Many people who have pets enjoy the companionship but not the cleanup. It can be a challenge to rid your home of pet hair, dander, errant bits of kibble and cat litter, as well as the dust, dirt, and debris that has nothing to do with pets. Fortunately, vacuum manufacturers have designed machines—from classic uprights and canisters to robotic to handheld models—especially for households with furry family members.
The best vacuums for pet owners have features that adapt to hardwood floors, thick carpets, and furniture. They also factor in ease-of-use elements, including long power cords, special attachments, and tools for specific areas. Read on to get a sense of what features are available and then check out the following models, considered among the best vacuums for vanquishing pet hair.
- BEST OVERALL: Dyson Upright Vacuum Cleaner, Ball Animal 2
- RUNNER UP: Hoover Linx Signature Stick Cordless Vacuum
- BEST ROBOT: Amarey A900 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner
- BEST HANDHELD: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Handheld Vacuum
- BEST FOR STAIRS: Kenmore Elite 81714 Pet Friendly Canister Vacuum
- BEST FOR HARDWOOD FLOORS: Bissell 20431 Powerglide Lift Off Pet Plus Vacuum
- BEST FOR THICK CARPET: Hoover WindTunnel 3 Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Types of Vacuums for Pet Hair
The best vacuums for pet hair come in upright, canister, handheld, and robotic configurations. Consider the elements of your home—including floor types, carpet pile, upholstery, and hard-to-reach places—to determine which style will best suit your space.
Upright vacuums, which have either a bag or a cup to collect debris, are generally more effective at cleaning thick-piled carpet than other types and are equally effective as their counterparts on thinner carpets and bare floors. Thanks to its vertical design, an upright vacuum may be easier to operate because there’s less bending, and the slim profile means it takes up less space for storage than a canister. Uprights are also generally less expensive than canister and robotic vacuums.
The downside to uprights include their heavier weight, which makes them especially unwieldy for use on stairs. Some manufacturers offer hoses and other attachments to broaden cleaning capabilities, but uprights in general come with fewer attachments than canister models.
Canister vacuums are lighter, more powerful, and more maneuverable than uprights. Some find them easier to use because for most of the cleaning process, you only move a wand—not the entire vacuum, as you do with an upright. Canister models tend to have better suction than uprights, which can speed you through vacuuming faster, and most canisters come with a number of attachments, such as an upholstery brush. However, users must drag the canister behind them as they go, and there’s bound to be some bending over to use the wand.
Handheld vacuums are lightweight, easy to use, and highly portable. Users generally leave them on their electronic chargers until ready to vacuum. Although some handhelds have low suction power, the best handheld vacuums for pet hair are more robust.
Most of these vacuums hold dirt and debris in a bagless compartment/dust bin; larger bins/cups are capable of holding at most 15 ounces—far less than the 50 ounce-plus capacity of some full-size vacuums. Therefore, these vacuums are more popular for quick spot cleaning or using in the car.
One downside of handheld vacuums is that you generally need to bend or squat to use them, which can be difficult for those with mobility issues. Some models do come with a detachable wand for use in a standing position.
Robot vacuums automatically vacuum (and some also mop) when you signal or schedule them to clean. They offer the convenience of being able to control them remotely when you’re away from home or otherwise busy. Most robot vacuums suck dirt into a bagless bin that holds about 20 ounces. Depending on the model, you either manually detach and empty the debris or the robot automatically empties it into its own base. Thanks to a robot vacuum’s low height—generally about 3.5 inches—they can easily go under beds, sofas, and other low-clearance furniture where some more traditional vacuums can’t reach.
Possible downsides of a robot vacuum include the inability to navigate around obstacles such as toys. If that happens, you must manually free them so they can continue. There have also been complaints of robot vacuums rolling over pet waste and spreading it throughout the house. Many people tend to rely on robot vacuums for touch-ups and spot cleaning, as a supplement to traditional vacuuming.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Vacuum for Pet Hair
If you live in a small home, your criteria for the best vacuum for pet hair will likely be different from someone with a multi-level home. Floor plan, square footage, furnishings, and flooring all play roles in what features would work best.
