Choosing a new vacuum cleaner can be confusing. Upright? Cylinder? Cordless? Bagged? Bagless? And what about filters? Vacuums for hard floors? Pet hair? The list of things to consider is seemingly endless.
It’s easy to get lost in the technical specs and the hi-tech wizardry, so it’s important to be clear about what you actually need for your own home. Use our guide to decide what you need, and our vacuum cleaner reviews to help you make that final decision.
Upright, cylinder or cordless?
Upright vacuums tend to be more powerful. They also clean more quickly because their bigger heads cover a bigger area. They’re ideal if you have a big house because they usually have more capacity than cylinder or cordless vacuums. The design also means you don’t have to bend down while cleaning, which is great if you have lower back pain and find vacuuming aggravates it.
Uprights are best if you mainly have carpets in your home, as the heads use a rotating brush that “combs” through the pile, lifting and removing dirt. That said, many cylinder and cordless models now come with a rotating brush head too.
On the downside, uprights can be heavy and less manoeuvrable. Although, many newer models have heads that move from side to side, allowing you to easily clean around furniture. Worth looking out for.
Historically, these upright vacuums made cleaning stairs a bit tricky – you’d have to balance yourself and a hoover midway up the stairs. Many new designs have longer hoses or lift-away sections to make this easier – again, something to look out for.
Another thing to bear in mind is storage. If you don’t have much space, in your home, you do need to think about where your vacuum is going to be stored when it’s not in use.
Cylinder vacuums take up less room and can be easier to manoeuvre. Long telescopic wands and longer hoses mean you don’t need to bend down as much when you’re vacuuming. Cord-return systems also do away with winding up the cord. It’s often easy to change heads and tools on a cylinder, meaning they can be versatile and suitable for a variety of floor types.
Cylinder vacuums tend to be less powerful than uprights though and do have smaller heads. They are easier to store, so might be better for smaller homes.
Cordless vacuums used to be viewed as an extra – a vacuum to back-up your cylinder or upright. But as technology has advanced, so too have cordless models and they are now good enough to have as your only vacuum.
Cordless cleaners also make short work of vacuuming because they are light and easy to use. Newer models are powerful and their design means they’re versatile – you can get to nooks and crannies all around the house really easily, cleaning skirting boards, stairs, even ceilings, with ease.
Unfortunately, they have less capacity than most uprights or cylinders and do need to be emptied more frequently. And, it’s worth noting that you need to make sure you keep your vacuum charged – the last thing you want is to have a spillage and find your vacuum is out of juice.
You also need to think about how long you spend vacuuming at any given time and make sure the cordless model you choose has enough run time to suit your needs.
Cordless models are suitable for all floor types and most have different heads for different surfaces or adjustable heads you can change easily as you vacuum.
Bagged or bagless?
Bagless vacuums mean running costs are lower because you don’t need to buy replacement bags. It’s also easier to know when your vacuum needs emptying and it’s quite fun to see if your vacuum is actually doing what it should. We also found it weirdly satisfying to see all the dirt that’s been picked up.
Bagless vacuums also tick the environmentally-friendly box because there’s no bag to throw away. However, being green doesn’t always equal being clean as emptying the vacuum can be a messy business. It may be a case of simply pulling a lever or pressing a button while holding the container over the bin, but more often than not there will be dust and dirt released into the air – not pleasant for anyone, but particularly not great if you have allergies. There’s also inevitably debris left in the container, which you have to remove somehow and usually involves a fair bit of poking around.
Bagged vacuums are much less messy when emptying as you remove the bag, close the top (some are even self-sealing) and throw away. But, it’s often harder to know when the bag needs emptying, although some vacuums have an indicator. There are environmental factors to consider too. And you’ll need to keep paying out for new bags. But if you have an allergy, bagged vacuums do offer a cleaner way to get rid of dirt and debris.
If you have pets, then it’s important to buy a model that’s effective on pet hair. Look out for those models that have specialised brushes and heads. If you have allergies, then filters are going to be a priority. HEPA filters remove more dust and pollen than other filters and have to undergo rigorous testing. If you have severe allergies, then you should definitely consider a bagged vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Think about the tools you’ll need too. Do you have lots of nooks and crannies, high ceilings, awkward corners? Do you want to be able to vacuum your blinds, your skirting boards, under your furniture? Will you use your vacuum for your car?
Consider your budget too. It can be tempting to buy something with lots of gadgetry and fancy attachments, but what will you actually use? What do you really need? There are lots of really reasonably-priced vacuums out there that perform really well. There will definitely be one to suit your needs and your budget.
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