Vacuum cleaners buying guide

There are several different types of vacuum cleaners and lots of options and extras to consider. Our vacuum cleaner buying guide will take you through the differences between the main types of cleaner available. Once you've made up your mind see our great range of vacuum cleaners to buy the right one for you.

Upright or cylinder?

Perhaps the most important question to ask when buying a vacuum cleaner is whether an upright or cylinder model is right for your needs. Upright vacuum cleaners are generally the most popular, as they are usually easier to use and ideal for large carpeted areas. However, Cylinder vacuums are generally cheaper and take up less space.

Upright vacuums:

  • Are often easier to store
  • Are generally easier to control
  • Make use of a brush bar, which helps remove dirt trodden into carpets
  • Are ideal for cleaning large areas

Cylinder vacuums:

  • Tend to be lighter and take up less space
  • Are Ideal for cleaning stairs, hard floors, upholstery and working between furniture
  • Are generally more affordable
  • Require a higher level of motor power

Features to look for

Once you have decided whether a cylinder or upright vacuum cleaner is the right machine for you, there is a variety of other features worth considering. Most apply to both forms of vacuum cleaner.

  • How clean is the cleaner?

    Filtration is a particularly important point for allergy sufferers or asthmatics. Filtration determines how many dust particles will escape into the air from the vacuum exhaust. There are several types of vacuum cleaner filtration, some more effective or sophisticated than others:

    • Stage filters: these filter out the dust in a series of stages. Though they vary considerably, a typical filter comprises four stages: a double skinned bag, a filter between motor and bag and a final filter. There can, however, be anything up to seven stages.
    • Lifetime filters: these will last the entire life-span of the vacuum cleaner, without needing to be changed. Filters, like machines, normally last between 7 and 10 years.
    • HEPA or S-Class: particularly suitable for those suffering from allergies, as they get hold of even the smallest allergy-causing particles.
    • Charcoal filter: particularly handy if you have pets, as they include an extra charcoal layer to remove unpleasant smells.
  • Bag vs. bagless

    The next thing to decide is whether you want a machine that comes with, or without, bags. Vacuum cleaners with bags are generally cheaper, but continually replacing them can be fiddly. One option is to buy vacuums with bags that seal the dust away for easy disposal; this can be better for allergy sufferers.

    Bagless cleaners tend to be more expensive, but are a good long-term investment, as you won't have to keep buying bags. Some models have anti-bacterial agents to help keep them clean, and are ideal for allergy sufferers.

  • The motor

    How powerful and effective your vacuum cleaner is depends on a number of factors. As a general rule, the higher the wattage the more powerful the cleaner, but this is more important on cylinder machines as the dust has further to travel up the tube. It's not just the wattage though: airflow and the design of the machine help improve the suction power as well. On upright cleaners it's the type of brush that makes more of a difference. Many models have variable power - useful on upholstery, curtains or rugs.

  • Brushes and attachments

    For different types of cleaning, different types of attachment are needed. Most vacuum cleaners come with three attachments: crevice tool, upholstery and dusting brushes. An additional turbo-brush is useful if you have cut-pile carpets or unusually hairy pets. A horsehair or parquet brush is ideal for wooden floors, and some cleaners have an extendable tube, to help clean out odd nooks and crannies.

  • Other useful extras
    • Auto cord rewind: usually found on cylinder cleaners. Great for storage and convenience.
    • Full indicator: a useful warning for when your machine is getting full.
    • Capacity: worth checking your cleaner's dust capacity. Usually between 4 and 6 litres. The higher the capacity, the less time you spend changing the bag or emptying the drum.
    • Tools: telescopic extension tubes and stair cleaning hoses are particularly useful.

Other types of vacuum cleaner

Though the majority of vacuum cleaners bought are either cylinder or upright, there are a few other types to mention:

  • Wet and dry cleaners: these are used not only to clean floors, but also to mop up spillages and even, with additional shampoo, to wash carpets.
  • Handheld vacuum cleaners: ideal for the kitchen or car, these little cleaners can reach into small spaces and pick up crumbs and dirt. They have the added advantage of clearing up spillages quickly without you having to wheel out your main cleaner.
  • Polishers: good for wooden floors, these both vacuum and polish.
  • Steam cleaners: these are useful if you have to do lots of heavy-duty cleaning.
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