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Vacuum cleaners are one of the greatest advancements the world of cleaning has ever witnessed, and they’ve taken what used to be hours of manual labor and made it easy to achieve in minutes.
These handy machines come in all shapes and sizes which makes the range of vacuums quite impressive, but also incredibly hard to navigate your way through.
So, how does one go about choosing a vacuum?
The best way to ensure you choose the right vacuum is to think of what its purpose is within your home or commercial business and how you need it to perform. By letting your requirements guide you towards the perfect machine you won’t regret your decision and will have something that perfectly meets the unique needs of your household.
These days there are countless features on a vacuum cleaner and while having this range of choice is great for the consumer, it also makes it incredibly hard to understand.
This informational guide will look at all of the possible features you can choose on a vacuum from bags to cord-free designs and exactly what impact they’ll have on its use.
- 1 Bagged and Bagless Vacuums: What’s the Difference?
- 2 Cordless or Corded Vacuums and How to Choose Them
- 3 Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaners
- 4 Filters Used for Vacuums
- 5 Robot Vacuums: Are They Just as Capable?
- 6 Type of Vacuum: Upright, Canister, Stick and More
- 7 The Importance of Brushes and Attachments
- 8 Weight and Size of Vacuums and Why It Matters
- 9 Related Questions
Bagged and Bagless Vacuums: What’s the Difference?
Most vacuums will fall into either the bagged or bagless category depending on where they store the dust and debris that they gather.
Both options come with their own pros and cons to consider, with things like ongoing costs and dust collection to keep in mind, so you need to think about what appeals most to you.
- Pros of bagged vacuums:
Easier to empty due to the closing shutter, bags are generally larger and can hold more, and the vacuum will receive a deeper clean every time you replace the bag.
- Cons of bagged vacuums:
Ongoing cost to replace the bags and not being able to use the vacuum if you have none spare.
- Pros of bagless vacuums:
No ongoing costs because you don’t have to purchase new bags, easier to see what’s been picked up by the vacuum, and waste can be disposed of without the use of a bag.
- Cons of bagless vacuums:
Releasing the dust when emptying it can cause allergies and irritation, filters need to be cleaned more regularly.
Cordless or Corded Vacuums and How to Choose Them
Another deciding feature on your vacuum cleaner is whether to choose a cordless or corded model.
Corded vacuums are those that require a power source, either your car’s 12v power outlet or an electric outlet, and a cordless vacuum is battery operated.
Battery operated vacuums are usually lacking in power compared to corded ones, but they have the benefit of being portable.
These are great for cleaning the car or smaller homes that might not need a lot of cleaning time.
They’re usually smaller so won’t be able to store as much dirt and debris, but due to their running time, this perfectly suits what they were made for.
A corded vacuum is any style that relies on electricity to operate and these are the most obvious choice for domestic and commercial use.
They’re a lot larger and can be harder to maneuver due to the cord, and sometimes require you to switch outlets just to reach the whole house.
However, the suction power and size are clear advantages that cordless varieties just can’t compete with.
Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaners
You might have noticed a vacuum advertised as being a ‘wet/dry vac’ or something similar, but what does it mean exactly?
These vacuums are built to be versatile machines capable of cleaning up dry debris like dust and pet hair, but also being able to operate efficiently on wet floors, picking up objects that are damp, and even emptying whole basins of water.
Most standard household vacuums are only intended to be dry use, with commercial vacuums having both the wet and dry option.
A household vacuum works with items like dust, sand, dirt, and pet hair, with no need for the intricate design and higher price tag of a multifunctional vacuum, so it’s not a common feature.
These dual-purpose vacuums are able to pick up both wet and dry materials because of their design.
The materials never come into contact with any electrical parts and store them in a collection chamber that won’t touch the motor.
Some wet/dry vacuums come with the added bonus of having a blower attached as well.
This allows the user to empty the debris from the chamber without removing it, but it can also be used to blow leaves and other debris when working outdoors.
