We checked out 250 different vacuum cleaners, then bought the 14 with the most potential and tested them side-by-side. We aimed to find out which were best at cleaning up all sorts of messes from different floors — from composite to fluffy shag carpet. We also rated their ease of use, checking their maximum reach, how well they cleaned under and around furniture, and their maneuverability. What follows are ratings of which vacuum is best overall, which is best for saving cash, and which is the best for cleaning up pet hair.
Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2019
$299.99 at Amazon
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$299.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Fantastic cleaning performance, excellent at picking up pet hair||Fantastic cleaning power, easy to use, easy to handle||Inexpensive, cleans carpet very well, picks up pet hair with ease||Great at cleaning carpets and hard floors, nimble, fantastic at picking up pet hair||Best at cleaning carpet, easy to use, exceptional at picking up pet hair|
|Cons||Not the best with stairs, reach is a little short||Falls over easily, average reach||Not particularly impressive at cleaning hard floors||Expensive||Heavy, hard to handle|
|Bottom Line||If you want the best upright vacuum cleaner you can buy, then the APEX should be your first choice||One of the best vacuums you can get||If you are searching for a new vacuum on a budget, then the Navigator Lift-Away is your best bet||The Dyson Ball Animal 2 earned the second highest score of the group, but is a little pricey||For those with tons of carpet to clean, this is the best of the best|
|Rating Categories||Shark APEX...||Shark Rotator with...||Navigator...||Dyson Ball Animal 2||Kenmore Elite Pet...|
|Carpet Cleaning (35%)|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Hard Surface Cleaning (10%)|
|Pet Hair (10%)|
|Specs||Shark APEX...||Shark Rotator with...||Navigator...||Dyson Ball Animal 2||Kenmore Elite Pet...|
|Model Number||AZ10002 40||NV800W||NV356E||227635-01||31150|
|Cleaning Path Width:||11.75"||10.25"||11.25"||13.5"||13.75"|
|Measured Brush Width||9"||8"||9"||12.25"||12.75"|
|Measured Weight||16.9 lbs.||15.1 lbs.||14.4 lbs.||17.1 lbs.||21.1 lbs.|
|Variable Suction Control||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Brush On/Off Switch:||Slow||Low||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Measured Maximum Reach||32'||32'||31'||32'||37'|
|Measured Power Cord Length:||30'||30'||30'||30'||34'|
|Automatic Cord Rewind:||No||No||No||No||No|
|Noise||72 dBa||75 dBa||73 dBa||76 dBa||72.5 dBa|
Best Overall Vacuum Cleaner
Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M
Earning the highest score was the APEX DuoClean with Zero-M by Shark. It claimed an Editors' Choice award and the title of Best Vacuum Overall. It handles with ease all types of messes on both hard and soft floors, cleaning up everything from rice to flour. On top of excellent cleaning performance, the APEX is amazingly easy to use. The swivel head is exceptionally maneuverable, and a Lift-Away function gets into the hard-to-reach places around your home. Also, the new Zero-M does a great job of collecting pet hair.
Drawbacks are few and far between. The cord is on the short side and the base of the vacuum is prone to falling over when using the wand attachment. That's about it. We highly recommend the Shark APEX.
Read Full Review: Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M
Best Bagged Vacuum for Carpet Cleaning
Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly
The Elite Pet-Friendly from Kenmore also earned an Editors' Choice award. This bulky bagged vacuum cleaner is a bit short on extra features and functions, but it can't be beat for carpet cleaning performance.
However, this performance comes at a price; it's hefty and a little less maneuverable. But it is the clear choice for carpeted homes needing heavy-duty cleaning. It also does a solid job cleaning hard floors and can keep up with messy pets or kids.
Read Full Review: Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly
Best Bang for the Buck
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional
A great vacuum on a budget is the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. It does a good job at removing all types of debris from carpet, even pet hair. It isn't overly heavy or cumbersome, is overall easy to use, and is highly maneuverable, mainly due to its swivel head.
However, we weren't impressed with its performance on hard floors. It cleans up medium-sized debris reasonably well but struggles with very fine or larger items such as flour or Cheerios. It required a few extra passes to get the job done. All in all, this is our favorite vacuum when shopping on a budget. It holds its own with other models that cost significantly more and delivers an above-average performance across the board.
