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After researching hundreds of upright vacuums, we bought the best 10 to rigorously test side-by-side. We took a look at the top models, making a wide variety of messes on all types of floors to rate and compare cleaning performance. We also looked at convenience and how easily each upright vacuum operates. Additionally, we looked at how convenient and easy to operate each vacuum is, as well as its maneuverability and any other features that differentiate one model from another. Keep reading to see which vacuum cleaners performed the best, which are great budget-friendly options, and which are perfect for a specialty job like pet hair pick up or flour on the hardwood floor after baking.
For its all-around superior performance and wonderful handling, the Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M is one of the best upright vacuums you can buy today. Shark's duo clean brush technology makes quick and easy work of all types of messes. Whether on flat carpet, fluffy carpet, or hard floors, the dual cleaning brushes pickup, polish, and dust. For increased user-friendliness, Shark designed the model to lift away from the canister so that it can more easily handle stairs, extend reach under furniture, and make hard-to-reach areas more accessible.
Although exceptional, the Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M isn't perfect. It wasn't the top performer in our carpet cleaning tests, and it also wasn't the easiest model to carry up a staircase. However, we feel that outside of our stringent side-by-side test model, these minor discrepancies wouldn't be discernible.
Shark has no real competition outside of itself in the world of upright vacuums, making not just one but a few of the best models available at various price points. We were splitting hairs when it came down to selecting the top model for our upright vacuum review. The Shark Vertex is an exceptional model in our product test lineup. This vacuum floored us with its performance, sweeping almost every other model under the rug. The Vertex made easy work of cleaning up all types of messes, whether on flat carpet, fluffy carpet, or hard floors. It's exceptionally easy to use and is one of the more versatile vacuums thanks to the included attachments and the Lift-Away feature, which allows you to remove the canister.
We have zero complaints regarding the performance of this vacuum. Our only real gripe is the price point, which is undoubtedly higher than some may be willing to pay. The slightly larger head and canister size make it great for large carpeted areas, but it lessens the degree of maneuverability and hardwood floor performance. Again, the differences were subtle. However, if you're willing to fork over the money, you won't be disappointed, as we think the excellent and reliable performance of the Vertex is well worth the cost.
Dust Bin Type: Bagless | Cleaning Path Width: 11.25"
REASONS TO BUY
Fairly easy to use
Sucks up pet hair with ease
Great performance at cleaning carpet
REASONS TO AVOID
If you are shopping for decent all-around performance on a budget, then we highly recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. In our testing, it was able to remove all types of debris from carpets, including pet hair. It is easy to use, and the swivel head makes maneuvering around obstacles a breeze. This upright vacuum offers a fairly decent all-around performance at a great price point.
This model left some small debris when cleaning hard floors, but it could clean up medium-sized debris reasonably well. It struggles with very fine messes like flour or larger debris like Cheerios, requiring several passes to suck everything up. Despite that, this is still our top recommendation for those on a budget. Overall, it stands up well against other models that cost substantially more, and it delivers an above-average performance.
Dust Bin Type: Bagless | Cleaning Path Width: 10.5"
REASONS TO BUY
Good under-furniture reach
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor flour suction
Hard to push on fluffy carpet
Those on a super tight budget should consider the Eureka PowerSpeed. Overall, this model is a good value, offering decent performance at an attractive price. It is maneuverable, easy to use, and rather good at picking up pet hair. If you have a home full of pets and desire a good dollar-for-dollar value from an affordable investment, this is a great choice.
Of course, budget buys don't offer the premium performance available from significantly more expensive models. Although the PowerSpeed does a decent job cleaning carpets and an okay job on hard surfaces, we think it's a good selection for those with very tight budgets. But, if you can swing it, it is worth considering some of our other top recommendations.
To rate these products, we put them through a series of tests designed to push each model to its performance limits. We conducted over 20 different tests for each vacuum, which works out to hours upon hours of sucking up pet hair, oatmeal, cereal, flour, and rice from many styles of carpeting and hard flooring.
Our tests are grouped into five weighted rating metrics:
We've also consulted with Lindsey Schultz, co-owner of Mighty Tidy Tahoe, a professional cleaning service that cleans nearly 1000 rental homes, residences, and offices annually. Lindsey lent her expertise to our evaluation and testing results, helping our team refine and revise our testing plan and process.
Analysis and Test Results
To discover the right vacuum for you, we split our various assessments into five weighted rating metrics. We evaluated Carpet Cleaning, Ease of Use, Handling, Hard Surface Cleaning, and Pet Hair, and weighted each testing metric relative to its significance on overall performance and expectations from a vacuum.
