Choosing a canister vacuum
Like upright vacuums, canister vacuums come in both bagging and bagless
versions. Bagless models eliminate the ongoing expense of buying new bags,
but this savings may be offset by the need to replace filters more often.
Bagging vacuums generally hold more dirt and may be preferable if you have
allergies, since emptying a dirt bin can expose you to a cloud of dust. Either
type will do a decent job of cleaning.
Here are some features experts say to look for in a canister vacuum:
- Look for a model you can carry
up and down stairs. Most people buy canisters to clean floors, stairs,
shelves, drapes and upholstery. Also, make sure you can easily maneuver
both the nozzle in front of you and the canister body behind you.
- Consider what attachments
you might need. Most canisters come with some standard attachments,
including a bare-floor nozzle, dusting brush, crevice tool and upholstery
tool. Another attachment that's recommended for cleaning plush rugs or
carpet is a power nozzle, also called a power brush or motorized brush.
Aside from these basic tools, more add-ons aren't likely to help you. Onboard
attachment storage can be especially convenient if you use the attachments
frequently while vacuuming.
- Look for a HEPA filter if you
have allergies or significant air-quality concerns. Most reviews say
true high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are best, especially
for allergy and asthma sufferers. However, some models without HEPA filters
also contain dust very well, possibly at a lower cost.
- Consider extra features. An adjustable telescoping wand, as opposed to a fixed-length wand,
can make it easier to vacuum in tight spaces or on stairs and to reach
tall spots like drapes. A retractable cord, which winds itself up automatically,
is a handy time-saver that makes for a neat appearance. Suction control,
which lets you adjust the flow of air, can be helpful when switching among
carpets, upholstery and curtains. Dirt sensors, on the other hand, aren't
particularly useful; they can tell when the machine has stopped picking
up dirt, but that doesn't mean there's no dirt left.
- If you find bending over uncomfortable,
look for a vacuum with controls on the handle rather than on
the canister itself. This feature is especially useful if you buy a vacuum with
adjustable suction or if you will be switching between vacuuming hard floors,
carpeting and rugs frequently.
Other vacuum cleaner options
Canister vacuums are best for folks who have a combination of wood and tile
floors or area rugs, as well as those who plan to vacuum stairs, upholstery,
drapes and other above-the-floor items. For those with other needs, a different
kind of vacuum may be more appropriate.
- Upright vacuums: These are a
good choice for homes that have a lot of carpet. Uprights aren't as versatile,
but they cut a wider cleaning path across carpet, and they are generally
easier to store than canisters. Also, many people feel more comfortable pushing
an upright than they do maneuvering the two different parts of a canister.
However, they do tend to be noisier than canister vacuums. See the ConsumerSearch
report on upright vacuum cleaners.
- Stick vacuums: These small,
lightweight machines are good for cleaning up small messes quickly.
However, they can't deep-clean carpets and aren't a good substitute for
a full-sized vacuum. See the ConsumerSearch report on stick vacuums.
- Handheld vacuums: Handhelds are convenient for picking up small spills and cleaning car
interiors. However, they lack the power of a full-sized vacuum. Both corded
and cordless models are available. See our report on handheld vacuums.
vacuums: Also known as shop vacs, wet/dry vacuums are commonly used
in the garage or in a workshop for dust collection. See the ConsumerSearch shop vac report
for more information.
- Carpet cleaners: Carpet deep
cleaners are used for deep-cleaning once every 12 to 18 months. Most
work by spraying a detergent-water mixture onto the carpet and then extracting
the detergent along with ground-in dirt. Carpet spot cleaners are also
included in this group. See the ConsumerSearch report on carpet cleaners.
vacuum systems: With a central vacuum, you hook a hose to a wall inlet,
which is attached by pipes in the wall to a central motor and bag located
in the garage or in a closet. Since the power source is far away from
the room being vacuumed, central vacs are also very quiet, and they don't
need to be emptied often. However, they are expensive and usually require