Interior Cleaning

7 Types of Vacuums Every Tidy Homeowner Should Know

Depending on your home layout and flooring type, along with your cleaning preferences, some types of vacuums may be a better fit for you than others.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
A woman is using a cordless stick vacuum cleaner to clean a white rug.

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Vacuuming is one of those household chores that you really can’t skip. Without it, our floors and furniture would be covered with dust, dirt, pet hair, and other debris. Most of us can’t imagine getting our floors sufficiently clean without the suction power delivered by a vacuum cleaner. Moreover, according to The Carpet and Rug Institute, vacuuming carpeting is an essential maintenance task that protects the carpet fibers by removing soil and debris. Vacuuming a minimum of once per week—or even more often for higher traffic or pet areas—can prevent this debris from damaging flooring while also removing allergens from your living space.

However, not all vacuums are created equal. Beyond the differences between the various manufacturers, there are several types of vacuums, such as uprights, stick vacuums, and canister vacuums. Each of these varieties operates a bit differently than the others, has its own pros and cons, and may be better suited for various home layouts, flooring types, and general cleaning needs.

1. Upright

A woman is using a Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum to vacuum a rug on a hardwood floor.

Upright vacuums have the motor and suction head combined in one unit,” explains Karina Toner, operations manager of Spekless, a cleaning service company serving the Washington, D.C., area. These models have a motorized brush that loosens and sucks up dirt, hair, and other debris trapped in carpet fibers.

While you may be able to use some upright vacuums to clean tile, hardwood, or other hard flooring surfaces, they’re typically seen as the best vacuum for carpets or rugs. As Toner explains, “Their powerful suction and brush rolls are designed to dig deep into carpets and rugs.” Many upright vacuums are sold with a variety of attachments, such as tools for cleaning stairs, upholstery, or tight crevices. They typically feature a wide cleaning head, which can cut down on the time it takes to vacuum a large space. However, upright vacuums can also be heavy and some are quite noisy. Compared to canister vacuums and lighter stick vacuums, they can also be more difficult to maneuver to reach into corners or clean under a piece of furniture.

Best For: Homes with lots of carpeting.
Our Recommendation: Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum at Amazon for $257
This upright model features a detachable pod, making it easier to clean stairs and other higher surfaces.

2. Canister

A Miele Complete C3 Calima Canister Vacuum is resting on a hardwood flooring with sunlight shining on it.

Canister vacuums “consist of a separate canister unit, with the motor and dustbin, tethered by a long, flexible hose and cleaning attachment,” explains Andriy Neborak, founder and CEO of Luxury Cleaning NY, a cleaning company servicing New York City. Because the cleaning head is separate from the motor and dust bin or bag, it is lighter and easier to maneuver around a space.

Canister vacuums are well-regarded for their suction power and may feature different cleaning heads, making them a suitable choice for everything from thick carpet to hardwood floors. Most models also come with several attachments, allowing for versatile cleaning applications. You can often adjust the suction power as well, making it possible to clean more delicate items, such as curtains, or increase the suction to clean up pet hair. Neborak points out a few potential downsides to canister models, explaining, “Heavy lifting is required for these types of vacuums and you might need more storage space.”

Best For: Homes with a mix of carpeting, hardwood, and stairs.
Our Recommendation: Miele Complete C3 Calima Canister Vacuum at Amazon for $839
The Parquet Twister floor brush of this canister vacuum is ideal for cleaning hardwood and tile floors.

3. Stick

The Tineco A11 Hero Cordless Lightweight Stick Vacuum and its removable hand vacuum on a blank white background.

Neborak explains how the design of stick vacuums differs from that of other models. He says, “Often cordless with a light, discrete body, these machines are loved for easy portability and maneuverability.” While their suction power is typically less than more expensive canister or upright vacuums, Neborak says, “They’re amazing for quick clean-ups [and] for fast spot-cleaning of high-traffic areas.”

Because stick vacuums are so lightweight, they may be a good choice for those with limited mobility or carrying restrictions. Vacuuming stairs can also be easier with these models. In addition to being lightweight, many are also cordless and feature removable heads and attachments. The dirt and debris you suck up from your floors will collect in the dirt cup, which you can empty over a trash can as it fills up or when you need to clean the vacuum. Don’t, however, let the ease of these models tempt you into trying to suck up some of the things you should never vacuum, such as broken glass, ash, or liquids.

