As penance for my long posting absence, I’m tackling a really tough subject. Vacuum cleaners. I’ve had almost as many requests to write about them as I’ve had vacuums themselves. The simple truth is that a lot of vacuums suck. And not in the really good way we want them to. I’ve bought lots of them – uprights and canisters, at every price level, from less than $100 to more than $1,000. And still I don’t have one I love, nor a stellar recommendation.
Someday, I’ll live in a home with a central vacuum system. Until then, I have some valuable observations, and a few really good options.
Important Observation #1: The lighter the better. If you look at the vacuums used by cleaning professionals, they all have one thing in common. They’re light. If just getting the vacuum out of the closet is a chore, you’re not going to use it as much as you should.
Canister vs. Upright: Conventional wisdom generally holds that uprights are best for carpets, and canisters are best for bare floors. What if you have both? Uprights that have a beater brush you can turn off work fine for floors. And canisters with a motorized beater brush option work on carpets.
Bagged vs. Bagless: Vacuum bags are a small price to pay for never having to see that mess of dust, dirt, pet hair and god-knows-what again. I have yet to see a bagless vacuum that didn’t make a mess when you emptied it. Do you really want to take the vacuum outside to empty it?
Luxury Vacuums: Yes, the Miele is like the BMW of vacuums. It’s manufactured with German precision, it’s powerful, quiet and comes with all sorts of available options — like a radiator cleaning tool. But functionally, it’s no better than the models I’ve recommended below.
Best All-round Vacuum: Electrolux Harmony/Oxygen
My mother and grandmother had the original Electrolux, a workhorse of a vacuum that lasted forever. The company that made those vacuums is now called Aerus, and the Electrolux name is now on vacuums made by Eureka. But Eureka vacuums rate highly, and their premium Electrolux-branded vacuums are stylish, feature-rich, well-priced, and not too heavy. I have the Harmony at my house on Fire Island. It has an air-powered carpet brush, which is suitable for low-pile carpets. If you have deep pile, you’ll need to go up to one of the Oxygen models which have a powered brush head. The Oxygen rates #2 at Consumer Reports, despite highest cleaning performance ratings, because of noise and ease in maneuvering. I still prefer it. Buy the Harmony for $228 at Amazon.com. Buy the Oxygen for $359 at buydig.com.
Best Upright Vacuum: Sears Kenmore 35922
Top-rated by consumer reports, it’s hideous, and a little unwieldy at 21 pounds. But if you like the convenience of an upright, and don’t have to carry it up and down stairs, it’s a great option. On sale through November 3 for $269.99 at Sears.com, where you can buy it online, and pick it up at the store with out waiting!
Best Mid-Priced Upright Vacuum: Eureka Boss 4870
Another hideous and heavy option; this one is a Consumer Reports Best Buy. It does have a carpet/floor switch, though there are an inordinate number of reports of problems out-of-the box (covered by warrantee/return policies) and high repair costs on this feature (after 1-yr warranty; 3 yrs with Buyer’s Advantage) . Get it for $149.99 at Amazon.com with free shipping and no tax.
Best Budget Vacuum: Sharp EC-7311
compact canister vacuum is a real winner. I use it in my NYC
apartment. It has great suction, is easily maneuvered and has the
essential on-board crevice and
upholstery tools. Read more about it at epinons.com, buy it for $81 at vacuumcleaners.net with no tax outside of New York.
Best Budget Upright: Hoover Tempo Widepath
This upright is relatively lightweight (at 16lbs), and rates a Consumer Reports Best Buy. It has on-board tools, extension wands and an allergen filtration system, though the brush does not turn off, making it less suitable for bare floors. Buy it for $59.84 at Amazon.com with free shipping and no tax.
Best Ultra-Lightweight: Simplicity F3500
I have to admit. I loved my Oreck XL upright. It was so light. (Re-read Important Consideration #1, above). And it really went to town on the deep pile carpets in my former apartment. The Simplicity F3500 (formerly the Riccar RSL3, about $380) is higher-rated, less expensive, and 2 lbs lighter. The big down side: Like the Oreck, it only works on floors. No attachments, no
detachable hose. If you need to vacuum furniture, drapes, crevices —
anything other than floors — you’ll need a second vacuum. Simplicity is super protective of their sales dealers, and does not allow online sales or out-of-state shipments. You’ll need to locate a dealer near you
to buy one. When I have to do it again, this is the combination I’ll choose.
A super-lightweight upright for every-day (okay, every week)
floor cleaning, and a small shoulder-canister (like the Simplicity Sport or Oreck Housekeeper, $199) for occasional furniture, crevice and, yes, radiator cleaning.