The Best Home Vacuum Cleaners

If you’re serious about keeping your home clear of dust, dirt and other debris, the $450 Miele S7210 Twist bagged upright is the best vacuum for the job. Cleaning is excellent on any surface, steering is smooth and light and you’ll barely have to think about upkeep. If you live in cozier quarters (or just prefer canister vacuums) we like a few kits in the Miele S2 series—the Capri is a good pick for an apartment with mostly bare floors and an area rug or two, while the Delphi is better for digs with more carpeting and hairy pets.

Last Updated: July 7, 2014
Updated the guide to note that six months after we picked the Miele, Amazon user ratings for it continue to be very positive overall, with 4.2 stars out of 5.
Expand Previous Updates
April 16, 2014: Added the Hoover Air Cordless to the What to Look Forward to section. The Air Cordless arrives in May for $300, weighing 10 pounds, powered by battery only. We plan to look into this once it's available.
April 7, 2014: Added dismissal of Samsung MotionSync.
January 17, 2014: Dyson introduced a replacement for the DC41 called the DC65. We added our thoughts on why it's highly unlikely to replace the Miele as our top pick any time soon in the competition section below.
January 4, 2014: We took another look at this category and switched our pick from the Dyson DC 28 Animal to the Miele S7210 Twist for larger spaces and the Miele S2 series (Capri for mostly bare floors and Delphi for more carpeting).
October 11, 2013: Added reviews of the $300 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean.
March 11, 2013: Last updated March 11, 2013: While you can still find it here and there online, Dyson's no longer making the DC 28 Animal, so we're moving this recommendation to WAIT status. Dyson tells us the direct replacement for the DC28 is their DC 41 Animal vacuum, but need to research whether it's the right piece of hardware to recommend to you. Give us some time to figure it out, and we'll have a new pick for you soon.

How we picked

Over the course of 65 hours of research and testing, I combed through about 70 professional vacuum reviews and recommendations from the handful of reputable outlets that cover vacuums, including Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, Reviewed.com, CNET and VacuumWizard.com, speaking with editors of the latter three.1 I also interviewed a couple of vacuum dealers and repairmen, a Dyson product engineer, a representative from the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America and an indoor air quality specialist.

In addition to asking for recommendations and talking about what makes a great vacuum, I asked our experts about specific use cases for vacuums like people with pets who shed a lot and allergies. The consensus was that if you’re paying for a nice vacuum, neither of these will be an issue: any vacuum worth its salt will be able to clean whatever you need it to, including pet hair and allergens. (The only caveat is that people with allergies should avoid bagless vacuums, which are messier to empty.)

Once I established what makes a great vacuum, I combed through manufacturer lineups and prioritized brands that experts had recommended to me, that are especially well known or that generally receive good reviews.

Commercial vacuums like those made by Oreck appeared promising at first but were eliminated for a lack of versatility. These machines are designed for cleaning vast swathes of short-pile office/hotel carpet and lack the adjustments and attachments needed to clean a complete home.

The initial list contained about 70 models, and I whittled it down to about 15 semifinalists based on specs and prices.
The initial list contained about 70 models, and I whittled it down to about 15 semifinalists based on specs and prices. I aimed for models with big motors and geared or serpentine belts as a baseline. A good brush roller, adjustable height, low weight, handling features like a pivoting joint, a long cord, washable filters, HEPA filters, long warranties and cloth bags all factored in as well, though none were dealmakers or dealbreakers. I automatically filtered out almost everything less than $250—the data is very inconsistent in that range, and the experts I spoke with never recommended anything below that price point.

Then I cross-checked reviews at expert outlets like Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, CNET and Reviewed.com—more on that in a bit—as well as Amazon user reviews and general chatter on message boards.

The $350-$600 price range emerged as the sweet spot. The top contenders in that range have the cleaning ability to match just about anything you’d get before stepping up to a commercial vacuum, and the bodies are generally pretty reliable and backed up by long warranties.

I then whittled the field down to five finalists, including three uprights: the Miele S7210 Twist, the Sebo Felix Premium 1 and the Dyson DC41. We also included two canisters: the Kenmore Progressive 21714 and the Miele S2 series (specifically the Capri and Delphi kits, though I don’t really consider them different models, since they just come with different tools).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI left out stick vacuums like the Dyson DC44, which are basically smaller, cheaper and underpowered uprights. They can be pretty good for cleaning quick messes or sucking up dust bunnies. However, unlike higher-end vacuums, they just aren’t built to deep-clean carpets (some don’t even have brush rollers). They have more trouble with big particles, fill up quickly and need more maintenance. They’re not the right pick for people who want a long-lasting vacuum that can clean any mess.

After designing and running some tests to fill in the gaps not covered by the rubric-based tests of the big reviewers, two clear winners emerged: an upright for larger homes and a canister for smaller ones.

Our pick for bigger spaces

The Twist is very maneuverable for its size and cleans equally well on carpet and hard floors.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $449.
The Miele S7210 is our pick for larger homes because it can clean most surfaces, is easy to maintain, has a solid build and comes with a seven-year warranty to back it up (alongside a broad distribution and repair network). It’s an especially good fit if your home has lots of open, carpeted space. And despite its power and tank-like build quality, it was among the most maneuverable vacuums we tested. It was also one of the quietest upright vacuums we looked at, which is no small feat given how powerful its motor is.

As far as specs and components are concerned, the S7210 checks off the important boxes: a geared belt that resists wear; a chevron-patterned brush roller that efficiently pushes debris towards the suction head; spring-loaded height adjustment, which automatically adjusts to the optimal cleaning height for the surface at hand; a powerful 1200-watt motor; and four speeds to enable smooth cleaning across carpets of various pile length. What that all adds up to is some seriously impressive cleaning performance.

It’s not bagless, but that actually turns out to be a good thing.
It’s not bagless, but that actually turns out to be a good thing. Bagged vacuums require less maintenance, are inherently cleaner because the bags themselves act as a filter and are much easier to empty when the time comes. No messy cups to dump out—just throw out the old and plug in a new.2 All the experts we talked to agreed that bagged was the way to go (especially if you have allergies).

But the Miele Twist isn’t just good on paper; it’s great in testing too. The Twist is the second-highest-rated upright vacuum by Consumer Reports (in a three-way tie, and was only recently bumped out of first place within the last few weeks) and earns an ‘A’ from Good Housekeeping. If a vacuum can a job, the Twist is up to it—big chunks, pet hair and fine dust on bare floors and plush carpets alike.

It also aced our various tests in addition to the major publications’ tests.

Many upright vacuums struggle when it comes to cleaning corners or edges because cleaning heads are designed to pull the most air from in front of the vacuum. But the Miele actually excels at edges because it has some extra air-flow vents along the frame of the cleaning head. It did a better job than other vacuums we tested of picking up grains of rice built up against a baseboard. That means no more busting out the wand attachment to get stubborn crumbs in the corners. The Dyson DC41, by way of contrast, struggled with this test because its cleaning head hugs very close to the ground and has no channels or vents on its sides to encourage air flow. It only picks up grit under or directly in front of it.

The vacuum may look intimidating and beefy (because it’s built to last from durable, heavy components), but its steering is agile and smooth thanks to a pivoting head, soft rubber wheels and effective automatic height adjustment. It finished our slalom test quicker than any other vacuum, mainly because it maneuvered around furniture more easily than the Dyson or any of the canisters and didn’t need manual height adjustments like the Kenmore or Sebo models. Its variable suction settings let it glide equally smoothly over a variety of surfaces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Miele’s adjustability and maneuverability also help it reach into tighter spaces. When laid out flat, it’s only about seven inches tall—enough clearance to get under my couch and chairs.

And when the vacuum itself is too big, it has plenty of accessories to reach where you need to. The hose pops out easily and has its own handle and a built-in extension, so reaching the ceiling and behind the couch was no problem. And it’s designed to be super stable; I could not get this machine to fall over, even with the hose pulled taut—it just rolled toward me. There’s also a caddy in the back of the body for storing the basic tools (floor tool, crevice tool and a brush tool), so you’ll have to try pretty hard to lose the attachments.

You’ll also be able to clean all but the largest of rooms without having to change outlets thanks to its 39-foot cord…
You’ll also be able to clean all but the largest of rooms without having to change outlets thanks to its 39-foot cord, which was the longest in the group I tested and one of the longest I came across in my research (commercial vacuums have longer cords, but aren’t a good pick unless you live in an office building). My apartment is medium-sized, and I could run the vacuum through the entire place when it was plugged into an outlet in one of the central rooms.

Basic maintenance is pretty easy, even compared to a bagless model. The cloth bags should last about three months each (your mileage may vary, of course), and filters only need to be swapped annually. A year’s supply (roughly) of bags and AirClean filters goes for about $20 on Amazon. An optional Miele-brand HEPA filter is considerably more expensive ($50), but the Twist earned an “excellent” emissions score from Consumer Reports with the standard filter and the system is outfitted with tons of rubber gaskets, which keep dirty air from leaking into the clean environment. This is a clean machine, with or without HEPA filters. The bags and filters are very easy to swap out. Replacing everything takes about three minutes, no tools required, and it’s obvious when the parts are correctly in place. The main cavity opens by lifting a handle. Bags slide easily in and out of the vacuum’s plastic holder and keep themselves closed with a spring-loaded plastic cap when they aren’t in place. Behind the bag, there’s a plastic cage for the motor filter that swings open with a tug. The exhaust filter has its own little trap door on the front of the vacuum and sits inside a plastic bracket that slides out of the main body. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could not get the main cleaning head to jam, even with a purposely abusive mix of detritus. I ran over a sock in an effort to mess up the brush roller, but it automatically shut off. All I had to do was lay the vacuum on its back and pull out the sock, and it was back to normal.

I did manage to clog the hose with a shard of a CD. It wasn’t too hard to fix, though—the hose can disconnect at both ends. Should anything go wrong, there’s an easy-open door (a coin will work) on the rear with access to the interior clog-cleanouts. (It’s worth noting that the Sebo Felix was the only model tested that didn’t jam at all.)

One caveat about the seven-year warranty: Make sure to buy the vacuum from an authorized Miele dealer. It isn’t hard to find one—Amazon counts, as do a number of the third-party marketplace vendors that sell through Amazon—but just be sure to check. Also, it’s good to be wary of any “sale prices.” From what I’ve seen, when there’s a discount on a Miele vacuum, it’s usually offered by a non-authorized outlet.

As far as flaws go, the Miele’s weight is the only obvious issue.
As far as flaws go, the Miele’s weight is the only obvious issue. At 22 pounds, it’s heavier than the average upright by about five pounds. This is partially mitigated in day-to-day use seeing as it was the best maneuvering vacuum I tested. That said, lugging it up a staircase counts as a workout. The handle has a closed grip (rather than just being a stick), which makes it easier to hoist. But it’s still a big, bulky machine. And as with any upright, cleaning carpeted stairs won’t be as easy as it would be with a canister vacuum. The hose is pretty long, though kind of stiff (it should get more flexible over time), and you’ll need to add a mini turbo brush if your stairs are carpeted.

If you do manage to clog up the main intake or seriously tangle the brush roller and need to pull off the base plate, you’ll need a Torx screwdriver to remove it (our pick for best multi-bit screwdriver has one in it). This type of screwdriver is less than common in most home tool kits. That said, you’ll probably be able to clear most jams without removing the plate—use a razor blade to slice away tangles of hair or string from the brush roller and a thin poking tool (like an unwound coat hanger) to unclog the intake. But if those methods fail, you’ll either need a Torx tool, which you can pick up at most standard hardware stores, or some pro assistance at a shop.

Other little gripes: the release pedal for the hinge (to take it out of park mode, basically) should be made out of metal instead of plastic. It barely needs to be tapped to disengage the lock, but one accidental foot-stomp could shear the thing right off. The cord length can be a double-edged sword. I found myself getting twisted up in it, but that happened with all of the vacuums I tested. It also takes some time to wrap up and unravel and it’s difficult to get the hose out if it isn’t completely unwrapped (pro tip: turn the bottom hook upside down so that the cord just dangles, and you’ll be able to lift the whole bundle off in one go). Finally, the Miele-brand hand-held turbo brush (for getting pet hair off of furniture or cleaning carpeted stairs) is way too expensive ($75) for a piece of plastic with a spinning rod in it. Try a generic one ($20-35) or just use a lint roller.

