Let’s face it; vacuuming is a never-ending chore. New dust and dirt start collecting as soon as you finish a section. And it takes a lot of time, time that I would rather spend on other things. I like having clean floors, but pushing a vacuum isn’t my favorite thing to do.
The right vacuum can make the task easier. It’ll never be fun, but I’ll settle for making it the easiest that it can be. There are hundreds of models available, all shouting their virtues. This one swivels, that one is industrial strength, and the one on TV lifts a bowling ball. Which one is right for you?
Some types are better in different situations. Let’s look at the main styles:
Vacuums fall into four general styles:
- Canister Vacuum Cleaners
- Upright Vacuum Cleaners
- Stick Vacuum Cleaners
- Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
Canister Vacuum Cleaners
The canister is, as the name says, a large can mounted on wheels. The canister holds the motor and bag, and a hose can fit an assortment of attachments. There are specialized attachments for furniture, bare floors, carpets (usually motorized), crevices, dusting, and more. The benefit of a canister is that the bulk of its weight is in the canister that doesn’t need to moving as much as the hose and attachments. Their main disadvantage is its size and weight.
Upright Vacuum Cleaners
The first early vacuums were mostly uprights, but they gave way to canisters early on. Then uprights returned to popularity as more homes were carpeted. Today, uprights are most popular throughout North America.
Upright vacuums are usually comprised of a head that runs over the floor, and the motor and bag attached to a stick frame with a handle at the top.
Uprights are best for carpets, although some models do very well on bare floors too. As with canisters, some have many types of attachments and add ons to extend their functionality.
Stick Vacuum Cleaners
Years ago, stick vacuums were called electric brooms. They were lightweight, great for quick pick-ups on bare floors, barely adequate for thin rugs, and just about useless for plush carpets.
That has changed some as new motors, and smaller motors have allowed more power to be packed into a smaller unit. They look like skinny uprights. Sticks are still generally lightweight and lite suction although there are some premium models available that can rival an upright.
Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
As their name implies, handheld vacuum cleaners are designed to hold in your hand. They’re ideal for quick pick-ups, stairs, and in a car or camper, but not adequate for large areas or carpets.
Vacuum manufacturers throw around all sorts of technical-sounding terms. Some are important, some not so much so. Here’s a terminology cheat sheet:
Suction is a primary part of what makes a vacuum work, but it’s not the entire answer. Go to a home show, and there’s a good chance that one of the premium vacuum cleaner companies will have a display of their unit lifting a bowling ball. It’s an impressive display, but how often do you think you’ll be picking up a bowling ball.
Most of the better canister and upright vacuums have adequate suction, and in fact, the suction needs to be restricted on many types of carpet. Just as important as suction for carpets is the suction spread, whether it cleans all the way to the edges and the beater brush system. The best carpet cleaning vacuums gently “beat” the carpet with rotating bars and brushes, which loosens the dirt and lets the suction pick it up.
How much electricity (watts) a vacuum motor uses used to be a general indicator of its power, but not so much anymore. There are a lot of other variables. A powerful motor hooked up to an undersized fan and bag system will be no better, and probably heavier and noisier, than an appropriately sized motor attached to an efficient vacuum system. Think of a VW Bug with a V-8 engine!
Bagless or With Bags
It’s your choice on this. Bags are an extra cost, but they hold a lot, and it’s much easier to change a bag than to empty a bin. And bagless vacuums are sometimes messy.
This is a great invention. A HEPA filter is usually a secondary filter, after the main bag or bin, that filters out most of the leftover really fine particles of dust. Less dust will go back into the air, which means less dusting and easier breathing.
Cord Length and Storage
This is self-explanatory. A longer cord means less stopping to find a new plug. Better vacuums will have easy storage for the cord, usually on the handle for uprights and sticks, or with a retractor (self-roll-up) for canisters.
Weight and Maneuverability
The trade-off for power is often weight and maneuverability. Consider the layout of your home and your physical abilities. Do you need to lug your vac up and downstairs?
Fortunately, technology has allowed some of the newer vacuums to feature both lightweight for easy use and high power in the same unit.
Dustbin or Bag Capacity
More capacity = empty less often. And it depends on what you’re picking up. Got a youngster that spills Cheerios or a pet that scatters food, get a vacuum with a bin that can handle it. Bags usually have a much larger capacity.
Most warranties cover defects in manufacturing and the longer, the better.
There are numerous attachments made for cleaning different surfaces. Make sure that you’re getting what you need.
I left this one for last, and the choice is up to you. There are good vacuums available at a wide range of prices. Find a unit that meets your needs first, then look at what added $ brings.