How to Choose a Vacuum Cleaner

Over the years I have owned and tested A LOT of vacuum cleaners. The thing about vacuum cleaners is that if you ask anyone their opinion, a.) they have one and b.) either they LOVE their vacuum cleaner or they HATE it.  So today, I’m going to save you the trouble and tell you some essential criteria for any vacuum cleaner and give you a handful of suggestions in all price ranges so you can make a more informed decision.  Because it really stinks to get a brand new vacuum cleaner and have it work great for a month and then it completely loses its suction and ability to pick anything up.  Ugh – been there, done that.

I also asked my Facebook Group – Homekeeping Society (not a member? just request to join!) their opinions too and asked for suggestions of vacuum cleaners that they LOVE and wholeheartedly recommend. My recommendations are based on my own experience, testing and research, recommendations from readers and Facebook group, and ratings from the retailers and Amazon.

My Vacuum cleaner musts:

  • purchase the best that you can in your budget
  • look for attachments (bonus if they are stored ON the unit) – crevice nozzle, hose, upholstery brush, dusting
  • look for a HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air) – to be rated as a HEPA filter, a filter must keep tiny particles .3 microns in size or larger at 99.97% – this means that it’s keeping most particles whereas a non-HEPA filter vacuum is blowing those particles back into the air which in turn goes right back in your home.  If you have allergy sufferers or anyone with asthma, this is most-definitely a must!
  • cord long enough that you don’t have to unplug it from room to room
  • multi-level filtration – if you don’t need/want the HEPA filter, make sure you have more than one filtration system to catch and hold dirt and dust
  • After having numerous vacuum cleaners with a canister/dirt tank, I prefer a bagged system and truth be told, it’s the main reason I switched from Dyson to Miele.  (I was sick of the dirt/dust escaping when I would empty the bin.)
  • look for a brushroll that can be turned off for vacuuming hard surface floors
  • check the weight of the vacuum cleaner and test them out – make sure it’s easy for you to maneuver

I’ve pulled together a couple favorites in 4 categories – these are vacuums that I recommend based on the above criteria in a variety of price ranges.  I hope it helps you in your search for the perfect vacuum! I’ve also added affiliate links under the image to purchase if you’re interested – the vacuums are in order of price, low to high and I’ve added a * to the ones that I have owned/tested or currently own and recommend.

Best robotic vacuums

iRobot Roomba 650  – Neato Botvac D80 Robot (Pets and Allergies)*

Best tank vacuums

BISSELL Zing Bagged Canister Vacuum – Eureka Mighty Mite Bagged w/Pet Attachments– Electrolux Ultra Flex Canister Vacuum – Miele Complete C3 Bagged Canister

Best Stick or Handheld Cordless vacuums

BISSELL Natural Sweep Dual Brush Sweeper – BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum – Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Upright Vacuum Dyson V6 Handheld Vacuum Dyson V6 Animal Cord Free*

Best upright vacuums

Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away – Hoover Platinum Collection Lightweight Bagged Corded Upright with Canister  – Oreck LW100 Magnesium SP Bagged Upright* – Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Plus Allergy* – Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog Upright Bagged*

What do you think? What’s your criteria for a vacuum cleaner? Have a favorite to share?

I’m loving my Miele – I love that there’s no dust or debris whipped up while I’m vacuuming and I love the ease of having the attachments on-board for on the go cleaning.

It hits all of my criteria and then some (but it’s pricey).  The HEPA filter and bagged system is one of the best out there – if you’re used to buying new vacuum cleaners every couple years, it makes sense to purchase a better one that will last for years to come.

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Comments

  1. I have a Shark Navigator that I bought second hand from a seller on craigslist over 2 years ago. It only cost me $30, and it’s the best vacuum I’ve ever owned. It’s especially great for dog hair and is the best $30 I’ve ever spent!

  2. Totally agree! I used to change vacuums every year because they usually were broken by then. When I got sick of this I got a Dyson animal, which is veeeery expensive in Greece and also not the norm. In Europe tank vacuums are the usual type to buy. I was very happy with carpet and matress cleaning but it is very impractical for everyday use. It is heavy and can’t go under furniture and it is not ideal for wood floors. I still use it once a week for carpets though. And then I got a Miele tank vacuum and….oh my god….I will never ever go back! It is lightweight, long cord, HEPA filter, with bag (amen!), great suction, equipment that I use all the time! And pretty expensive as well but it will last for a long time. As a matter of fact I am saving to buy a second smaller one for the upper floor.

