Vacuum cleaners ultimate buying guide

A vacuum cleaner is probably the most expensive cleaning tool you will buy so it's important when choosing your next vacuum cleaner to make the right decision.

If you've ever wondered what air watts or HEPA filtration means, or are confused about the difference between cylinder and upright vacuum cleaners, and bagged and bag less vacuum cleaners, The Ultimate Guide to Buying Vacuum Cleaners will explain everything you need to know and much more.

Power and suction explained

Image showing how vacuum cleaners suction works

When comparing vacuum cleaners you may notice both watts and air watts are stated, which can be confusing if you don't know what they mean. To put it simply, watts is a measure of the amount of power going into the vacuum cleaner. Air watts is a measure of how much of that power is converted into suction. Air watts are dependent on the efficiency of the vacuum cleaner. So if the vacuum cleaner has a high wattage but poor efficiency, the air watts rating will be lower, which means the suction power will be compromised. The higher the air watts, the better the suction.

Whether a vacuum cleaner offers ‘no loss of suction’ depends on the type of dust separation technology it has. You can find out more information about dust separation technologies below.

Dust separation technologies in bagless vacuum cleaners

Image showing dust separation technology

Dust separation technologies in bagless vacuum cleaners can be a little complicated but it's worth learning the essentials because they have a big impact on the performance of bag less vacuum cleaners and also determine how often you'll need to clean the filter.

1. Filter based bagless vacuum cleaners

Image showing filter based vacuum cleaner

Bag less vacuum cleaners with filter based dust separation technologies tend to be the cheapest on the market because you need to clean the filter every four to six uses to maintain good suction.

The main problem with filter based separation in bag-less vacuum cleaners is a relatively high proportion of dust hits the filter, which means it clogs up if it's not cleaned regularly. If the filter is clogged, suction power will be lost and the vacuum cleaner won't perform or pick up as effectively. Many customers however are quite happy to clean the filter more often in return for a fraction of the price of more advanced bag-less vacuum cleaners.

You can easily recognise filter based bag-less vacuum cleaners because there'll be a large filter inside the dust container. Alyx is an example of this type of bag-less vacuum cleaner.

2. Cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaners

Image showing cyclonic vacuum cleaner

Bag less vacuum cleaners with cyclonic dust separation technologies tend to be mid-range because they provide less filter cleaning than filter based bag less vacuum cleaners but require more cleaning than bag less vacuum cleaners with multi-cyclonic technology.

vacuum cleaners with a cyclonic system have a single cyclone that speeds up the airflow and forces dust away from the filter and into the bin. In doing so, the filter doesn't have as much dust to deal with and you don't have to clean it so regularly.

It's worth knowing the design of single cyclone systems also makes a big difference to the amount of filter cleaning you'll need to do. Hoover's Rush cylinder bag less vacuum cleaners for example have an efficiency of 75% (75% of the dust stays in the bin and 25% hits the filter). This compares with an average of around 65%* for most single cyclone bag less vacuum cleaners.

3. Multi-Cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaners

Image showing multi-cyclonic vacuum cleaner

If you want to experience the ultimate ‘no loss of suction’, it's essential you buy a bag less vacuum cleaner with multi-cyclonic dust separation technology, such as Airvolution. Bagless vacuum cleaners with multi-cyclonic dust separation technology are more expensive than conventional bagless vacuum cleaners but offer the lowest filter maintenance. With Hoover's Airvolution system, filters can go up to nine months* before needing to be cleaned.

Airvolution has multiple cyclones that accelerate the airflow and separate out the smallest dust particles before they reach the filter. Massive g-forces keep dust away from the filters and prevent them from clogging. By keeping the filters cleaner, the suction remains consistent and doesn't decrease as the bin fills.

Look for bagless vacuum cleaners such as Xarion, Freedom and Slalom.

* Based on IEC test results carried out in Hoover laboratory using IEC standard testing procedure.

Bagged or bagless?

Bagged vacuum cleaner
Bagged vacuum cleaner

Bagless vacuum cleaners are by far the most popular choice, although many people don't realise that bagless vacuum cleaners will not necessarily perform better than bagged vacuum cleaners. Before you buy it's best to familiarise yourself with the advantages and disadvantages so you can be sure you're buying the best vacuum cleaner for your needs.

Advantages of bagged vacuum cleaners:
  • More hygienic and ideal for asthma and allergy sufferers because they do not expose you to dust when emptying
  • Low maintenance, with little filter cleaning required
Disadvantages of bagged vacuum cleaners:
  • Suction power falls as the bag fills and unless the vacuum cleaner as a full bag indicator light, it's not always easy to see when the bag is full
  • Bagged vacuum cleaners require replacement bags, and occasionally, filters
Advantages of bagless vacuum cleaners:
  • No need to buy bags, which saves money and is better for the environment
  • You can easily see when the dust bin is full, so you can empty it before it loses suction
Disadvantages of bagless vacuum cleaners:
  • Depending on the model, you may have to clean the filter as often as once a month
  • Bagless vacuum cleaners expose you to more dust when emptying, which is less hygienic and can trigger symptoms if you have asthma or a dust allergy

Cylinder or upright?