Read Full Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional
Best on a Tight Budget
This inexpensive canister vacuum did decently well in our tests. It scored above average in almost every set of tests we did and costs a fraction of the price of the top models. This no-frills model is very nimble and maneuverable for cleaning in tight places, can keep both carpet and hard floors suitably clean, and doesn't weigh too much.
Unfortunately, it doesn't do too well at collecting pet hair and its overall cleaning performance pales in comparison to the top models that we tested. However, for those that want a bare-bones option for a tight budget, then the Zing is an excellent choice.
Read Full Review: BISSELL Zing
Best Canister Vacuum
Miele Compact C1 Turbo
The Miele Compact C1 Turbo didn't merit an award, but we felt it still deserved recognition. This canister vacuum is easy to use and set up, highly maneuverable, and one of our favorite models for quick cleanup — especially in cluttered areas. The Miele earned the highest score of all the canister vacuums in our test, making it a solid choice for those with a strong preference for this style of vacuum over an upright model.
Unfortunately, this bagged vacuum is quite expensive — one of the pricier models of the entire group. Miele vacuums have a solid reputation for longevity and durability, but this one costs a lot for a vacuum that didn't post the top score.
Read Full Review: Miele Compact C1 Turbo
Why You Should Trust Us?
To find out which vacuum truly sweeps the floor with the rest, we did tons and tons of research, looking at over 250 different models, then bought all the most promising models currently on the market to test out side-by-side. Here at TechGearLab, we bought all of the models in this review — we won't ever accept any free or sample units from manufacturers — so you can be sure that our review is completely unbiased and we have zero monetary motivation to pick one product over another. Our in-house vacuum testers, Austin Palmer and David Wise, have extensive experience testing and reviewing vacuum cleaners, having tested dozens of upright, canister, stick, handheld, and robot vacuums for TechGearLab over the past three years.
In addition to our own extensive experience testing vacuums and related products, we also consulted with Lindsey Schultz, co-owner of Mighty Tidy Tahoe. Mighty Tidy Tahoe is a professional cleaning service that cleans close to 1000 rental homes, residences, and offices a year, giving them plenty of experience with vacuum cleaners and what makes a good one. Lindsey helped us refine and revise our testing plan and process, as well as lent her expertise when it came to evaluating our side-by-side testing results.
Related: How We Tested Vacuum Cleaners
Analysis and Test Results
To rate these products, we put them through a series of challenging tests designed to push them to their limits. We conducted over 20 different tests for each vacuum, equating to hours and hours vacuuming up pet hair, oatmeal, flour, cereal, and rice from different types of carpet and hard floors. These tests were divided among 5 weighted rating metrics: Carpet Cleaning, Ease of Use, Handling, Hard Surface Cleaning, and Pet Hair.
Related: Buying Advice for Vacuum Cleaners
If you are looking for a top-of-the-line vacuum, then you should expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars. Both of our Editors' Choice award winners, the Shark APEX and the Kenmore Elite, cost about that much, but offer unmatched performance, the former giving the best all-around performance that you can get and the latter being the best bagged vacuum for carpets, by far. If spending that much on a vacuum is too much for you, then you should consider either of our Best Buy Award winners, either the Shark Navigator Professional or the Bissell Zing. The Navigator only makes some minor concessions in overall performance, struggling a little at cleaning hard floors compared to the top models but scored very well in every other aspect, all while costing quite a bit less than the top award winners. If you are shopping on the tightest of budgets, then the Zing should be one of the first products you consider. It is far from the best product, but it retails for a fraction of the top scorers and does an overall decent job.
By far the most common use for these products and the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about vacuums is cleaning carpets. Consequently, this metric accounted for the largest portion of the score, weighing in at 35% of the total score. We used oatmeal, cereal, rice, and flour as our sample types of debris, spreading each out on the low and medium-pile carpet and 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, as well as comparing the amount of debris picked up in a single pass to determine scores.
As shown, the Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly and the Shark APEX DuoClean took home the top score, earning an 8 out of 10 for their exceptional performance.
The Shark APEX did a fantastic job cleaning up the rice, doing particularly well at getting all of the rice off of the low-pile carpet. It got most of it with a single pass and didn't leave a single grain of rice behind after a second. It also did very well with the medium-pile carpet, although there were a few grains deep in the fibers that eluded it. It did equally well with the flour, easily getting practically all of it from the flat carpet and only leaving a bit behind on the fluffier carpet.
