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20 October 2020

Top five vacuum cleaners for 2020

We round up our favourite top-scoring vacuum cleaners, to help you find the best vacuum for your home.

Don't get stuck with a vacuum cleaner that fails to clean properly, leaks allergens back into your home, or is a nightmare to use. We've rounded up our top vacuum picks for 2020 - and the models to avoid - to help you find the right one for you.

Our recommended vacuums have all gone through our rigorous lab tests, so you can be sure they'll do a great job of leaving your floors and other surfaces clean and dust-free. Whether you're after a bagged, bagless, upright, cylinder or cordless vacuum cleaner - or even one for your car - we've picked out the best options below. 

On a budget? Some cheap vacuum cleaners can be really poor at cleaning, but we've got the inside track on the ones worth buying. Our top five includes a brilliant option for less than £100. 

We've also listed three of the worst vacuum cleaners from our recent tests. They are all disappointingly poor offerings from major brands, and one picked up less than 20% of the dirt in its path.

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Best cylinder vacuum cleaner

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81%
Best Buy
£222.96
Reviewed

This is a bagged vacuum cleaner, and it's the best we've tested under the current test programme. It’s great at cleaning on carpets and in crevices, it has great allergy filters and it cleans up pet hair easily too. It’s also one of the quietest vacuums we've tested and it has an adjustable suction dial, which makes cleaning on different surfaces a doddle. On its highest setting, it's tough to push on plush carpets, but if you reduce the power it skims easily over the carpet, and still cleans brilliantly too.

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Best upright vacuum cleaner

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77%
Best Buy
£349.99
Reviewed

This is a brilliant upright vacuum cleaner. It’s a bagless model that’s particularly good for pet owners - it blitzed the pet hair we embedded into carpet during our testing and is also no slouch at cleaning carpets and hard floors. It’s not the easiest vacuum cleaner to manoeuvre, but we still think it's great, and at around £200, it's not a bad price either.

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Best cheap vacuum cleaner

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70%
£40.00
Reviewed

It's difficult to find vacuum cleaners cheaper than this, so we weren't expecting too much of it when we sent it to our test lab. But this cylinder vacuum cleaner really surprised us. It has a great set of filters and it cleans well. It's not good enough for a Best Buy, but we still think it's one of the best bargains around.

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Most versatile upright vacuum

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77%
Best Buy
£349.99
Reviewed

This is a brilliant upright vacuum cleaner. It’s a bagless model that’s particularly good for pet owners - it blitzed the pet hair we embedded into carpet during our testing and is also no slouch at cleaning carpets and hard floors. It’s not the easiest vacuum cleaner to manoeuvre, but we still think it's great, and at around £200, it's not a bad price either.

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Best cordless vacuum cleaner

For our top cordless vacuum picks, including the best cheap cordless vacuums and the best cordless Dyson, see our full round-up of the Best cordless vacuum cleaners for 2020.

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85%
Best Buy
£579.00
Reviewed

This is the best cordless vacuum we've tested. It's brilliant at cleaning, has a lengthy battery life, and is really easy to use. What's more, it has nifty extras like a digital display that tells you how much cleaning time you have left, automatic suction control so you don't need to worry about changing settings when you switch surfaces, and a little accessory clip so you can take mini tools with you as you clean. Cheaper cordless vacuums also clean well, if your budget won't stretch, but this is our top pick overall.

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Best lightweight vacuum cleaners

Sick of lifting a heavy vacuum up and down the stairs? Vacuum cleaners can weigh anything from 2.5kg to 11kg, though the average is around 7kg. Even this can feel heavy to carry up and down the stairs, so it's worth considering lighter options if you find this a struggle. Here's our top pick if you want a light vacuum cleaner:

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72%
£330.00
Reviewed

Weighing only 4.7kg, this is one of the lightest corded vacuum cleaners we've tested. It isn't quite up to the standards of a Best Buy, as it's average rather than excellent at cleaning carpets, but it's still a decent vacuum. It's great at blitzing pet hair, and its slim corded stick design makes it feel light in the hand. If you're looking for a vacuum cleaner that isn't a pain to lug around, this could be the one for you.

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Recommendations last updated in March 2020. Not found the one you're after? See our vacuum cleaner reviews to compare models and filter by price or type.

Tips for buying a light vacuum cleaner

  • Don't take stated weight at face value - it often excludes accessories. We weigh each vacuum with all of the tools attached, so you know the true weight. 
  • Consider push force - some vacs need extra effort to push them across carpets. We test this and let you know if it's too high to be comfortable.
  • Look for less than 7kg - you can check weight and push force in our vacuum cleaner reviews, and filter by weight so you can compare lighter options.
  • Consider cordless - cordless vacuums tend to be much lighter, weighing 3kg on average. See our guide to corded vs cordless vacuums or head straight to our top cordless vacuums.

