Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501
Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501

Best bagless vacuum

The Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away is one of the most versatile vacuums you can buy, converting from an upright vacuum to a canister vacuum -- and reviewers say both work equally well. Its range of accessories, all of which store onboard, give it an extra-long reach for cleaning hard-to-access areas. This quiet-yet-powerful vacuum cleaner is a strong contender against far more expensive models, but at a price that owners say is a great value. Like all Shark vacuums, the Rotator gets raves for its maneuverability.
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Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless UH70120
Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless UH70120

Best cheap bagless vacuum

In one professional test, the Hoover WindTunnel UH70120 is a top choice, earning Excellent or Very Good ratings for all cleaning tasks. Owners agree, saying this Hoover is easy to use and does a great job on carpeted floors. It's particularly beloved by pet owners, who are pleased with how well this vacuum picks up pet hair. Many are shocked at how well it works compared to previous vacuums they've owned. On the downside, it is noisy.

Dyson Ball Multi Floor
Dyson Ball Multi Floor

Vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors

Formerly known as the Dyson DC65, and still widely sold under that name, the Dyson Ball Multi Floor is the answer for those who primarily have wood floors. It gets excellent reviews for cleaning everything from chunky items like kitty litter to finer messes like pet hair. Owners also say it easily makes the transition from hardwood to carpet. A few say its ball technology makes it a bit difficult to navigate on hardwood and tile, but most say that just takes some getting used to.

Miele Dynamic U1 Twist
Miele Dynamic U1 Twist

Best bagged vacuum cleaner

For exceptional maneuverability and top performance, look no further than the Miele Dynamic U1 Twist, formerly known as the Miele S 7210 Twist. With Miele's proprietary swiveling technology and a slim, 12-inch cleaning head, this upright vacuum navigates seamlessly around furniture, reviewers say. It also provides excellent suction for deep cleaning, and the bags are easy to change. Special dust bags add an extra layer of filtration to the system. It has a good range of attachments and they store onboard for added convenience.
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Hoover Platinum Bagged UH30010COM
Hoover Platinum Bagged UH30010COM

Cheap bagged vacuum cleaner

If you're looking for a top-performing vacuum cleaner that's also a great value, look no further than the Hoover Platinum Bagged UH30010COM. Hoover is a well-respected name in vacuums and often tops professional tests. Owners say the Platinum is a powerful vacuum that is extremely versatile thanks to its included accessories, especially the small canister vacuum that reviewers say is perfect for baseboards, upholstery and dusting ceiling fans. Users praise its powerful suction, light weight and simple-to-use controls.

iRobot Roomba 880
iRobot Roomba 880

Best robotic vacuum cleaner

There are plenty of robotic vacuums on the market, but few that get the kind of love that's bestowed on iRobot's various Roomba cleaning robots. Among those, the Roomba 880 is the top choice of experts and users for its exceptional cleaning performance, intuitive navigation, and simple programming. It gets particular praise from those dealing with allergy issues or pet hair. The 880 includes a remote so you can initiate cleaning even off-schedule, and the Roomba returns to its dock to recharge when it's done working.
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iRobot Braava
iRobot Braava

Floor mopping robotic floor cleaner

It's not quite as "set and forget" friendly as the best robotic floor vacuums, and it won't handle heavy, greasy spills, but for everyday freshness you can't beat the iRobot Braava 380t floor mopping robot. Experts and owners say it keeps floors fresh, wiping up smudges, dirt and dust very well with its damp microfiber clothes. It also can be used as a traditional dry vacuum, but the dry cloths just tend to push the larger bits of dirt around. Most agree that it works best in wet mopping mode.

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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

A great vacuum takes the work out of housework

It's probably safe to say that very few dwellings, no matter how small, lack a vacuum cleaner. Bigger homes with multiple levels and a variety of floor types may even have more than one, while smaller homes and apartments will probably do just fine with one good all-purpose model.

In this report we cover upright vacuums and robotic vacuums. Upright vacuum cleaners tend to be very simple and straightforward to operate -- just push a button and move it over the carpet. Though the technology behind them is more complex, robotic vacuums are even easier to use once they are set up as they move under their own power. The best vacuums will clean both carpet and bare floors efficiently, filter the air to keep particles from flying about, and include attachments for cleaning upholstery, stairs, baseboards, and for reaching into nooks and crannies.