Overall though, the Twist offers the best cleaning capabilities across the broadest spectrum of situations—bare floors, carpets of all heights, particles large and small.

Long-term test notes

For this guide we weren’t able to keep the units we borrowed on hand for extended testing. But another useful way of gauging how well a product performs for the long term is to pay attention to its user ratings over time. Six months after we first picked the Miele Twist, Amazon users are still giving it an average rating of 4.2 (out of 5) stars. That’s 163 5-star reviews out of 257 reviews total as of July 2014. A couple recent reviews mention dissatisfaction with the vacuum clogging, but that really is the nature of vacuums, especially ones that are powerful enough to suck up pet hair. We didn’t experience any issues with clogging when we initially tested it, however.

Our pick for cozier spaces

*At the time of publishing, the price was $399.
The Capri works better for cozier spaces and excels at hard floors, though it can handle the odd floor rug.
If the Miele Twist (or a full-size upright in general) seems too big for your apartment, or you just prefer a canister-style vacuum, there are a few kits in the Miele S2 canister series that we like.* The actual vacuum (aside from color) is the same size from kit to kit, but each one comes with a different combination of hoses and brushes.

If your home is mostly hardwood flooring or tile, with maybe one or two area rugs, the Miele S2121 Capri ($399) is a good bet. It comes with a parquet floor tool and a turbo brush for carpet work. However, it has a non-electric hose, so you won’t be able to add power brushes without first adding an electric hose.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $499.
The Delphi comes with accessories that are more geared towards cleaning carpets.
If you would benefit from power brushes (usually if you have more carpeting or pets) the Miele Delphi ($499) is a better option. It comes with an electric hose and a power brush, which is better at agitating rugs. The standard power brush that comes with it has no height adjustments, so it’ll be most effective on medium- to low-pile carpets. If you’re dealing with tighter knits or higher piles, you should think about upgrading to the SEB-228 power brush ($209), which has a five-step manual height-adjustment system. Yes, the kit can get pretty expensive if you go all-out—upwards of $700—but it’ll handle just about anything.

The S2 canister is excellent for the price. In a review of the step-down S2 Olympus kit, Keith Barry, editor-in-chief of the Reviewed.com appliance section, said that “it mastered hardwood floors and didn’t do too badly on short carpet.” That’s with the combi-brush, so with the turbo brush (Capri) or especially the power brush (Delphi), it’s even better. Consumer Reports gives it an “excellent” emissions ratings, thanks to cloth bags, gaskets and good filters (HEPA is optional if you think you need it). Other helpful features include a self-retracting cord and six suction speeds.

The motor is a power 1200-watt unit (like the Twist), but it’s about the quietest vacuum I’ve ever heard—my cat barely noticed it. The plastic body is light, but feels like it’s made to last, and it has a seven-year warranty (again, you have to buy it from an authorized seller).

In our handling tests, the canister moved smoothly in any direction that I pulled it or kicked it, even rolling over its own cord easily.
In our handling tests, the canister moved smoothly in any direction that I pulled it or kicked it, even rolling over its own cord easily. The 18-foot cord is short, but it was long enough to reach most spots in my apartment when I plugged it into a centrally located outlet. Situated toward the middle of my living room, I found that with the canister on the ground and the hose extended, the vacuum fell about two inches short of reaching the ceiling. But that’s not a huge issue because I just picked up the light, 11-pound canister (that weight not including the hose and cleaning head) and it reached just fine. All of the attachments we tried with the S2 have rotating joints, so they fit under chairs and couches, no problem.

Clogs weren’t too bad to deal with either. The power brush has big-groove screws that open with just a coin or flathead screwdriver. The roller (powered by a geared belt) pops out to clear tangles. The downside to having a canister is that the hose is long, so if something gets lodged in the middle, you’ll need some patience to clear the clog. I worked out a bundle of paper shreds by whacking the outside of the hose with a stick until it all came out—there are probably better methods, but it was fine.

As with the Twist, it only takes a few minutes to change the S2’s bags and filters—it’s an almost-identical system, with cages for the filters and a clip for the cloth bags. The only difference is that the S2 series uses different bags, which are about 13% smaller than the bags for the Twist and other S7 series uprights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the downside, the Delphi and the Capri are more expensive than any of the models in the Kenmore Progressive series, and all of those include a five-step power brush that can handle more types of carpet out of the box. Consumer Reports loves these vacuums. But they have cheaper builds, and there are widespread user reports about parts falling off and the electric connection in the hose cutting out after a couple years.

So let’s do the math. The Kenmore 21514 is the lowest-end model in the series and usually costs $230. Based on user reviews—including the positive ones—it’ll last three or four years before some serious malfunction. A $400 or $500 Miele S2 is under warranty for seven years and, if the history of the brand is a reliable guide, it should last for a few years beyond the warranty. You’ll probably end up buying three Kenmore models ($690) in that time span. If you’re especially handy, you could buy parts and try DIY repairs to keep it going, and you might end up saving a few dollars over the lifetime of the vacuum. That’s without factoring in time and frustration. For most people, one of the Miele models will end up being a better value over the long term. You get what you pay for when it comes to vacuums.

The hose on the S2 is also a little stiff, but will loosen with time and feels very durable. And we’ll say it again—Miele charges too much for its mini turbo-brush, so go with a generic model.

It’s also worth noting that Consumer Reports gives middling scores to both kits, but I’m chalking this up to the low scores they received on the medium-pile carpet that CR uses in their tests. The S2 kits come with brushes designed to work best on short carpets and bare floor so dinging them on medium/long performance misses the point, and it hardly matters if you don’t have tall carpets (which is the case for many people).

If you want a small, lightweight vacuum, the S2 canister kits are a good bet. They’re excellent for apartments and also work well in bigger homes with moderate carpeting.

Why not step up or step down?

Spending more gets you some nice features that won’t necessarily improve cleaning ability…
Spending more gets you some nice features that won’t necessarily improve cleaning ability or make it much easier to maintain the machine. Some examples are LED headlights, electronically automated speed and height adjustments (rather than manual or spring-loaded systems), dirt sensors, locking wheels, extra attachments, higher-quality filters…features you’ll appreciate, but don’t really affect the way you get your house clean.

When you spend less…well, in the words of Keith Barry, “You can make a good vacuum for under $200, but it’s an accident.” Our picks for best cheap vacuum and best portable vacuum are two such happy accidents.

In the $200 to $350 range, there are plenty of models with great cleaning performance, but they aren’t as durable or reliable as the models in our sweet spot. The Kenmore 21514 is a perennial favorite at Consumer Reports, for example, but as we mentioned above, it has its share of build-quality problems. Likewise, Consumer Reports’ new top-rated upright, the Kenmore Elite 31150 ($350), has tremendous cleaning power. But it comes with just a one-year warranty and handles like a brick on wheels.

On testing

We put together a handful of steering, handling and maintenance trials to run our top-rated vacuums through their paces, designed in conjunction with our resident testing guru Richard Baguley (who designed part of Reviewed.com’s performance-based vacuum rubric).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most telling test was purposely clogging the vacuums. I ran each machine over a mixed pile of sawdust, wood chips, shredded paper, bits of broken CDs and pet hair until the vacuum clogged or the pile was cleaned up—whichever came first.

If it jammed, then I fixed it to gauge how difficult it was.

The best of the bunch were the Sebo Felix Premium, which didn’t clog at all and would’ve been the easiest to clear had it done so, as well as the Miele models, which took some effort to jam up and not too time much to fix. The Dyson DC41 and Kenmore 21714 didn’t fail per se, but they got stuffed up quicker and took longer to fix—though with practice, the process should get easier for owners.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also set up a maneuverability course around the furniture in my apartment and across a mix of area carpets and hardwood flooring. With each vacuum, I steered it all the way around my coffee table on an area rug, moved to the floor, tried to fit it under a tall chair, maneuvered it between two obstacles (cat-scratch posts) set up a few inches apart, drove it up onto another medium-pile area carpet and made two passes back and forth, moved back onto the floor, parked it in a corner and tried to reach the ceiling with the hose, put the hose away and pushed it to the finish line. Whenever I switched between the rug and the floor, I would make the appropriate adjustment to the brush roller (on or off, and the manual height setting if necessary) and adjust the speed if there was an option to do so.

Racing vacuums on a timed circuit isn’t the most accurate representation of real-world vacuum use, but it did provide good sense of real frustrations that owners might run into.
Racing vacuums on a timed circuit isn’t the most accurate representation of real-world vacuum use, but it did provide good sense of real frustrations that owners might run into. Canister vacuums are more maneuverable in a sense, but it’s also easier to get tangled up among the long hose and the cord, and it bumps into furniture as you pull the canister along behind you.

The biggest issues, though, came from operator error. Sometimes I’d go over a rug without turning on the brush roller, so I wasn’t really cleaning it. Other times I’d leave the suction too high, and the vacuum would pull up the edge of the carpet and get stuck. I always remembered to increase the height for the medium-pile rug, but often forgot to lower it again once I got back on the bare floor. This illustrated (to me at least) that although manual controls tend to clean more deeply, they don’t count for much when they’re used improperly. I made the fewest mistakes with the Miele Twist and Dyson DC41, in no small part because they have self-adjusting heights and the other controls are on or near the handle.

The Miele Twist was the easiest to maneuver, with smooth steering and an auto-adjusting head. The Dyson also made it around the course quickly, though the ball joint wasn’t as responsive as the pivoting joint on the Miele Twist and made it harder to get under furniture.

Both canister vacs performed similarly—their chief disadvantage is that you have to bend over and unhook the cleaning head before you can just use the open hose (and tools that attach to it) for ceilings or tight areas. The Miele S2 did roll more smoothly than the Kenmore, though that didn’t really affect their times on the course.  The Sebo Felix was the easiest to steer, but ultimately took the longest time to complete the course—having to repeatedly switch heads really slowed it down, so it’s not the best vacuum for people with multiple flooring types.

I also ran a battery of quick, single-purpose tests to gauge versatility rather than just pure suction power.

I used the hose to reach the four corners of a 10-foot ceiling in a 14-by-8-foot room (I’m 6’2”, so probably not the most representative test subject).  The Dyson reached easily, even with the vacuum toward the center of the room. I also had no trouble reaching with the Miele Twist, though I had to pull the body closer. I had to lift both the Kenmore and Miele canisters to get them to reach the ceiling, though they’re both light so it wasn’t a problem. The Sebo didn’t even come close—its hose is by far the shortest of the bunch.

Then I tried to tip over each machine by yanking on the hose. None of them tipped except the Sebo, which came crashing down with just a regular tug.

I then spread a half-cup of rice under my couch and tried to clean it up with the main head, though I switched to an attachment when necessary. I had the hardest time with the Dyson—the main head couldn’t fit under the futon because of the bulky ball joint, and the floor tool didn’t do a great job of corralling the grains toward the intake. The Miele S2 did a phenomenal job, particularly when it was equipped with the parquet floor tool that comes with the Capri kit. Everything else did reasonably well, though we have to give special mention to the Sebo and Miele Twist for fitting almost all the way under the couch despite being uprights.

I also tried sticking each hose behind the couch, moving it away from the wall as little as possible. I didn’t have any problems with any of the hoses here.

Since it wasn’t obvious if any other outlets performed this test, I also focused on side-suction and corner performance. I sprinkled some rice into two corners—one carpeted, one bare floor—and their adjoining walls, and tried to suck up the grains in as few passes as possible with the main cleaning head. The Dyson struggled the most, failing to pick up the grains jammed all the way against the baseboards. The Miele Twist did very well on both surfaces, though the Sebo was the best on the floor and the Kenmore was the best on carpet. Of course, you can always use the hose to clean out corners, but it’s one less step if the main head can do the job.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll in all, both Mieles consistently placed at or near the top of each test and never even got close to touching the bottom.

What makes a great vacuum?

To help explain why we picked the vacuums that we did, it helps to know our criteria. Basically, a great vacuum should work on any surface you need it to and be durable enough to last many years. This is far easier said than done.

