How to buy the best vacuum cleaner Upright vacuum cleaners

The floorhead of an Dyson upright vacuum cleaner

Upright vacuums can quickly cover large areas of floor but they can be heavy

Upright vacuum cleaners are often great at picking up pet hair, quickly covering large areas of floor and often have larger capacities than cylinder vacs. But they can be heavy and difficult to clean your stairs with - so is an upright vacuum for you?

Upright vacs use a motorised, rotating brush within the cleaning head to pull up dust and dirt from your floors. This is the same rotating brush that aids upright vacs to pick up pet hair so well.

Below we explain the key things to consider about upright vacs, gathered from years of our expert Which? testing. But before buying it's important to remember that vacs vary between individual models - we've seen uprights that can collect twice as much dust as others, suck up pet hair others leave behind and are much easier to use.

You can't tell in the shops which vacs excel at cleaning, and which you you should avoid. So make sure you check out our independent vacuum cleaner reviews to avoid making a costly mistake.

Upright vacuums: pros and cons

Pros

  • Good at picking up pet hair
  • Easier to store than cylinders if you have the space
  • Quick at covering large areas of floor
  • Often have larger capacities than cylinders

Cons

  • Can be noisy
  • Heavier than cylinder vacs
  • More difficult to use on stairs

Upright vacuum cleaner checklist

Size

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

Upright vacuum cleaners don't have the potentially awkward hose section you'll find on a cylinder model, which makes them quite easy to store - but their rigid structure means there isn't much flexibility if you're tight on cupboard space.

Using your vac

Consider how and where you'll be using your vacuum cleaner. Upright vacuum cleaners are great for covering large areas of carpet or floor, so can be a good choice for larger properties.

Weight and reach

Our tests have found that a vacuum cleaner's reach (how far from the plug socket you can clean) can range in length from six to 15 metres - a big difference when tackling a large room. The average reach of an upright vac is 8.6m, which is short compared to cylinder vacuums, that have an average reach of more than 10 metres. If you've got a lot of floor to cover, make sure to look for an upright vac with a long power cord so you don't have to keep swapping plug sockets.

7.75kgThe average weight of an upright vacuum cleaner

If you'll be using your vacuum cleaner both upstairs and downstairs, you should look for a light upright vacuum that won't be too heavy to carry up the stairs. Vacuuming the staircase itself can be tricky to negotiate with an upright - so look for an upright vac with a longer hose attachment to help make this task easier.

Type of flooring

Most vacuum cleaners have different settings for different floor surfaces - but some vacuum cleaners perform better on one type of flooring than others. You can check our reviews to find vacs that are suited to the flooring in your home, or go straight to our Best Buy vacuum cleaners, as they tend to be excellent all-floor cleaners.

Anti-allergy filters

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. Which? uses specialist machinery to test how much dust and fine particles each vacuum cleaner model retains. So if you've got allergies, make sure check our reviews and allergy retention ratings before you buy.

Pet hair dog

Does your pet leave a furry trail? Our tests show upright vacs are often best for pet hair

Pet hair pick up

Upright vacuum cleaners are generally better than cylinder vacuum cleaners at picking up pet hair, so if you've got a cat, dog or other animal this type of vacuum cleaner is probably a good choice for you. 

In addition to our dust pick up tests on carpet and wooden and laminate flooring, we use real pet hair to assess each vacuum cleaner's pet hair pick-up. Our testers comb cat and dog hairs into an area of carpet about the size of A3 paper. We then time how long each cleaner takes to pick it up - the better cleaners take one minute or less.

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.

Noise

If you work from home or have a baby sleeping during the day, then vacuum cleaner noise is a key consideration - but it's not something you can always test out in the shop before you buy, and sound levels between vac models can differ significantly. A high wattage usually means more noise, and upright vacuums are generally noisier than cylinder vacs.

If a quieter vac is high on your list of priorities, look for a model that scores four stars or above for noise in our tests.

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