A Guide to the Best Vacuum Models and Features for Your Home
Every home is different—some have plush carpets and young children, others have hardwood floors that need to be protected from pets scurrying around. While finding the best vacuum to keep your floor (and air) clean might seem like an easy idea, it's sometimes more complicated than that. The sheer variety of modern vacuums, specialized attachments, and unique shapes make it tough to decide which one's best suited for your space.
Our buying guide aims to demystify the options and help you find the vacuum that's best for your home and your cleaning needs, from deep cleans to everyday messes.
Best used for one-off cleanings, hand vacuums make it easier to access and clean places in your home (or outside it, such as the interior of your car) than it would be with larger, corded models.
• Tapered nozzle: helps access crevices and nooks, such as floor corners and between couch cushions
• Extra-petite body: makes it a cinch to steer and control
• Cordless design: puts no restrictions on where it can go
• Small capacity: makes it best suited for infrequent cleanups
A step up from a hand vac, stick vacuums combine slightly bigger capacity with a design that's still lightweight and easy to maneuver and store.
• Long, thin body: lightweight, easy to maneuver, and comfortable to use
• Small to medium capacity: ideal for light cleaning
• Slim profile: makes it easy to store in a spare closet
A robot vacuum cleaner scoots around your floors all on its own, using guidance systems to automatically do the job for you. While not an ideal choice for a deep clean, it's great for pre-cleanings ahead of bigger jobs.
• Automatic cleaning: lets you relax while it works; can also be scheduled to clean when you're not around
• Smart guidance: picks up dirt and crumbs as it steers itself around furniture and stairs
• Works on multiple surfaces: cleans both carpets and hard floors, but is most efficient on hard surfaces, which tend to trap less dirt
• Small capacity: may require more frequent emptying out
Routine, Big-Space Cleanups
A versatile cleaning tool, the upright vacuum makes it easy to clean multiple rooms or surfaces. Many include handy attachments, such as long arms, dirt-trapping brush-bristle ends, making an upright model arguably the best vacuum for pet hair. There are also plenty of specialized models available, such as those with different filters and suction levels.
• Large capacity: provides ample room to collect dust, hair, and dirt
• Sturdy design: usually lasts for the long-term, with some maintenance, such as replacing bags (or go bagless!)
• Storage-friendly: Most models can stand upright in a closet, making storage simple.
Usually wheeled, these lightweight vacuums follow you around the room as you clean, and they're a little easier to haul up and down stairs than their upright counterparts. They work especially well on hard floors, such as tile, hardwood, and linoleum.
• Long arm: serves as an ideal match for special attachments, such as crevice tools, while making it easy to reach under furniture and into corners
• Low profile: takes up scant space in a closet, but the hose, arms, and attachments may require savvy corralling
• Medium to large capacity: can compete with that of an upright vacuum, but will likely require more frequent emptying
The suds a spot cleaner creates make it ideal for tackling spills and accidents on carpet.
• Strong brush: quickly lifts up spills that might leave noticeable stains, such as wine and spaghetti sauce
• Portable design: Many spot cleaners come with built-in handles and wheels, making them easy to move around while cleaning.
This vacuum is built to handle large, messy jobs. Despite its large frame, a shop vac's wheeled base makes it easy to move around rooms.
• Extra-wide hose: scoops up wood chips, pieces of plaster, and other debris—whether it's wet or dry
• Extra-large capacity: Some models can capture as much as 20 gallons of refuse before filling.
Like its larger cousin the shop vac, many car vacuums trap wet and dry particles with ease. It's specially equipped to clean out any motor vehicle, and it's easy to handle.
• Lightweight canister and cordless design: make it easy to handle and maneuver around seats
• Attachments: Nozzles and brushes frequently come with or can be attached to car vacuums to more thoroughly clean beneath seats.
Common Vacuum Features
Bag vs. Bagless
If you'd rather not see what the vacuum collects, try a model with a bag, which you simply remove, throw away, and replace. If you don't trust yourself to remember to buy extra bags, try a bagless vacuum, which lets you dump its dust trap straight into the trash.
Suction vs. Cyclone
Traditional vacuums use suction to pick up dirt (and the air surrounding it) and blow it into a canister or bag, where it's trapped for disposal. A cyclone vacuum takes the dirt-riddled air and whips it into a frenzy, separating the grime particles from the air, then shooting that clean air back out; this method results in longer-lasting suction as your vacuum fills up.
Special Vacuum Features
Its ability to trap up to 99.97% of allergens makes a HEPA filter a good choice for any home, but it's especially important for allergy sufferers. The filter keeps allergens from being spat out along with the vacuum's exhaust, so everyone's sinuses are freed from irritation.
Many vacuums include special attachments designed to trap pet hair. Some have textured brushes that sweep up pesky hairs, while others use forceful suction.
A pivoting-head vacuum, with its swivel action, can easily duck under chairs and around table legs without requiring too much pushing, shoving, or swearing under your breath.
Built-in Tool Storage
Many vacuums now contain dedicated containers built into the frame of the vacuum itself for storing brushes and other add-ons.
Once you're done cleaning, some vacuums automatically pull in the cord with the push of a button, winding it tidily and keeping it safe from tangles. This feature is nice in that it eliminates the tiresome chore of winding cords, but it also sometimes means the cord itself is a bit shorter.