Regardless of what type or style you choose, great vacuum performance flows from the combined efforts of four features: the motor, the belt, the brush roller and the height adjustment system. They work together to maximize airflow and agitation, and shortcomings with any of them will drag down the efficiency of the entire system.

The motor is the centerpiece of any vacuum cleaner, because it’s what moves air to create suction.
The motor is the centerpiece of any vacuum cleaner, because it’s what moves air to create suction. A bigger motor can move more of that air. Anything with 50 inches of water lift (the somewhat archaic industry-standard measurement for suction power—this translates to about 1.8 PSI or 0.12 atm) should be able to handle most jobs, says Justin Haver, vice president at GoVacuum.com and 17-year veteran of the vacuum industry. More suction is generally better, though—that increased suction picks up more debris in fewer passes, makes it easier to pick up large particles, and helps pull in debris from the sides as well as the front of the cleaning head, which is helpful for cleaning in corners and against walls and for using hose attachments. The best of all options is a vacuum with adjustable suction levels (usually referred to as speeds). You can crank up the power for bare floors and dial it back if you’re cleaning curtains or furniture.

A belt’s only job is to connect the brush roller to a spinning motor shaft, but a good one is key to a great vacuum. A well-designed vacuum uses a gear belt, which has interlocking teeth on the roller and motor shaft, or a serpentine belt, which has grooves in its surface. These don’t lose tension, so the roller always spins at maximum RPM, all else being equal.

“They will eventually wear out, but you’re looking at probably 10 years instead of six months. Something else will probably go before the belt goes,” says Denis Spindler, who has owned the Mr. Sweeper Sew & Vac dealership and repair shop in Waltham, MA since 1984 (and worked there since 1977).

Cheap belts—the flat rubber belts—lose tension from the moment you start using them. In his Youtube buyers’ guide, Haver says that this design is “extremely inefficient because it constantly stretches.” With a fresh belt, a roller might spin on the carpet at 1,000 RPM but drop to 100 RPM once it wears out, no longer able to sufficiently agitate the carpet. It takes just a few minutes and a couple bucks to replace one of these belts, but with this setup, your vacuum is less effective each and every time you use it.

Then there’s the brush roller itself. It does most of the vacuum’s dirty work, pulling the unwanted debris from between the carpet fibers so that it can get sucked up by the intake. The best vacuums will let you raise or deactivate the roller—on bare floors, a spinning brush will just send particles shooting away from the vacuum and can damage softwood or stone flooring. Haver points out that many vacuums use rollers that lead away from the intake on one side. It sounds obvious, but bristle patterns should push debris toward the intake port—a design known as a chevron roller.

Other generally positive, but not super-important, features include bristles made from horsehair or other natural hair (nylon bristles break easily and can be abrasive on soft flooring); an aerodynamic roller design rather than a cylindrical one; a metal, wood or high-grade plastic bar (because cheap plastic can melt when the ball bearings seize up and will stop rolling freely, Haver says); and some easy way to either pop the roller out of the vacuum or to clear tangles from the roller, such as a cleanout row.

But a brilliant brush roller design, a long-lasting non-stretching belt and all the world’s suction don’t add up to much if the cleaning head isn’t the right height from the ground. If it’s too high, you’re wasting suction power and probably aren’t agitating the carpet properly. But if the head digs in too much—especially on tight carpeting—it blocks air flow and prevents the roller from spinning freely. “For clean carpeting, you really need to have height adjustments,” Haver says, especially in homes with several different carpet heights.

Most vacuums use automatic height-adjustment systems, which can be a crapshoot. For instance, Keith Barry of Reviewed.com noted in his review of the Sebo X4 that it took a full 10 seconds for the vacuum to change heights when moving from deep carpeting to a wood floor. Hardly seamless. Other brands just spring-load their rollers. Haver says that some brands do it well, others don’t, and there’s no magic word to look for on a spec sheet. (And they can’t be bypassed in favor of manual control, either.) Vacuums with auto systems probably lose a bit of cleaning power on thicker carpets, but never having to think about picking a setting is a net-positive for most people. If you live in an apartment with nothing but bare floors and a low-pile area rug, you don’t really need to worry about adjustable height. But if you have a vacuum that can handle all kinds of carpeting, it’s futureproofed regardless of where you live.

Used properly, a well-designed vacuum “will almost pull itself across carpet,” Haver says. When the head is set at the right height, the brush roller tugs the rest of the vacuum along. Haver says that self-propulsion systems are nice and fine, but they add about eight pounds to the weight of a machine and generally aren’t necessary in residential vacuums if the vacuum has good agitation.

A good set of attachments and tools expands the areas that your vacuum can clean. Most models come with a crevice tool and floor tool, and some come with a hand-held turbo brush for cleaning pet hair off of furniture or other fabric (or cleaning stairs, if the main head doesn’t fit). A longer hose is better, and it’s nice if a vacuum can stop itself from toppling if you pull on the hose a little too hard.

Other features that are helpful but may or may not be important for some users include an LED headlight; a longer cord and the ability to self-retract; rubberized wheels, rather than cheap plastic ones; and, for an upright, ease of locking into its standing position.

What’s the best type of vacuum?

After talking to experts in the field, we learned that for most people, the best vacuum is a bagged, upright vacuum.
After talking to experts in the field, we learned that for most people, the best vacuum is a bagged, upright vacuum.

It might seem like bagless are better because they’re currently more popular than their bagged cousins. But as a rule of thumb, bagged vacuums require less maintenance and tend to be cleaner to run, because the bags themselves act as a very efficient filter. They are also cleaner to empty, because there’s no fiddling with a cup full of dust. You just take the whole thing out to the curb with no opening necessary.2

The upright versus canister debate is more about personal preference because each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Uprights are the classic, all-in-one solution that keeps things simple by putting the motor, fan, brush roller, intake port, hose and bag or dust cup in the same wheeled unit. Unless you’re getting a commercial model, they will also have a built-in wand for cleaning curtains, shelves, ceilings and other hard-to-reach places. They’re larger and heavier than canister vacuums (averaging about 17 pounds), but a good upright vacuum will have a pivot or ball joint to help it handle around corners.

They also have larger capacities. This makes them better-suited for most American homes, which tend to be pretty big and have lots of carpeting. Uprights are also more familiar to more people, so we think most people would prefer them to smaller canister vacuums for that reason alone. That said, if you have a smaller home with less carpeting, a canister might be a better pick if you can deal with the unfamiliar form factor.

Canister vacuums split up the components, with the motor, fan and bag or dust cup in one compact main canister. This is separate from the intake and cleaning head (usually including a powered brush roller), which are attached to the main canister with a long hose. A good canister vacuum will have attachments with articulated joints, which are super easy to maneuver due to their slim profiles and low weight (they’re typically about 10 pounds). Most people pull canisters behind them as they clean, which can feel weird at first if you’re not used to it. It’s worth noting that most of our experts use and prefer canisters, but they’re far from evangelizing the benefits of canisters—it’s just what they personally prefer.

Got pets?

In editorial vacuum tests and marketing materials, pet hair gets special treatment as some kind of mythical particle like stardust or unobtanium or kryptonite. It isn’t. When a vacuum is marketed as the Animal or Pet or Cat and Dog model, “it means nothing,” according to Spindler, except that it probably comes with a hand-held turbo brush attachment.

Yes, pet hair is a pain in the ass. Cats and dogs are literally covered in it and leave it everywhere. It clings to fabric and embeds itself in carpets. Unlike dust, it’s plainly visible and really hard to ignore, and the dander that accompanies it can trigger unpleasant allergies.

But to your vacuum, it’s just another piece of debris. Any vacuum that isn’t totally worthless can grab pet hair off of a bare floor, just like it would with a dust bunny. On carpet, if a vacuum can pull dust up out of the fibers, it can also grab pet hair. If it isn’t cleaning the pet hair, it isn’t really getting the dust, either.

If it’s good at cleaning carpet, it’s good at cleaning pet hair…
Removing hair from furniture gets a bit more complicated—it’s a bad idea to vacuum your sofa like it’s part of the floor. Attaching a hand-held turbo brush (an air-powered brush roller, basically) will do the trick. They have no electric parts and are usually cheap, though some brands charge way too much for them, knowing how important they are to some people. Miele and Dyson have particularly egregious markups, though we found a few low-cost generic brushes to fit Miele hoses (no such luck with Dyson, though the brush comes included in kits with the Animal designation—typically $50 more than non-Animal configurations).

Bottom line: don’t worry about the “pet” designations. If it’s good at cleaning carpet, it’s good at cleaning pet hair, and you can buy a special tool for furniture if you want it.

Got allergies?

Here’s what we know: a vacuum is supposed to remove dust from your living space, not recirculate it into the air. Most folks can agree that’s a good thing, and for anyone living with allergies or asthma, it’s a big deal.

Step one is to move allergenic dust—pollen, dander, dust-mite poop, to name a few offenders—off the floor and into the vacuum. Most particles get collected inside the bag or dirt cup, while the leftover small particles pass through filters. (In bagged vacs, the bag itself is the primary filter, but all bagged and bagless vacuums also have at least one dedicated pre-motor filter and one exhaust filter.3) Ideally, the air that leaves the vacuum is completely particle-free. Then, when it’s time to throw away the bag or empty the bin, a good system minimizes the opportunity for dust to escape back into the living environment.

Don’t rely on HEPA filters, which are intended to prevent at least 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns in size from passing through them. If you’ve got serious allergies, they’re definitely recommended, but first, Spindler suggests looking for a machine with gaskets around its filters and hookups and filters that click snugly into place.

If you don’t have serious allergies, don’t worry too much. Almost anything in the price tier that we’re considering in this guide should do an effective job at filtering out dust.

The competition

Dyson is the 800-pound gorilla of vacuum brands today. They weren’t the first company to sell a bagless vacuum in the US, but Haver says they were the first one to do bagless right. Their design addressed two of the biggest issues associated with bagged vacuums: the cost of bags and the steady drop-off in suction as those bags filled. But good modern bagged vacuums have solved those problems, and most of the experts we spoke to say that they prefer bagged. That said, we still needed to test one to see what all the hype is about.

The DC41 is Dyson’s flagship model and one of the five models we called in for testing.
The DC41 is Dyson’s flagship model and one of the five models we called in for testing. There’s a lot to like about the DC41—looks, feel, no need to buy bags or filters, long hose, five-year warranty, AAFA-certified for clean air, won’t tip over and serious suction. But its biggest asset is probably the wow factor. I used it to vacuum a friend’s carpet, and we were both shocked at how much dust and cat hair it collected. The carpet hadn’t been properly cleaned in roughly a year, so any vacuum would’ve pulled up a ton of crap—but we could see it, all piled up in one plastic cup.

But it has some irritating quirks. As CNET notes, the moving parts don’t fit into place as tightly as they should—you might think it’s locked in its upright position, but it might just tumble. The ball joint is not as maneuverable as the swivel/pivot joint on vacuums like the Miele Twist and it prevents the vacuum from fitting under low-clearance furniture. It clogs pretty easily and the unclogging took about 15 minutes—longer than any of the other vacuums I jammed up. You’ll need a Philips head pocket screwdriver to unhook the hose and get at the deepest clogs. When I jammed the brush roller with a sock, it kept spinning, so the fabric got crammed deep into the channel. (The other test models could sense jams and would automatically shut off the roller.)

Opinions on high-end Dyson vacuums tend to be pretty polarized—people who have owned them (including Sweethome founder Brian Lam) really love them. The repairmen-slash-dealers I spoke with think that they’re inherently worse than bagged vacuums, and YouTube is littered with videos trying to talk buyers out of getting Dysons or other bagless models.

The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. The DC41 is a very good vacuum. But it has spotty performance reviews across the board—it works exceptionally well at cleaning small particles, not so much with bigger ones—and yet costs more than the Miele Twist, while taking more effort to use and maintain.

