Choosing the best vacuum cleaner isn’t easy. There’s a huge number, many with bewildering claims about technology and effectiveness that are hard to qualify. On top of that, you may also have specific requirements of your own, around pets, portability, batteries and so on. That’s where we come in – our expert technology testers have thoroughly reviewed every single vacuum cleaner in the following list, enabling us to independently verify each manufacturer’s claim and rank the results.
The vacuum cleaner has to be the most essential bit of kit that any homeowner buys. As the fastest and most simple way of keeping your house clean, it’s important to buy the right type of vacuum cleaner, picking the model that fits into your home: you need the right combination of power, accessories and manoeuvrability. Here, we’ll help you make the right decisions.
Below, we’ve focused on corded cleaners (those that you plug in) as we’re going after a wide range of uses here, although we have added a few cordless cleaners as battery technology is catching up rapidly. The short version is, here’s the list of vacuum cleaners that are capable of cleaning everything, being your primary cleaner.
- Best overall vacuum cleaner: Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet NZ801UKT
- Best large home vacuum cleaner: Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner XL with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet AZ950UKT
- Best cordless vacuum: Dyson V11 Absolute
- Best cylinder vacuum cleaner: Numatic Henry HVR200-A2
- Best premium vacuum cleaner: Vorwerk Kobold VK200
- Best vacuum cleaner for allergy sufferers: Dyson Small Ball Allergy
- Best for flexibility: Karcher WD 4
- Best for vacuum and steam: Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E
How we review vacuum cleaners
Every vacuum cleaner in our round-up has been individually reviewed – each summary includes a link to our full, in-depth review of the product where you can read about the pros and cons, and see how well it cleans in our before-and-after photos. Here’s our full guide to how we review vacuums.
When we review vacuum cleaners we look at the following things:
- Manoeuvrability – here we look at how easy it is to steer, pull and lift the machine. We test on carpets and hard floors and look for problems such as overbalancing on upright machines, flexibility and common issues like “sticking” heads on hard floors due to poorly designed cleaner heads.
- Carpet cleaning – we test using white powder on dark carpets and test after three sweeps, where one sweep is up and down across the area.
- Edge cleaning – this test looks at how well the machine cleans up to the edge of skirting boards before you have to resort to specialist crevice tools.
- Hard floor cleaning – we conduct similar tests on hard floors and look at how well the vacuum cleaner sucks dust up from crevices and gaps in flooring.
- Pet hair cleaning – how long and how many sweeps it takes to clean a 40cm-diameter circle of combed-in pet hair.
- Cleaning on stairs – we see how easy it is to clean on stairs using the tools provided. We pay particular attention to how long the detachable hose is and how easy it is to carry the vacuum cleaner if you need to.
- Noise – we measure how noisy the machine is in decibels recorded at head level.
We also check to see what accessories are included, how well they work and how versatile the machine is. For example, some vacuum cleaners are good at specific jobs, while others have lots of tools that make them open to more variety.
Other details we check include the cord length on corded vacuum cleaners, the battery life on cordless models and how easy it is to empty bagless models.
1. Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet NZ801UKT
Best all-round vacuum cleaner reviewed
Do you need a plug-in vacuum cleaner that can happily cope with any job going? The Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet NZ801UKT could well be the model for you. This vacuum cleaner has Shark’s DuoClean floor head, which has two rollers to cope with hard floors and carpets. It works brilliantly and means that you don’t have to change heads through cleaning.
In our tests, the NZ801UKT managed to clean up perfectly in our pet hair, hard floor and carpet tests. What’s more, the Anti Hair Wrap technology meant that the rollers staid free of hair, even in a house with three people with long hair.
As with other Lift Away vacuums, the central bin and vacuum unit lift out to create a more portable vacuum cleaner that you use with the wand, hose and accessories for detail cleaning. Suction remains just as powerful, but you get a more nimble and easy-to-use vacuum cleaner.
Well-priced and with plenty of accessories, the Shark NZ801UKT strikes the perfect balance between a powerful upright cordless vacuum cleaner and a more nimble cleaner that can tackle any other job. If you want the best mains-powered vacuum cleaner, then this is it.
Vacuum cleaner type: Upright with Lift-Away mode, Size: 1170 x 260 x 300mm, 6.5kg, Provided heads: DuoClean floor head, turbo tool, dusting brush and crevice tool, under appliance brush, upholstery brush and car detailing kit, Bin capacity: 0.83-litres, Bagless: Yes, Run time: Mains powered
Read our full Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet NZ801UKT
2. Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner XL with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet AZ950UKT
An extra-large vacuum cleaner that makes tackling big homes easy
If you’ve got a large home or regularly need to vacuum, then look no further than the Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner XL with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet AZ950UKT. With its extra-wide head and 1.65-litre bin, this is a cleaner that can tackle large areas quickly without having to constantly empty the cleaner.