Best car vacuum cleaners

A good car vacuum cleaner will have the necessary tools and attachments to clean under seats, in crevices and in a tight glove compartment. It will also have a long and very flexible hose, as well as a lengthy overall reach from plug socket to suction nozzle. If you want to give the inside of your car a good clean, this is our favourite option:

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75%
£243.00
Reviewed

This vacuum has the longest reach of any vacuum cleaner we've tested. The 13.1 metres of cable and flexible hose should help you reach all the way around your car and deep inside its nooks and crannies. It comes armed with a crevice tool for hard to reach places and an upholstery brush for the dashboard. It isn't quite a Best Buy as it struggles a bit with larger spills of crumbs and muck, but it's good at sucking up engrained dust and fluff.

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Tips for buying a good car vacuum cleaner

  • Cylinder vacuum cleaners tend to be easier to use in tight spaces than uprights. They have more flexible and longer hoses which help you stretch across the back seats and deep inside pockets and crevices.
  • Cordless vacuum cleaners can be the easiest and most convenient way to vacuum your car. They are much lighter and the lack of cord makes them easier to use in small spaces. Make sure you opt for a model with a handheld mode if you want to clean your car.
  • If you're happy with your main vac, you could opt for a Best Buy handheld vacuum cleaner, which is a good car cleaning accessory.

Not found the right one for you? See all our vacuum cleaner reviews.

Vacuum cleaners to avoid

Cheap vacuum cleaners can be tempting, especially when they look similar to fancy rivals, but it's a risky business picking a budget vacuum cleaner. 

A rare few are excellent, but there are plenty of rubbish vacuums around that fail to pick up dust - or leak it back out once sucked up. They'll often also be noisy and a nightmare to use. 

Spending more, or opting for a well-known brand, doesn't always mean you get good results though - we've also found pricey and big brand vacuums that disappoint. Here's our pick of three vacuums to steer clear of:

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41%
Don't buy
£39.00
Reviewed

This vacuum can handle hard floors, but it's awful at cleaning carpets and picking up pet hair, which means we can't recommend it. It's cheap, but it can't manage remotely challenging cleaning tasks, so it's still a waste of money.

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43%
Don't buy
£120.00
Reviewed

This vacuum doesn't do well at the fundamentals of cleaning flat hard floors and carpet. It's ok in other areas, but if it can't manage to suck up dust from your floors it won't be much use, which is why we've made it a Don't Buy.

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34%
Don't buy
£50.00
Reviewed

This vacuum cleaner actually picks up a decent amount of dust and debris, but it sucks itself so tightly to carpets in the process that you can't move it. This makes it effectively unusable, and is a Don't Buy as a result.

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See the full list of Don't Buy vacuum cleaners and Don't Buy cordless vacuums.

Useful features to look for when buying a vacuum cleaner

  • Variable suction power - this can make it easier to clean different surfaces. If suction is too high on some surfaces, you'll find the nozzle sticking to the floor and you'll need to use some muscle to get it moving. Variable suction lets you dial it down to a level you can clean comfortably with. In our tests we check how much effort it takes to vacuum, and test dust pick up on reasonable levels, so you know you'll get good cleaning without needing the strength of a weightlifter to push the vacuum.
  • Combination floor tool - these are suitable for both carpets and hard floors and mean that you don't need to change nozzles every time you move from one surface to another. Some models come with multiple accessories fine-tuned to specific floor surfaces. While this can be helpful, in reality you want a combi tool that does a good job across different floors so you don't have to chop and change constantly while cleaning.
  • Mini pet turbo tools - often the only difference between 'pet-friendly' vacuum cleaners and the standard version, these are mini tools with a brush bar that can help to remove engrained dust, dirt and hair from sofas, stairs and other fiddly areas.

For more advice on choosing the best vacuum cleaner for you, head to our vacuum cleaners buying guide.

Why our vacuum reviews are better

Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, so you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about a product.

As part of our vacuum cleaner tests, we spread super-fine sand from Arizona over a thick carpet and grind it in. We then strap each vacuum cleaner onto a rig and run it over the carpet five times to see how much dust it sucks up. Bad vacuums pick up less than half, while Best Buy vacuum cleaners remove twice as much.

We also measure how much noise the vacuum cleaner makes and how easy it is to use, whether suction is lost as the machine fills up, how well it tackles hair, fur and fluff, and whether it can suck up larger debris. To find out more, head to how we test vacuum cleaners.

Not quite what you were looking for? Get our verdict on the best cordless vacuums, handheld vacuums and robot vacuums.

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