We don’t need to tell you that vacuuming your floors is painstakingly hard. Although everybody loves coming home from work to a clean home with debris-free floors and carpeting, vacuuming is an annoying chore that nobody loves doing.
You’re probably most familiar with upright vacuum cleaners – those tall, loud machines that scare the living daylights out of children and pets. Although many modern uprights work well at cleaning floors, they’re not exactly the easier type of vacuum cleaner to use.
Canister vacuum cleaners solve many of the problems that uprights and sticks are known for. Here are just a couple of reasons why you should think of making the switch.
No Power Limitation
The major components of a canister vacuum cleaner are housed in a large casing. This means canister vacuum cleaners are equipped with the beefiest motors available that deliver more than twice as much suction power as sticks and uprights. The enhanced suction and airflow volume rate translate into better, more efficient cleaning. Spend less time cleaning your floors and drapes and more time slacking off!
Easy to Maneuver
The large canister body of the vacuum cleaner may appear to be hard to control, but many people – us included – find canister vacuums to be more easily controlled than uprights. The fact that the canister rests on top of casters eliminates the need to push the unit back and forth while you move. A simple tug of the properly connected suction hose and attachment will drag the canister with you.
The most worrisome part of canister vacuums is their casters. Although they help glide the vacuum across your floors, they can cause some severe damage to floorboards. That’s why we’d recommend finding rubberized casters that won’t leave streaks or dimples on hardwood floors.
Easy Overhead Cleaning
Canister vacuum cleaners eliminate the need to lift any heavy components to reach ceilings, shelves, and drapes. As long as the unit’s hose is long enough (it will be for sure), you can navigate the cleaning attachments to any out-of-reach spot that uprights have no hope of reaching.
Better Sound Insulation
Uprights are notorious for screaming a person’s ear off. Even on their lowest, least-powerful mode, they still produce upwards of 70 decibels.
Canisters, on the other hand, are fitted with proper soundproofing materials that absorb a lot of the noise generated by the motor. Many modern canister vacuum cleaners are rated at just 65 decibels on high-power suction modes.
The number of different cleaning attachments of a canister vacuum cleaner is mindboggling. Admittedly, uprights often have connection ports for hoses and attachments, but canisters are designed specifically without a dedicated vacuum head.
Depending on the model, the canister kit may already come with a comprehensive list of specialized cleaning tools, from V-shaped vacuum heads to crevice tools to corner tools for carpeted stairs.
But perhaps the most ingenious feature in canister vacuum cleaners is their how safe they are to use.
Of the various safety features available in canister vacs (extendable wands so no more climbing on furniture, better wheels for mobility, and lightweight designs for less muscle strain), perhaps the most notable one is the retractable cord.
How many times have you tripped on an upright’s cord, ending up unplugging the tool while falling head-first onto the floor? Once is too many times, so you’d appreciate a retractable cord feature. A slight tug on the cord will cause it to coil, leaving it as taut or as slack as you’d like.
Not every canister vac comes with a retractable cord feature. Double-check with the sales rep to ensure you’re getting what you want.
True HEPA Filters – 99.97% Effectiveness
For our readers who suffer from pet and seasonal allergies, you’ll want to read up on True HEPA Filters.
The only surefire way to eliminate as many allergenic particles from the floor and air is by using True HEPA Filters. This type of filter traps particles as small as 0.3 microns in size with 99.97% effectiveness. Dander, pollen, dust mites, their waste, and common dirt stand no match against the awesome trapping abilities of HEPA filtration.
True HEPA Filters are either reusable or disposable. You’ll have to check the vacuum cleaner’s list of specs and features to make sure you’re choosing the right one.
Reusable HEPA filters are great if you don’t plan on using your vacuum cleaner very often. Clogging can be eliminated by vacuuming the dirt out (you’ll need another vacuum to do this), blasting the filter with high-pressure air (careful not to destroy the filter’s fine-mesh design), and/or rinsing it under tap water.
