Vacuum Buying Guide -- Late 2017


If you found this article on the internet you are likely shopping for a vacuum. Maybe you’re done buying the disposable machines! Regardless, I’m here to help. First order of business, get a vacuum that takes vacuum bags, remember, bagless = disposable. Whenever I talk to friends in the buying process I always ask the same questions:

  • What are your floors like? What percentage of them are hard surfaces?

  • If you do have carpet, is any of it plush like frieze or shag?

  • Does anybody in your home have allergies, asthma, or any other respiratory conditions?

  • Do you have pets? If so, tell me all about them!

  • Stairwells? How many floors? And, are they carpeted or bare?

  • Do you need a hose and attachments on the machine? Any attachments in particular?

  • Any other preferences I should know about? Canisters or Uprights?

Feel free to copy and paste these in an email to me and I will make my best suggestions to you but just for fun lets run through each question.

What are your floors like? What percentage of them are hard surfaces?

Most vacuums these days have the ability to clean both carpeted and hard surfaces. Carpet is easy, we need a spinning brushroll to agitate and lift carpet fibers. Hard surfaces are cleaned one of three ways, none of which involve a broom. Most uprights have the option to run straight suction by turning the brushroll off. Other machines with brushrolls have sealing strips or squeegees behind the brushroll. This prevents the spinning brushroll from scattering debris behind the machine while vacuuming hard floors. The final method, and possibly the best and easiest way are with floor attachments. These are generally used on canisters. They are delicate brushes that glide on bare floors and offer sweeping benefits in flexibility and reach.

If you do have carpet, is any of it plush like frieze or shag?

As I mentioned earlier, carpet needs agitation for optimal cleaning. There are, however, various methods of agitation and the method is necessitated by the type of carpet or rug. Most common carpets don’t have high or plush piles to them so normal setups with belt-driven brushrolls are sufficient. Thicker carpets and rugs like frieze and shag require a vacuum with height adjustments. This allows you to raise or lower the point of contact of the brushroll. A common misconception is, “If I put the vacuum on the lowest setting and have the strength to push it, it will do a better job.” This just isn’t true. First of all, that takes an enormous amount of effort. Also, if the vacuum is too low it will create a seal to the floor. Seals decrease airflow and greatly reduce carpet cleaning. Some vacuums, mainly stick vacuums and some canisters have air-driven brushrolls. This means the suction is spinning a turbine, which is spinning the brushroll. This isn’t as powerful as a motor driven brushroll but in some settings it is all that is needed. Say, if you had all bare floors and a couple short-pile rugs.

Does anybody in your home have allergies, asthma, or any other respiratory conditions?

Anybody who has had problems with allergies or asthma know how important air quality is. If there is anywhere in the world where we should be able to control air quality it’s in our own home. One of the best things you can do to drastically improve circumstances for allergy sufferers and asthmatics is to vacuum, vacuum frequently and use a machine that offers HEPA filtration. My previous article does a good job dispelling tricky marketing and explaining what true HEPA filtration really means. Be careful what you buy and do your homework.

Do you have pets? If so, tell me all about them!

One of the main reasons people do their research before buying a vacuum is because they have pets and need a good machine to clean up after them. Vacuum companies know this and many of them have “pet” models. More times than not this means absolutely nothing except for the addition of a special attachment or two. The handheld brushroll for upholstery and carpeted stair is the most commonly added attachment. Some vacuums offer different fi