Choosing a vacuum cleaner

When choosing a vacuum cleaner, you should consider what it will be used for, how often it will be used, if there are pets, as well as the size of your house, whether there are multiple floors, carpet or all bare floors and if you have allergies where dust is an issue.

There are a number of vacuum types as follows:

Canister vacuum

The most common type of vacuum cleaner is the canister vacuum. The collection bin of these vacuum cleaners is also very spacious and doesn’t require you to empty it each time it is used. They are produced either with or without a bag for collection of the dirt. These vacuums have wheels under them, which means that you can drag the vacuum cleaner around without significant effort. There are many attachments including power heads for carpet and rug with agitation to better remove dirt.

There are three types of canister vacuum cleaners. All three are used with a hose, wands, floor tools and tool attachments. The difference is in the floor tools.

The first type of canister is called a straight suction vacuum cleaner. It uses a floor tool with a simple, non-revolving brush for cleaning hard floors and flat carpets. The second type of canister uses a turbo or turbine floor tool. This has a revolving brush powered by the airflow created by the canister’s suction motor. The third type of canister uses a power brush floor tool most like an upright vacuum cleaner. A separate electric motor drives the power brush’s revolving brush roll. This type of canister is often referred to as a power team.

Upright vacuum

The upright vacuum is a device that consists of the power head, dirt container, and handle all as one unit. Uprights generally have a revolving brush to provide agitation and may have a second motor to provide suction with the first operating the agitator. Upright vacuums excel at cleaning synthetic (nylon, olefin or polyester) carpeting and many also have the ability to turn off revolving brush for smooth floors. On board attachments and integrated extension hoses make an upright more versatile.

Cordless vacuum

When you think about portable vacuum cleaners, you imagine a wireless device with suitable suction. This is exactly what cordless stick vacuum cleaners have to offer. These vacuum cleaners are suitable for vacuuming the stairs as you won’t get tangled in the long wires of the machine. Moreover, the handheld vacuum cleaners are also cordless and fall in the same category.

Robotic vacuum cleaners

The advent of artificial intelligence has given us many useful robotic products. The Robot vacuum cleaner is one such machine. These devices are wireless, smart, small, and efficient. All you need is to tell it where to clean, and the robot will start vacuuming your room in no time. These modern vacuum cleaners can also be remote controlled through your smartphone. They ensure that you come back to a clean home all the time.

Central Vacuum

A central vacuum is a vacuum cleaning method that is built into the structure of a building and offers access through connections in rooms and hallways. It consists of three components: the central vacuum unit, concealed pvc piping, and power head or other floor attachments. With this system the canister is usually in a garage or basement and only a hose is carried around with a wand or wand and powerhead.


Bag v. Bag-less

Bagged vacuum cleaners have a HEPA filter that helps remove dust and pollen from the air. The HEPA filters are thoroughly tested to remove 99.97% of 0.3 micron particles or larger. The chambers of bagless vacuums are fit with HEPA filters that trap pollens and allergens and hence are suitable for people suffering from allergies and asthma. These choices are among the most hygienic vacuum cleaners on the market. The debris, dirt and all allergens are secured inside the bag during cleaning and disposal. Bagged Vacuum cleaners require less maintenance. The bags can hold about two pounds of refuse hence does not require frequent changing. When it comes to cost, the bagless types are less expensive compared to their counterpart. They feature a bagless container to trap debris which is always emptied when full and can be reused again and again for the entire lifespan of the vacuum cleaner. Also, the container is transparent so it is easy to see if the machine is properly picking up debris and can see when it is time to empty the chamber. As soon as the vacuum bag is full, the debris and dirt are disposed of and another bag fits into the machine. The fuller the bag gets, the less efficient and effective sucking dirt and dust becomes. This is due to the insufficient space inside the unit. The debris in a bagless less vacuum cleaner’s chamber is also disposed of, only that the chamber will remain intact in the machine for further clean-up activities. Like bagged cleaners, the moment the chamber starts filling up; it becomes difficult to pick up refuse since space in the cleaner will be filling up.