Disposable filters are for heavy-duty vacuum users – janitors and cleaning servicemen – that need a fresh filter to ensure effective cleaning. You may end up spending quite a bit on replacement filters over the long run, but their replacements are much cheaper than their rewashable cousins, and each filter generally lasts for six months of continuous usage.
Top 5 Best HEPA Canister Vacuums
Shopping for a canister vacuum cleaner isn’t as simple as asking the sales guy, “Which model should I get?” We wish it were, but unfortunately, like most things in life, it doesn’t work that way. You’ll have to put in a bit of time to research which canister is best for you and your floors.
Or, you know, you could check out our picks of the five best HEPA canister vacuum cleaners currently available. Your choice.
Kenmore 81614 Canister Vacuum
The first canister vacuum model we’d recommend taking a look at is the 81614 from Kenmore. It looks like a simple tool, but it’s packing a bunch of power beneath its purple casing.
The 81614 uses a dual-motor system that delivers a ton of suction power that picks up large debris out of long carpet fibers in hardly any time at all. The motor in the vacuum head spins the brush that dislodges dried bits while the intake picks everything up with each pass.
This kit comes with the most standard cleaning attachments – a crevice tool, a bare-floor tool, and an upholstery brush. However, it has one attachment that makes it stand out, namely the Pet PowerMate motorized vacuum head. With this tool, the 81614 can pick up fallen pet hair and dander, as well as other dried “leavings.” Any pet owner would appreciate the Pet PowerMate attachment.
The 81614 is a bagged model that uses 5.9-liter HEPA cloth bags (2 included in the kit). Large disposable bags reduce the frequency of purchasing replacements, and the HEPA-grade lining ensures that dander and pet hair will never escape from any of the bag’s pores.
The 81614 also has some specialty features like an extendable wand that can extend up to 10-1/2 feet long and a 28-foot retractable cord. Vacuuming has never been easier or safer than with the Kenmore 81614.
NILFISK HEPA Canister Vacuum
If you’re looking for a tank of a canister vacuum cleaner, then the NILFISK HEPA Canister Vacuum is for you. Appearance-wise, this canister looks pretty horrendous compared to other models, but in the case of the NILFISK, looks can be deceiving.
Inside of the chrome canister is a heavy-duty 1.5-HP motor delivers up to 74 CFM and 92 inches of water-lift. This much power is more suited for industrial cleaning jobs, but using this beast at home will ensure that every crumb, every speck of dust, and every microscopic organism hiding between floorboards and in carpet fibers is thoroughly picked up and eliminated.
The NILFISK uses large 15-liter bags – more than enough space to retain dust from multiple cleaning cycles – that also help in cutting down noise production. The bag is inserted into the canister then wraps around the entire motor. At most, the NILFISK generates only 66 decibels of sound.
Convenience is one of the NILFISK’s areas of expertise. Instead of leaning down and pressing an ON and OFF button, this unit comes with a foot-operated switch. This will come in handy when transitioning from floors to high spaces like ceilings, drapes, and shelves.
One thing that’s lacking is the number of cleaning attachments. This model comes with a single multi-purpose vacuum head (non-swiveling) for use on most surfaces, and a crevice tool. You’ll have to purchase other attachments that are compatible with the 1-1/4-inch diameter hose.
Electrolux EL4021A Canister Vacuum
The Electrolux EL4021A is the almost-complete opposite of the previous model. It’s aesthetically pleasing, its cleaning attachments make it extremely versatile, and storing it hardly takes up any space.
The first thing we noticed about the EL4021A is how quiet it is. At most, it produces only around 69 decibels, and that’s without the motor being encased by a dust collection bag. If you’re looking for something to use at home that won’t annoy children and pets, the EL4021A is for you.
