How To Buy A Vacuum

When it comes to home maintenance, vacuums are a must. From sucking up dry spills in the kitchen to lifting pet hair and dirt from the carpet, keeping our homes clean is simply faster, and more convenient, with a vacuum in hand. But with so many brands, models and features available in today’s market, how do you choose the vacuum cleaner best suited to your home’s cleaning needs?

Before you start shopping for a new vacuum cleaner, take a minute to look over the following considerations.

Upright Versus Canister

There are distinct advantages to both but it usually comes down to preference.  In Europe, 94% of the vacuums used are canisters (pull behind type) and in the United States, the number is around 10%.  Why?  When you consider the European’s have more bare floors the conversation has been centered more around the ease of cleaning more surfaces easily with a canister whereas the dominance of wall to wall carpeting in the US made the upright more popular.  I personally feel that there are compelling reasons for both and you likely would be surprised to find out how light some canisters are, and incredibly powerful but I could say the same things for uprights in our stores.  I truly like both and often find that one shoe does not fit all and we use both in our home.

What surfaces are you cleaning?

While there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to vacuum cleaners, the surfaces you’ll be cleaning on a regular basis make a difference in selecting the best vacuum for your home maintenance needs. For example, if your home surfaces mainly consist of flat floor areas and carpet, an upright vacuum, with integrated tools and a beater bar for lifting deep dirt out of carpet fibers may be your best bet. If you have mainly bare floor surfaces, with scattered rugs, and stairs, canister vacuums offer more maneuverability, with onboard tools designed for reaching tight spaces, corners, crevices and above-floor surfaces such as upholstery, bedding, and drapes.

Vacuum Cleaners with Bags vs. Bagless Vacuums

One might believe that around 2001 the bagless vacuum was the newest invention in vacuums (think James Dyson), but the bagless vacuum is actually where we started in the late 1800’s in the United States.  It was not until nearly 1940 that the bagged vacuum was invented.

Surprising to many as bagless vacuums dominate the industry and are often thought to be less expensive to operate (you don’t have to buy bags right?).  If it were only that simple.  You will find with a bagless vacuum that the majority have two to three filters that must be replaced or washed, often costing as much or more as bags ever did.  The other thing to consider is the management of the dirt.  Two choices here (toss it or shake it), one can toss the full vacuum bag into the trash can or you can shake out the dirt cup over a trash can and hope to get most into the trash can.  Which method is more sanitary?  The bagged and in fact studies have shown where bagless vacuums leave 18% of their dust and dirt outside of the desired target.  Where are most vacuums shaken out?  The kitchen (remember some dirt missed the target and now you are in the place that you prepare food), then the garage next (cold in the winter).

Size matters.  Most bagless vacuum have a capacity of 1.5 liters as compared to the 4 liter capacity of most bagged vacuums.  This means you will be shaking that dirt out a whole lot more often with a bagless vacuum.  I realize at this point it sounds like we are opposed to bagless vacuums and we truly are not and offer many vacuums that are bagged and bagless.

If you have allergies seek out a quality filtering system that begins with a HEPA filter bag, along with a Sealed System, to reduce exposure to allergens when vacuuming and changing bags.  HEPA is an acronym for high-efficiency particulate accumulation.  Essentially identifies the percentage of dirt retained or captured.  The baseline for the measurement is truly quite low (95%).  If I told you that 95% of the air you breathe is clean how would that make you feel?  The better filtering vacuums are well over 99.5% of their particulate accumulation and then down to the smallest particles (.003 microns).


Look for vacuum cleaner models that have been tested by independent agencies such as the Carpet & Rug Institute, Good Housekeeping, JD Power & Associates and Consumers Reports.  With that in mind, remember that local knowledge from a professional is also very important. While the agencies test the initial performance of a machine they don’t see how they hold up year after year.  Trust me when I say we see what holds up because we repair what doesn’t.

Eighty-five percent of the dirt that is in your carpet is removed by agitation and only 15% via suction.  If suction were the most important part of the equation then everyone would be using a shop vac type of machine to clean their home.  It simply comes down to good old-fashioned elbow grease and the agitation the top rated vacuum cleaners create to actually beat the dirt out of the carpet.  Stand next to a Simplicity Synergy and you can feel what I am talking about.

