Buying Guide to Vacuum Cleaners


Buying Guide to Vacuum Cleaners

Life gets pretty messy, and vacuum cleaners can really help you clean up everything from rugs to upholstery. You'll want to find one that combines power with maneuverability.

Eureka vacuum

While a single good vacuum can be used for pet hair on the sofa and ground-in dirt in your rug, you may actually want a few different vacuums in your cleaning arsenal. Consider what you'll be using your vacuum for most to help you narrow down the field.

I'll use it when/for The best vacuum is
Vacuuming carpet, large area rugs and bare floors An upright vacuum features all-in-one styling, with a cleaning head attached to a bag or canister as a single piece. The brush roller and strong suction make it easy to clean the toughest dirt out of your rugs and upholstery.
Vacuum size and weight matters A canister vacuum is a good choice when vacuum weight and size is a concern. Like an upright, a canister is good for carpet and rugs, and may be a preferred choice on stairs. It has a main container that includes the motor and filters, and a suction hose with a vacuum head that cleans up the dirt. It's easy to maneuver the hose independent of the canister, and it's often lighter than uprights, making it a good choice if your strength and mobility are issues-or you're often carting the vacuum up and down stairs.
Smaller messes A stick vacuum or handheld vacuum is perfect for smaller spaces and smaller messes. They're lightweight and extremely easy to maneuver, but cordless versions have a limited run-time compared to a standard upright or canister vacuum.
Cleaning when you're not around A robotic vacuum moves around independently, using sensors to avoid obstacles, and sweeps and cleans floors and carpets with minimal intervention on your part. Ideal for regular maintenance cleaning in between occasional deep cleaning with an upright or canister.

There's more to a good vacuum than strong suction. While a basic model will get the job done, you may want to consider some of these features to make cleaning even easier.

Feature Why You May Want It
Brush on/off You'll want to turn the brush off when you're vacuuming bare floors, to avoid scratching your floors and sending the dust and dirt flying away from the vacuum.
Bagless Instead of special vacuum bags, these vacuums collect dirt and dust in a sealed container, which can easily be dumped out when it's full. It helps you avoid the added expense of replacing your vacuum bags.
HEPA filter A High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter may help if you have allergies-it can help trap up to 99.7% of the smallest particles of common allergens, including pet dander and dust mites.
Self-propelled motor Self-propelled motors help give your vacuum a life of its own-and make it easier for you to maneuver it.
Corded vs. cordless A large area, with limited electrical outlets will warrant either a vacuum with a longer cord or one that is cordless and rechargeable.
Additional accessories Most vacuums come with specialized attachments that suit a number of purposes, including a crevice tool that gets into tight spots, and an upholstery tool to pull pet hair off of your favorite chair.

When it comes to vacuums, size definitely matters. Here's what to consider when you're choosing your vacuum.

  • Size of the vacuum. A larger vacuum may be harder to maneuver and carry up and down stairs. Look at the size of the vacuum head as well-a tall head may make it difficult to vacuum under furniture.
  • Weight of the vacuum. Vacuums can weigh anywhere from 9 pounds to nearly 25-and a heavier vacuum may be much more difficult to lug upstairs or push and pull over your carpeting (though a self-propelled motor can help with that part).
  • Length of the cord and the hose. A longer cord can make it easier to clean a whole floor of your house, without having to unplug and replug the vacuum. And a nice, long telescoping vacuum hose can help you reach the cobwebs under the bed, or up in the farthest reaches of your ceiling, without using a stepstool.

Vacuum cleaners aren't one size fits all-and in fact, you may want both a heavy duty model for your general cleaning and a smaller, more lightweight vacuum to handle quick spills or touchups in the kitchen (or to handle the lighter duty upstairs). Here's more information to help you pick the right choice for you.

Vacuum Lingo

You'll hear lots of buzzwords bandied about-here's your guide to what they all mean.

Manufacturers help indicate the power and cleaning capability of their vacuum -- listed as amperage, which is the amount of power it uses to create suction. The amperage measures the electrical current the motor requires to perform.
Cyclonic Air Flow
This advancement in vacuum design helps keep the dirt and debris you've already vacuumed up from staying in the suction path, avoiding blockages that can keep the vacuum from working properly.
Clean Air System
All that dirt and dust around a vacuum could eventually cause damage to the motor. But a vacuum equipped with a clean air system directs dirt and debris to bypass the fan or the motor, helping to extend the life of the vacuum and reducing the chance of a breakdown. It also increases suction power, especially when using attachments.
All vacuums must vent air back into the room. Filter systems help remove the smallest particles as you vacuum and keep them from being sent back into the air. Most higher-quality vacuums today use a filter system to help cleanse your home of allergens. Filters are classified by the smallest particle they can remove and how efficient they are at doing so. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters will capture particles down to .3 microns. Particles around this size give the respiratory system the most trouble (for example, pet dander, pollen, dust and dust mites). HEPA filters are 99.97% efficient - in other words, only 3 out of every 10,000 particles will pass through.

Vacuum Attachments

Most vacuums come with an array of attachments to help you clean everything in your home. Here are the ones that are most likely to come with your vacuum.

Attachment What It Does
Crevice Tool This long, angled attachment cleans hard-to-reach, detailed places. You'll use it along corners, molding and radiators, or to get under cushions on sofas and chairs.
Dusting Brush You'll use this oblong bristled brush for dusting hard surfaces.
Upholstery Tool This bristled brush cleans furniture, curtains, and other soft surfaces.
Turbo/Pet Brush Try this high-powered, bristled brush for easy removal of pet hair from furniture. This brush can also be used on stairs.

You'll need to do minimal exterior care for your vacuum, including wiping the exterior with a damp cloth and cleaning out strings and hairs that catch in the brush.

When using the vacuum, make sure you use the appropriate setting for what you're vacuuming-most allow you to set the brush for anything from bare wood floors (which can be damaged by a moving brush) to a thick shag rug, which requires some heavy-duty suction to clean effectively.

Whether you use a bagless or bagged vacuum, you'll need to keep an eye on the dirt and dust levels to keep your vacuum working optimally. When a bagged vacuum is full, you'll simply switch out the bag for a new one (some models won't even work if the bag is full). With a bagless vacuum, the dirt and dust are collected in a reusable cup or canister. You'll need to be cautious when you're cleaning out the canister, to ensure that the dust and dirt doesn't spill.

You may also opt for more than one type of vacuum-a good-quality canister or upright to do the deep cleaning, a small stick vacuum for quick pick-ups, or a robotic vacuum for maintenance.