Looking for a vacuum? Our floor cleaning experts have tested more than 100 vacuums since 2015. In this 2022 iteration, we bought and tested the top vacuums available today and put them through a rigorous side-by-side comparison to find the very best. We have tested these machines in every conceivable scenario, on all sizes and types of debris, to find their strengths and weaknesses. This overview of the vacuum market looks at the best devices from several categories and provides buying advice on each type. Our recommendations are based on our extensive hands-on testing and can help you find the perfect vacuum for your needs and budget. With this easy-to-digest article, you'll quickly be an expert on the market.
It's hard to imagine an upright vacuum that would deliver better performance than the Shark Vertex. This model earned high marks in our Best Upright Vacuum review. The Vertex has amazing cleaning results on hard and soft surfaces, including high pile carpet — it picked up everything from rice grains to dog hair to flour. This vacuum cleaner is light, fairly quiet, easy to use, and good in difficult-to-clean spots like up against the wall, under the couch, and on stairs. The unit has a 30-foot cord, and with the lift away feature, the handle pulls out from the body with an additional 10 feet of reach with its accordion-style hose that can be capped with attachments.
We were so impressed that we struggled to find faults with this model. That said, excellence like this does not come cheap. We also noticed this vacuum struggles somewhat when cleaning inside corners — though it still did better than most. Its 16 pounds isn't exactly the heaviest of upright machines, but there are certainly lighter models in the class. All told, these complaints are minor considering what the Shark Vertex offers, not least of all its easy-to-adjust agitator settings that ensure top performance on a variety of surfaces.
Power Source: Plug-in | Cleaning Path Width: 11.25"
REASONS TO BUY
Good on hard and soft surfaces
Great for hair removal
REASONS TO AVOID
Cord not self-retracting
Not great on hard surfaces
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional offers consumers considerable savings on a relatively well-performing upright vacuum. This vacuum cleaner did a good job cleaning-up soft surfaces such as high pile carpets. The Navigator also excels at picking up pet hair, and the lift away feature — which turns the vac handle into a handheld device — makes it easy to clean trouble spots like couches and windowsills. We were quite impressed with this model's ability to gobble up big and small debris ranging from flour to rice — though the vacuum struggled a bit on hard surfaces. More than just being an effective cleaning tool, it is easy to use too. Its head design makes cleaning corners a breeze, the swivel head makes it maneuverable, and its 30' long cord will cover most rooms without switching outlets.
While many aspects of the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional deserve praise, there are some drawbacks that limit the overall appeal. First, the cord doesn't self-retract — not a huge deal, but winding it up gets somewhat annoying after several uses. Second, the head of the device lacks height adjustability for different surface types. This missing feature helps to explain why the Navigator struggled to pick up flour and Cheerios off of hard surfaces — it can't change the height to match the finest and coarsest debris types used in our testing. It requires a few extra passes to pick up these messes. Despite these imperfections, this unit is a stellar deal for anyone needing a quality cleaning device.
Power Source: Plug-in | Cleaning Path Width: 10 ½"
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to use
Good performance on hard surfaces
REASONS TO AVOID
Struggles with pet hair
If you want one of the best canister vacuums at an affordable price point, the Eureka WhirlWind is a top choice. This model was one of the absolute best performers in our best canister vacuum review. We were impressed by its ability to plow through cereal, oatmeal, and flour in our hard surface and carpet cleaning tests. At 11 pounds, this vacuum cleaner is also one of the easiest to carry up and down stairs. We appreciated this model for its impressive cleaning performance, handling, and ease of use.
Pet owners may want to go with another unit unless they are on a tight budget. Unfortunately, the pet hair performance was lackluster due to the absence of a brush roller. But, if you're looking for an affordable vacuum and don't mind making a few more passes to collect pet hair, the WhirlWind may be a viable choice.
Power Source: Plug-in | Cleaning Path Width: 10 ¾"
REASONS TO BUY
Good at removing pet hair
REASONS TO AVOID
The Miele Compact C1 Turbo is an all-around top-performing, albeit expensive, canister vacuum. The machine's key feature is a floor cleaning attachment with a rolling brush (agitator) that makes it more like an upright vacuum cleaner while maintaining the advantages and simplicity of a canister unit. Given the benefits of having an agitator, we were not surprised that the Turbo did well on carpets of all pile lengths (but particularly on the shorter variety) and most debris types. Its swivel head makes it more maneuverable than most canister units, too, while its floor attachment does reasonably well at collecting debris in corners and against baseboards. While this unit performed well across the board, it shined when picking up flour (fine debris) and the toughest debris of all — pet hair.