Suction power represents the “pulling” power of the vacuum motor. Strong suction power is required, for example, for cleaning thick, plush, carpeting. In this situation, but a strong motor keeps the airflow from becoming obstructed and drives the brush roll through the carpet to get the dirt that is down deep. If there’s no airflow, there’s also nothing to lift and transfer the dirt. While there are vacuum cleaners with high suction power and low airflow, ideally, good vacuum cleaners offer a balance of strong suction power and generous airflow combined with a strong brush roll.

Never loses suction.  I find this marketing line almost laughable as most of the companies making this claim are not addressing the realities of life such as sucking up socks and items that get left under beds etc….  Let us show you the fine print from a couple of manufacturers, it will surprise you.  Billions of dollars have been spent telling consumers that company A or B’s vacuums never lose suction.  Suction is not really very important to actually cleaning your carpet, agitation and air flow are where the cleaning is done.


One feature that’s often overlooked is filtration. An important element of a vacuum’s cleaning ability is its effectiveness at retaining soils and fine particulates that it collects. Vacuum cleaners that don’t offer high levels of filtration simply allow fine particles to escape back into the air where they settle as dust. This is particularly troublesome for homes with pets and allergy sufferers.

HEPA Filters – HEPA is an acronym for “high-efficiency particulate accumulation.” A HEPA filter traps a large number of minute particles that other vacuum cleaners simply recirculate back into the air. HEPA Filters have high-density mats, with randomly arranged fibers, designed to remove dust, pollen, mold, and bacteria.

Miele offers some of the best HEPA filtration-equipped vacuums on the market, with standards that meet and exceed the United States and European standards. Simplicity vacuums are also highly recommended for their effective multi-level filtration systems.  Simplicity also offers greater levels of filtration as you progress through their line up.

Charcoal Filtration – If you want to effectively eliminate odors you must have a charcoal filtration process in your vacuum cleaner.  Better machines have multi-layered filtration systems in place but there is a difference in filtration versus odor elimination.  Look for top rated vacuum cleaners made by companies like Simplicity and Miele to offer a charcoal filter.

Cost vs. Quality

Vacuum cleaners can range anywhere from $60.00 for a low-end, basic model available at discount stores, to $2,600.00 for models generally sold door-to-door. With many of the low–cost vacuums, it makes more sense to just throw them away when they stop working, while higher-end top rated vacuum cleaners tend to be repaired when problems arise.

Vacuums in the high-cost range are often made with superior materials and components. You will see more metal and high-grade ABS plastics and these units typically come with good warranties. Often these machines offer a longer lifespan in combination with superior performance.  When you look at the investment you have in your carpets and flooring it is advisable to spend a bit more to clean them.

Low-cost vacuums, typically disposable machines sold at discount and mass merchant establishments, are constructed mostly of plastic materials. They’re lightweight and easy on the wallet, but generally only carry a limited, one-year warranty.  These units are filling our landfills for centuries to come.  I think it is important to be part of the solution and not the problem.  It costs less in the long run to buy quality.  It never goes out of style.

Department stores and appliance stores often sell a mid-level vacuum, made from a combination of materials, that comes with a three year warranty. Ultimately, the quality of the vacuum cleaner you need boils down to what you’re comfortable buying. For some, cost and time issues call for a no-hassle, disposable solution, while others prefer high quality machines that offer many years of use.

Of course, there are many other features you might consider when shopping for the best affordable vacuum, including low noise emission, intuitive controls and automatic cord rewind. But these are mostly lifestyle and convenience considerations that can differ from person to person.  Some vacuum work better on certain carpets and floors while others feel lighter or stronger.

Once you’ve determined you’re preference and needs based on the considerations mentioned above, you are well on your way to selecting a high quality vacuum that can tackle any floor care concerns in your home. For further assistance with selecting top rated vacuum cleaners that suit your lifestyle, contact the Sewing & Vacuum Authority.