Dyson announced the DC65 in early 2014, set to replace the DC41. It looks the same, but Dyson claims some under-the-hood improvements, including a more powerful motor, tweaks to the cyclones, and a new brush roller. Basically, as tends to be the case with new Dyson vacs, it’s all said to add up to even more suction than before (and better agitation, too). I got some hands-on time with the DC65. The extra suction does seem to improve the side- and corner-cleaning, which was one of the DC41’s shortcomings. But the other issues—decent but not great maneuverability, inconsistent large-particle pickup, baglessness as a fault in high-end vacuums in general—haven’t been addressed. We think that as more reviews and opinions roll in, the DC65 will be confirmed as a definite improvement to the DC41, but it also won’t replace the Miele Twist as our top pick. We took quick looks at some other Dyson models. The Sweethome’s previous pick, the Dyson DC28, is out of production, but factory-refurbished units are still kicking around for under $300. If you have your heart set on a bagless vacuum, it’s still a good buy. The DC40 is lighter and smaller but doesn’t have as much suction power, which is a main reason that you’d want to own a Dyson. The DC50 is much more compact but significantly weaker than even the DC40 and has a tiny bin. I didn’t hear anything positive about any bagless canister vacuums, so I didn’t spend much time looking into Dyson’s offerings.

Sebo is the other popular German brand. We tested the $600 Felix Premium, one of Consumer Reports’ recommended uprights. It cleans anything on any surface. Handling is effortless. It’s quiet and light—16 pounds with the power head and closer to 13 with the floor tool. I couldn’t clog the thing, as hard as I tried—and if I had been able to, it would’ve been one of the easiest vacuums to fix. There’s a trap-door cleanout port on the bottom, and the brush roller can slide out of the vacuum sideways (instead of having to unscrew or unhook the baseplate). It isn’t AAFA certified and doesn’t have HEPA filters, but it uses cloth bags, the filters snap into place, the system is sealed with gaskets, and the cloth “decorative” cover actually pulls double duty as an exhaust filter. Pretty neat.

But it’s much more expensive than the Twist, and if you’re switching between carpets and bare floors, it’s not very convenient. It’s an upright vacuum, but has separate cleaning heads for bare floors and for carpets. You need to turn off the vacuum, bend over, pull out one head and swap another one in when you switch surfaces (there’s no off switch for the brush roller on the power head, which is a bad thing on bare floors). It also has a short hose and tips over easily—it actually doesn’t stand at all when the floor tool is attached.

In the semifinals, I also considered Sebo’s D4 (canister, $899 with power brush) and X4 (upright, $679) flagship models, but didn’t call either one in for tests. They look like impressive pieces of machinery, but fall squarely into the step-up price range.

I also tested the Kenmore Progressive 21714. It’s Consumer Reports’ favorite canister vacuum, earning “excellent” marks in bare-floor cleaning, pet-hair pickup and emissions, and it likewise earned “very good” marks for carpet cleaning and airflow. It was the noisiest vacuum we tested, and steering was extra-clunky. For $380, including an adjustable-height power brush, it seems like a great value.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut we found several user reviews on Amazon and on vacuum forums complaining about the power brush failing over time, often within the first year. The culprit seems to be a shoddy electrical connection inside the hose—when it gives out, you’ll still have suction, but the roller won’t get any juice to spin. The power brush also clogged pretty easily, and took some finagling to open up and clear out. Once I was able to get the head open (I had to loosen four screws and pry back some plastic tabs, which I’m confident will snap over time), all of the components in the brush were visible. It’d be pretty easy to bump a connection while messing around in there—none of the other models I tested exposed the fragile parts so openly. It just isn’t built to last as long as other vacuums in this price range.

It’s also worth mentioning the Kenmore Elite 31150 upright vacuum, the company’s latest flagship upright. It had just been released when I started research for this guide, so there were no professional reviews or user reports out there that drew my attention to it. When Kenmore shipped me the 21714 canister for testing in November 2013, they also included the 31150 upright, though I originally didn’t test it alongside the finalists. Since then, it’s become Consumer Reports’ top-rated upright vacuum, supplanting the Miele Twist. But even with CR’s data, this model still wouldn’t have landed among the finalists—the one-year warranty is short by any standards, and especially for a $350 vacuum. Since Kenmore’s canister vacuums have such widely reported build quality problems, this Elite upright needs to prove that it can hold up over time. And in terms of real-world usability, I found that it handled poorly with no pivot or swivel in the neck, it’s super loud and it doesn’t roll smoothly across bare floors.

The rest

Miele S7260 Cat and Dog — This is the Twist with a hand-held turbo brush and an LED headlight for an extra $200. Nope.

Miele S7280 Jazz — This is the Twist with a HEPA filter for an extra $100. Nope.

Miele S7580 Auto Eco — This is the Twist with six speeds instead of four and an indicator for when your filters need to be changed. It’s an extra $300. No thanks.

Miele S7580 Bolero — This is the Auto Eco with extra tools for an extra $100. Moving on.

Miele S2121 Olympus — This is the cheapest Miele canister. It’s just like the Capri that we recommend except that it comes with a combination brush rather than separate rug and floor tools. We don’t think that’s worth the $70 savings.

Miele S2181 Titan — Same as the Delphi that we recommend, plus a parquet floor tool and a HEPA filter for an extra $100. It’s not the kit we’d pick.

Miele S6 series — This is the mid-range canister series. Apparently these have better sealing than the S2 canisters and better noise insulation (the S2 is still pretty quiet). But they’re more expensive and use smaller bags. They’re in no man’s land.

Miele S8 series — The top of the line, ranging from $650 (no power brush) up through $1,450 (the works). Big bags again, all sorts of cool and maybe useful features, high-end power brushes if you want them…all great, but you don’t need to pay this much to get a super vacuum.

Riccar/Simplicity Brand — These are American-made vacuums with great cleaning power and some dedicated fans in the vacuum-enthusiast crowd. None of the big review outlets ever write about them, though. They’re also heavy and relatively expensive (feature for feature), the warranty periods in the “sweet spot” price range are shorter, and they don’t have as wide a dealer or distro network as most other brands. For what it’s worth, these brands also need the most repairs, based on Consumer Reports’ annual survey.

Royal — Not a lot of info on these vacuums. Like Riccar/Simplicity, there’s a vocal minority that really loves them. Spindler pointed out a low-end Royal that he recommends to customers on a budget. But nothing in the lineup stuck out as an obvious rival to the main contenders.

Kirby — These cost $900—if you can successfully haggle with the salesman who comes to your home to demonstrate it for you. Yep, they’re still sold door-to-door. Some people say that they’ve paid close to $2000 for one of these vacuums. They’re excellent cleaning machines and the warranty is basically unbeatable. But they’re super heavy and super expensive.

Aerus — Similar to Kirby with a marketing focus on air quality. It’s also a great vacuum, but also too expensive.

Samsung — The MotionSync is the same price as our pick but fails at sucking up anything larger than dust, CNET says.

Rainbow — These use water filtering, which does a bang-up job of stopping dust from leaking out of the exhaust vent. But they’re expensive, and the brand was never recommended by any experts we spoke with.

Oreck — Their top bagged models—you might remember them from the cable TV ads during the late ’90s—are specifically excellent at cleaning the low-pile carpeting you’d find in an office building. Their other bagged models weren’t recommended highly. Their bagless models are all Dyson clones.

Electrolux — This was a great brand back in the day, and their newest bagless model got a favorable review at CNET. But there are plenty of unfavorable user reviews, and these are more expensive than other, better bagless vacuums.

Shark — Really divided opinions on this one. The good news is that they’re cheap, pretty effective and very versatile. The bad news is that they don’t seem to last very long. For what it’s worth, it was the only brand that the vacuum repairman on Reddit said was “bad.” We are considering some of this brand’s models in our step-down guide.

Hoover — Based on pro reviews, they seem to be good for cheaper bagged models, though we didn’t see many recommendations for their higher-end vacs.

Eureka — Similar to Hoover—decent vacuums that clean well at first but need maintenance and don’t last few more than a few years (though Eureka models are a bit cheaper and a bit more prone to breakdowns than Hoover models). Our current pick for best cheap vacuum is a Eureka, if you want to go down that road. They don’t really make high-end vacuums.

Dirt Devil, Bissell and other down-market brands — Low-end vacuums might visually clean your floors and rugs (sometimes they can’t even do that), but the reviews we read indicate that they usually don’t deep clean. Air quality is a concern, as they typically kick up dust and don’t always have clean exhaust. Mostly, they just don’t last very long.

What to look forward to

Hoover vacuums haven’t fared very well in our research, but the company has a new vacuum coming soon that is different enough to warrant consideration. The Hoover Air Cordless is a full-size vacuum that’s powered by battery only. The battery is said to last 50 minutes, and it’ll weigh about 10 pounds. That’s about half as heavy as our current pick, but it’s not exactly ultra portable like some smaller cordless vacuums, either. We’ll have to see for ourselves if it’s able to compete with corded models on cleaning power and maneuverability. It’s set to arrive in stores in May for $300.

Conclusion

A great vacuum cleans an entire home without feeling too much like a chore and will last at least a decade with only minor maintenance required. After extensive research and testing, the Miele S7210 Twist is the right pick for bigger homes, especially those with carpet, while apartment dwellers should look at the Miele S2121 Capri (less carpet) or S2121 Delphi (more carpet).

Footnotes:

1. The reviewers

Consumer Reports is the heavy hitter, having tested dozens of current models across all price ranges, and they even put a vacuum on the cover of their magazine every few months. Good Housekeeping is the other big name, going so far as to offer its own two-year warranty program for vacuums that earn the GH stamp of approval. CNET and Reviewed.com also dabble in vacuum reviews, but Reviewed.com hasn’t done so consistently in more than a year, and CNET just launched their sub-site a few months ago.

All four outlets provide pure performance testing. The procedures aren’t always transparent, but generally, they measure what percentage of debris a vacuum will pick up, given different surfaces (floor, low carpet, high carpet) and different particles of various sizes (hair, sand, bits of food). As far as I’m aware, all of the testing is done when the vacuums are brand new and fresh out of the box with empty bags or bins.

These reviews can tell you which vacuums perform well under short-term testing and if there’s anything that’s obviously a pain in the ass about using them. They paint a limited picture of how these vacuums work for real people vacuuming real debris in real homes.

It’s really, really hard to design those tests and balance their weights when you’re considering a diverse product category—even without considering the price. Testing rubrics are inflexible. They don’t do well with complexity, ifs and buts. The less linear a category is, the less reliable the test data is. Vacuums present a few of those ifs and buts. They’re all supposed to clean your house. But houses are different, so what’s the “right” way to clean? Uprights usually try to split the difference and be everything to everyone—this is the approach favored by testing rubrics. Canisters, on the other hand, make it easy to swap cleaning heads, so they can be molded to work better in certain settings—and on the flip side, the wrong tool can make them ineffective.

Consumer Reports and other testing houses do provide lots of great data—I absolutely considered them when I made my picks, and think that a good CR score counts for a lot—but it’s important to read between the lines. It’s not gospel. It’s one report on how well some models perform under limited testing conditions.

Overall, these reviews are best used as a supplement to your personal research, which should include reading user reviews and ideally some hands-on time in a vacuum store. Jump back.

2. Why bagged is better (a longer explanation)

There are many benefits endemic to the bagged design that give bagged vacuums some distinct advantages when it comes to maintenance. Spindler explains that the vacuum bags themselves act as primary filters, capturing 99 percent of dirt and dust. This means the additional motor and exhaust filters in the system have a lighter workload compared to their counterparts in a bagless model. Dirty filters and full bags or dirt cups impede air flow, which reduces the effectiveness of the vacuum. “With filters, the cleaning efficiency begins to taper off immediately,” says Robert Knox, a reviewer at VacuumWizard.com, and filters in bagless models get dirtier much faster. “With a bag type machine, full cleaning power is restored each time a new bag is installed.”

Bagless vacuums also need to be emptied more frequently. Even the largest dust cup—the half-gallon Dyson DC41 is the biggest that we found—is smaller than most bags, so it needs to be dumped every few weeks instead of every few months. According to manufacturer recommendations and assuming “average” usage, a good bagless vacuum like the Dyson DC41 needs to be emptied probably 12 times per year and needs its filters washed four times—that’s monthly upkeep, with some extra work every few months. A bagged vacuum like the Miele Twist goes through four bags per year on average, and needs its filters replaced once—seasonal upkeep.

Most decent models come with washable filters, but if those are damaged, they’re costly to replace—and there is definitely a risk they’ll get moldy, mildew-y and smelly if you put them back into the machine before they’re completely dry.

