Confused about which vacuum cleaner to buy? Here’s our complete guide to choosing the right vacuum for your home.
Step 1: Decide on a Type of Vacuum
There are three main types of vacuum cleaner: cylinder, uprights, and cordless.
You can also buy other types, such as handheld and wet/dry vacuums, but these aren’t the best choice for a primary vacuum.
We’ve written a full guide to the types of vacuum cleaner, but here’s a quick overview:
- Upright vacuums. These are the most popular type of vacuum in the UK. They have strong suction, are great for cleaning large areas of floor, and you don’t need to bend down when using them. Many upright vacs also have powered brush bars for better carpet agitation.
- Cylinder vacuums. Cylinder vacuums are often cheaper and lighter than uprights. They also generate great suction power and the longer hose makes them useful for cleaning under furniture. Many don’t have a powered brush bar, however, which reduces carpet cleaning efficiency.
- Cordless vacuums. Cordless stick vacuums have become increasingly powerful in recent years. Models like the Dyson V11, Dyson V15 and Miele TriFlex can now rival corded vacuums for cleaning performance, while having the convenience of a cord-free design and the option of a handheld mode. The downsides are that they are expensive and have a limited battery life.
There’s no “best” type of vacuum for all situations. Instead, you need to consider your home’s cleaning requirements.
Step 2: Choose Between a Bagged or Bagless Vacuum Cleaner
Many modern vacuum cleaners have a bagless design, but this isn’t always the best choice. Here’s an overview of the differences between bagged and bagless vacuums:
- Bagged vacuums trap dirt, dust, and other debris in a bag. You’ll need to buy replacement bags, but everything is contained so particles don’t escape during the emptying process. Bagged vacuums also have bigger dust capacities and the bag acts as a filter.
- Bagless vacuums have a reusable dust canister, making them more convenient. You don’t need to spend money on replacement bags, but bagless vacs allow dust and other allergens to escape during the emptying process. In some cases, you may even need to pull out clumps of dirt by hand. Bagless vacuums nearly always have a smaller dirt capacity.
Again, the right option is mainly down to personal choice. Bagged vacuums are the better choice for people with allergies though.
Step 3: Consider Your Home’s Layout and Flooring Types
Types of Carpet
The types of carpet in your home may affect which vacuum cleaner you should buy.
Modern synthetic carpets are tough and durable. You can use a vacuum with strong cleaning performance on these carpets without worrying about causing damage to the fibres.
In fact, many modern carpets benefit from an aggressive vacuum cleaner with a strong rotating brush bar and powerful suction. The more dirt that’s agitated and sucked out of carpets, the longer the carpet will retain its appearance.
Natural carpet fibres are more delicate though. Wool carpets, for example, can withstand a soft brush bar, but not stiff bristles.
Why Vacuuming Carpets is Essential
Dried mud and other debris is abrasive and sharp. Whenever someone walks over soiling on carpets, the combination of weight and sharp edges damages the carpet fibres, which can cause permanent damage. It’s important to use a powerful vacuum cleaner to remove soiling before it can cause damage.
Unlike carpets, hard floors don’t benefit from a rotating brush bar. Brush rolls can scatter debris rather than suck it up and delicate floors may be damaged by stiff bristles.
For these reasons, if you have a lot of hard floors in your home then look for a vacuum either without a brush bar or the option to switch it off. Some vacuums also come with a dedicated hard floor floorhead, such as the Dyson Soft Roller.
Cylinder or cordless vacuum cleaners are typically the best for cleaning stairs.
While it’s possible to clean stairs using an upright vacuum’s hose, this is often awkward and makes it difficult to get a thorough clean.
Step 4: Set a Budget
Your budget determines which type of vacuum you can buy. We recommend getting the best vacuum you can afford, as higher quality models are more durable and often work out cheaper in the long-run.
Here’s an overview of the different price categories for a new vacuum cleaner:
- Under £100. These vacuums are the cheapest on the market. While there are some hidden gems in this price range, don’t expect the performance or longevity of more expensive vacuums.
- £100-£200. Vacuums in this price range tend to be more effective than the cheapest models, have more efficient filtration, and may include more tools and accessories. They still have significant drawbacks compared to the best vacuums though.
- £200-£350. This price range is the sweet spot for a corded upright or cylinder vacuum cleaner. You can find some excellent vacuums here without spending a fortune.
- £350+. If you’re looking for a high-quality cordless vacuum cleaner, then you’ll need to go above the £350 price point. The best models cost considerably more than this (up to £650 in some cases.)
Step 5: Additional Requirements
Choosing the right type of vacuum is the most important step, but there are a number of other considerations.
Cleaning performance is the most important consideration when choosing a vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to judge suction power and cleaning performance until you’ve used the vacuum.
