Tue. Jul 16th, 2019

Best For The House

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The Best Vacuum Cleaners

12 min read

We’ve done hundreds of hours of research and testing on vacuum cleaners over the past five years, searching for the best ones to fit all kinds of living situations and lifestyles. This guide will help you figure out the right kind of vacuum to suit your home, whether it’s a small apartment or a big Victorian, covered with shag carpets or left with bare wood floors, or filled with kids and pets.

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Our pick

Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352

An affordable, effective, reliable vacuum

This bagless upright has the flexibility and cleaning chops to make most people in most homes totally happy. It should last about five years, which is solid for the price. $140 from Amazon $140 from Bed Bath & Beyond   Pros:Con:Great at grabbing most debris (including pet hair) from most kinds of floorsA plug-in vacuum—not as convenient as a cordlessFive-year warranty that Shark actually honorsSwiveling joint makes it easy to steer

Find the right vacuum for your needs

  • Affordable, effective, comfortable, reliable: Best bagless upright vacuum
  • Deepest cleaning, longest lasting: Best canister vacuum
  • Cordless convenience, strong-enough cleaning: Best cordless vacuum
  • A low-effort robot for keeping tidy: Best robot vacuum
  • A strong, versatile handheld vacuum: Best handheld vacuum
  • For pets: Best vacuum for pet hair
  • For carpets: Best vacuum for long carpets
  • For allergies or asthma: Best vacuum for allergies
  • For bare floors: Best vacuum for hardwood floors
  • For your car: Best car vacuum cleaner
  • More about appliances from our editors

Affordable, effective, comfortable, reliable: Best bagless upright vacuum

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

If you want a good vacuum cleaner—nothing fancy—and you don’t mind replacing it in five years, we recommend a bagless, plug-in upright vacuum. (We have a couple of recommendations in our guide to the best upright and canister vacuums.) A bagless upright vacuum that costs between $150 and $200 is a great fit for most American (and Canadian) homes, with any number of floors, any number of pets, and almost any kind of wood, tile, or carpeting.

The best bagless uprights are about 80 percent as effective as the very strongest plug-in vacuums, for about 40 percent of the price. They’ll last much longer than the total cheapo models. Compared with cordless vacuums, they cost half as much, clean better, and can last at least twice as long (about five to seven years). They tend to be better designed than similarly priced canister vacuums, and are much more convenient than bagged vacuums, which also have recurring costs and don’t offer much upside at this price.

Buy a bagless upright vacuum if:

  • You want quality on a budget: The good ones are reasonably priced, have no recurring costs, and should last for at least five years.

Buy another type of vacuum if:

  • You have a small home with a cozy floor plan: A cordless vacuum will almost definitely be easier to use in a layout like this—no cords to get caught on corners.
  • You’ll skip cleaning because you need to unravel the cord: Cordless vacuums and robot vacuums are a whole lot more convenient to use. No shame!

Our pick

Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352

An affordable, effective, reliable vacuum

This bagless upright has the flexibility and cleaning chops to make most people in most homes totally happy. It should last about five years, which is solid for the price. $140 from Amazon $140 from Bed Bath & Beyond

See our complete coverage and learn more in our full review

  •   The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums After our look at more than 525 vacuums over hundreds of hours, our favorite vacuum for most people is still the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352.

Deepest cleaning, longest lasting: Best canister vacuum

If you like your floors to stay very clean, and you’re willing to pay big bucks for a vacuum that will last a decade or more, get a high-end canister vacuum. You won’t regret making the investment.

They’re excellent cleaners thanks to their powerful motors, tightly sealed ductwork, and cleverly engineered cleaning heads that can rise or fall depending on the length of the carpet. You can expect them to last for at least a decade, usually longer, with minimal maintenance apart from replacing the bags and filters and occasionally clearing tangles and clogs. And because they’re bagged vacuums with great filtration, they’re particularly appropriate for people in households where clean air is necessary to mitigate allergies and asthma.

Buy a high-end canister vacuum if:

  • You want something that will last for a long time: They don’t make most stuff like they used to, but great vacuums are an exception to that rule.
  • You want the very best performance: The very best vacuums are the ones that suck the most dust out of all kinds of carpets, and that’s what these are designed to do.
  • You have allergies or asthma: Their bags and tightly sealed airways are excellent at removing allergens and irritants from your home. For bonus points, add a HEPA filter.

Buy another type of vacuum if:

  • You don’t like the design: Some people just can’t get comfortable dragging a little pod behind them while they clean—especially with a cord attached to it.
  • You don’t want the responsibility: You need to put in some work—remembering to buy bags and filters, cleaning tangles and clearing clogs, taking it to the shop every few years for maintenance—to get your money’s worth.
  • You have lots of hairy pets: Fur fills up the bags quickly. Go bagless if you’re worried about the cost of bags getting out of control.