Canister vs Upright Vacuums

The next step is to evaluate the surfaces that you will be cleaning. Are there any special above-the-floor cleaning requirements that might require specialized attachments, such as high ceilings, elaborate light fixtures, ceiling fans, special collections, etc. If so, you need to be sure the vacuum cleaner has the reach, flexibility, and tools to do those jobs.

But the main use of the vacuum will be to clean flooring. If your home has stairs, a canister is the recommended type of vacuum cleaner. An upright is not designed to clean stairs by itself. And, even with attachments, attempting to clean stairs with an upright is awkward. It can be done, but the results are generally poor, because you can’t use an upright’s revolving brush on the stair treads, an area of high traffic.

If you don’t have stairs, and if your home is primarily synthetic fiber (nylon, olefin or polyester) wall-to-wall carpeting, an upright with smooth floor cleaning capability and the necessary attachments to clean above the floor surfaces is a good choice.

However, many homes today feature a combination of smooth floors in a variety of materials, area rugs and some wall-to-wall carpeting. In these homes (or in homes with stairs) a canister will provide the best results. Which type of canister depends upon the traffic patterns and the types of soil to clean, as well as the fiber of the carpets and rugs in the home?

Traffic and Carpet Soils

The amount of traffic and the type of carpet soils is an important factor in your choice of vacuum cleaner. Most carpet soil comes in on the shoes of people and pets that enter the home. If you have a house full of kids and pets, you will have more carpet soil being brought into the home.

Eighty percent of carpet soils are dry soils with sharp edges that, left in the carpet and walked on, act as sandpaper to abrade and bend the fibers. This results in the appearance of “dirty” carpet along major traffic patterns. In fact, it’s not dirt but the way the bent and damaged fibers absorb light instead of reflecting it. This causes carpets to “ugly out” long before they wear out. So it’s important to choose the right vacuum cleaner based on the amount of traffic and types of soil encountered, and use it regularly to reduce the possibility of damaged fibers.

If you have synthetic fiber carpeting and/or rugs and high traffic and the resulting heavier soil load, choose a vacuum cleaner with aggressive bristles on the revolving brush. Vacuum cleaners with dense, stiff bristles as well as a beater bar function (there are many designs that accomplish this) are excellent to bring these dry soils up from the carpet pile where they can be brushed from the surface of the carpet and vacuumed away.

Another dry soil that won’t abrade your fiber but is one of the most pervasive is dog and cat hair. Pet hair is best removed by using a revolving brush with stiff, densely packed brushes.

If your home has low traffic and no special soiling conditions, you can choose a less aggressive vacuum cleaner and maintain your home perfectly well. However, the general rule of thumb is to choose the most aggressive vacuum cleaner that your carpet and rug fibers can safely tolerate.

Carpet Fibers

As important as the traffic and type of soil is the type of fibers that your carpet or rugs are made with. Most carpeting today is made of synthetic fibers, primarily nylon, though olefin and polyester are also used. Synthetic fibers are very durable, and you can use the most aggressive household vacuum cleaner without fear of fiber damage.

Natural fibers, however, must be treated more gently. The most common natural fiber used in wall-to-wall carpeting is wool. Wool is very popular in Oriental and other area rugs as well.

Wool is a very durable fiber and has been used for thousands of years around the world to create rugs, but it must be vacuumed with care. A revolving brush can be used on wool, but the bristles must be flexible and forgiving, and not as densely backed on the brush roll, so as not to fuzz the yarns and prematurely wear the carpet.

While Oriental rugs are most often wool, they also can be made with silk. These rugs can vary in value from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars and more. Many are sold for everyday use and can be cleaned with a good household vacuum cleaner with the type of flexible and forgiving bristles just mentioned. You may want to consider cleaning such rugs using a carpet and rug tool, one that cleans only by suction and without a revolving brush.

Other fibers and materials used in area rugs include sisal, sea grass, mountain grass, bamboo, coir, cotton, jute, viscose, and even leather! Many of these rugs are woven and quite durable, but they still require softer bristles on the vacuum cleaner used to clean them. Specialty brushes are available for these materials, and we recommend consulting with a floor care expert for the best advice which one is best suited for your rug.

