I remember my mom and I heading to target to buy a dustbuster. We stood in the cleaning section aisle, staring around for a few minutes, slightly intimidated by all the vacuum cleaner options and definitely wishing we'd had a vacuum cleaner buying guide.
My mom then read every label, box, and whatever instruction manual was available. Confused, but feeling like I should do something, I started at the other end of the aisle and began reading too. I wasn't even sure what we were looking for, and I definitely can't remember what we walked away with.
Since then, I've taken extra care to buy the best cleaning products for my place. As an interior designer graduate and the daughter of an organized neat-freak, I'm aware of which products provide the best clean for various materials.
We all have our own specifications, though, which is why I put together this vacuum cleaner buying guide, rather than just telling you my favorites. I've scoured the web, spoken with friends, family, and experts, and put together a comprehensive buying guide that will help you get an idea of exactly which vacuum cleaner you should get.
Vacuum Buying Guide 2020
What is a Vacuum Cleaner?
Okay, newbies, this one is for you. If you've just moved into your own place, if you're looking for the perfect gift for someone, or if you've been using vacuum cleaners your entire life without knowing exactly what makes something a vacuum cleaner, then I'll clear it up for you. Simply put, a vacuum cleaner is an electrical machine with a specific purpose.
Using suction, it collects particles, dust, and debris from floors and other surfaces. It can be used industrially or at home. To get an idea of what vacuum cleaner would suit your needs best, we need to go back in time a bit to understand how it all started.
History of the Vacuum Cleaner
If you want to know exactly who invented the vacuum cleaner, it will take some searching through the archives as you'll come across a few different types and names. In 1860, Daniel Hess invented the first known manual vacuum cleaner known as the Carpet Sweeper. The rotating brush gathered dust, and the installed bellows generated suction.
Before that, Ives W. McGaffey worked on the Whirlwind, a bulky and awkward device that actually required manual, crank-by-hand operation of the belt-driven fan. Despite it being inconvenient to operate, it was marketed well, and so it sold well.
The modern vacuum cleaner, as we know it, with the suction and dustbag, was invented towards the end of the 19th century. In 1901, British engineer Hubert Cecil Booth and American inventor David T. Kenney invented the vacuum cleaners using suction.
How Does a Vacuum Cleaner Work?
Explaining how a vacuum cleaner works aren't too complicated, although it does help to know the functionality of some of the items involved, and we do need to look inside the vacuum cleaner. Some vacuum cleaners have dustbags, and others use a cyclone, which holds the debris and particles for later disposal.
There are a wide variety of sizes and models for both commercial and home purposes. For home purposes, you can get your hands on anything from cordless, battery-powered handheld devices like a dustbuster to industrial-like, corded machinery that can hold several hundred liters of dust. Some vacuum cleaners are able to suck up liquids and dust.
The vacuum cleaner looks complex, but its actually quite simple, and even the rules applied to create the suction isn't too complicated. It all starts with plugging it into a power outlet. The electric current that moves through the wires operates the motor. The aim of the motor is to run the propeller-like fan.
Similar to the way your cooling fan works, the turn of the blades forces the air forward. The air moves towards the exhaust port section. As the air moves forward, the density (or how "heavy" it is), of the particles increases in front of the fan and decreases behind it.
When the pressure level behind the fan drops lower than the level outside the vacuum cleaner, it creates a suction, a kind of opposite effect to that of a blower. The HEPA filter vacuum, and some other modern vacuums, have a filter system and crevice tool that removes dust without throwing it up in the air and aggravating allergies.
Vacuum cleaners use an electric motor that spins a vacuum fan. The power from the fan sucks in air, and along with that, any small particles caught up in it. The air and particles are then pushed out to the other side, where there's a bag or container that creates negative pressure.
The electric motor takes power from the power source. Once it has this power, it converts it into mechanical power and, with airflow, creates a suction.
A vacuum cleaner needs a constant air supply of air to function and create suction, and this is done in the intake port. Friction is also created in the intake port. The number of air particles drawn into the port remains the same because it depends on the speed of the fan, which also stays constant.