But conversely, the cost of replacement bags and filters is certainly a factor for bagged vacuums—to use the Miele Twist as an example again, it’s about $20 per year for bags and a basic Miele AirClean filter. With a high-end bagless, on the other hand, you shouldn’t need to pay for basic maintenance and you won’t have to remember to buy bags.

As for long-term maintenance costs, we can’t find any good reports on whether bagged or bagless models last longer or tend to need more serious repairs. Anecdotally, this Reddit AMA with a vacuum repairman suggests that bagless vacuums (specifically Dysons) come in for repairs more frequently, though he doesn’t say why. There’s nothing solid to lean on, and bagless vacuums haven’t been around long enough to tell if they hold up over decades like top-notch bagged models do.

Then there’s the (alleged) added mess that comes along with bagless models. If you spill the dirt cup while you’re emptying it, it’s one more thing to clean up. Over time, dust builds up in every crevice of a bagless machine, which can impede air flow, Spindler says. The “never loses suction” tagline that some bagless vacs use is misleading—they can and do lose effectiveness without proper care. There’s extra vigilance required to prevent these buildups, and bags make the process a bit easier.

For people with allergies, bagless doesn’t make sense at all—at some point, you’ll have to dump all that dust into the the bin. “I have allergies,” Haver says, “and I would not use a bagless vacuum.” Jump back.

3. The AAFA has still seen fit to certify 17 bagless machines (all Dysons) as asthma and allergy friendly. The certification involves tests with a proprietary mixture of allergenic dust, which contains cat dander (it’s smaller than dog dander, according to Oliver), dust mite dander and eggs, and timothy grass pollen. AAFA’s certification tests evaluate factors including cleaning effectiveness; airborne particle counts while vacuuming, basically whether it kicks up dust or sucks up dust; integrity of the filtration system, or looking for gaps where dusty air can leak through; performance when the vacuum is almost full, because no other outlets test it; and “exposure to allergens during bag change or receptacle emptying.” The certification does not require HEPA filtration. It’s a voluntary standard—brands submit their vacuums for testing, AAFA doesn’t seek them out. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. Justin Haver, Vice President of GoVacuum.com, Interview
  2. Denis Spindler, Owner of Mr. Sweeper Sew & Vac dealership and repair shop in Waltham, MA since 1984, Interview
  3. Robert Knox, Reviewer at VacuumWizard.com, Interview
  4. Vacuum Reviews, Reviewed.com
  5. Vacuum Cleaners, Consumer Reports (subscription required)
  6. Vacuum Cleaner Reviews, Good Housekeeping
  7. Keith Barry, Miele S2121 Olympus Review, Reviewed.com, May 4, 2012
  • Jaime Macias

    Waiting to buy until this is updated. Hoping commenting will cause me to be notified.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Hi Jaime. If you sign up for our newsletter that will keep you up to date with everything! You can sign up here, on the right hand side of the page:

      http://thesweethome.com/about-the-sweethome/

      Thanks!

  • eaadams

    I don’t know if anyone monitors this but is the Dyson DC33 worth it? Woot has a good deal on it but I cant figure it out?

  • david444

    I’m shopping for a vacuum that excels at cleaning up cat hair, and the Dyson DC vacuums, including the DC41, do a very poor job of cleaning up cat hair according to Consumer Reports. Just FYI.

  • Jonathan A Johnson

    Please update this! I have been checking back for months now, but no update!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Hi Jonathan. If you sign up for our newsletter, you will be in the loop and know when this is updated. As I said above, it keeps you up to date with everything. Feel free to sign up here: http://thesweethome.com/about-the-sweethome/

      Also, I have forwarded your concerns to the ed’s. Thank you!

      -tony

      • Jonathan A Johnson

        Thank you! I am signed up. I just wanted to say that I would love the editors to research this and let us know. Many of us are waiting to hear back your opinion before we invest in a new vacuum.

  • anonymous_hero

    It makes me crazy when I see that people keep pushing Dyson and other crappily-made vacuums. Most of the vacuums on the market work great for 2-3 years and then their performance starts degrading. Wirecutter really needs to take a hard look at the two German brands (Miele and Sebo) and see what they find. Both of these companies make amazing products. Sebo’s Felix vacuum for example may cost $200 more than the Dyson but you can expect to have it last 30 YEARS with no loss in suction or power. Come on Wirecutter, don’t just listen to the masses on this one. It’s not worth it to the consumer in the long run. And no, I’m not German and no, I don’t work for either of these companies. Just a guy who got sick of buying second rate vacuums every 3 years.

    • Particle Man

      One shouldn’t listen to the masses, period. Not vacuums, not on
      anything, basically. Each circumstance is unique; we all have different
      needs, means, and preferences. One should consider all the options and
      strive to find the best fit. However, the best is often not what’s
      popular.

      While we were first shopping for a vacuum, I knew about
      Oreck but not Sebo or Miele. I discovered Miele at a local Oreck
      store. While we probably would’ve been pleased enough with Oreck, there
      really was no comparison. Miele is pricey, but at least we were able to
      get the display model!

      Isn’t it interesting which manufacturers
      are omitted from, for instance, Consumer Reports? But if you look deeper
      in Good Housekeeping, you will discover which products get–and don’t
      get–their seal.

      Ultimately, I would rather invest in quality once than cheapness time and time again.

      Why do so many vacuums, among other products, so often last such a short time? Learn about planned obsolescence some time.

    • grovberg

      Agreed for the most part, though I’d probably just suggest a different category for high-end vacuums rather than replacing this since many aren’t interested in spending that kind of money on a vacuum no matter what the long term value. Once this very Dyson started to fail me after around 4 years and I started researching, I discovered a whole class of vacuums that they don’t sell at Target (or any other big box). The are intended to be bought once and used for the rest of your life. Electrolux, Kirby and Miele all make vacuums meant to last a lifetime, but they also cost four figures in most cases. It’s a great value over the life of the machine, but a tall order to lay down that type of money on something as un-exciting as a vacuum.

      That said, these companies are also well aware of Dyson’s success and so have been entering the mid-quality market. So while you can get a Sebo or Electrolux for just a few hundred dollars more than a Dyson, it’s generally going to be of the same level of quality as a Dyson and shouldn’t be confused with these “heirloom” quality machines.

      • anonymous_hero

        I agree with you on having another category, but you couldn’t be more wrong on the quality issue. I bought a $600 Sebo Felix and it’s one of the best-made things in my house and only $100 more than a comparable Dyson. Check one out for yourself and you’ll see it’s made to last as long as any other product Sebo or Miele etc. makes.

    • anonymous_hero

      I am blown away to come back here and see that the Wirecutter looked at both and chose one of the best vacuums made. I was actually looking at both the Twist and the Felix and went with the Felix because we have no carpet in the house. Awesome to see their testing bear the same conclusions that I came to in my research. WELL DONE WIRECUTTER!!

    • A. Ignus

      >stop listening to the reviews of actual owners and support MY opinion!

  • Michael Polsinelli

    I like my Simplicity. Powerful, low profile, repairable, and made in the USA.

  • Allen

    Recently, a vacuum repair tech hosted an AMA on Reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1pe2bd/iama_vacuum_repair_technician_and_i_cant_believe/) and gave lots of insight about vacuums. I think he recommended Dyson with reservations if you really want a bagless vacuum, but that Riccar vacuums are much better. I had never heard of Riccar before this, but they are supposedly American-made and very powerful. I want a second opinion! Can you include them in your next round of reviews?

    • Marcy Holmes

      I’ve also heard that the Riccar beat the Dyson, so I’d love for sweethome to respond to that!

      • GC Clark

        I highly recommend Riccar. They’re far superior to any cheap Dyson vacs, and I feel rival the quality (if not the style) of Miele. They’re also not nearly as expensive as Miele.

  • Jeff Schmitz

    Well, I couldn’t wait any longer, so we bought a Dyson 50 Animal Upright. We are so far very pleased with it, though it was a little more than we wanted to spend. I would have loved to purchase it through Sweethome, but I can’t wait forever.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Aside from the wait status, this was a viable option at one point so I’m confident that while it’s a bit older, you still bought a great vacuum. There was a reason it was recommended in the first place!

      Also, feel free to read this :)

      http://thesweethome.com/how-to-support-the-sweethome/

      • Jeff Schmitz

        Good to know about the shopping link for anything, I’ll use it in the future.

        I was discussing the Dyson 50 – I don’t see that one in the review?

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Ahh ok. I saw the Dyson Animal and disregarded the 50/28 numbering scheme. I don’t believe the 50 was reviewed, but both are terrific choices. Is there anything you don’t like about the 50 so far? And was there something about the DC28 that turned you off from buying it?

          • Jeff Schmitz

            We love the 50. Amazed at how much dirt it pulled up compared to our old vac. Lightweight but powerful, haven’t encountered a problem yet.

            The reason I didn’t pick the 28 was because it was older, and I trust you guys that much that when you said wait, I didn’t want to bother. :)

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            Gotcha. Well I’m happy you got a great vacuum! Thanks for reading and if you want to stay up to date with everything, we have a newsletter for both Wirecutter & Sweethome. The Sweethome one is here:

            http://thesweethome.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=570aa9140d54361ad5a594320&id=e23d0abb6f

            thanks!

            tony

  • Andrew Kalinchuk

    We took another look at this category and switched our pick from the Dyson DC 28 Animal to the Miele S7210 Twist for larger spaces and the Miele S2 series (Capri for mostly bare floors and Delphi for more carpeting).

  • gyamashita

    i’ve owned the miele capri for about 6 years now…got it when we moved to our house that had mostly tile/hard floors. it’s amazingly quiety, has a slow start function, and the retractable cord is pretty snazzy. it’s very light and sucks very well. my two gripes: the cord is just a bit too short. it needs to be about 10 feet longer. second, the flexible tubing will sometimes kink because the tube isn’t pivoting correctly. it’s easily fixed, but it’s something that i have to watch out for.

  • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

    After owning a Dyson DC39 Animal for a few years, I would definitely not recommend one. I do have to say that the suction is amazing. It will pick up an astonishing amount of fine dust that you never knew existed. The first day we bought it, we tested it by fully vacuuming the house with our old vacuum, and then re-vacuuming with the Dyson. Let’s just say it convinced us immediately.

    The cons of the Dyson actually come into play in the long term. Everything is made of plastic, and pretty shoddily put together. It squeaks and gives every time you use it, making it feel cheap, like a Samsung smartphone. The DC39 is the canister version. It has a little clip to hold the rod in place like in the pictures, but it’s more of a balancing act than a holder. All you have to do is look at it wrong and it will fall out. Then there’s the canister. Let’s just say plastic, static, and fine dust do not go together well. Actually, they go together too well. It’s impossible to get everything clean. Fine dust will stick to every little nook and cranny, making your life hell trying to get it out. There are some Youtube videos showing you how to wash the canister, but the warranty forbids it. There’s barely any clearance between the suction compartment and the canister walls, so gunk and hair always gets stuck. That one-click throwaway motion that they advertise? Never happens. You have to get a stick or an old toothbrush and really work at it to get everything out. It also clogs often. Forget trying to just vacuum any big particles. It will all get stuck in the head, forcing you to pick up anything larger than a nickel. I’m surprised the article claimed that the Dyson was not stellar but ok in the clog test. My experience differs greatly, but it may just be the canister and not the upright.

    The Miele Twist is definitely out of my price range (bought my Dyson at around $280-ish new thanks to a very complicated pricematch/coupon/CC discount) but my next vacuum will definitely not be a Dyson.

  • Evan James

    Any tests done on battery-powered vacuums?

    I currently own a Hoover LINX thing (http://www.amazon.com/Hoover-Cordless-Stick-Vacuum-Cleaner/dp/B001PB8EJ2) and it’s been amazing for my one-bedroom apartment. Not having to plug in/manage a power cable has been a revelation and makes vacuuming a daily habit. Battery life wouldn’t work for a house, but it’s fine for apartment living.

  • ACMEsalesrep

    We have a Kenmore canister vacuum that’s about thirteen years old. I’d concur regarding loudness, difficulty in steering, and reliability. We had to replace the cord retractor mechanism just after the warranty expired, and despite relatively light use over the years the electrical connection in the cord is failing (and it’s not just the power head – the motor won’t run without it either as the power switch is in the handle). If forced, we might consider getting another; realistically, however, we’ll limp along until we buy something in the $400–$500 range.

