Sep 16, 2023
The 5 Best Canister Vacuums of 2023, Tested & Reviewed
Clean your entire home—carpets, hard floors, upholstery, and more—with these reliable vacuums. Jump to a Section We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links
Clean your entire home—carpets, hard floors, upholstery, and more—with these reliable vacuums.
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Real Simple / Rachel Marek
Cleaning up dust and dirt is a never-ending battle in many households, especially when pets and kids are part of the mix. Luckily, a canister vacuum's powerful suction and maneuverability can help restore at least some of the peace. But if you’re looking for a new vacuum, you might be stumped by which one is right for you.
“When shopping for a new canister vacuum, consider the suction power, filtration system, bagged vs. bagless options, available attachments, maneuverability, durability, price, and warranty,” says Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company.
We’ve tested nearly 300 vacuums of all types, both in our Lab and in our homes, so we have plenty of first-hand experience to help you make your decision. Each canister vacuum we tested was evaluated for its effectiveness, maneuverability, simplicity of setup (including attachments), ease of emptying, noise value, and overall value. For tips on what to look for when purchasing a canister vac, we consulted Mock for expert insights.
We found this vacuum to be quiet and great at cleaning carpets.
The button that adjusts the suction setting is easy to accidentally toggle.
Without a doubt, this Kenmore model is the best canister vacuum we’ve tested. In our tests, it took just one pass on the high suction level to pick up all of the debris on the carpet. On the medium setting, one or two stragglers of kibble were left after a single pass, but it was still impressive. And on low, it picked up some and pushed some around (though this is to be expected with heavier debris). The canister vacuum even sucked up all the hair from the carpet—and the best part is that none of it got stuck on the brush roll or the wheels. (Hair was more challenging on the hard surface, but we were eventually successful.)
In terms of setup, this canister vac took no time at all to put together—everything clicks into place, and the attachments fit on board quite nicely, too. It’s definitely worth taking the time to toggle through the suction settings to see what’s most effective on certain surfaces, though we found it performed best on the carpet regardless of the setting.
The vacuum seemed rather quiet, even on the highest setting. It’s also light enough to carry in one hand so you can easily maneuver the wand/attachment in the other. We found the canister followed us rather obediently around the room, thanks to a long, retractable cord, which also makes for easier storage.
The bag is quite easy to access and remove, though it did take some time to reinsert the bag so the panel could close. It comes with a variety of attachments—we especially liked the telescoping wand—that can all be stored on board. The attachments, coupled with the three suction settings, give you plenty of options for cleaning up a variety of surfaces, including upholstery and stairs.
Overall, we were impressed with the suction power of this vacuum. Pet parents will love how easily it picks up hair, even from high-pile rugs (that’s why it’s also our favorite vacuum for pet hair). That same power might be a bit too much for hard surfaces, but again, with plenty of suction settings and attachments, it’s easy to make adjustments to clean whatever and wherever you need.
FYI: Depending on where you buy this vacuum, certain aspects may change. The blue version has a 26-foot cord, while the purple version has a 28-foot cord—but the manufacturer confirmed that both are the same vacuum in different colors.
Price at time of publish: $350
Type: Bagged | Capacity: 2.5 liters | Cord Length: 26 feet | Weight: 22.64 pounds | Attachments: Dusting brush, Pet PowerMate attachment, long crevice tool, and Pop-N-Go bare floor brush
Real Simple / Dera Burreson
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
It’s low-priced and works well on hard and soft surfaces alike.
The cord is too short for large rooms and open floor plans.
In our tests, this lightweight canister vacuum from Eureka maneuvered well around chair legs, and the floor nozzle pivoted easily, too. In fact, it’s compact enough to take on stairs, though we relied on the crevice tool to get into the tight edges of the risers. It took several passes to clean up hair and kibble, but this vacuum is so lightweight (just over 8 pounds!) that we didn’t mind the extra effort. On carpet, we found it worked better when pulling it back as opposed to pushing it. And since it didn’t spit any debris out, there’s no need to do double work for cleanup.
Setup was easy for this vacuum, though we did have to redo the assembly of the floor brush. We liked how easy it was to tap the switch on the floor nozzle to change suction settings, so you can go from carpet to hard floor and back again without missing a beat. The bristles extend for hard floors but retract for carpets, and we found that both worked equally well.
