Best Upright Vacuum Cleaners of 2018

Angela Parkinson ·
Home & Appliance Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent 80 hours researching upright vacuum cleaners and the Eureka Brushroll stood out as the best choice for most people with its budget-friendly price, strong suction and easy maintenance. This versatile machine easily cleared up different messes on different kinds of flooring and carpeting during our testing. This vacuum was especially good at clearing pet hair and is relatively lightweight. It lacks a swiveling head so that cuts down on maneuverability somewhat, but when you consider its capabilities in light of its low price, it’s the best choice.  

Best Overall
Eureka Brushroll Clean
The Eureka Brushroll Clean has impressive suction and a lot of versatility for maintaining both hardwood flooring and carpeting, which is surprising considering its low price point.
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Best Value
Dirt Devil Razor Vac UD70350B
The economical Dirt Devil Razor Vac UD70350B doesn’t have loads of frills, but it is a strong, basic vacuum that cleans well and is easy to maneuver.
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Best Cordless
Bissell PowerGlide Cordless 1534
The light and easy-to-carry Bissell PowerGlide Cordless 1534 runs on battery power instead of using an electric cord. It cleans most floors and carpets well and is easy to store.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Performance
Convenience & Design
Design Extras
Cleaning & Suction
Maneuverability
Pet Hair Removal
Height Adjustment
Suction Control
Sealed System
True HEPA Filtration
Cleaning Path (inches)
Warranty
Portability & Storage
Ease of Cleaning
Weight (pounds)
Cord Length (feet)
Noise Level (decibels)
Extendable Hose Length (feet)
Swiveling Head
Onboard Attachment Housing
Dirt Sensor
Clean Filter or Bag Indicator
Retractable Cord
Headlight
Overload Protection
Bagless
$78.99 Amazon
4.7 3.7 4
90
75
100
13
3 Years
75
100
15.8
27
86
12
$88 Wal-Mart
4.5 3.4 5
95
75
90
13.8
2 Years
80
100
16.5
25
88
8
$103.45 Amazon
4.5 3.4 4
95
75
100
13
3 Years
70
100
15.5
27
89
12
$229.99 Wal-Mart
4.7 4.7 4
100
100
100
10
7 Years
95
80
15.4
30
84
9
$127.21 100BestSellers Store
4.8 3.3 4
95
70
100
14.5
1 Year
70
75
19
30
85
10
$79.99 Bissell
3.9 3.5 3
80
75
90
12
2 Years
80
100
15
25
83
7.5
$89.99 Target
4.2 3.8 1
90
100
100
12
2 Years
95
100
11.8
25
90
10
$99.98 Target
3.8 3.7 3
75
100
100
9
2 Years
100
30
11
0
79
6
$51.99 Newegg
3.3 3.3 3
60
75
90
12.5
3 Years
80
100
15.2
25
91
6
$99.91 Wayfair
5 4.9 4
85
90
100
14
7 Years
65
80
21.7
39
81
10
$249.99 Dyson
4.7 5 3
100
95
80
13.4
5 Years
95
100
19.2
35
83
15
Best Overall
Since upright vacuum cleaners often become the only vacuum in a home it is important that they be versatile enough to clean lots of different things and the Eureka Brushroll Clean with SuctionSeal is perfect for that.
There are uprights with even stronger suction, but those cost double the price and its hard to justify considering the performance you get with this vacuum. Eureka Brushroll cleaned almost as nicely as many of those pricier machines on both carpeting and hardwood flooring. You can turn the brushroll on and off, too, which can help you clean hardwood floors more effectively. We tested all of these units on crushed breakfast cereal, kitty litter, pet hair and flour, so we could see how their performance varied on different types of messes. This Eureka did great on all of them, albeit with a slight struggle on flour, meant to recreate fine dust that accumulates on your flooring. The Brushroll Clean took quite a few passes to clear it off low-profile carpeting, but all of the vacuums we tested struggled in that scenario. While the good features make up for the bad, this is not the perfect vacuum cleaner. It is not the easiest to maneuver. It lacks a swiveling head and seems sort of big and clunky next to a few more expensive options on the market. Also, the motor gets abnormally hot, which is probably not dangerous, just disconcerting. The cord length is good, even if a little below average so you won't have to hunt down outlets constantly. It's also about average for weight so it won't be too bad to carry up and down stairs if you need to, but there are lighter options. We love that the cord wraps itself – you just tug on it and it spools itself into a little compartment on the back. Most importantly the Brushroll Clean is fantastic at the most important task – cleaning. There is stronger suction to be had from more expensive vacuums but this cleaned floors just fine and will be great for most households.
Pros
  • Great suction on our cleaning tests.
  • You can turn off the brushroll for cleaning hardwoods.
  • It wraps its own cord.
Cons
  • Lack of a swiveling head makes it harder to maneuver.
  • There are lighter, less bulky machines.
  • The motor tends to heat up.
$104Amazon
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Best Value
Although it comes with a low price, the Dirt Devil Razor Vac UD70350B upright vacuum did a fine job cleaning all kinds of messes – kitty litter, flour, dog hair – from hardwood, industrial carpeting and residential-type carpeting.