  • David Joyce

    Maybe you should have a category for “Best Bagless Home Vacuum Clearner”. Cause my wife pretty adamantly does not want a bagged vacuum, committing to buying bags all the time.

    • Liam McCabe

      Hi David — if you want to go bagless, grab a Dyson DC28 refurb if you can find it, or Dyson DC41 otherwise, for sure for the reasons we touch on in the guide. As for buying bags, Miele sells theirs in packs of four (including filters), which is a year’s supply (your mileage may vary a bit). Buy a few boxes at a time, and you can go years without replenishing. Compared to the hassle of cleaning the filters and bin on a bagless machine, bags are arguably less of a commitment. Thanks for reading!

      • Green-billed Magpie

        My current bag-filter vacuum annoys me because the pet fur and litter dust seem to coat the bag very quickly and reduce the suction. Being able to empty the container after every use seems like a better solution than changing the bag every other week. Did your tests in any way suggest that this *wouldn’t* be an issue with the high end bag vacuums? (the article mentions loss of suction isn’t a problem, but I’m finding it hard to believe. The article also makes it sound like emptying a cannister is a hassle, but I have no issue doing it after every use.)

        • jj

          I can’t speak for other bagged vacuums, but I never notice my Miele lose suction. So I laugh at the Dyson “losing suction” tag line.
          I have a small apartment with hardwood floors. I’ve no pets, but I have long curly hair. And because they’re always doing construction near my home, there is noticeable new dust every couple days. I vacuum every couple of days. I would say 1 bag lasts me 7-8 months (I last changed my bag back in the summer, and I would say it is less than 1/3 full from when I peeked at it last week). I own a S6 Jasper, so I have the relatively smaller bags.

  • David Joyce

    Full disclosure, before this article was updated My wife and I (not knowing what the Sweethome’s pick would be) bought the Dyson DC41. We had to do our own research and came to the conclusion that the DC41 was the one to get. So I was a little bummed when I saw that the Sweethome came to a different conclusion. But I have no problem with the pick, I think it’s interesting to see a bagged vacuum as the top pick over a bagless.

    But I think it’s disconcerting to see this statement from you: “I didn’t hear anything positive about any bagless canister vacuums, so I didn’t spend much time looking into Dyson’s offerings.”

    This seems very hard (read impossible) to believe. The Dyson DC-41 is the elephant in this room and you’re just choosing to ignore it? There is plenty of positivity around this bagless canister vacuum. Here’s just a few…

    4 out of 5 stars on Amazon
    “It’s easy to maneuver, and light and easy to carry up and down stairs.” (77 similar comments)
    http://www.amazon.com/Dyson-DC41-Animal-Bagless-Cleaner/dp/B005FQMALQ

    “Yes that’s right, I’ve finally found a Dyson product (and vacuum in general) that I feel confident slapping the cherished “Perfect” label on. The DC41 is quite possibly the best vacuum cleaner out there, you just have to get over the price point.”
    – Editor at GadgetReview.com
    http://www.gadgetreview.com/2012/07/dyson-dc41-review.html

    “My favorite qualities of the Dyson DC41? The suction (yes, it’s amazing!), the ease of use, the attachments, how well it vacuums on hard floors, how well it vacuums my floors. I could go on and on. If you’re in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, or if your vacuum cleaner isn’t performing like it used to, you need to check out the Dyson DC41.”
    – Becky at CleanMama.net
    http://www.cleanmama.net/2013/10/vacuum-cleaner-review-dyson-dc41.html

    “If you hear Dyson, and vacuum being used in the same sentence, there’s a good chance the topic is about how well they work, and that whole, “never losing suction” thing. As a cleaning aficionado (aka neat freak), I was certainly intrigued by all this talk of fancy vacuums, and wanted to see if they were up to par. Lo and behold, a Dyson DC41 Animal arrived on my doorstep, and the results were astonishing.”
    – Chris Scott Barr at OhGizmo.com
    http://www.ohgizmo.com/2012/03/07/ohgizmo-review-dyson-dc41-animal/

    Editors pick at Wired.com scoring 8 out of 10
    “Less bulky than previous models. As agile as a robotic dragonfly — which it resembles. Brush bar automatically adjusts to floor surfaces.”
    http://www.wired.com/reviews/2011/11/ft_vacuums/

    “We are really impressed with the cleaning performance of the Dyson DC41. It coped well with our house, alarmingly managing to fill half a bucket, even though we had cleaned with our previous vacuum (also a Dyson) a couple of days earlier. In fact Mrs Pocket-lint was keen to comment that it managed to add new “fluffiness” to our living room rug. Praise indeed.”
    – Stuart Miles at Pocket-Lint
    http://www.pocket-lint.com/review/72716-dyson-dc-41-vacuum-cleaner-review

    “After endless searching for a vacuum cleaner that could combat the mess of a family with six children under the age of 10, three dogs and two cats, I ran across the Dyson DC41 Animal Bagless Vacuum cleaner. Reading reviews and comparing, I immediately knew this was a cleaner that I had to have in my life. The vacuum knocked me off of my feet with impressive features and I think it is a cleaner you’ll find just as amazing as I did.”
    – Vacuum Judge
    http://www.vacuumjudge.com/dyson-dc41-animal-bagless-vacuum-cleaner-review/

    • David Joyce

      They did review the DC41 pretty well and explained why it wasn’t their pick. I think they just didn’t spend much time looking into more of Dyson’s offerings beyond the DC41.

      • Liam McCabe

        Not the canister vacs, no, because a dearth of reviews, and none of the people I interviewed mentioned them or any bagless canisters. But other Dyson uprights—DC40, DC50, older DC28 I did look at, and the DC41 was clearly the best. Thanks!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We also took a look at the Dyson DC28 on our Best Cheap Vacuum post.

      http://thesweethome.com/reviews/the-best-cheap-vacuum/

      Did you have a chance to look at the prior to making your decision?

    • Liam McCabe

      Hi there — when I say bagless canister vacuums, I mean the style where the motor and dust collection bin are in a separate unit from the cleaning head on the end of an extension wand, and connected by a hose. Like our alternate picks, the Miele Capri and Delphi. The DC41 and Miele Twist are upright vacuums, where everything is housed in one pushable unit.

      The DC41 is a very good vacuum—lots of great reviews, and it was one of five models I took for a very close look at because of those reviews. I looked at other Dyson uprights, but the DC41 was the standout.

      But as for Dyson canisters (or other bagless canister-style vacuums), it’s hard to find many good reviews. One reason is probably that they’re just not as popular —outsold by uprights 10 to 1 in the US. We touch on that in the article a bit. Also bagless canisters have small dust bins, so you have to empty them pretty frequently.

      Hope that clears it up, thanks for reading.

  • http://ignorethecode.net LKM

    The article mentions that Dyson owners tend to like Dysons. I own a Dyson DC29 DB Allergy. Let me offer a contrarian opinion.

    About a year ago, I decided that it was time to buy a new vacuum. I didn’t want to buy another crappy product. Instead of buying something cheap and shoddy and replacing it in another few years, I figured I’d go with something nice, and keep it for a decade or so. So I bought a Dyson, thinking that these were the best vacuums available.

    First, the things I like:

    One, it’s extremely strong, and doesn’t lose suction as it fills up. It’s much stronger than any other vacuum I’ve owned.

    Two, I like the bag-less system. Vacuums that require bags seem slightly crazy to me. Why buy a vacuum that requires constant investment when you can buy one that does not?

    Now, the stuff I did not like.

    First of all, my Dyson doesn’t allow you to adjust its suction strength. It goes full power, all the time, unless you pull a trigger, which makes it step down to a much lower power. You can’t just adjust the power down a bit, and vacuum at that level. Either it’s full power, or you pull the trigger all the time, and it’s much less powerful. Why is this a problem? I have stuff that needs to be vacuumed gently. For example, I have a wood rug. The first time I vacuumed it, the Dyson was so strong that it simply tore some of the wooden parts out of the rug. But when the trigger is pulled, it’s not strong enough to properly clean out the areas between the wooden parts.

    Second, the vacuum head is terrible. It tends to bend a bit, and suck itself to the ground. If that happens, you have to lift the head to detach it from the ground, which requires some force, because the Dyson is so strong. It really attaches itself to the ground. I know people who refuse to use that vacuum, because this particular problem so annoying. Also, stuff often gets stuck in the head, and cleaning it is not easy.

    Third, it’s not well made. For example, the little nub that holds the tube when the vacuum isn’t in use is so poorly made that the whole contraption bends when the tube is attached to it, and eventually causes the tube to fall out of the nub.

    Finally, the plastic canister is really hard to clean, and dirt gets stuck everywhere. This isn’t a huge problem, since you can just clean out the parts with water, but it has to be possible to create these things in a way that doesn’t make dirt stick to them. I think the canister somehow receives a static charge that prevents some of the dirt from just falling out of it when you want to empty it.

    In conclusion: Dysons are very powerful and don’t require bags. Unfortunately, everything else is poorly thought through, and poorly made.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Great feedback. Thank you!

    • ThatGuy

      Yes it’s true that Dyson owners tend to like Dyson. But then Dyson owners usually haven’t owned a decent vacuum before. I’ve yet to meet a person who owned Miele and Dyson and prefers Dyson, but I’ve met a few who prefer Miele. Have you owned a Miele? The bag issue as far as pricing goes is largely irrelevant. You’re talking a box of bags per year for most people, that is $20 a year. For that $20 you get the benefit of only have to empty your vacuum 4 times per year, rather than almost every use with a Dyson. You also get a cleaner vacuum internally which helps longer vacuum life as well as not opening your vacuum and letting out that fine dust everywhere. You also don’t need to empty your Dyson into…..wait for it….a rubbish bin bag.

      Perhaps I should add that a Miele S8310 is cheaper here in Australia than a DC39. ~$400.

  • Lorne Sutherland

    We’ve owned a Miele s4 for a dew years now and have been very happy with it. The only drawback so far is bag capacity, they seem a bit on the small side. If I had it to do over I’d probably check and see if bag capacity on other Miele models(such as the S2) is greater. We were also able to purchase a small adapter with it so we could use non-Miele attachments which are much cheaper. Not that I’ve ever gotten any other attachments but it’s nice to know they are there. Overall though a great purchase. I hate vacuum noise generally but ours is very tolerable.

  • dsf

    This vaccume sucks. It doesn’t even connect to my wii, or my nintendo DS.

  • http://lucasarruda.com/ Lucas Arruda
  • Amina Masic

    You are all idiots for paying 450 for a vacuum with a bag! Dyson is a life changer. Enough said

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We used to rec the Dyson. We tested Dyson in this guide. Did you read it?

      • Nar2

        No, I haven’t read the Dyson report in this guide. I’ll get back to you as soon as I do.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          I’ll be here to answer any questions I can help with!

    • Nar2

      Dyson isn’t a life changer when the filters start to require cleaning after a year’s use. Then you may find that even after washing and allowing it to dry, the power isn’t the same. Then you’ll have to buy a filter. What’s that about life changing? Not exactly. Also the bagged vacuums are far quieter on the ears and better built. In the UK, the German brands get top spot for reliability; Dyson doesn’t!

  • Nar2

    The SEBO Felix gets my vote! I’ve had mine since they came out in 2005, it will nearly be 10 years old and the only things required to replace on it have been the filters and obviously dust bags when required. This model should not be judged as a rival to Miele’s S7 though as the dust bag capacity is far smaller, designed to rival Miele’s S6, or similar bagged uprights or canisters with a 3.5 litre capacity. I also have a Miele for use above the floor line, so I get the best of both worlds.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We had lots of great things to say about the Sebo Felix, but ultimately found there were more issues with it than features, including cost. We have a nice 2 paragraph section that goes in-depth on why it didn’t make the final cut. Here’s a brief pro/con list made up of some data above:

      Pros:
      Cleans anything on any surface.
      Handling is effortless.
      It’s quiet and light
      No clog/easy to fix if it does clog
      There’s a trap-door cleanout port
      Brush roller can slide out of the vacuum sideways easily

      Cons:
      It isn’t AAFA certified
      Doesn’t have HEPA filters
      More expensive than the Twist ($600)
      If you’re switching between carpets and bare floors, it’s not convenient
      Upright vacuum has separate cleaning heads for bare floors/carpets.
      You need to turn off the vacuum, bend over, pull out one head & swap another one in when you switch surfaces
      There’s no off switch for the brush roller on the power head, which is a bad thing on bare floors.
      Short hose
      Tips over easily (it actually doesn’t stand at all when the floor tool is attached)

      But thank you for the feedback!

