Canister Vacuums Review
Why Get a Canister Vacuum?
The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal was so superior that we used it to clean up after others in our canister vacuum reviews. It cleared our test materials in significantly fewer passes than the others, leaving no trace of the kitty litter, flour, sawdust and other messes we used to test. It was also relatively easy to use in every way. The canister moved around behind us over many changes in terrain. If it tipped over it would self-correct with just a little tug.
The other vacuums in the top three spots also are good options. The Bissell C4 Cyclonic 1233 has the largest capacity and excellent vacuuming performance. The Eureka ReadyForce Total has less suction but offers True HEPA filtration, quiet operation and a low price.
Why Use a Canister Vacuum?
When it comes to cleaning large houses, a canister vacuum is a good option. In overall vacuuming performance, many are comparable to upright vacuums, and they excel at the most difficult tasks. Canister vacuum cleaners are easier to maneuver around, and with long, adjustable hoses, they are versatile enough for cleaning stairs, upholstery and drapes. Most are excellent at cleaning bare floors but struggle with carpet. However, the best canister vacuums are powerful enough to dig into thick carpets without a lot of extra work.
Most full-sized canister vacuums are heavier than uprights and, overall, more expensive. The canister rolls around on wheels and has a long reach for cleaning jobs high and low. Uprights are sometimes a little less versatile but many now have a fairly long reach too and lots of attachments. If you prefer an upright vacuum, check out our rankings of the best uprights. For more information, read our articles on canister vacuum cleaners.
Canister Vacuums: What We Tested, What We Found
With canister vacuums, the most important factors are performance, convenience and design. At our testing facility, we put these vacuums through the ringer, simulating all the messes you come across in a busy household. For performance, we measured the vacuums' ability to pick up fine dust around your home, using flour in place of dust. The flour had the same consistency but allowed us to see precisely how much was left after each pass. To simulate bigger messes, we spread kitty litter and tested the vacuums to see if they struggled with larger debris. Our tests focused on hardwood and low- and medium-profile carpet.
For convenience, we ran these lightweight canister vacuums through a series of maneuverability tests and created a subjective percentage score. We gave high scores to vacuums that did better moving up and down levels, turning in tight radiuses, and reaching hard-to-clean areas. We also checked the volume of the vacuums in decibels, scoring high for quiet performance. Bagless canister vacuums are powerful and tend to be loud, especially on hardwood.
Our testers offered unbiased opinions on the subjective tests. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important in Selecting a Canister Vacuum?
Portability: How Easy Is the Vacuum to Carry & Store?
Maneuverability scores measure the movement of the vacuum when it's in use, but the ease of carrying it around is nearly as important. Since canister vacuums are known for going where uprights can't easily go, a body you can lift and carry with ease is especially important for homes with multiple floors. The position of handles is important, as well as the length of the hose and power cord. A canister with a large capacity is important to cleaning performance, but a large canister can be less portable. The best canister vacuums strike a good balance of capacity and portability.
We considered whether the canister was designed for storage, if it fit well in a standard closet and how many attachments it came with. Some vacuums come with a variety of attachments. While these help you with specific jobs around your home, they also add to the bulk of the vacuum and may require extra storage space. The best vacuums have clips on the base for the attachments to reduce the storage space they need.
Versatile Canisters: Cleaning & Maintenance
The best canister vacuums require the least amount of energy on your part. We tested both bagless and bagged cleaners, though we docked points for those that require replacement bags. The bags can be hard to attach and add to the cost of maintenance in the long run. Bagless vacuums have detachable canisters you have to empty by hand, which might lead to spreading of dust if the design isn't perfect. We scored the vacuums on whether the debris came out easily or required more effort.
Some of the top-performing canister vacuums use cyclonic filtration, which constantly filters out allergens and reduces strain on the internal filter. The filters in these vacuums never need to be replaced. The majority, though, do require that you replace the filter at least once every six months. We included the price of these filters in our rankings.
Help & Support: Peace of Mind From the Manufacturer
Vacuums go through a lot in your home. We've all heard that crunching noise after running over a toy or loose screw. A good warranty and available customer service are important. The best canister vacuums offer at least a five-year warranty, though others offer as little as one year. We reviewed the online experience, giving extra points for companies that have readily available live chat service and easy-to-find phone numbers and email addresses.
If you want a clean house, canister vacuums are great multitaskers you should consider adding to your arsenal. They can handle difficult floor jobs as well as uprights can and are designed to move freely, taking the place of small handheld vacuums and bulky extendable wands on a typical upright. With one machine, you can clean under tables and bring the head of the vacuum all the way to the ceiling for hard dusting jobs. These vacuums are worth the higher price, especially if you have expensive upholstery and curtains.