We’ve tested standard canister and upright vacuums to find which models are the best at carpet cleaning and removing pet hair.
Overall score breakdown
Overall score includes:
Carpet quick cleaning (37%)
Carpet full cleaning (18%)
Pet-hair removal (15%)
Ease of use (30%)
Our tests of standard and cordless vacuums use the same test method, but we calculate overall scores using different criteria for the different types of vac.
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. After 4 passes we weight the dirt and calculate our “quick” carpet score. After 10 passes we weigh it again to calculate the “full” carpet score.
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. We measure the size of the strip of dirt left by the front and sides of the cleaning head.
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.
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. We still test cordless stick vacs on hard floors, as some of those still struggle with this task. The test is similar to our carpet test – the vac makes a number of passes over the floor and we weigh the dirt it picks up to determine a score.
Ease of use
In our ease of use assessment, we look at how easy it is to push and pull the head across carpet. We also assess how well it can clean under low furniture and get into tight spaces.
It’s good to have a range of tools for cleaning spots such as window sills and upholstery. It’s better if those are stored on the vacuum cleaner so they are easy to access. So vacs with a good range of on-board tools score well.
Then we look at mobility. How heavy is the vac to drag and carry around? Does it tip over easily? How far does it reach from the power point? How easy it is to extend the telescoping wand? Are the controls intuitive and easy to operate?
For cordless models we also assess how easy it is to recharge the battery, and the cleaning time you can expect from a full charge At some point you’ll need to change the dust bag, empty the bin, or replace filters. So we assess how clean and easy those tasks are.
We've tested 47 vacuum cleaners.
Find the right one for you.