Vacuum Cleaner Buyers Guide

Vacuum Cleaner Buyers Guide

Vacuum Cleaner Buyers Guide

The vacuum cleaner you chose should depend on whether you have mainly carpets or hard floors (wood, laminate, tile or vinyl) in your home, whether you have an allergy to dust, whether you have a pet, and whether you have any difficulties manouevering or lifting a vacuum cleaner.

Upright or cylinder?

This is mainly a question of personal preference but there are some advantages to both types. Cylinder vacuum cleaners have a wider cleaning radius and are easier to manoeuvre on stairs as they are smaller and generally lighter than uprights. They are generally best for hard floors, such as wood, laminate, tile or vinyl. They come with attachments that are useful for cleaning different surfaces, such as skirting boards, floor boards and curtains. Upright cleaners are generally more effective at cleaning carpets as they have brushes with adjustable head heights to allow you to clean different lengths of carpet. They also have rotating brushes which can be more effective when it comes to removing problems such as dog hair, grit and dirt and other small particles as they loosen the dirt from the carpet. Uprights come with attachments for different surfaces too. If you have back problems, you don’t have to bend down so much with an upright model but they tend to be heavier than cylinders.

Bag or bagless?

The advantage of a bagless vacuum cleaner is the money saved on buying the replacement bags and the environmental advantage of having less to dispose of. Vacuum cleaners tend to work most efficiently when their dust bag or container is empty, so if you have a container, you could empty it every time you use the vacuum cleaner to keep it running more efficiently. However, emptying a dust container without a bag can be messy and a hazard for people with an allergy to dust, although some models are less messy than others. Some dust bags are self-sealing which helps prevent dust from escaping.

I suffer from allergies. Should I buy a vacuum cleaner that makes claims about being good for people with allergies?

If you suffer from a dust allergy, it is best to vacuum your home regularly to minimise any reactions to dust. However, many vacuum cleaners spill out some of the dust they collect due to poor construction or exhaust filtration. Some vacuum cleaners come with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter or S-class filters. These are designed to reduce the number of allergens escaping from the vacuum cleaner so are worth looking out for. Vacuum cleaners that make claims at being good for picking up pet hair usually have a ‘turbo’ brush, which rotates and loosens hair from carpet fibres, or a ‘motorised’ head that prises pet hair away from carpet fibres. However, standard nozzles can be just as effective if you buy a vacuum cleaner with powerful suction.

Allergy UK endorses particular products as being good for allergy sufferers, so check out its recommendations if you are an allergy sufferer – see

My vacuum cleaner is not picking up dust as well as it used to. Is there anything I can do to improve it or do I need to buy a new one?

Before you shell out on a new vacuum cleaner, change the filters– if you haven’t already done so in the last year – or clean them if they are lifetime filters. Also empty the dust container or change the bag – even if it’s not completely full. Vacuum cleaners are more effective when they don’t contain lots of dust.

What are handheld vacuum cleaners useful for?

Handheld models are not a substitute for a cylinder or upright cleaner but they can be useful for occasions when you don’t want the palaver of getting out your vacuum cleaner to clean away a few crumbs. Handheld cleaners have lower suction power and dust-collecting capacity but they can be useful for cleaning small spaces quickly, such as the sides of car seats and sofas.

What type of filter should I get?

Filters: All vacuum cleaners have some sort of filtration system:

Stage filters: These usually vary between 3 and 7 stages. For example, with a 4-stage filter, the cleaner has a double skinned bag (which accounts for 2 stages), a filter between the dust bag and the motor chamber and a final filter.

Lifetime filters: These should last the lifetime of the machine without needing to be changed. However, you may have to clean them.

HEPA (High efficiency particulate air) also known as S-class filters: These reduce the allergy-causing particulates that escape from the vacuum cleaner so are worth getting if you suffer from allergies to things like dust or pet fur.

Charcoal or Active air clean filters: these are good for removing nasty smells so are particularly suitable if you have any furry pets.

Is it best to go for a more powerful vacuum cleaner?

The power of a vacuum cleaner’s motor is measured in Watts. The higher the Wattage the better it will clean, as long as the machine is well designed with good air flow and suction power too. However, the higher the wattage, the noisier the machine will be. With upright vacuum cleaners. you don’t need to have so much wattage or suction power as you do with a cylinder cleaner as the dirt has less distance to travel before it reaches the bag or dust container. The type of brushes are more of an important consideration with uprights than the power. You don’t always want to have a vacuum cleaner operating at full power for example, when cleaning upholstery or curtains, so it’s useful to be able to adjust the power level yourself.

Which attachments should I look out for?

Most vacuum cleaners come with three attachments, a crevice tool, upholstery and dusting brushes and a small head which is best for vacuuming stairs. You can also get additional turbo brushes which have their own motor for extra suction which are useful for cleaning deep-pile carpets or a power cleaning head which has electrically powered rotating brushes. A hard-floor or parquet brush is useful for wooden or tiled floors. Some cleaners have extendable tubes which are useful for hard to reach areas like cobwebs in the corners of ceilings.

I have a large house? What should I look out for?

Look for a cleaner with a large cleaning head – this will help cut down the amount of time it takes to vacuum a room. Also get as long a lead as you can get to cut down on the number of times you have to unplug the lead and plug it in again. You may also want to consider getting a model with a large capacity dust collector or bag so that you don’t have to empty it as frequently. If you have a lot of stairs, you may want to get a cylinder model with a long stretchy stair-cleaning hose.


Auto rewind cord: This makes the cord shoot into the body of the vacuum cleaner at the press of a button.

Bag-full indicator: A visual reminder to change the dust bag or empty the dust bin.

Cleaning radius: This refers to the distance from the plug to the cleaning head. The greater the distance, the less frequently you will need to keep plugging the plug into different sockets.

Decibels (db): A measure of how noisy your vacuum cleaner is. Quieter models are around 63 to 73db .

HEPA filter: High efficiency particulate air or S-class filters reduce the allergy-causing particulates that escape from the vacuum cleaner. They are useful if you suffer from allergies to dust or pet fur.

Self-propelled cleaners: If you find pulling a vacuum cleaner difficult, a self-propelled model should be easier for you to manoeuvre. However, they also make the cleaner heavier to lift.

Stair cleaning hose: These are long stretchy hoses that make it easier to clean a flight of stairs without having to plug it into a different socket half way up.

Telescopic extension hoses: When extended these make cleaning easier as you don’t have to bend or reach so much. But they don’t take up much space to store as they shrink back down again.

360 degree swivel hose: This is where the hose is attached to the top of the cleaner (instead of the side) and the hose swivels around the cleaner. They are supposed to be easier to manoeuvre as they don’t get twisted up so easily.

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