Although the Miele Compact C1 Turbo excelled at tackling some of the toughest messes, its performance dropped a degree when cleaning larger debris (like rice and cereal) from the fluffier varieties of carpet, requiring more passes than other machines. We also felt that the Turbo was a tad fiddly when switching between attachments. Its ease of use was further impacted by its middling weight of 15.2 pounds — not the heaviest but certainly not the lightest either. Despite this, the Turbo does a great job reaching under low furniture and has a maximum reach of 30 feet for an outlet to the attachment. If this vacuum cleaner fits your budget, it's a great buy, particularly for pet owners with loads of carpeting.
Power Source: Battery | Cleaning Path Width: 10 ¼"
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to use
Great at removing pet hair
REASONS TO AVOID
The Shark Pet Pro was one of the top performers in the Best Stick Vacuum review. This stand-up stick vacuum works like a full-sized machine — but is much easier to handle — leaving us with few critiques about its performance. This machine handles hair extremely well because the brush penetrates the carpet to extract hair while the agitator self-cleans. The Pet Pro comes with crevice, brush, and pet tools for furniture and stairs. Also, the "stick" portion of the machine can be removed, turning it into a handheld vacuum — a real plus for vehicle cleaning. The unit is just eight pounds, it has an easy-to-swap battery that lasts up to 21 minutes (in economical mode), and it has a swift recharge time of just 2.5 hours. The Pro does well on both hard and soft surfaces, large and small debris, and its 37" articulating shaft makes it easy to get under the couch or bed without getting on your hands and knees.
The performance of the Shark Pet Pro is rather impressive. Our only criticism is that this machine is a bit loud compared to other models, and pushing the vacuum straight into a wall leaves a small gap that the agitator could not reach. However, run the agitator perpendicular to the wall, and there is almost no gap. As a bonus, the Pet Pro is freestanding — a rarity among stick vacuums — so it will stand at attention until the next time you need it.
The VonHaus 600W 2-in-1 is an economy stick vacuum that converts to a handheld device. While the unit isn't a suitable replacement for a traditional vacuum, it is useful in appropriate settings, and its price can't be beaten. The VonHaus 600W 2-in1 is a plug-in unit that is best used on hard surfaces and for quick, low-demand clean-ups where getting out a full-sized vacuum would be overkill — think spilled flour in the kitchen or dust bunnies under the couch. The takeaway is that the VonHaus 600W 2-in-1 does best on hard surfaces, even tackling the most demanding debris in reasonably good form.
The downsides of the VonHaus 600W 2-in1 become more or less meaningful depending on how you plan to use the machine. It does not tackle carpets well. It also lacks a battery. So, while you won't have to worry about charging the unit, the relatively short cord may require an extension depending on the outlet spacing in your home. Moreover, the unit non-articulating shaft only allowed us to reach 11 inches under furniture from a standing position. However, the unit redeems itself with proper edge-of-the-room cleaning where the agitator left almost no gap. All in all, the VonHaus 600W 2-in-1 is an inexpensive stick vacuum that is best used lightly on hard surfaces.
The Shark IONFlex offers a great balance of price and performance. This vacuum is easy to use, relatively lightweight (8.9 lbs), battery-powered (no pesky cord), and it has an articulating shaft for long reaches under furniture (34" from a standing position). Also, its swiveling head makes for superior maneuverability. The IONFlex has a plethora of attachments for all those hard-to-reach places and easily folds up in a cupboard or below a counter. Moreover, the machine has a fantastic battery that will run on max power for up to 11 hours and 44 minutes and recharge in just 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Given all the accolades that we've heaped on this machine, you might be wondering, what's the catch? The biggest drawback of the Shark IONFlex is no storage for all its extra attachments. As a result, the attachments end up in an untidy pile next to the charger or other inconvenient location. Additionally, the IONFlex isn't the best on high pile carpets — it does okay, just not great. However, this vacuum cleans quite close to room edges, leaving just a trace of debris behind. All told, our complaints are pretty minor considering how easy-to-use and effective the IONFlex is overall.
The Black+Decker Flex Vac BDH2020FL does a lot for a handheld vacuum, and that's because it's a lot like a miniature canister vacuum. This model was a top performer in our best handheld vacuum review. The machine has an accordion hose for long reaches, multiple attachments for those hard-to-reach places, and high airflow through its 1 3/16 inch hose end. The Flex Vac did well sucking up animal hair and large debris, such as Mini-Wheats cereal, without clogging. Moreover, the little vac did a great job cleaning deep cracks and crevices (easily reaching 36" into a 3" gap), and it did above average in cleaning dusty surfaces with a brush attachment.
