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8 Different Types of Vacuum Cleaner (Explained!)

Written by James Hall |

A guide to the types of vacuum cleaner

With names like upright, cylinder, stick, and wet/dry…the various vacuum types can be confusing! Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each type, to help you make the right choice for your home.

Types of Vacuum (Quick Comparison Table)

We’ve written a detailed guide to each vacuum type below. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s the quick summary.

TypeBest for...Avoid If...Price Range
UprightCleaning large rooms without bending downYou want a lightweight vacuum£ - ££££
StickSurface cleaning or people who want a lightweight vacYou're looking for the most powerful vacuum£ - £££
CylinderValue for money and strong suctionYou hate bending down while cleaning£ - £££
CordlessConvenience and advanced technologyYou need a vacuum for long cleaning sessions££ - £££££
Wet and DryVacuuming wet spills and tougher debrisYou just need an everyday vacuum££ - £££
HandheldSpot cleaning and quick clean-upsYou need a vacuum for cleaning large areas£ - ££
RobotAutomated cleaning when scheduledYou have a cluttered home or need a vac on a budget£££ - ££££££

8 Most Common Types of Vacuum Cleaner

1. Upright Vacuum Cleaners

Upright vacuum cleaners

Upright vacuums have strong suction power and are great for cleaning big rooms. They can be either bagged or bagless, although the majority of modern uprights have a bagless design.

Unlike cylinder vacuums, the vacuum is pushed in front of you, which reduces the need to bend down. Most uprights also have a motorised brush roll for improved carpet cleaning.

Side Note: Upright vacuum cleaners are a popular choice in the UK, although they are less common in other parts of the world. Click here to learn more about the advantages of an upright.


  • Great for cleaning large rooms and homes
  • Can stand up without support
  • Don’t need to bend down when cleaning
  • Often have a turbo brush bar for deep carpet cleaning
  • Usually come with a variety of tools and accessories


  • Often more expensive than cylinder vacuums
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Difficult to use on stairs (unless the model has a long hose and mini turbo tool)

2. Stick Vacuum Cleaners

Stick vacuum
The model in this image is the Shark HZ500UK. It’s a corded stick vac that’s great on hard floors.

Stick vacuums have a tall, thin body and are pushed in the same way as uprights, so you don’t need to bend down.

Replacing the main body with a stick makes them lighter, cheaper, and more manoeuvrable than uprights, but with a smaller dust capacity and less suction.

They are typically designed for quick surface cleans, rather than deep cleaning. Some models come close to matching the cleaning performance of full-size uprights though.

Side Note: Not all stick vacuums are battery-powered. While the stick design has become the main form of cordless vacuums, there are also mains-powered stick vacs.


  • Lightweight and manoeuvrable
  • Don’t need to bend down when cleaning
  • Can be corded or cordless
  • Cheaper than uprights
  • Great for quick cleans


  • Small dust capacities
  • Less suction than an upright
  • Not as effective on carpets

3. Cylinder Vacuum Cleaners

Cylinder vacuum
This is the Miele C3 Cat and Dog, which is one of the most popular cylinder vacs.

Cylinder vacuums have a traditional design, with a long hose and separate body that’s pulled behind you.

They are typically no-nonsense cleaners with great suction power, but they often don’t have powered turbo brushes, which makes them less effective on carpet. Their long, flexible hose is convenient for cleaning under furniture and stairs though.

Many cylinder vacuums are bagged, although there are some bagless options on the market (such as the Miele Blizzard range.)


  • Often have great suction power
  • Hose is useful for cleaning stairs and under furniture
  • Inexpensive
  • Lighter than uprights


  • Often don’t have a turbo brush, so may struggle more on carpet (although there are exceptions)
  • May need to bend down to change settings or lift the canister
  • Less convenient to store due to long hose

4. Cordless Vacuum Cleaners

Cordless vacuum
The Dyson V11 is an outstanding – but very pricey – cordless vacuum.

Newer cordless vacs come close to matching the cleaning performance of corded vacuums, while also being lightweight, cord-free, and convenient. Many can also be turned into a handheld vacuum.

