Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2021
Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2021
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Best Overall: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional NV356E

1 Best Overall: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional NV356E
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What We Like

  • Lift-Away design
  • Works on hard floors and carpet
  • Large dust cup
What We Don’t Like

  • Can’t go under low furniture
2 Best Budget: EUREKA NES210 Blaze 3-in-1 Swivel Lightweight Stick Vacuum
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What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Works as a handheld vacuum or crevice tool
  • Great for quick cleaning tasks
What We Don’t Like

  • Not a deep cleaning device
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Best for Carpet: Dyson Ball Animal 2 Upright Vacuum

3 Best for Carpet: Dyson Ball Animal 2 Upright Vacuum
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What We Like

  • Specialized attachments
  • Ergonomic design makes it easy to maneuver
  • Powerful suction on carpet and hard floors
What We Don’t Like

  • Heavy
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Best Canister: Miele Compact C2 Electro+

4 Best Canister: Miele Compact C2 Electro+
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What We Like

  • Great for cleaning in between crevices
  • HEPA filtration
  • Quiet operation
What We Don’t Like

  • Must bend over to adjust settings
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Best for Cars: BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum

5 Best for Cars: BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum
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What We Like

  • Perfect for small jobs
  • Easy to clean
  • Includes a handy crevice tool and brush
What We Don’t Like

  • Limited run time
6 Best Robot: iRobot Roomba 690 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity
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What We Like

  • Schedule automatic cleaning sessions
  • Multiple surface brushes clean varying floor types
  • 90 minute run time
What We Don’t Like

  • Not great for high pile carpet

To most people, cleaning means removing trash and clutter, wiping and mopping visible dirt or dust and getting rid of unpleasant odors. However, the “dirtiest” place in your home may be the invisible air you breathe, explained environmental consultant and building materials specialist Marilee Nelson, co-founder of Branch Basics. “Particles in the air can not only be a vehicle for the spread of airborne disease but also can be the major cause of many allergic and respiratory reactions,” she said. “Dust may expose us to bacteria, viruses, mold, animal dander, dust mites, insect remains and pollens.”

And that’s where upping your vacuum game comes in handy — it’s not just up to an air purifier to help keep the air clean. The type of vacuum you invest in can impact both the dirt on your floors as well as the air you breathe.

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum offers unmatched versatility, making it a powerful cleaning tool that you can use all around your home. It consistently scores well in our testing and is a owned by many of our staff members. The bagless upright vacuum is easy to maneuver thanks to its swivel steering, and it offers powerful suction both on carpets and hard floors. It has a large 2.2-quart dust bin capacity, and its sealed HEPA filter system captures over 99.9% of dust and allergens. 

However, the real selling point of this vacuum is its Lift-Away design. With the push of a button, the canister of the vacuum can be removed from the base, making it easier to vacuum stairs, ceilings, and more. The Shark Navigator comes with several useful accessories, including a Pet Power Brush, crevice tool, and dusting brush, and our tester liked that it offers separate settings depending on what kind of floor you’re cleaning.

What We Like

  • Lift-Away design

  • Works on hard floors and carpet

  • Large dust cup

What We Don’t Like

  • Can’t go under low furniture

If you’re looking for an inexpensive vacuum for quick touch-ups around the house, the Eureka Blaze 3-in-1 Stick Vacuum is a great value. It’s incredibly lightweight, weighing less than 4 pounds, and it can be used as a stick vacuum, hand vacuum, or a stair vacuum. It also comes with a crevice tool that will help you get into all the nooks and crannies of your home. 

The Eureka Blaze has swivel steering that makes it easy to maneuver on hard floors, and its unique “Capture nozzle” has a special large particle channel that helps it suck up large debris. In testing, we found that the vacuum performs quite well on hardwood, linoleum, and tile, but it does struggle a bit on wall-to-wall carpeting.

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Works as a handheld vacuum or crevice tool

  • Great for quick cleaning tasks

What We Don’t Like

  • Not a deep cleaning device

Dyson is known for its powerful vacuums, and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 is truly one of the best around when it comes to cleaning carpets. Its cleaner head drives deep into carpet fibers to capture dust, animal hair, and ground-in dirt, and during testing, it pulled up hair and dirt that our tester couldn’t even see. The vacuum’s self-adjusting cleaner head automatically optimizes suction on all floor types, and the powerful brush bar is ideal for deep-cleaning. 

At over 17 pounds, this vacuum is on the heavier side, but Dyson’s ball design makes it easy to maneuver around your home. In addition to its standard cleaner head, the vacuum comes with a “tangle-free turbine” tool that removes hair from carpets and upholstery, as well as a combination tool and stair tool. It has a washable filter that can be used for the lifetime of the device, and it’s even certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America thanks to its superior whole-machine filtration.