This is a bagless canister vacuum, which means that it has a reusable dustbin you can empty once full. We didn’t have any issues dumping out the debris, and it was easy to remove any hair that got caught inside.
The Eureka model was loud—as many vacuums can be—so hold off on any meaningful conversations until you’re done cleaning. We liked the retractable cord, but the length (16 feet) was a bit shorter than we’re used to. It’s fine for a bedroom, but if you’ve got larger rooms or an open floor plan, you’ll have to unplug and find a new outlet at some point.
Price at time of publish: $90
Type: Bagless | Capacity: 1.2 liters | Cord Length: 16 feet | Weight: 8 pounds | Attachments: Crevice tool and brush
This is a powerful vacuum with loads of helpful attachments that make cleaning a breeze, even for pet owners.
We wish the dustbin was larger and easier to empty.
Pet owners, rejoice! With this canister vacuum from Miele, you can have your furry friends and clean floors. It’s so easy to use that it’s become part of our daily cleaning routine. You wouldn’t even know we share a home with multiple pets—that’s how well it picks up hair from surfaces.
Don’t be alarmed when you see how many pieces this vacuum comes in when you first take it out of the box—assembly is much simpler than it looks. The handle makes it easy to pick up and move the vacuum wherever we need to clean. The vacuum comes with plenty of attachments, but we found the main vacuum head was effective enough on its own.
The canister vac is on wheels so it’s easy to move, but we did find it tipped over sometimes during use. Still, it made the transition from hard floor to carpet very easy. It took just a single pass to pick up kibble on the hard floor (setting one) and rug (setting five), so feel free to toggle between suction settings to find out what works for your specific type of flooring. It also did well with picking up hair—and just about everything else—in our tests. The only downside of this bagless model is the dustbin: Even though it has a 2-liter capacity, we wish it was bigger and easier to empty without making a mess.
Price at time of publish: $999
Type: Bagless | Capacity: 2 liters | Cord Length: 21 feet | Weight: 19 pounds | Attachments: Dusting brush, parquet twister floorhead, Electro Plus floorhead, crevice tool, and handheld turbo brush
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
It’s quiet, lightweight, and easy to maneuver.
It doesn’t perform as well on carpets, so it's better for those with primarily hard floors.
The Shark Canister Pet Bagless Corded Vacuum is our top pick for hard floors, where it glided around and sucked up all kinds of debris. In our testing, it removed kibble and pet hair from hard surfaces like a pro, and it also worked wonders on upholstery. We found it to be quite lightweight and easy to maneuver—it “followed” us around the room easily while we cleaned.
However, it struggled on carpets, leaving behind bits of kibble no matter what angle we tried to vacuum from. And when we moved from the hard surface to the rug, the hair that was just sucked up got stuck on the edge of the carpet—so this is definitely a better option for those with primarily hard floors in their home.
The Shark vacuum comes in three pieces that connect easily, so setup is quick. Even on high, this vacuum isn’t super loud. We like that the power button and suction settings are located on the handle rather than the canister, so it’s much easier to make adjustments while cleaning. The dustbin opens quite easily, though it did take us a minute to figure out which buttons released it from the canister body.
Price at time of publish: $400
Type: Bagless | Capacity: 1.8 liters | Cord Length: 25 feet | Weight: 17.2 pounds | Attachments: Upholstery tool and pet crevice tool
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
It has six different suction settings to take on all types of carpet.
There’s a learning curve when first using it.
We found this Miele model quite easy to maneuver, thanks to its compact design that is great for those with smaller spaces. It fits under couches and coffee tables easily. Despite its compact size, the canister was surprisingly heavy. It even has the largest dustbin on our list—3.31 liters. The attachment instructions were a bit confusing, but all was forgiven when we saw how quickly it sucked up hair and Cheerios in a single pass on low-pile carpet.
This vacuum for carpets needed to be picked up and put directly over debris on deep-pile carpet a few times, but even then it took just two passes to clean the mess. However, it struggled with hair on medium-pile carpet in our tests—we had to stop to unclog the vacuum. However, we liked that emptying the dust canister was as simple as removing and discarding the bag when it was full—a good feature for those with allergies.
There are six different suction settings available, so it might take some trial and error to figure out which are most effective for your floors. Even though we found it to be especially effective on carpets, this canister vacuum also works on hardwood floors—it even comes with a parquet floor head attachment.