Attachment tools can narrow the intake port, which increases the suction. The same amount of particles need to get through at the same time, and the only way this can be done is if the pressure drops. When this happens, the suction increases
Whatever goes in, must go out. The same applies to air. The exhaust port ensures that the air can escape, which reduces the pressure. Without this, the pressure would build up inside the vacuum cleaner and exceed the pressure created by the fan, which would push the air back out of the intake port rendering all your hard work going up in the dust and debris flying around.
There are some nasty things flowing through your house – that's life, and that's why we clean. The air that flows through the exhaust port is filled with bacteria, and filters have the job of trapping allergens and bacteria. The HEPA filters are the crème de le crème of vacuum filters, the gold standard, the ultimate benchmark. They're the most effective at removing pollutants – taking out 99.97% them.
I know a lot of people don't want to bother with dozens of attachments, and the mark of a good vacuum cleaner isn't having every attachment on the market, it's having a few adjustable, effective attachments. Some of the things to look out for are:
A blower is an ideal tool for getting to the hard-to-reach places in your home. It works by unsettling dust in corners, under the sofa, and by the windows.
2) Vacuum Fan
The fan guides the dust through the intake port. It sits on the back of a rotating brush.
3) Vacuum Brush Attachment
The vacuum brush collects and moves debris over a wider floor section than the blower or suction tool. It works like a motorized broom.
How To Use A Vacuum Cleaner
How to use a vacuum cleaner can be as simple as plugging it in and moving the brush or crevice tool around. However, if you want a high-quality cleaner that will last, then there are some extra steps you should take to maintain it well and make sure that you're using it in the most efficient way. Now, more than ever, we need to be on top of our cleaning game.
Having the right vacuum doesn't just tackle debris and dirt – whatever bacteria and disease-carrying bugs enter your house can be eliminated with the right kind of vacuum cleaner and adequate cleaning, so it's important to make sure that you're using your vacuum cleaner properly. We outline ten steps to follow to ensure that your vacuum cleaner is used correctly.
Check the manual, products, and installation. If it's a new cleaner and you're assembling it, double-check the manual to make sure that you have all the pieces. Once assembled, turn it on without fully using it to make sure that everything has been assembled correctly.
Make Sure the Dust Bag is Full Proof
I've seen people just turn their vacuum cleaner on and watched the dirt floating out of the bag or canister, and I honestly cringed. There goes all your hard work from your previous clean, and here come the allergies.
The bag or canister is where the dust is stored, so you have to make sure that it's empty, that it been tightened properly, and that there aren't any pesky holes. If the bag is always full, your vacuum cleaner will start to malfunction.
Adjust the Pipe Height
The adjustable pipes aren't just there to look good. The settings are designed to work with carpets that have varying thicknesses. A lower setting, with the brush or crevice tool closer to the floor, works better with thicker carpets.
If the pipe is too long here, it won't be able to suction properly. Also, ensure that the setting isn't too lower. This will suction the material and affect the airflow and could ruin your carpet.
Avoid the Small, Sneaky Items.
This one time, I vacuumed up my son's lego, and that was the end of that cleaner. Granted, it was an old cheapo, but the fact remains vacuum cleaners – unless they're the industrial kind – are designed to collect dust, not small toys. Move anything small out of the way to make cleaning easier and to save the life of your trusty cleaner.
Have you ever been in a rush to finish cooking for the family dinner party you planned and at the last minute realized that you've barely cleaned? A quick grab of the vacuum cleaner and there you go, viciously branding the brush-up and down, side-to-side.
Nothing happens. The dust stays on the floor, almost mocking you. Take a breath, and go slowly, moving the even strokes to and fro. The pressure doesn't have time to suction if you're moving around madly.
Similar to the pipe or hose height adjustment feature, the attachments that come with your vacuum cleaner aren't just there to look good and then be discarded back into the box never to be seen again.
The attachments serve a purpose. Not only will they help you clean better, but it will also prevent the vacuum cleaner from malfunctioning. The crevice tool is one of my favorites.