These aren’t usually required just for domestic use, but again would be better suited in a commercial application.
Filters Used for Vacuums
A vacuum is used to pick up very fine particles of dust and dirt along with the larger items it collects, so a quality filtration system is required.
Most modern vacuums come with a double filtration system of a primary and secondary filter that enables them to collect more of the finer particles and prevent allergies and mess being created.
There are a few main types of filters used in vacuum cleaners and the manufacturer will specify which is used in that particular model.
Here are some of the more common types of vacuum cleaner filters and what they do.
- Cloth filters: Mostly used for industrial sized vacuums, cloth filters work better with heavy debris and won’t get easily damaged. They can be washed as needed, but usually, work better with a secondary filter to get the smaller debris.
- Disk filters: This is like a paper style cloth that sits inside of smaller sized vacuums that is great for small particles, but they require more cleaning than other types.
- Foam filters: Commonly used in household vacuums, a foam filter is better suited to smaller particles and are better suited to being the secondary filter system.
- Cartridge filters: Cartridge filters are circular in shape and a popular choice in home vacuums. They deliver quality filtration with materials like paper but require replacing more often.
The type of filtration used in each of these systems can also differ, giving you varying degrees of filtration.
An abbreviation for high-efficiency particulate air, these filters were originally used to remove radioactive particles. A HEPA filter is ideal for people with allergies because they can remove up to 99.7% of particles and they are used as a secondary filtration system.
A cyclonic system is used in bagless vacuums as a primary filter and uses a circular motion to move the debris and particles around through another filter.
This works like a sieve by pushing air through a very fine mesh, taking the particles with it as it goes.
- Activated charcoal:
This is carbon that’s had oxygen added to it and it’s normally found in pet vacuums because of its ability to remove smells. They need replacing more frequently to ensure they’re continuing to absorb odors.
Robot Vacuums: Are They Just as Capable?
One of the biggest trends that vacuums have seen in the last 15 years is the rise of the robotic device.
These autonomous robotic vacuums use sensors and wheels to make their way around the home and collect dust and debris from the floor, taking care of the chore for you.
The benefit of having a robot vacuum is that you can set them to go off automatically every day, there’s no need for you to lift a finger except to change the filter, and there’s no heavy lifting on your part.
As technology makes even more advancements, these robots seem to get more powerful and cheaper to own, which is good news for the consumer.
For all of these benefits though, there are some disadvantages.
Robot vacuums can be costly and don’t have the same suction or power as an upright or canister model, and while they keep things tidy they’re not intended to a do deep clean.
They sometimes get caught on furniture or rugs and won’t always do a perfect job, with people often having both a robot and manual vacuum on hand.
Type of Vacuum: Upright, Canister, Stick and More
In addition to all of these extra features and functions, you’ll also need to think about the style of vacuum you want.
There are a few common types that we see most households preferring, but with each one having its pros and cons, they’re not all going to be right for everyone.
These are the main categories of vacuum that are used for domestic cleaners, with a little bit of information on each.
- Upright: An upright vacuum works with a motor-driven brush that removes dirt from both hard and soft surfaces. Both the motor and suction head are housed in the same area and the operator pushes it in front of them as they go. Their benefits are cheaper price, motorized brushes, and wider cleaning area, but they can be noisy and heavy to operate.
- Canister: Canister vacuums feature two separate parts with a cleaning nozzle and vacuum unit not joined together. They are usually lighter and more powerful in terms of suction, but require assembly to set up and can be annoying to drag behind you around the home.
- Stick: Stick vacuums or sweepers have a smaller dirt cup rather than a bag and are often battery powered devices which make them more portable. They’re only suited to small areas and can be quite costly to purchase.
- Handheld: These are commonly used for things like cleaning cars and boats and generally operate on small battery supply. Their suction isn’t as strong nor can they hold a lot of dirt, but they get into tiny spaces and can be used where there’s no electrical outlet.