If the premium options are too far out of your price range, consider the high-value Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. This upright vacuum makes only minor concessions, struggling slightly at cleaning hard floors compared to the top models, but scores very well in every other aspect. It does all this at a reasonably affordable price too. However, if this is still outside your budget, then the Eureka PowerSpeed is your next best option. It definitely can't compete with the cleaning power of more premium models, especially when handling tougher messes. Still, it does quite well considering it is a fraction of the cost of those other models.
Carpet cleaning accounts for 35% of each upright vacuum's score — the largest of any metric. We used oatmeal, cereal, rice, and flour as our sample debris, spreading out a measured amount on low-pile and high-pile carpet, pressing it in with a floor roller, then running each vacuum over it. We compared the results, counting the number of passes to get the floor visually clean and comparing the amount of debris picked up in a single pass.
The Shark Vertex claimed the top spot overall in our carpet cleaning tests. This vacuum did a phenomenal job in our rice test, completely cleaning up all of the grains from both the flat and fluffy carpet in just two passes. It was a similar story with the dry oatmeal and the Cheerios, with virtually all of the mess removed with just a forward and back pass. The Vertex even impressed us in our flour cleaning test, which is one of the more difficult tests of the process and one that challenges many models. It took a few more passes to completely clean up all of the flour than the rice, oatmeal, or cereal, but it still took significantly fewer passes than almost every other vacuum we've tested.
The Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M followed with more excellent carpet cleaning performances. The APEX did a fantastic job cleaning up the rice, doing exceptionally well at getting all of the rice off of the low-pile carpet. Only one pass was needed to vacuum up most of the rice, and the mess was completely gone after a second pass. It also performed great on the high-pile carpet, although a few grains stuck deeper in the fibers. It continued to do well with the flour, easily pulling almost all of it from the flat carpet and leaving only a small bit behind on the softer carpet. It finished with excellent results for our cereal and oat collection tests. The APEX sucked up all of the Cheerios with ease on both types of carpets and only left trace amounts of oats behind.
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional followed just behind the pack leaders and did very well at collecting rice. However, it required a few extra passes to catch the residual grains, ultimately not performing as well on fluffier carpet. It also struggled a little with the flour on the flat carpet but did an excellent job on the fluffier carpet. For oats and cereal, a few extra passes were required to get all the debris on the fluffier carpet, but this model finished with a strong overall performance on low-pile carpet.
Chasing the Lift Away Professional in carpet cleaning performance is the non-professional model, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. This model didn't do quite as well as other higher-end Shark models or the professional model of the same namesake. It took a couple of extra passes to extract lingering grains of rice and repeated similar performances on oatmeal and cereal. The cereal required some finagling to angle the head and avoid displacing Cheerios. Its flour performance was also not as good as any other Shark model, requiring a lot of passes to extract 99%.
The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly performed excellently in the rice collection test, requiring only a couple of passes to clean up everything on both low and high-pile carpets. This vacuum continued its excellent run when it came to oatmeal and cereal. However, it took a few more passes to get the oatmeal satisfactorily out of the fluffy, high-pile carpet. Unfortunately, the performance dropped when it came to flour on low-pile carpet. Though it still managed a good performance cleaning the flour out of the high-pile carpet.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 did very well at collecting rice but showed poorly with the flour test. It performed okay collecting cereal and oatmeal on low-pile carpet but slightly worse on the fluffier, high-pile tests.
The Eureka PowerSpeed performed just above average when cleaning carpets. The PowerSpeed did a decent job of cleaning up rice, oats, and cereal from both types of carpet, provided that we went slowly. However, move too quickly, and this tends to fling debris every which way — potentially making a larger mess than you started with.
Ease of Use
We weighted this metric to account for 25% of each model's final score. Our team compared each vacuum cleaner's noise, maximum reach, the ease of cleaning close to edges and under furniture, and how each vacuum handled transitioning between different surfaces.
Many vacuums performed well in this metric, with the Shark APEX and Shark Vertex both handle surface transitions exceptionally well, with a simple click of the button on the handle. The hard floor option will slow the rotating brush, while the low and high-pile carpet options will vary the suction power.
The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly also proved to be very user-friendly, performing well against walls and providing a long cord for reaching far and away from an outlet. It is middle of the road when it comes to under-furniture reach, averaging around 8 inches. Lastly, the Pet Friendly adjusts via a knob for easy surface transitions and also has the ability to turn off the brush.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional very closely follows the performance of the Pet Friendly and gives you the option to turn the rotating brush on or off. Still, it lacks options for different carpet piles or for adjusting the height of the extractor. However, a convenient button located near the top of the vacuum makes it straightforward to turn the brush on or off.
These vacuums clean very close to corners and right up to the walls of a room. These products also effectively clean under furniture and are able to reach quite far under our simulated sofa. They aren't overly loud, and all have substantial cleaning reach between their hoses and power cords.
