If you’re looking for the best deep cleaning vacuums, it’s likely you’re faced with large messes that need a powerful cleaner. Heavy duty vacuum cleaners can make quick work out of carpets and upholstery, as well as hardwood floors. They’re ideal for pet hair and stains on high-pile coverings, like rugs and deep carpets. We reviewed these vacuum cleaners for their ability to tackle all kinds of dirt and dust, including both large and small debris. Our list of the top-rated deep cleaning vacuums includes models from big brands such as Shark and Dyson, and more budget options from Bissell and Miele.
In our guide, you’ll find a variety of bagless and bagged deep cleaning vacuums, each of which has distinct advantages and disadvantages. While bagless vacuums are better for the environment and your wallet, as you’ll never have to worry about buying replacement bags, those with bags will prevent any dirt from escaping as you empty it. This can be a big advantage for those with asthma or allergies, but it is also more intuitive because there is no risk of what you’ve spent hours vacuuming being released back into your home.
When compared to the best vacuum cleaners for your home, heavy duty vacuum cleaners compromise on size and maneuverability in exchange for bigger cleaning capacity and raw power. If it’s something for carpets you’re looking for, we also have a guide to the best carpet cleaners.
1. Shark APEX DuoClean: Best overall
For this comparison, we tested vacuum cleaners that are designed to deeply clean your home. The Shark APEX DuoClean Powered Lift-Away was noticeably faster and more powerful than most others. Many of the competitors took more than twice as many passes to clean as much as the APEX.
There were only a few that came close to the same performance. This is an especially good option if you have a variety of flooring in your home. It was the only one that got a perfect score for hardwood floor. Competing units flung kitty litter and cereal in every direction, requiring lots of passes to get it all cleaned up. The APEX quickly cleaned it all.
This is a very versatile machine. It pulls apart to give you a canister vacuum for cleaning stairs or furniture. It also comes with a long hose and lots of attachments that are stored on the body of the machine.
However, this vacuum is not perfect. The cleaning path is narrow and the main body is pretty bulky, so it can’t lay perfectly low and flat for cleaning under the bed. Also, bagless models such as this are cheaper for maintenance, but they always create a cloud of dust when it is time to empty – not the best for those with allergies.
- Read our Shark APEX DuoClean review
2. Dyson Ball Animal 2: Most powerful
Dyson is an iconic vacuum cleaner brand when it comes to creating high-power and lightweight vacuums, and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 is no exception. This vacuum cleaner was the most powerful vacuum cleaners we tested, making light work of both large and small messes. We also found that this vacuum cleaner worked faster than many models we reviewed, clearing debris in fewer passes than average.
For a deep clean vacuum, the Dyson Ball Animal 2 is somewhat lightweight and boasts a slim design for easy storage. One of the problems we encountered was its inability to reach under low-lying furniture such as some couches and beds. This is because the ball element would force the head to lift off the ground, which is not ideal. Although the ball has its drawbacks, it also makes this vacuum one of the most maneuverable we tested.
- Read our Dyson Ball Animal 2 review
3. Bissell PowerForce Helix: Best budget option
The Bissell PowerForce Helix had a pretty average performance when it came to deep cleaning carpets and hardwood floors. It performed particularly well when it came to pet hair, though, and it is very low in price for a heavy duty vacuum. One of the major drawbacks we encountered was when it came to cleaning up large debris such as cereal. A common occurrence among the vacuums we reviewed was that they could spray this around, instead of cleaning it up, and the Bissell PowerForce Helix was no different.
We would expect a budget vacuum to have a basic warranty of one year, but the Bissell PowerForce Helix has an impressive two years of coverage. This vacuum cleaner is bagless, so you may find that some dust escapes as you empty it, but you’ll be spared the chore of buying vacuum bags.
- Read our Bissell PowerForce Helix review
4. Miele Dynamic U1: Best for carpets
As a vacuum with a bag, the Miele Dynamic U1 is ideal for allergy-sufferers. Bagged vacuums hold dust particles securely and eliminates them getting back into the air when you switch the bag out. Comparatively, vacuums with a dust cup tend to release a cloud of dirt back into the air around your garbage can.
Miele even sells high end HEPA vacuum bags to contain even the tiniest of allergy-causing particulates. This vacuum is also incredibly quiet given its size, but it’s not very portable. It’s also very good at cleaning all floor types, especially carpets, and gets under beds easily. This means you can use it to get rid of the stuff that makes you sneeze, even in hard to reach places.
5. Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro: Best lightweight
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro is remarkably versatile. Even though it is lightweight and compact, it manages to do the duty of three machines – a strong upright, a canister, and a hand vacuum cleaner.