In addition to, or instead of, an upright vacuum, some people need a smaller vacuum for a smaller space, or a secondary vacuum for other living areas or for picking up spot messes in between cleaning days. If that's the case, take a look at our other vacuum reports: canister vacuums use slender wands that can reach farther into tight spaces, like under beds, or up stairways than the attachments on most uprights. Stick vacuums and hand vacuums are often used for quicker, spot-cleaning tasks, like sweeping up small, dry spills and messes without having to haul out the bigger upright.

Bagging versus bagless vacuum cleaners

Bagless vacuums cleaners operate on a two-step process -- larger particles are deposited into a removable canister, smaller particles go into the filter. When the canister is full, you just remove it, dump the debris, and replace. The filters also have to be cleaned occasionally and, eventually, replaced as they wear out. The most obvious advantage of a bagless vacuum cleaner is that you don't have to buy replacement bags, but some bagless vacuums are messy and awkward to dump. And, eventually, dirt and pet hair will accumulate in the nooks and crannies of the container so it will have to be cleaned -- a task most owners find unappealing. However, not having to dispose of the bag is more environmentally friendly as it eliminates an added layer of trash. One other advantage to bagless: If you accidentally vacuum up a small item, you don't have to tear open the bag and dig through the contents to find it; the canisters are mostly see-through.

Bagged vacuum cleaners have a removable bag that you discard and replace when full. Most bagging vacuums have bags that are constructed of filter media, adding an extra filtration step to the overall system. Many owners prefer this no-muss, no-fuss approach to getting rid of their vacuuming debris, although some bags are trickier to put in place than others. Some bagging upright vacuum cleaners use self-sealing bags, which prevent any particles from escaping back into the air during the bag-disposal process. Bagged vacuum cleaners tend to get better scores in professional tests, overall, for performance on both carpet and hardwood, although bagless models are closing in fast. The major downside to bagging upright vacuum cleaners is that bags must be purchased throughout the life of the vacuum cleaner. Bags typically range in price from $2 to $7 per bag, although generic bags are an option in some cases and bags can often be ordered in bulk for a lower per-bag cost. As with bagless vacuums, the air filters will have to occasionally be replaced as well.

Robotic vacuum cleaners do the work for you. They can be programmed to vacuum your floor for you when you're at work, sleeping, or busy doing other tasks. Robotic vacuums can't replace a full-sized upright vacuum; they can't do stairs, for instance, and they don't' deep clean as well as the best vacuum cleaners, but they're much beloved for touchup cleaning on a day-to-day basis, especially by people who have multiple pets. Like bagless vacuums, they use a container debris-system that has to be emptied, and there may be a bit of a learning curve to figure out where to set up the guides, also called virtual walls or lighthouses (depending upon if you use them as stops or guides). Some robotic vacuums damp mop as well.

How we found the best vacuums

There are a lot of vacuum cleaner reviews out there; some are roundups that include testing and score rankings, like those we found at ConsumerReports.org and Good Housekeeping. Others are hands on reviews by experienced reviewers at sites like CNET and TheSweetHome.com.

Just as helpful, if not more so, were the thousands of owner reviews we analyzed at retail sites, such as Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Target.com, to name just a few. These user reviews give the best overview for how each vacuum operates in real-world, long-term use. In evaluating these reviews, we consider performance on different flooring surfaces, pet-hair removal, features and attachments, ease of use and lifestyle features to help you find the perfect vacuum cleaner for your cleaning needs.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Bagless Vacuums: Many people love bagless vacuums for their convenience and ease of use. These are the top bagless vacuums for any size home or budget.

Best Bagged Vacuums: Vacuum cleaners with replaceable bags are still the most popular type of vacuum. These bagging vacuum cleaners recommended by experts and users.

Best Robotic Vacuum Cleaners: Is there anything better than a vacuum that you don't have to push around? If you say "of course not," check out our top picks for robotic vacuum cleaners -- and even a robotic floor mop.

Buying Guide: There are thousands of options when it comes to vacuum cleaners. Our buying guide will help direct you in choosing the vacuum you need for your cleaning tasks.

Our Sources: These are the expert and user tests, comparisons and reviews we used to determine the best vacuum cleaners. They are ranked in order of their credibility and usefulness.

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