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Find a vacuum cleaner for a deep clean with this buyer's guide!

Published 10th January 2023
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Keeping your home clean without a vacuum cleaner is a real challenge. It can make light work of the dust and dirt that builds up in your living space, helping to keep your carpets, furniture and flooring looking their best.

But with so many different types of vacuum cleaners on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. That’s why we’ve put together this complete buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when choosing a vacuum cleaner.

We’ll take you through all the different types of vacuum cleaners, from upright models to handhelds, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. We’ll also explain some of the key features to look out for when buying a vacuum cleaner. So read on for everything you need to know about buying a vacuum cleaner!

Types of vacuum cleaners

The first step in choosing a vacuum cleaner is deciding which type is best suited to your needs. Here are some of the main types available:

Upright vacuums

Upright vacuums are the most common and popular type of vacuum cleaner. They typically feature a motorised brush bar at the base that helps agitate dirt and debris embedded in carpets, providing a deeper clean than other types. This brush can usually be switched off to vacuum more effectively on hard surfaces.

Upright vacuums are best suited for large areas such as living rooms, dining rooms and conservatories. Because they're bulky and difficult to manoeuvre it can be hard to push them around furniture and haul them up stairs. However, many upright vacuum cleaners have a hose attachment that lets you vacuum stairs and tight spots more effectively.

Cylinder vacuums

Cylinder vacuums are similar to upright vacuums but feature a separate motor unit connected by a flexible hose to an attachment wand. This makes them lighter and more manoeuvrable than upright vacuums, making them ideal for cleaning stairs or reaching into tight spaces such as between sofa cushions.

They're also normally less expensive than upright vacuums from similar brands and quieter too. That said they're not quite as powerful as upright vacuums. They're fine for regular cleaning in most households, but if you need to deep clean thick carpets an upright vacuum may be the better choice.

Stick vacuums

Stick vacuum cleaners are like the midpoint between an upright vacuum cleaner and a handheld one. A type of lightweight vacuum cleaner, they have a motor, dustbin and at one end and a cleaning brush head at the other, connected by a hollow stick. They're more manoeuvrable than either upright cleaners or cylinder vacuums, plus the cleaning head often has a rotating brush like an upright vacuum's so they're better at picking up dirt and debris from carpets than handheld vacuums are.

Stick vacuums are almost always cordless, which makes them really convenient to use, particularly for cleaning multiple rooms in one go. Whilst the battery normally lasts longer than a handheld one, it's still limited to around 60 minutes for a full charge, so remember to plug it in once you've finished cleaning.

Handheld vacuums

Also known as dustbusters, handheld vacuums are small, battery powered cleaners you can hold in one hand. They're easily the most manoeuvrable vacuums on the market, and you can get to almost any tight corner. The best way to use a handheld vacuum cleaner is for quick clean-ups or tackling small messes like spilled cereal or pet hair on furniture and upholstery - many dustbusters have attachments designed specifically for cleaning pet hair.

However, handheld vacuums tend not to have much suction power compared to their larger cousins, and their small size means they're not suited to vacuuming large spaces like carpets and hallways. They're best used as a secondary quick cleaner for your desk and other places you can't use a full-sized vacuum on.

Robot vacuums

Robot vacuums are perfect for busy households who don’t have time for regular vacuuming sessions – just set it up and let it get on with the job while you focus on other tasks! They use sensors to navigate their way around obstacles, meaning they won’t get stuck.

Robotic vacuums usually have less suction power than other types though, so they may not be suitable if you have thick carpeting or lots of pet hair that needs removing from your floors.

They're also more expensive than traditional vacuums in order to pay for the sensor technology. You can find many low-cost models but their suction power is even more limited, and they lack a self-emptying programme, so they can be quickly filled with dust.

Features to look for when buying a vacuum cleaner

Once you’ve decided which type of vacuum cleaner is right for you, there are a few key features that you should consider before making your purchase:

Suction power

The suction power of a vacuum is measured in air watts (AW). The more powerful your vacuum cleaner, the more dirt it will suck up. This isn't just good for cleaning thick carpets - it means you'll only need to glide over areas once, rather than scrubbing back and forth over and over again. But bear in mind that more powerful models will also usually be heavier and noisier too!

Wet & dry cleaning

This useful feature is often found in large cylinder vacuum cleaners. Wet & dry vacuum cleaners lets you clean up wet patches and spills as well as dry dirt. They have a separate tank they use to store the moisture to make them easier to empty. Wet & dry vacuums are ideal for cleaning kitchens or homes with children who keep spilling drinks onto hardwood floors. They're also fantastic for professional cleaners, which is why they're often made by power tool brands like Karcher.

Bagged versus Bagless

All the dust your vacuum sucks up has to go somewhere, and for many years it had to go into a big bag that needed to be emptied or replaced regularly. But in the last few years bagless vacuum cleaners - in which the dust is stored in a large plastic container - started to become common.

Bagless vacuum cleaners are much easier to empty: Usually the plastic container detaches from the rest of the vacuum cleaner, then you just hold it over a waste bin and press a switch to empty it. With bagged vacuum cleaners you need to detach the bag carefully from the vacuum to stop it tearing.

With some models you simply throw the bag away once it's full and replace it with a new one. More convenient to be sure, but also wasteful and expensive over time. However, the advantage with this technique is that it makes sure to keep dust trapped in the bag, which is great is you suffer from dust allergies.

Noise level

If noise is an issue in your home then look out for models with low noise ratings. You'll probably lose some suction power but that might be a price worth paying to avoid upsetting your neighbours.

Filter systems

Every vacuum cleaner has some kind of filter attached to trap fine particles, but you may have a more or less effective filter depending on the model you've bought. If you have allergies you might benefit from a vacuum with a HEPA (High Energy Particulate Air) filter. These trap even the smallest allergy-causing particles, minimising allergens in your home.

Another type of filter to look for are lifetime filters: Most vacuum cleaner filters need to be replaced after a while, but these are designed to last as long as your vacuum does. On the other hand, a charcoal filter removes nasty smells as well as dirt, which is useful if you have pets.

Cordless or corded

Cordless vacuum cleaners give you freedom from cords but usually come at the expense of battery life; corded models provide more consistent power but require access to plug sockets throughout your home (which could be tricky if yours aren’t close enough!).

Attachments & accessories

Nearly every vacuum cleaner comes with at least one accessory, and here's a list of the most popular:

  • Crevice tools: A long, thin attachment with an angled tip for reaching tight spots like the edges of skirting boards.
  • Upholstery brush: A wide attachment with a lint trap on the front, designed for scrubbing stairs and cleaning sofas and other furniture
  • Dusting brush: A soft bristled brush for sucking up dust from smooth surfaces like window sills and shelves.

Vacuum cleaner brands

Finally, let's look at some of the most popular vacuum cleaner brands:

In conclusion, buying the right vacuum cleaner doesn't have to be complicated! Think carefully about what type would suit your needs best: Do you need something lightweight like a stick vacuum, or the raw power of an upright vacuum? Consider what features would benefit you most, too: Do you need a wide range attachments to clean your home properly, or is an effective HEPA filter a bigger priority?

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