They don’t provide the best value for money though. If you want a cordless that can offer similar performance to a corded vacuum, you’ll need to pay a premium price. Cheaper cordless vacuums can still be useful for quick cleans, but aren’t powerful enough to replace a corded model.

The limited battery run-time is also an issue if you often do long cleaning sessions.


  • Convenient for spot cleaning
  • Newer models generate excellent suction
  • Lightweight designs
  • Many can function as a handheld vacuum


  • Limited battery life is restrictive for bigger homes
  • Nearly always less suction than a corded model
  • Expensive

5. Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaners

Wet and dry vacuum
The Numatic George is a great example of a wet and dry vacuum.

Wet and dry vacuums can suck up both dry and liquid spills. This makes them a great choice for everything from vacuuming a spilt drink to draining a blocked sink.

These vacuums tend to have outstanding suction power and durable exteriors. Don’t expect fancy features like automatic suction adjustment, LCD screens, or lightweight designs though.


  • Capable of vacuuming wet spills
  • Durable and can handle tough jobs
  • The best models have excellent suction power
  • Some models can be connected to power tools to automatically suck up wood chips or dust


  • Heavy and less convenient in the home than regular vacuums
  • Often have poor quality filters
  • Not the best choice for the average household

6. Handheld Vacuum Cleaners

The Shark WV200UK is a stylish handheld that looks great on a kitchen counter

Handheld vacuum cleaners are a convenient choice for quick clean-ups, car interiors, and dry spills. They have tiny capacities and relatively poor suction, so they can’t replace a full-size vacuum, but are still useful for spot cleaning.

There are both corded and cordless handheld vacuums. Many cordless handheld vacuums have charging docks, so they can be constantly re-charged on a kitchen counter or shelf.


  • Great for spot cleaning
  • Useful as a supplement to your full-size vacuum
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use


  • Too small for cleaning large areas
  • Often have weak suction power
  • Cordless handheld models have very short run-times
  • Small dust capacities

7. Robot Vacuum Cleaners

Robot vacuum cleaner

Robot vacuums clean a room (or multiple rooms) automatically. They range in both price and technology, with the best models using advanced mapping technology to avoid missing areas of the room.

Even the best robot vacuums can’t replace your regular vac, as they have less suction, struggle with carpets, and can’t go up staircases. But they are a useful tool for cleaning between your vacuuming sessions – particularly on hard floors.

Keep in mind that they work best in clear rooms with minimal clutter.


  • Automated cleaning to keep your floors looking tidy between regular vacuuming
  • Often great at cleaning hard floors
  • Many can be scheduled to clean at certain times of the day


  • Expensive
  • Less suction than a regular vacuum
  • Not able to clean stairs or other awkward areas
  • Not suitable for cluttered rooms

8. Carpet Sweepers

Carpet sweeper

Carpet sweepers are a cheaper alternative to vacuum cleaners. They don’t generate suction, but instead rely on rollers (either mechanical or electric) to sweep up debris into a small container.

While carpet sweepers are never going to match a vacuum cleaner for carpet performance, they are still effective at basic cleaning and are available for a great price. Just make sure you have realistic expectations!


  • Very cheap
  • Lightweight and convenient
  • Quieter than a vacuum
  • More effective than you might think (although only for surface cleaning)


  • Much less effective than a vacuum cleaner
  • Small capacities

What About Central Vacuums?

Central vacuum systems are installed into the walls of a home. To start vacuuming, you just plug a hose into one of the outlets, making them a convenient (although expensive) choice. To learn more, read our guide to central vacuums.

Choose the Right Vacuum Cleaner for Your Home

With hundreds of vacuum cleaners on the market, it’s important to narrow down your options by choosing the right vacuum type. Once you know which type to buy, it’s much easier to make a final decision.

We hope this guide has helped you decide on the best type of vacuum for your home. If you’d like to see our top vacuums in each of these categories, check out this page. Alternatively, read our guide to choosing a vacuum cleaner for more tips on getting the right model.

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