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Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners are often the most effective cleaning tools in the house, so buying the right one is very much an investment. With all the different types of vacuum cleaners on the market, sifting through the various models can soon get very confusing. This guide should help point you in the right direction.

Upright or Cylinder?

Whether to go for a traditional upright vacuum or a cylinder is the first question you should ask yourself when buying a cleaner. It is also important to consider the size of the area you will be vacuuming - a small house with small rooms will require a different vacuum to a large house.

  • Generally, cylinder cleaners are smaller and lighter units and thus considered to be easier to move around. They have all their accessory tools inside them for quick retrieval and put-away, and the suction head is separate from the main unit giving a wide cleaning radius. Most models feature a cord rewind feature and foot operated start/stop pedals. All this makes the cylinder cleaner ideal for cleaning those hard to reach places, and especially good for stairs.
  • The upright is usually heavier and harder to manoeuvre and is less suited to cleaning small gaps and spaces, although many models now include a set of tools for most purposes. The upright's main strength is its carpet cleaning, which is especially effective over large floor areas due to its multiple cleaning heads. Also, a carpet height selector available on most models allows the user to adjust the height of the vacuum above the floor according to the length of the carpet pile. If pet hair is a problem, the rotating brushes on an upright should do the job.

Key Features

  • Key FeaturesBagged or Bagless?
    Argos stocks both bagged and bagless models of upright and cylinder vacuums. The bagless cleaners are generally more expensive because of their technology but what extra you pay may be more than compensated for by savings you make on buying bags. Performance of bagged cleaners can also be compromised as the bag gradually fills up. Bagged models can be more hygienic, however, because the dirt and dust is collected in a sealed bag - a bagless unit must have its container emptied. If you or anyone in your house is asthmatic then it is better to go for a bagged cleaner and preferably one which has the British Allergy Foundation seal of approval.
  • Power
    The power, in Watts, of a vacuum is a pretty good indicator of how well it will perform at cleaning. Generally, the higher the wattage of the motor, the better the cleaning performance should be. A good figure for a cylinder cleaner is around 1400 Watts, and 1300 for an upright.
  • Filtration
    Filtration determines the size and number of particles there will be in the air when it is exhausted out of the vacuum. This does not have a bearing on how much dust or dirt the vacuum sucks up. Filtration is a feature of great importance to asthma sufferers and those with dust allergies. There are three basic types of filtration to choose from, standard, S-class/HEPA and lifetime filtration.

    •   Standard filtration is found on less expensive models and is generally not suited to allergy sufferers. If you do decide to go for a vacuum cleaner with standard filtration, make sure you look for one with more than one filtration level. If a cleaner features microfiltration, this is standard filtration with at least 4 levels.

    •   S-class and HEPA filtration is specifically designed to reduce the number of microscopic allergens emitted after vacuuming. The result is a cleaner outflow of air that is safer for those with asthma and similar problems, to breathe in. S-class is the name of the standard adhered to by vacuum cleaner manufacturers to achieve this aim, and HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are the technology most models of this type feature.

    The above two methods of filtration will require a change of filter after a certain length of time. Lifetime filters, on the other hand, do not need replacing. They are guaranteed to filter the in-coming air throughout the life of the vacuum. Some S-class/HEPA filters are also Lifetime filters, but models featuring this type of filtration are usually more expensive.

Other Cleaner Types

  • Handhelds
    Handheld cleaners are small, light and have the benefit of being very portable. Although not as powerful as uprights or cylinders, and despite having a much smaller dust capacity, the handhelds are perfectly suitable for stair, sofa and car cleaning. Filtration is available on most models, though is not recommended for asthma and allergy sufferers.
  • Wet & Dry Cleaners
    These vacuums are versatile units that can do anything from picking up small debris to unblocking sinks. They have relatively large capacities and can be either bagged or bagless. Wet & Dry cleaners come with a range of tools for many purposes, although they can be especially noisy.
  • Steam Cleaners
    Steam cleaners are multi-purpose appliances that use steam to powerfully remove dirt from carpets, ovens, windows, clothes and upholstery. They do not require detergents, but they do require 'steaming' time - this limits the amount of cleaning time available in one session. Steam cleaners come with a wide range of tools and some offer variable steam control.

Jargon Buster

Bag Full Indicator - a bagged cleaner will let you know when the bag needs replacing

Bagged - any vacuum cleaner that collects dust and dirt in a disposable bag

Bagless - any cleaner that stores the dust in a removable container for emptying

Beater Brush Bar - a revolving brush on upright cleaners that picks up hard-to-get hairs

Cord Rewind - featured on cylinder vacuums, the mains cord is withdrawn into the body of the cleaner after use. This allows for compact storage.

Cylinder - small, manoeuvrable cleaners especially suitable for hard floors and confined spaces

Edge to Edge cleaning - the ability of a vacuum to clean all areas of a surface

Filtration - the process through which a vacuum retains unhygienic particles before pumping back out the air

HEPA - (High Efficiency Particulate Air) A method of S-class filtration that emits air which is safe for allergy sufferers

Lifetime Filtration - filtration which does not require a change of filter throughout the lifetime of the vacuum cleaner

Microfiltration - a form of standard filtration which can retain the finer particles

On Board Tools - tools for a number of cleaning purposes contained within the main body of the vacuum

S-Class filtration - a manufacturing standard for anti-allergenic filtration

Self-Adjusting Head - a cleaning head that remains in close contact to the surface regardless of the angle the vacuum is at

Stair Cleaning - an attachment for upright cleaners allowing them to be used to clean stairs. The vacuum unit itself should be stood at the bottom of the stairs for safe cleaning

Standard Filtration - a filtering system on less expensive models

Telescopic Tubes - a range of attachments that can be adjusted to the length required

Upright - a traditional cleaner that uses a rotating brush as well as suction. Especially suitable for large floor areas