You can get to those narrow, hard-to-reach places, and my favorite – battling those pesky cobwebs in the corner between the curtain and the wall.
Wash the Brush When Done
All the parts need cleaning from time to time, but I like to wash the brush after every use if I have time. Lots of dust and debris get stuck in there, which can be pushed out the next time you switch your vacuum cleaner on.
I just use some detergent and warm water, nothing too crazy. It only takes a few minutes to clean. I then shake it dry to make sure all the water is out.
Clean and Dry the Bristles
You can leave the bristles outside to dry, but that runs the risk of attracting more dust. I sometimes use a hairdryer if I need to be quick. The most effective method is taking a dry cloth to the bristles and wiping it down.
Store it Safely
Chucking the cleaner to a corner when you're done is tempting, but it can damage some parts if left there for a while. Dismantle some of the bulkier parts and store it in a horizontal position so that it doesn't fall over.
Check the Warranty for Repair Conditions
If anything starts malfunctioning, check the warranty to see if you're eligible for repairs by the maker. Repairing it on your own and using other parts could further damage your vacuum cleaner and you might lose the warranty.
How To Choose a Vacuum Cleaner
That moment in Target with my mother many years ago taught me – even then – that there are a plethora of vacuum cleaners on the market. Different types, different sizes, different makes, different uses.
Where do you even start? Certainly not with reading about every single vacuum cleaner – by the third one, all you have are words in your head and the realization that you're about the grab the closest one, whether it suits your needs or not.
Luckily, this guide is designed to outline the right vacuum cleaner to suit your needs and requirements, whether its something cheaper and smaller or on the higher side for price and quality.
What do you need to consider when buying your vacuum cleaner? What's the path you need to follow to know exactly how to buy a vacuum cleaner? Do you simply go for the good, top-rated products?
Throughout the years, I've learned that the key to choosing a good vacuum cleaner is to break it down into digestible parts. These include looking at quality and durability, the weight, the height, how noisy it can get, where it sits on the technology advancement spectrum, and whether it uses a bag or is bagless.
Quality and Durability
That cheap vacuum cleaner that broke after I vacuumed up my son's lego still cost money. I'd only used it once before, so it definitely wasn't worth it. Lesson learned: quality is important. Quality refers to how well the item works, and durability refers to how long it will last.
Top-quality cleaners offer quieter noise levels, better filtration features like automatic suction control, adjustable height, a set of accessory tool attachments that cover the floor to ceiling vacuum needs, and even cushioned bumper guards.
With durability, have a look and feel at the construction of the cleaner. What's it made out of? Does it feel like it's been made to last, or has it been constructed out of cheaper plastic? Do the parts fit well, or do they require maneuvering to stay in place? The most durable vacuum bags are made from the cotton liner, and three-ply paper or synthetic cotton spun material.
You'll often see HEPA certified on vacuum cleaners. HEPA means high-efficiency particulate absorbing. This certification means that the top quality filter has been manufactured, tested, certified, and labeled according to the standards set by HEPA.
It's easy to believe that heavier vacuum cleaners are more effective, especially when you see those gigantic industrial cleaners sucking up everything in sight like a hungry monster. Maybe this was true when it was first invented in 1901, but its not the case today.
Technology has allowed us to create top quality vacuum cleaners out of lightweight, durable material. The lighter weight allows you to move your cleaner seamlessly throughout your house. When its easy to maneuver, you use it more often, and you can get to the areas of your house that are harder to reach.
You'll also be inclined to simply grab the cleaner every day and clean as you go, rather than waiting for things to pile up because you can't be bothered to drag the heavy cleaner from its hidden corner.
I mentioned the importance of adjustable height earlier, and really, it's a non-negotiable when you're choosing your vacuum cleaner. Using the wrong height could either ruin your carpet or result in you not being able to use the suction properly.
The top of the range and mid-range vacuum cleaners have automatic height adjustment, and it's quite a dream. The lower-priced ones still have the adjustable height function, but you'll likely have to manually.