We also found it easy to maneuver around chair legs and under a TV console, and we were especially impressed with its ability to clean up pet hair, which can be troublesome to clear away since it has a tendency to cling stubbornly to carpeting. This vacuum has a respectable cleaning path of 12 inches, which is a bit smaller than some models we tested, but still covers a lot of carpet quickly. You get strong suction with this upright vacuum, which reduces the number of passes you need to make over a mess to tidy it up and helps with the thoroughness of cleaning you ultimately get. However, this power is accompanied by plenty of noise – our measurements showed this was almost the loudest vacuum of the models we tested. You also don’t get true HEPA filtration with this Dirt Devil, so if anyone in your household is especially sensitive to allergens and dust, this probably isn’t the best upright vacuum for you. It also lacks many design features and extras that pricier models offer. Nonetheless, you get exceptional cleaning from this vacuum that costs a fraction of many others. It’s also one of the lightest units we examined, so it’s easy to move and carry, and it’s compact enough to store easily.
Pros
  • This unit offers strong suction.
  • You can clean all types of flooring with it.
  • It is easy to store.
Cons
  • This Dirt Devil is noisy.
  • You don’t get real HEPA filtration.
  • This does not give you design extras like a headlight for seeing into corners.
$89.99Amazon
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Best Cordless
Vacuuming is a chore no matter how you look at it, and if you dislike the extra hassle of stopping repeatedly to plug or unplug a power cord, this might be the best machine for you.
The ultra-lightweight Bissell PowerGlide Cordless 1534 upright vacuum weighs only 11 pounds, which made it the lightest vacuum we tested. It also was one of the few that scored 100 percent for portability, and its compact size makes it easy to store. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, it can operate for 45 minutes from one charge and it moves easily around and under furniture. It takes only two hours to fully recharge. Since it is so light and easy to carry, it also works well on stairs, and its lift-off canister makes it easy for you to vacuum above mantels, window treatments, crown molding and other hard-to-reach spots. This Bissell gives you only a 9-inch cleaning path, so you’ll need to make more passes to clean up floor messes. It also does not have the strongest suction, although the power is reasonably good and it did a decent job on kitty litter and flour in our tests. However, this vacuum excels when it comes to vacuuming up pet hair, so if you’ve got pets and want to keep your floors and furniture free of hair, this would be a good choice.
Pros
  • You don't have to drag a cord around.
  • This Bissell vac is lightweight.
  • It is battery-powered.
Cons
  • It’s hard to empty.
  • Cleaning out the vacuum itself is messy.
  • Eventually, the battery will deplete.
$199.99Amazon
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Best for Allergy Sufferers
The Miele Dynamic U1 Maverick is a bagged vacuum cleaner. That fact alone will make it better for those with allergies because you won't get a huge dust cloud when you empty it, as is common with bag-free models.
You just remove the bag and it all goes in the trash – dust contained. Miele takes the task of containing dust many steps further. It has a true HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, which meets U.S. Department of Energy standards for containing very small particles. The three-stage filtration system includes a specially designed bag to contain dust, a motor protection filter and an exhaust filter, which together is meant to eliminate 99.99 percent of dust. The whole system also is sealed to prevent any dust escaping while vacuuming. The Maverick is heavier and more expensive than the others we tried, but it might be worth it for allergy sufferers.
Pros
  • True HEPA filtration means this vacuum is designed to trap even the tiniest particles.
Cons
  • This is the heaviest and most expensive vacuum we tested.
US$449-
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Easiest to Maneuver
The Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away Speed was the easiest to maneuver in our tests. It is very compact and lightweight. The swiveling head means it can move smoothly around furniture legs.
There were a few that were pretty good at swiveling around obstacles, but this vacuum is easy to maneuver in one special way – it pulls apart to become a canister vacuum cleaner. That means you can also take it up and down stairs with very little effort. Even when it is functioning as an upright it is fairly easy to take to other parts of the house. There are two handles to carry it and the overall dimensions are very small. This vacuum cleaner also had amazing suction on all surfaces. Its one weakness when compared to the very best upright vacuums was the rather large dust cloud it created when we emptied it.
Pros
  • The light weight, compact dimensions and pull-apart design make this easy to maneuver.
Cons
  • The dust cloud that this one creates is not great for allergy sufferers.
US$250-
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Why Trust Us

