Oct 21, 2023
The Best Vacuum Cleaner (2022), Tested and Reviewed
By Emily Farris All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. A good
By Emily Farris
All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
A good vacuum cleaner will help keep your home clean, but the best vacuum cleaner for you depends on a variety of factors, including your floor coverings, whether you have pets, and your budget. Versatility should also be a consideration because you’ll inevitably have to clean some hard-to-reach spots in the kitchen.
When I started testing vacuum cleaners for this review, I assumed a traditional corded upright vacuum cleaner would end up on top; they’re generally more powerful and often highly recommended. But after extensively testing 12 popular corded and cordless vacuum cleaners, I was surprised to find not only a canister vacuum, but slimmer stick models that worked as well as bulkier uprights. The most important thing I learned from testing vacuum cleaners? There is no one perfect vacuum for every area of every home, and if you’re willing to sacrifice just one feature (a large canister or motorized floorhead, for example), you can still get a really nice vacuum cleaner for a reasonable price. Read on for my top picks. And to learn more about how I tested and what I looked for, scroll to the bottom.
The best vacuum cleaner overallAnother great vacuum cleanerThe best cordless stick vacuum cleanerAnother great cordless stick vacuum cleanerShould I get a corded or cordless vacuum cleaner?An important note about vacuum maintenanceHow I tested vacuum cleanersWhat I looked forOther vacuum cleaners I testedThe takeaway
German brand Miele is known for its high-end canister vacuums with prices ranging from $350 to $1,700. For this review, I tested two lower-priced (for Miele) models, including a classic bagged style and the new Boost CX1 Bagless Canister Vacuum. While bagged vacuums can be advantageous for people with severe allergies, I can’t recommend something that requires repeatedly purchasing pricey disposable bags—especially when the bagless Boost CX1 has a washable HEPA filter and more than enough suction power to clean the whole house.
If you’re used to an upright or stick vacuum, canister vacuum cleaners—which suck debris into a wheeled canister that trails behind you as you go—can take a little getting used to, but they offer incredible versatility compared to other styles. With very little reconfiguring, I used the Boost CX1 to clean my floors, my curtains, my car, and even my range hood. Miele’s TrackDrive wheels make it easy to move the main body of the vacuum on a variety of floor types and a telescoping wand means anyone can choose a comfortable height for floor cleaning. The crevice attachment can be used with the hose and wand or just the hose to get behind appliances and reach the deepest corners of the kitchen, while a soft-bristled dust brush is perfect for cleaning vents and other surfaces. The cord can be retracted with the push of a button, eliminating the need to wrap (or ever untangle) the cord. The Boost CX1 stores compactly too.
At this price point, it’s kind of shocking that the Boost CX1 swivel floorhead doesn’t have a rolling brush. While it has enough suction to not need the roll brush for cleaning purposes, I did have to put the floorhead in “rug” mode to get cornstarch and glitter off of my textured kitchen floor. The lack of any kind of rolling apparatus, combined with the powerful suction, also makes it more difficult to push the floorhead around rugs and carpeting. Even on the lowest setting, it sometimes lifted my rugs off of the floor, though there is an option to open the air inlet valve on the handle to help prevent lifting. The cord is on the short side (21 feet) too.
The Shark Vertex Ultralight (HZ2002) is a powerful, versatile corded stick vacuum that has the power and functionality of a full-size upright vacuum in a compact body. While not as strong as the Miele, I was impressed with this machine right out of the box, and I liked it more and more with each use. It does have a small canister, but it otherwise does everything a traditional upright vacuum cleaner can do and after repeated testing, I much prefer it to the bulkier Shark Navigator Lift Away. The swivel floorhead beautifully cleaned a variety of flooring types—including my textured kitchen floor and my ultra-shaggy rug—and of all the vacuums I tested, this had one of the best handheld vacuum configurations because it’s lightweight and powerful.
