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Stick Vacuum Buying Guide

By: Kelly Burgess on May 23, 2017

What the best stick vacuum has

  • Good suction power. Even a light, inexpensive stick vacuum should have enough suction power to make it convenient for picking up a variety of messes, from pet hair and dust bunnies to chunkier bits of debris. The best will even pick up crumbs on carpets.
  • An on/off brushroll option. This makes the stick vacuum more versatile for a variety of floor types. The ability to turn off the brushroll when cleaning hard floors keeps debris from flying around, whereas turning the brushroll on will better clean area rugs and carpets.
  • Good performance on edges. A stick vacuum loses some of its convenience if it doesn't remove debris from corners and edges. This also negates the necessity of having to switch out to crevice tools for complete cleaning.
  • Hand-vac conversion. Many stick vacs convert to a hand vacuums by simply removing the handle or the powered cleaning head, making it useful for both below- and above-the-floor cleaning jobs.
  • A long cord. Corded vacuums are limited in the space they can reach before you have to search for another wall outlet; longer cords equate to a wider reach area -- 20 feet will work for larger rooms.
  • Sufficient run time. Rechargeable cordless vacuums usually have a run time of about 15 to 40 minutes, though that can drop as the battery ages. Some cordless models have replaceable batteries that extend a stick vacs useful life or that you can swap out for more run time for bigger tasks.
  • The right nozzle size. A wide nozzle means you'll make fewer passes to clean the same square footage, but a narrower nozzle is easier to maneuver through tight spaces, such as around dining furniture.
  • An easy to empty canister. All stick vacuums are bagless, using canisters to collect debris, but some are easier and less messy to empty than others.

Know before you go

Corded or cordless? Cordless vacuums eliminate the hassle of relocating and navigating around a power cord during use, but they have a limited run time. Corded vacuums tether you to a wall socket, but have unlimited cleaning time and get better reviews for long term durability.

How large is your cleaning area? If you want a stick vacuum as your main cleaning tool a corded stick vacuum may be your best choice as you can clean an entire home without the power running out. Alternatively, if a cordless stick vacuum has a replaceable battery, you can purchase a backup battery to continue cleaning after you've drained the first one. If you just want a stick vac for small, quick-to-clean messes, you can get by with a pretty basic model of either type.

Where will you store your stick vac? If you have limited storage options, consider a model with a fold-down handle for easy storage. Some cordless stick vacuums come with docking stations -- either that hang on the wall or stand on the floor -- giving you a built-in storage space. However, in that case, you need to be sure your storage area has an electrical outlet for charging the battery

What type of flooring do you have? Stick vacuums are, generally, best on hard floors or low-pile carpeting. There are a few models that perform well on carpets because they have a roll brush that combs through carpet fibers for dirt and debris, but these tend to be pricier -- cheaper vacuums often have that feature but it usually doesn't perform as advertised.

Do you need to clean something other than floors? If you like to use a lightweight vacuum for cleaning nooks and crannies, baseboards, or other tight spaces, crevice tools and wand attachments can prove useful.

Do you need a heavier cleaning tool? Stick vacuums are great for small touch-ups and quick messes, some are even powerful enough to replace traditional, heavier vacuums. However, if you have a lot of deep pile carpet or a big space to clean, you'll be better off opting for an upright vacuum or canister vacuum, both of which we cover in separate reports.

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