We spent 80 hours testing and evaluating upright vacuum cleaners to find the best for most consumers. We learned as much as possible about upright vacuums, starting with extensive reading and watching a number of videos showing how effective different models were and what qualities they offered. We also read manufacturer websites, looked at specifications and examined warranties. In addition, we read user reviews from people who had purchased different models to see what they liked or disliked about the upright vacuum cleaner they had gotten. We purchased the best-regarded products of those we researched to test.

How Much Does an Upright Vacuum Cleaner Cost?

We also took cost into account. We tested a wide range of vacuum cleaners to get an idea of how lower-priced options compare with more expensive ones – from a $99 unit to a $450 one. Most folks are not looking for the pricey models. The average price of the best-selling uprights on Amazon, Best Buy and Lowe's is only about $225. Generally speaking, though, the more you pay, the better the suction and cleaning quality. The more expensive units were dramatically better at cleaning in our tests, on all surfaces.

How We Tested

We used our test vacuums in our laboratory on strips of hardwood flooring, medium-pile carpeting intended for homes and low-pile industrial carpeting. We tried each machine on each surface and tested how well every model cleaned Cheerios that we’d walked on so they had crumbled and gotten crunched into the flooring, which is typical of what happens in real-life settings. We then tested suction on flour we had scattered onto each surface and checked how well each vacuum performed on finer, dust-like substances. After that, we used each upright vacuum to try to clean ground-in dog hair. The final test was checking to see how each vacuum cleaned up scattered kitty litter.

We experimented with all the controls on each vacuum, counted how many passes we had to make over a surface to clear away different types of debris and noted how much of each scattered or ground-in material remained. More subjectively, we examined the maneuverability of each vacuum, using each around table legs and under a TV console. In addition, we looked for a swiveling head.

We also measured the noise each vacuum made and checked cord and hose length, machine weight, the cleaning path size and the handle height. We scored each machine for various extra features such as onboard attachment holders, the number of accessories, whether you get good customer support, warranty length and more.

What Is a Good Wattage for a Vacuum Cleaner?