Both cylinder and upright vacuum cleaners offer advantages and disadvantages and the choice you make is largely down to personal preference.

The advantages of cylinder vacuum cleaners include:
  • Generally lighter and smaller than upright vacuum cleaners
  • Easy to manoeuvre in awkward areas, such as around and under furniture
The disadvantages of cylinder vacuum cleaners include:
  • Less dust capacity and shorter lead and hose lengths in comparison to upright vacuum cleaners
  • Less suitable for vacuuming large carpeted areas
The advantages of upright vacuum cleaners include:
  • Large suction head complete with powerful rotating brushes provides great results on carpeted floors
  • Longer lead and hose lengths coupled with a bigger dust capacity and suction head makes upright vacuum cleaners ideal for large homes
Disadvantages of upright vacuum cleaners:
  • Generally heavier, which makes the vacuum cleaner harder to push and lift
  • Can be more difficult to manoeuvre in space restricted areas

Buying the right vacuum cleaner for your floors

Image showing vacuum cleaner hose

Although many people aren't aware, cylinder vacuum cleaners and upright vacuum cleaners were originally developed for two different purposes: cylinder vacuum cleaners were developed for hard floors while upright vacuum cleaners were developed for carpets. The typical cleaning heads on each of these vacuum cleaners reflects these differences, with cylinder vacuum cleaners tending to lack the powerful rotating brushes you will find in the head of upright vacuum cleaners. That said, many cylinder vacuum cleaners now also come with rotating brushes to make them suitable for all floors.

In a nutshell, if your home is carpeted, you may find an upright vacuum cleaner to be the best option, but if your home consists of mainly hard floors, a cylinder vacuum cleaner would be better. If you have an equal mix of both, look for either a cylinder vacuum cleaner with a separate turbo brush attachment or a turbo brush on/off button, or alternatively, an upright vacuum cleaner with a turbo brush on/off button.

It's important to turn the turbo brushes off when vacuuming delicate floors such as laminate as they could otherwise scratch the surface.

Lightweight vacuum cleaners

Image of lightweight feather

Lightweight vacuum cleaners are ideal for those who find vacuuming with their current vacuum cleaner tiring or difficult. For a vacuum cleaner to be noticeably light, you should look for model that weighs 6.5 kg or less, which is equivalent to just 1 stone. Bear in mind that cylinder vacuum cleaners tend to be lighter than upright vacuum cleaners, with some cylinder vacuum cleaners, such as Pure Bagged Power, weighing less than 6 kg.

If however, you are looking for an ultra lightweight vacuum cleaner, a small cordless vacuum cleaner, such as the 2.8 kg Freejet from Hoover, may be the best solution. This range of lightweight bag-less vacuum cleaners weighs not much more than a bag of sugar, making them exceptionally easy to manoeuvre and carry.

On the downside, lightweight vacuum cleaners are small, which means less dust capacity and shorter lead and hose lengths than larger vacuum cleaners.

Small vacuum cleaners

Small vacuum cleaners
Small vacuum cleaners

If you have a small house, flat or caravan, a smaller vacuum cleaner such as Freespace or Freejet 3in1 can be easier to use and more convenient to store. They are also generally cheaper than larger models. As with lightweight vacuum cleaners however, small vacuum cleaners tend to have less dust capacity and shorter lead and hose lengths.

Small cylinder vacuum cleaners tend to take up less space than small upright vacuum cleaners, although some people find storing the hose on a cylinder vacuum cleaner more troublesome. Most cylinder vacuum cleaners also come with telescopic extension tubes that shrink to save space and some vacuum cleaners, such as Freespace from Hoover, are so small they will even fit in a cupboard under the kitchen sink.

If you're looking to buy a small vacuum cleaner for space saving reasons, a 3in1 vacuum cleaner, such as Freejet 3in1, can be the perfect solution. These vacuum cleaners offer a hard floor cleaner, carpet cleaner and handheld cleaner all in one.

Quiet vacuum cleaners

Image of Hoover Silent Energy vacuum cleaner

If noise is a concern for you, perhaps because you don't want to disturb the household, a quiet vacuum cleaner can be the perfect solution. Contrary to popular belief, a quiet vacuum cleaner also doesn't always mean you have to compromise power either. Hoover's Silent Energy vacuum cleaner for example offers a quiet or a full power mode. Alternatively, Pure Power is an upright bagged vacuum cleaner that has Dynamic Silence technology to deliver both power and quietness at the same time.