Thanks to the DuoClean floor head, which has a soft roller and a brush, the cleaner can move effortlessly between hard floors and carpets without affecting how well it cleans. And, as you can tell from the Anti Hair Wrap in the name, this cleaner uses Shark’s clever tech that stops hair clogging up the rollers, too.
Although the AZ950UKT is big, it has Shark’s Lift-Away tech, where the main cylinder can lift out of the cleaner, turning this vacuum into one that can reach into harder-to-get-to areas, from cars to behind cupboards. It makes this vacuum cleaner incredibly versatile.
With excellent cleaning on all surfaces and a great array of accessories, this is the ultimate vacuum cleaner for dealing with large homes or heavy spills.
Vacuum cleaner type: Upright vacuum cleaner, Size: 1175 x 305 x 280mm, 7.5kg, Provided heads: Motorised floor head, pet power brush, 2-in-1 crevice tool, upholstery brush, Bin capacity: 1.65-litres, Bagless: Yes, Run time: N/A
Read our full Shark Anti Hair Wrap Upright Vacuum Cleaner XL with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet AZ950UKT review
3. Dyson V11 Absolute
The best cordless vacuum reviewed
How do you make the best cordless vacuum cleaner even better? Simple, with the Dyson V11, the company has added a screen onto the back, boosted power and made the vacuum more intelligent. Now, the V11 is the only vacuum you need for any job around your house.
First, about that screen. Having a display on the back of your cleaner may sound like madness but it’s actually a really smart move. On the screen, you can see the exact runtime remaining, so you know when it’s time to return to the charger. And, if your vacuum develops a problem, the display shows you what’s going on and how to fix the issue. That’s really smart.
On top of that, the V11 Absolute is now more intelligent thanks to the High Torque floor head, which senses the surface it’s on and adjusts power automatically. There’s no more messing around with power modes. To top it off, the vacuum is now 20% more powerful and has a larger battery, which will deliver up to an hour’s runtime on the Eco mode, with a motorised brush head.
If you’re looking for more of a bargain, last year’s Dyson V10 is an excellent buy still, but for the best, go with the V11.
Vacuum cleaner type: Cordless vacuum cleaner, Size: 1286 x 250 x 261, 3kg, Provided heads: Motorised floor head, soft roller, mini roller, crevice tool, dusting brush, combination tool, Bin capacity: 0.76-litres, Bagless: Yes, Run time: 60 minutes Eco, 12 minutes Max
Read our full Dyson V11 review
4. Numatic Henry HVR200-A2
Best cylinder vacuum cleaner for price and reliability
The Numatic Henry HVR200-A2 is one of the best-known vacuum cleaner brands around. It’s a favourite among professional cleaners everywhere and with good reason: it’s made to withstand serious punishment. This makes it a great workhorse for small offices and shops, but it’s a good home vacuum cleaner as well and inexpensive to boot.
One of our favourite features is the huge, 9-litre capacity bag, which means you don’t have to empty it often. You have to work quite hard to agitate dirt in carpet, but it’s a good cleaner on all surfaces. It struggles a little in edge cleaning compared to the very best, but then it costs a fraction of the price and the provided crevice tool gets the job done.
Our only serious warning is that at 8.5kg it’s rather heavy, making it a poor choice for anyone with a bad back.
Vacuum cleaner type: Cylinder, Size: 320 x 340 x 345mm, 6.6kg, Provided heads: Floor head, crevice tool, soft brush, upholstery brush, Bin capacity: 6-litres, Bagless: No
Read our full Numatic Henry HVR200-A2 review
Best for quality and accessories
The Vorwerk Kobold VK200 is slightly different, as it’s a product that you can only buy direct after having a demonstration. The reason for this is because the VK200 has a huge range of optional accessories that can push the price way over £1,000 – the aim is to only sell you the kit you actually need.
What the range of accessories tells you is that this is a bagged vacuum cleaner that means business. It has optional extras for mopping floors, dry-cleaning carpets, freshening mattresses, and even for sucking up dust as you drill holes.
Performance from the vacuum cleaner is exceptional, with the VK200 sliding through all of our tests without issue. And, the flexible range of attachments meant that we could clean all parts of our home, including behind radiators and on top of wardrobes.
Yes, the VK200 is expensive, but with the build quality and tools it comes with, it is the ultimate vacuum cleaner.
Vacuum cleaner type: Upright, Size: 850 x 150 x 210mm, 3kg, Provided heads: EB400 electric floor brush, Bin capacity: 6-litres, Bagless: No
Read our Vorwerk Kobold VK200 review
6. Dyson Small Ball Allergy
Best reviewed for allergy sufferers
Dyson had originally said that it wasn’t planning to release any new corded vacuum cleaners, so the Dyson Light Ball Allergy is nice to see. This model uses Dyson’s ball technology, which makes the upright cleaner super-easy to push around and get between furniture. We’d go as far as to say that this is the most manoeuvrable cleaner that we’ve used.