It can be difficult to tell how much power a vacuum cleaner has before you buy it, and there is really no number that gives an accurate indication. Wattage is no help, although it may seem like a logical number to care about. Wattage is just a representation of the amount of electricity that will be consumed by the vacuum cleaner. More wattage just means consuming more energy.

Amps are also useless in choosing, even though vacuum cleaner marketers sometimes tout it. “Amperage is merely the amount of muscle that it takes to push the voltage,” said Keith Quimby, a Utah-based vacuum dealer and repairman with more than 30 years of experience. Higher amperage generates more heat, which will lead to more wear on the motor. More amperage can lead to higher rotations per minute, but that doesn’t matter if the machine is not built well.

Good airflow and good agitation are the key to effective cleaning with a vacuum, according to Quimby. There really aren’t any numbers that indicate that. That’s why talking to a professional and reading well-researched reviews is so helpful.

There may not be a number to indicate agitation, but air wattage can offer some helpful information about cleaning power. It is one of the few numbers that might help you narrow down your search for the best vacuum cleaner within your budget. The air wattage (AW) is basically the wattage used by a vacuum to move a unit of air through an opening – the hose nozzle or the cleaning head. "It's an internal technical term for how strong the suction is on a vacuum. The more Air Watts, the stronger the suction," said Caitlin Wagner, Product Manager for upright vacuums at Shark. 

One problem is that the air wattage can be a hard number to find. Manufacturers often list the motor wattage in their literature, which is not meaningful in terms of performance, but not air wattage, which is. You can request this information from manufacturers directly. 

Suction claims can give you some idea, because they are based on air wattage, in theory.

Is It Safe to Vacuum Hardwood Floors?

A typical upright vacuum cleaner features a rotating brushroll with stiff bristles to help gather debris toward the cleaning head's suction. It may seem like a pretty big risk to run something so harsh along hardwood flooring, especially if you have older or less lacquered finishes. However, in our experience, upright vacuums pose little risk to hardwood floors. We've run a lot of vacuums across a lot of flooring over the years and have not seen any damage from bristles or wheels, which also have the potential to cause problems.

The bigger risk when using a typical upright on hardwood is that the flooring may not get clean. Even when we adjust the cleaning head up or down, we've found that a lot of uprights fling debris out of the way rather than cleaning it up. Carpeting holds debris in place until the suction can reach it. On hardwood, debris can slide far out of the cleaning path. The Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away NV800 was the best upright vacuum at cleaning hardwood. It even stood out among vacuums specifically designed for hardwood floors.

While the vacuums we've tried haven't damaged our floors, they still might damage yours, depending on the wood's finish and other factors. Check out our review of the best hardwood floor vacuums for a list of specialized models.

What Is the Best Vacuum Cleaner for Hardwood Floors?

The Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away NV800 was spectacular at cleaning hardwood flooring. In fact, it earned the title of best overall hardwood floor vacuum when we tested it alongside similar products. It didn’t rank higher in our upright vacuum comparison for a couple reasons. First, it was edged out by one competitor when we expanded our testing to include carpeting – both low and high pile. It was almost as good on carpeting, but the Eureka Brushroll Clean was slightly better. Since that is the most common flooring upright vacuum cleaners are used on, it weighed heavily in our scoring. Second, the NV800 is relatively expensive. Most people are looking for something lower in price. The NV800 was the absolute best for hardwood floors, though.

While the NV800 was edged out for best overall in our upright vacuum comparison, it did win for maneuverability. The NV800 was easy to weave around obstacles in our tests, and it pulls apart to become a canister vacuum.

Vacuum Cleaner Maintenance

Vacuum cleaners are not known for their longevity. Many models can start losing suction after just a few years, but you can prolong your vac's life by performing a few minor maintenance tasks:

  • Empty Bag or Dustbin – A full bin can lead to loss of suction. We even recommend emptying or changing out bags and dustbins when they are 3/4 of the way full. The full bin indicator light is not the most reliable. Check the bin or bag yourself and do it often.

  • Clean or Replace Filters – Lower-end vacuum cleaners come with washable filters that should be rinsed out, fully dried and replaced often. More upscale units come with more advanced filters that have to be replaced regularly. It is expensive but worth it to do it often.

  • Remove Hair from Brushes – The brushes on the main cleaning head and accessories will eventually get wrapped pretty tightly with hair. That can make it so they don't pick up new hair. It can also block airflow and diminish suction.

  • Check or Replace Belt – When you have emptied and replaced everything else and you still have reduced suction look into replacing the motor belt. This can be a bit complicated depending on the machine but it is worth following the manufacturer instructions to get it done. When in doubt, take it to a vacuum dealer or repair shop.

Things to Look for in a Vacuum Cleaner

When buying a vacuum cleaner, you must first decide which configuration you want – canister or upright. Americans tend to choose uprights, said Leo Steinys, director of product management with Kenmore, which makes both upright and canister models. Also, Americans often have more than one vacuum in the home, so they might have an upright for cleaning flooring and a canister or hand vacuum for stairs and furniture. Europeans tend to buy one canister that can do it all, Steinys said. Others in the industry have observed the same.

"Canisters are the preferred platform for outside of the U.S. really," said Dirk Sappok, director of product development at Miele. "Canister vacuums are very popular in Europe and Asian markets."

Every company is different, but at least one of the big names is now looking at traditional uprights as a thing of the past. James Dyson has actually stated he is no longer investing in the research, design and development of conventional upright machines. We spoke with Josh Mutlow, senior design engineer at Dyson, and he explained the decision to move away from the traditional upright design. "We as a company definitely, definitely believe that the cord-free machines transform the way you clean and change your habits so much that the conventional full-size machines are kind of now obsolete,” said Mutlow.

The idea is that you will clean more often for less time with the new, more powerful stick vacuum cleaners. Not everyone is interested in that, though. 

Are Bagged Vacuums Better Than Bagless?

If your sights are set on an upright configuration, there are still a lot of decisions to make. For one thing, you have to decide between bagged and bagless units. Bagged units are better at containing the dust and are easier to use in some ways – you just throw the bag out. Units with a dust cup eliminate the ongoing cost of buying bags and they can be sort of fun in a way.

"You can actually see what you are removing from your flooring. It's very satisfying," said Steinys.

You invest more time, though, because you have to periodically wipe out the dust cup. You also create a pretty massive dust cloud when it is time to empty the dust cup, so people with allergies should look for a bagged unit, said Steinys. They encapsulate the dust more. He also recommends looking for units that are certified by groups like the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America if you have anyone with sensitivities in your home.

Once you have decided between bagged and bagless, consider these other important upright vacuum factors:

Performance
Strong suction is an essential quality of a great upright vacuum because it means you will have to move the vacuum fewer times over a surface to get it clean. Powerful suction means you’ll spend less time cleaning and still get good results. You also want an upright vacuum that is easy to maneuver so you can clean stairs, around and under furniture, and hard-to-reach places.

Convenience & Design
It’s great to get a lightweight upright vacuum that is powerful at the same time because you can carry it from one place to the next, or upstairs, without difficulty. It’s also useful to buy one with a long enough electrical cord so you don’t have to keep stopping to plug and unplug it. Although all vacuums are fairly loud, it’s also good to get a relatively quiet machine.

Accessories
A long and extendable vacuum hose helps you clean above windows, along baseboards and in other awkward areas. It’s also useful to get an upright vacuum that comes with an upholstery brush so you can clean your furniture while you’re doing the floors. Having a dusting brush helps you can clean Venetian blinds, light fixtures and other dust-collectors in your home. You’ll also undoubtedly appreciate having a crevice tool so you can clear the dirt and dust from tight spots.

Can You Vacuum Vinyl Flooring?

You can vacuum vinyl flooring with complete confidence. The only problem is it might not get clean. Vacuuming vinyl flooring comes with the same problems as vacuuming wood flooring – lots of traditional vacuum cleaners fling debris out of the way instead of sucking it up. The slick surface makes it easy for the debris to slide away from the suction path as the spinning brushroll of a traditional upright hits it. If you have a lot of vinyl and you don't want to break out the broom and dustpan, consider a vacuum cleaner that works better on hard surfaces. The Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away NV800 is excellent. If you prefer a cordless model, consider thDyson Cyclone v10 Absolute, which is also wonderful on hard floor surfaces. Even the best vacuums for vinyl flooring are not great at getting into corners. A broom and dustpan are still best for that.

How Often Should Floors Be Vacuumed?

The Carpet and Rug Institute doesn't get too specific in its recommendations, only offering the advice to "vacuum regularly" and more frequently in high traffic areas. However, the CRI does recommend you establish a vacuuming schedule, and the organization is more specific about deep cleaning, recommending a professional deep cleaning every 12 to 18 months.

Doug Payne, owner of the Utah-based Payneless Floor Care, has 30 years in the carpet care business. He recommends a regular carpet cleaning by a professional who knows how to use the right amount of soap and water. He also said too much vacuuming can be bad for carpets. "Three times a week is the perfect amount because the dust won't have a chance to settle in," Payne said.

When he cleans carpets that have been vacuumed every day, he can see signs of damage to carpet fibers. Payne told us you can never restore carpet fiber, and when you fray fibers too much, they become like microfibers, attracting more dust. New, tightly twisted carpet repels more dust and stains.

Still, there’s really no final word on how often you should vacuum your floors, since much depends on what makes you feel comfortable and how much traffic each area gets.

Allergy-Friendly Vacuuming Tips

Vacuum cleaning is notorious for worsening allergy symptoms. Low quality vacuum cleaners remove dust from the floors and pump it into the air instead, thanks to their unsealed hoses and poor filters. Then there is the potential for a giant dust cloud when you empty almost any vacuum cleaner. Improper maintenance can also lead to spreading more dust. We scoured the internet for the best tips for making vacuuming helpful instead of hurtful for those with allergies. Here is what we recommend:

  • Buy Bagged – Experts agree that bagged vacuum cleaners are generally better at containing dust throughout the process and especially when emptying. There is an ongoing cost associated with the bags, but if you have allergy sufferers in your home, it is worth it.

  • Look for HEPA – A High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter meets U.S. Department of Energy standards for containing tiny particles, eliminating 99.99 percent of dust. Read the fine print because some vacuums have good filtration but are not quite good enough to be true HEPA filters.

  • Empty Often – The vacuum is more likely to fling dust particles back into the air if they have nowhere to go.

  • Empty Outside – Whether you have a bagged or dust cup model, empty it outside. That way, whatever dust cloud you get won't pollute your indoor air.

  • Go Slow – The cleaning head needs to linger over areas to have time to remove dust.

  • Be Thorough – Vacuum baseboards and corners regularly, not just high traffic areas. Also, pass over all areas more than once.

  • Wear a Mask – The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends putting on a mask when you are dusting or vacuuming. All the dust you loosen could lead to an asthma attack.

The Ultimate Allergy Precaution

One drastic option for allergy and asthma sufferers is to change flooring. Carpeting is especially good at trapping dust and other allergens.

"The best type of flooring by far is hardwood flooring if you have asthma and allergies because it is easy to wipe up," said AAFA Director of Marketing Michele Ann Cassalia.

Most folks prefer carpeting, at least in bedrooms, for its coziness, said Cassalia. She recommends caution when cleaning the carpeted areas you have. The AAFA tests and recommends vacuum cleaners that are good for those with allergies.

"It takes a lot of rigorous scientific testing and a long time to get a vacuum certified," Cassalia said. "People who go to our certification website can know and trust that the vacuums we certify really are going to help."