In general, when buying a quiet vacuum cleaner remember that cylinder vacuum cleaners tend to be quieter than upright vacuum cleaners and the greater power the greater the noise level. A quiet vacuum cleaner will have a noise level of around 75 dBa.

Filters in vacuum cleaners explained

There are two main types of filters used in vacuum cleaners: micro filters and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. If you suffer with asthma or allergies, it is particularly important to find out what filter the vacuum cleaner comes with because it will determine the size and amount of dust particles that are in the air expelled from the vacuum cleaner.

1. Micro filter
Image of Micro filters

You will find this filter on basic vacuum cleaners. Both washable and disposable versions are available. It's suitable for general use, although the problem with a micro filter is that it expels some of the dust back into the air. Micro filters in effect just rearrange some of the dust in your home, which is bad news if you're particular about cleanliness, allergic to dust mites or have asthma.

2. HEPA filter
Image of Micro filters

HEPA filters are the best option for allergy and asthma suffers because they catch and trap small pollutants and pollen particles, such as pollen and dust mite faeces, which would otherwise be recirculated into the air and potentially trigger symptoms.

In fact, HEPA filters remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 micrometres in diameter. To put this into perspective, a typical human hair is 100 microns in diameter, making the size and number of particles that can escape extremely small and far beyond our eyesight's capabilities. Most HEPA filters are washable and reusable.

For bagged vacuum cleaners, HEPA filtration is delivered through the bag. For bagless vacuum cleaners, the air and dust are forced up and round towards the filter. As they spin, the dust is thrown out and settles at the bottom of the bin. The faster the airflow, the greater the amount of dust thrown out of the air and into the bin. With top rated vacuum cleaners, such as those with the multi-cyclonic Airvolution technology, almost all dust is removed, so not only is the expelled air cleaner, but the filters don't clog and no suction is lost.

Nearly all Hoover vacuum cleaners come with HEPA filtration, with the only exception being the ultra small Freejet vacuum cleaner.

Allergy UK approved vacuum cleaners

Allergy Care Plus logo

If you suffer with asthma or dust allergies, you may find a conventional vacuum cleaner is not effective enough in removing allergens. If this is the case, a vacuum cleaner approved by Allergy UK can be the best solution.

The Seal of Approval from Allergy UK is given to vacuum cleaners that restrict, reduce or remove allergens from the environment of the allergy sufferer. An Allergy UK approved vacuum cleaner will remove almost all allergens and ensure they're not released back into your home in the air that's expelled from the vacuum cleaner. Allergy UK approves all Hoover bag less vacuum cleaners powered by the patented Airvolution system, including Freedom, Slalom and Xarion.

If you have a cat or dog, make sure you choose a vacuum cleaner that will remove its allergens. All of Hoover's Allergy UK approved bag less vacuum cleaners will remove dust mites and both cat and dog allergens. For more information go to www.allergyuk.org.

Hose and lead length

Image showing long hose lead

The length of the hose indicates how far it will stretch. You should bear in mind that not all hoses will reach up a full flight of stairs and this is particularly the case for hoses fitted on cylinder vacuum cleaners. Instead, you would need to carry the vacuum cleaner up the steps as you go. The plus side to this is that most cylinder vacuum cleaners are very light and easy to carry, so for most people, this isn't a problem. If you want a hose that will reach up a full flight of stairs however, it needs to be at least 4 meters long for a standard stair case.

As for the lead length, this will determine how often you will need to find a new plug socket. If you have a small house and don't mind replugging the vacuum cleaner into a new socket as you go along, this shouldn't be a concern for you. However, if running out of lead is one of your pet hates, you really should be looking at vacuum cleaners with at least 6 meters of lead, such as Xarion, Freedom or Slalom.

It's also good to remember that cylinder vacuum cleaners have shorter lead and hose lengths than upright vacuum cleaners because they are generally smaller and have less onboard storage space. The exception to this is Hoover's Multi-Function Pro cylinder vacuum cleaner, which has an ultra long 10 meter lead.

Dust capacity

Image showing bagless vacuum cleaner

Regardless of whether you buy a bagged or bagless vacuum cleaner, knowing the dust capacity is important because it'll determine how many trips back and forth the bin you make. If you want a small or lightweight vacuum cleaner, you should bear in mind the dust capacity will naturally be less than a large vacuum cleaner. If you have a large home however, and don't necessarily need a small or lightweight vacuum cleaner, you may find a larger vacuum cleaner with a large dust capacity (of at least 2 litres) more convenient.