Don’t rely on Watts when choosing a vacuum, as it’s not a good indicator of how effectively a model will clean. Air Watts is a better metric, as it measures the amount of airflow, but many manufacturers don’t provide this measurement.
Reading reviews is often the best way to judge a vacuum’s performance. You may also want to watch YouTube videos of the model in action, although be aware that many videos are recorded by people who may not have much experience with vacuum cleaners.
Tools and Accessories
Most vacuum cleaners come with a basic set of tools, such as a crevice tool or soft dusting brush. It’s also common for vacuums to have a combination floor head that can be used for various types of floor.
The quality of vacuum cleaner accessories varies a lot though. Cheaper models might have a very short crevice tool, for example, which makes it less useful for getting in tight spots.
Premium vacuums may come with extra attachments. Examples include a powered turbo brush, upholstery brush, mattress attachment, and flexible crevice tool.
Think about the areas of your home that you are difficult to clean. Which vacuums tools could make cleaning these locations easier?
Tip: Keep in mind that tools can often be purchased separately from the vacuum.
All vacuums have a filtration system to keep particles inside the machine, but these vary in quality.
Models with poor filtration allow more dust, pet dander, and other fine particles to pass through the machine and back into the room. Aside from re-settling around your home, these fine particles are bad news for allergy sufferers.
HEPA filters are more effective than standard filters, as they remove at last 99.97% of particles under 0.3 microns in diameter. If anyone in your household suffers from a dust allergy, look for a bagged vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
The larger a vacuum cleaner’s dust capacity, the more debris it can hold before needing to be emptied. Capacities range from around 0.5 litres for cordless vacuums, up to 8 litres for large bagged cylinder vacuums.
A small capacity may not be an issue in a small home with light soiling. But small canisters can quickly become a nightmare when cleaning big homes with lots of hair, dirt, and dust. If you have a large house with children and/or pets, look for a big vacuum cleaner that doesn’t need to be emptied as frequently.
Tip: As a general rule, cordless vacuums have the smallest capacities. Cylinder vacuums have the largest, with uprights somewhere in the middle. Bagged vacuums have bigger capacities than bagless.
Do you have pets? If so, then you’ll need a pet vacuum that can handle pet hair on different types of surfaces.
An upright vacuum with a powerful brush bar is often the best choice for cleaning pet hair. The surface agitation helps to remove more hair that’s become embedded in carpet fibres.
It’s also a good idea to buy a vacuum with a mini turbo tool. These are great for removing pet hair from carpeted stairs, upholstery, and pet beds.
Don’t overlook the available storage space in your home. If you only have a small cupboard to store your new vacuum, for example, then a big cylinder with a long hose probably isn’t the best option.
Ease of Use
Some vacuums are a pleasure to use around the home. Features like automatic cord rewind, ability to lay flat to get under furniture, long power cord, and a lightweight design make cleaning a home much easier. Some vacuums also have handle controls so you don’t need to bend down to change the settings.
Other vacuum cleaners are much less convenient. The worst models are bulky, heavy, and tiring to use during long cleaning sessions. Don’t overlook ease of use when buying a vacuum, as sometimes a vacuum with great cleaning performance can be a nightmare to actually use.
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to buy a high-quality vacuum cleaner that’s built to last. Low-quality vacuums might be cheaper – and many provide acceptable performance at first – but these models won’t last long and quickly lose suction strength.
One of the most important factors when it comes to how long a vacuum will last is the brand. Miele, Dyson, Shark, SEBO, and Numatic are all examples of brands that are known for building durable vacuums.
On a related note, make sure you check the warranty before you buy. A long warranty is a sign that the manufacturer believes their product will last.
The features below aren’t essential, but you may find them useful depending on your home and cleaning requirements.
- Variable Suction. Changing suction power is useful in homes with lots of different types of flooring. Some models also allow you to switch off the brush bar for hard floors or delicate rugs.
- Long Reach. It can be frustrating to vacuum with a corded vacuum that has a short cable. Cords are typically 6-10 metres, although some “Extra Reach” models have 15 metre cables. The longer the cable, the less often you’ll need to switch plug socket.
- LED Screens. Newer cordless vacuums sometimes have LED screens. These show information such as a live estimate of battery run-time, warnings about any issues, and current settings.
Choosing a new vacuum cleaner isn’t always easy. There are hundreds of options on the market, with prices ranging from £30 up to £1000 (or more!) The range of types, features, and styles can also cause confusion.
The key is to think about your cleaning requirements, budget, and what you really need from a vacuum. This allows you to narrow down the options and find a vac that’s the perfect fit for your home.
We hope the guide above has helped you choose the right vacuum for your home. If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know in the comments section below. You may also want to view our guide to the best vacuum cleaners in the UK.