How to buy the best vacuum cleaner Cylinder vacuum cleaners

A cylinder vacuum cleaner on carpet

Cylinders are lighter and more compact than upright vacuum cleaners

Cylinder vacuum cleaners can be light, have a long reach and are well suited for cleaning both stairs and hard-to-reach places. But they can be a pain to store away tidily and they're generally not as good at picking up pet hair as uprights - so do you need a cylinder vac?

Cylinder vacuum cleaners are pulled along behind you as you clean. Most are provided with a universal floorhead which has bristles you can lower when cleaning hard floors and retract again when you're vacuuming carpet.

You'll find everything you need to know about cylinder vacuum cleaners below. But not all cylinders are born equal - in our tests, cylinder vacs have been awarded some of the highest, and lowest, scores that we've seen.

You won't be able to tell in the shop which cylinder vacs suck up dust and which simply roll over it. So before you buy make sure you head to our vacuum cleaner reviews.

Cylinder vacuums: pros and cons


  • Lighter and more compact than upright vacuum cleaners
  • Better for tackling stairs, upholstery, under furniture and in hard-to-reach areas
  • More reliable overall than upright vacs (according to our latest vacuum cleaner reliability survey)
  • Usually quieter


  • The hose section can be difficult to store tidily
  • Generally not as good at picking up pet hair
  • Can be more difficult to control and manoeuvre
  • Tend to have larger motors than uprights, making them more inefficient

Cylinder vacuum cleaner checklist


Think about where you'll be storing your vacuum cleaner as this will often dictate the size of vacuum cleaner you go for. 

Cylinder vacuum cleaners may appear to be more compact than upright vacuum cleaners, but unwieldy hose sections can be difficult to store neatly. Look for a cylinder vacuum that comes with a side clip to attach the nozzle to the body and keep the hose upright.

Using your vac

Consider how and where you'll be using your vacuum cleaner. Cylinder vacuum cleaners are usually lighter than uprights, so easier to get up and down stairs. They're also good at tackling hard-to-reach areas like under furniture and for getting into corners.

Weight and reach

Cylinder vacuum cleaners are, on the whole, lighter than their upright counterparts. This can make them a good option if you'll be using your vacuum cleaner both upstairs and downstairs.

10.1mThe average reach of a cylinder vacuum cleaner

Our test have found that a vacuum cleaner's reach can range in length from 6 to 15 metres - a big difference when tackling a large room. Cylinder vacuum cleaners have an average reach of 10 metres, which is pretty decent and bigger than the average reach of upright vacs - 8.6m. Look for a vacuum cleaner with a long power cord so you don't have to keep stopping to plug it in elsewhere.

If how easy a vacuum cleaner is to use is important to you - perhaps because you have reduced strength or dexterity - it's worth taking a look at our pick of the easiest to use vacuum cleaners, all of which are cylinders. 

Type of flooring

We test vacuum cleaners on carpet, laminate and wooden floors to see how well they cope at cleaning different floor surfaces. And we frequently see that vacuum cleaners prefer one type of floor over another - something you won't be able to tell in the shops.

Our reviews reveal just how well suited a vac is to cleaning the floors in your home. But if you're looking for an all-floor pro, have a look at our Best Buy vacuum cleaners - these models tend to be the most versatile vacs on the market.


Many vacuum cleaners these days are fitted with Hepa (high-efficiency particulate air) or S-class filters, which are designed to prevent allergens escaping and pick up extra dirt that would otherwise remain on the floor. 

But simply having a filter doesn't guarantee the performance of the vacuum cleaner. During our tests Which? uses specialist machinery to test how much dust and fine particles each model retains.

Cylinder vacuum cleaners

Cylinder vacuum cleaners are easy to move up and down stairs

Picking up pet hair

Cylinders are generally not as good at picking up pet hair as uprights, which use motorised brush bars. Some cylinders come with a full size turbo brush 'recommended for pet hair' but this doesn't always guarantee good pet hair pick up.

Our tests show that some cylinders do just as good a job with their carpet nozzle as a turbo brush - but whenever a vac is supplied with more than one floorhead, we test them and all and tell you which is best for each job.

If you've got pets, we recommend choosing a cylinder that scores at least four stars in our tests for picking up pet hair.

Vacuum cleaner wattage

Vacuum cleaner manufacturers often use vacuum cleaner wattage or power as a product selling point - but good performance is about design and suction, and not a high-wattage motor. A high wattage doesn't guarantee you're getting a better cleaning vac, but it will mean you'll use more energy.


Cylinder vacuum cleaners are usually quieter than upright models - but some models are significantly louder than others. We've registered decibel readings of 90 during our vacuum cleaner tests, that's equivalent to a symphony orchestra during loud passages. Our vacuum cleaner reviews give a star rating for each vacuum cleaner model according to how much noise it makes, so you don't get a nasty surprise the first time you use your new machine.

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