When looking for a new vacuum, there are many considerations. How large and thick are your carpeted areas? How often do you plan on vacuuming? Do you have pet hair and dander?
These and many more questions were asked as we gathered this guide. What you read below will help you identify the best types and best brands of vacuums for your surfaces. There is also a brief review of the 6 top brands by type.
Along with the size and thickness of your carpets, many other details have been considered. Weight and maneuverability of machines is high on the list. Power and consistency of suction were similarly important. Next was a second tier of credentials, including cord length, battery life (if it’s a cordless), and extensions. Our third tier included the length of those extensions and bag or canister capacity. The fourth tier of factors were ease of maintenance, likelihood of clogging, and compactness when it comes to storage.
Why the Type Matters
Below is a description of the major types of household vacuums, and where they do their best work.
This most common type is best for large carpeted surfaces and hardwood floors. Some are self-propelled, making maneuvering easier. These use a roller brush to assist with suction. For our purposes, “stick vacuums” are also included in this category.
These machines are easily (though sometimes messily) emptied, reasonably lightweight, and compact. This type comes in bagged or bagless configurations. It relies solely on suction, and is best when used with an extension for hard-to-reach areas. You pull this type, instead of pushing it in front of you.
These are also called drum or shop vacs. These heavy duty vacuums will pick up nearly anything, wet or dry (hence the name). They are best used on wet surfaces for leaks, floods, and sewage problems. A lot of bending and reaching is involved.
These are among the most powerful suction-wise. They separate dust particles and deposit them into bins. They are bagless and come in both corded and cordless models. They are among the most expensive vacuums. They generally work on most surfaces.
These lightweight, low-capacity vacuums have the advantage of being able to work in very small spaces (such as drawers and cabinets). They come in either corded or cordless versions.
Once a novelty item, these machines mean you do little more than turn them on and empty them (often). They are convenient but usually more expensive than the other types. They work on carpets and hard floors that are not angled or uneven.
Aside from price, the type of vacuum should be your top consideration. Remember to think about the surfaces in your home that need to be cleaned most often. Also, always be sure to test the vacuum in the store before buying!
The Top Seven Vacuum Cleaners (by Type)
Each company offers something a little different in their cleaners. The brief reviews below represent what we consider the best of each type. Positives are emphasized, but negatives are included where necessary.
Upright: Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501
At 16 pounds, the Shark is on the heavy end of lightweight uprights. It has excellent suction for dirt-ingrained carpets and hard floors. With its narrow neck (above the brush assembly), it is easy to maneuver. The many extensions that come with it make it incredibly versatile. It is also one of the most reasonably riced, quality uprights around.
Canister: Dyson Cinetic
This variation on the canister vacuum is pricey but well worth it for those who do heavy cleaning. The large wheels, tilted configuration, and rotating base make it easier to maneuver than most machines of this type. The suction (typical of Dyson) is extremely strong and consistent. It is bagless. The only major drawback is it’s loudness (up to 91 dB).
Wet/Dry: Ridgid WD1450
With a large capacity barrel set on rotating casters, the Ridgid is as maneuverable as this vacuum type gets. A fine particle filter extends the motor life, which is often a problem with similar vacuums. Other things come standard: a drain port, a reverse switch to make this vacuum a blower, and durable extensions to compliment the incredible suction. The only drawback: the motor cannot be removed for cleaning an maintenance.
Cyclonic: Bissell 9595A
With multi-layered filtration, an easy-empty container, and a TurboBrush extension with air-powered rotation, this vacuum (also an upright) narrowly outpaces comparable models by Dyson and SharkNinja. At just over 15 pounds, it is relatively light. Suction is great and consistent. The only drawback is reduced maneuverability.
Hand-held: Hoover Platinum LiNX
This is a powerful little machine with a no-nonsense rolling brush attachment. It is cordless, with a three-hour charge time and 20 minutes of full-power use. It is bagless and has great suction for a hand-held. The only drawback: it is better on carpets than hardwood.
Robotic: Neato Botvac Connected
This smart phone-controlled machine is among the higher-priced and highest-quality robotic vacuums. Still, it is roughly $100 than most iRobot brands. It is also has more of a coverage area, a stronger motor, and features a spot-cleaning button. This robot will do the majority of your vacuuming for you.