Vacuum cleaner buying guide
From traditional upright cleaners to lightweight cordless vacuums, this guide will look at the pros and cons of each type of vacuum cleaner to help you choose the right one for your home.
The different types of vacuum cleaners
|Best for||Large carpeted areas||Hard floors||Light cleaning, hard to reach areas, stairs||Light cleaning|
|House size||Larger homes||Small homes||Small homes||Small homes|
|Weight||Heavier, up to 9.5kg||Lighter than uprights||Lightweight||Lightweight|
|Manoeuvrability||Can be difficult to manoeuvre||Easier to manoeuvre, easy to use on furniture||Very easy to manoeuvre, easy to use on furniture||Moves by itself|
|Power||Cable||Cable||Up to 1 hour battery life||Up to 2 hours battery life|
|Pet hair||Good at picking up pet hair||Pet specific models and attachments available||Pet specific models and attachments available||For light removal only|
|Storage||Larger, trickier to store||Smaller than upright, easier to store||Easy to store, can be secured to wall||Easy to store|
What is a robot vacuum cleaner?
These cordless cleaners use sensors to steer around your floor, avoiding furniture as they go. They won't climb stairs but their sensors will stop them from falling down them.
Robot cleaners can be programmed to start vacuuming on their own while you're at work or relaxing and can usually run for around 30 minutes to 2 hours before re-charging is needed. They're ideal for light cleaning and many come with a docking station to keep them safe while charging.
Bagged or bagless?
Vacuum cleaners with a bag generally have a larger capacity than bagless models, and when it comes to emptying, bagged cleaners are a better option for people with asthma and allergies as the dust is sealed in the bag. However, buying replacement bags can be costly over the longer term and performance does suffer when the bag starts to fill up.
Most upright vacuums are now bagless. Some use powerful cyclone technology to trap bacteria and allergen particles in a chamber but care needs be taken when emptying.
Things to consider when buying a vacuum cleaner
Upright vacuums generally have longer cords so it's easier to vacuum larger areas in one go, without unplugging and starting again. But cylinder cleaners have a cord rewind feature which makes them easy to store with fewer wire tangles.
Cordless vacuums are a much more flexible option because they can reach almost anywhere but need to be re-charged regularly.
Filtration is particularly important for allergy sufferers. HEPA filters trap 99.97% of the smallest dust particles through a series of mechanisms. Charcoal filters are ideal if you have pets as they help to filter unpleasant smells.
This is usually between 1 and 6 litres. The higher capacity a vacuum cleaner has the less you'll need to change the bag or empty the chamber.
This refers to how long a cordless vacuum cleaner will run on a single charge before it needs to be re-charged. Most can last for around 15-20 minutes but others can run for up to 60 minutes.
Vacuum cleaners must legally show an energy efficiency rating label based on the performance of the cleaner, dust re-emission, noise level and power consumption.
These classifications range from A-G, with A being the most efficient. With carpet cleaning performance, an A rated model will pick up around 91% of dust while a G rated option will pick up 70-71% of dust.
Also featured on the energy efficiency label, a vacuum's noise level is measured in decibels (dB). The lower the amount of decibels, the quieter the vacuum cleaner will be.
Generally a higher wattage means more power, but not always. Other factors will affect the suction power, such as airflow and the way the vacuum has been designed along with the quality of brush on an upright vacuum. Cordless cleaners have a voltage rating; the higher the voltage the more powerful the cleaner.
Important vacuum cleaner accessories
Replacement bags keep your vacuum working effectively and are available in a selection of pack sizes.
Brush attachments for vacuum hoses
For sofas, radiators, pet hair, stubborn stains and those difficult to reach places.
These should be checked every six months and replaced if damaged or broken. Otherwise, filters should be replaced once a year.
Other types of vacuum cleaners
These produce steam which removes dirt and stains from floors. There's three main types: mop, handheld and cylinder. Mops are ideal for hard floors, with some suitable for laminate and wood floors. Handheld steam cleaners are best for cleaning small areas and hard to reach spots. Cylinder cleaners are a good all-in-one choice for both larger areas and tough stains, with specific tools available and longer steaming times.
Clean carpets and rugs using a mixture of water and detergent. The powerful suction lifts dirt deep down in the carpet fibres, with many models featuring a performance brush to help release ground-in stains. Tools are available to help with cleaning tough spots and hard to reach areas.
Suck surfaces dry with a streak-free finish. Ideal for removing condensation from windows as well as excess water from mirrors, shower screens and tiles. Window vacs are cordless and lightweight, making them a great portable option. They're battery powered and need to be re-charged after around 30 minutes of use.