While we were impressed with the overall performance of the Flex Vac, it is not without some shortcomings. Specifically, it is loud enough to strain conversation. Also, it struggles with heavy, caked-on dirt as you would find on the floorboard of a car, though it will eventually get the job done if you keep at it. Finally, there is a lack of some convenience features that we would have liked to see. For example, the battery life is a bit truncated at just 15 minutes of runtime on a full charge, and it has a four-hour recharge interval. Also, the Flex Vac is a bit heavy at three pounds. Finally, the unit's three attachments lack onboard storage though there is a place to organize them on the battery dock. Yet, the large and easy-to-empty canister counteracts some of these convenience shortfalls. All in all, the Flex Vac still performs quite well across the board.
The Black+Decker HHVI320JR02's performance is a mixed bag with some real bright spots, including a great price point and the suction power to pick up big messes. The narrow nozzle with the built-in extension makes it effective at getting to those hard-to-reach places without needing multiple attachments. In the same vein, the rotating nozzle feature is a boon for maintaining a good grip on the handle when probing between couch cushions and the like. Also, the fold-down brush does well for vacuuming baseboards, though you need to be mindful not to scratch the wall with the plastic backing. Finally, the Black+Decker HHVI320JR02's battery lasts ~15.5 minutes, weighs 2.4 pounds, and has an easy-to-empty debris receptacle.
The Black+Decker HHVI320JR02 has some limitations, too. For one, it did not fare well in our pet hair pick-up tests. It also struggles with fine debris like flour and has limited effectiveness on high pile carpets. Additionally, the unit is considerably louder than other models in the class. Despite these issues, we still favor this unit as a reasonably effective, easy-to-use, affordable handheld vacuum.
All hail the mighty Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra! This super smart robot vacuum has an awesome app that allows users to set up boundaries in any room of their home. This robot is one of the first to explore mopping functionalities and actually mops pretty well. It is also a keen navigator and doesn't bump your furniture, but still manages to clean pretty close against obstacles. One of the things we loved most about this model was its latest and greatest pet poop-avoidance technology. When we set up simulated poop in our test suite, the S7 noticed it immediately and kept its distance. We highly recommend this model to those who want the most out of a robot vacuum.
Unfortunately, this is probably not the best choice if you have pets. Although it has superb poop-avoidance technology, it still doesn't do very well at picking up pet hair. This device is also super expensive, and we would think that a robot vacuum this pricey would be able to handle a little bit of pet hair.
Power Source: Battery | Cleaning Path Width: 1" (hose end)
REASONS TO BUY
Great hose design
Great accessory storage
REASONS TO AVOID
The Milwaukee M18 0880-20 is an exceptionally well-designed wet dry vacuum cleaner. This model is easily at the top of its class in our Best Cordless Wet Dry Vacuum review. It is conveniently streamlined and also packs a powerful electric motor that will bust the toughest messes, be they sopping wet or dry as a bone. Soaked carpets? Heavy nuts and bolts? Piles of sawdust? It will suck all that up without a fuss and, with its HEPA filter, will blow nearly particular-free air out the tail-end. When your work is done, the M18 has a slick, toolbox-like design that accommodates all the attachments and self-retracting hose within. Another nice design feature is the hose routing that runs straight into the can where others use an easily-clogged elbow.
While the Milwaukee M18 0880-20 is a great vacuum, it isn't without some limitations. For one, it did not fare well when sucking up standing water on a hard surface. In the M18's defense, this results from a poorly designed floor attachment, not poor suction or airflow. Another weak spot for the M18 is its run time. At four minutes and 39 seconds per amp hour, it's below average for its class. And, at 10 lbs 2 oz, it's on the heavy end of its class, too. However, its hose stretches from 24 to 90 ½ inches, so you shouldn't have to move it around too much. All in all, this is one heck of a wet dry machine, and we feel that most will overlook its deficiencies in light of its exceptional performance and ease of use.
This complex and diverse vacuum market overview comes from hundreds of hours of researching, testing, and comparing these machines since 2015. Specifically, we tested these vacuums for ease of use, cleaning effectiveness on common mess types, battery life, and reach, to name just a few of our analyses. This overview takes the best machines from five vacuum categories — upright, handheld, canister, wet-dry, robot, and stick — and combines them to give a telling overview of the market as a whole.
Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer, review editor Jessica Riconscente, and author Nick Miley worked together to to collate this vacuum cleaner review. This triad has well over 10 years of collective experience testing home electronics such as vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, kitchen appliances, and cordless tools.
Nick brings scientific experience gained in university research facilities and writing journal articles. Austin brings hundreds of hours of hands-on testing experience assessing products ranging from keyboards to photo printers, and now running Gear Lab's testing site. Finally, Jessica has on-the-ground experience as a professional cleaner, working at hostels and upscale homes for several years. She is also a dog mom and understands the demands placed on a vacuum when it comes to hairy messes.
