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An upright vacuum (the kind that you push from behind, back and forth across the floor) might seem about as basic as you can get when you consider the vast array of vacuums on the market at the moment, but there’s more to this variety of cleaner than you may think.
Although they’re heavier and heartier than, say, go-anywhere canister vacuums, upright vacuums are particularly well-suited to major cleaning jobs that involve varied floor surfaces. Most have a wider cleaning path than other types of vacuums and, not only can they effectively suck up dirt and dander from high-pile carpets, but they usually come with a feature that allows them to transition to hardwood floors, too. Those are just the general benefits of an upright vacuum — some come with an assortment of attachments that allows users to clean every inch of their home, while others specifically target pet hair. Then there are cordless models that offer a more nimble alternative to their traditional upright counterparts.
In other words, upright vacuums are far from basic. Here, find our picks for the best options for sale right now.
Boasting all the essential features and then some, this model from Shark is our number-one pick for an all-around great upright vacuum. The crevice tool, brush, and wide upholstery tool tackle cleaning jobs across surfaces and throughout your home. Meanwhile, the dust cup pod, equipped with a sealed HEPA filter system to trap 99.9 percent of dust and allergens, lifts away from the upright stand and converts into a canister vacuum to better clean stairs and drapes.
Bells and whistles aside, this upright model does a wonderful job at dealing with messes across different floor surfaces, including carpeting, rugs, and hardwood, thanks to its powerful suction, swivel head, 25-foot power cord, and LED lights located on the floor nozzle, which help locate dirt and debris under furniture. For an all-in-one upright vacuum that won’t break the bank, Sharks’ Rotator Professional is an excellent choice.
If you don’t want to be tied down to a cord, consider a strong cordless stick vacuum like this one from Hoover. One of the worries of cordless vacuums is the battery life, but this one features an 18-volt, lithium-ion battery which runs on average around 20 minutes after a full charge, according to one customer. It’s great to have on hand for quick pickups, especially if you live in a small apartment. It’s not as bulky as others, so that’s a plus when it comes to storage as well. Crucially, it cleans well and is easy to use—two very important things in a vacuum.
"This stick vacuum isn’t the most powerful tool ever, but it does a sufficient job of picking up dirt, hair, and other debris from both hardwood floors and low-pile carpet."—Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
This basic but mighty model from Bissell is lightweight enough to move between rooms and floors, but powerful enough to tackle hair and debris of all sizes. The brushroll is great for surface-level dirt and more ground-in messes alike: It’s not only designed to reduce scattering across hard floors, but to loosen, extract, and suck up dirt that gets embedded into carpets, too.
The 25-foot power cord automatically retracts into the stand when you’re done cleaning, saving users the task of wrapping it up manually. The 6-foot hose, extension wand, and crevice tool come in handy for cleanup in hard-to-reach spaces, while the dusting brush and TurboBrush attachments work best on delicate surfaces and furniture, respectively. In order to avoid clogging, users are best off cleaning the washable, multi-level filter after every few uses.
If the majority of your vacuuming entails sucking up massive quantities of shedding and dander, you need a model with powerful suction that won’t get clogged up by a couple of hairballs. The Dyson Ball Animal 2 not only automatically adjusts to provide a tight seal on any floor surface but also comes with a turbine tool that extracts and sucks up pet hair without getting clogged, thanks to counter-rotating brush heads instead of a conventional brush bar, which often get tangled with long hair.
A smaller stair tool removes dust without the hassle of lugging around the entire vacuum (which, at over 17 pounds, can be cumbersome) and the versatile combination tool gets dirt and cobwebs from the ceiling to behind the couch.
The dirt cup empties with a single click, so users don’t have to worry about dirtying their hands—and, for animal lovers who share a home with people with allergies, this feature saves everyone the risk of secondary messes and debris scatter.
If you’re wanting to invest in a more expensive vacuum, consider this one from Oreck. It’s got some pretty nice features that will make vacuuming seem less like a chore. Because it’s so powerful, it moves easily, feeling more like it’s self-propelled. You can also really get under beds and other furniture since it can lie virtually flat. There’s also a HEPA inner bag that captures at least 99.97 percent of particles in the air. Whether you have long pile carpet or wood floors, this vacuum will do a great job and is worth the extra money.
While it’s a bagged vacuum, it’s super easy to change the bag thanks to a feature that prevents dust from being spilled out. It's also lightweight (a little over seven pounds) and easy for people to use—even those with arthritis.
While bagless varieties of vacuums entail less waste, bagged alternatives are easier to empty and completely seal away dirt and dust, making them potentially the better choice for people with allergies (or those who just want to avoid making a mess while emptying their vacuum). This Hoover features a HEPA filter, which catches 99.7 percent of allergens, as part of its sealed bag system, which alerts the user when it’s time to replace the bag for maximum efficiency.
With five adjustable height positions, the Hoover WindTunnel can clean thick carpets just as easily as hardwood floors—and its 30-foot power cord saves users the chore of having to unplug and replug the vacuum just to clean a single room. Although it’s on the heavy side (clocking in at 20 pounds) and light on attachments and additional features, this vacuum is easy to use and powerful to boot, making it a great pick for someone with simple, straightforward cleaning needs.
While upright vacuums are often considered the best choice for cleaning carpets, they’re no slouch at tidying up harder surfaces, as well—look no further than Bissell’s CrossWave, a cordless, upright vacuum that removes dirt and mops floors in one fell swoop (its two-tank construction ensures that used, dirty water is stored separately from clean water). It is safe to use on sealed and pressed wood floors, plus tile, linoleum, and rubber; and its design allows it to clean directly up against baseboards.
Two different washing formulas come included with this self-cleaning vacuum, which can run for 30 minutes before needing to be recharged at its docking station. Given its unique combination of suction and mopping capabilities, it’s perfectly suited for kitchens, entryways, and even particularly grimy basement floors.
Bags vs. bagless In recent years, bagless upright vacuum cleaners have become increasingly popular. With these models, you skip the hassle of buying and replacing vacuum bags, but the downside is that some collection bins can be messy to empty and, over time, some fine particles get trapped in the mechanism of the vacuum, impeding performance and suction. A vacuum with a fresh bag will offer excellent suction and cleaning power but will require periodic replacement. If you have a larger home or heavy-duty vacuuming needs, take note of the size of the bag to find a model that won’t need replacement every time you fire it up.
Weight Consider how much weight you’re willing and able to push around when vacuuming. Upright vacuums typically weigh somewhere between 13 and 18 pounds, but there are some lightweight models that weigh as little as 8 pounds. If you have arthritis or will need to carry your vacuum up and down stairs, you may want to go with a vacuum that weighs less.
Accessories The main attraction is a vacuum’s ability to suck up dirt and debris through the floorhead, but handy accessories can target everything from pet hair to couch crumbs. Think about your routine cleaning needs and choose an upright vacuum with accessories to match. Items like an upholstery brush, pet-hair attachment, and crevice tool can make it much easier to clean hard-to-reach places.