It comes with Dyson’s standard floor head, which did a great job picking up mess from carpet and hard floors alike. When you need a bit of detail cleaning, the wand can be removed and there’s a combination crevice tool and brush, and a soft brush for finer jobs. As this is the model designed for Allergy sufferers, it also comes with a mattress tool to keep your bed nice and clean. There’s only room on the cleaner for two of three tools, though. You also get Dyson’s premium filtration, including dual washable filters, to keep allergens trapped inside the bin.
We found the bin a bit stiff to open at first, but it should loosen over time, giving you one-finger emptying directly into your main bin, without spilling dust everywhere.
For allergy sufferers, the Dyson Small Ball Allergy is certified asthma and allergy friendly, making it a great choice. There are some slightly more flexible cleaners on this list if allergies aren’t your main priority.
Read our Dyson Small Ball Multi Allergy review
Vacuum cleaner type: Upright, Size: 1057 x 384 x 281mm, 6.9kg, Provided heads: Motorised floor head, combination tool, stair tool, mattress tool, soft dusting brush, Bin capacity: 1.2-litres, Bagless: Yes, Run time: Mains powered
7. Karcher WD4
Best wet and dry vacuum cleaner
If you need the most flexibility, the Karcher WD 4 wet and dry vacuum cleaner is the model for you. This model uses the same filter for both wet and dry cleaning, making it easy to change mode. To use with wet spills you have to remove the bag, but you can also use the vacuum bagless in dry mode, making it great for picking up DIY mess: you just tip the mess into a bin when you’re done, emptying the huge 20-litre bin. Bags are expensive at £14 for a pack of four, although the size means that you have to empty the rarely.
The Karcher WD 4 comes with a series of well-designed tools, so you can easily tackle most jobs. In our tests, the Karcher WD 4 coped with our usual test spills with ease, but also sucked up liquid and followed our builder, picking up the mess left behind from rubble to plasterboard. Basically, as long as the mess fits down the hose, the Karcher WD 4 can pick up the mess with ease.
Vacuum cleaners with rotating brush bars tend to deal with normal dust on carpets better, but there are few devices that have the flexibility of the Karcher WD 4. If you’re looking for a well-priced vacuum to deal with all manner of really messy stuff, then this is the one that you should buy.
Vacuum cleaner type: Cylinder wet and dry vacuum cleaner, Size: 384 x 365 x 526mm, 7.1kg, Provided heads: Wet and dry floor nozzle, crevice tool, Bin capacity: 20-litres, Bagless: No, Run time: Mains powered
Read our full Karcher WD4 review
8. Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E
Best reviewed for vacuum and steam cleaning
Not just a steam cleaner, but a vacuum cleaner, the Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E is a quality all-rounder. Individually, its comparatively weak vacuum and light steam cleaner won’t win any awards; yet, it’s the combination of the two that prove to be such a winner with the cleaner abling sucking up dirt and cleaning hard floors.
With no detail tools, the Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E is focussed entirely on mopping. After a short wait, the mopping pad is moist enough to clean. Testing on a hard floor, this cleaner turns two tasks into one, doing a very passable clean in one pass. Subtract the time it would take to get out, set up and clean with two individual machines and this is a real time saver.
The weak vacuum means that this isn’t a tool for using around the house for general jobs. That might make it sound quite niche, but the Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E could well find itself useful in many homes. If you’ve got hard floors that you struggle to keep clean in a timely fashion, this is a great all-rounder that does two jobs in one.
Vacuum cleaner type: Upright vacuum and steam cleaner, Size: 1168 x 280 x 250mm, 4.8kg, Provided heads: Steam mop, Bin capacity: 0.95-litres, Bagless: Yes, Run time: Mains powered
Read our full Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E review
How to buy the right cleaner
Do I still need a regular vacuum cleaner?
Many companies are moving to make cordless vacuum cleaners only. In many ways, this makes a lot of sense, as cordless cleaners are more convenient, ready when you need them, and they’re now offering performance similar to a plug-in cleaner. They’re not the only answer, though, and a traditional plug-in vacuum has some advantages over its battery-powered rivals.
- First, there’s the price. Cordless vacuum cleaners are typically a lot more expensive than plug-in ones, particularly the models designed for whole-home cleaning. This is largely because of the expense of the battery technology uses, and the additional engineering required to make these models more efficient. For around half-the-price of a top-end cordless model, you can buy a corded model with more features.
- Power is also worth thinking about. Corded models are more powerful, so they suck up more dirt and can deal with bigger jobs, such as sucking up some DIY mess. If you’ve got bigger jobs to deal with, you’ll find a corded model is better.
- Of course, there’s also runtime, with corded models able to run as long as you need them too. If you’ve got a larger house, then a corded model will probably make a lot more sense, as you’ll be able to clean in one go without having to wait for batteries to charge.
- Finally, corded models tend not to have automatic cutouts, so they keep on sucking regardless. If you want to use a vacuum for vacuum bags or with use with DIY tools, such as drill attachments that suck up the dust as you drill, you’re more likely to get these features with a corded model.
- None of this is to say that cordless models don’t have a place, but the right vacuum cleaner is more about getting the model that suits your life, your lifestyle and the types of jobs that you have to do.
What’s the best type of vacuum cleaner?
There are two key choices to make here. First, you need to choose between bagged and bagless vacuum cleaners; secondly, are you better off with an upright or a cylinder vacuum cleaner? We’ll get to those in a moment.
But there’s one further option – cordless vacuums. The wire-free convenience they offer is a growing trend in the market, and well worth considering. Most aren’t as powerful as corded vacuum cleaners, but they make up for that with versatility and simplicity. Ridding yourself of the cable makes spot cleans much easier, so they’re a great alternative if you already have a decent corded vacuum cleaner for tougher jobs.
With the latest technology, cordless vacuum cleaners are now exceeding the capabilities of corded models. In fact, Dyson has announced that it will no longer be developing new corded models, focussing its attention on cordless. Existing Dyson corded models will still be sold, but cordless is clearly the future.
Can a vacuum cleaner help with allergies?
If you suffer from allergies, a vacuum cleaner can be a helpful tool to suck up anything that may irritate you. A vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter for preventing small particles from escaping your clean and being blown around. This will ensure that everything that may irritate you will be deposited into the bin or bag.
Is vacuum cleaner power important?
Vacuum cleaners will be rated by the amount of energy that they use, but don’t be fooled into thinking that a cleaner that uses more power is more powerful. Rather, it’s efficiency that counts, and the amount of air that a cleaner can pull through it. Look for the Airwatt rating instead, which is a truer description of how powerful a cleaner is.
Even then, Airwatts doesn’t tell the entire story. After all, what’s the point in a vacuum cleaner that suctions itself to the floor, so that you can’t push the head along?
A vacuum like that won’t be sucking up much dirt. The most important thing is how well a cleaner picks up dirt, which is what we focus our in-depth tests on.
What is a wet vacuum cleaner?
We’ve reviewed a few wet and dry models of vacuum cleaner, but what’s the difference? Well, a wet and dry vacuum cleaner can handle dry spills (normal dust), as well as liquids. So, what’s the point of being able to suck up liquids? The main reason is that you can clean up practically any spill or handle a wider variety of jobs.
If you’ve just dropped a bottle of wine, for example, your wet cleaner will suck up the spill quickly, saving on paper towel. Have you got a blocked washing machine waste pipe? Just suck up the mess with your wet vacuum cleaner, and you’ll clear the blockage with no problems faster than you thought.
These models are also best for handling any damp materials. For example, if you do a lot of DIY, sawdust, brickdust and plaster can all be damp and clog the filters of a normal vacuum cleaner; a wet model will make light work of this kind of mess, letting you tidy up pretty much everything.
Typically vacuum cleaners need to be converted from one mode to the other, removing a bag (if installed) to go from dry to wet mode. Still, if you’ve got a lot of jobs involving spills, you should go for one of these models rather than a traditional vacuum cleaner.
Bagged vs Bagless – which is best?
Dyson popularised bagless vacuum cleaners, but there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both types. The main benefit of a bagless vacuum cleaner is no loss of suction, or at least a smaller reduction, as your cleaner fills up. Performance varies from brand to brand, depending on the quality of their systems, but that’s the key selling point.
The problem with bagless vacuum cleaners is that they can send dust back into your room when emptied unless you’re very careful, which isn’t much good for cleanliness or allergies. That’s where bagged vacuum cleaners are best, particularly the self-sealing kind used by the likes of Miele. A bagged vacuum cleaner is a better option if you’re an allergy sufferer.
Another advantage of bagless vacuum cleaners is that you don’t have to buy bags, saving some money in the long run. However, most bagless cleaners need to have their filters cleaned once a month or so, which means leaving them to dry for at least 24 hours. The only exception are some new Dysons, which are among the first to have no filter whatsoever.
Upright vs Cylinder Vacuum Cleaners
Whether you choose an upright or a cylinder vacuum cleaner largely comes down to the style of cleaner you prefer. Cylinder cleaners are normally easier to store, but pulling them around can become annoying. They’re not the best for people with bad backs, either, due to you having to bend down to pick them up.
A good upright will breeze around your floors with ease, and they normally have wider cleaning heads that cover a larger area in one sweep. It can be tricky to get under furniture with an upright, but some are designed to avoid this problem.
If you’re unsure, see if you can try some out first.