Corded vs. Cordless
- Cordless vacuums, typically powered by rechargeable batteries, allow you to move freely without being tethered to an electrical outlet but may run out of power before you’re done. When batteries run low, attach them to the included charger and plug into a standard 120-volt household electric outlet.
- Corded vacuums, which tend to cost less than cordless models, are generally lighter and less bulky.
Tangle-Free Brush Rolls
A tangle-free brush roll is designed (how varies among manufacturers) to prevent hair from wrapping around the roll or bar at the intake port. This feature of a high-powered vacuum is often recommended for homes with a lot of hair and dust. Without it, hair can easily become snarled in brush roll bristles. That reduces suction power and, in some cases, stops the brushes from rotating.
Weight and Maneuverability
Vacuuming can take some effort, and it can be frustrating when your machine doesn’t glide over the carpet, around corners, or into tight spaces. The heavier the vacuum, the more work it takes push, pull, and pull it or carry it up and downstairs. Canister vacuums generally weigh between 9 and 24 pounds while uprights weigh between 13 and 18 pounds. Consider the size of your home, the floors and covering, and the number of stairs you have to determine if you need to prioritize a lightweight and ultra maneuverable vacuum.
Bagged vs. Bagless
- Bagged vacuums suction dirt, hair, and debris into a disposable bag; the vacuum’s efficiency decreases somewhat as the bag fills. Once full, the user opens a latch, removes the bag, and throws it in the garbage, then inserts an empty bag.
- Bagless vacuums collect dirt and debris in a (usually) clear cup, so it’s easy to see when it needs to be emptied. The cup is snapped off, the contents dumped into the trash, and the empty cup replaced.
Of the two, bagged versions are often a better bet for allergy sufferers because the bag contains the dirt; the bag also lessens the need for frequent filter changes. With a bagless vacuum, dust and other allergens can get into the air—and in your face—when the cup is removed. Filter changes tend to be more frequent with bagless models.
Canister vacuums have the strongest suction strength of all types of vacuums. However, there are upright, robot, and handheld vacuums with suction control that allows you to increase the suction strength when vacuuming carpet. Although greater suction strength is typically considered an asset, too much suction can make it difficult to move a vacuum.
A vacuum cleaner with a motorized brush—a rotating brush you can often turn on or off—cleans carpets better than one that has suction only. A switch that can deactivate the brush will help protect the finish of bare floors and avoid scattering debris across the surface. Consider models with a manual carpet pile-height adjustment control, along with suction control for cleaning draperies and other delicate fabrics.
Our Top Picks
If you’re tired of clearing snarled hair from your current vacuum’s business end, consider this bagless, upright turbine cleaner from Dyson. It efficiently picks up the finest pet hair, in addition to thread, dirt, and other debris, thanks to a tangle-free counter-rotating head that replaces the typical brush bar hair tends to wrap around. Plus, a clean air turbine (a dedicated flow of air that comes through the top of the handle) powers the flexible, self-adjusting cleaner heads, which automatically adjust to different surfaces, such as hardwood and carpet.
Features include a wand and long hose for stairs, curtains, and other hard-to-reach places; a 35-foot cord; and a filtration system that traps allergens. This Dyson has a .55-gallon capacity, measures 15.35 by 13.39 by 42.13 inches, and weighs just over 17 pounds.
You needn’t pay a fortune for a vacuum that powers up pet hair, debris, and even deeply embedded dirt. This affordably priced Hoover stick vacuum (a model that combines the light weight of a handheld with the power of an upright) moves easily from carpet to hardwood. Press a button and it lies flat to work under beds, couches, and other low furniture. Its dust bin holds about 17 ounces, and it has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter designed to eliminate more than 97 percent of viruses, bacteria, and other particles.
The vacuum weighs 10 pounds and is powered by an 18-volt lithium-ion battery; at this light weight and without a cord, it’s fairly easy to take up and down stairs. A battery gauge on the handle alerts you when to recharge the battery. Its relatively slim profile measures 9 by 11 by 43.5 inches for easy storage.
The Amarey robot vacuum is designed to pick up fine pet hair, dust, and other difficult-to-suction debris via dual tangle-free, multi-surface rubber brushes that deter hair snarls and minimize brush maintenance. The vacuum, which has a .4-liter capacity, automatically scans the room’s terrain to find the optimal cleaning path and runs on one of four cleaning modes: automatic, spot, max, and edge.
