Vacuum cleaners are trading power and capacity for convenience. But if a small vacuum won’t cut it for your house cleaning, canister vacuums still exist—and they’re better than ever. Comprised of three main parts—the canister (with the motor and filter), the hose, and the wand—today’s canister vacs still roll on wheels, but they’re lighter, so they can cover a lot of ground with ease. Sucked-up dirt and debris settle into a dust cup or bag, which can hold far more than a stick vacuum can.
If that sounds ideal for your house, read on to learn what features to look for while shopping and why these are among the best canister vacuum options available.
- BEST OVERALL: Eureka NEN110A Whirlwind Bagless Canister Vacuum
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Eureka Mighty Mite 3670M Corded Canister Vacuum
- BEST BAGLESS: Bissell Powergroom Bagless Canister Vacuum
- BEST BAGGED: Oreck Commercial BB900DGR XL Pro 5
- BEST FOR PET HAIR: Ovente Bagless Canister Vacuum with HEPA Filter
- MOST PORTABLE: ProTeam Backpack Vacuum with Telescoping Wand
Before You Buy a Canister Vacuum
With their large capacity and improved maneuverability, canister vacuums are great—as long as they suit your space. Storage, for example, can be a challenge, since a canister vacuum can be about a foot wide and deep, and over a foot and a half long. Factor in the hose and wand, and these vacuums, require a large closet or the corner of a utility space like a laundry room or garage. The canister itself is big, and the best models have several attachments that demand organization.
Canister vacuums can be clumsy as well. If your home has multiple floors, carrying an armful of vacuum parts up and down the stairs can be difficult and dangerous. While canister vacuums themselves are fairly lightweight, they can hold a lot of dirt, which increases their weight. Cords can become trip hazards, too.
What to Consider When Buying a Canister Vacuum
Factor in the following features and options when trying to determine the best canister vacuum for your needs.
Bagged vs. Bagless
The bagged vs. bagless debate is basic to the vacuum industry as a whole. Bags are easy to change, and these models rely less on filters to maintain decent air quality since the bag does much of the filtering itself. Bagged vacuums hold a lot of debris, but that means they can become very heavy. Plus, you can wind up with a full bag and no replacement at some inopportune moments—like when you’re halfway finished cleaning before company comes.
The benefit of a bagless vacuum is that it’s always ready to go. However, these models usually hold less debris, and emptying a bagless canister vacuum can be a messy endeavor. They also require frequent changes of expensive filters to maintain your air quality, since there are no bags to catch small particles.
One of the great benefits of a canister vacuum is that the motors are inside the canisters. This makes the wand and floorhead very light, but also allows the manufacturer to use a more powerful, heavier-duty motor than they could in a stick or upright vacuum. This does make the canister a little heavy, but you can vacuum most of a room by only moving the canister a few feet.
In general, the more powerful, the deeper the cleaning. So if you’ve got kids, pets, and carpeted and/or upholstered surfaces, a powerful model will be able to pull stubborn dirt, fur, and dust from deep within the carpet pile, improving your air quality and getting the job done faster. For these homes, vacuums with nine to 10 amps will work just fine. If your home has mostly hardwood or tile floors, you can sacrifice some power for portability and reduced weight, and go with a lower amperage option.
Size and Weight
No one loves to vacuum, but the smaller and lighter the machine, the more apt you are to take on the chore. Today’s canister vacuums are pretty manageable, weight-wise, at between 5 and 25 pounds.
When evaluating a canister vacuum’s size, keep in mind that larger models hold more debris before needing to be emptied, but they’re harder to store. Smaller vacuums hold less but fit in small closets easily. Luckily, larger homes that require a lot of vacuuming usually have bigger closets, while homes with smaller closets typically require less vacuuming.
When it comes to vacuuming, maneuverability means two separate things. There’s the ability to get the floor head where it needs to go, and the ability to get the entire vacuum from place to place. Highly maneuverable floor heads are a joy to use. With a twist of your wrist, the head will pivot and change direction, allowing you to hit tight corners with ease. Factoring this in with the increased maneuverability of a lightweight wand, and you can get a lot done in a short amount of time.
Moving some types of vacuums from room to room isn’t always easy to do. Heavier canisters are difficult to move, but manufacturers often address this by using larger wheels, providing more clearance to the ground, and using lighter-weight materials. The most important of these factors is the canister’s weight.
Each manufacturer has a different filter setup, and these can even change from model to model. However, most operate the same way with two main filters: intake and exhaust.
- The intake filter helps protect the motor by catching harmful particles that could shorten its usable lifespan. These filters are located after the bag or canister area, and before the motor. When covered evenly with dirt, dust, and hair, it is time to change the filter.
- Exhaust filters help to protect your air quality by removing the particles that make it through the motor, which can be particularly irritating to the sinuses. These filters also require replacing once they’re evenly dirty.
Accessories make canister vacuum cleaners more functional—whatever your home’s particular cleaning issues are, you’ll find an attachment to help. The best canister vacuums have quick-connect hoses and attachments, so snapping these accessories on and off is easy and straightforward.
Floor brushes are excellent for removing fur and dirt from carpets and grouted tile, while bare floor attachments create the best suction on smooth surfaces. Mini crevice and crack attachments allow you to reach into tight corners and the grooves of intricate trim work. You can even find attachments for upholstered surfaces.