  3. I LOVE my Dyson. So much so that I bought a cordless version too for quick messes and the car. One of the best vacuums I’ve ever had. I grew up in a home where mom made us vacuum all the time, I swore I’d never vacuum. lol, welcome to being an adult. I bought that darn Dyson and vacuumed everything the first week or so: floors, walls, ceilings, baseboards, mattress, sofa, light fixtures…

  4. What are your thoughts on Kirby vacuums? Do they clean so much better to justify their weight and price?

    • My sister has one and LOVES it – it’s a little too clunky for me, but it’s definitely built to last and works amazingly!

  5. In 1979 I bought a rainbow vacuum. Yes it was expensive…..$850.00…..that said, I am still using it. I replaced the power head for under $100.00 in 1995, and a belt for around $2.00 every couple of years. Since it uses water, we have little to no dust and have never had a flea problem, which is very common in the Northwest. ( Even with no animals in homes). And no stinky vacuum odor in the front hallway closet. I recommend it above all others.

    • I, too, love my rainbow. It is big and kind of clunky, which is why I also have a little stick vac for everyday messes (I have two kiddos under the age of 5). The rainbow cleans everything and I use it weekly for a good deep clean. My mother in law owned 2 in her life and she loved them as well. Now that’s she’s in her 70s it’s not as practical for her so she’s traded it for a Shark Professional which also seems to do a good job.
      You don’t want to know what a rainbow costs these days! My wallet had a meltdown when we purchased ours! Lol ????

    • Theresa Peele Smith says:

      Same here. Love my Rainbow that I got 15 years ago. Price point is up there, but I’ll probably never need another one !

    • Kimberly says:

      I currently use a Shark which I love, but growing up my grandma always had a rainbow and I’m convinced nothing cleans better than one. I recently found out they still make them…albeit very pricey. But I think that will be a splurge for me one day because they last forever!

  6. Samantha Manley says:

    I’ve got a Dyson in the canister/tank design & love it, I have 2 dogs that molt like crazy so being able to vacuum chairs, dog beds & dust surfaces with it is a big plus. I am a fan of attachments & will vac anything that sits still long enough for me to do it. Hell I would vacuum my dishes clean if I could. I’ve heard the Miele is good but I hate vacs that use bags as having to keep paying annoys me & I’m not allergic so emptying the canister isn’t such an issue for me as it can be for some people, I have a friend with asthma who will take her Miele to her grave with her so different folks and all that. I also love that if needed I could buy & replace any part on my Dyson, I hate that so many products these days are made to be disposable (looking at you $700 washing machine that is already rusting after 5 years).

  7. I have suffered through numerous poor performing vacuums over the years. I just assumed unless I spend many hundreds of dollars, that was what I was going to get. Then I started hearing about the quality of the Shark vacuums. I recently purchased the Professional Liftaway and it is incredible! I love the lift away and canister option of this vacuum. The dirt it removed from my carpets the first time I used it was disgusting! It was much more affordable when I found a great sale on it.

  8. All I can say is I LOVE MY KIRBY. I have a Dyson portable, and the 8 lb Oreck. They are great but I always revert back to my KIRBY. Yes it is heavy and I have to change a bag but it just seems to work for me. Tons of attachments to go with although I do not use all of them. I can really feel like when finished cleaning with the KIRBY I am happy with the clean. Old School perhaps and yes my mom had a KIRBY too. Expensive yes but they seem to last a lifetime. I only send this note because I noticed this style was not mentioned in your list. I can clean ceiling to floor, inside and outside of cabinets, window tracks, sliding door tracks not to forget it sucks up all the dirt in my car. There is a lot of pebbles and sand as I live in the country with dirt everywhere. Great for those pesky spider webs that like to gather around porches as well!

  9. Agree 100%!! I clean for a living and by far Miele is my fave!!

  10. I would like to know how often you change vacuums. Seems like you were raving about the Dyson and now it is a Miele. Most people can’t afford to be constantly changing vacuums because something greater comes along!

    • Hi Cindi! I still recommend and own the Dysons (as you can see from the post), but wanted a bagged vacuum after research, a new puppy, and allergies. As a cleaning expert, I do the research and testing so you don’t have to 🙂

  11. I bought a Rainbow about 24 years ago and am still loving it. It was very pricey but worth every penny. Because it uses water instead of a bag, there is no odor and wet dust can’t fly. Yes, it’s a pain to have to empty the water every time I vacuum but I feel like I can see the result of my labor when I dump the dirty water. I have never had to replace anything on the machine, not even a belt. My mother had a rainbow for close to 40 years so I knew I was getting a quality machine when I purchased it. You get what you pay for and Rainbows are top quality vacuum cleaners!!

