It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to buying a vacuum cleaner. With so many different options, all with different accessories and features (not to mention huge differences in pricing), you’d be forgiven for ending up bamboozled.
So the first thing we did was investigate the different types of vacuum cleaners available and then narrow them down, which meant we tested a range of models at a range of prices. We were left with a shortlist of 18 models, including uprights, cylinders, cordless and robot.
Which vacuum cleaners did we test?
- Dyson V11 Absolute (£499.99 from Amazon)
- Hoover Telios Extra TX50PET (£149.99 from Argos)
- iRobot Roomba 966 (£496 from Amazon)
- Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away with Anti-Hair Wrap Plus AZ910UK (£299 from Currys)
- Numatic Henry HVR160 (£119 from Amazon)
- Hoover H-Lift 700 (£169 from Amazon)
- Hoover H-Free 500 (£160 from Amazon)
- Eufy Robo Vac 11S (£189.99 from Amazon)
- SEBO Automatic X7 ePower (£259 from Currys)
- Vax Air Lift Steerable Pet Max (£119 from John Lewis & Partners)
- Miele Complete C3 Pure Red PowerLine (£229 from Currys)
- AEG VX8 X Silence
- Gtech HyLite (£129.99 from Amazon)
- Gtech AirRam Mk2 K9 (£249.99 from Amazon)
- Vax Blade 4 (£219 from Amazon)
- Bissell Icon 25V (£349.99 from Amazon)
- Neato Robotics Botvac D4 Connected (£412 from Amazon)
- Miele Scout RX2 (£556 from Amazon)
Our tester used each vacuum cleaner for everyday dirt, but also put them through their paces with a range of more specific tests. Five vacuums triumphed – the overall Mumsnet Best vacuum cleaner plus best cylinder, best robot, best upright and best vacuum cleaner for pet hair.
Who tested the products?
For continuity, we think it’s best to get one tester to use all the products. This reduces the risk of potential variables during the testing process and means that our results are based on like-for-like comparison.
Our tester lives in a large three-bedroom house, which has a variety of floor surfaces – solid sealed wood, original tiles, vinyl, lino, carpet and rugs.
She also has three dogs and a cat (so there’s plenty of pet hair to deal with every day) and also has two children to provide plenty of mess and dirt.
The results are based on how well each vacuum cleaner works in real situations in a real-life family home, and how it performs on a daily basis. You’ll be using your new vacuum cleaner in your home, so we believe it’s best to put the vacuums through their paces in a real household too.
How did you test for assembly?
We looked at how easy the vacuum was to unpack, particularly by one person, and whether there was a lot of packaging to get rid of. We also took note of how clear the instructions were and how quick and easy it was to put the vacuum together without help.
How did you test for ease of use?
We tested changing floor heads, changing settings for different floor types, and attaching accessories. We looked at cord length on uprights and cylinders, charge length and runtime on cordless vacuums, and overall hose reach.
Over the three-month testing period, we assessed how easily each machine moved around and under furniture and compared the weight from model to model. If its weight made it difficult to use, particularly when vacuuming the whole house and when vacuuming the stairs, we flagged it. We even looked at the positioning of the on/off switch.
When testing each vacuum on the stairs – 16 steps with a deep quarter turn, in fact – we looked at the different issues that cropped up with each type.
Did our tester have to take the upright vacuum cleaners with her up the stairs? If so, how difficult was this? Did the hose reach far enough that she didn’t have to?
When it came to cylinder vacuums, we wanted to know how easy it was to take the cylinder up the stairs, how heavy it was and if it had to be held during cleaning. Did it rest safely on a stair half-way up or tumble down at the slightest tug?
We also looked at whether our tester needed to change heads to vacuum the stairs, how easy it was to do this, and whether the models included tools to get into awkward corners.
How did you test for performance?
As well as daily use – which afforded plenty of opportunities to judge performance – we devised specific tests for different floor types and different types of dirt.
Our tester vacuumed hard floors, carpets, rugs, upholstery, pet bedding, skirting boards, ceilings, blinds, and underneath furniture. She checked how close to the edges each cleaner went and how many sweeps it took to pick up large pieces of debris like spilled cereal and rice, and small pieces of debris such as toast crumbs, coffee granules and dust.
She also tested for efficiency in picking up pet hair from different floor surfaces, including hair ingrained in carpets and balls of pet hair in corners and under furniture, from floor edges, pet bedding and upholstery.
How did you test for emptying/cleaning/maintenance?
As each vacuum was used day-to-day, we could evaluate how often the vacuums needed emptying, and how easy or messy this was.
We also looked at how the tools, brush bars, filters and other components could be cleaned and how often this needed to be done.
What about value for money?
We included vacuums from a broad price range. Using a standardised scoring system, we were able to clearly see how the less expensive vacuums compared to those that cost more and could decide whether it was worth spending the extra money.
We also looked at whether there were compromises to be made with the less expensive models and, if so, if those compromises were worth making. What would you actually get for the extra money?
How did you choose the top five?
We scored each vacuum using the same tests and evaluated value for money, giving each vacuum a score to find the best vacuum cleaners for 2020. This included scoring from our targeted testing and for day-to-day use.
The highest scoring vacuum was our overall winner. The majority of vacuums we tested performed very well, and the difference in scores was often marginal.
As the overall winner (the Dyson V11 Absolute) was a cordless model, we’ve also chosen the best cylinder vacuum cleaner (Hoover Telios Extra TX50PET), the best robot vacuum cleaner (iRobot Roomba 966), the best upright vacuum cleaner (Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away with Anti-Hair Wrap Plus AZ910UK), and the best vacuum cleaner for pet hair (Numatic Henry HVR160), taking into consideration their performance in other areas too.
About Mumsnet Reviews
All Mumsnet product reviews are written by real parents after weeks of research and testing. We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust.
Sometimes, we earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. However, we never allow this to influence our coverage.