Vacuum cleaners: How we test vacuum cleaners
Video shows why Best Buys are better
Our vacuum cleaner video guide below reveals how Which? tests to find the best vacs, Hoovers and Dysons - and how much more dust Best Buys can pick up compared to poorer scoring models.
After watching, head to our vacuum cleaner reviews section, which reveals the best and worst scoring models, including the Best Buy vacuums that we recommend you buy.
Testing cleaning power
You can't tell in the shop how well a vacuum actually cleans, which is where our expert tests come in. When testing vacuum cleaners, we let machines do the hard work by attaching them to custom-built test rigs and setting them to work on dust and grime.
For our carpet test, first a machine spreads super-fine sand from Arizona over a carpet and grinds it in.We then strap each vacuum cleaner into the rig, which pulls and pushes it back and forth five times as it sucks up the dust. This is known as the ‘Arizona sand’ test.
We repeat this test several times, measuring when bags or canisters are empty, and also when they're filled with 100g and 400g of dust. Each vacuum cleaner covers a distance of 288m in this test alone. The rig springs into action again to do a similar job for smooth and creviced wood floors.
A bad vacuum cleaner picks up less than half of the dirt in the carpet, where as a Best Buy can pick up twice as much.
Vacuums that pick up pet hair
To assess each vacuum cleaner's pet hair pick-up, our testers comb cat and dog hairs into an area of carpet and then time how long each vacuum cleaner takes to pick it up. The better vacuum cleaners take a minute or less.
Vacuum cleaner dust retention
We use specialist machinery to test how much dust and fine particles the vacuum cleaners can retain instead of back into your home.
Best Buy vacs are easy to use
We also measure each vacuum cleaner to determine whether the manufacturer's claimed capacity, weight and reach is correct. In addition, we see just how easy each machine is to use, from vacuuming up and down stairs to moving across different and uneven surfaces.
Vacs rated for how noisy they are
You won't be able to tell in the shop just how noisy a model is - that's why we test the sound of each vacuum cleaner in a chamber in our lab. We've found noise levels vary dramatically, from 70 up to 90 decibels - that's the difference between the sound of conversation a metre away to the volume a busy main road.