Some people will disagree with this one, but spending a little extra on a vacuum cleaner that doesn't compete to break the sound barrier is so worth it. The noise also needs to remain at a consistent level. Going from low noise to white noise can be extremely annoying.
When looking at vacuum noise comparison, consider decibels, the unit of measurement for sound. Humans hear between 0 to 120 decibels. The higher the decibel, the louder it is. At 0, there is still sound, and we just don't hear it.
At 120 decibels or more, we can hear clearly, but it's so loud that It might damage our hearing. Vacuum cleaner manufacturers take this into consideration. The sound can differ when you use a different attachment or mode.
1) Silent Vacuum Cleaners
Silent Vacuum Ceaners still make a noise, but the bags are usually bigger, so they absorb the dust suction sound better. These usually come in at 60 decibels. Some examples of silent vacuum cleaners include the:
A few technological advancements have been around for a while, and they've been improved. Others are relatively new and are doing well, but are still being worked on.
Having a vacuum cleaner that uses the most recent technological advancements goes hand-in-hand with quality and durability. The more we learn about what works best, the better we can make the functionality and how long it lasts.
1) Cordless and Retractable Cords Replace Long Cords
Some favorite advancements include a retractable power cord or a cordless vacuum cleaner. Gone are the days where you have to hop around the room, dodging and untangling long cords.
The retractable cord flies back to your vacuum cleaner with a slight pull, almost as if it's been summoned. The cordless cleaners are battery-powered, so they're strong enough to generate the power for a thorough clean.
2) Cyclonic Technology Replaces Bags
Another favorite is the no bag feature. Bag vacuums need to be replaced regularly because they get filthy, and even emptying the bag is quite a gross, unhygienic endeavor that most people would prefer to avoid.
The catch-22 is that the bag also acts as a filtration system, so if you're going bagless, make sure you have a good filter. The whirlwind deposits dirty into a tray or bin, which you can then easily empty. The drying technology allows for ease of use and works as an ideal dust collector.
3) Robots Replace Humans
Perhaps my favorite, but still more of a novelty (because I actually like cleaning). Computerized, mini UFO lookalike vacuum cleaners zoom silently around the room to move under obstacles and get under your couches and chairs to suck up dust. Some models even operate on timers and send themselves to the charging station.
Bagged or Bagless
As mentioned above, bagless vacuum cleaners are a technology that doesn't use a bag that needs regular replacing. Both are good dust collectors. There are a few options for bagless, but Dyson's cyclonic technology, which was apparently developed nearly 30 years ago, seems to be the best.
You still have to empty a tray, but it doesn't gather and absorb as much dust, so its easier to get rid of. Below are some pros and cons to both vacuum cleaner bags and vacuum cleaner trays.
Pros of Bagged Technology
Cons of Bagged Technology
Pros of Bagless Technology
Cons of Bagless Technology
Shopping by Type
Now that you have a better idea of the features that make a good vacuum cleaner, it's time to break it down even further. This one is by the different types of vacuum cleaners. Each vacuum cleaner has its own strengths and weaknesses.
They're all good in some way (I wouldn't recommend something sub-standard!), but again, it depends on your needs and requirements.
In order to purchase a good vacuum cleaner and make the right choice for your home, you need to consider the various types available on the market. For each type, its important to look at the design, the pros, cons, and what it all means for you. So let's start with type one, the upright vacuum cleaner
Upright Vacuum Cleaner
This is the most popular vacuum cleaner design, and the name speaks for itself. It stands upright, which gives it a sleek, modern look. The motor and suction head are housed in the same unit, so all you have to do is push it in front of you and move to and fro.
There's a reason why this is one of the most popular designs in the country. There are certainly convenient features to it, and it's perfect for light to medium cleaning. However, if you really want to get to the nitty-gritty parts of your house, then the upright cleaner won't cut it, and you'd be better off choosing something with more accessories and adjustable parts. Perhaps some of the other types mentioned below might suit you better.
Canister Vacuum Cleaner
The canister vacuum cleaner kind of looks like what people in the 1930s would imagine an alien-looking like. The round canister holds the long, adjustable pipe and hose, and it moves around on wheels. It's another popular design.
