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The Cat Fur Flies In Consumer Reports’ Vacuum Tests

Mar 16, 2015

The cat fur flies in Consumer Reports’ vacuum tests. No cats were harmed in our tough pet hair tests.

To find our how well a vacuum picks up dirt, how much it retains, how easy it is to maneuver, and how noisy it is, Consumer Reports puts its vacuum cleanersthrough a tough set of tests. Comparing the results provides the most complete picture. Here are the details.

Carpets. We adapt an industry-standard test to lift embedded talc and sand from a preconditioned, medium-pile carpet. Before the test, which uses two samples of each vacuum, we adjust vacuums to uniform settings and weigh the soiled carpet and vacuum. After a sequence of 16 back-and-forth strokes across the test area, we weigh the carpet and vacuum again and derive a score from how much debris the vacuum picked up.

Bare floors. We use the same type of sand over a specified section of sheet vinyl, running each vacuum on its bare-floor setting for two strokes—one forward, one back—for about 1 second per stroke. We calculate the score by how much each picks up.

Tool airflow. We attach the vacuum’s accessory hose to a cylinder with a set opening and measure for pressure drops as we vacuum up 300 grams of wood flour—enough to gag some lesser vacuums.

Emissions. We test how much debris a vacuum retains using a sealed, climate-controlled room. Running each vacuum for a set period, we load the vacuum with 50 grams of wood flour. We then run the vacuum with the brush propped off the floor in order to measure the particle concentration released by the bag or the bin. Then we vacuum a carpet embedded with dirt.

Pet hair. We embed hair from Maine coon cats into medium-pile carpet. We pass each vacuum a set number of times over the carpet and measure how much gets entangled in the vacuum’s brush, wheels, and bearings. We also judge how much hair the vacuum left behind on the carpet.

Noise. We use a decibel meter. While ­ vacuuming, we measure sound from where a user might stand (2 feet in front, 5 feet up) with a vacuum set to deep-clean at its maximum power setting.

Handing. We assess handling by two judgments: ease of carrying, which includes vacuum weight and handle height, and ease of pushing and pulling the model. Weight includes the vacuum and any onboard tools. In calculating a model’s overall score, we also judge a vacuum’s cord length, how much a bagless vacuum's bin holds, and more.