All vacuum cleaners share at least one thing in common: they use suction to remove debris. After that, there are almost as many differences between vacuum cleaners as there are models to compare. With prices ranging from under $100 to over $1,000, how do you choose the best vacuum cleaner for your money? Our Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide will help you find your way through the maze.
Vacuum Cleaners: The Basics
All vacuum cleaners perform three basic functions:
- They remove debris using suction.
- They store debris for later removal.
- They filter air before expelling it.
The quality of a vacuum cleaner depends on its ability to do these things efficiently.
When used on a hard surface, the vacuum’s job is a relatively easy one, but carpets are another matter. In order to clean deeply, more is needed. The two things to look for in a vacuum if you want to get greater cleaning power are power as measured in watts and efficiency as measured by a vacuum’s air flow capacity.
Both bag and bagless style vacuums store dust and dirt adequately, so really your preference should be your main concern. Do you prefer using a disposable bag or would you rather use a more environmentally friendly and somewhat lighter bagless vacuum machine? Is a compact 2.5 litre capacity vacuum enough for you or do you need a larger 6 litre machine? For more information, check out our Bagged vs Bagless Vacuum Cleaners guide
Of all the basic functions of a vacuum, the filtration system is arguably the most important. The average vacuum cleaner filters out dust particles of between 30 to 50 microns in size. A micron is one thousandth of a millimetre, so that's pretty small. However, if allergies are an issue in your home, most allergens are around .3 microns in size. The only type of vacuum cleaner filter that will handle particles that small is one with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. To find out more about HEPA filtration, read our guide, To HEPA or not to HEPA
Types of Vacuums
The two most common types of vacuums are uprights and canister. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages:
Upright vacuum cleaners are generally recommended for cleaning deep pile carpets and larger floors. They are very efficient cleaning machines and tuck neatly into the corner of a closet. The disadvantages to uprights are that they are heavy to vacuum with since you have to move the entire machine and they tend to be noisier than canister models.
Canister vacuum cleaners (sometimes also called barrel vacuums) are much lighter than uprights. On the other hand, they can a little more cumbersome, since you have to frequently move the canister as you vacuum. They are quieter than uprights and come with a number of accessories that make them great all around cleaners. They make vacuuming stairs much easier than uprights, but are not as efficient on deep pile carpets. On the other hand, they are more efficient than uprights at cleaning smaller areas.
What's your priority? Are you looking for ease of use, cleaning efficiency or both? Uprights combine both of these, especially on deep pile carpets. They are harder to push than canisters, though, unless you get a power-assisted model, and don't clean under coffee tables efficiently and other obstacles very efficiently. In general, uprights are preferable for larger homes, while canisters are better for apartments, smaller homes and homes with stairs and many small rooms.
Other Type of Vacuums
Wet-Dry vacs, as their name implies, are designed to pick up both wet and dry debris. They are usually industrial sized canister vacuums and are not designed for general domestic use. If you frequently need to vacuum wet areas, consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner for wet areas only.
Robotic vacuum cleaners are the latest type to come on the scene. Considered futuristic and viewed with suspicion (do they really work?), robot vacs have come of age and enough of them have been sold that initial doubts about them have been largely put to rest. Want to know more about these modern wonders? Check out our in-depth Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Buyers Guide.
Backpack vacuums are canister vacs designed for carrying the canister on the user's back instead of across the floor. They are rarely purchased for domestic use, but are something to consider if you need a vacuum for high traffic areas such as offices, where the canister may pose a danger to others.
Vacuum Cleaner Features to Look For
They say it's "the little things that count." This is certainly the case with vacuum cleaners. Look for these other "little" features that can make a big difference in a vacuum cleaner's efficiency and performance:
The wand or handle should be height adjustable. Having to bend over or reach up to manoeuvre your vacuum increases fatigue.
The blower function can be a handy feature both indoors and out.
Self retracting cords eliminate the need for manually winding the vacuum cleaner cord. They are available on hundreds of models of vacuums and don't add significantly to their cost.
Sometimes, such as when vacuuming area rugs or drapes, less suction is better than more. Most vacuums have a manual air release mechanism that accomplishes this, while others have more sophisticated electronic controls.
Onboard storage allows you to carry all of your most used accessories with you as you vacuum. Some users love this feature, while others prefer not to carry the "excess baggage" with them while they vacuum.
A dust level indicator allows you to tell at a glance if it's time to change your vacuum cleaner bag or empty your bagless vacuum.
Now easily compare 200+ Vacuum Cleaners
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View vacuum models that have been tested by Choice, the Australian Consumers Association and visit visit Choice to review their vacuum test and recommendations
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