This machine has one of the Shark designs that pull apart, giving you a canister for taking up and down stairs or into other hard-to-reach areas. This vacuum has a long hose that can make it easy to clean tall draperies and cobwebs along the ceiling. It also comes with a lot of tools for multiple cleaning tasks – a crevice tool, pet power brush, dusting brush, turbo brush, and hard floor attachment. The Dust Away tool has a microfiber pad that is designed to capture dirt from your tile and hardwood floors. There is also a brushroll control so you can clean on hardwoods without flinging debris everywhere.
Machines like this with a dust cup instead of a bag are not really known for their ability to trap allergens, but this one is designed with that in mind. It has a HEPA filter, and the vacuum’s components are designed to fit snugly together to seal in messes. The five-year warranty is an added bonus.
- Read our Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro review
How to choose a deep cleaning vacuum cleaner
It can be difficult to judge the most important feature of any vacuum before you buy – its cleaning power. Keith Quimby, a Utah-based vacuum dealer and repairman with more than 30 years of experience, said the best way to evaluate a vacuum's cleaning ability before you buy it is to get a demonstration in a shop that services vacuum cleaners. Those are the people who know what will break first on a vacuum, and they know the reliable products and brands. However, it's not always possible to get an in-person demonstration, which is why we put all of the vacuum cleaners in our guide to the test to make sure they live up to expectations.
Maintenance also plays a major role in determining how well your vacuum is cleaning, especially as it gets older. Cleaning filters and dust cups regularly can make all the difference, according to Caitlin Wagner, product manager for upright vacuums at Shark. Ignoring maintenance can lead to less suction or even the total loss of a vacuum cleaner. "That's when you do see a lot of malfunctions in a vacuum," said Wagner.
How much to deep cleaning vacuums cost?
The deep-cleaning vacuums we tested cost an average of $288 and our tests proved you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good vacuum. Several of the $200 vacuums we tested outrank those costing $400 or more.
How we tested
We sprinkled the same amount of debris on thin carpet, thicker carpet, and hardwood flooring to gauge each unit's ability to clean thoroughly. The vacuum cleaners that completed the tasks with the fewest passes scored the best. We purposely ground in much of the breakfast cereal to recreate a common scenario in most homes. We also purposely used debris of different types to get a sense of each vacuum's suction.
We wanted to evaluate more than just cleaning power, so we also ran each vacuum cleaner through an obstacle course in our laboratory. We observed how well each unit could get around table legs and under low-slung furniture. We also used a sound meter and made note of the decibels produced when using each vacuum cleaner. Finally, we considered features that impact portability, including each vacuum cleaner's weight and the quality and quantity of handles.
Should you vacuum hardwood floors?
Because most vacuum cleaners have a stiff rotating brush on the front, it may seem like a bad idea to use them on hardwood floor, especially older flooring or flooring with a thinner finish. However, this hasn't been an issue in our experience – we have tested a lot of vacuum cleaners on a lot of surfaces and haven't seen any scratches or nicks. Some people say that the rotating brush can wear down the finish over time, but we assume that is only on the most delicate flooring. Also, while metal wheels on really old vacuum cleaners probably did cause a little damage back in the day, most are now made of softer material.
The bigger problem with vacuuming hardwood flooring is it just doesn't get clean. The rotating brush often knocks debris out of the suction path or the suction is too far from the surface to pull stuff in. You should look for vacuum cleaners that address these problems specifically if you want to clean your hard flooring. Our best overall pick is great with hardwood floors, with its soft rolling brush at the front of the cleaning head.
What to consider when buying a deep cleaning vacuum cleaner
For our deep vacuum tests, we considered any machine that is specifically designed to clean more deeply than normal vacuum cleaners – that can include either upright or canister-style designs. Our comparison includes bagged and bagless models. Both have their advantages: Bagged units are generally better for containing dust at all points in the cleaning process, but they do add a layer of expense because you have to keep buying bags for the lifetime of the machine. Bagless machines can sometimes create a dust cloud when being emptied, and are generally not as good at containing allergens during the cleaning process either, but you don't have to worry about buying bags.
The very best deep cleaning vacuums can cost more than $1,500. Our research indicates that most people are not willing to pay that much, though, even for a vacuum that is designed to have better than average cleaning power. We decided to stay in a more universally accepted price range – right around $350 and below – and found some great vacuums for the money.
Whether you decide to use an upright or canister, bagged or bagless, you want a machine that gives you the right accessories. Look for the ones that come with brushes and other tools to help you clean furniture, draperies, stairwells and other surfaces besides carpets. Features like a wide cleaning path and a long cord can add convenience by allowing you to cover more area quickly and to hunt for new outlets less often.
Help & Support
All products are better with good customer support from their manufacturer. We looked for the ones that have long warranties and lots of ways to get answers when you need them.