But quiet operation isn’t the only thing the EL4021A has going for it. The EL4021A uses a multi-surface vacuum head for cleaning carpets, drapes, and smooth floors. It comes with the standard 3-pack of cleaning attachments that includes a crevice tool, a dusting brush, and an upholstery nozzle.
This is also a bagless model. Instead of purchasing replacement bags, the EL4021A uses a plastic dustbin that’s easy to remove when it reaches capacity. It’s a lot smaller than traditional bags, so prepare to empty its contents much more frequently than in other models.
The one area that’s lacking in the EL4021A is mobility. Although it’s a lightweight tool (only 11 pounds), it’s missing a set of caster wheels. Without the casters, this unit won’t glide across surfaces with a tug of the hose; instead, you’ll have to head back to the tool and pick it up when moving between power outlets.
Miele C3 Cat and Dog Canister Vacuum Cleaner
The Miele C3 Cat and Dog Canister Vac is several steps above the previous models. This unit isn’t just about maximum cleaning performance, but its key features are simplicity and convenience.
One of the most notable features of the C3 is its filtration system. Most models rely on a 2- or 3-stage system, but the C3 C&D passes dust and debris through 11 stages – one of which is a HEPA filter for better allergen removal.
The C3 C&D also has several suction power levels. Switching between lower and higher levels is easy with the built-in foot pedal – no more leaning down when transitioning between carpets and hardwood floors.
This is a bagged canister model, meaning that you’ll need to purchase replacement bags periodically. But to help determine when to swap or get replacements, the C3 C&D has an onboard bag capacity indicator. However, it’s not the most accurate indicator out there –, if you follow the indicator closely, you’ll find that it’ll ask you to replace the bag even though it’s not full. It’s more of a “warning” than anything else.
The C3 C&D is specifically designed for pet owners. Other than the cleaning attachments that make cleaning up after your furry friend easier, it also has an Active AirClean filter that eliminates odors.
Miele C3 Marin Canister Vacuum Cleaner
The final HEPA canister vacuum on our list is another model produced by Miele – the C3 Marin. A lot of its features are identical to the C3 Cat and Dog, but it’s more of an all-purpose vacuum than a pet-focused one.
Not only does the C3 Marin use HEPA filters, but 9 of its filtration stages are electrostatically charged to remove most of the debris before it even reaches the HEPA stage. This means longer-lasting HEPA filters, infrequent replacement purchases, and better performance over time.
Like the Cat and Dog, the Marin uses dust bags that open and seal automatically. When the vacuum chamber is opened, the bag will shut on its own accord to prevent the tiniest speck from flying out and littering your floors.
The C3 Marin comes with the same cleaning attachments – a crevice tool, and upholstery brush, and a dusting brush – but the two electric floorheads deserve all the praise. The carpet floorhead uses 13 separate brushes that dig deep into the fibers of carpeting to release the most embedded crumbs. The smooth-surface floor head has a swiveling neck and works great on all types of floors. Both floorheads are equipped with LED lights to help you see beneath furniture.
Canister Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide
The wide selection of canister vacuum cleaners can cause anxiety and depression (cite needed). That’s why it’s important it’s crucial that you know what sort of features and specs are available every model. In this guide, we’ll describe what sort of things to pay attention to when shopping for a canister vacuum cleaner.
Suction performance is generally measured using two variables: CFM (cubic feet per minute) and Static Water Lift (measured in inches). A vacuum with higher ratings means it will be more effective at lifting embedded dirt out of carpet fibers and between floorboards.
Canister vacuum cleaners come with a wide assortment of cleaning attachments. The more, the merrier, and the more versatile your canister vac will be.
Classic attachments include standard vacuum heads, upholstery brushes, and crevice tools. If you’re looking for a tool that serves a special purpose, there are tons of different attachments out there – either available in the canister kit or sold separately. Such attachments for specific jobs include pet brushes, stair-corner brushes, and motorized vacuum heads with rotating brushes.
Bagged vs. Bagless
Canister vacuum cleaners can come as either bagged or bagless models.
