuming the floors in your home used to mean pushing a bulky upright vacuum cleaner or pulling a heavy canister model around the house. Today you can choose from robot vacuums cleaners, cordless or corded stick vacuums, or newer-model canisters and powerful uprights with designs that make it easy to move from room to room and to reach awkward spaces. In addition to personal preference, if that’s even a thing with house cleaning, when you shop for a new vacuum cleaner you’ll want to consider your home’s flooring, uses other than floors, machine size and weight, pet-friendliness, air filtration, and definitely price.

Below we discuss the advantages and limitations and best uses for each type of vacuum cleaner. We also cover air quality and the major brands and models for each style. You might decide your best bet is to buy two machines, such as a robot vacuum for routine cleaning and a lightweight cordless stick model for special-purpose jobs such as removing spider webs from ceiling corners.

Robot vacuums

iRobot

Robotic vacuum cleaners are extremely popular as prices have come down, and as more people realize how well they work. Robot vacs are best for hard floors and low pile carpets – medium to high-pile carpeting and shag rugs aren’t suitable. You can’t use robot vacuums to clean furniture or any surfaces other than floors, so you’ll need something else to vacuum stairs, for example. Most robot vacuums weigh between five and eight pounds and measure 11 to 13 inches in diameter and 2.5-to-3.5 inches high — low height helps them clean under furniture and beds.

Time-saving convenience is the robot vacuum’s most significant benefit, especially if you set up daily or weekly schedules for the machine to clean your floors automatically. Robot vacuums have a remote control, a mobile app, or both to start or stop them, change cleaning modes, or return to their docking charging stations. With a mobile app, you can check a robot vac’s status and manage it remotely.  Robot vacuums typically run for 60-to-150 minutes per battery charge. When their power runs low, robot vacuums return to a docking station on the floor where they recharge automatically.

In addition to internal dust bins that collect dirt, dust, and debris, robot vacuums have one or more internal filters to clean the air. Some advanced models have HEPA-level filtering to trap 99.99% of particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Consider these popular robot vacuum brands and models:

  • iRobot Roomba
  • Ecovacs Deebot
  • Eufy Robovac
  • Roborock
  • Shark
  • Neato Botvacs.

Cordless stick vacuums

Dyson

Cordless stick vacuums are the most convenient and versatile vacuums you can own, although the lightest and least expensive models fall short cleaning carpets and rugs. Realistically, there are two cordless stick sub-categories: Inexpensive, relatively low-power models such as the Eureka 95B and larger, more powerful, and noticeably more expensive models exemplified by Dyson with its V6 to V12 range of powerful machines. One of the latest models, the Dyson V11 Outsize Cordless Stick Vacuum, is powerful enough to clean all but the thickest carpeting.

Lightweight cordless stick vacs are perfect for quick cleaning jobs. They weigh just a few pounds, and you don’t have to find an open outlet for a power cord, so you can take them from room to room as quickly as you can walk. If you live in a small apartment with hard floors, you find a low-priced cordless stick vac, such as the Eureka 95B, is sufficient. Many cordless stick models transform quickly to handheld vacuums, which is much more convenient for cleaning furniture or cars or other areas where an upright’s handle would be awkward. Some of the best brands for lighter weight cordless stick vacuums include Eureka, Bissell, Hoover, and Shark

Dyson’s cordless stick vacuums changed the paradigm with powerful suction motors, long-running batteries, and a full range of accessories. Even Dyson’s heaviest models weigh less than eight pounds, so lifting them to clean walls, drapes, and ceiling corners is still reasonable. The Dyson models have different suction power modes and large dust bins with convenient and hygienic emptying. Some models also have whole machine air filtration to capture the smallest particles. Dyson is the best-known brand for powerful cordless stick vacs, although Roborock recently debuted the Roborock H6 Cordless Stick Vaccum that competes with Dyson models for power and versatility.

Consider these cordless stick vacuums:

  • Dyson
  • Eureka
  • Roborock
  • Bissell
  • Hoover
  • Shark

Corded stick vacuums

Bissell

Corded stick vacuums trade off a bit of the convenience for more power. You don’t have the same freedom to move about with a corded model as with cordless machines, but manufacturers don’t have to be as concerned about battery life with corded vacuums. Because corded stick vacuums don’t carry dense batteries, they are very light, and some models transform into the handheld mode as quickly as their cordless counterparts. Because of the corded stick models’ extra power, it’s possible to spend less than $100 for a lightweight vacuum cleaner that can suffice as the only machine for a small home, carrying thick carpets.

Consider these corded stick vacuum cleaners:

  • Shark
  • Eureka
  • Bissell
  • Dyson
  • Hoover
  • Dirt Devil

Upright vacuums

Shark

Current upright vacuums from leading manufacturers including Miele, Dyson, Kenmore, Eureka, Oreck, Hoover, and Shark look nothing like the decades-old models still in use in many American homes. Noise, bulkiness, and awkward movement around the house were the biggest complaints about older uprights. Newer models use lighter materials, have more sound insulation, and utilize clever design features to make it easier to push the vacuum cleaners around corners and swivel to reach between, behind, and under furniture. Dyson’s upright vacuums often use a ball-style design between the handle and the motorized drive head that aids movement, for example.

Upright vacuums have the most powerful suction, which makes them the choice for homes with thick-pile or shag carpeting. Larger uprights also often have multiple air filters to keep the air clean. You won’t want to hold up an upright vacuum to clean curtains or walls, but most models include an extension hose or wand with a variety of accessories for reaching and cleaning a wide range of surfaces and areas. Self-winding power cords and easy to empty dirt cups are common to many newer powerful upright vacuums.

Consider these upright vacuum cleaners:

  • Dyson
  • Shark
  • Hoover
  • Miele
  • Kenmore
  • Oreck

Canister vacuums

Eureka

Canister vacuums can be as powerful or close enough to upright models, and by design, canisters are excellent at cleaning a wide variety of surfaces, from floors to upholstery, blinds, walls, and reaching way under large furniture pieces. Canister models aren’t as heavy as uprights to lift or move because the weight is divided among the power wand, the hose, and the canister itself. Dragging older canister vacuums was often a bad idea because they’d bang into walls and furniture, so the safest practice was to lift and carry. Newer models have low friction wheels, connections that flex, and lighter overall weight to make it easier to move the vacuum with a slight tug. Carrying an upright vacuum up and down to clean stairs is awkward at best, but canister vacuums excel at the task. Canisters are generally quieter than upright vacuums, and most have easy-to-empty dirt containers and good to excellent air filtering.

Consider these canister vacuum cleaners:

  • Dyson
  • Miele
  • Kenmore
  • Bissell
  • Eureka
  • Oreck
  • Hoover

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