Appliances

Product overview

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Vacuum cleaners

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Standard, hand-held and stick vacuums.

An expensive or top-scoring vacuum cleaner isn’t necessarily the best one for you – we explain why, and take you through the steps to choosing the right model.

From our test

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Get instant access to 86 vacuum cleaner test results.

An expensive or top-scoring vacuum cleaner isn’t necessarily the best one for you – we explain why, and take you through the steps to choosing the right model. Join Consumer and use our expert test results and recommendations to find the model that's right for you.

Which type?

Standard vacuum cleaners

Traditional vacuum cleaners are still the best option if you want a deep clean on all surfaces throughout your home. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and prices, and many have multiple head options and other features.

Pros

  • Better cleaning power for getting dirt out of carpets.
  • Available with a variety of features such as variable power, adjustable head height, swivel heads and HEPA filters.
  • Bag or bin options.
  • Connect to the mains - so no limit to the amount of vacuuming you can do.
  • For the money you would spend on a good stick vacuum you can get one of the best traditional models.

Cons

  • Bulkier to store.
  • Heavier than a stick vacuum.
  • More difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces.

Stick vacuums

Stick vacs are lightweight battery-powered cleaners in the shape of a broom. A rotary brush sweeps dirt into a dust container. The brush is powered by a small electric motor or a turbine (“turbo”) in the cleaner’s airstream. Dirt dislodged by the rotary brush is puffed away by the suction’s draft and deposited in the dust container.

Pros

  • Much lighter than a standard vacuum cleaner.
  • Easy to store.
  • Ideal for quick cleaning jobs and awkward places.
  • Some let you detach the power unit from the handle and use the vac as a hand-held.
  • Good for hard floors, removing pet hair and sweeping dirt off carpet.

Cons

  • They don’t have the suction of a mains-powered vacuum cleaner.
  • Most don't get dirt out of carpet very well.
  • Running time is limited - generally just enough for a quick clean.

Robot vacuums

Robot vacuums run autonomously, following random or semi-random paths in a room, guided by on-board dirt, bump and stair sensors. Most come with “virtual walls”, infrared emitters or magnetic strips that create a barrier to limit where the robot cleans. They return to their charge dock when the battery runs low.

Pros

  • Small and easy to store.
  • Programmable to run at a certain time.
  • Automatically dock and recharge when required.
  • Fun to watch!

Cons

  • Don't clean as well as a regular vacuum.
  • Can't get close to corners and edges.
  • Some models get tangled in rug tassels.
  • Small dust collection bin.

Hand-held vacuums

Handhelds aren’t designed to replace a conventional vacuum cleaner. They’re for tidying up spills. They’re surprisingly good – as long as you use them for what they’re intended. That means cleaning up dirt and spills on hard floors or the surface of carpets, and picking up pet hairs. They’re not for getting ingrained dirt out of carpet.

Choosing the right hand-held vacuum

Consider these points before you buy.

  • Docking: A wall-mounted docking station keeps the cleaner readily available yet out of the way - but you need to have wall space that's close to a power outlet. The alternative is to leave it sitting on a flat surface (again with a power outlet nearby).
  • Balance and comfort: Try the cleaner in the store. Choose a model with a weight you can manage easily. Make sure it feels comfortable and that its weight doesn't put too much strain on your wrist. See how easy it is to take out from its docking station - and put back.
  • Filter: This should be easy to remove and clean.
  • Accessories: An upholstery brush and crevice nozzle can be handy for cleaning furniture and car seats. It's even handier if the tools are clipped to the cleaner (rather than the docking station).
  • Switch: An On/Off switch is easier for continuous operation than a trigger that needs to be held down.
  • Fallout flap: This prevents dirt falling back out of the vacuum when you carry it with the nozzle facing downwards, such as when moving between cleaning tasks.
  • Charging time: The shorter the charging time, the sooner you can reuse the cleaner.

How much should you spend?

Does paying more for a vacuum cleaner buy better performance? We plotted price vs performance (our overall test score) for all corded vacuum cleaners in our test database.

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About our test

Our tests of standard and stick vacuums use the same test method.

Carpet cleaning
We rub a precisely measured quantity of dirt into a test swatch of carpet. The vacuum’s cleaning head (we use the turbo or power head, if there is one) goes over the test swatch a set number of times and the dirt it picks up is weighed.

Corners-and-edges cleaning
This test is done along the same lines as the carpet-cleaning test … but to test how well each model gets into corners and edges, we put the dirtied carpet swatch in a corner.

Pet-hair removal
Again, this is done on carpet. The lab distributes a precisely measured quantity of cat hair on a carpet swatch. The vacuum’s cleaning head (we use the turbo or power head, if there is one) goes over the test swatch a set number of times and the hair it picks up is measured. We also inspect the cleaning head to see how much hair became tangled in the brush.

Ease of use
Here we assess the movement of the cleaning head, the vacuum’s ability to clean under low furniture, the on-board tools and their versatility, mobility, the ease of emptying the dust bin or bag, and how easy the controls are to use.

Hard floors
Because all modern vacuum cleaners do a good job on hard floors, we no longer test for this. But we do test to make sure the cleaning head doesn’t scratch hard floors.

Reliability

As well as performing well in our tests, products we recommend must also have acceptable brand reliability in our annual reliability surveys (as long as this information is available).

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Vacuum Top Brands

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

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Vacuuming SmartStrand carpets

We’ve fielded multiple questions recently about premium solution-dyed nylon and “SmartStrand” carpets. These synthetic carpets are soft, plush and durable. But members have told us they can’t push their vacuum cleaner over them – it gets stuck fast.

The problem is density of the carpet. The soft, plush feel is because they pack more fibres into every square centimetre than other carpets. But all those fibres make it harder for air to flow through, meaning some vacuums get sucked down and won’t budge.

The first thing to try is turning down the suction. If your vacuum cleaner has power settings, try it on something other than full-suck to see if that makes it easier to move.

It helps if your vacuum cleaner has a power head. This is a motorised brush that rotates inside the head – lifting dirt out of the carpet into the vacuum. They still work effectively even when a vacuum cleaner’s suction power is lowered. If the power head has height adjustment, try raising it to a sweet spot where you can move it easily, but it still sucks up the dirt.

A turbo head brush is spun by air flowing through the cleaning head. If your vacuum cleaner head is air-locked to your carpet, or you’ve turned the power down, they won’t work as well.

If your vacuum cleaner is still hard to move or you get poor dirt removal, you might need a new one. The important feature to look for is an adjustable-height power head with wheels.

If possible, try a vacuum cleaner on your carpet before buying. Be clear with the salesperson that you need a vacuum that’s effective and easy to move on plush nylon or SmartStrand-style carpet. This means if you find it doesn’t work as expected, you at least have recourse under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

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