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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.
Best Overall: Shark Rotator Professional Vacuum- NV501
HEPA filter system
Converts to a canister vacuum
Slight tendency to clog
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.
Best Cordless: Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner
Lightweight and maneuverable
Large dust cup
Weak performance on high-pile carpets
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
Best Budget: Bissell CleanView Plus Rewind Vacuum Cleaner
Five height settings
Some tendency to clog
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.
Best for Pet Hair: Dyson Ball Animal 2 Upright Vacuum
Extremely powerful suction
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.
"The 'ball' base (made of glass-reinforced polypropylene) that contains the motor makes it easy to maneuver with minimal effort, letting you steer around furniture easily. We also liked that there’s a designated spot on the vacuum body to store the various attachments (except the 'tangle-free turbine'), saving you the hassle of finding a box or bag to keep them in."—Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best High-End: Oreck Magnesium RS Swivel-Steering Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Seven height settings
HEPA inner bag
Steeper price point
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.
Best Bagged: Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Bagged Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Five height settings
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.
Best for Hardwood Floors: Bissell CrossWave Cordless Max Multi-Surface Wet Dry Vac
Easy to use
Steeper price point
Short battery life
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.
Best for Allergies: Miele Dynamic U1 Cat and Dog Upright Vacuum
Sophisticated filtration system
Automatically adjustable brushroll
For those seeking to rid their home of allergens, this machine from Miele is worth the investment. Its Active AirClean filtration system not only traps 99.9 percent of dirt, dust, and dander, but it also features layers of activated charcoal to absorb unwanted odors (which will be a major bonus for pet owners). Allergens are sealed away until it's time to replace the 6-liter filter bag.
In addition to its allergy-friendly features, the Miele Dynamic U1 Cat and Dog Upright Vacuum delivers a consistent clean in a sleek, maneuverable package. Its spring-loaded brushroll automatically adjusts to varying floor heights, even if moving between hardwood and high-pile carpeting. Meanwhile, its swivel-neck steering helps you vacuum under furniture and in tight spaces around the house. The 39-foot cord ensures a vast cleaning radius, though it may be tedious to wind back up when your chores are done. If you're willing to spend a little more money in the name of dramatically fewer household allergens, this model is the right choice for you.
The Shark Rotator Professional Vacuum (view at Amazon) exceeds our expectations for an upright vacuum: Its attachments enable whole-home cleaning and its sealed HEPA filter system efficiently traps household allergens. The Bissell CleanView Plus Rewind Bagless Upright Vacuum (view at Wayfair) is a more budget-friendly option that may sacrifice a little performance for its lower price, but makes up for it with its unique, highly effective brushroll and lightweight design.
What to Look for in an Upright Vacuum
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.
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.
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.
When do I need to replace an upright vacuum?
In general, upright vacuums last for about eight years. Heavy or improper use or a lack of maintenance will most likely shorten that lifespan, while regular care and upkeep may extend it. Your model of choice may come with a warranty that covers repairs, and taking advantage of that coverage will also help to ensure your machine runs for a long time.
How do I clean an upright vacuum?
Start by emptying your vacuum's dust cup or throwing out its dust bag. Next, wipe out the interior with a dry microfiber cloth. For some models, that's all you can safely do. However, others can be cleaned out using soap and water, as well. Check your vacuum's manual to confirm what's best for your model. You should also check the cleaner head and wheels for hair wrap, which you might need to cut out with a pair of scissors seam ripper. If you use water to clean your vacuum, allow all of its part to air dry completely before reassembling.
What affects an upright vacuum's suction power?
You can get a sense of your new upright vacuum's suction power by how many fans and filters it has, whether its cleaner head features rotating brushes (which help dredge up embedded dirt), and how much airflow it promises. More fans and filters, and increased air flow will help you vacuum suck up more dirt more efficiently.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written 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.