Help & advice: Buying guide to vacuum cleaners
Buying guide to vacuum cleaners
Find the top vacuum cleaners to bust the dust and leave your home glowing with pride.
Make a clean sweep with the Homebase range of vacuum cleaners.
Vacuum cleaners are designed to last for years so it's worth taking time to choose the one that's exactly right for your lifestyle. Sure, there's a huge choice of models but our tips will make it easier for you to select the right machine for the job...
- Think what you'll be cleaning with your new vacuum cleaner - carpets, hard floor surfaces, or perhaps a car.
- Decide how much you'd like to spend.
- What vacuum cleaner style do you fancy - cylinder or upright?
- Compare different models for size, comfort, quality, construction and power.
- Check how light the machine is to push, how easy it is to get to the tools, how well the vacuum handles when using the tools, and cord storage.
Do you hanker for a traditional upright vacuum or do you like the look of a cylinder machine? Both types come in standard and compact versions and as bagged or bagless. Here are the pros and cons of both types of vacuum cleaner:
- Effective carpet cleaning using multiple heads
- Adjustable head for maximum cleaning power
- Better at cleaning pet hair
- Good for cleaning large areas without obstacles
- Larger, heavier and harder to move
- Noisier than cylinders
- Not easy to clean stairs
- Not good at cleaning hard surfaces
- Generally smaller, lighter and easier to move around
- Accessories readily to hand
- Suction head separate from machine for bigger cleaning area
- Most models have cord rewind
- Good at cleaning under and around furniture and on stairs
- Bad at removing pet hairs unless motorised brush heads included
- Harder to store
Bagless vacuum cleaners are generally more expensive because of their technology but you could more than offset that by the savings you make on buying bags. Bagged vacuum cleaners can perform less well as the bag gradually fills up. But bagged models can be more hygienic, because dirt and dust are collected in a sealed bag - a bagless vacuum cleaner has to have its container emptied. If anyone in your house is asthmatic choose a model that has the British Allergy Foundation seal of approval.
The power (in watts) of a vacuum cleaner will give you a pretty good idea of how well it will do at cleaning. Generally, the higher the wattage of the motor, the better the cleaning performance. A decent figure for a cylinder cleaner is about 1400 watts, and 1300 watts for an upright.
The quality of filtration determines the size and number of particles left in the air when it's expelled from a vacuum - most vacuum cleaners have a filtration rate of 99%. Filtration is very important for asthma sufferers and anyone sensitive to dust mites and pet allergens.
There are three basic types of filtration to choose from, - standard, S-class/HEPA and lifetime filtration.
A heater may be fitted with wheels or castors or a combination of both, so that you can move it around easily from room to room.
S-class and HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air)
S-class is the name of the filtration standard followed by vacuum cleaner manufacturers, and HEPA filters are the technology most models of this type feature. HEPA filters claim to capture 99.97% of all particles, resulting in a cleaner outflow of air that's safer to breathe in for those with asthma and similar problems.
The above filtration methods need a change of filter after a period of time. But lifetime filters don't need replacing. They're guaranteed to filter incoming air throughout the life of the vacuum without compromising on suction power or filtration efficiency. Some S-class/HEPA filters are also lifetime filters, but models with this type of filtration are usually more expensive.
Handheld cleaners are small, light and very portable. They're not as powerful as uprights or cylinders, but are perfectly fine for stair, sofa and car cleaning. You can get filtration on most handhelds, but it's not recommended for asthma and allergy sufferers.
Wet and dry cleaners
These versatile vacuums can do anything from picking up debris to unblocking sinks. They have relatively large capacities and can be either bagged or bagless. Wet and dry cleaners also come with a range of tools. Just so you know, they can be noisy!
