Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2021 – Upright, Stick, Canister

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If there’s one appliance people are proudest to own, it’s their impressive vacuum. Think about it: Do people take such pride in any other household product? Vacuums aren’t just a cleaning tool anymore — they’re also something to talk about and even show off. People genuinely love their vacuums. Most people have very strong opinions about them, and it’s challenging to separate fact from emotional attachment. For this reason, we’ve tested over 30 of the newest, most popular, and even the most underrated vacuums on the market to determine which ones truly are the best, specifically for certain spaces and individuals.

What to Consider Before Buying a Vacuum

There are seemingly endless factors involved in choosing the best vacuum for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, which is why research is so important — and why recommendations should be taken with context. Here’s what to think about:

Upright: These are the vacuums you’re probably most familiar with. They’re usually larger and heavier than stick vacuums in order to hold themselves up but have a whole lot of power and are especially suited for deep carpet cleanings. This makes them ideal for larger households.

Stick: These vacuums are the most popular, especially for those in smaller spaces and apartments. Usually, they’re lightweight and easier to store than bigger upright models. They also have great maneuverability. The downside? They typically can’t stand on their own and aren’t as powerful as other vacuums, and they work better on hardwood and low-pile carpeting since all debris has to make a sharp right angle to reach the canister.

Canister: While these vacuums are an older style, they’re now made with today’s standards and are still a great option if you want something powerful for your hardwood flooring and low-pile carpet. The long hose makes them convenient for reaching out-of-the-way spots, and they tend to be lighter than uprights, although the fuller-sized models can be difficult to store if you lack closet space.

Handheld: If you have pets, kids, a vehicle, or just don’t want to deal with your regular vacuum’s attachments, a handheld vacuum is a good addition to your cleaning arsenal. They’re best for light cleaning (like pet hair on upholstery or dry spills), but obviously aren’t ideal for large area cleaning.

Mini: More powerful these days than may be expected, mini vacuums are palm-sized picker-uppers that are great for those on the go or who like to keep their immediate space sparkling clean.

Robot: Another great option for households with pets, robot vacuums are designed to run on their own. They aren’t great for a deep clean but are a solid choice for regular maintenance.

Corded: Most vacuums are corded, meaning they must be plugged in to run. The con of a corded vacuum is that you have to keep finding new outlets if you have a large space, giving you less flexibility. But they make up for being limited by usually being more powerful than cordless models.

Cordless: Most stick vacuum models are now cordless, meaning they run on a battery charge. While cordless vacuums give you freedom to access every spot in your home with no trouble, they need to be constantly charging when not in use to avoid dwindling battery power, which reduces their effectiveness, possibly without you even knowing it.

Bagged: Most traditional vacuums come with a bag that has to be emptied out once it’s full. Bagged vacuums catch everything rather than use a filter to decrease what’s collected, so they fill up quicker. While emptying the bag more often can be annoying, bagged vacuums are recommended for those with allergies since there is less contact with dust and debris during and after use.

Bagless: Many people prefer bagless vacuums, which use a filter instead. Although bagless vacuums are more convenient, they do require maintenance — you should clear out your dust bin after every use and replace your filter every year, which can sometimes be more costly than replacing bags.

Mop: It’s 2021, after all. Some vacuum models can switch back and forth between mopping and vacuuming (usually with a quick accessory change or some supervision). If you have mostly hard flooring or are able to clear your space for a day, you could even solicit a robot wet vac to work a room while you do something else.

Larger houses: If you’re cleaning a good deal of square footage, go with an upright or canister vacuum. Uprights are best at cleaning all types of flooring and have enough power to give your entire home a deep clean. If you have minimal carpeting or high ceilings, a canister vacuum is recommended, especially if you don’t want to deal with lugging a 20-pound vacuum up and down stairs.

Smaller homes and apartments: If you lack storage space and have a smaller area to clean, a stick vacuum is probably best. Stick vacuum technology is getting better every year, and some models can compete with uprights in terms of power, but you don’t necessarily need all that power if you live alone in a small studio. Plus, sticks are much easier to store — especially those that break down into easily connectable parts.

Pets: Dealing with a lot of pet hair? Really any vacuum can work, and you don’t necessarily need a vacuum that’s branded as “made for pets.” It more so depends on the surfaces your pets spend time on. Many pet owners like a bagged vacuum to keep fur and dander contained, while others might be annoyed at how quickly those bags will fill. Just make sure your vac has a strong, sealed filter, and consider buying a handheld or robot vacuum for easy maintenance.

Allergies: If you have serious allergies, you’ll likely benefit from a bagged vacuum. Emptying a dust bin can make allergens go back into the air, so keeping them contained in a sealed bag is healthier.