Canister vacuum cleaners are good for cleaning, and there's no doubt about that. They're effective and able to reach many places. What they're not good for is convenience. The carrying, bending, and dragging around can be tiresome. For devoted cleaners like me, they're great. For someone just looking for something small and easy, it won't work as well.
Stick Vacuum Cleaner
The cordless design and dual capacity as a handheld and hose vacuum make this one an attractive option. It's also lightweight and easy to store.
Stick vacuum cleaners sound nice in theory, but it just doesn’t do the job required of a vacuum cleaner. Perhaps if you were looking for an electrical broom it would suit your needs better, but if you have any kind of floor surface that you’d like to clean, especially with carpets, then this won’t cut it. It’s a good starting point, but it isn’t designed to do any heavy duty cleaning.
The flat, disk shape allows the robot vacuum cleaner to move into much smaller spaces that you wouldn’t usually be able to reach. It genuinely looks like something from the future, and the sleek, futuristic design is a huge hit. The robot has one front wheel and two back wheels and has sensors to detect and avoid obstacles.
This is definitely a novelty, but its mixed with convenience, time saving, and back bend saving. Its surprisingly efficient for such a small device, and although the top quality ones can be really pricey, the mid-range devices are well worth the ability to go about your daily life and walk into a clean room.
Central Vacuum Cleaner
A central vacuum cleaner is quite a heavy-hitter in the cleaning stratosphere and more often found in mansions and industrial areas, but is actually quite effective in normal homes too. Its usually installed into the building with a wall mount and pigtail cord.
The Central Vacuum Cleaners operates by sending dirt particles through tubing that runs through the walls. Dirt is collected and deposited into a collection container that is often stored in a basement or garage.
The central vacuum cleaner is more expensive and better suited to smaller homes, but the suction works extremely well and its one of the quietest cleaners around.
Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Wet/dry vacuum cleaners look similar to canister vacuums. They have a hose with various detachable brushes. The hose is connected into what looks like a bucket, which is where wet debris and dry dust and dirt is sucked into and stored. There is no bag. The bucket allows the liquids and solids to be deposited into two separate chambers.
Wet dry vacuum cleaners are good for people with large houses and outside areas and a big family with lots of pets. Also someone who has enough time to thoroughly clean it when needed.
We love our pets, but the hairy mess they leave in the wake can get quite frustrating. Especially when some cleaners don’t actually do the job of suctioning the air. It’s quite fine and light, so it isn’t as easily sucked up as dirt. Below is a list of some of the most popular pet hair vacuum cleaners.
1) Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Great for hardwood floors and these cleaners come with quite a few accessories, which can get to dog and cat hair on the couches and carpets.
2) Canister Vacuum Cleaners
These cleaners are one of the best for cleaning pet hair because you can run the brush right over the area and get to hard to reach parts. The ample accessories allow you to adjust it to reach dog hair and cat litter.
3) Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
You’d think this one would be at the top of the list because of the mobility and adaptability that allows you to reach different places quickly, but the suction isn’t strong enough for dog hair and it definitely isn’t strong enough for cat litter.
4) Robot Vacuum Cleaner
This one is fun for watching your cat and dog chase it around the house, but its not that effective as getting to the hair as it only does one hover-like sweep and pet hair can be quite stubborn.
For cleaning pet hair, the canister vacuum cleaner and the upright vacuum cleaner are the most effective.
Shopping by Features
Considering what you need and require in a vacuum cleaner and then aligning that with various features is also quite a helpful tool to help you choose the best cleaner for you.
Some people are looking for ease and convenience, some are looking for decent prices, and others want something that will do the best cleaning job, regardless of price. Below are some of the most common features and and why it works well in a vacuum.
Cordless cleaners are all the rage right now. Some manufacturers have even stopped making corded cleaners all together.
With a cordless vacuum cleaner you can move around the house easily, you won’t have to worry about tripping over plugs or wondering why the vacuum cleaner has shut off when you’re in the other room. Its also safer as it doesn’t risk tripping the children or having your pets chew on it.