It finished out with two more excellent sets of results, doing a great job in our cereal and oat collection tests. The APEX sucked up all the Cheerios with ease on both types of carpets and only left trace amounts of oats behind.
The Kenmore did an amazing job collecting rice, only requiring two passes to clean the everything up, on both low and medium-pile carpet — even outperforming the APEX in this test. This vacuum continued its excellent performance when it came to cereal and oatmeal. However, it did take a few more passes (6-8) to get the oatmeal out of the fluffy, medium-pile carpet satisfactorily. Unfortunately, the performance dropped when it came to flour — while it still maintained its top spot when cleaning the flour out of the medium-pile carpet, the Kenmore dropped to the middle of the pack on the low-pile carpet, outperformed by all three of the Shark vacuums and the Hoover WindTunnel.
Following the Kenmore and the APEX, a quartet of vacuums all tied for the runner-up position, with the Shark Rotator with DuoClean, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, and the Miele Compact C1 all earning a 7 out of 10 for their superb carpet cleaning skills.
The Shark Rotator did an excellent job at collecting the rice — almost on par with the Kenmore — even getting the vast majority of the rice in a single pass on the medium-pile carpet.
The Shark Rotator performed on par with the Kenmore for cereal, requiring 2 or fewer passes to sufficiently clean the carpet, and even did well at collecting flour from low-pile carpet, tying with the Shark APEX and the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball. However, the performance of the Rotator dropped to third overall when collection flour from fluffy carpet and didn't really impress at collecting oatmeal, requiring 10 passes to sufficiently clean the carpet.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional also did very well at collecting rice, matching the Rotator when it came to cleaning low-pile carpet. However, it didn't do quite as well on the fluffier carpet, requiring a few extra passes to catch a few of the residual grains. The Navigator Lift-Away Professional struggled a little with the flour on the flat carpet, but did an excellent job on the fluffier carpet, significantly outperforming the Rotator.
It finished out with a strong performance in our cereal and oat collection assessments on low-pile carpet, but it did take a few extra passes to get all of the debris on the fluffier carpets. The Navigator Lift-Away Professional tended to push the debris around for a while before collecting it, more so with the Cheerios.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 matched the performance of the Shark Rotator at collecting rice, though it did take a few more passes to match the amount of material collected. However, it did relatively poorly at collecting flour — dropping to the middle and the lower half of the pack for this test — tying with the Hoover on the flat carpet and performing second-worst in the fluffy carpet test, only beating the Oreck.
It performed on par with the Rotator and the APEX for collecting cereal and oatmeal on low-pile carpet, but slightly worse on the fluffier, medium-pile tests.
The Miele did quite well at collecting flour, tying for the overall runner-up position in both of the tests.
However, its performance dropped slightly in the remaining three tests — delivering an above average, rather than exceptional performance. It did slightly worse than the Dyson Ball Animal 2 at collecting oatmeal on low-pile carpet but slightly better on the fluffy carpet, doing as well as the Kenmore. It did reasonably well in the cereal and rice test, performing well on the flat carpet and average on the fluffy carpet.
Next, the Shark Navigator Deluxe and the Bissell Zing earned a 6 out of 10 for their overall above average performance at cleaning carpets.
The Shark Navigator Deluxe didn't quite match the Rotator when it came to collecting rice, performing similarly on flat carpet but lagging behind on the fluffy carpet. The Navigator Deluxe left more rice behind than the Rotator after completing more passes. The same pattern emerged in the flour test, with the Navigator Deluxe coming in a very close second to the Rotator and the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball on the low-pile carpet, but finishing in the middle of the pack in the fluffy carpet test.
Once again, the Navigator Deluxe did better at collecting cereal from the low-pile carpet, only requiring an extra pass to match the Rotator or Kenmore, but requiring multiple passes to clean sufficiently, as it tended to "snowplow" the Cheerios around, rather than sucking them up. However, the Navigator Deluxe did do very well in the oatmeal test, matching the performance of the Rotator.
The Bissell Zing delivered a solid performance across the board, doing particularly well in the flour and cereal test. While it did alright at the low-pile carpet, it tended to do much better on the fluffy carpet — breaking a trend for these products. In fact, it almost tied the Kenmore's performance at collecting flour from the medium-pile carpet. It delivered an average performance in the rice and oatmeal tests.