Our pick

Miele Compact C2 Electro+

Expensive, but the absolute best

One option out of many excellent models in the lineup, this nimble, near-invincible canister vac is just about the best you can get in cleaning, filtration, and quiet operation. $700 from Bed Bath & Beyond $700 from Amazon Illustration: Sarah MacReading

Cordless convenience, strong-enough cleaning: Best cordless vacuum

A cordless vacuum can be a life-changer if you live in an apartment or smaller house with a cramped floor plan. That’s because there’s no cord to get caught on any corners, and they tend to be lighter and easier to steer than most plug-in vacuums.

But even if you live in a bigger home, a cordless vacuum can be a fine choice. It’s easier to keep your floors clean when you don’t have to unravel a cord and find an outlet every time you see some crumbs or cat hair. Our favorite models have enough battery life to clean most homes in a single pass if you need to, but most people who own cordless vacuums don’t clean in big, whole-house sessions—they just tidy up as needed because it’s relatively effortless to grab the vacuum and go.

Most cordless vacuums also double as handheld vacuums now, so you can buy one vacuum to clean both your floors and your car.

Buy a cordless vacuum if:

  • You live in a small apartment or house: It’s much easier to clean a cramped floor plan when there’s no cord getting caught.
  • You don’t want to deal with a cord: It takes just a few seconds to grab your cordless vacuum and start cleaning—no obstacles, no excuses!

Buy another type of vacuum if:

  • You need great cleaning power: Even the strongest cordless vacuums can’t pick up fine, dusty debris (including most allergens) anywhere near as well as an affordable plug-in vacuum.
  • You want the most value for your money: Good cordless vacuums cost twice as much and last half as long as a good bagless, plug-in upright.

Our pick

Dyson V7 Motorhead

The best cordless vacuum for most people

Strong enough to replace a good plug-in vacuum for most carpet cleaning, with enough battery life for most apartments and some small houses. $300 from Amazon $250 from Walmart

Or, if you’re interested in a cordless stick vacuum as a backup for quickly cleaning up small messes, get whatever is cheap.

Budget pick

Hoover BH50020PC Linx Signature Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner

Good performance, great price

For quick pickups or good-enough apartment cleaning, the Hoover Linx is the sturdiest cordless vac for the money. $125* from Amazon $125 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $140.

See our complete coverage and learn more in our full review

  •   The Best Cordless Stick Vacuum We’ve tested a couple dozen cordless vacuums over the past few years, and the Dyson V7 Motorhead is easily the best one for most people.

A low-effort robot for keeping tidy: Best robot vacuum

If you’re interested in a robot vacuum, and willing to pay for it, then hell yeah, get one. They aren’t perfect (as we explain in our guide to the best robot vacuums), but they will help to keep floors tidy with very little effort and oversight on your part.

People who have pets stand to gain the most from robot vacuums. Nothing else will keep up with hair, kibble, and litter as reliably as a machine that runs automatically and never gets lazy. Furry housemates or not, most people are surprised at how much junk these things collect. Some great models aren’t even that expensive compared with human-driven vacuums. And all you really have to do is hit start (or set a schedule), occasionally rescue the bot when it gets stuck somewhere, and empty the dust bin. You’ll need to change the filters and detangle the moving parts from time to time, but that’s the same with any kind of vacuum.

Robots are nowhere near as strong as any of the human-driven vacuums we recommend. They also can’t clean carpets with long fibers, or anything that’s not the floor (no stairs, no car, no couches). If your pet has loose bowels, the bot might smear its poop everywhere. And some people end up disappointed in their bots because they expect them to act smarter. Our advice is to try not to watch these things work.

Our pick

Eufy RoboVac 11S

A quiet, nimble, affordable robot

The easiest robot to own. It runs quieter and fits under more furniture than any other robot vac, and thanks to its nimble, persistent nav system, it will rarely need your attention. Great for keeping floors tidy in most homes. $224 from Amazon $230 from Walmart

May be out of stock

Upgrade pick

iRobot Roomba 960

Bigger homes, better cleaning

The Roomba 960 has the best of what bots can offer: better carpet cleaning, smarter navigation for larger spaces, and smartphone control. $550 from Walmart $550 from Amazon  

iRobot Roomba i7+

The best robot vac money can buy

A self-emptying dustbin and the ability to clean specific rooms on command make this the easiest, most satisfying Roomba to use—if you’re willing to pay for it. $1,100* from Walmart $1,094 from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,110.

