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No vacuum excels at all types of cleaning— your home’s layout and even décor dictate the type you might need. That will become clear as you get ready for a thorough spring cleaning. Do you have lots of carpet or just bare floors? Drapes or shutters? And it will be especially apparent if you have pets that are leaving little reminders of their winter coats everywhere you look.
Take carpets. They’re a vacuum’s toughest job and rank highest on many people’s priority lists. Dirt tends to collect and hide in the carpet, and our feet can grind it in. The better bagged uprights, with beefy motors and wide brush rolls, clean the most deeply. But you want them to be maneuverable as well. In our tests, no bagged vacuum that was superb at deep-cleaning carpets was especially easy to handle, but five of the top bagged-upright models we recommend weigh less than 20 pounds. One of the lower-cost picks in our Ratings worth a look: the $150 Hoover Wind Tunnel - Series Pet UH30310. It gets superb marks for pet-hair pickup and has a manual adjustment for carpet height. At 17 pounds, it’s also light enough to maneuver easily.
If you have few carpets and lots of tile, bare wood, or vinyl flooring, you can get a bagless upright—say, the $260 Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501 -- and enjoy easy handling in a lighter-weight vacuum. Other full-sized vacuums might do almost as well for carpets while excelling at bare floors, a relatively easy task.
A heavy vacuum can be a true liability if you have stairs. The better canisters, led by the bagged Miele S 8590 Marin, $1,000, are heavier than most uprights—but you’re mostly moving just the hose and power head, not the entire machine.
In addition to our vacuum cleaner Ratings, our brand-repair history lists the percentage of upright and canister vacuums that failed or had a problem that was unresolved. Sometimes you need just a light cleaning before guests show up. For that, see our recommended handheld and stick vacuums. None of them can handle carpet deep cleaning, but they do a decent job.