Canister vacuum tests and reviews
Reviews say canister vacuums are best for those who have a combination of hardwood floors and rugs, as well as those who plan to vacuum stairs, upholstery, drapes and other above-the-floor items. Upright vacuums, on the other hand, are best for homes with lots of carpeting. (See our companion report on upright vacuum cleaners.) We also have a report on stick vacuums -- a good alternative if you mainly need to clean hard floors, but not stairs or upholstery.
ConsumerReports.org has the most thorough review of vacuum cleaners that we found. At the ConsumerReports.org website, you can find a continuously updated list of the vacuum cleaners the editors have tested, along with their ratings. New models are added with each new report, and discontinued models are removed. All canister vacuums are evaluated for performance on carpet and bare floors. Editors also test each vacuum's ability to pick up pet hair from carpet, along with noise level and emissions. In addition, ConsumerReports.org consults repair records to determine which brands are the most reliable.
Good Housekeeping has also conducted very thorough tests of vacuum cleaners. The editors test each model on bare floors, against ground-in dirt in carpets and on pet hair. In addition, they have consumers test the models and give their feedback. Each vacuum is assigned a letter grade from A through F, and the accompanying report sums up its pros and cons. Other detailed tests of canister vacuums appear in U.K.-based Which? magazine and Australia's Choice magazine. Both test canister vacuums on carpet and bare floors, and like ConsumerReports.org, both also test for dust emissions. Only a few of the canister vacuums tested by Which? and Choice magazines are available in the U.S., however.
Another source of reviews is ConsumerGuide.com. The editors of this site don't go into much detail about their testing, however, and it isn't always clear how the Best Buy and Budget Buy designees are chosen. We also found some useful information on retailer websites such as AllergyBuyersClub.com and Pennsylvania-based Ristenbatt.com. However, these sites cover only the models that they sell, and testing methods aren't clearly defined. We cross-referenced picks from professional reviews with owner-written ratings at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, Viewpoints.com and Epinions.com. Most canister vacuums get mixed reviews, and it's hard to pick out the best models. However, these sites are useful for checking the opinions of professional reviewers about a particular model.
Canister vacuums vary widely in cost, and there isn't a clear correlation between price and performance. Particularly if you only need to vacuum bare floors, it is possible to find a decent, basic model for less than $100, although machines in this price range may not perform well on deep-pile carpets, rugs or upholstery. At the other end of the scale, the Rainbow E-series E2 (*Est. $1,700) is a vacuum, carpet cleaner and air purifier in one. Although most consumers at Viewpoints.com praise this model's cleaning power, some complain that it is not worth the high cost. Tests at a leading consumer magazine seem to confirm this view, as the E2 achieves only so-so ratings for cleaning performance, noise and total airflow.