In previous years, if you were serious about buying a good vacuum, you had to be ready to spend. While budget vacuums have always existed, there are some on the market now that will stick around for a while — it’s more about maintaining your vacuum than spending the most you possibly can for one. That said, when we talked to Stu Davis, a vacuum repairman who’s been in business for 45 years, he said the best vacuum brands are indeed the most expensive ones. “I recommend Miele, Riccar, and Sebo,” says Stu. “They’re the most reliable and well-made.” The only problem? Their vacuums can cost over $1,000, and Riccar and Sebo, in particular, are only available in specialty stores.

But Stu makes a great point: “Are you more concerned with the best price or the best cost?” Although spending hundreds of dollars on a vacuum might seem a little outrageous, Stu reasons that you’ll save in the long run, since those professional-level high-end brands will last for years with minimal maintenance.

When it comes to vacuums, there are three major certifications:

What We Look for in a Vacuum Cleaner

We tested and researched a wide range of models to find the best household vacuums, judging them on the following criteria:

Picking the “best overall” vacuum was, to put it mildly, not easy. Choosing a vacuum is quite personal and dependent upon a lot of factors, so we went with the one that checked the most boxes and wouldn’t be a bad buy for anyone in the market for a quality vacuum. What makes the LG Cordzero A9 Kompressor stand out? Its name, for one. It’s powerful, lightweight, easy to use and store, not outlandishly expensive against its competitors, occasionally goes on sale, and can be purchased online. It cleans remarkably well, and unlike other stick vacs, it’s actually suited for carpets, thanks to a powerful cleaner head. “Using this vacuum felt like I was seeing the full, unbelievable range of filth in my home for the first time,” says our tester, AT contributor Olivia Muenter. The Cordzero’s charging base can hold the vacuum upright or charge just the motor in a smaller space. It’s also got two batteries, so even if you go on vacuuming for 80 minutes (do you!) and your A9 Kompressor dies, you can quickly replace the battery and keep on cleaning for another 80. It’s a bagless model, which saves time when it comes to clearing the canister. On top of this, the filter is removable, washable, and replaceable, so you always have a like-new vacuum cleaner when you need one.

Who It’s Best For: Those who want something powerful, lightweight, and cordless; those who don’t want to wait to recharge; those who don’t want to replace filters; those with hard floors and low-pile carpet.

Good to Know: LG just launched the latest version of the CordZero, the All-in-One Auto Empty cordless vacuum, which automatically empties its canister when replaced to its charging dock.

This choice, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. The Toppin 6-in-1 Cordless Stick Vacuum was our highest performing vacuum under $150, and it even goes on sale fairly often to well under $100. Price aside, this vacuum is beloved by Amazon reviewers and Apartment Therapy editors alike for its powerful suction, quiet sound, and compact parts. It’s a cordless model capable of a power level of more expensive models. The canister is on the smaller side, meaning it needs more frequent emptying, so it may not be best for those with allergies. Its illuminating LED headlight makes dirt visible, even from further away, so you can really see what’s going on in those hard-to-reach spots you may have been missing. “I loved how light it was,” says AT commerce coordinator Emily. “It honestly never felt like a chore to vacuum because of that, and the main attachment head was so small that it could fit under surfaces even my Dyson couldn’t.”

Who It’s Best For: Those looking for the most bang for their buck; those who want something consistent and reliable; those with hard floors and low-pile carpet.

Good to Know: This was also the lightest-weight full-sized vacuum we tested, making it one of our more accessible options as well.

When it comes to cleaning a large space, saving time is of the essence, but not if it means sacrificing any element of a deep clean. Bissell’s newest CrossWave, the Cordless Max Deluxe, is a wet and dry vacuum that mops where you want it to and vacuums where you don’t. It can even mop and vacuum at the same time. It’s a dream come true for pet owners and parents of youngsters, as it can handle pretty much any mess you bring it toward. Dual tanks keep dirty water separate from clean water, which means no streaking and floors that are sparkling even if one spot needs multiple runs. We mentioned it’s cordless, right? Yeah, and its docking station both cleans and charges the CrossWave, so it’s completely ready to go whenever you want to use it again. “It saves an incredible amount of time given its effectiveness,” says AT strategist Pari. “If you’re a kind of person who loves a spotless home, this is definitely a good investment.” To wrap up, the only real hands-on activities involved are running the vacuum and occasionally replacing clean water and solution into the vacuum and dumping dirty water from the charging base.

Who It’s Best For: Those with pets or larger homes in need of regular mopping and vacuuming; those with carpeting and hard floors.

Good to Know: It connects to the Bissel app, which provides maintenance, support, cleaning tips, and a usage dashboard.