Bagged canister vacuum cleaners dump all of the suctioned-up debris into an anti-static, disposable bag. The capacity of each bag depends on the model, but they’re typically larger than the plastic storage containers found in bagless vacs. You’ll have to purchase replacements periodically which can accumulate to quite a bit of money.
Bagless models throw everything into a plastic container. When full, simply pull the container out of the canister’s casing and dump the contents into the trash bin. There’s a risk of dust falling out of the container and onto your floors, but you can always vacuum them afterward. Cleaning these containers is as easy as rinsing them in warm water and letting them air-dry. Unless the container cracks, you won’t ever need to purchase replacements (one-time cost).
The models we’ve talked about earlier all use True HEPA Filters that trap up to 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. But what other filtration systems are out there? There are cartridge, foam, MicroFresh, and even wet/dry filters that could be useful for cleaning certain areas of your home.
However, the most guaranteed way of eliminating the tiniest microorganism and speck of dust is by getting HEPA-certified filters and/or bags. Your sinuses will thank you during the springtime.
One of the handiest features of a canister vacuum is a telescoping wand. A telescoping wand extends your range by several feet, giving you the ability to reach the highest, most dust-infested spots of your home without having step food on a ladder or furniture. Some telescoping wands can extend up to several feet without weighing down on your arm and shoulder. Just mount the appropriate cleaning attachment onto the wand, pull the wand out to its fullest extent, and get to cleaning ceilings and on high shelves!
Mobility is everything when it comes to canister vacuums. The problem is that since all four wheels need to make contact on your floor to drag the unit to and fro, there’s a risk of the wheels leaving scratch marks on your hardwood floors or unsightly streaks on tiles.
That is unless the canister vac comes with rubberized casters. The rubber padding prevents marring and marking floors, so tug on the hose and vac all you’d like – the wheels leave the slightest mark in its wake!
However, at least in our experience, rubber casters are a bit problematic on carpeted floors. If your home has wall-to-wall carpeting, regular plastic caster wheels will do you just fine.
Cord and Hose Length
The length of the canister’s cord and hose determine just how far you can move without unplugging it from a power outlet. Longer hoses and cords are preferable since they offer a greater range of movement, allowing you to cover wider areas before moving to another wall outlet. The power cord can never be too long, especially if the model comes with a retractable cord.
A retractable cord is essential if you don’t want to trip and lose your two front teeth while vacuuming. When using a vacuum cleaner that has a 25-plus-foot cord, you’ll want all the help you can get in keeping the cord as tightly wound and as free of tangles as possible when stored. Normally, a gentle tug on the power cord is enough to trigger the auto-coiling mechanism to make cleanup a breeze.
Rotating Neck (Powered Vacuum Head)
Vacuuming around furniture legs can be problematic if the vacuum head doesn’t have a rotating neck. Like most sticks and uprights, canister vacuum heads can also have a rotating mechanism that offers maximum comfort when vacuuming around square-shaped objects. You’ll have to check out the included vacuum head to ensure that it does have a swiveling neck. If not, vacuuming can become more of a chore than it’s supposed to.
It comes as no surprise to anyone why canister vacuums are becoming increasingly more popular at home. Other than their superior vacuuming abilities compared to uprights and sticks, they come with a wide range of features and attachments that make cleaning floors and carpets so much easier to do. Furthermore, they produce considerably less noise than uprights, so you get more cleaning power with less wake-a-dozing-baby-up-ability.
In this article, we’ve provided our top five picks of the best HEPA canister vacuums available. Of the five, there are models suited for industrial and office cleaning, for residential use, and even for picking up after your pets. There’s a canister vacuum for everyone!
If you’re looking for something a little more all-purpose and less focused than the models we’ve provided, take a look at our brief buying guide. It’ll provide you with all of the information needed to make an informed purchase decision when shopping for the right canister vacuum.