  12. SOOOO glad you posted this!!! I’m looking for a great handheld vacuum for my kitchen. I want my kiddos to help me vacuum after meals and snacks and am tired of the crumbs everywhere. I have seen many of those you shared in my client’s homes….so now I just need to narrow down. Most people have the Dyson stick handheld and they rave about it.

    xx,
    Sam

  13. 8 years ago, my husband bought a Sebo. Never heard of it – thought the price tag was ridiculous. A year later he bought another one for the second floor. Amazing, superior machines – well worth the investment.

  14. I have a Dyson and love it for getting the cat hair off everything. It is an older (one of the earlier ones about 10 years old) Animal upright and it was expensive but does the work. I recently bought a Shark Rocket lite weight for everyday clean ups. The only thing with the Rocket is you have a bag of tools to carry around. I use these all the time and do not regret paying the money for them because they last and do the work without expensive replacement parts or need to go to the vacuum doctor.

  15. I am a professional cleaner and I have used many, many different types of vacuums, some good, some not so good, but I own a Kirby. I love it. I have owned it for close to 15 years and it is still going strong and has never needed to be repaired. Yes, it was very expensive but well worth the cost.

  16. I must be the only person who owns and loves the Aerus Lux Platinum. Aerus is the original Electrolux from years ago and they apparently sold their name so what is now called Electrolux isn’t the same company. It was very pricey $2200 in Canada but nothing compares. I love the “sidekick” attachment which is a small beater bar that clicks on the hose to vacuum furniture and in my house multiple cat beds! The service is great..the man comes right to my house and either fixes it right there or takes it with him to repair and then brings it back. He lives 4.5 hours away! Mine is only 2.5 years old so it hasn’t needed repairs. It is a canister with thick fabric bags and a replaceable hepa filter. I also have a cordless Dyson that I use for quick pickups and it works good also but I had to replace the beater bar before it was a year old.

  17. So I have a shark, that I’m not happy with, so today I went online an purchased the meile. Sure hope it is as good as everyone says, will let you know next week. We have had a kirby before and while it works great it’s just to heavy for me, I sold it

    • Can’t wait to hear what you think Barbara!

    • I have the yellow Miele Jazz upright and find it way too heavy. I do believe it is a workhorse but just too heavy for me to push around my large home. I have since purchased the Red Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away True Pet. Absolutely love it in combination with my Dyson V8 Animal cordless.

  18. Interesting…all these wonderful vacuums make me want to go out and buy one:) However, 20 years ago we bought a house that has a central vacuum system. Clean mama, do you have any comments on how they vacuum in general, compared to all the others you mentioned. Just curious as I have never used anything else.

    • Hi Sarah! Great question – from my research I’ve found that because central vacuum systems typically exhaust OUT of the home, they eliminate the dust and allergens because they can’t come back into the air like a traditional vacuum. Make sure you’re maintaining it and you should have a great system for many years to com!

  19. Becky Armstrong says:

    I have owned a Sears canister for 20 years. I have bought 3 in this time period. It is a great vacuum but the lastest updates are not as user friendly. A man must have been involved in the design. :/
    I love this vacuum because of the convenience of all the attachments and the ease of switching them out.
    Just thought I’d let you know. No one mentioned Sears.
    Thanks, Becky

  20. I love my dysons I have the complete ball and the v6 stick and between the two I’m very happy 🙂

  21. I have two Dyson The basic and a stick.
    Best I’ve ever owned ..No buying bags..
    No recycled smell.
    These are used alot….I’m very happy ????????

  22. In the past, I have had a Kirby and also a Dyson. A couple of years ago, I was sick of the Dyson canister too. I always felt that the dust and dirt that I had captured now was loose when I opened it. I purchased a Miele, upright pet just like the one pictured, and I am super happy. I would never go back to other vacuum cleaners. I love it! It is worth every single cent.

  23. Felica G. says:

    We have a Riccar. I LOVE it. This is the second one we’ve owned and they last forever. They are a bit pricey too, about $550-650 depending on which model you get. Made in the USA and ours came with lifetime belts. Our local vacuum store does yearly maintenance on ours for free since we purchased it there.