When we say small, we mean it, since we’re often testing in NYC apartments. And when choosing the winner for this category, we had to ask the question: Is it worth the storage space? Turning on the Dyson Omni-Glide for the first time, I swear I heard the words: you better believe it. In actuality, it’s what I didn’t hear that struck me. There was no roaring motor, no clunking around every uneven surface, and no more complaints from neighbors. In fact, my downstairs neighbor worryingly asked if I was even vacuuming anymore. But I’m not the only Omni-Glide fan. Says Kitchn tools editor Riddley, “Because it’s so small, I find that it’s easy to reach for, which means that I do…so my house is always shockingly clean.” The Omni-Glide’s name comes from its omnidirectional soft roller cleaning head, which keeps it quiet, allows it to go forward, backward, and sideways, and give it an effortless 180º swivel. It’s like manually swirling a microfiber cloth around every corner of your hardwood floor, just without the manual bit. And while it’s designed especially to make hard floors shine, prevent scratching and scuffs, and soften existing ones, it cleans just as well on very low-pile carpeting. It’s a minimal apartment-dweller’s dream.

Who It’s Best For: Those who want something lightweight and easy to navigate; those who vacuum frequently; those who want something versatile; those who live in a smaller space.

Good to Know: Dyson’s site offers free shipping and the opportunity to get free tools up to $70 with auto-registration when you checkout.

We looked for the one robot vacuum that does it all, from working on multiple surfaces to being app-controlled and smart-home compatible, without costing a month’s rent. The Roomba 675, best overall robot vacuum winner for the second year in a row, has all the bells and whistles at a surprisingly low price. It’s got the patented iRobot dual-roller cleaning system all Roombas have, which makes the brand unparalleled when it comes to cleaning carpets and rolling over multiple surfaces. This model can be controlled via the iRobot app or your Alexa or Google Assistant smart home devices and automatically re-docks and recharges when its battery is low. Yep, you can handle the entire cleaning process without even touching your vacuum until its storage needs a refresh. It even has a full suite of sensors, making it reactive to furniture and barriers before it comes in contact with them. This robot vacuum is also lightweight and easy to clean out and get reset for the cleaning jobs ahead. “I didn’t think I needed a ‘smart’ vacuum until I tried one — it’s so fun to see how it maps my floors and figures out where to go (and where not to go),” says AT editor-in-chief Laura. “Plus it’s a lazy cleaner’s dream — it even returns ‘home’ to its base without me doing anything.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who want to simplify their general floor-cleaning routine; those who want something hands free; those who like to come back to a tidy home.

Good to Know: We’re not the only ones who love it — more than 40,000 Amazon reviewers also give it all the stars.

Honorable Mention: An even more budget-friendly model, the Eufy RoboVac 25C is another AT editor favorite. Controlled by remote vs. an app, it’s as easy as pointing and clicking — a great option for a robot vacuum newbie… or even a skeptic.

Handheld vacuums come in all shapes these days. Some seem earnestly ergonomically beneficial, but most are just the same ol’ machine in a new suit. Same goes for price — many models are $50 or under and some ring in at over $200. Once we cleared the clutter, as it were, we determined that the good, not-so-old-fashioned Dustbuster really is the best handheld vacuum. (One of our writers wrote a love letter to it back in 2017, and we’ve been raving ever since.) Unfussy, straightforward, and reliable, it’s a dream if you need something that’ll take care of light cleaning maintenance — particularly if you have a pet or are chasing after a messy little one. It has a rotating nozzle and can be taken apart quite easily for regular filter cleaning. Replacing handheld vacuums is one of my biggest pet peeves — it’s expensive, wasteful, and annoying that they typically live such short lives. Somehow, my Dustbuster perseveres, outlasting any other I’ve tested.

Who It’s Best For: Those who need something in addition to their regular vacuum that actually has power; those with pets; those who live in small spaces.

Good to Know: There’s a newer version that’s more expensive but has a few new features.

Honorable Mention: On the other hand, if you’re in the market for bells and whistles or you want a handheld to do what an upright can, the Dyson Humdinger ($) is your ticket. Fully charged in 3.5 hours with a 20-minute run time, it matches our winning Dyson with almost all of its specs.

Say what you’re looking for isn’t quite as big as a traditional handheld but is still strong enough to keep your workspace dust-free. The FineInno Mini Vacuum is ideal to keep on your desk, your kitchen counter, or near your dining table — wherever you find yourself needing to spot-clean a dry spill without the use of paper towels, chemicals, or wipes. The vacuum is designed to fit neatly in your hand so you can comfortably glide over surfaces — even your laptop — allowing the device to vacuum everything up. “It’s powerful for its size, and was even strong enough to pick up the tiny instruction manual it came with,” says our tester, AT assistant shopping editor Britt. When it’s ready to be cleaned, simply empty from the bottom of the vacuum. It runs on two AA batteries that slide into the compartment just beneath the vacuum’s twist top.

Who It’s Best For: Those who don’t want to break out their full-sized vacuum for every tiny mess; those who want to keep a vacuum in their car or at their desk.

Good to Know: Prevent burnout by following the maximum recommended time of use, which is 10 minutes per cleaning session. Batteries are not included.

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