Complete C3 Pure Red Powerline
Cordless, upright, cylinder, robot, bagged and bagless - vacuum cleaners come in all shapes and sizes, which can be overwhelming when you're trying to find the best option in a hurry.
What's right for a larger home with lots of carpets won't necessarily work for a smaller flat with mainly hard floors. We'll take you through the key vacuum cleaner buying decisions to help you narrow down your options and find the right fit.
There are three main types of vacuum cleaner:
These can be either:
Some vacs are designed mainly for cleaning floors, while others have smaller cleaning tools for jobs such as crevices, stairs and even the car.
To help you find the right vacuum, click start to answer a few quick questions about your home and budget, and we will recommend what type of vacuum would suit you.
Cordless vacuums tend to be more expensive, particularly if you want decent battery life, and you'll be looking at nearer £200 for a good model. Paying more is no guarantee though, we've found good and bad vacuums at every price.
There are pros and cons to both types, but a lot comes down to the size and layout of your home.
Upright vacs are good for covering large floor areas, particularly carpets. You can vacuum in a more upright position and easily weave round furniture. They're generally better for getting hair and fluff out of carpets too.
They can be harder to use on stairs, in tight spaces and under low furniture though, and are often noisier than cylinder models. You can't usually clean as far from the plug socket as you can with cylinders (8.6 metres on average).
Cylinder vacuums tend to be more compact, and better for getting under low furniture and into small or awkward spaces. They'll reach further from the plug socket too (10.1 metres on average). The long, flexible hose and small body usually makes cleaning stairs easier. They're usually quieter, too.
They tend to be harder to push over thick carpets though, particularly if there's no turbo brush attachment, and the long hose and tube can be awkward to store. They're also more likely to bump into walls and furniture as you drag them along.
On average, cylinder vacuums tend to get higher scores in our tests, and there are better value options. But whichever type you prefer, we've found Best Buys for each, so check our list of to see the models we recommend.
With bagless models you don't have the ongoing cost of replacement bags, but they may not be best for allergy sufferers.
Pros: No need to buy replacement dust bags, which can be expensive.
Cons: Tend to have a smaller dust capacity, so you'll need to empty them more frequently. Easy to overfill, as the maximum level is often lower than it looks. Can be messy to empty, as dust and fluff can get wedged inside, and dust escapes into the air when emptying.
Pros: Tend to have a larger capacity than bagless models. Dust and dirt are safely contained in bags, which are thrown away – minimising exposure. Branded bags often have extra filtration to prevent allergens escaping, and some bags self-seal. Cheaper alternative bags are also available (although these usually don't offer the same filtration benefits, so you may need to clean your vacuum's filters more often).
Cons: You need to remember to buy replacement bags, which will be an ongoing cost.
Our tests show that both bagged and bagless models can lose suction as they fill up, or leak allergens into the room
Manufacturers of bagless vacuums often claim that bagged models lose suction as the bag fills up, whereas bagless vacs don't. Some also claim their bagless systems have hygienic emptying features.
However, we've found that both bagged and bagless vacuums can lose suction as the bag or container fills up. We've also tested bagless vacs with hygienic emptying features, and found they still released much more dust into the room when emptied than bagged models.
If you don't want to pay out for bags, you can take steps to prevent dust escaping back into your home after cleaning. Empty bagless vacuums outside, ideally into a bag, and use gloves and a mask if you have serious allergies. If you'd rather not have the hassle, opt for a bagged model.
It's also important to choose a vacuum cleaner that doesn't leak dust and allergens back out into the room while cleaning. This can happen if the internal system is poorly sealed, or the dust filters aren't effective. We test this in our lab, and have found both bagged and bagless models that excel at keeping allergens locked up while cleaning, so check our for the models with five-star allergen-retention scores.
Cordless vacuums are quick and easy to use, but can be pricey, and many struggle to match corded vacuums on cleaning power
Cordless vacuum cleaners are increasingly popular. They tend to be light, bagless, stick-style models with smaller dust capacities, plenty of accessories, and an option to convert into a handheld. There are high-capacity and bagged versions, however, such as the .
On average, corded vacuums are still a better bet if you want a good-value deep clean, or have a larger home. But the best cordless vacuums are just as good as corded equivalents, and many people are converted by how light and manoeuvrable they are.
However, you need to choose carefully. We've found more than - models which are so poor at cleaning we recommend you avoid them. Check our before you buy to be sure you're getting one that can actually clean your home.
Vacuum cleaners come with a range of whizzy extra features and accessories, but which ones do you really need?