Use the included remote or voice control through Amazon Alexa to operate the Amarey. It is powered on its included dock, which you plug into a standard 120-volt household outlet. This vacuum weighs just under 6 pounds and measures 12.7 by 12.7 by 2.9 inches—and at that height it can clean under sofas, beds, and other low furniture. It automatically adjusts for carpet, hardwood, and other surfaces as well.
Pets can be messy beyond their hair, and the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser prepared for it. This handheld vacuum boasts two unique nozzles: one that attracts pet hair and another that sucks up kitty litter, kibble, and other bits of debris from hard-to-reach places like corners and car seats. This Bissel has a 16-foot power cord to help you access areas like the top of stairs, the crevices in upholstery, and the cubby holes in your car’s interior. Pet hair, dander, and other debris won’t escape the tight seal of this bagless vacuum, which has a .78-liter capacity, measures 10 by 5 by 8 inches, and weighs just over 4 pounds.
This Kenmore pet-friendly vacuum has a lightweight, adjustable wand that extends to 10 feet to reach up steep staircases. It also lifts stubborn pet hair, dander, and dirt quickly from carpet, hardwood, and other surfaces. Helpful features include a nozzle for more powerful suction and pile height adjustment, a dusting brush, and a crevice tool.
This vacuum has an enhanced HEPA filter system that traps 99.7 percent of large and small particles of pet hair, viruses, dirt, and more. It also has a stair grip that enables the unit to rest on a staircase securely. The unit measures 27.76 by 17.91 by 13.98 inches, weighs 22 pounds, and has a 26-foot retractable cord.
Pet hair has a way of settling on hardwood floors, requiring frequent vacuuming—and this Bissell upright boasts a gentle cleaning setting to protect your hardwood as it loosens, lifts, and removes pet hair, dander, and other debris. It also includes a Pet TurboEraser Tool that suctions up pet hair and dirt across multiple surfaces with less tangles around the brush. An air filtration system is linked to a Febreze odor eliminator filter (which can be disconnected) that keeps the air smelling fresh, another potential plus in a house with pets.
Although this model, which has a 25-ounce dirt collection capacity, is designed for the particular challenges of hardwood, its swivel steering works on all types of flooring; it also easily converts to a portable handheld. This vacuum measures 2.5 by 12.5 by 45 inches, weighs 18 pounds, and has a 30-foot cord.
If your pets shed a lot of fur, you’ll want a vacuum with enough suction to banish the mess—and if they have accidents, a method to absorb the odors would be a benefit, too. This upright, bagless Hoover seeks to address both of these issues. It features three suction modes, including one specifically designed to remove pet hair, dirt, and debris from thick carpets; simply switch modes as needed to glide over bare floors and thinner carpet. The HEPA filter traps 99.7 percent of large and small particles of pet hair, viruses, dirt, and more, in conjunction with a pet odor eliminator filter.
There’s an ample 1.42-liter capacity dirt cup, a pivot dusting tool, a crevice tool, and a pet turbo tool to remove pet hair from furniture. The vacuum measures 13 by 15 by 44 inches, weighs 18 pounds, and has a 30-foot cord.
FAQs About Vacuums for Pet Hair
Q. Can the same vacuum for pet hair work on different floors?
Yes, the best vacuums for pet hair adapt to different floor surfaces, and many also adjust to the various thicknesses of carpet.
Q. Are cordless vacuums for pet hair less powerful?
No, cordless vacuums for pet hair are as powerful as their corded counterparts. The main downside to a cordless vacuum is that it may run out of power before you are finished cleaning.
Q. Are bagged or bagless vacuums for pet hair better for allergies?
That is a personal choice, but bagless vacuums expose you to more dust and dirt when you empty them. To open a bagged vacuum, on the other hand, you remove and seal the bag with the hair and other debris.
Q. How do you unclog a vacuum for pet hair?
Some of the best vacuums for pet hair are designed so that pet hair doesn’t clog their hoses. If you experience a clogged hose, it’s recommended that you stretch or detach the hose and use a long stick to remove the hair.