Always check the manufacturer’s recommended care instructions before purchasing a new vacuum cleaner (or using your current machine on a new rug), but here are some rules of thumb to follow:

If you have synthetic fiber carpeting and/or rugs, you can select the most aggressive vacuum cleaner, whether upright or canister. If you have wool or other natural fiber carpeting or rugs, you’ll need a power brush with flexible and forgiving bristles to properly vacuum without damaging the fibers. The option of softer, more flexible bristles is available primarily on power team canisters but there are some uprights available with less aggressive bristles.

Central Vacuum v. Portable Vacuum

Performance: Central Vacuum vs. Portable Vacuum

Although a decent upright vacuum with a HEPA filter may clean effectively, most central vacuum systems are just more powerful. That is, they are more effective in picking up dust and allergens that are not apparent to the naked eye. Central vacuum systems are guaranteed to remove allergens from the premises for those who suffer from outdoor allergies (dust, pollen, etc.) or indoor allergies (cat dander). You will be able to live a healthier lifestyle because of this. Because the motor is stationary, it may be bigger or accommodate two motors.

Ease of Use: Central Vacuums vs. Portable Vacuums

Because upright vacuums are generally rather heavy, they might be dangerous if you have back problems or other conditions that restrict you from lifting heavy objects. However, central vacuum systems are light and easy to transport because the primary component (motor) is stationary and generally installed in the basement or garage. So you just have to carry the light hose.

Installation: Central Vac vs. Portable Vacuums

Traditional vacuum cleaners may be plugged in and used immediately. In contrast, central vacuum cleaners require an intake and connecting line for every 700 square feet. On the other hand, Central vacuum systems are now so popular that you can simply contact an installation professional and have one installed in no time.

Cost of Central Vacuums vs. Cost of Portable Vacuums

You might believe that upright vacuums are more cost-effective since they start off cheaper. However, reconsider. These vacuums aren’t as durable or long-lasting as they formerly were. Market forces and manufacturing norms have altered the way these vacuums are made, so you’ll probably need to replace it in a few years. You’ll pay more upfront for a central vacuum system. Still, it’ll be a wiser investment because these systems are built to last a long time. Different central vacuum parts may be required if they wear out over time.


Central vacuums are more durable, easier to operate, less expensive in the long term, and better for the environment. Depending on the size of living space, and other considerations a portable still may be the better choice.

Other Considerations

Vacuum Cleaner Performance

You will certainly want to evaluate the performance, or cleaning ability, of the vacuum cleaners you are considering. While this requires evaluating a range of vacuum cleaner specifications, the most important are water lift (or sealed) suction and airflow.

 Watts and amps tell you how much electrical power the vacuum cleaner’s motor uses, not how much suction power the machine creates for picking up dirt and soil. For that, you need to know the vacuum’s suction. A 10-amp motor can create more suction power than a 12-amp motor if it’s designed to be more efficient.

The key ratings are airflow (the most important of all) and sealed suction (listed on some vacuum cleaner specifications as “water lift”). On canister vacuum cleaners (with or without power heads) airflow of 100 CFM or more (or water lift of 90 inches or more) is recommended.

Upright vacuum cleaners come in a wide variety of configurations, but there are two basic designs that affect airflow and water lift. The first is the “Direct Air” or “Dirty Air” design where the dirt passes through the motor prior to any filtration on route to the dust bag. Dirty air uprights are only rated in amps.

The second basic design is one that features a bypass motor where unfiltered air does not go through the motor. In uprights with this design, only filtered or completely clean room air passes through the motor in order to cool it. By-pass uprights will usually provide airflow but not water lift specifications and a high performing upright will offer 60 CFM or better.

Many uprights will not offer airflow ratings at all and will only rate the motor in amps.


An important element of cleaning ability is the capability of the vacuum cleaner to retain the soils, and especially the fine particulates, that it picks up. If a vacuum cleaner does not offer high levels of filtration, these fine particles can simply go right through the vacuum cleaner and back to the room air, where they settle as dust.

Most quality vacuum cleaners will do an adequate job of filtering the air the leaves the machine. But if anyone in your home suffers from allergies, asthma or any other health condition that is impacted by fine particles or allergens in the indoor air, a high filtration or HEPA filtration vacuum cleaner is strongly recommended.