  • Nar2

    In reply to Tom Kaye – you obviously haven’t done your research. When Miele first brought out what you now know as HEPA, it was called S-Class. S-Class is higher than HEPA standard and SEBO have always had S-Class filtration which seems to have gone over your head. On the basis that both GHI, British Allergy Foundation and the German Institutes for Health have both found SEBO and Miele to have S-Class filtration as standard and tested it so, conforms the SEBO to HEPA standard. Further more you refer to the SEBO as if it is an upright proper vacuum but it isn’t – its a long cylinder body with a removable floor head with Parquet option – a similar design by Vorwerk has been on the market for years before that as well as Miele’s own S160 series, a stick vacuum with the option of PN and floor tools LIKE THE FELIX. As such the Felix shouldn’t have been pitched against the Miele S7 – and even if it is more expensive to BUY, you get nearly twice as many dust bags for Miele’s highly expensive generic 4 in a box. Also, the SEBO’s main PN floor head has a circular push button to stop the brush roll. Had you actually looked at that design you’d have seen that for yourself. Therefore “switching between hard floor and carpet IS convenient,” when all it takes is a press of a foot on a button!
    As the Miele S7 WAS designed for the U.S market, it doesn’t surprise me that it does well – and yes I have owned one. Far too big for UK home due to its bulky size and unbelievably from a company who bring you buttons to unlock and lock things on, the bottom hose is wired in by two screws which are most unhelpful if you have clogged hair to remove between the bag and the hose. The brush roll in addition doesn’t have a removable section as either the SEBO FELIX or the SEBO X4/WINDSOR Sensor (older model), also made by SEBO. Which UK also rate SEBO number one for reliability and cleaning performance. So when a “report” like yours comes along that looks professional, it really doesn’t go far enough to show the main differences between brands and their models for general households and future buyers.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      I was merely copying information from this guide and placing it in pro/con format. Our researcher on this piece is Liam McCabe. I can ask him to give you a better answer if you’d like as I am not a researcher and merely a community ambassador. But thanks for the feedback!

    • Robert Banks

      Thanks a lot for your comment brother. I would of never considered a SEBO if I had gone only with what was stated in the review.

  • AJACs

    I love my dyson (I hate having to deal with bags) but I hate its attachments, especially in my small home with all wooden floors. I got the canister configuration and I ended up hacking off the end of the dyson crevice tool to slip on the end of a pole from my old kenmore canister vac. Now I can use my kenmore attachments on my dyson. It’s a ridiculous thing to have to do for such an expensive vacuum.

  • Antreen

    I can’t afford a high-end vac right now, but living with someone for awhile that’s not clean and has 3 shedding, barfing pets, and is generally averse to dusting. Would you buy a used Riccar (about 5 yrs old – it’s white with a wood brush underneath r500 I think) for under $100 or go for a lower end new (Shark or Hoover Pet vac). We have equal carpet and hardwood. Looking at Shark, Hoover T-series Pet, Hoover Windtunnel bagged (although the accompanying canister seems to be crap and does poor on hardwood?). Found someone selling a new Samsung champagne-colored canister as well. Should prob stay off craigslist, but I want something good and I’m champagne taste on a beer budget. There are some affordable kenmore vacs on amazon as well… So many choices – SO confused!
    I have a tiny 4-lb short nosed dog who has struggled with congestion and ear issues ever since moving here – vet says dogs can be allergic to cats. So I need to make sure I keep things clean to protect him.
    Appreciate any advice – the low-end vacuum market is absolutely overwhelming!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      This is our pick for best budget/cheap vacuum. Hope this helps!

      http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-cheap-vacuum/

    • http://batman-news.com Phil Salvatore

      Find a clean used Kenmore Whispertone. They are abundant on Craigslist and ebay. If cleanliness of the machine is a consideration take it apart yourself and sanitize it (easier than it sounds, they come apart easily) or have your favorite vacuum shop do it. They look modern but have old school American made Lamb 5.7 inch motors with big two stage fans housed in a plastic inner case so they are quiet. They have excellent suction, hoses are rebuildable, an 8-foot section of replacement hose costs abouth $45 from Sears. They have full sized tools and conventional 1 1/4 inch diameter wands. All your favorite tools left over from your old vacuums still fit. You can use a HEPA Q bag in them or the paper C bag. They are about the most durable used vacuum you will find. Those old beater bar Powermates clean carpet very well and are likewise durable. Sears still stocks a lot of parts for them on Sears Parts Direct. The motors don’t spin as fast as those in modern vacuums and thus last a very long time. They can be rebuilt by any decent vacuum shop. I like to back the foam pre-motor filter with some Electrolux bulk filter media I buy for five bucks and cut to fit. A powered Pet Powermate is available or use a turbine brush. Fine vacuum if you want to buy used.

  • JimRPh

    I’d like to know how the noise level and edge cleaning compared between the Twist and the S2?

    I have a Eureka Harmony canister that is quiet but has no suction power, and a second use jammed cleaning head, a horribly loud Dirt Devil upright that has suction, but doesn’t do edges well, and an almost equally loud Kenmore upright that does a mediocre job. I’m ready for a change, and need quiet for my cats and power and effectiveness for my floors. Thanks!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      “Miele S6 series — This is the mid-range canister series. Apparently these have better sealing than the S2 canisters and better noise insulation (the S2 is still pretty quiet). But they’re more expensive and use smaller bags. They’re in no man’s land.”

      “Many upright vacuums struggle when it comes to cleaning corners or edges because cleaning heads are designed to pull the most air from in front of the vacuum. But the Miele (Twist) actually excels at edges because it has some extra air-flow vents along the frame of the cleaning head.”

      • JimRPh

        Thank you! How is the noise between the uprights like the Twist and the canisters. Now, I went and looked at Sebo’s and I’m really confused. Any clues for the clueless are appreciated. Thanks again!

        • Nar2

          Depends on what you need. The Felix has a far more compact feel than the Miele S7 and the SEBO Felix is a versatile design if you live in a small flat or medium sized home. You get a much smaller dust bag in the SEBO but twice as many at the same cost as Miele – so it kind of pays off. Also the Miele isn’t as user friendly to unclog . The bigger bagged X series from SEBO offers similar bag capacity to Miele but it is a far older upright by design. True it doesn’t swivel and its a gentle upright for the home, not for abrasive cleaning. But if you want something that lasts, it is SEBO all the way. I have both but I prefer SEBO – its not as expensive to keep.

          • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

            Hey Nar2—thanks for chiming in throughout these threads. I liked the Felix quite a bit when I tested for this guide, one the three finalists for uprights (out of dozens of vacuums out there). Does a great job cleaning and it’s easier to unclog as you mentioned. Good to hear the upkeep is easy—my parents have owned a Felix for the better part of a decade now, they say the same thing. I have family with a Miele upright too, and they say it hasn’t given them any trouble either.

            Like I mention, I sided with the Twist because I’m assuming that most readers (here in the US) have mixed wood / carpet flooring, and with the Miele you don’t need to bend over and swap heads like you do with the Felix. Even if you get the version of the Felix with the turbo/combi brush head (which I believe is the only version sold outside of North America?), it’s not going to clean thick carpets as effectively as the motorized head. Also, the Twist is $150 cheaper here in the States. So it was a few things that added up in favor of the Twist.

            I don’t think you can go wrong either way, and anyone who does the research and decides the Felix works better for their setup is probably right. But for the typical US homes (occupied by folks who’d pay for a high quality vacuum), with pretty substantial middle-pile carpet coverage, I think the Twist is easier to clean with. Might need a bit extra attention and bags cost a bit more (though 3rd party bags are affordable), but the day-to-day benefits of just being able to plug the thing in and vacuum the whole house in one pass tips the scales.

            But thanks again for all the comments, it’s really helpful to somebody who has used both models pretty extensively.

          • Nar2

            Ty for your comment. You don’t have to swap heads on the Felix – there is a brush roll on/off button on the ET-1 power nozzle that switches off, same as the Miele S7 (though you do it on the handle). Thus, the test of this vacuum against Miele’s S7 is inaccurate. Also the Felix now has an optional polisher power head available, great for those who want to polish hard floors without water and also sucks up the dust at the same time. Miele can’t offer that. I am failing to see how Sebo’s Felix would be more difficult than the Miele S7 though. It is far more nimble, weighs far less than the S7 and everything comes off at the touch of a button – even the hose comes out compared to Miele who stitch theirs in rather unwisely with 2 screws –useless if there’s clogged pet hair. Yes, the S7 is a full size upright but the Sebo Felix is not and that’s why this test isn’t all that fair. See my video on You Tube – it is long but it explains everything about this model. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DepTw8defWM

        • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

          In practice all the Miele vacs are reasonably quiet—you can have a conversation without raising your voice much. Canisters seemed a bit quieter to me, but I think that’s because they’re closer to the ground / further from your ears.

        • rlw

          Sebo and Miele. Sebo has more engineering in it like brush pop off removal, etc but consider having holding your Miele hose in one hand and $400 in the other hand or just holding a Sebo.

      • Nar2

        Actually the S6 is meant for smaller homes with limited space, hence the smaller dust bag. The S6 is a super compact vac and unlike the budget built S2, the S6 features the one touch cord rewind pedal – one touch is all you need to rewind the cable back in, unlike doing a balancing act by keeping your foot on the cord rewind pedal on both the S2 and the outgoing S5.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Just quoting the guide that our editors wrote.

          • Nar2

            Ive been product reviewing from vacuums I have owned since 2002. Im quoting my own experience here, to benefit others here.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            Great! Input like this is always welcome!

        • rlw

          I tried both in the store and bought the S2. There is actually not much difference in canister size. The sealing is a rubber seal around the bag area. The one touch only works if the cord does not get the cord tangled. The standard cord rewind is fast. My four year old one has the standard one and it is easy to use.

    • rlw

      I spent some time playing with both Miele S2 and S6 models and a Miele Salsa upright. Here is my subjective opinion. The S2 is about the same noise level as the upright, can have a hepa filter added, and the case is sealed better than most other vacs anyway. The canister S2 Delphi offers the most options if you configure it properly. Get the Twist attachment for bare floors it swivels 180 degrees and will put you in any corner and between tight spaces better than any upright. None of the S2 models come with it. Buy the Delphi with the power head, save the $100 from the Titan with the wrong attachment. With the twist attachment and the Centex 20 foot hose kit from Italy, you will be able to clean anything and everywhere.

      • rlw

        Here is the twist attachment for Miele canisters- fabulous. It matches your wand angle AND twists all the way around too for bare floor, edges and tight space cleaning.

  • Julia Allan
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  • branwright

    Really would love to see your thoughts on that Hoover Air Cordless. It’s available now, and the price is right, but I’m definitely nervous about the battery power.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Our researcher says that we will be looking at this and others in the future. A quote “It’s only recently that we’re seeing <10 lb, battery powered vacuums (like Hoover Air Cordless, Dyson DC59) that are any good, starting to become a reasonable alternative to full-size, plug-in vacuums. – However it doesn't really compete with the Miele or high-end Dysons". He went on to say we will likely be adding some of these newer models as 'Also Good' or 'Lightweight' picks.

      I know that doesn't answer your question exactly, but we just haven't had time to test it yet. I'll let you know when we do!

      • branwright

        Many thanks for the response! I was afraid they really wouldn’t replace a corded Miele or Dyson yet, so I just wanted to be sure. Keep up the great work!

  • James Barton

    I was continuously looking for a review site for vacuum cleaner, I found http://vacuumshut.com very helpful, Price comparison, Vacuum cleaner reviews, and rating available there.