Price at time of publish: $579
Type: Bagged | Capacity: 3.31 liters | Cord Length: 18 feet | Weight: 15 pounds | Attachments: Turboteq floorhead, parquet floorhead, dusting brush, crevice tool, and upholstery tool
The Kenmore Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go Canister Vacuum topped our list for its strong suction power. Its adjustable settings make it easy to clean both hard floors and deep-pile carpets. We also like its compact design with space to store attachments on board.
We’ve tested nearly 300 vacuums, including over a dozen canister models, both in our Lab and at home. We evaluated each canister vacuum based on its effectiveness on various types of flooring and upholstery, as well as factors like simplicity of setup, maneuverability, noise level, ease of emptying the dustbin, and overall value. While the exact tests we used on each model can vary slightly depending on the intended use, here’s how we tested most of the vacuums on our list.
First, we timed how long it took us to set up the vacuum, from the moment we opened the box to when we were plugged in and ready to roll. We noted the simplicity of setup and clarity of instructions. We powered on the vacuum at its highest and lowest settings and used a decibel meter to measure the noise levels of both. Then, we got to work.
In the first test, we evaluated how well each vacuum did with picking kibble on both medium-pile carpet and luxury vinyl tile (LVT). On each surface, we spread 1/4 cup of crunched-up dry dog food kernels. We vacuumed up the kibble, counting how many passes it took to clean it up. We added attachments (if included) and toggled through suction settings (where applicable) to clean up. Once we finished with one surface, we moved to the other, noting how easy the transition was between the different types of flooring. Then, we emptied the dustbin into the garbage and removed the bag (where applicable), noting how easy or hard it was to do and whether one or both hands were needed.
In the second test, we took 4 ounces of pet hair and sprinkled it over the LVT and the rug, pushing the hair into the carpet fibers to give the vacuums a challenge. Then, we vacuumed up the hair, noting how many passes it took; we used available attachments and adjusted suction settings as needed. After cleaning one surface, we moved to the next, noting again how well the vacuum transitioned between the different surfaces. We emptied the bag or dustbin into a bucket, then weighed the amount of hair that was collected by the vacuum to see how effective each vacuum was in removing the debris. We also cleaned the brush roll, observing how difficult or easy it was to remove and clean it by hand, with a pair of scissors, or with the tool that came with some of the vacuums.
We also analyzed the vacuums for enhanced or special features. For battery-operated vacuums, we noted whether there was a decline in power as the battery depleted; we also timed the vacuum during testing to see how long the battery lasted. We took note of whether the vacuum had a HEPA filter designed to better capture allergens and dander. If the vacuum had an LED light, we turned it on to see whether it made finding the pet hair embedded in the carpet fibers any easier. For vacuums with washable filters, we removed and cleaned the filter per the manufacturer’s guidelines, noting how easy it was to wash and reinsert.
For each vacuum, we evaluated its ease of use, noting whether the vacuum’s weight or ergonomic design (or lack thereof) helped or hindered maneuverability. We noted how simple or challenging it was to remove the vacuum bag and empty the dust cup; for the latter, we observed whether we could empty the hair without it flying all over.
Following our Lab tests, we took some of the vacuums home to see how they continue to perform in a real-world setting.
Real Simple / Rachel Marek
Our list includes both bagged and bagless canister vacuums, and each type has its pros and cons. Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid, says if you’ve got allergies, you might want to choose a bagged canister vacuum, as they are typically better at containing dust. “However, you'll need to regularly replace the bags, which adds to maintenance costs,” she says, adding that prices and availability will vary depending on the brand. “On the positive side, they offer a hygienic disposal process as you can simply remove and seal the bag,” she explains.
Bagless canister vacuums, on the other hand, will keep maintenance costs low because you don’t have to purchase replacement bags. “You can easily empty the dirt canister and see when it needs to be emptied,” Mock says. “However, they may require more frequent cleaning and maintenance of filters and canisters.” For those with allergies, this could be a problem. Depending on the design of the canister, it might release dust right back into the air when emptying it, she explains.
Mock adds that those with allergies should look for vacuums with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, which have been defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as being able to remove at least 99.97 percent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles 0.3 microns in size.
Vacuuming a two-story house is much different from vacuuming a studio apartment. While a canister vacuum can be used for both, there are two things to keep in mind as you consider your purchase. “If you have a larger area, you might want a vacuum with a longer hose or a larger dust canister to minimize the frequency of emptying,” says Mock.