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. A HEPA filter must remove 99.97% of all particles as small as 0.3 microns in size from the air that passes through it. This is the standard “best” filtration method for residential applications.

The phrase “as small as” is important because it designates that if all the particles were 0.3 microns in size, the filter would still have 99.97% efficiency. The term “down to 0.3 microns in size” does not refer to the same filtration performance as it may refer to a mixture of particle sizes for the stated efficiency.

You may see terms such as “Certified HEPA,” “True HEPA” or “Absolute HEPA.” These all are HEPA filters that meet the same HEPA standard. Where you need to be careful is when you see terms such as “HEPA-like” or “HEPA quality” or any other qualification that is used where you expect to see “HEPA”.

Quality and Durability

The quality of your vacuum cleaner is also important and will determine whether your vacuum cleaner will be replaced in a year or two or will last for many years and even decades.

When evaluating durability, look at the quality of the construction. Look for solid components of good quality as opposed to flimsy or brittle appearing materials. Look for a good fit and finish without rough edges. The seals should be heavy duty and components that open and close should do so with a nice solid feel.

Generally, mass-market, low-priced products are not designed for long-term use. Once you compare a mass-market vacuum cleaner to those made by companies specializing in high-quality, long-lasting machines, the differences will be obvious.

Another indication of quality and durability can also be partially determined by the length and specifics of the warranty. Look for longer warranties, especially on the motor.

Ease of Use

No matter how great a vacuum cleaner might be in terms of specifications, it must be easy for you to use. Think about what you don’t like about your current vacuum cleaner and look for a new one that eliminates those problems.

Consider whether you have any specific issues concerning weight or personal preferences concerning uprights versus canister vacuum cleaners. If there are specific reasons for buying a new vacuum cleaner, remember to be sure that your new one provides solutions to these cleaning challenges.

Regardless of your specific situation, the vacuum cleaner you choose should feel good in your hand and not be fatiguing to use. It should maneuver easily without straining to get under furniture or around corners.

Noise Level

Noise is also a significant consideration. Some vacuum cleaners can be so noisy that they’re almost unbearable to use. Many good vacuum cleaners can operate at levels that are quite comfortable and will allow you to hear the phone or doorbell ring quite easily.

The amount of noise a vacuum makes while operating is rated in decibels (dB). To give you some ideas, a conversation at home is rated at 50dB, a garbage disposal at 80 dB and a motorcycle or lawnmower at 100 dB.  Extremely quiet vacuum cleaners can operate at decibel levels in the mid-60s while cleaners in the 70-77 dB range are still relatively quiet.


The capacity of a vacuum cleaner relates to the size of the dust bag or cup. The bigger it is, the less often it needs to be changed.

If you have a large home and/or lots of traffic with kids and pets this means that you’ll have greater amounts of soil to remove. In this case, consider a full-sized vacuum cleaner. This way, you won’t have the inconvenience of constantly changing the bag or emptying the cup.


Some homes have plenty of storage space and some don’t have an inch to spare. If storage space is at a premium in your home, be sure to give some thought to where you will store your new vacuum cleaner. Will it fit in the space where you stored your last one?


All quality vacuum cleaners come with a set of accessory tools that cover most floor and above-floor vacuuming needs. But there are some jobs that need special tools and some tools that just make the job easier, and the availability of add-on accessory tools will extend the utility and, often, improve the performance of your vacuum cleaner.

The standard crevice tool works great for most needs, but it can’t reach around corners or behind appliances. The flexible crevice tool can. It’s longer than a standard crevice tool and has nozzle that gently bends to reach behind furniture and appliances and get into hard-to-reach corners.

Another popular tool is the soft-bristle dusting brush. It’s larger than a standard dusting brush and has softer bristles for gently cleaning knick-knacks, lampshades and other fragile items. There’s also a version that lets you adjust the angle of the brush, making it easier to items such as dust high shelves, window blinds and ceiling fans.

 A mini-turbobrush is a very popular accessory.  This is a small, handheld turbobrush which makes easy work of cleaning pet hair off furniture, so it’s very popular in homes with cats and dogs, But it’s an ideal tool for getting extra cleaning power for upholstered furniture and stairs and is the ideal size for cleaning car seats and car floors.