The Vertex Ultralight’s brush rolls are equipped with Shark’s Powerfins—little rubber “fins” that prevent hair wrap and help ensure the vacuum picks up extra fine pet hairs and particles. In its primary configuration with the floorhead, the handle can go fully horizontal, making it easier to get under furniture and appliances that have a couple inches of clearance. The floorhead can also be removed so the wand can be used with the crevice tool for hard-to-reach places (a true under-appliance is sold separately). The 30-foot cord allows you to clean large areas without having to unplug too often and an optional accessory holder can be securely clipped to the wand. Though the removeable dustbin is small, it’s easy to empty and the filters and dustbin are easy to access and clean. Pet owners will appreciate the removable panel on the underside of the floorhead that makes it easy to dislodge clogs too.
The Vertex Ultralight is a bit pricey for a corded vacuum with such a small dustbin, but you’re paying for Shark quality and power. Like most stick vacuums, it’s too top heavy to stand up on its own when fully assembled, but there is an option for hanging the hand vac on the wand for compact, upright storage. This vacuum doesn’t have a HEPA filter, but it still does an amazing job of collecting dust and fine particles from a variety of surfaces.
The first time I turned on the Tineco Pure One S11, I thought there was no way it could compete with a Dyson because it was so quiet. But I was wrong. The Pure One S11 is a powerful cordless stick vacuum that quietly cleans as well as the comparable Dyson V8 Absolute I tested, and it tackled some jobs (including my car) even better than the V8. The Pure One S11 is a smart vacuum, and the dust sensor built into the multi-surface swivel floorhead automatically adjusts the suction power as needed when cleaning in auto mode. Beyond the dust sensor and auto-adjusting suction, an LED display on the main body tells you when there’s a clog or other malfunction in the vacuum and shows how much battery is left. You can also connect this vacuum to Wi-Fi and use it with an app that provides detailed cleaning reports, like how much dust it picked up and how quickly. You can also use the app for maintenance reminders and tech support.
Speaking of maintenance, one of my favorite not-smart features is the pre-filter cleaning tool, an attachment that allows you to vacuum dust and debris out of the easily-accessible tube-shaped mesh filters (similar filters on the Dyson are messier to clean). This vacuum is also lightweight and comfortable to hold as a stick or configured as a hand vac, and weighs just 3½ pounds in stick mode. Depending on the cleaning mode and attachment you use, you can expect to get 20 to 40 minutes of run time from the Tineco, and if you want to double your cleaning time, you can purchase an extra battery pack. The manual encourages frequent cleaning of the dustbin and filters and there are even reminders printed on the vacuum itself. While all of the filters, including the HEPA filter, are washable, they do need to be replaced occasionally. The Tineco also has a clever little lever you can flip to keep the vacuum on, even without keeping a finger on the trigger.
It has to be charged on the docking station, so even if you don’t mount the dock for wall storage, you still need to put the body in the dock to charge. I’m also not that interested in connecting my vacuum cleaner to Wi-Fi—especially because it’s not like I can tell Google or Alexa to magically start vacuuming my floor and I don’t need a detailed log of the filth it cleans from my house—though the app connectivity could prove handy as time goes on and the need for maintenance increases.
While the Dyson V8 Absolute wasn’t the overall best cordless vacuum cleaner I tested, I still enthusiastically recommend it. I’ve been a Dyson stick user for about a decade, and the V8 Absolute is similar to the V6 Absolute and V6 Animal models I’ve owned, with a handful of improvements. It has more powerful suction in Max mode, longer battery life (up to 40 minutes in default mode with a non-motorized attachment), and a better mechanism for emptying the canister. The updated canister design means it’s less messy to empty and it doesn’t clog with pet hair like the older models did (I always had to use a chopstick to release the clumps of dog hair that built up between the filter and the wall of the dust bin in both of my V6 machines). The V8 Absolute comes with two swivel floorheads—a motorized one for rugs and carpets and a soft roller for hard floors—as well as six attachments for other jobs. In its default mode it had no problem getting glitter and cornstarch out of a rug or off of my textured kitchen floor. It also performed fairly well on my kids’ car seats when I attached the crevice and dusting tools to the hand vac.