Our top pick for carpets, the Miele Compact C1 Turbo Team Bagged Canister Vacuum, has a 3.31-liter dustbin—the largest capacity of all our recommendations.
Mock says that different vacuums can perform better on certain surfaces, so consider your home’s flooring when purchasing a canister vacuum. “If you have mostly carpeted areas, look for a vacuum with adjustable height settings and a motorized brush for effective carpet cleaning,” she suggests. “If you have a lot of hard floors, prioritize a vacuum with a brush on-off switch to prevent scratching and a specialized attachment for hard floors.”
The attraction of canister vacuums is that they often come with a bevy of attachments, but it’s important to know what each one actually does for you and your home, says Mock. “Attachments like a motorized upholstery tool or a pet hair attachment can be great if you have specific pet needs,” she explains. “Ensure that the vacuum offers the right attachments to address your cleaning requirements, such as crevice tools, dusting brushes, or specialized brushes for furniture or curtains.”
Some of the models on our list—like the Kenmore Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go Canister Vacuum—take it a step further and have built-in storage, so you can keep the attachments on board instead of losing them in a drawer or closet.
Bissell 2230 Pet Hair Eraser Bagless Canister Vacuum: We found the Bissell was great on hard floors, though it left most of the kibble behind on the deep-pile carpet. The vac is a bit heavy, and the bottom of the canister also didn’t open quite as easily as we would hope. We would have liked it if there was built-in storage for the attachments.
Dyson Big Ball Canister Vacuum: There’s no doubt that Dyson is a great vacuum brand. While this model was quite easy to maneuver, it had difficulty picking up material in deeper-pile carpets. It also struggled to pick up Cheerios on the hard floor, and we saw that some debris “leaked” from the sides as we cleaned.
“Canister vacuums often offer similar or higher suction power compared to upright and stick vacuums, thanks to their design allowing for larger motors and better airflow,” says Mock. That’s good news if you’re in the market for a new vacuum because it means you’ve got a host of powerful cleaning options. Ultimately, you can make your final decision on the type of vacuum you prefer to use.
Suction power refers to how rapidly air moves through a vacuum to suck up debris from a surface. Suction power is calculated in air watts, which measure the airflow at the end of a vacuum’s hose. The higher the air wattage, the stronger the suction power.
“Look for a canister vacuum with a suction power of at least 200–300 air watts (AW) or a high cubic feet per minute (CFM) rating for effective cleaning,” says Mock. However, most manufacturers do not advertise the air watts of a vacuum cleaner, so this measurement can be hard to find.
ICYMI, you should be cleaning your vacuum. Besides regularly emptying debris from the dustbin, you should also clean the canister and the attachments often. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions first—you don’t want to accidentally void the warranty, after all. But in general, a bit of soapy water with a cloth should do the trick—just make sure to dry everything out before reinstalling. You should also clean the hair off the brush roll; some vacuums include a tool just for this task, or you could gently snip strands with a pair of scissors. Wipe down the exterior, too—Mock recommends using a dryer sheet to dust the hose.
There are other maintenance tasks you can do to prolong the life of your canister vacuum. A wire hanger works to remove clogs, says Mock. If there are any cracks or holes in the vacuum hose, use a piece of duct tape to seal them up. Lubricate bearings as needed to keep things running smoothly and check the belt, which could eventually need a replacement.
This article was written by Barbara Bellesi Zito, a freelance lifestyle writer based in Staten Island, NY. To compile this list of best canister vacuums, we tested nearly 300 vacuums of all types from top brands, considering factors like maneuverability, ease of use (including emptying bins and cleaning filters), and overall value. For expert advice on what consumers should know when purchasing canister vacuums, Barbara consulted Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company.
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.
Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.Price at time of publish: $350 Type: Capacity:Cord Length: Weight:Attachments:Price at time of publish: $90 Type: Capacity:Cord Length: Weight: Attachments:Price at time of publish: $999 Type: Capacity: Cord Length: Weight: Attachments: Price at time of publish: $400 Type:Capacity:Cord Length:Weight:Attachments:Price at time of publish: $579 Type: Capacity: Cord Length: Weight: Attachments:Bissell 2230 Pet Hair Eraser Bagless Canister VacuumDyson Big Ball Canister Vacuum