Choosing the Right Vacuum Cleaner: Types, Features, and Maintenance

WriterEmily Thompson

18 February 2024

Choosing the Right Vacuum Cleaner: Types, Features, and Maintenance

There's no doubt about it, vacuum cleaners are an essential household appliance. And finding a good one will make it easier to keep your home looking its best.

But with so many to choose from, including sticks, cylinders, handhelds, and uprights – not to mention robot models too – knowing which vacuum cleaner is right for your home can be confusing.

Types of Vacuum Cleaner Explained

It can be difficult to know which type of vacuum cleaner would best suit your needs, so let's break it down:


Upright vacuum cleaners tend to be the best option for larger, carpeted households. This is because they usually feature a turbo brush in the floor head, which makes them particularly effective at picking up hair and residue from carpets. The wide floor head also means they can cover a greater area much more quickly and effectively than other vacuums.

These models are more stable and easier to maneuver than cylinders, as you're pushing them forward rather than dragging them behind you. There’s also no need to bend when using an upright, which makes them a good option for those with back issues.

However, their design means they can be awkward to use on stairs and can also be too bulky to reach under furniture; the weight of some may also take its toll after prolonged use. They’re typically neat to store though, and can usually hold the tools on the body so you have them to hand as you clean.


Cylinder vacuums are typically lighter and more portable than uprights, as the main body sits on the floor behind you for you to pull as you vacuum. They can be bagged or bagless, depending on your preference, and often come with a good selection of tools. They’ve been around for many years thanks to their lightweight and convenient design, and are ideal for those who struggle with heavier vacuums.

They also tend to be better for reaching under and around furniture and make cleaning a flight of stairs simpler with their long, flexible hose. Take care when you’re pulling it around the home though, as it can knock into walls and furniture. Some designs can also be a bit bulky and more awkward to store than other types of vacuums, especially those with a long hose.


Cordless – or, as they're also known, stick – vacuums are one of the most popular types of vac. Their increasingly powerful technology almost rivals traditional corded models, but there's no need for a plug socket nearby.

Originally designed for quick clean-ups, most are now capable of cleaning a whole home with ease, meaning many people use this model as their sole vacuum cleaner.

Their compact design, with a “stick” body and smaller dust canister, is more lightweight than bigger vacuums and ideal for homes where storage is tight. The canister will need emptying more frequently though, and they tend to be bagless.

Like uprights and cylinders, most come with attachments including crevice and upholstery tools. Many even have motorized brushes to lift pet hair effectively.

Note that battery life still varies across models, and you’ll need to remember to charge it when not in use. If your home is bigger, look for a machine that comes with two batteries to extend its cleaning time in between charges.


While a robot vacuum won’t replace your standard machine, it will allow you to cut back on how often you need to clean, giving you more time for yourself. These little gadgets use sensors to avoid bumping into furniture and map where they've been around the room to ensure no area is left neglected.

Robot vacuums are now smarter than ever, too – all the models we’ve featured are compatible with an app and either Alexa or Google Home. Some even have docking stations that allow them to self-empty, so you rarely need to think about clearing the canister yourself.

Key Features to Look Out for in a Vacuum

When shopping for a vacuum cleaner, there are several key features to consider:

