6 Super-Important Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Vacuum, According to Appliance and Cleaning Pros

published Aug 10, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whether it’s hearing a vacuum suck up dirt, debris, and crumbs hidden around your kitchen or creating a pattern of perfectly spaced vacuum lines on a carpet, vacuuming may be one of the most satisfying cleaning tasks. As the easiest and quickest way to clean up messes, it’s important to know which type of vacuum will work best for your home.

“Ideally, a quality vacuum should last for a very long time, think 10 to 20 years,” says Stefan Bucur, cleaning expert and founder of Rhythm of the Home. “As long as you use it and maintain it properly, you shouldn’t have to buy a new one for the foreseeable future.”

We reached out to four appliance experts to ask about what you should know before buying a vacuum and tips on how to shop for the right one.  

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1. Pay attention to suction and clog prevention.

The word “power” is easy to find in most vacuum cleaner descriptions, but for Bucur, there are a couple of things that are worth more of your attention when shopping for one. Anti-clogging systems and a well-designed suction hose may arguably be the most important when it comes to an efficient vacuum cleaner.

“It doesn’t really matter how powerful the vacuum is, if it doesn’t have a well-designed suction hose or a system in place to prevent dust clogging every other minute,” says Bucur.

“For example, good anti-clogging systems usually contain tools like a self-cleaning brush roll, which takes hair away from the suction area and puts it in direct airflow to be sucked into the vacuum’s bag, or a ‘cyclone spin’ that creates irregular airflow right above the suction area to spin the dust and small particles in a manner that doesn’t allow them to stick,” he says. Plus, a well-designed suction hose should be flexible for tight areas, durable, and ideally made of thermoplastic rubber.

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2. Learn about the type of filter used.

There are a few types of vacuum filters, including cloth (washable and long-lasting), bag (made of paper and useful for filtering dust), cartridge (the most common and can be replaceable or washable), foam (works as secondary filters), and cyclone (primary filters for bagless vacuums).

“Every vacuum is equipped with filters but not every vacuum has the same type,” says Joe Taylor, home improvement expert and founder of PlumbJoe. “There are filters that come with extra features such as HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air) or ULPA filter (ultra-low particulate air). It’s wise to find which filter suits your needs and take into account the amount of maintenance the filter requires.” 

If filter maintenance is not something you’d like to keep track of, Bucur suggests choosing a vacuum with a universal fit for convenience and to keep costs down. 

“Universal and affordable filters could be a better option instead of a system that prevents you from using anything but the manufacturer’s filters,” says Bucur. “That can really rack up the bill in the long term.”

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3. Be smart when it comes to pet hair.

Those with pets know that pet hair is notoriously hard to clean up, which is why Adam Morris, appliance repair expert and founder of Appliances Made Simple, highly recommends choosing a vacuum specifically made for this need. 

“If you need a vacuum to pick up pet hair of any type, going for a specialist pet-centric vacuum will be the best option,” says Morris. “These vacuums will have specific bristles and different filters and come with more pet-focused accessories; it’s not just a marketing ploy.”

To keep your home free of fur, Morris says it’s best to compare vacuums that consider your floor surface (hardwood, carpet, etc.), allergy concerns (for those who might require a HEPA filter), and how often you’ll be using it. 

“The Dyson V11 Animal is quite a pricey option, but you know exactly what you are getting with a Dyson,” says Morris. “It’s powerful, cordless, and great for cleaning up pet hair. For a more affordable and versatile option, the Shark Navigator is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and comes with a pet power tool.”

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4. Evaluate the design and function of the vacuum.

Sometimes a vacuum can be efficient and powerful in every way until you can’t fit it when cleaning beneath a couch or dining room bench. To avoid issues like this, Taylor recommends taking the design and measurements of the vacuum into account before purchasing. Understanding the types of vacuums — upright, cordless, or cylinder — will also help with your final decision. 

“How well you can clean the nooks and crannies of your home depends on your vacuum’s design. Look for a design where you can maximize reachable distance while enjoying maneuverability,” he says. “It’s ideal if you choose a unit that has wheels to allow you to move with ease. The weight also matters, especially if you plan to carry the vacuum around,” he adds. Be sure to also think about the cord reach or cordless options, if that’s what you prefer.

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5. Consider the noise level. 

Aside from cleaning power, vacuums are well-known for their noisiness. Even with plenty of quieter options these days, Taylor says your cleaning needs and living area could make you consider a vacuum’s noise level. 

“How noisy or silent your vacuum is can greatly affect how much you’d want to use it,” he says. “You may want to take into consideration your pets, children, and neighbors as well. If you live in an apartment complex, it’s best to use a less noisy vacuum. However, if you need a vacuum for commercial purposes, be prepared for a loud vacuum.”

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6. Think about your specific requirements.  

Todd Manegold, general manager of North America at Tineco, says that picking the right vacuum is highly dependent on how the unit will be used. It also varies with one’s cleaning habits, floor types, and other unique requirements. 

“A person who lives alone in a studio apartment with hardwood floors will likely have very different needs than a family of four with two dogs who live in a two-story home with carpet,” he says. “Ask yourself: do you want to clean on a daily basis? Are you looking for quick clean ups? Or do you need a deep clean every time?”

What matters most to you when selecting a vacuum? Tell us in the comments below.