Vacuum cleaners for pet hair

Image showing dog

If you own pets, having a vacuum cleaner that will effectively pick up their hair is essential. It's best to opt for a powerful vacuum cleaner with at least 200 air watts as this will ensure strong suction.

As well as power however, if you have deep carpets, you'll also need a vacuum cleaner with good turbo brushes to loosen and lift the hair. The best way to be sure the vacuum cleaner will have the brushes you need is to look for ‘Pets’ in the name and description. If the vacuum cleaner is described as being suitable for pet hair, you'll know it'll be able to cope with the most demanding conditions.

Variable power vacuum cleaners

Image showing power of vacuum cleaner

While you may want maximum power for vacuuming your carpets, if you also have rugs or delicate fabrics to vacuum, a vacuum cleaner that gives you the option to turn the power down can be really useful. By turning the power down you will be able to vacuum tassels without destroying them, doormats without having to hold them down and curtains without nearly pulling them down. Variable power really can make vacuuming much easier!

Vacuum cleaners with edge-to-edge cleaning

Image showing edge to edge cleaning

Vacuum cleaners with edge-to-edge cleaning have suction that goes right up to the wall or skirting board. Vacuum cleaners with this feature tend to be more expensive, but it does save you time and effort from not having to round the edges with a crevice tool.

Tools for vacuum cleaners

Image showing tools of vacuum cleaner

All good vacuum cleaners will come with at least two onboard tools to help you clean more awkward or sensitive areas. The most popular tools include a crevice tool, dusting brush and upholstery nozzle. Some vacuum cleaners will also come with a separate turbo brush for removing dirt and stubborn pet hairs from areas where it isn't possible to use a full-size cleaning head.

With some bagless cylinder vacuum cleaners, such as Xarion or Rush, you can also get a hard floor caresse nozzle which is specially designed to lift dirt without scratching the surface of hard floors.

For allergy sufferers, an allergen remover brush, such as that sold with Xarion Allergy Care Plus, is also useful for ensuring dust mite, cat and dog allergen is effectively picked up. This brush can be used on the floor, bed, sofa, or any other area that can trigger symptoms.

Anti-tip vacuum cleaners

Image showing anti-tip vacuum cleaner

It's only a small feature but an anti-tip mechanism means the vacuum cleaner won't topple over or onto you when you're vacuuming. With cylinder vacuum cleaners, you won't have this problem anyhow, but if you'd like to buy an anti-tip upright vacuum cleaner, look for models such as Freedom, Dust Manager or Pure Power.

Cordless vacuum cleaners

Image showing anti-tip vacuum cleaner

If you're looking for a vacuum cleaner which will give you the ultimate flexibility without the inconvenience of a cord, a cordless vacuum cleaner is the ultimate solution. With bagless vacuum cleaners such as the 3in1 Freejet, you can clean in any room without having to find a power socket.

Wet/dry vacuum cleaners

Image showing anti-tip vacuum cleaner

With wet/dry vacuum cleaners give you the option to also clean up liquid spills. Wet/dry vacuum cleaners, such as the Multi-Function Pro come with a bag for dry pick up and a large tank for wet vacuuming. You can also get handheld versions of wet/dry vacuum cleaners, such as Jovis.

Handheld vacuum cleaners

Image showing handheld vacuum cleaner

Finally, for those occasional spills and areas where using a standard vacuum cleaner is less convenient, handheld vacuum cleaners can be the perfect solution. Ideal for use in and around the home, and even in the car and caravan, the list of uses for handheld vacuum cleaners is endless. From glitter to cobwebs to crumbs, DIY sawdust, to pet hair to houseplant soil, a handheld vacuum cleaner can be there to the rescue whenever you need it. When buying, make sure you look at these five main features:

  1. Battery life – some models, such as Jovis, will provide 20 minutes of vacuuming time so you can finish the job without having to recharge the battery half way through.
  2. Filter – if you suffer with asthma or allergies, it's sensible to buy a handheld vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration, such as Jovis
  3. Tools onboard – to clean small areas more easily and effectively, some handheld vacuum cleaners, such as Handy Plus, come with a crevice tool
  4. Dust capacity – a bigger dust capacity will enable you to do more vacuuming with less emptying, which saves time and is more convenient.
  5. Power indicator – this simple feature will let you know when the battery is running low so you don't run out of power half way through a job.

Buy replacement parts and accessories, including filters, hoses and turbo brushes for your vacuum cleaner online directly from the official Hoover Spares shop.

Hoover™ Robot Vacuum Cleaner
  • 9 programme settings
  • Up to 2 hours run time
£399.99
Hoover Globe Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner
  • Super Flex Multi Tool
  • All Floors Cleaning
£299.99
Hoover A2 Bagged Vacuum Cleaner
  • Double A Class
  • Allergy Care Pets Turbo Brush
£299.99
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