Filtration is becoming a standard for vacuum cleaners, and canister vacuums are no exception. Many models offer two-layer filtration using HEPA filtration technology, which removes 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.3 microns in size. That results in not only cleaner air but also less dirt and dust re-entering the air via emissions.
Our best-reviewed canister vacuum overall, the Dyson DC39 Multi Floor HEPA Bagless Canister Vacuum (*Est. $450) , is a solid performer across all floor types, making it useful for homes with a mix of tile, hardwood, wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs. It's lightweight and easy to maneuver, using Dyson's proprietary ball technology for easier handling around corners and through narrow spaces. It comes with a stair tool, combination upholstery tool/dusting brush and an adjustable wand, useful for reaching above-the-floor areas that are difficult to dust and clean otherwise. The Dyson DC39 Multi Floor is ultra-quiet, leading owners to call it one of the quietest vacuums they've ever used.
The Dyson DC39 Multi Floor offers two levels of filtration, including a lifetime, washable filter, a non-removable HEPA filter that captures particles down to 0.5 microns in size, and cyclone technology that's designed to capture dust and debris. It's bagless, so dust won't clog holes in a dirt collection bag to reduce suction. Specially designed airways maximize the flow of air through the canister, trap dust and debris, and filter it out efficiently so fewer particles end up back in the environment.
Overall, owners are pleased with the Dyson DC39 Multi Floor's performance. One Amazon.com reviewer says, "The vacuum suction power is unlike any vacuum I have ever seen. I pity the fur caught in this thing's way. Every time I vacuum, I end up with quite a bit of fur in the canister. It gets everything and leaves my carpet nice and fresh."
Unfortunately, the dirt collection canister is on the small side, with a capacity of about half a gallon, so it requires frequent emptying. It's a common complaint with bagless canister vacuums that emptying the dust bin can be a chore and, if you're not careful, a mess. When dumping out the collected debris, it can escape back into the air. For this reason, users suggest emptying it outdoors or holding it down inside a garbage can to minimize the resulting dust cloud.
If you're not interested in paying $500 for a canister vacuum, the Panasonic Canister Vacuum with HEPA Filter MC-CG902 (*Est. $250) is about half the price and offers similar performance. We read more durability complaints about this model, and it's backed by only a one-year warranty compared to the Dyson's ample five years of parts and labor. That said, it has a much wider cleaning path -- 14 inches compared to the DC39 Multi Floor's 10.4 inches -- which means it takes fewer passes to get the job done. And while the Dyson DC39 Multi Floor comes with useful attachments, the Panasonic offers a few the Dyson doesn't, such as a floor brush, crevice tool and an extra chrome wand.
The Panasonic offers a washable HEPA media filter like the Dyson, but it doesn't use the same cyclone technology to also trap dirt and dust. It has a carrying handle and is fairly lightweight at 17.6 pounds -- although the DC39 Multi Floor is lighter at 16.89 pounds -- so it's ideal for cleaning stairs without having to grapple with a bulky, cumbersome canister or an upright vacuum. It's not as quiet as the Dyson, but some owners aren't bothered by the noise, saying noise is to be expected of a vacuum cleaner. It gets good scores in one professional test for pet-hair pickup, and very good scores for both carpet and bare-floor performance.
In terms of durability issues, several reviewers complain that the Panasonic MC-CG902's power switch stops working over time or works intermittently, or the power head stops functioning. Customer service is somewhat helpful, offering options for repairs; the problem is that owners must ship the vacuum at their own expense to the closest authorized repair center, which is often more than 100 miles away. Still, hundreds of users report no issues and rave about this vacuum. One Amazon.com owner says, "Far surpasses the many uprights and canisters we've used over the years. Terrific design with all the goodies one looks for in a vacuum cleaner for all uses."
If price is no object, the Sebo Airbelt D4 Premium (Est. $900) comes highly recommended by editors at both AllergyBuyersClub.com and AchooAllergy.com, sites that sell products designed for allergy sufferers. Editors at AchooAllergy.com say the Sebo uses "hospital-grade s-class filtration" that captures 99.9 percent of particles down to 0.3 microns in size. Because it has an extra-large dirt collection bag with a 1.5-gallon capacity and a hygienic seal, there's no chance for dirt and dust to escape when you change the bag. It boasts a number of other useful features, such as onboard tools including a crevice tool, upholstery tool and dusting brush; a telescopic, adjustable wand; and a 40-foot power cord with automatic retracting. The Sebo is backed by a five-year warranty on parts and non-wear issues, plus a one-year warranty for labor.