Next, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, Eureka Mighty Mite, and Hoover WindTunnel 2 all earned a 5 out of 10 for their acceptable carpet cleaning performance. The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball led this trio in the rice test, outperforming both the Eureka and the Hoover. However, it still couldn't come close to the performance of either Shark model or the Dyson Ball Animal 2. However, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball did do exceptionally well in the flour test, receiving the top score overall on low-pile and the third-highest on medium pile carpet.
The Eureka and the Hoover did a slightly sub-par job at collecting rice, leaving behind a significant amount of rice. Their performance didn't improve in the flour test, only collecting the flour on the surface of the carpet.
Moving on to the cereal test, the Eureka actually did quite well, doing an above average job on par with the Bissell Zing. The Hoover did about average, while the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball did an abysmal job, clogging up from the crushed Cheerios.
The Dyson Cinetic did redeem itself slightly in the oatmeal test, doing an average to an above average job, only leaving a few flakes behind. The Hoover followed closely, leaving a little bit more behind, with the Eureka leaving the most oatmeal remaining of this trio.
Finishing towards the bottom of the group for our carpet cleaning tests, the Oreck XL and the Bissell 9595A both earned a 4 out of 10 for their subpar performance. The 9595A did very poorly at collecting rice, with the Oreck performing even worse, leaving plenty of residual rice after multiple passes.
The Oreck and Bissell 9595A both finished at the back of the pack in the flour test, tying for the second-worst score respectively. Performance improved slightly with cereal and oatmeal, with both models scoring average, or just below.
The BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel Lite received a 3 out of 10, ending up as the lowest score out of the entire group. It was ok at collecting rice and oats but failed at picking up Cheerios due to its low clearance.
Ease of Use
Ranking behind carpet cleaning performance, our Ease of Use metric ranked next in terms of importance, accounting for 25% of the final score. We compared the noise of each vacuum cleaner, its maximum reach, the ease of cleaning close to edges and under furniture, as well as how each vacuum handled transitioning between different surfaces.
There wasn't as much of a stark contrast in performance in this metric, with a handful of models — the Shark APEX DuoClean with Zero-M, the Shark Rotator DuoClean, Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the Eureka Mighty Mite — all earning the top score of 7 out of 10. The Eureka, the Shark APEX, and the Shark Rotator all handle surface transitions exceptionally well — though not quite on par with the Dyson Ball Animal 2, which automatically adjusts to different types of floors and lets you turn the rotating brush head on or off. The Eureka has a button on the head, while the Rotator and the APEX both have a button on the handle, with a hard floor option that will slow down the rotating brush, as well as options to select between low-pile and medium-pile carpet.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional only gives you the option to turn the rotating brush on or off but lacks options for different piles of carpet or for adjusting the height of the extractor. However, it is very easy to turn the brush on or off with a convenient button right near the top of the vacuum.
It is a little hard to adjust the Kenmore, requiring you to turn a knob on the front of the vacuum. However, the Kenmore was the beat of the entire group at cleaning in close to the edge, leaving the least residual debris.
The Eureka and the Navigator Lift-Away Professional also do a very good job at cleaning in close to the edges and into the corners of a room. Both of these products outperformed the Shark Rotator, leaving only a minuscule amount of residual mess behind.
The APEX does well right along the edges of a room but will leave some mess behind in the corners of a room, particularly in the space right in front of the vacuum when you push it into a corner.
When it comes to cleaning under furniture, both the APEX and the Rotator earned top marks. Both of these vacuums reach a little over 10" under our test "sofa" without the Lift-Away function and completely cleaned underneath when using it. The Eureka matched the performance of the Rotator and the APEX, while the Navigator Lift-Away Professional and Kenmore only made it about 9" and 7" under our test "sofa", respectively.
Next, we looked at the maximum reach of each vacuum. We measured both the cord and the reach, to determine how far you could effectively clean from the outlet. The Kenmore has both the longest reach of this group, as well as one of the longest reaches overall, with the rest of the products falling in behind it.
Finally, we compared the noise levels of each product. The Eureka, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the APEX are definitely among the quietest of this top group, measuring in at 74.5 dBa, 73 dBa, and 72 dBa, respectively. The remainder of the vacuums are quite a bit louder and some had higher-pitched tones that are significantly more irritating, even if they only read slightly louder on our SPL meter, like the Miele.
