What Makes a Good Vacuum Cleaner

Buying a canister vacuum might not be up there on the list of your life’s biggest purchases like signing a lease, buying a house, or picking out a car, but it still deserves some careful thought and consideration. There are a lot of options, and it can be overwhelming. We’re not going to be recommending any vacuums in particular on this page, but rather we’re going to teach you how to find a great one on your own.

Different vacuums can be great for different situations, there isn’t really a universal “best canister vacuum” that you should choose, so we’re going to go over some of those different situations to help you understand what makes a great vacuum, and how to tell the difference between that and one that isn’t necessarily a great fit.

A vacuum that’s a perfect fit for one person’s needs may be a complete mismatch for somebody else, so it can be a bit confusing, but by the end of this article, we hope to have cleared the air.

Speaking of clearing the air, let’s start with one of the first things to look for…


Are you concerned with allergies?

If allergies are an issue in your home, you’ll want to consider a vacuum that has a strong filter in it. HEPA is a popular choice, since it eliminates a very high percentage of airborne allergens by trapping them inside the bag or inside an additional filter in HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaners. There are other types of filters and bags that are great for people with allergies, but HEPA is the most recognizable one.

Allergies like pet hair, dust, dander, and any other junk that might be floating around in the air can be super uncomfortable, but vacuuming them up is one of the best ways to breathe easy. With vacuums that don’t take allergies into account, you can be sucking up all of those nasty air-pollutants, only to blow them right back out into the air through the vacuum’s exhaust area. A vacuum meant to help fight allergies, however, will trap a lot more of that stuff, rather than just disturbing it and sending it flying all around your room.

So, for people with allergies, a vacuum cleaner that will help is obviously going to be a good vacuum cleaner for them. Typically, it’ll be a bagged vacuum, since that can add an extra layer of dust-trapping capabilities.

Commercial or residential?

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Commercial vacuum cleaners are heavy duty, and should last longer. They’re meant for high-volume cleaning like office buildings. They’re meant to be used very often, for long periods of time at once. They usually don’t have any extra frills that you may find with a residential unit.

Commercial vacuum cleaners are also going to be considerably more expensive. Even if you always want the best of the best, it’s just not necessarily a practical choice. You would probably be better off getting a high-end consumer model, since it should more than suffice for household cleaning, without the added bulk or weight of a commercial unit. Again, neither is a bad option, it just depends on what you’re going to be using it for.

Here are a few features to look for in a good canister vacuum:

With those two main points out of the way, here are some specs that you’ll want to gravitate towards. Granted, some of these might not matter to you at all, in which case just ignore them. If you have a tiny little apartment to vacuum, you may be perfectly happy with a shorter cord, for example. None the less, here are some canister vacuum features that will help us define the difference between good, great, and not-so-great. And again, it depends on what your specific uses are.

  • Can it handle your style of flooring? Some vacuum cleaners are versatile and work great on carpets and hardwood floors, whereas others have one specialty and won’t be as well-suited for any other types of floors. If you have just carpets or just hardwood, getting a specialized vacuum might be the way to go. If you have both, however, make sure your vacuum can handle both.
  • Bagged or bagless? The age old question. There are pros and cons of each. With a bagless unit, you’ll have to clean the inside a bit more as dust and other things can build up. A bagged unit will cost more in its lifetime since you’ll need to buy bags, and you never know when a particular size might get discontinued, although it’s rare to not find the exact size you need or something close enough. This one’s a toss-up.
  • How wide is the cleaning path? A wider cleaning path means you’ll have a bigger end piece of your vacuum, so that you can cover more area with each pass. The downside is that it can be trickier to get into smaller spaces, and some people prefer the extra control of a smaller vacuum head.
  • How long is the cord? Some vacuums have exceptionally long cords, so you can make it all around your house without ever having to unplug it. Other vacuums aren’t so lucky, opting to save a bit of money by including a much shorter cord. Does that mean they cut costs in other areas, too? Not necessarily. There are legitimate reasons to have a shorter cord, for example people living in smaller spaces.
  • How heavy is it? A heavier vacuum may be more powerful and pack a bit more suction power, but there’s a trade-off. There are some surprisingly light vacuums these days, and they still have a lot of suction power. We’re not sure which voodoo these use to achieve such things, but it works.

Naturally, there are other things that can go into choosing the very best canister, such as budget and availability. Hopefully this article has helped to point out some of the things that you should be looking for and considering, and you’re well on your way to choosing an excellent vacuum. We have a huge collection of buyer’s guides, so make sure you take a peek around the rest of the side if you’d like some recommendations.