Not all canister vacuums fare well on both carpet and bare floors. In general, experts and owners say upright vacuums are the best choice for high-pile carpets, simply due to the added pressure created by the weight of the unit, which helps the beater brush dig deeper into carpet fibers to extract more dust and dirt. When it comes to bare floors, the Dyson DC39 Animal HEPA Bagless Canister Vacuum (*Est. $500) , our best-reviewed pick in this category, leads the pack with easy-to-use attachments that make this a versatile machine for cleaning everything from floors to ceilings.
In one professional test, the Dyson DC39 Animal earns only fair scores for its pet-hair removal capabilities, which is surprising considering it's designed to excel at just that. However, it does earn excellent scores for bare-floor performance. On the other hand, owners say the Dyson DC39 Animal is a stellar performer on all floor types. One BestBuy.com customer says the DC39 Animal "easily collected hair that my other vacuum missed." Likewise, a reviewer at Amazon.com says, "It's really effective at getting ingrained dog hair out of the rugs, getting into dark corners, and ferreting dust bunnies out from under the furniture."
Users like the DC39 Animal's filtration system, which uses Dyson's Radial Root Cyclone Technology to capture dust and debris with gravity and centrifugal force, combined with a HEPA filter for added filtration and removing tiny particles down to 0.3 microns. In one professional test, the Dyson DC39 Animal earns excellent scores for emissions, meaning it doesn't toss vacuumed dust back into the air through the exhaust. The DC39 Animal is backed by the same five-year warranty as its sibling, the DC39 Multi Floor, but has the same issues with emptying the dirt canister. Like the Multi Floor, the Animal's dirt cup capacity is about half a gallon, so the same frequent, messy emptying issues apply.
If you want to avoid the mess of emptying a canister but you like the convenience of not having to purchase replacement bags, the LG Kompressor Pet Care Plus Canister (*Est. $370) is a comparable option with equally good performance on bare floors as the Dyson DC39 Animal. The LG Kompressor is one of the top-rated models in one professional test, earning a recommendation from editors for its bare-floor performance as well as its low emissions, great airflow and low noise level. That said, it earns just fair scores for pet-hair pickup which, like the Animal, is surprising considering its name suggests it's designed for pet-hair removal.
The LG Kompressor's claim to fame is its motorized compression system, which continuously cleans the dirt canister with a spatula-like rotating paddle during use. This packs the dirt into a compact package that can be easily discarded when the dirt canister needs emptying, without the messy dust cloud the Dyson models tend to create. An added bonus is that compressing the dirt means the canister can hold more, so it doesn't require frequent emptying.
The LG Kompressor also has suction on both sides of the nozzle in addition to the front, resulting in better edge-cleaning performance and more efficient cleaning. The cord is a bit short at 21 feet, especially compared to the Sebo's lengthy 24-foot cord. It does have auto rewind for added convenience, however, along with a telescoping wand and a combination crevice tool/dusting brush. One owner says at Amazon.com, "The LG has as much suction as the Dyson, but is better designed and much quieter."
Consumers tend to disagree with professional testers on the LG's pet-hair capabilities. Several who post feedback at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com say it's a fantastic vacuum for pet-hair removal, even families who report owning multiple long-haired pets. They add that the controls are intuitive to use, including the min/max suction feature -- a lower suction level designed for cleaning curtains and similar fabrics -- and the motorized brushroll that can be easily turned off for use on hard floors. Even though the vacuum weighs 22 pounds, several reviewers praise its maneuverability and quiet operation; one user says her children can hear the TV while she vacuums. The LG Kompressor has a HEPA filter and is backed by a five-year warranty.
Other canister vacuums get better scores for pet-hair pickup in professional tests; one of them, the Kenmore Progressive 21714 (*Est. $380) , has two levels of filtration, including HEPA media technology for removing more allergens from the air. It is the top-scorer among 38 canister vacuum cleaners included in one expert roundup, earning excellent scores for pet hair and bare floors, and very good scores for carpet cleaning and airflow. The Progressive is awarded slightly lower scores for noise and handling.