Our testing of vacuum cleaners is divided into four separate rating metrics:
Ease of Use
These metrics contribute to each product's overall score based on what consumers want out of their vacuum. The weightings for each metric will vary among different vacuums, for example, a handheld vacuum is quite different from an upright vacuum and therefore requires different tests and weightings. This comprehensive testing and rating approach helps us to help you find the right vacuum for your household and budget.
How to Pick the Right Vacuum Cleaner:
The first question you'll want to answer is what kind of vacuum you need to satisfy your needs. While all the vacuums perform the same general function, there is a high degree of specialization in the vacuum market. A good way to conceptualize this is to think about the messes you'll most likely be cleaning and where. If this prompt made you think, sawdust in the garage, you're solidly in the wet dry category. On the other hand, if you thought of heavily-trafficked carpets in the house, you're in the market for an upright or canister vacuum. The following is a breakdown of the various types of vacuums covered in this review. These categories will not only describe the machines but also where and what they do best.
Your favorite upright vacuum is what many people think about when they imagine a vacuum cleaner. These machines are essentially the swiss army knife of in-home vacuum cleaners. They are completely self-contained, with the canister, attachments, power cord, and extension hose all in one unit. A common feature in an upright is a roller brush or agitator that stirs up the debris for the vacuum to then suck into its canister — this makes them great for high pile carpets and hard texture surfaces where other vacuums struggle. These machines commonly have a hose that can be disconnected on one end and used with attachments like a handheld device for cleaning stairs and furniture. These are universal machines for household use, and their freestanding, self-contained design makes them easy to store in a closet or corner.
Canister vacuums are similar to uprights, with the obvious exception that the canister storing the collected debris is trailered behind the vacuum head and handle. This means that the business end of the vacuum is lighter and arguably more maneuverable. Still, it can also be harder to store in a closet or corner because the unit as a whole is bulkier. However, these machines do provide a bit of a sound demeaning because the motor is in the canister, and some find them easier to use on stairs since the canister can be left on the ground or carried in one hand while the other is free to work the business end of the machine.
Stick vacuums are simply a pared-down version of an upright device that are often battery-powered, but not always. Stick vacs often lack the accouterments of uprights, such as a detachable handheld device, but again, not always. Some of the more sophisticated devices are quite comparable to high-quality uprights. The main difference is the slender profile of the unit, which makes the vacuum easier to store but also means that the canister is smaller and thus will need to be emptied more often. As such, we think these devices make the most sense in smaller areas, rooms with less traffic, or limited high pile carpet.
Handheld vacuums are essentially an accessory and are not intended to clean a whole house. They do well at getting into all the places your upright or canister vacuums aren't expected to reach. When we think about a handheld unit, we think about countertops, window sills, the car, or light spot cleaning when you don't want to get out the full-size vacuum. These devices are battery-powered, so the runtime can be an issue, but the lack of a cord makes them all the more agile and nimble.
Robot vacuums are more than just a novelty. These machines offer users real time-savings when used correctly. While they are no substitute for a traditional vacuum cleaner (and the human running it), they are great for routine cleaning of the home and some light spot cleaning. The downside of the robot vacuum is that they require some setup, charging, have relatively small dust bins, and are not always intelligent — meaning that some cannot reliably make decisions not to run over something that doesn't need picking up.
Cordless Wet Dry Vacuums
As the name suggests, "wet dry" vacuums are designed to tackle a whole other type of mess compared to those units discussed above. Wet dry vacuums specialize in big messes where water or other liquids are involved. For example, these machines can suck up a bucket of water into their cans, something we wouldn't dream of doing with an upright device. However, wet dry vacs lack an agitator, so they are not great at cleaning large carpeted areas. When we think of wet dry vacs, we think of work in the garage, motorhome, car, truck, or boat. Most of these units are battery-powered; thus, battery runtime will be something you'll want to pay attention to if you put them on big jobs. These machines are self-contained, compact, and powerful.
To Bag or Not to Bag
While the bag debate was an important part of selecting a vacuum cleaner at one time, that is no longer the case. Nowadays, the vast majority of vacuums are bagless. This is a good thing for the most part because the lack of a bag reduces waste and trips to the store. However, there is no denying that, when emptying a bagless canister, some of the dust collected can escape into the air. If you are sensitive to dust, a bagged vacuum cleaner may be the right choice.
This general overview of the vacuum market has highlighted the best models in the several classes of vacuums, including upright, stick, robot, canister, wet dry, and handheld. Along with the overview, we have included a buying advice section to help you narrow down the market. These tools will assist you in selecting the right vacuum for your needs. With the proper vacuum, cleaning isn't just a chore — it can be an enjoyable task.
Nick Miley, Austin Palmer, and Jessica Riconscente
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