The most annoying thing about Dyson stick vacuums is that you have to constantly hold down the trigger to keep them on. While this surely helps to prolong the run time, a power button would be nice. These vacuums also have a tendency to clog if you have pets and the filters need to be cleaned regularly. Unlike the Tineco, the V8 doesn’t have an indicator for clogs or dirty filters, but if you notice the vacuum starts to lose suction or make a pulsing sound, it’s time for a thorough cleaning.
Corded vacuum cleaners generally have far more cleaning power than similarly priced cordless models. With a corded vacuum, you also never have to worry about the battery dying while you’re in the middle of a cleaning session. That said, dealing with a cord can sometimes be a hassle, especially if you just want to do a quick cleanup. For most people, the best vacuum cleaner is the one you will actually use. I have kids and a dog, so at my house, the cordless stick gets used daily for spot cleaning while the corded vacuum only comes out when it’s time for a more thorough deep clean. But I also know a few people who happily use a corded vacuum every day.
No matter what type of vacuum cleaner you choose, you will have to regularly clean the filters and check the hoses for clogs or the motor will lose suction. And if you live in an old home or have pets, you may need to clean the filters even more often than the manual suggests. Continuing to use even the best vacuum cleaner with dirty filters will worsen its performance and shorten its lifespan.
After researching upright, stick, and canister vacuums, I ended up with 12 promising options. As the vacuums arrived, I used them around my house, noting what I liked and disliked about each. For the first round of official testing, I used them to vacuum glitter off of a jute rug. For the second round, I vacuumed up stomped-in cornstarch. I then took each into the kitchen to see how easy or hard it was to vacuum under and around my appliances, trash can, and recycling bins using various configurations and attachments. Next, I reconfigured the remaining vacuums for the crumbiest, hardest-to-clean place I know: my kids’ car seats. Finally, to ensure my top picks would truly work in the kitchen (not just beyond it), I used each vacuum to clean a combination of cornstarch and glitter off of my black textured kitchen floor.
I looked for vacuum cleaners with enough suction power to clean hard floors, rugs, and carpeting, keeping in mind that cordless vacuums usually have less power than their corded counterparts. When testing cordless vacuum cleaners, I also looked at battery run time.
I paid close attention to how easy or hard it was to push the vacuum around the whole house, including how well it turned and swiveled—especially on high-pile carpets and in tight spaces. I also considered how difficult it was to reconfigure each vacuum to use as a canister vac or hand vac with attachments and how easy it was to use in those different configurations.
Does the vacuum have a crevice tool that can be attached to a wand or tube for hard-to-reach places? Is there an included upholstery tool or dusting brush?
Does the vacuum have a HEPA filter to help combat allergens like dust and pet dander? Is the filter washable? And if so, is it easy to access and clean?
If a vacuum is expensive does it seem to be worth the investment? What do you sacrifice with a cheaper vacuum?
How big is the vacuum? Does it feel too heavy to move up and down stairs? Is it a challenge to store? Does it come with any sort of accessory storage, either for the wall or on the vacuum cleaner itself?
The Dyson Outsize Absolute is a cordless stick vacuum with powerful suction that rivals a high-end corded vacuum (though if you want the full two hours of run time, you’ll need to use it on the less powerful eco mode). It’s even quieter than my old Dyson V6 Absolute and the larger dustbin is easier to empty too. The Outsize also has a wider motorhead than other Dysons and a spare battery that you can swap mid-clean—a huge bonus, since replacing a Dyson battery is expensive and historically involved a screwdriver. For all of those reasons and more, it pains me to admit that the Outsize is a little too big. As a stick vacuum, it’s incredibly top-heavy and when it’s converted to a handheld vacuum, I feel like the Terminator when I hold it—except I’m not Arnold Schwarzenegger so I have to use two hands to keep the giant canister somewhat horizontal. All of that said, if you’re not bothered by the size (or the hefty price tag), you won’t be disappointed by the Dyson Outsize Absolute.
