How to Buy a Vacuum Cleaner

A vacuum cleaner is an essential item for a home, but because they aren't typically purchased often, many consumers aren't sure what to look for when it comes time to buy a new one. The features have evolved over the years, and unless you have some idea of what's available, you might miss out on getting the vacuum that would be ideal for your needs. A modern vacuum will not only provide cleaning power for your floors, but it will also give you plenty of options for other types of cleaning jobs.

Shown above (left to right), Dyson Upright, Kenmore Canister,
Hoover Stick, Hoover Handheld



1. Hand-held Vacuum Cleaners

The hand-held option is ideal for someone in a very small apartment who doesn't have carpeted floors. They're great for picking up small spills, dust bunnies, sweeping piles or small amounts of pet hair. They make a great second vacuum for someone in a large home, because they're easier to grab when something spills. However, you should never attempt to use a hand-held vacuum to clean a full carpet. This would be a painstaking and ineffective effort, because hand-held vacuums are nowhere near as powerful as the full-sized variety, and they also can't store as much dirt.

2. Upright Vacuum Cleaners

This is the standard style of vacuum cleaner you're probably most familiar with. They are best for deep-cleaning carpets, but most modern varieties also have settings for hardwood floors or tile. They typically come with a number of attachment tools designed for detail cleaning. Although lightweight models are available, some upright vacuums can be a bit heavy to push around, so senior citizens or those with physical disabilities will need to take their own strengths and limitations into account.

3. Canister Vacuum Cleaners

Canisters roll on the ground rather than standing upright. They feature a long hose that can reach any area you need, but they can be a bit cumbersome to drag around with you, especially if you need to go up and down stairs. They are ideal for cleaning drapes, upholstery, underneath furniture or anywhere else that requires you stay in one small area at a time. Another perk is that they are typically less noisy than upright vacuums.

4. Stick Vacuum Cleaners

Stick vacuums feature a long handle that allows you to reach messes without having to bend forward. Featuring less power than upright or canister models, they are typically lightweight and best for small messes, much like a larger version of a hand-held vacuum. They aren't recommended for deep cleaning but rather as a supplement to keep around for times you don't want to get a larger vacuum out.

5. Central Vacuum Cleaners

Central vacuums remove the need for a vacuum body by instead attaching to suction ports within the wall. These ports need to be installed by professionals, which means the choice to use a central vacuum cleaner comes with some commitment. There are a few perks to consider. First of all, the dirt chambers only need to be emptied once in a great while, eliminating one of the more annoying aspects of cleaning house. Secondly, central vacuums are very quiet, making it easy to clean while other members of the household might be studying or watching television. However, dragging a long hose around the house can get a bit frustrating at times, so you'll need to take your typical cleaning route into consideration before you make the leap.

6. Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

In most cases, a robotic vacuum is not going to replace a full-size version, but they can make great investments that will provide you with a cleaner household without any hassle on your part. If you're a minimalist with a lot of open floor space in your home, you'll get the most use out of a robotic vacuum.


Features to Consider

Once you determine the general style of vacuum that you'd prefer, you can then examine individual features. Vacuums come with a variety of options these days, and here are a few you might want to consider:

  • Pet-grooming tools: These help keep your home clean by removing hair directly from your pet rather than letting it shed and get attached to your furniture.
  • Detail tools: Most vacuums come with special tools for detailing, such as edge cleaners.
  • Other Tools - Detachable hose, extensions, upholstery brushes, corner cleaners. Some units have caddies to hold all the tools.
  • Headlights: Some models feature lights on the base of the cleaner head, which can be helpful when cleaning in shadowy areas of the home.
  • Roller brush or agitator: These are the bristles on the bottom of the vacuum that spin when the machine is operating. They help to break up dirt on carpet, fabric or other surfaces.
  • Indicator light: This feature warns you when the canister is full of debris and needs to be emptied.
  • Carpet height adjustment: If your home has different styles of carpets or a mix of carpet, tile and hardwood flooring, then this is a good option for you.
  • Self-propelling: This feature assists you by moving the vacuum cleaner forward and backward in the direction that you're pushing it. This is a good option for those who need a bit of help physically, but it's best for single-level homes, because the mechanical elements make the vacuum a bit heavier to lift.
  • Filtration system: There are many different filter options for vacuums. Advanced filtration systems can do a lot to remove pollen and other allergens from the home, so they might be worth considering if you suffer from asthma or allergies.


Important Attributes

  • Motor Power (amps) - Measures the amount of current used by the motor. Higher amps doesn't necessarily mean more cleaning power. Airflow is a truer test of effectiveness.
  • Air Flow - Usually measured in cfm (cubic feet per minute)
  • Dust Collector - Can be a bag (thick paper) or bagless with a plastic container. Both systems work well.
  • Construction - Can be plastic or metal. Metal vacuum cleaner are usually more durable.
  • Cord length - Make sure that the cord is long enough for you to effectively clean one area of you home without having to change outlets.


How to Choose

To determine what sort of vacuum cleaner you need, ask yourself what kind of cleaning you plan on doing. Vacuuming will always be a chore, but if you make a realistic assessment of what you need and envision yourself going through the motions, you should be able to figure out which features might make the process easier for you. Most brands and models are solidly build and will last several years without maintenance problems. The choice in models comes down to your specific needs and tastes.

First choose the type of vacuum cleaner that best fits your needs. Make sure you consider what types of surfaces you'll be cleaning.

The consider the other features and attributes:

  1. Comfort - Make sure you test drive the vacuum to see how well it handles, and how heavy it is. Is the handle comfortable?
  2. Filtration - If you suffer from allergies, consider a unit with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particular Air) filter.
  3. Attachments - Make sure it has the attachments you need, but don't pay for those you don't. For example you don't need the drapery cleaner if you don't have curtains.
  4. Noise - Some people place a great deal of importance on noise considerations. To respond to this, some models have insulated materials around the motors.