  • Sensory technology: Some of the best vacuum cleaners are able to sense the floor type and adjust their power accordingly. This saves on energy usage and means the vacuum will automatically use the optimum power.
  • Battery life: This is an essential element to check if you’re opting for a cordless stick or handheld vacuum. Some will last less than 10 minutes on full power, meaning you need to rush to finish in time or wait for it to recharge.
  • Charging time: Keep an eye on the charging time as well if you’re going cordless. They’re not so convenient to use if you’re constantly waiting for them to charge.
  • Capacity: Generally, the bigger the capacity, the less often you’ll need to empty it. Vacuum capacities are measured in liters, whether bagged or bagless.
  • Headlights: Some stick vacuums also feature headlights on the floor head, so you can see better under furniture and in dark spaces.
  • Smart technology: Connect your vacuum to your phone to monitor its usage, battery life, and even surprising statistics such as how many calories you burn in use.
  • Battery level indicator: This isn’t exactly groundbreaking but can be a very useful feature to have on a cordless appliance.
  • Slit to cut hair: If you or someone in your household has long hair and you plan to buy a stick vacuum, make sure it’s one you can easily remove hair from.
  • Weight: Be wary of the weight of your vacuum; pushing anything over 3kg can feel heavy after prolonged use.
  • Variable suction: This is useful if you need more power for deep pile carpets.
  • Retractable cord: Using this feature, you can rewind the cord into the vacuum at the press of a button.
  • Rotating brush: If the floor head is missing a rotating brush, it will likely drag along the floor as you vacuum because there’s nothing to raise it.
  • Bagged or bagless: Some vacuums contain bags that collect all the dust and debris the machine sucks up. Bagless models also tend to be messier as the dust can spill when you empty them.
  • Vacuum cleaner accessories: From crevice tools to dusting brushes, today's vacs come with a generous collection of vacuum cleaner attachments that are designed to make light work of common household cleaning tasks.

How Much Should I Spend on a Vacuum?

The price of a vacuum cleaner will vary depending on the type and features you're looking for. While handhelds tend to be the cheapest, a robot vacuum will set you back a fair amount.

That said, you can find great models for under £200. It’s worth considering the features you want and then looking for a model that ticks as many of your boxes as possible.

Do I Need a Vacuum Cleaner or a Carpet Cleaner?

Vacuums are perfect for everyday cleaning but if you’re looking to do a deep clean, then they may not be quite right. Steam cleaners will refresh your carpet but if you’re trying to tackle stubborn stains like wine then a dedicated carpet cleaner is the appliance to call on.

How to Care for Your Vacuum Cleaner

Without maintenance, a vacuum cleaner is only good for moving around dust and dirt. It’s one of the most hard-working pieces of kit in the house, so don’t forget to give it some regular TLC to keep it in top condition.

The most common cause of loss of suction is blockages. This makes the machine slow to pick up and quick to overheat. To keep this to a minimum in bagged models never reuse the bag as it's often part of the filter system. If this gets clogged with dust, it will reduce the efficiency of the machine. Always replace the bag when the indicator light comes on. With a bagless machine, empty the canister after each use.

To unblock a vacuum cleaner, always switch it off and unplug it. As well as teasing out any blockages in the tube, undo the hose and check the entrance to the machine or top of the bag for further debris.

Many vacuums have at least one washable filter. Check where your machine's filters are located, then remove and tap against a hard surface to dislodge any clumps of dust. If it's washable, run the filter under lukewarm water and allow it to air dry thoroughly before putting it back in.

Make sure the brush on the head is free from hairs and threads. If it becomes jammed, cut – don’t pull – any threads that prevent it from rotating.

Smelly vacuums are usually the result of not emptying your machine regularly enough or possibly sucking up something. Give the outside a wipe over with an anti-bacterial wipe or warm, soapy water and a cloth to keep it smelling and looking fresh.

For bagless vacuums, wash the canister in soapy water after emptying it and leave it to completely air dry before putting the machine together again.


Choosing the right vacuum cleaner for your home can make a world of difference in keeping your space clean and tidy. Consider your specific needs, such as the type of flooring, the size of your home, and any specific cleaning challenges you may have.

By understanding the different types of vacuum cleaners available and the key features to look out for, you can make an informed decision that will ensure you find the perfect cleaning companion.

Remember to take care of your vacuum cleaner by performing regular maintenance and cleaning to keep it in top condition. With the right vacuum cleaner and proper care, you can enjoy a clean and healthy home for years to come.

About the author
Emily Thompson
Emily Thompson
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Emily Thompson is a renowned Vacuum Tech Analyst and Writer, known for her in-depth reviews and cutting-edge news on the latest in vacuum technology. With a knack for breaking down technical jargon into easy-to-understand language, Emily has become a trusted voice in the vacuum tech community.

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