The Shark Navigator Lift Away (NV352) has been named not only the best upright vacuum but the best overall vacuum by several other review sites, and it definitely has powerful suction—especially for something that costs less than $200. In its upright mode, it’s fine, but it’s frustrating to use in other configurations. It’s called the “Lift Away” because you can remove the canister from the floorhead and use this vacuum like a handheld canister vacuum, but reconfiguring it is a convoluted process and using it in this way is awkward because of the short tube and the position and shape of the handle. I also had issues with the upholstery attachment separating from the handle when I tried to vacuum my couches.
There’s a lot to love about the Miele Compact C1 Turbo Team Canister Vacuum. It has many of the same features of the Miele Boost CX1, plus a turbo rolling floor brush for tackling all kinds of rugs and carpeting. But it’s a bagged vacuum. Considering it costs $100 more than the Boost CX1 and requires regularly purchasing pricey bags (four for $22 at the time of publication), I can’t recommend it—especially when the Boost CX1 has more than enough suction power for the toughest residential (and automobile) vacuuming jobs.
I really wanted to love the Lupe Pure Cordless Vacuum Cleaner. The eco-friendly U.K.-based manufacturer developed this vacuum with longevity in mind, and it has powerful suction as well as a battery that can be charged on its own while the rest of the machine is stored elsewhere (great for homes with limited outlets). Unfortunately, part of what makes it so good at picking up dust and debris—a foam roller at the front of the floorhead—also makes it difficult to maneuver. I had to work hard to push the Lupe over a variety of floor types, and unless it was in the least-powerful, battery-saving mode, caught the edges of my rugs every time I tried to transition from bare floors to area rugs, even with the brush roll turned off.
The no-frills Hoover Commercial Portapower Canister Vacuum is a versatile canister vac that did a great job getting glitter and cornstarch out of my jute rug, but the suction doesn’t compare to other vacuums I tested, and the suction-only floorhead struggled with the same messes on my kitchen floor. It had a hard time with pet hair and dirty car seats as well as an unwieldy, thick orange power cord.
The Eureka Power Speed Upright Vacuum Cleaner has a setup that’s similar to the Shark Navigator Lift Away, though it’s less than half the price. In my testing it performed as well as the Lift Away and it’s easier to reconfigure to use with attachments—though it’s equally annoying to use that way given the shape and placement of the handle. Some reviewers have complained that the performance wanes quickly (not surprising for a vacuum that costs less than $100), but I wasn’t able to test it long-term to confirm or deny that claim.
The Bissell FeatherWeight PowerBrush is a versatile corded bagless vacuum, and true to its name, it’s very light. It reminds me of a giant Black + Decker Dustbuster—but with the addition of a detachable floorhead and handle that allow it to also function as an upright vacuum. It did a great job of picking up dog hair from my hardwood floors and a low-pile rug, but it didn’t fully remove glitter from my jute rug and the stiff bristles of the brush roll actually did some damage to that (admittedly cheap) rug.
Some reviewers have recommended the Nequare Cordless Vacuum as a budget alternative to the much pricier Dyson stick vacuums, but the suction power does not compare. Even after many passes in its max suction mode with a fully charged battery, it was unable to fully pick up glitter from a jute rug.
For unrivaled suction, power, and versatility, nothing beats a Miele canister vacuum, and the new Miele Boost CX1 Bagless Canister eliminates the need to buy pricey vacuum bags. Figuring out the best settings for different types of flooring may take some trial and error, but it’s worth the minor initial inconvenience. If you want a stick vacuum with more power than comparable cordless models and you don’t mind emptying the dustbin more often than you would with a full-size vacuum, the compact Shark Vertex Ultralight is a smart choice at a reasonable price. The Tineco Pure One S11 is the best cordless stick vacuum I tested because it has better features than the similar-but-pricier Dyson V8 Absolute.Shark Vertex UltralightDyson V8 AbsoluteDyson Outsize AbsoluteShark Navigator Lift AwayMiele Compact C1 Turbo Team Canister VacuumLupe Pure Cordless Vacuum CleanerHoover Commercial Portapower Canister VacuumEureka Power Speed Upright Vacuum CleanerBissell FeatherWeight PowerBrushNequare Cordless VacuumMiele Boost CX1 Bagless CanisterShark Vertex UltralightTineco Pure One S11Dyson V8 Absolute