- Deep cleaner: These spray a small amount of warm water to provide a spot clean and can be used to treat carpets as well. They’re expensive to purchase and operate and are usually better suited to commercial applications.
The Importance of Brushes and Attachments
A vacuum is only as good as the nozzle or head that it’s working with, so this is another feature you have to consider when purchasing these machines.
As a standard, a vacuum cleaner will come with a large, primary head that might offer brushed and brushless cleaning, usually with the flick of a switch or lever.
In addition to the main attachment, you might find other tools and accessories that live onboard the vacuum.
Depending on what you’ll be using yours for, these could be irrelevant or extremely important.
Knowing what each of them does will ensure you clean efficiently and thoroughly, so it helps to learn the basics.
- Crevice tool: Designed to get into the crevices of walls, in between cushions, around vents, and more. Shaped with a slanted tip and skinny shape it’s able to fit into the tightest of spaces.
- Extension wand: This can be added to the regular hose to give you extra length. Ideal for cleaning the ceiling, cobwebbed corners, and reaching behind the fridge to get the missed crumbs.
- Upholstery tool: Featuring a thin fabric strip, this attachment is for cleaning sofas, car seats, and mattresses. It has a flat and narrow head that’s quite small and can collect lint and dirt with ease.
- Dusting brush: This works as a duster that suctions away whatever you collect thanks to its round, bristled head. Use this as a replacement for what you’d normally dust manually and avoid any dropped debris.
These are the four main attachments that most canister and upright vacuums come with. Some have extra attachments intended for pet hair or giving a deep clean to bare floors.
Consider the layout of your home and what things need regular cleaning to steer you in the right direction.
Weight and Size of Vacuums and Why It Matters
Within each of the main categories of vacuums, there are many different shapes and sizes to choose from.
The size of a vacuum can determine many things including its sucking power, the size of the bag or canister that holds dirt, and where it can fit around the home.
Smaller vacuums are usually portable devices and battery-operated machines intended for cleaning cars, boats, or anything that needs precision.
Standard vacuum cleaners are made for larger areas like cleaning the entire home and usually work on both carpeted and hard surfaces.
The size of the vacuum unit should correspond with the area you want to clean and be able to fit comfortably, keeping in mind that you will have to steer it as you go.
The weight of vacuums has decreased in recent years as manufacturers are finding new ways to save on bulk.
A standard upright or canister vacuum can be classified as lightweight if it’s under 15lbs, and anything over this would be regular weight.
On average, you can expect a vacuum to weigh between 9 and 12lbs, but thanks to their wheels you don’t have to carry this by yourself.
Portable and handheld vacuums can be as light as just a few pounds, making them easier to maneuver.
Vacuum cleaners have come a long way since the first domestic model was built in 1905.
There’s a lot to learn about these devices and how they clean and what they’re capable of.
We’ve answered some common questions about the cleaning machines so you can have the right knowledge when you’re ready to purchase your next vacuum cleaner.
How Long Does a Vacuum Last?
Depending on the manufacturer and model of vacuum, these devices can last upwards of 20 years if they’re good quality.
The manufacturer’s warranty will cover vacuums for one to two years but people usually find their vacuum lasts around 10 years in most cases.
Often, it’s cheaper to have issues fixed or parts replaced than purchase an entirely new machine.
How Do You Clean a Vacuum?
All vacuums are designed differently but most can be given a deep cleaning by focusing on a few areas.
The canister or bag, filtration system, and nozzle with other attachments can all be cleaned separately to have any stuck debris removed and aid in the airflow and suction.
Check with the manufacturer’s guidelines as to what’s required for your specific machine.
Are Portable Vacuums Powerful Enough for Pet Hair?
Newer models of portable vacuums can have between 10 – 13 volts of power which makes them quite powerful, but it will depend on the specific model.
Most pet owners find these handheld types sufficient at cleaning up pet hair and easier to maneuver than a larger vacuum when they’re cleaning the car, sofa, or other smaller spaces.