Following the top performing models, the majority of the pack all were about the same to use, with the Bissell Zing, Dyson Ball Animal 2, Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, Miele Compact C1 Turbo, Oreck XL, and Shark Navigator Deluxe all earning a 6 out of 10 for their above average performance.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 is the best at switching between flooring types, automatically transitioning, with the option to turn off the brush. The Bissell Zing is identical to the Eureka when transitioning, with a button on the head that you step on.
The Dyson Cinetic will automatically transition between surfaces, but the brush can't be stopped. However, you can hold a trigger down to release suction to avoid sucking in long fibers from rugs or high-pile carpets. The Navigator Deluxe doesn't adjust for different floors but allows you to turn the brush on or off. The Miele requires you to swap heads for hard floors, while the Oreck lacks all adjustability.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 did the best of this group at edging, just barely being outperformed by the Kenmore. Next, the Navigator Deluxe and the Oreck got the next-closest to the edge, both leaving a small amount of debris in the tight corners.
The Bissell Zing, Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, and Miele were all about average, leaving more debris in the corner and missing a few spots here and there.
The Miele, Dyson Cinetic, and the Zing did exceptionally well at reaching under furniture, with this quartet of canister vacuums completely cleaning the area under our test "sofa". The Oreck also did very well, especially for an upright model, reaching between 10"-11" under the furniture. The Navigator Deluxe and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 did alright, reaching about 6" under.
The Oreck XL had the longest reach of the group at 37' and the Navigator Deluxe having the shortest at 27'. The Miele and Dyson models were in the middle, ranging from 30' and 32'.
The Navigator Deluxe, Bissell Zing, and Miele were on the quiet side — on par or just slightly louder than the Kenmore. The Dyson models were about average, similar to the Eureka, and the Oreck XL was a bit loud.
Next, the AirSwivel Lite, earning a 5 out of 10 in our group of ease of use assessments. The AirSwivel Lite has a slightly better reach than some vacuums, able to clean about an inch further under furniture than the, but has a shorter power cord, offering you about 3' less reach.
This vacuum does do a solid job cleaning along the walls of the room, but you can't adjust the clearance for different floor types, severely hampering its overall cleaning ability.
Finishing out the bottom of this metric, the Bissell 9595A and the Hoover WindTunnel once again earned the lowest score, meriting a 4 out of 10 for their subpar performance.
Both of these models have a knob in the front to adjust the height for different floors, but neither of these models allows you to stop the brush. These vacuums didn't excel in the edging test, leaving a small strip of rice behind.
The Hoover did alright at reaching under furniture, making it about 7" — on par with the Kenmore. The Bissell 9595A only made it about 5", making it the worst of the entire group. Both the Bissell 9595A and the Hoover have a comparatively short reach of 27' and were on the louder side.
Comprising 20% of the total score, our Handling metric encompassed maneuvering each vacuum around common obstacles, cleaning stairs, and the pushing/pulling effort required from each model to clean.
The Eureka Mighty Mite and the BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel Lite actually tied for the top spot, both earning an 8 out of 10 for their exceptional performance in this metric. The Mighty Mite — a highly maneuverable little vacuum easily cleans stairs, reaching up to 9 standard steps before requiring you to move the canister.
It's also very light, so it's not too much effort when you actually move the main body of the vacuum. This canister vacuum from Eureka also scored well in our maneuverability test, though the Shark Rotator, APEX, and both Dyson models did navigate the test course with just a little bit more finesse. The Eureka was less effort to push and pull, requiring the least exertion of the entire group.
The AirSwivel's hose only has enough reach to clean about 6 stairs, but it is one of the lightest upright vacuums, making it exceptionally easy to carry up or down flights of stairs. It also is highly maneuverable with its swivel head and takes very little effort to push across carpeted floors, though the wheels on some of the best Shark or Dyson vacuums rolled a bit better over soft floors.
Following the Eureka, the Shark APEX, the Shark Rotator, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Dyson Cinetic, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, and the Bissell Zing all earned a 7 out of 10 for their excellent performance when it comes to our Handling metric.
The Bissell Zing, Navigator Deluxe, and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 all are the best of this group at cleaning stairs. The Navigator Deluxe and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 both can clean our entire flight of stairs with its accessory hose, negating the need to carry the vacuum up to complete cleaning. The Navigator Deluxe is also lighter than the Dyson Ball Animal 2, making it slightly easier to use to clean longer flights of stairs.
The Zing doesn't have anywhere close to the reach of the Ball Animal 2, only reaching about 7 steps. However, it is significantly lighter, making it very easy to carry up the stairs with you while cleaning.
The Shark Rotator, the Shark APEX, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the Dyson Cinetic reached almost as far as the Zing — about 6 steps, but are considerably heavier. However, the Shark Rotator, the APEX, Navigator Lift-Away Professional, Dyson Cinetic, and Dyson Ball Animal 2 earned the highest marks overall in our test course, maneuvering through it flawlessly.
We found the Bissell Zing to be the hardest to maneuver of all the canister vacuums, but it did require minimal effort to push or pull. The Dyson Cinetic was a little more work than the Zing, but not as much as the Shark Rotator, APEX, or the Dyson Ball Animal 2.
Next, the Miele, Oreck XL, and Navigator Deluxe all earned a 6 out for their overall handling. The Navigator Deluxe has exceptional reach but got bumped out of the top groups by its relatively mediocre handling and the moderate effort it took to push or pull the vacuum.
The Miele could reach about one step further than the Bissell Zing and the Dyson Cinetic, but is heavier than the Zing and lighter than the Dyson. This put the Miele slightly above average at cleaning stairs, while the Oreck was the worst, lacking a cleaning hose.
The Miele did maneuver very well through our test course, on par with the Eureka Mighty Mite. The Oreck XL and the Navigator Deluxe handled alright, but are substantially clunkier than the Shark Rotator or Dyson Ball Animal 2. The Oreck did take a little less effort to push or pull than the Navigator Deluxe or Miele — on par with the Dyson Cinetic.
Moving up in the ranks slightly, the Bissell 9595A and the Hoover WindTunnel tied for the second to last position in our Handling metric, both earning a 5 out of 10 for their average showing. Both of these vacuums had decently long reaches, making it up 8 stairs and weren't terribly heavy.
However, this pair weren't the most maneuverable, clunkier and more cumbersome to steer than the Oreck XL and the Navigator Deluxe. The 9595A and the Hoover weren't too difficult to push or pull around, on par with the Dyson Ball Animal 2.
Finishing out the bottom of our Handling metric, the Kenmore Elite earned the lowest score of 4 out of 10. This model only reached up 6.5 stairs before you needed to move it — a pain, as it is exceptionally heavy. This model is big and clunky, making it hard to maneuver through our obstacle course, and requires significant effort to push or pull.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Making up 10% of the total score, our Hard Surface Cleaning test is essentially 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 the performance of each model.
The Shark Rotator DuoClean and the Shark APEX tied for the top spot in this metric, both receiving a 9 out of 10 for their almost identical performance. Using the hard floor setting on both vacuums, the APEX and the Rotator collected practically all of the rice in a single pass — even sucking in rice that was wider than the brush head. This pair also did a fantastic job at cleaning flour from the hard floor, even cleaning it out of the cracks and crevices — though it took the Rotator about 10 passes, it only took the APEX two.
This pair of vacuums carried their excellent performance over to our cereal and oatmeal tests, doing the best job at cleaning of the entire group with only a single pass.
After the Shark APEX and Rotator, the Miele and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 earned the next highest score of 7 out of 10. The Ball Animal 2 picked up all the rice on the first pass, similar to the Shark Rotator, while the Miele required two passes to match its performance. However, the Miele did match the performance of the Ball Animal 2 and the Shark Rotator in our flour test, with all three of these vacuums receiving a perfect score.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 did outperform the Miele at collecting Cheerios, once again only needing a single pass to the Miele's two. However, the Dyson would occasionally push the Cheerios around and pile them up, rather than sucking them up. The Dyson finished this metric with a reasonably good score in our oatmeal test, only leaving a few pieces behind that fell into the cracks between boards. The Miele did alright, tending to push stuff around more often than collecting it.
The bulk of the vacuums came next, with the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Bissell Zing, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, the Eureka Mighty Mite, the Kenmore Elite, and the Navigator Deluxe all earning a 6 out of 10 for their hard floor cleaning abilities.