Its agile and can move into places that other vacuum cleaners can’t. It’s also convenient for cleaning up quick messes as all you have to do is grab it and use it. Lastly, the technology is quite recent, so may manufacturers have improved the noise level. These cleaners clock in below 70 decibels.
Despite cordless vacuum cleaners seeming more modern and sleeker, there are still ample benefits to having a corded vacuum cleaner. Corded vacuum cleaners are more powerful because they plug directly into the main unit. Its also ideal for bigger houses, especially if you have thick carpets and pets.
Its also more convenient for people who don’t have the time to regularly empty the canister as it can hold more dust than a cordless cleaner. Manufacturers are aware of the inconvenience of the cord so they take extra care to ensure that the apparatus is lightweight and easy to carry.
Handheld vacuum cleaners are gaining in popularity. Previously, the suction was quite weak and could only work on basic surfaces and small pieces of debris. It also couldn’t hold much dirt because of the smaller design.
However, if you live in an apartment or smaller house, then a handheld vacuum cleaner is perfect. These cleaners are small and lightweight and ideal for one or two people. If you want something that’s easy to carry and store, then a handheld vacuum cleaner is perfect for you.
These cleaners can also get to spaces that bigger vacuum cleaners can’t. If you’re wanting to clean up big messes, then this wouldn’t be your first choice, but if you’re quite a diligent cleaner and don’t mind spending a little extra time keeping your place clean, then a handheld vacuum cleaner feature works well, especially when you need to get to tough corners and under couches and beds.
Just because they’re handheld doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. Most handheld cleaners have been developed with particularly strong suction power in mind. One of the favorite features is its ability to grab items that have been lost into the abyss of the couch cushions or Narnia under the bed. It’s a bit of a life-hack, but using a stocking and the handheld cleaner can rescue your lost items.
Shopping by Surface
Keeping your surfaces in mind is quite important and is sometimes overlooked when people consider which vacuum cleaners will work best in their home. Hardwood floors and carpets are the most common surfaces in homes. We look at why its important to keep this in mind when shopping for your vacuum cleaner.
These days, most people prefer bare or hardwood floors as it makes cleaning easier and keeps your home cool. Many homes also boast laminated floors, tile floors in the bathroom or kitchen, and vinyl floors.
When choosing your vacuum cleaner, its best to go for something that’s lighter so that you don’t damage the floor when moving it around. The number of attachments is also important so that you can change when you need to use a bare-floor brush.
The canister vacuum cleaner is more suited to bare floors because it comes with several tools and accessories and the wheels allow you to move it around the floor easily without damaging it.
Whether you have a high pile carpet or statement area rugs throughout your house, making sure that you choose the right vacuum cleaner is important as you could risk completely damaging your carpet.
While you won’t have to worry about damaging the surface of your carpet like with the hardwood floor, you will need a powerful cleaner that can pull up stubborn debris from deep in the carpet strands.
Upright vacuum cleaners are one of the forerunners for this as you have more control to move it back and forth and some come with sensors that ensures that all the dirt is sucked up.
Shopping by Brands
Choosing the ideal vacuum cleaner depends on which camp you’re in when it comes to your needs, wants, and requirements. For young, single people living in an apartment where they don’t need to do much cleaning or they’d prefer to save money, handheld cleaners work well and can get the job done.
For people in bigger houses with pets, families, children, and those who cook regularly, having a vacuum cleaner that works on several surfaces – from hardwood, laminated floors, and tiles to carpets and area rugs is important. The upright vacuum cleaners and canister vacuum cleaners are ideal for people in this group.
If you suffer from allergies or back pain, then you’ll want to avoid a cleaner that requires you to do a lot of heavy lifting, moving, and bending. As for allergies, look out for vacuum cleaners with anti-allergen technology and a HEPA filter system.
I hope all the tips, tricks, and advice have helped you decide which vacuum cleaner will suit you and your family best. This is a critical time to keep your hygienic and clean and making sure that any dirt and debris is efficiently cleaned up as quickly as possible. This prevents illnesses, allergies, and of course, gives you peace of mind and comfort in your clean home.