Tips for Buying and Using a Canister Vacuum
Some canister vacuums are extremely quiet, especially when compared to uprights. If you have noise-sensitive young children, pets, or neighbors (in a multi-family dwelling or an apartment house), a quiet vacuum can literally keep the peace.
To make emptying a bagless canister vacuum less nasty, choose one with a dust compartment that removes and empties easily, so you can avoid dumping dust back on the floor or breathing it in.
If you’ve got stairs to vacuum, consider an additional hose extension for your canister vacuum. Long sets of stairs can be difficult to reach with the shorter hose that comes with most models, and teetering the canister on a step is asking for a trip to the repair shop.
- Choose a quiet vacuum to keep from disturbing others.
- If you choose a bagless vacuum, buy one that’s easy to empty.
- Purchase an additional length of hose if you have lots of stairs to vacuum.
Our Top Picks
A canister vacuum’s value is hard to beat. It’s got the power to clean some tough surfaces deeply, and it can collect a ton of debris. This guide showcases recommendations for top-quality canister vacuums to keep your living space free of dirt and dust.
For a reliable bagless vacuum at a reasonable price, the Eureka NEN110A Whirlwind Canister Vacuum is worth checking into. This super-light vacuum uses a 10 amp motor, yet weighs only eight pounds, and it can hold up to three liters of dust and dirt in its dust container. The accessories use a snap-fit connection system, allowing the user to pop parts on and off the wand easily and creating a tight seal to maintain suction.
Emptying takes only the push of a button while you hold the container over a garbage can. It comes with a 16-foot cord, a combination floorhead, and a wand brush for curtains or furniture. Plus, the filtration system components are all washable, so you’ll save money on filters as well as bags.
This bagged canister vacuum features a powerful 10 amp motor despite its tiny size—and its tiny price. It weighs less than nine pounds—so it’s a breeze to carry upstairs or out to your vehicle—yet can carry up to 2.5 liters of dust and dirt. It includes a floorhead, two extension tubes, a crevice tool, and a furniture/curtain brush, plus it has a blower port that turns the vacuum into a blower for clearing off workbenches or leaves from a deck. The Mighty Mite boasts an ample 20-foot power cord, and it comes with five bags for even more value.
As the name implies, the Bissell Powergroom boasts plenty of power, thanks to its 15X Multi-Cyclonic technology and 9.2 amp motor. Emptying the canister is a clean, straightforward process: All you do is pop a latch and the contents drop into a waste can. This canister vacuum comes with several attachments in addition to the floorhead, including a brush tool for curtains/furniture and a crevice tool.
At 10 pounds, it’s light enough to move easily back and forth along floors, but also has large wheels to help it over transitions, such as between hardwood and carpet. The cord retracts automatically, allowing you to store this vacuum away without a power cord creating a trip hazard on the ground.
If you’re looking for a compact yet powerful vacuum that’s easy to store, the Oreck Commercial BB9000GR XL Pro 5 may be the right choice. This five-pound vacuum cleaner is light enough to go anywhere but powerful enough to handle any job, thanks to a stout 4 amp motor and bags that hold up to one quart of dust and dirt. It comes with a 30-foot cord, allowing you to handle several rooms without unplugging, and a 4-foot hose you can attach to an extension in order to reach ceilings with ease. The extension is included, as is a crevice tool, a brush, and several other small attachments.
Pet hair is no problem with the Ovente Bagless Canister Cyclonic—even in places other vacuums can’t access. Among its various attachments, for example, is an adjustable angle brush that gets the wand in tight cracks and corners to remove stubborn pet hair. It also has an upholstery attachment designed specifically for removing pet hair from curtains and furniture.
The wand boasts an airflow adjustment feature so you can dial in the proper flow for hardwood, tile, or carpet without changing to a different floorhead. The entire vacuum weighs 12 pounds, but thanks to its large wheels, it’s very easy to drag around. It also uses a HEPA filter, keeping the dust associated with pet hair to a minimum.
If you want both portability and capacity, consider the ProTeam Backpack Vacuum. While it looks large and features a 9.9 amp motor, it only weighs 11 pounds, which is barely noticeable on your back, thanks to the adjustable and padded straps. It comes with several attachments, including a crevice tool, telescoping wand, dusting brush, and upholstery tool, as well as a multi-surface floorhead.
The power cord is 50 feet long, allowing you to travel from room to room without switching outlets. It uses 10-quart vacuum bags (available here), which will take quite a while to fill in an average home.
The Advantages of Owning a Canister Vacuum
Canister vacuums are great for homes with high ceilings and long curtains. Since the wands often telescope, and you can change attachments quickly, you’ll be able to clean your curtains, ceiling fans, and the tops of bookshelves with ease. While some upright and stick vacuums can handle these jobs, their attachments are often heavier and clumsier.
Many canister vacuums have large capacities, which means you’ll have to change your bags or empty the dust cup less often. Stick vacuums can accomplish many of the same tasks, but rarely have the capacity and battery power to finish them all in one shot.
Gone are the days when you’d have to spend thousands of dollars on a whole-house canister vacuum system that was hard to store and even harder to clean. Today’s canister vacuums are as effective, if not more so than the older heavy clunkers that would slam into floor transitions or down a set of stairs. They’re also more affordable than their predecessors.
- Canister vacuums allow you to reach higher places with ease.
- Both dirt cups and bags on canister vacuums are larger than those on other styles.
- Canister vacuums are much more affordable than they used to be.