  24. I am surprised Ricaar is not mentioned. It is made in USA and is an exactly vacuum priced at $300-500. It’s only downfall is that they do not advertise it. It was recommended to me by my carpet salesman.

  25. Kimberly in SoCal says:

    We are currently on the hunt for a new vacuum. I tried a Dyson Animal ball vacuum, bought in 2009 and for 3.5 years we fought with it breaking. Dyson would have it fixed, and twice they sent a (refurbished) replacement, and still it gave up on us again on Christmas Eve 2012. We bought a last minute Shark at BBB and it did well enough until the plug broke off in the wall outlet last week 🙁 It wasn’t the best vacuum, but at least it didn’t break all of the time. We’ve also been through two Dyson cordless stick vacuums, and again, the break constantly. We have two big dogs and we vacuum 6 days a week, with a combination of hardwood, area rugs, some tile (bathrooms), and one room with wall to wall carpet. I’m curious about trying a Meile upright (I really don’t love canister vacs, having gone through many of them over 20 years), but really wonder how well it will do with such regular use. I’d hate to spend so much only to have it die within a few years.

    • The Miele has a great warranty – I highly recommend it!

    • I have a Riccar upright and a Miele canister, LOVE them…maybe the Miele more than the Riccar. Got sucked into a Dyson upright and the stick vac, after watching them on QVC for years…ok, but not anything compared to Riccar & Miele, which can be brought to the dealer for repairs. I’ve been eyeballing that Miele upright, but the dealer sells both brands and told me Riccar is best upright and Miele best canister. Love that they both have bags and Hepa filters, not too much of a fan of dumping the dirt out out the Dyson which was bought for the reason we got a new black lab and wanted to use in his area of the house.

  26. Patricia B. says:

    I won’t trade my Dyson DC65 with anything. It’s the best I’ve ever owned.

  27. Love my Dyson and it’s still going strong after at least 15 years – I forget exactly how long. And I like the fact that it’s bagless and easy to empty into the trash. It seems to cope with everything I throw at it and always cleans the carpets well, although we use a wet and dry vacuum for building-type debris!

  28. Am I the only one that uses Hoover? I have to keep the price tag down, have no pets, but have family with multiple respiratory problems including asthma and allergies. Our last Hoover lasted over six years. The one we just bought was less than $200. After a little fiscal manipulation, I actually didn’t have to pay anything for it!

  29. I have a Riccar as well. Love it and I’ve never had a problem with it and I’ve owned it for years! It’s a little pricey but we’ll worth it considering you’re not buying a new vacuum every year or so.

  30. I’ve really been wanting to get a stick vacuum and the new Shark Rocket Duo Clean looks amazing! Have you seen the infomercial?? With a toddler and a little one on the way, I need something to clean everyday messes, quickly and easily. We moved from a house with mostly carpet, to a 3000 sq ft house with mostly wood and tile, including the stairs.. and the broom is not cutting it. (I’m dying!) I can’t stand the vacuum my husband loves.. and it only works on the bedrooms with carpet. I’m sticking my neck out by wanting to get the Rocket, because he’s had a bad experience before, with one of them breaking down. My other concern is that I have allergies/asthma and I’m not sure how good the filtration system is. Any suggestions?

  31. Margaret says:

    Have you tried the kind that you carry on your back? I understand some professional cleaners use them and have talked to a former employee who thinks they are great. Thanks.

  32. I purchased a Bosch compact canister using HEPA filters in the early 90’s and it is still going strong! It is very lightweight and has an attachment for furniture.

  33. Theresa says:

    This article is perfect timing!! Just yesterday I was talking to a friend about how much I hate my vacuum and wish I could find one I love! I’m so indecisive though. Could you recommend what’s best for mainly noncarpeted/hardwood floors but then would also work on the wall to wall carpet in our living room and a bedroom? I’m thinking I’d do a upright type and then a stick for smaller jobs. Oh and I don’t have pets just two young boys! So lots of dirt to clean up.

  34. Was visiting (phone) with a vacuum specialist who was helping me with comparisons between the Miele upright and the canister. He mentioned that tubing was a bit more flexible in the upright than the canister primarily because the upright has more pleats in its tubing. Knowing that you prefer the upright, I’m wondering if you have been able to look at both models and if so, noticed a difference. My upright Dyson does a great job but has rather stiff tubing, making a more intensive workout.

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