The 7 Best Canister Vacuums
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Whether you're doing spring cleaning, picking up after your furry friend, or maintaining commercial premises, one of these canister vacuums can help you get the job done quickly and efficiently. As an alternative to upright models, they offer compact designs with powerful suction and plenty of attachments for reaching any area, from floor to ceiling, where dirt and dust tend to collect. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 08, 2021:
We pulled some older models from Electrolux, Bissel, and Hoover that are no longer in production. Instead, we added the Hoover CH30000, which we really like due to its portable handheld nature. It's also impressively thin, which makes it significantly easier to store than most others. The rest of our recommendations remain the same, including our top choice, the Dyson Multi Floor as well as our high-end #2 option, the Miele Complete C3 Cat & Dog.
February 03, 2020:
The Bissell Zing is well worth a spot on our list, thanks to its light weight, maneuverability, convenient telescoping wand, and quick, automatic cord rewind – and you get all of this for a very reasonable price. (It’s also available in a cordless model for those who prefer not to have to keep stopping to plug it into new outlets throughout the house.) It’s got a generous two-liter bag capacity and is easy to go from cleaning carpets to hard floors with the flip of a switch. Just be aware the attachments are on the small side, so they might not work well for all of the crevices, corners, ceiling fans, and more that you need to clean.
We like the Dyson Multi Floor enough to move it into the top spot, as its efficiency and maneuverability are truly tough to beat. Most of the core components are situated inside the ball component, which makes it a breeze to maneuver around your home without anything getting in the way and slowing you down. Also, it self-rights in the event it topples over, so it’s great for anyone with a bad back. It features hypoallergenic HEPA filtration, so it’s a great choice for homes with allergy sufferers.
Sadly, we say goodbye to the Shark Rotator Lift-Away -- a powerful model that offered LED headlights for illuminating your path, easy swivel steering, and a generous five-year warranty -- as it is unavailable at this time.
Kirby Avalir 2 With the vacuuming, shampooing, and mopping capabilities, this all-in-one cleaning system is designed to operate as a full-function canister vacuum. When you attach the hose, the motor runs at a higher speed for maximum power. It comes with a variety of attachments that make it easy to handle stairs, upholstery, draperies, walls, ceilings, and shelves. kirby.com
VacuMaid Split Canister S3600 This powerful central vacuum system helps deep clean your home, thanks to its cyclonic filtration and sustainable motor with brush interrupters. It’s made from rolled galvannealed steel and has a powder coating for a tough, corrosion-resistant lifetime of use. Whether your home is new or existing, it can be quickly installed and is great for use in residences where there are allergies. vacumaid.com
The Importance Of Being A Fan Of Suction
This draw, this suction, creates the action of your vacuum.
A vacuum cleaner needs suction like a pitcher needs a good fastball.
That suction is created in a pretty fascinating way. Generally, a vacuum is like a high-powered fan designed to do a less than ideal job at blowing air.
Sure, there's some outflow of air. You can feel that if you put your hand up against any vacuum cleaner's exhaust port. That's where that burning animal smell comes from if you have pets that shed and you neglect to clean your vacuum's filter.
The other side of the fan is what's of interest to us in a vacuum, the side through which air is drawn. This draw, this suction, creates the action of your vacuum.
From there, it's all bells and whistles: bags and bins, retractable cords, extendable arms and hoses for reaching that suction action into the deepest, darkest crevices of your home.
That suction power is measured in something called air watts, which is the result of a simple little formula.
Take the amount of air that a vacuum cleaner can move through a two inch opening and measure it in cubic feet per minute (CFM). That's your air flow.
Then, see you how many inches of water said vacuum can pull up vertically through the same two inch hose. That's your vacuum measurement, or water lift.
Multiply those together, and divide it by 8.5 and I'll bet I can guess the number you were thinking of! Oh, I mean, then you get your air watts.
If, for example, you have a vacuum cleaner with an air flow of 55 CFM and a water lift of 10 inches, then it's 55 x 10 / 8.5 = 64.7 air watts.
Why 8.5? Come on, I'm a writer, not a physicist!
Clean Your Kids To Sleep
I was one of those kids who slept better with a constant noise in the background. Movement helped, too.
I ride a motorcycle now because driving a car is too reminiscent of the car rides my mom used for putting me to sleep as a baby.
Seriously, stick me in a car or an airplane, on a boat or a pool float, and I'll be asleep in minutes. Not too safe for driving, but it's great for insomnia.
When you do get one into your home, turn it on and lay down.
When she couldn't load me into the car (either because she couldn't commit the time or because gas prices were on the rise), she would simply run the vacuum cleaner.
It didn't matter much if anything really needed to be cleaned; the sound put me down, and quickly.
She didn't need to worry too much about whether her vacuum was an upright or a canister, whither it had a retractable cord or a guidance system that could rival a sidewinder missile. All she really needed was for it to make some noise.
You might have a kid just like me in your home right now, but, by the percentages, anyway, you probably don't. And that's good for you; I was a terror.
Either way, you have so much more to choose from in your vacuum cleaner options than my mother did.
Honestly, first and foremost, I'd recommend that you ask yourself where you plan to store it. The size differences from one unit to the next aren't that immense here, but they might just be the thing that puts you over the edge toward one particular cleaner.
When you do get one into your home, turn it on and lay down. See if it puts you out.
How Do You Say, "Vacuum," In Pittsburgh?
I went to college outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and if you aren't familiar with the dialect of the region, you're a lucky one. Stay that way.
If you've experienced so-called Pittsburghese, you may have heard terms like 'gum band' used in lieu of 'rubber band,' or you may have even tasted a 'sammich' from Primanti Brothers.
I went to college outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and if you aren't familiar with the dialect of the region, you're a lucky one.
You've also definitely heard vacuum cleaners referred to as 'sweepers,' a denotation that confounded me from the first.
Where is the sweeping action? It's just suction. If you looked up the respective definitions of the two words 'vacuum' and 'sweeper' you'd find no congruence.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the true deficiency here lies not within the dialect of Allegheny County, but rather with the etymological and historical research done by the writers of online dictionaries.
Before the advent of the electric vacuum cleaner, manual versions existed that created minor amounts of suction as their users moved them across the floor. They worked much the same way a manual lawnmower works.
And they were called 'carpet sweepers.'
So, the Pittsburghers aren't wrong, they're just more deeply in touch with the roots of our household appliances than the rest of us.