Following the top-tier models, the majority of the models we tested were nearly the same, just missing a few of the convenience features present on the top models. The Dyson Ball Animal 2 was the best at switching between flooring types, automatically transitioning with the option to turn off the brush.
Comprising 20% of the total score, this metric encompasses maneuvering each vacuum around common obstacles, cleaning stairs, and the pushing/pulling effort required from each model to clean.
When it comes to handling, it is hard to beat a Shark. The Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M and Shark Navigator Lift Away handled exceptionally well, while the Shark Vertex and Dyson Ball Animal 2 followed closely.
The Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M and Shark Navigator Lift Away were exceptional in handling, although; all of these models have great reach on stairs, maneuver very well, and require minimal pushing and pulling effort.
The rest of the models we tested didn't do as well as the top handling models but were above average. Those models included, in descending order, the Dirt Devil Endura Reach, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the Bissell CleanView Swivel Pet.
As a non-swiveling model, the Endura Reach surprised us with its overall handling ability. Although it did not maneuver as well as swiveling models, its light weight made it an easier model to manipulate, requiring less pushing and pulling effort than many other models. That lightweight, combined with a fairly long hose, made it a great model for handling stairs.
The CleanView Swivel Pet performed about the same for the handling metric as the Endura. While it is a swiveling model and is much more maneuverable, it is a couple of pounds heavier and has a shorter hose length, increasing the required pushing and pulling effort and making it less than ideal for stairs.
The Eureka PowerSpeed is one of the lightest upright vacuums in our test group, making it easy to push or pull across a variety of surfaces, but the lack of swivel steering makes it considerably less agile when cleaning around furniture. Its lighter weight also adds stair cleaning convenience, which you will need with an exceptionally short hose length of 4 feet.
The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly and the Hoover WindTunnel Max were the worst handling models of the bunch, further behind than just average models. If a smooth handling vacuum is important to you, you'll want to avoid both of these models. Additionally, these heavier models require more effort to push and pull and lug up and down stairs.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Making up 10% of the total score, our hard surface testing was practically identical to our carpet cleaning tests, with hardwood floor swapped for carpet. Once again, we spread oatmeal, flour, cereal, and rice on the floor and vacuumed it up, evaluating each model's performance.
The Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M narrowly outperformed the Shark Vertex on hard surface cleaning tests. Using the hard floor setting on both vacuums, they collected practically all of our rice in a single pass. This pair also did a fantastic job cleaning flour from the hard floor, even sucking it out of the cracks and crevices. The dual brush system, integrated into both models, also dusted and polished hardwood floors, whereas lesser models left behind fine films and no sheen.
This pair of vacuums carried their excellent performance over to our cereal and oatmeal tests, delivering the best results after only a single pass.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 also did a fairly exceptional job, followed closely by the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional and then the Shark Navigator Lift Away.
Just like the most premium models, the Dyson Ball Animal 2 was able to lift almost all the rice in our tests in a single pass. It performed almost as well on cereal but struggled a bit when picking up oatmeal and even more so when cleaning up flour.
Both the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional and the Shark Navigator Lift Away performed well, with similar above-average performance cleaning rice, oatmeal, and cereal, but both also struggled to clean flour. Disappointingly, even after a dozen passes, neither model could completely clean flour from hardwood flooring.
The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly did an average job across the entire metric. The remaining models in our product test group did a poor job, frequently causing a bigger mess rather than providing any helpful cleaning aid.
Our pet hair metric was responsible for the remaining 10% of each final score. We spread five grams of pet hair on a high-pile carpet, then pressed it in with a roller. We ran each vacuum over it, calculating the percentage of hair collected to determine final scores.
The majority of the models we tested received top marks when it came to cleaning up after shed pet hair, collecting 90% or more of the pet hair pressed into a carpet.
The Shark Vertex, APEX, Shark Navigator Lift-Away, Dyson Ball Animal 2, Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, Eureka PowerSpeed, and the Bissell CleanView Swivel Pet all did exceptionally well, collecting the vast majority of the hair, over 95%, in our tests.
The remaining models, the Dirt Devil Endura Reach, Hoover WindTunnel Max, and Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly, all managed to remove more than 90% of pet hair but less than 95%.
We hope that this review has helped you narrow down your options and guided you toward selecting the best upright vacuum cleaner for your needs. Whether you are looking for a top-tier model that can handle heavy-duty messes, exceptional maneuverability, a lightweight vacuum for stairs, or a budget-friendly option that satisfies everyday cleaning needs.
Jessica Riconscente, Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Benjamin Hickok
Over 50 canister vacuums were researched before we...
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