Owner opinions are split, with some calling this an exceptional canister vacuum for its price, but there are multiple issues noted with durability. Some users report breakdowns within the first few months while others say this is an extraordinarily well-built vacuum cleaner that lasts for years. It's not the lightest canister vacuum, however; weighing 23 pounds, it's heavy and bulky for some users. But it does have an 8-foot hose reach and a variety of attachments for versatility such as a crevice tool, combination bare-floor and upholstery tool, and a Pet PowerMate and pet-hair catcher for cleaning up more efficiently after pets.
Another high-end canister vacuum that does very well in professional tests is the Kenmore Intuition 28014 (*Est. $480) . This model has many of the same features found in the 21714, including HEPA filtration, fingertip controls, adjustable suction and onboard tool storage. Its specially designed power nozzle contains a removable bare-floor brush, so it can switch between carpets and floors without changing the entire head. This Kenmore is a top performer in one professional test, achieving very good results on all floor surfaces with very low noise and emissions levels, although its maneuverability is rated only mediocre.
The editors of Good Housekeeping award the Kenmore Intuition a grade of A-minus, saying it performs well on all surfaces and the fingertip controls are very convenient. They also like the vacuum's dirt sensor, which notifies you when it's no longer picking up dirt from a particular patch of carpet. However, user reviews do not measure up to its test-lab performance. We read some similar durability complaints as for the Progressive 21714, as well as other issues like a poor connection between the hose and the canister, resulting in a mess when dirt escapes.
In 230-plus reviews at Sears.com, the only retail site that sells Kenmore appliances, owners give the Intuition 28014 a score of 3 stars out of 5. Most agree that the vacuum is quiet and powerful, and switching tools is easy. But like the Progressive, it's heavy and bulky, making it difficult to maneuver and not the best for cleaning stairs.
Kenmore makes a few other models that earn decent ratings in professional tests. The Progressive 21514 (Est. $230) is at the lower end of the price scale, offering a 14-inch cleaning path, two filters, HEPA filtration and a total of five included attachments. It earns good scores for pet-hair removal in one expert roundup, and higher scores for carpet and bare-floor cleaning. Owners posting reviews at Sears.com say it's powerful but very noisy, and like other Kenmore models, it's heavier than the typical canister vacuum at 23 pounds.
Another option is the Kenmore Progressive 21614 (Est. $260) , which scores better for emissions and airflow in one professional test compared to the Progressive 21514. It also does a much better job of picking up pet hair, earning excellent scores from one consumer testing organization and positive remarks from owners posting feedback at Sears.com. Otherwise, its features are identical to the 21514 but it's purple, whereas the 21514 is white and the top-rated 21714 is red.
Allergy-specialty retailers tend to prefer Miele vacuums, but we didn't find enough feedback on these models to name them best-reviewed products. Also, the ratings at these retail sites are strongly correlated with the price of the vacuums, so we're not confident that the editorial reviews are completely unbiased. This brand also rises to the top in tests conducted by foreign review publications like Which? magazine.
Miele vacuums are generally more expensive than brands such as Hoover or Kenmore. Previously, Miele's brand name was most commonly associated with high-performance -- and high-cost -- vacuums, but this manufacturer has expanded its line to include somewhat budget-friendly models. Miele offers a full range of canister vacuums that vary in features and price from about $400 to $1,200, with the top-priced models boasting more features. The Miele S8390 Kona (Est. $930) , for example, offers two floor tools and a comprehensive 12-stage filtration system to remove the maximum amount of dust, particles and allergens from the air.
Miele canister vacuums use different filter bags -- some with added levels of filtration -- for each model and bags are more expensive to replace. If you're interested in a more affordable Miele canister vacuum, the Miele S2121 Capri (Est. $400) is comparable in price to Dyson canister models. The S2121 is compact and lightweight with a large-capacity, self-sealing dust bag to prevent dust and debris from escaping back into the air when it's disposed of. An optional active HEPA filter (Est. $50) offers the benefit of the full Miele "Clean Air" system.
"Miele vacuum cleaners are tested to last an average of 20 years residential use (approximately 45 minutes per week at highest setting)," say editors of AchooAllergy.com. Editors at AllergyBuyersClub.com give this particular Miele model an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, pointing out that it has a lower filtration efficiency than more expensive Miele canister vacuums. Editors give it good scores for ease of assembly, durability and noise.
If allergies are a primary concern for your family, you might consider spending more money on a top-of-the-line Miele. For most people with mild to moderate allergy issues, a canister vacuum with adequate HEPA filtration, such as the Dyson DC39 Animal or the Kenmore Progressive 21714, can reduce allergy problems when used regularly and at a lower cost than a Miele.