What We Like

  • Specialized attachments

  • Ergonomic design makes it easy to maneuver

  • Powerful suction on carpet and hard floors

What We Don’t Like

  • Heavy

Upright vacuums seem to have taken over the market, but there’s still something to be said for a great canister vacuum, such as the Miele Compact C2 Electro+. This model is lightweight and compact, making it easy to tow along behind you while cleaning. Plus, its bagged design features a HEPA filter, ensuring it captures more than 99.9% of allergens that might be lurking on your floors. 

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Best Canister: Miele Compact C2 Electro+

This canister vacuum is powered by a 1,200-watt motor, and it offers six suction settings for cleaning carpet, tile, upholstery, curtains, and more. Plus, its motor-driven floorhead has a five-level height adjustment. The vacuum comes with several accessories, including a parquet brush cleaner head for hard floors, dusting brush, upholstery tool, and crevice tool, which our tester says are simple but thoughtfully designed.

What We Like

  • Great for cleaning in between crevices

  • HEPA filtration

  • Quiet operation

What We Don’t Like

  • Must bend over to adjust settings

The BLACK+DECKER Cordless Hand Vacuum is ideal for cleaning out your car, as it’s cordless and lightweight. It even comes with a crevice tool to help you get under seats and a brush tool for cleaning upholstery. 

This budget-friendly hand vacuum has a wide mouth that can handle large debris, and its dust bin is translucent, allowing you to see when it needs to be emptied. The dirt bowl and filter can be washed for easy maintenance, and the battery-powered design can run for around 10 to 15 minutes per charge. The vacuum comes with a wall mount so you can easily charge it in your garage, and our tester liked that its angled nozzle easily fits in small places, such as the cracks of her car seats.

What We Like

  • Perfect for small jobs

  • Easy to clean

  • Includes a handy crevice tool and brush

What We Don’t Like

  • Must bend over to adjust settings

For a mid-range robot vacuum, you can’t go wrong with the iRobot Roomba 690, which will help keep your home clean without any effort on your part. This robotic cleaner has a three-stage cleaning system with dual multi-surface brushes and an edge-sweeping brush that captures both small particles and larger debris from both carpets and hard floors. 

This Roomba is Wi-Fi capable, so you can schedule and control it right from your smartphone, and it has “Dirt Detect” sensors that let it know when it needs to do an extra pass on particularly dirty floors. It won’t fall down stairs thanks to its cliff-detection sensors, and it can run for up to 90 minutes per charge before automatically docking to recharge. Our tester found that the Roomba 690 performs best on a low-pile rug and hard floors, and she did note that it occasionally gets lost or stuck underneath furniture.

What We Like

  • Schedule automatic cleaning sessions

  • Multiple surface brushes clean varying floor types

  • 90 minute run time

What We Don’t Like

  • Not great for high pile carpet

What to Look for in a Vacuum

Bagged vs. bagless

While bagged vacuum cleaners were the mainstay of the cleaning world for decades, many new vacuum cleaners are bagless. This means that you won’t need to buy and replace the bag inside your vacuum cleaner regularly. Instead, you’ll just need to empty the dust collection canister into your trash can, and occasionally wash it out. The downside to bagless vacuums is that you’ll have to open up a dusty, dirty bin over a trash can, which can result in some dust escaping back out.

Bagged vacuum cleaners, on the other hand, collect everything into an easy-to-dispose-of bag that can simply be tossed in the trash. However, as the bag fills you may notice a reduction in suction. Plus, you’ll have the recurring cost of purchasing new vacuum bags—and sometimes they can be hard to track down for older, discontinued models of vacuum cleaners.

Weight

If you’ve ever pushed around a vacuum cleaner for an extended cleaning session or lugged it up and down a flight of stairs, you know that the weight of a vacuum matters! It can be a pain to push and pull a heavy vacuum cleaner. Fortunately, many vacuum cleaners are designed to weigh less and be more nimble than the unwieldy machines that first entered home cleaning closets decades ago.

Upright vacuums tend to weigh the most—but they often have wide floorheads, more powerful motors, and larger dust bags to account for the added weight. Many upright vacuums weigh between 12 and 18 pounds, with some models weighing less or more. Canister vacuums vary widely in terms of weight. Some lightweight models barely tip the scale to 8 pounds, while others that offer performance and features to rival upright vacuums can weigh as much as 18 or 20 pounds. Cordless and stick vacuum cleaners are generally the most lightweight vacuums available. Intended for lighter cleaning, these vacuums are meant to be easy to pick up for spot cleaning or light duty vacuuming. They typically weigh between 3 and 7 pounds.