Most vacuum cleaners with come with a basic combination floor head as standard. This works across all floor types, and can either be adjusted when switching from carpet to hard floor, or, on more premium models, self-adjusts as you move across different surfaces.
Floor tools with spinning brush bars, or powered turbo brushes, can be handy for picking up pet hair and dislodging dust from carpets.
We test each tool on the surface it's designed for to ensure it does a good job cleaning where it's supposed to. Check our to see the models which perform well across all areas, or to find a vacuum that is brilliant on your main floor type.
Most vacuum cleaners include a basic set consisting of a crevice tool, upholstery tool and dusting brush, or a combination tool which does several of these jobs. Here are some other tools to look out for:
If you have lots of different floor surfaces in your home, or carpets of different thickness, then you'll want a vacuum that has easily variable suction so you can push it easily over different floor types without it sticking down. The best models have an adjustable dial that lets you change suction to the desired level. Cheaper models might rely on vents that you can open or close on either the floor head or the suction tube.
Some vacuums have a lever on the floor head that you flick to adjust suction, or to switch from carpets to hard floors. Pricier ones tend to have shortcuts to these controls on the handle, or self-adjusting tools, so you can change the controls without having to bend down.
These prevent fine dust particles and allergens from escaping back into the room when cleaning. Some can be washed clean, others have a self-cleaning action, and others need replacing periodically. Doing this is important, as it affects how well your vacuum works, so it's worth checking how easy this is to do.
We test how well each vacuum's filters prevent dust escaping back into the room. We've found some that let out almost as much dust as they pick up, while others retain more than 99% of small dust particles, so be sure to check our for the models you can rely on to keep dust locked up.
To get the best vacuum cleaner for you, it's worth considering the following factors:
From 2017 to 2019, all vacuum cleaners made or imported in the EU could have a motor of no more than 900W, and had to abide by minimum performance, noise and durability restrictions. The rules were annulled after a successful appeal by Dyson. The EU is working on a revised version, which could have its remit broadened to include cordless vacuum cleaners.
All vacuum cleaners must display an energy label, stating how energy-efficient they are, as well as showing data about their cleaning performance and dust emissions.
Some people have concerns that lower-powered vacuums won't clean as well, but our independent tests have shown that vacuum cleaners don't need to be powerful to be brilliant at cleaning. See our for the models we recommend.
Robot vacuums can't match the real deal for cleaning power, but can be a useful top-up option, especially in smaller homes with hard floors.
Robot vacuum cleaners are small, automatic vacuums that clean your home unaided. They can cost anything from £150 to as much as £1,500, and many can be controlled via an app on your phone.
Unless you live in a small home with mainly hard floors, a robot vac is unlikely to be able to replace your main vacuum cleaner. Even the best robots struggle to match a standard vacuum for cleaning power, especially on carpets, and they can't tackle tricky areas such as stairs, corners and crevices. However, they can be a convenient way to keep your floors free of everyday dust and hair in between deeper cleans.
We've tested models from all the major brands, including , , and . We've found several brilliant options, and some models you'll want to avoid – including one that picked up just 4% of the dust in front of it. See our to find out which models we recommend.
If you're in the shop, here are a few quick checks you can do to find out if the vacuum you're considering is suited to you.
You won't be able to tell how well a vacuum cleaner will clean your home, or if it will lose suction as it fills up. We've uncovered models that are so bad they simply skip over dust, choke on pet hair and leak allergens back into the room.
We test every vacuum cleaner on a range of floor surfaces, including carpets, hard floors and floorboards. We also rate how well they suck up different types of mess, from fine dust to larger crumbs, lint and hair.
We've pulled together all our historic testing insight, along with data gathered from owners, to bring you our unique guide to the vacuum cleaner brands that will last once you get them home, and the ones more likely to break down early.
It can be tempting to see your vacuum cleaner as a catch-all solution to all the mess and spills home life can throw at you - but there are a lot of materials that can harm your vac’s performance or even break it.
Liquids, sticky materials like glue or glitter, soil and plant debris, small sharp objects like glass, coins, paperclips or small stones can jam your vacuum cleaner’s motor, filters and dust container.
Some forms of dust should also be left for the dustpan and brush to handle. Ash, sawdust and plaster dust have particles so small that even the best filtration systems will get clogged up and become unusable.
The best way to help your vacuum cleaner last is to make sure you only suck up the usual household dust, debris and hair, and keep on top of cleaning your filters.
Make sure to flick through the user manual on your vacuum cleaner and read the instructions on how best to clean or replace the filter, as different models have different requirements.