Best For: Quick clean-up tasks.
Our Recommendation: Tineco A11 Hero Cordless Lightweight Stick Vacuum at Amazon for $485.46
With three power modes and an ability to convert to a handheld vacuum, this model will aid with a variety of cleaning tasks around the home.

4. Robotic

The iRobot Roomba 692 Robot Vacuum and a smart phone with a green-colored screen that says "iRobot" in white text with a blank white background.

If you are looking for a more hands-off way to keep your floors clean, then a robotic vacuum may be the right fit for you. “Robotic vacuums operate autonomously, using sensors to navigate around your home. They can be programmed to clean at specific times and often include features like self-charging and mapping capabilities,” explains Toner. The low-profile design of these vacuums also allows them to seamlessly glide under furniture that may be too low for uprights, canisters, and other models.

According to Toner, robotic vacuums “are ideal for maintaining cleanliness in homes with hard floors and low-pile carpets.” They are battery-operated, but because most are programmed to return to the charging station, you generally don’t need to worry about remembering to plug them in. However, robotic vacuums aren’t for everyone. They are best for light cleaning tasks.

Best For: Hands-free cleaning in homes with hard floors or low-pile carpets.
Our Recommendation: iRobot Roomba 692 Robot Vacuum at Amazon for $294
This smart vacuum will learn your cleaning habits and then use its three-stage cleaning system to remove dirt and debris from carpets and hard floors.

5. Handheld

A Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum on a blank white background.

Handheld vacuums are much smaller and lighter than most other vacuum types. They are meant for quick clean-up tasks of smaller areas or for reaching into corners and crevices that are too small for a larger vacuum cleaner to fit. These models may be ideal for sucking crumbs off the table, getting pet hair off the couch, or cleaning the floors and seats in your car.

Some handheld vacuums are corded, while others feature a cordless design. A handheld vacuum won’t be sufficient for cleaning an entire home—they are too small and lack the powerful suction of larger models. However, for small cleanup jobs, they can be much more convenient than pulling out a full-size vacuum.

Best For: Small cleaning jobs.
Our Recommendation: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum at Amazon for $72.09
Easily carry this cordless and lightweight vacuum around to clean up pet hair and other small messes around the home.

6. Wet/Dry Vacuums

A DeWalt 6-Gallon 5 HP Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vac is on the left and its parts, attachments, and accessories are on the right on a blank white background.

As their name suggests, wet/dry vacuums are designed to suck up both dry and liquid messes. Their design typically features a large canister with a long hose and different attachment heads. Because they are often used for tackling large messes, such as cleaning up a construction site, these models have a large canister and can be a bit bulky or heavy to move. However, they generally have wheels to make them easier to maneuver while in use. A wet/dry vacuum is another model that you likely won’t want to choose as the only vacuum for your home. But, they can certainly come in handy if you do a lot of DIY projects or want to be able to clean up liquid messes.

Best For: Cleaning up both wet and dry messes.
Our Recommendation: DeWalt 6-Gallon 5 HP Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vac at Amazon for $199.99
This model features a 5-horsepower motor, a 6-gallon bin, and an onboard tool organizer.

7. Central Vacuum Systems

A OVO Central Vacuum Filtration System is on a blank white background.

A central vacuum is a whole-home system that must be professionally installed. It features interconnected tubes that run between rooms. A central motor provides suction to their tubes, which you can access through ports in the walls. Simply connect the hose and you’ll be ready to vacuum. You don’t need to carry a large upright, canister, or stick vacuum around with you, all you need to do is move the hose between ports as you vacuum the different rooms in the home.

Because of their powerful motor, central vacuum cleaners deliver excellent suction power. They also tend to be very quiet, because the motor is housed in a remote location, not in the room that you’re trying to clean. Some central vacuums are also designed with filtration systems that can enhance the overall air quality of the home. However, installation is expensive and the layout of your home must offer sufficient space to house the motor and required tubing.

Best For: Improving air quality and simplifying whole-house vacuuming.
Our Recommendation: OVO Central Vacuum Filtration System at Amazon for $399.99
With its 2-stage motor and integrated muffler, this vacuum will deliver strong, but quiet, suction power through spaces up to 9,000 square feet.

The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on June 6, 2024.