Selecting the Best Vacuum Cleaner

How To Select The Best Vacuum Cleaner

Amps, HEPA filters, bags, no bags, upright, canister, wet/dry… You almost need a degree in Vacuum Cleaner Technology to know which type of vacuum you need! You have to look beyond commercials to figure out what features you need, which are luxuries, and which are simply pointless!


You might think that you’re getting a better vacuum cleaner if it has more amps. Wrong. Amps are simply amperes, a unit of measurement for electrical current. Amps are only how much electricity the vacuum uses, not the power it delivers. Because most people don’t know this fact, amps are usually touted on all the boxes and commercials.


Filters are a good thing in a vacuum if you’re worried about air quality in your home. If anyone has allergies, it’s costly but worth it to get a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters. HEPA filters are High Efficiency Particulate Air filters. Most vacuums with HEPA filters give out lower emissions – dust and particles spewed into the air and back onto the floors. There are a few regular filters that do just as well, but HEPA filters are still considered the best filtration systems.

Bags or Bag-less

Definitely go with bags! Vacuum cleaners that don’t use bags are messy to empty, and you usually end up with half the contents deposited right back onto the floor! Also, what’s the point of getting a filtered vacuum when all of those particles go right back into the air when you empty the container? Bags are better for the air in your home, and they are easier to empty. To keep all of the dirt in the bag when you empty it, don’t let a bag get completely full. Empty it when it’s only two-thirds full.

Upright vs. Canister

Upright vacuums are better for thick carpet. Canister vacuums are better for bare floors. If you have a mixture of carpet and bare floors in your home, you should get an upright vacuum as more dirt gets trapped in carpet. For the life of your carpet and air quality of your home, it’s better to get the most dirt that you can out of the carpet. It’s also personal preference. Canisters vacuums take up more space and are usually more difficult to lug around. If it will make you vacuum more, get a more convenient upright!

Cordless and Mini Vacuums

Cordless vacuums can’t sustain the same amount of power as corded ones. You should not rely solely on a cordless vacuum for cleaning carpets. They usually aren’t powerful enough to pick up all of the dirt, they use a lot of electricity while they charge, and they often kick particles back into the air. They are OK for a convenient way to get to spills quickly, but it would be better to use a regular vacuum. Mini vacuums (DirtDevils, etc) are convenient for stairs, cars, and crevices, but they are notorious for shooting out the particles they’ve just sucked! It’s better to buy an extension hose for your regular vacuum cleaner to use on stairs or for a car in your driveway.

Other Vacuum Cleaner Purchasing Tips

  • Consider spending $200-$300 on a very good vacuum cleaner if you have new or relatively new carpet. It’s an investment that will make your carpet last years longer
  • Self-propelled vacuums make a huge difference in the amount of energy you have to put forth vacuuming, but it will also make the vacuum heavier
  • Get a vacuum with a manual pile adjust lever. Automatic adjusting depends too much on the pressure you use and possible malfunctioning
  • Adjust the pile level correctly to your carpet. Vacuuming too low can beat the heck out of your carpet fibers and task the vacuum motor. If the lever is set too high, you aren’t going to pick up the dirt trapped in your carpet
  • The weight of a vacuum cleaner is important, especially if you carry it upstairs. Look for models that are 20 pounds or less
  • If you have a two-story home, consider getting a second vacuum cleaner for the upstairs level. If it will make you vacuum the carpet more often, it’s worth the cost
  • Don’t rely on full bag indicators. Check your bag before you vacuum by gently squeezing to see how full it is
  • Make sure the model you’re buying has attachments for crevices and corners
  • If you vacuum draperies or area rugs often, get a vacuum that has adjustable suction – it won’t eat your drapes or rugs on a lower setting
  • Robotic vacuums still have a long way to go! They took an hour to clean one room in a Consumer Reports study, and they tend to lock themselves into rooms. Wait until technology improves
  • If your vacuum has a filter, check it often (once a month) and replace it when it’s dirty
  • If electrical outlets are few in your home, look for a model with at least a 30 foot cord
  • If you have a basement that floods, a pet accident problem, or a garage/workshop, consider a Wet/Dry vacuum cleaner (ShopVac). It’s quite bulky, but you can get attachments that will allow it to be used on carpet or bare floors