Brush Roll

The presence—or absence—of a brush roll on a vacuum cleaner may determine what type of flooring it’s best suited for. Vacuums with no brush roll are good for hardwood floors or tile flooring, since the stiff fibers of the brush roll may scratch the finish on your flooring or send dirt in all directions. Alternatively, some vacuums with a brush roll offer the ability to turn the rotation of the brush off—making it safe for use on hardwood floors and more effective on any type of hard surface flooring.

When it comes to plush carpeting, the brush roll gently agitates the carpet fibers to lift surface-level dirt along with debris at deeper layers—including dust, dander, and pet hair that may have settled into the carpet. And while most brush rolls will have no problem accomplishing this task on flat weave or low-pile carpet, medium-to-high pile rugs may require an adjustable pile height setting to ensure that the fibers of the rug won’t get tangled in the brush roll or stifle the suction coming from the nozzle.

Filter

Many vacuums are equipped with a filtration system intended to trap fine particles of dust and dander that might otherwise be released with the exhaust of the vacuum cleaner. Some filters are washable, making them an affordable, easy-to-maintain choice. These are usually made of a sponge-like material that rinses easily and air dries quickly. Other filters are more paper-like in appearance and must be replaced on a schedule (usually every 6 months or so) to maintain effectiveness.

The gold standard in vacuum filtration is a HEPA filter, which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. These ultra-fine filters will trap the tiniest of particles—as small as 0.3 microns in the case of true HEPA filters1. A HEPA filtration system can be a major plus for anyone looking to reduce dust, dander, pollen, and other small particles in their home. HEPA filters will usually need to be replaced on a schedule to maintain their filtration capabilities, but a few newer versions offer the advantage of being washable.

Accessories and Warranties

Once you pick your perfect vacuum cleaner, make sure it’s equipped with the right accessories to complete your cleaning package. Many additional tools are available to make the most of your vacuum’s suction power and sometimes these are included with the purchase of your vacuum, but other times you may need to purchase them separately. Items such as crevice tools, extension wands, upholstery brushes, and more will come in handy when you are trying to deep clean your home.

Some of the most popular cleaning accessories for vacuums are pet cleaning tools. These include nozzle attachments with grippy surfaces, fine-tooth combs, or stiff brushes to extract pet hair from your furniture upholstery, drapes, and more.

One other thing to consider is whether the vacuum you purchase is backed by a manufacturer’s warranty. Many models are covered by a 1- to 5-year warranty, depending on the make and model. These warranties typically cover defects in materials and workmanship but exclude items subject to normal wear and tear—like filters, brushes, and more. Some companies are known for outstanding warranties and customer service, including Dyson and Miele. Keep in mind that with most warranty services, there is a freight charge to ship the vacuum that can cost $20 or more depending on the company.

FAQs

How long should vacuum cleaners last?

Most vacuums last around a median of eight years according to Consumer Reports. However, an important factor to consider when preserving the lifespan of your appliance is the type of vacuum it is. If it’s cordless, these vacuums tend to have a shorter lifespan due to the use of a battery instead of regular electricity.

There are many things you can do to ensure your vacuum lasts as long as it possibly can. Emptying the bag and cleaning the filter regularly are both ways to make sure it doesn’t overfill or clog the machine (this can later cause significant damage). In addition to cleaning your bag and filter, clearing appliance attachments of any debris is also key in helping your vacuum last its full lifespan. Any type of hair or tangled fibers in attachments can still cause clogs and other damage to the unit as a whole.

Why do vacuum cleaners lose suction?

The most common cause of vacuum suction loss is clogging. If the filters become blocked in your appliance, it restricts the flow of air. By regularly cleaning out your appliance of dirt and debris, you’ll ensure it has a longer lifespan and won’t lose power. It’s also important to check the operating belts of the vacuum to make sure there isn’t a problem with the base unit. You can check the belts by following the instructions in your appliance’s operating manual.

How do you know what type of vacuum cleaner to buy?

Your vacuum cleaner needs will be determined by your household priorities. Common factors to consider are the size of your home, what kind of floors you have (hardwood, carpet, etc.), and if you have pets. For smaller households like a studio apartment, a hand-held cordless vacuum may work, but for a larger family home, you may want to consider a more powerful canister vacuum. Homes with hardwood floors should consider a vacuum specifically designed for this type of surface. If you have pets, there are plenty of options on the market to help eliminate dander and allergens.

How often should you clean a vacuum?

Generally, you should deep clean your vacuum and its parts at least every 12 to 18 months. It also depends on how often you use your appliance. If you use it weekly or daily, cleaning it more often will be beneficial. As an example, bagless vacuums with washable filters used once or twice a week should be cleaned at least once a month. Refer to your appliance’s specific owner’s manual for a breakdown of cleaning information as this will give you the best instructions on model maintenance.

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