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Choosing the best upright vacuum cleaner

By Matthew Knight

Upright vacuum cleaners are often great at picking up pet hair, but they can be heavy and awkward. Is an upright vacuum best for you?

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Pros
Good at picking up pet hair, easier to store than cylinders if you have the space, quick at covering large floor areas, often have larger capacities than cylinders.
Cons
Can be noisier and heavier than cylinder vacuums, and more difficult to use on stairs.

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Upright vacuum cleaner checklist

Upright vacuum cleaners use a motorised, rotating brush within the cleaning head to pull up dust and dirt from your floors. This rotating brush also helps upright vacuums to pick up pet hair so well.

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

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

Size and storage

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, so they are quite easy to store - but their rigid structure means there isn't much flexibility if you're tight on cupboard space.

Weight and reach of your vacuum

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

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.

If a light vacuum cleaner is a really priority, then you could look at a cordless upright vacuum cleaner, which can less than half the weight of corded vacuum cleaners.

Vacuuming on all floor surfaces

Most vacuum cleaners have different settings for different floor surfaces - but some vacuum cleaners perform better on one type of flooring than on others. You can check our reviews to find vacuum cleaners 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.

Using your vacuum cleaner

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 homes.

Vacuum cleaner wattage

Despite what manufacturers may tell you, a high-wattage vacuum cleaner doesn't guarantee you're getting a model that's better at cleaning - but it will mean you'll use more energy.

See our expert guide to choosing the best vacuum cleaner to discover more about vac wattage and energy labels.

Noisy vacuum cleaners

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 vacuum models can differ significantly. 

Upright vacuums are generally noisier than cylinder vacuum cleaners, so if a quieter vacuum is high on your list of priorities, look for a model that scores four stars or above for noise in our tests.

Cost of upright vacuum cleaners

The average upright vacuum cleaner will set you back almost £180, so when you are spending that sort of money it is worth making sure that you are getting quality. Uprights are available from a wide variety of brands, including Dyson, Hoover, Miele and Sebo. Make sure you take a look at our so you can be sure that the model you choose will get the job done properly. 

You can get a great upright vacuum cleaner from about £150. Good cylinder vacuum cleaners can be a bit cheaper, occasionally we find cylinder Best Buys under £100.

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