Steam cleaners use steam to powerfully remove dirt from carpets, ovens, windows, clothes and upholstery. They don't need detergents, but do they need 'steaming time' - this limits the cleaning time you have in one session. Steam cleaners come with a wide range of tools and some offer variable steam control.
|Active carbon filter||This is a filter, which is especially efficient at absorbing household odours - particularly those associated with pets.|
|Automatic safety suction control||This feature is activated if the end of the hose becomes obstructed. It momentarily releases the suction therefore preventing items becoming attached to or sucked up the cleaner.|
|Bag full indicator||A bagged cleaner will let you know when the bag needs emptying.|
|Bagless||Any cleaner that stores the dust in a removable container for emptying, removing the need to replace messy bags.|
|Beater brush bar||A revolving brush on upright cleaners that picks up hard-to-get-hairs.|
|Brush control system||This allows the cleaning of delicate floors and rugs by switching off the brushbar.|
|A clear bin||Enables you to see the part of the vacuum cleaner where the dust collects, so it's easy to check when it needs emptying.|
|Cord rewind||Generally features on cylinder vacuums, the mains cord is withdrawn into the body of the cleaner after use for neat and compact storage.|
|Cyclonic bagless action||Cyclonic bagless systems separate the dust particles from the airflow by spinning the air within a separation chamber. The spinning causes centrifugal force to act upon the dust particles, moving them outward while the air exits from the inner part of the chamber.|
|Cylinder||These are small high power cleaners, using suction only especially suited to hard floors, short pile carpets and hard to reach spaces.|
|Dual cyclone system||Exclusive to Dyson, the dual cyclone™ is completely new technology and because it does not rely on blocking the airflow to filter it, it maintains constant suction right up to the point where the bin needs emptying. It gives 100% suction, 100% of the time.|
|Dustpress system||Unique to Sanyo vacuum cleaners, the Dustpress system compresses the dust, thereby enabling it to store up to two times more than other bagless cleaners.|
|Dust sensor||Some vacuum cleaners have an infrared dust sensor which monitors the levels of dust in the air passing into the cleaner. When the dust content falls to a certain level the sensor light turns green and you can be sure your carpet is really clean.|
|Easy airway inspection||This allows you to inspect the airways in your vacuum cleaner and clear any blockages that might occur.|
|Edge to edge cleaning||The ability of a vacuum cleaner to clean all areas of a surface, for example, right up to the skirting board.|
|Electrostatic filter||This is a type of filter consisting of very fine synthetic fibres on which a static electric charge builds as air passes through them. This charge attracts even the smallest of dust and allergen particles, helping the filter to retain them and not pass them back out into the air.|
|Filtration||The process through which a vacuum retains unhygienic particles before pumping the air back out. The more levels of filtration, the cleaner the emitted air is. For optimum cleaning power, filters need to be replaced regularly, following the manufacturers instructions.|
|HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air)||A method of S-class filtration that emits air which is safe for allergy sufferers.|
|Lifetime filtration||Filtration which does not require a change of filter throughout the lifetime of the vacuum cleaner.|
|Microfiltration||A form of standard filtration which can retain the finer particles.|
|Motor power||Vacuum cleaners come in a range of power from around 700-1700 watts. The motor power is not an indication of cleaning capacity as this is better expressed in terms of suction power. Cleaning capacity also depends on factors such as cleaning heads and filter systems.|
|On board tools||Tools for a number of cleaning purposes contained within the main body of the vacuum.|
|S-Class filtration||A manufacturing standard for anti-allergenic filtration.|
|Self-adjusting head||A cleaning head that remains in close contact to the surface regardless of the angle the vacuum is at.|
|Stair cleaning||An attachment for upright cleaners allowing them to be used to clean stairs. The vacuum unit itself should be stood at the bottom of the stairs for safe cleaning.|
|Standard filtration||A filtering system on less expensive models.|
|Suction power||Suction power is measured in air watts and vacuum cleaners range from around 100 - 250 air watts and above. A higher figure indicates more power and more effective cleaning. The efficiency of the suction power will also depend on the design of the cleaner and whether it is an upright or a cylinder cleaner. Some cleaners have adjustable power settings enabling you to set it in accordance with a particular surface.|
|Telescopic tubes||A range of attachments that can be adjusted to the length required.|
|Upright||A traditional cleaner that uses a rotating brush as well as suction. Especially suitable for large floor areas.|
|Suction release trigger||This enables you to control the suction manually by pressing a button on the hose. This allows you to release any items which have become attached to the hose.|
|Telescopic tubes||A range of useful attachments that can be extended to the length required. Useful when cleaning curtains, stairs and cars.|
|Triple edge cleaning action||This is a feature that works when the small nudge bars at the front of the upright cleaning head come into contact with the skirting board or an item of furniture. A slim panel is lifted allowing the cleaner to suck in the dust and clean right up to the edge.|
|Triple vortex system||The patented Hoover Triple Vortex system is a bagless system with no need for replacement filters. It works in three stages: