If you don’t know where to start when it comes to buying a vacuum cleaner, we’ve made life a little easier by explaining everything from the difference between bagged and bagless models to exactly what a robot vacuum cleaner is. We’ve also reviewed a whole heap of vacs ourselves to help you find out which ones are really worth buying and are the best fit for your home.

Types of vacuum cleaner

Upright vacuum cleaners: These are the most popular models. They’re best suited to deep cleans as they’re the most powerful style of vacuum – the attached rotating brush scoops up dirt from carpet and is usually especially good at picking up pet hair. Although they come in bagged, bagless, corded and cordless versions, upright vacuums are not as versatile as canister models due to their bigger build – their bulkiness means they aren’t great for getting in tight spots. But if you have a large house with big open areas or an open plan flat, this is the model for you.

Canister vacuum cleaners: Consisting of a main tank and a wand attached via a hose, these vacuums are lighter than upright models. They’re suitable for cleaning things like carpets, curtains, sofas and stairs and are the most versatile model, easily getting into tight spots and high corners. The main tank does follow you round as you clean though which can be annoying if it keeps bumping into tables and chairs. This type may also need more storage space as the wand and hose take up more room. The large tank may mean it’s less energy efficient too.

Stick vacuum cleaners: Stick vacuums are useful if you’ve spilt something in the kitchen and want to clean it quickly. They’re lightweight, streamlined and often have a removable handheld vacuum for smaller spots. Although they’re good in a hurry, the power doesn’t match up to an upright or canister model and cordless versions don’t tend to hold much battery. They’re most suited to small flats that are mainly carpet-free.

Handheld vacuum cleaners: Designed to grab-and-go, these models are compact and only used for quickly cleaning small spots or crumbs left on the sofa. They’re also useful when cleaning the inside of your car. By design, they won’t replace your normal vacuum but are certainly a handy accessory to add to your cleaning cupboard. Don’t ditch your dustpan and brush though, as they don’t usually pick up all fine debris. Bagless versions may also need cleaning more regularly, to make sure all the dust and dirt is disposed of and not left clogging up the machine.

Bagged or bagless vacuum cleaners?

Once you’ve picked what type of vacuum cleaner is best for you, it’s worth considering if you want a bagged or bagless version. This means as you vacuum dust and dirt it will either get sucked into a bag, which you can then remove and dispose of, or it will fill a container which you have to remove and empty the debris from yourself. With this in mind, it’s largely down to what you’d prefer doing, as both processes are usually easy to complete.

But those with allergies or asthma may be better off opting for a bagged version. This way you’re not exposed to the dust you’ve already got rid of again and it’s a more hygienic method. The downside to bagged versions though is the on-going cost of replacing bags as you dispose of them. Take a look at the bagless vacuum cleaners we've reviewed to make sure you get one you can rely on.

Corded or cordless vacuum cleaners?

Another decision to make before you buy is whether you want a cordless or corded vac. Cordless versions run on battery instead, so you’re maximum cleaning time will be limited to the battery life of the one you’re using (anything from 15 minutes to an hour). This can vary massively between models so always check this before you buy. Unsurprisingly, these models are easier to manoeuvre around the home without a cable getting caught on furniture, they’re also lighter too. However, corded versions on the whole tend to be better when it comes to cleaning, picking up more dust and grime from surfaces. We’ve tested cordless vacuums for ourselves though, to find out which ones will leave your home looking spick and span.

What are robot vacuum cleaners?

The latest craze in cleaning is owning your very own robot vacuum cleaner. These small machines will work their way around your home mapping the layout as they go using in-built cameras and smart sensor technology. The beauty is they require minimal effort; select exactly where you want it to clean from a range of cleaning programmes and it will get going, returning to its base to recharge once it has run out of battery. But although they are a fun and hands-free way of getting the vacuuming done they aren’t as powerful as your standard vacuum cleaner, so you’ll still need one of them too. They’re also pretty pricey with models ranging from £100-800. With big brands like Dyson and Samsung launching their own versions, we tested robot vacuum cleaners to find out exactly which ones are worth the splurge.

EU vacuum cleaners ruling explained

From September 2014, the European Union ruled that all new vacuum cleaners made or imported by manufacturers into the EU must have a visible energy rating label and less than 1600 watts of power. From September 2017, it will be reduced further to only 900 watts. This is all part of the EU’s drive to help tackle climate change.

The energy rating labels you now see on vacuums show, on a scale from A to G, how well they perform on hard floors, carpets, how much dust is re-emitted and their energy use. The label also tells you how noisy the vacuum cleaner is in decibels (dB) - if you want a quiet machine, go for the lowest dB figure.

While this label is a useful indication of performance, make sure you read reviews on your chosen model before you buy too. The performance suggested by manufacturers (which has been decided in a lab) doesn’t always match a vacuums performance in the real world.

Vacuum cleaner reviews

Now you’ve worked out exactly what type of vacuum cleaner you need, take a look at our reviews to find one you can trust to get the cleaning done quickly. To help get you started, here is a selection of our most popular reviews.

1. AEG CX7 LI-45 Animal: £219.99, John Lewis

  • Removable handheld vacuum that detaches from the main unit for cleaning small areas or spillages 
  • LED lights on main vacuum shine on dust lurking under sofas or other furniture
  • Excellent hair and dirt removal system
  • Separate nozzle on main unit for picking up pet hair 
  • Runs for 45 minutes between charges 
  • It's able to stand upright on its own

Find out more

2. Dyson Cinetic Big Ball: £500, John Lewis

  • Bagless
  • No filters to wash and replace 
  • Never seems to lose suction or clog
  • Powerful and durable

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3. Dyson 360 Eye: £799.99, Dyson

  • It's small and compact, taking up minimal space in the cupboard or at its charging dock
  • It's simple to use – leave it to charge and then press the only button to get it started
  • It works its way methodically around your home and if it gets stuck it turns off, navigates its way back to safety and starts again
  • High suction power 
  • App available which can schedule when you want it to start cleaning (even when you aren't at home) 
  • Instruction manual is clear to follow

Find out more

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.