The Navigator Deluxe and the Navigator Lift-Away Professional did a great job in the rice cleanup test, only needing a single pass to collect everything, compared to the two passes it took most of the other vacuums. However, the Navigator Deluxe's and the Navigator Lift-Away Professional's performance both dropped in the flour test. These products couldn't clean up any flour that had fallen in the cracks between boards and plenty of flour became stuck on the wheels throughout the course of the test. The Kenmore also suffered from a similar problem, tracking the flour around as you are cleaning.
The Dyson Cinetic did an excellent job in the flour test, receiving a perfect score. The Bissell Zing would collect the flour out of the cracks if you really pushed the bristles of the brush head in with a scrubbing motion, but nothing could be done to clean the flour out of the cracks with the Eureka.
The Kenmore led this group in the Cheerio collection test, doing a fine job. This vacuum was closely followed by the Navigator Deluxe, Bissell Zing, and Eureka Mighty Mite. The Navigator Deluxe would have some Cheerios trapped in its brush, while the Eureka, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and Zing would push the cereal around, rather than collecting it when moving the brush forward. These vacuums would all collect the cereal when you pulled the head towards you, leaving enough of a gap for the Cheerios to be sucked up.
The Dyson Cinetic did an absolutely terrible job at collecting Cheerios, crushing them up and immediately clogging.
Moving on to our oatmeal pickup test, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional did the best of the group, collecting the bulk of the oats in a single pass, with only a quick cleanup pass necessary to render the floor totally clean.
The Kenmore and the Shark did fairly well, performing similarly to the Dyson Ball Animal 2. The remaining three canister vacuums (Eureka Mighty Might, Dyson Cinetic, and Bissell Zing) all struggled with collecting oatmeal, instead preferring to push it around into piles.
Ending up in the third to last position in this metric, the Oreck XL earned a 4 out of 10 for its mediocre hard floor cleaning efforts. The Oreck did about average at collecting rice, though it did fling some around. It also did quite well at collecting flour, even getting some out of the cracks, performing on par with the Eureka. However, it did terrible at collecting cereal and oatmeal. The Cheerios were just pushed around, while the oatmeal test ended in mild catastrophe. The Oreck flung oats everywhere, rather than collecting them.
Next, the BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel Lite earned a 3 out of 10 for its undesirable performance, which did extremely poorly in 3 out of 4 tests in this metric. It flung rice and oats everywhere, significantly increasing the overall size of the mess from what we started with and the clearance on this vacuum is far too low to effectively pick up larger particles — like Cheerios — pushing them around indefinitely.
It did do a slightly above average job at collecting flour, but there was a noticeable film stubbornly clinging to the floor after it passed over an area repeatedly.
Last, in this set of tests, the Hoover WindTunnel earned a 2 out of 10 for its abysmal performance. This model did the worst of the bunch at collecting flour, leaving much more behind than other models. However, it was in the rice, cereal, and oatmeal tests where the Hoover demonstrated how terrible it is. This model flung rice everywhere, much to our dismay.
A similar thing occurred with Cheerios, while the oats were spread even more than the rice, creating a sizeable oat-pocalypse.
Finishing out our set of tests, the Pet Hair metric is responsible for the residual 10% of the final score. We spread 5 grams of pet hair on the medium-pile carpet, then pressed it in. We ran each vacuum over it, calculating the percentage collected to determine the final scores.
Six vacuums received the top score of 9 out of 10 in our test: the Shark APEX, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, the Kenmore Elite, Miele, and the Navigator Deluxe. These top-tier vacuums all collected 90% or more of the pet hair, with the Navigator Lift-Away Professional doing the best job overall, collecting over 99% of the hair that we spread out on the test carpet, followed closely by the APEX, which picked up 97% of the hair.
Finishing just behind these top models, the Bissell 9595A, Hoover WindTunnel, Oreck XL, AirSwivel Lite, and Shark Rotator all earned an 8 out of 10 for their good performance. This trio collected most of the pet hair, but left just a little more, getting 86%, 89%, 89%, 89%, and 88% of the hair respectively.
Doing a somewhat awful job, the Bissell Zing and Eureka Mighty Mite failed to collect the majority of the pet hair, earning them a 3 and a 2 out of 10 respectively. The Bissell Zing picked up 33% of the hair, while the Eureka only got an abysmal 19%.
At this point, you should — hopefully — have a good idea of which vacuum cleaner is going to be the best bet for your home, whether you want a top-of-the-line cleaning machine or a budget option that isn't going to suck up all your spare cash.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer