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Cleaning your house isn't always the most exciting thing on your to-do list—and when you have a big bulky vacuum, it makes chores even less desirable. If this is a typical scenario in your household you might want to invest in a canister vacuum.
Unlike the more popular upright vacuums, canister vacuums are often lighter and easier to maneuver as the wheeled unit glides behind you as you work. The downside is canister vacuums are often better suited for hard floors and often can't tackle high pile rugs so if you have wall-to-wall carpet, you might want to try an upright vacuum.
Other things to consider when buying a canister vacuum are if you have allergies or pets. If so, you'll want a model with a HEPA filter and a sealed air filtration system as well as specialized attachments.
Here, the best canister vacuums available now.
Best Overall: Kenmore Elite 81714 Pet Friendly Canister Vacuum
Very long cord
Pet Powermate attachment
Steeper price point
In order to be named the best canister vacuum cleaner, a vacuum can’t sit out on any of the major features it’s expected to have—and it should boast a few bells and whistles that will convince you to choose it over more budget-conscious options. The Kenmore Elite 81714 Pet Friendly Canister Vacuum is that vacuum—one that flies under the radar and then pops up to impress with features like a 2-motor system that gives it exceptional suction strength, an adjustable telescoping wand that can reach and clean up to 10 feet, and a 26-foot cord that offers freedom of movement as you clean and is retractable with the push of button.
This is a classic bagged canister, which means you will have to replace bags on occasion—but it also means there’s no need to constantly empty filters and wash them out. It was designed with an integrated HEPA filtration system and a special Pet Powermate attachment for sucking up fur and hair from floors, upholstery, and pet areas—a must-have if you have a pet that sheds. Another useful attachment is the dusting and crevice tool with suction control, which can tackle hard floors, carpet, and delicate items like curtains. Make no bones about it: at 25 pounds, this is a substantial vacuum and it requires manual pile-height adjustment when you switch from floors to carpet or rugs, but considering its many features, this is the best overall vacuum to own.
Best Budget: Bissell Zing Bagged Canister Vacuum
Easy to operate
The pursuit of a cleaner home doesn’t have to break the bank. There are a number of double-digit vacuums out there, but the BISSELL Zing Bagged Canister Vacuum stands out for its affordable price tag and plenty of features that don’t force you to compromise on quality. Weighing less than 8 pounds, this bagless vacuum can collect up to 2.5 liters of dirt, dust, and debris. The lightweight vacuum lacks a variety of settings, but it makes up for it with simplicity—one flip of a switch takes you from hard floors to carpet and another adjustable knob lets you lower the suctioning power so that you can safely clean thin rugs, drapes, and upholstery.
If you have stairs, you’ll appreciate this vacuum’s integrated carrying handle and telescopic wand. And there’s good news for anyone who can’t stand wrapping and uncoiling cords—this model boasts a 15-foot power cord with an automatic cord rewind that retracts when you push one button.
Best Splurge: Miele Compact C2 Electro+
Five carpet pile height settings
Short power cord
If you’re ready to take the leap and splurge on an incredible canister vacuum cleaner that stands the test of time, it doesn’t get better than the Miele Compact C2 Electro + PowerLine. This is the vacuum that checks the boxes for nearly every important vacuum feature—and can be trusted to do an incredible job of gently cleaning hard floors and deep cleaning carpets. This powerful vacuum delivers 1,200 watts of suction power and features two different brush types: use the soft parquet brush to clean hard floors without scratching surfaces and swap it for the electrobrush when you need to get every last stray hair out of your carpet. The cherry on top? The electrobrush adjusts to five different heights to suit a variety of carpet types.
You don’t have to worry about this vacuum making a racket—its Vortex silence motor gives it a more muffled sound than most vacuums. You can control the amount of suction power via a simple-to-operate 6-setting rotary dial and the three accessories that are included—a crevice tool, upholstery tool, and dusting brush—come clipped to the hose for convenience. Allergy sufferers can breathe easy knowing this Miele vacuum traps over 99.9 percent of dust, dirt, and allergens via its AirClean filter system that includes a dust bag and HEPA AirClean exhaust filter.
"The upholstery tool is amazing at picking up cat hair from couches—better than anything we’ve tested so far."—Joy Merrifield, Product Tester
Best Bagless: OVENTE Bagless Canister Vacuum
Automatic cord rewind
Easy to empty
Slightly flimsy construction
Two of the greatest things about investing in a bagless canister vacuum cleaner are knowing that you won’t need to spend another dime on replacement bags and not having to come into close contact with dirt and dust. The Ovente Bagless Canister Vacuum is all about making your life as easy as possible. Its translucent filter and dust container effortlessly lifts up from the canister by a handle and is emptied from the bottom, straight into your garbage. Rinse the filter, replace it, and keep on using your vacuum until a convenient LED light alerts you when the dust container and filter are full.
This cyclonic vacuum delivers 1200 watts of power and has a HEPA filtration system for capturing allergens, dust, and tiny airborne particles. The automatic cable rewinder keeps you from having to wrap a cord around the vacuum, and a telescopic wand provides access to hard-to-reach areas like the tops of windows, ceilings, and corners. It doesn’t flake out when it comes to attachments, either—you’ll get a pet brush, floor brush, and a combination crevice nozzle and bristle brush.
Best for Pet Hair: Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner
Extremely powerful on carpets
Narrow cleaning head
The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner is one of the most powerful vacuums on the market—and one that has gained a reputation for having such forceful suction it can make carpets look brand new, even if you own several dogs that are constantly shedding. Pet owners know the importance of keeping floors, carpet, and their pet areas clean and free of fur and hair. This vacuum has features that include its trademarked Dyson Cinetic technology for suctioning up and separating microscopic dust and dirt particles, so you can feel confident that it’s getting up all of the debris your pooch or kitty tracks in from the outside (even what you can’t see with the naked eye)—and you don’t have to worry about your vacuum getting jammed up every week. The bagless vacuum is free of filters, which means no extra costs or time spent washing dirty filters. It boasts an ejector lever that drives dirt, hair, and other debris out and straight into your garbage bag so that you never have to pull out gunk with your hands.
This vacuum’s .42 gallon canister holds a substantial amount of dirt, extending the amount of time you can spend cleaning, and it even self-corrects and picks itself up again if it falls, which saves you time. As with all Dyson ball vacuums, the ball technology allows for ease of movement and steering, which comes in handy when you’re moving around furniture legs and darting in and out of rooms. It has a 21-foot cord and attachments that are stored on the handle, including a turbine head that picks up more dust from hardwood and low-pile carpets and a counter-rotating brush head designed specifically to pull up hair from carpets, upholstery and pet beds.
One really nice thing about this vacuum is that, if you are a longtime Dyson devotee and are making the switch from Dyson’s upright or another model, this vacuum comes with an adapter that allows you to use transfer attachments over from your previous Dyson vacuum cleaner. It has a whole-machine HEPA filtration system that keeps allergens tucked inside the unit—and has been certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Best for Hardwood Floors: Bissell Bagless Hard Floor Expert Deluxe Vacuum
Limited cup capacity
Tools locked at a fixed angle
Hardwood floors are an investment. The last thing you want to do is scratch and destroy that investment when you’re trying to get your floors as clean as possible. It’s important to keep your floor’s needs in mind when choosing a vacuum—and the Bissell Deluxe Canister Vacuum comes equipped with features that protect hard wood and ease your worries. This 9 pound, bagless vacuum glides along floors on its non marking rubber wheels that feature felt treads. It won’t scratch floors as you go about your cleaning, but it will suction dirt and dust into its 1-liter dirt cup, which is emptied from the bottom to avoid messy situations.
Whereas some vacuums have cleaning brushes that are more abrasive, this Bissell model comes with a soft, air-driven bristle brush designed to clean hard floors without scraping them. It has digital fingertip controls that let you reduce or increase suction as needed—a rare gem on a model of this price point—and its telescopic 8-foot extension wand is the perfect tool for lifting up debris and dust from curtains and ceiling fans. If you prefer not to fumble with cords, you’re in luck: it has an automatic cord rewind.
"After using this vacuum for just a few days, we were impressed by Bissell’s attention to detail in terms of creating a vacuum specifically for hard floors. The wheels are made of rubber so they won’t scratch or mark floors, and the brush has extra soft bristles. The hard floor tool is ideal for removing fine dirt and debris off of hard flooring and performs well."—Deanna McCormack, Product Tester
Best Lightweight: Oreck Compact Canister Vacuum
Thanks to its handle, shoulder strap, and diminutive size (it weighs less than 6 pounds), Oreck's BB1200DB Compact Canister Vacuum can be toted all over the house, no lugging required. And, once cleanup begins, this model proves it's far more than meets the eye: Its combination of suction and versatile attachments (including a crevice tool, upholstery tool, dusting brush, and extension wand) allows it to eliminate dirt and dust throughout a room, from ceiling fans to furniture to baseboards to carpet. The HEPA bagged filtration prevents any of that dust from getting out once it's in and seals upon disposal.
The BB1200DB can also function as a blower as well as a vacuum, which comes in handy if you need to loosen or dislodge a mess from a tight corner or sticky spot before actually sucking it up. In short, if you want the benefits of a canister vacuum with the portability of a dustbuster, this is the perfect pick for you.
Best Wet/Dry Canister: Craftsman 6 Gal. Corded Wet/Dry Vacuum
Sometimes, a mess is so, well, messy that a regular vacuum just won't get the job done. When you're dealing with broken glass, a flooded basement, or dust and debris from a renovation, you're better off opting for a wet/dry canister vacuum, like this tough (but affordable) model from Craftsman. With a 6-gallon collection tank, it's spacious enough to tackle major household cleanups, but its swiveling wheels and overall light weight (15 pounds) prevent it from being unwieldy.
In addition to a 7-foot hose, this wet/dry vacuum comes with two locking extension wands, a car nozzle for hard-to-reach spaces, and a utility nozzle that works across surfaces. Even the trickiest messes are easily dispatched with when you're using this Craftsman powerhouse.
The best overall canister vacuum is the Kenmore Elite 81714 Pet Friendly Canister Vacuum (view at Walmart). It has a 2-motor system that gives it impressive suction strength and a 26-foot cord. However, if you have a bit more money to spend, the Miele Compact C2 Electro+ Canister Vacuum (view at Best Buy) is a great splurge pick.
What to Look for in a Canister Vacuum
Just how heavy-duty does your vacuum need to be? That depends on the type of floors you have, the size of your home, and other factors, such as if you have pets or not. Things like HEPA filters, which some models include, can also make a vacuum more effective when it comes to trapping allergens like dust and pollen.
Size and weight
Often, the more powerful a vacuum is, the bigger and heavier it will be—which isn’t ideal if your home has multiple levels. In some cases, you may even want to consider multiple vacuums, so you can keep one on each floor, but there are also some powerful lightweight models that may do the job.
There’s probably nothing that’s going to make vacuuming your favorite activity, but there are some features that can make it a lot easier. Things like retractable cords and different attachments can help—just think about what matters most to you.
How do I clean a canister vacuum?
If your canister vacuum uses a bag, you'll need to seal, remove, and throw it away. Bagless models will need to be emptied into the trash, most likely via a release button on the canister's body. After you empty the vacuum, wipe out the canister's interior with a microfiber cloth. Some models can be further cleaned using water and dishwashing liquid, but you'll need to check your vacuum's manual to make sure that won't damage the unit. Similarly, you'll either need to replace or rinse off the vacuum's filter. While the vacuum components dry, you can check the cleaning head and wheels for hair wrap and debris. Reassemble once everything is dry.
What's the difference between bagged and bagless canister vacuums?
In addition to having different emptying processes, bagged and bagless canister vacuums offer different advantages in general. The former tend to seal away allergens more efficiently, while the latter may be more cost-effective in the long run, since they don't require replacement bags. Both offer plenty in the way of performance and cleaning power, however, so which type you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference.
What do I look for in suction power on a canister vacuum cleaner?
There are undoubtedly some seriously powerful canister vacuums on the market—and many are designed to keep pace with their upright counterparts. Nevertheless, you may need to temper your expectations around suction if you're hoping to clean, say, a high-pile carpet with a canister vacuum. Some models just won't be powerful enough to tackle that kind of job. If suction power is your absolute top priority and you're set on purchasing a canister vacuum, look for models with multiple fans, adjustable height settings, and a high cubic feet per minute (CFM) count, which will give you an idea of how much airflow the vacuum is capable of.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was edited and updated by Sara Coughlin, a freelance writer and The Spruce’s small appliances expert. From canister models to dustbusters, she’s researched what it takes for a vacuum to stand out in a vast and broad market—and what to look for in up-and-coming models.