  • rlw

    Very nice review. Just spent three days reading and shopping for a vacuum. I have a large home but 100% tile with oriental area rugs in four rooms. Prior to seeing your article I narrowed in on Miele and Panasonic canisters then came home with a Miele S2 Delphi- oddly without a hard floor brush. I bought a used Miele twister brush on ebay for $39. I have a Miele S246 in my RV that is five years old and like new. The thing about the models of Miele is that you can add just about any feature to any model with the exception of canister bells and whistles. All that park stand-by and auto suction to me is overkill and something else that can go wrong.

    For the record I also want to state that what started my Miele quest was the purchase of an Electrolux Oxy something or other- the most expensive one. I purchased it locally at Sears. Thank goodness they were helpful. The first month the powerhead quit working, I called the company and because I paid a close-out price at the store, they refused warranty! Sears took care of it for me. No physical damage apparent, just dead. Then about 10 months old it started shutting off on its own after about 5-10 minutes of run time. I called the company again and got the same story. Sears vacs had a 90 day so now I was in trouble. I found out that the controller boards were faulty in them via the Internet but the board required warranty work and I wold have to pay- so wrong. I traded it in on the 246 Miele and was very happy. The only reason I am buying another model (above) is that I now have carpets and the 246 is suction only no motorized head. I tested the turbo head like on the Capri and even though the turbo head is amazingly good for just air turning power, I like the power head of the Delphi better for my rugs with cats in the house.

    Question to testers. I have heard that the S2 being the cheaper series is not as durable as the S6- that the power button and top of case fail. Is there any truth to this? I know it is warranted 7 years but just curious.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Cool, hope the Delphi works out for you, and thanks for the info on Electrolux.

      So yeah it stands to reason that the S2 wouldn’t be quite as durable as the S6, that’s how they got the cost down and can still make it in a German factory. I read a few things about the S2 needing body repairs from time to time, but as far as I can tell there’s no widespread epidemic of failing/breaking parts, and Miele seems to stand behind the products as far as I can tell. I wouldn’t worry about it. The S6 just seemed like a much harder sell—it’s hundreds extra over a comparable S2 if you want a power brush, and smaller to boot. And the S2 is plenty sturdy compared to canisters from most other brands.

      • rlw

        Yeah, I “played” with an S6 at the dealer, the plastic is similar to my S246- a tad thicker but that would not be a selling point for me. The S2 will do just fine.

  • http://thereviewsquad.com The Review Squad

    Great review! The Review Squad also did a roundup of the best vacuum for high pile carpet that’s worth checking out before making a purchase.

  • Kate Schroeder

    If you wanted to upgrade the Capri later on, would you be able to purchase the electric hose and essentially turn it into the Delphi? I am curious because I currently have mostly hardwood floors but if I were to move to a place with more carpeting, it would be nice to know that I would still have a useful vacuum.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Yep, you can upgrade. The Capri still has the proper hookup on its body for an electric hose. Cost is an issue though, and as I lay this out it seems pretty steep—you need to upgrade three parts to get to Delphi status. $150 for the cheapest power brush (electric powered) cleaning head, $125 for the cheapest electric hose, and looks like $115 for the electrified wand. You might be able to get some package discount from a dealer but Miele’s pricing is famously inflexible.

      So if it’s something you’re concerned about, the better deal is to just buy the Delphi and add the parquet tool for $60. The power brush on the Delphi will still be useful on your carpet now, and it’s future-proofing.

    • rlw

      I would not. Like Liam says, the Capri does not have the electric hose, the electric wand or the power head. The power head alone is just over $100. By the time you get it all, you are looking at about $300.

  • Sammye

    I appreciate your thorough assessments and evaluations. It appears that the Miele Twist is the one for me. I just read reviews on Amazon, however, to discover that a number of folks say that the suction is poor and that the system repeatedly clogs. In addition, one person, who thought he had purchased a lemon, said that Miele told him they do not accept returns. Can you comment on both matters: why might they find the suction poor and the system easily clogged? Does the Miele seven-year warranty cover returns if justified? This warranty is am important part of a $450 purchase. How can I know precisely what it covers?

    • rlw

      They carry the Twist at BB&B and have a return policy. The warranty of the product is on unit failure.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Can you link to some of the these reviews where Miele has refused service/returns?

      • Sammye

        Amazon one-star review entitled “Worst Vacuum I’ve Ever Owned and Zero Consumer Support from Miele — Buyer Beware.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Link?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Suction / clogging: In the tests I did, the Twist was the only one that didn’t clog at all. But all vacuums will clog eventually, and if there are long-haired people or pets in the house, the roller bar will get tangled. The Twist has a number of clean-out ports (opened with a flathead screwdriver or coin) that make it pretty easy to clear any clogs. Untangling the roller bar isn’t as smooth / effortless as with some other vacs, because it’s harder to get at the roller bar. But the trick is to use a razor blade in the clear-out row to slice away at the hair, and then pull it loose. Again, all vacuums require a certain amount of maintenance. The Twist should require less than most, and it’s pretty easy to handle when you do need to fix something.

      Warranty / returns: As with most products, you’re generally supposed to return defective products to the retailer you bought it from, not the manufacturer. Amazon has a very good return policy, FWIW. Miele’s warranty covers body failure (cracked casing, broken swivel joint) or motor failure for 7 years. That’s about as good as it gets. So this Amazon reviewer probably misunderstood the warranty/return difference (or just didn’t listen). Generally, you’d get service done at a local Miele authorized repair shop (there are 100s in the US) under the warranty, rather than sending it to a service center. Here’s the link to Miele’s vacuum warranty:

      http://www.mieleusa.com/warranty/Vacuum.asp

      A vacuum like this is a big purchase, so it’s understandable why poor reviews might make you nervous. But the Twist has a ton of great ratings, very positive for a category that tends to skew low. In all the research I did, it seemed like most of the negative ratings for vacuums across the board were because of user error—owners either had unrealistic expectations of what their vacs could handle, or they didn’t do any maintenance/upkeep.

      Anyhow, hope this helps!

      • http://batman-news.com Phil Salvatore

        The nearest Miele dealer, which is also the nearest Riccar/Simplicity dealer, is 95 miles away. The next closest one is about 125 miles away. The nearest Sebo dealer is 83 miles away. The nearest Sears outlet is 4 miles away. Something to consider. Sears will also service the other brands of vacuums they sell.

        • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

          We did consider the distance to Miele dealers, and in most parts of the country, there plenty of places to get a Miele serviced. I know that doesn’t do much for you personally, but most people are probably just as close to a Miele/Simplicity/Sebo shop as they are to a Sears. Just curious, where are you located?

          • http://batman-news.com Phil Salvatore

            Liam,

            I live in Ridgecrest California. The east coast is a lot more densely populated and you don’t usually have to drive as far to find what you want. There is good and bad to that. On the west, outside the big coastal cities distances are great, cities few and far between and winter driving conditions truly demanding. Chains required. The major artery where I live, US 395 hits 8200 feet. Much of I-15 north of Nevada runs at 6000 feet. The San Joaquin Valley is more densly populated but it’s poor. Farm workers aren’t buying high end anything. East of the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas, it is mostly small towns isolated by great distances. Sears outlets and K-Marts abound. Wallyworld a little less so. So you can shop a half way decent Kenmore vacuum or the plastivacs at Wallyworld and K-Mart. You can buy anything on line and UPS is happy to deliver it, but after that you are on your own.

            Phil

            Subject: Re: New comment posted on The Best Home Vacuum Cleaners

  • http://www.vacpartstogo.com vacpartstogo.com

    Dyson is great at marketing. Vacuum quality is not there. There are many factors like suction and how the brush rollers turn that make a good vacuum. I have learned that just because it looks nice, doesn’t make it a good vacuum.

  • G Close

    We bought the Sebo X4 about two years ago. It has outstanding build quality, which I love. It folds low enough so that I can vacuum under our bed, which is great. Easy to push. Overall performance is just fair, however. The actual suction is not very impressive, given the price. I think it will last a long time, at least. We see this vacuum very often at hotels in the more drab grey color, so they are popular in the professional applications.

    • http://batman-news.com Phil Salvatore

      I have it’s Windsor twin. It is a great vacuum for commercial short pile carpets, but in deep pile carpets in the home, the finicky belt sensor misinterprets the drag on the brush roller from thick carpet as a belt jam and shuts the vacuum down. It has enough suction to suck right down into the carpet like it should, but the overly sensitive belt sensor prevents the machine from doing the job.

  • disqus_r4AcDMfPAL

    Important question: how often do Miele change their bag model?

    Back story: Ten plus years ago, my mom bought a bagged vacuum. Six months later, we go to buy more bags for that vacuum, and we get “oh, that bag model has been discontinued.” And that, more than anything else, has been why we’ve stuck with bagless vacuums.

    But if Meile uses a consistent bag model that’s been around for 5/10/20 years and/or is back-compatible and/or they don’t decide to just stop making certain bag models, that’s a different story.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      That’s a great question. I’m not sure, but since Miele is willing to put their vacuums under a 7-year warranty, I’d imagine that they keep the bag models around for at least that long.

    • http://batman-news.com Phil Salvatore

      I have 30 year old Kenmore vacuums that use the same Q bag used by current production Kenmores. My old Panasonic Jet Flo also uses the same bag.
      Kenmore sells bags for my forty year old canister vacuum, the 5033 bag, but paper only. I use a HEPA bag for a Numatic Henry in them instead.

    • jj

      Miele bag backwards compatibility is excellent. Bring your old box (or snap a picture of your bag) to a Miele dealer and they’ll get you the correct new version of the bag.

  • http://www.vilaku.com vilaku
  • http://batman-news.com Phil Salvatore

    No mention of Panasonic? They make a very good canister vacuum and their top of the line model, while sporting the same basic features and performance as a Kenmore Elite canister is priced lower. Panasonic has also remained true to using traditional sized wands and full sized suction tools. You can still put your favorite old horse hair floor brush on a Panasonic wand. You can’t do that with many modern vacuums. Miele, Sebo, Riccar and the rest have all cut corners and provide laughable childrens toys as suction tools while Panasonic uses the same tools Kenmore used three decades ago. Electrolux uses proprietary wands that won’t fit the old tools you have down on the floor of your closet. Also, while a good vacuum, no one ever mentions how useless Kenmore’s new style of tools are. It’s a shame because the Progressive is a good vacuum otherwise.
    The author is apparently not qualified to clear a jam if he finds a Kenmore Powermate hard to disassemble. Of all the powered floor brushes out there the Panasonic brush Kenmore uses is the simplist and most durable of the bunch. It comes apart in seconds if you know how to use simple tools and the tabs do not break off as he suggests. An Aerus-Lux brush is work to clear a jam in and it has lots of fragile little wires. The Panasonic/Kenmore brush is simple and durable having been in production for nearly 40 years. The top cover changes, but you can swap motors and brushes between a new Kenmore brush and a 30 year old one. It is the industry standard.

  • http://www.myheartandmyskull.tumblr.com Lauren

    So, I am ready to buy a Miele upright but I HATE that blue color (my vacuum isn’t stored in a closet, unfortunately). I would prefer a neutral color… I feel so silly paying an extra $150 not to have a blue vacuum. So much so, that I’m considering a canister vacuum. I’ve never really used a canister vacuum. My place isn’t big, but someday it could be.

    People out there who have one… are canisters more annoying to use than uprights?

    • jj

      Personal preference. Uprights push, canisters pull.

      Tip, how do you feel about a deep red? Go to a local Miele dealer and ask for the Miele Salsa. It is $50 more, but it comes with the fantastic Miele HEPA filter. With the Twist, you’d have to buy the HEPA, which costs…. $50. So it’s a wash. Plus, the Salsa comes with a LED light, which is a nice to have.

      (If you’re in NYC, look up Flamtech).

    • Raphael

      Lauren, you should see the patriot hybrid, before you buy this 100+ year-old technology. Really. raphael

  • http://www.andrewjaffe.net/blog defjaf

    It looks like the Miele S2 isn’t available here in the UK anymore. Any experience with the newer C2 line (it looks like there are two sub-lines, the “compact” and “complete”)?

    • jj

      Looks like they decided to rename the series in UK.
      C1 is the S2 series
      C2 Compact = S6
      C2 Complete = S5 (the precursor to the S8)
      C3 = S8