See our complete coverage and learn more in our full review

  •   The Best Robot Vacuums After testing more than 20 popular robot vacuums available in 2019, we still think the quiet, nimble Eufy RoboVac 11S is the first one you should consider.

A strong, versatile handheld vacuum: Best handheld vacuum

Photo: Michelle McSwain

If you don’t opt for a cordless vacuum, it’s handy to have a little handheld vacuum for small messes. As we cover in our guide to the best handheld vacuum, a cheapish one is fine for occasionally tidying up. They can suck up small spills on floors and countertops easily.

Our pick

Black+Decker Max Lithium Dustbuster Hand Vacuum CHV1410L

A little handheld vac for quick cleanups

This has more suction and a more versatile intake than most low-cost, small-job handhelds. $54* from Amazon $55 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $55.

See our complete coverage and learn more in our full review

  •   The Best Handheld Vacuum After four years, we still think the Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum BDH2020FL is best handheld vacuum for your car or home.

For pets: Best vacuum for pet hair

Any vacuum can clean up pet hair—pet owners don’t need to buy a special model to do the job well. Anytime you see “animal” or “pet” in the name of a vacuum, it means only that the model comes with a tool that makes it easier to clean pet hair off upholstery.

One exception to consider: If you have a lot of hairy pets, like four golden retrievers or a half-dozen furry cats, you might want to avoid bagged vacuums entirely. Pet hair fills bags quickly, and the cost of replacing them so frequently can add up.

Although it’s true that any vacuum can clean up your pet’s hair, none can get the job done better than a robot vacuum. If you want to read more on why, check our post on the best vacuum for cleaning up pet hair.

Our pick

Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352

A totally decent vacuum for pet owners

Any decent vacuum can clean up pet hair, so don’t fret about this. Our favorite vacuum is good whether you have pets or don’t. $140 from Amazon $140 from Bed Bath & Beyond  

Eufy RoboVac 11S

A quiet, nimble, affordable robot

The easiest robot to own. It runs quieter and fits under more furniture than any other robot vac, and thanks to its nimble, persistent nav system, it will rarely need your attention. Great for keeping floors tidy in most homes. $224 from Amazon $230 from Walmart

May be out of stock

See our complete coverage and learn more in our full review

  •   What’s the Best Vacuum for Pet Hair? Pets shed constantly, so the best vacuum for pet hair is one that can work constantly: a robot vacuum. We recommend the Eufy RoboVac 11S.

For carpets: Best vacuum for long carpets

If you have long, thick carpets, get a vacuum with a manual height-adjustment feature. High-pile carpets (like shag, frieze, saxony, cable, or long plush) pose a problem for some vacuums: The long fibers can tangle around the brush roller and/or block the intake, essentially choking the vacuum.

Should you get a special vacuum to accommodate this kind of flooring? That’s up to you. If you want to be safe, choose a vacuum that has a cleaning head with a manual height adjustment. Crank it up to the tallest setting, and it’ll have enough clearance for high-pile carpets. (You can dial it to the proper height for other surfaces as well.) Plenty of vacuums at plenty of prices have this kind of cleaning head. A cheap canister is usually the most affordable option, while high-end uprights and very high-end canisters can have an adjustable head, too.

Our pick

Miele Compact C2 Electro+

Expensive, but the absolute best

One option out of many excellent models in the lineup, this nimble, near-invincible canister vac is just about the best you can get in cleaning, filtration, and quiet operation. $700 from Bed Bath & Beyond $700 from Amazon

See our complete coverage and learn more in our full review

  •   What’s the Best Vacuum for Carpets? The Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 is our top pick for most carpets. If you have shag rugs, though, consider the Miele C2 Electro+, which is designed for them.

For allergies or asthma: Best vacuum for allergies

If you have asthma or severe allergies, and indoor air quality is crucial to your health, a high-quality bagged vacuum is a safe bet. Our favorite high-end vacuums do an excellent job of sucking up allergens and irritants—and keeping them contained during disposal.

If you start digging deep on this topic … well, it’s controversial. Experts disagree on the traits a “clean-air” vacuum needs to have. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that some bagless vacuums are okay in this regard, but most boots-on-the-ground salespeople and technicians told us that they would not recommend bagless models for households where air quality was a major concern. HEPA filters are great—but they don’t mean anything if the rest of the system isn’t totally sealed with rubber gaskets. As such, HEPA-filter claims can be part of slippery marketing schemes. And most people without allergies will do fine without HEPA filters. Basically, you’ll get a slightly different answer about air quality depending on who you ask, but they’ll all pretty much agree that a bagged, sealed-system vacuum gets the job done for sure.

Our pick

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