Best vacuum cleaners – upright and cylinder models, updated for 2020

We've tested and reviewed the best corded vacuum cleaners for cleaning your home efficiently
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  • Cleaning is less of a chore when you have the right tools at your disposal. The latest vacuum cleaners boast superior suction, whip up pet hairs with ease and are more manoeuvrable than ever.

    They’re lighter and quieter too. And forget about comparing wattages to buy the most powerful. Thanks to EU energy-saving regulations, they use much less electricity than older models, instead cleaning more efficiently.

    We tested a selection of the latest models to see which vacuum cleaner is best.

    For more expert product reviews, make sure you check out our buying guides

    Why do I need a new vacuum cleaner?

    If your vacuum cleaner has seen better days, you’ll be stunned by the performance of the latest models. They offer better cleaning power (in terms of suction and brushes to lift hair and dirt) yet use less electricity than older models.

    What is the best vacuum cleaner in 2019?

    After thorough testing, we have voted the Miele Blizzard CX1 as the best vacuum cleaner available in 2019, and also the best cylinder vacuum cleaner and best for suction. The Numatic Harry (also known as the Henry Pet) is our best budget vacuum cleaner.

    Best vacuum cleaners

    1. Miele Blizzard CX1 – best vacuum cleaner overall


    Miele’s first bagless cleaner is available in multiple flavours. These range from a £249 Parquet model designed for hard floors to a £410 Comfort PowerLine with wireless controls on the handle for maximum convenience. We tested the Cat & Dog model, which sits near the top of the range and boasts a turbo brush floor head for whipping up pet (and human) hair, as well as a regular carpet floor head and another for hard floors.

    The tube is long but telescopic, making this a good cleaner for tall and short people alike. We loved it for straightforward cleaning power. Its suction is outstanding thanks to a powerful, fast (more than 100km/h) cyclone. The single cyclone design also makes for low noise and controllable power. The cylinder moves smoothly on its castors and perches acceptably on a stair.

    The handle is comfortable in the hand and the floor head pleasantly manoeuvrable. The hose is extra-long, giving you 10m overall reach from the power socket. Tools (crevice and upholstery nozzles) are stored on board, easy to get to, and the handle has a built-in dusting brush that slides into place when you need it. We were wowed by the cleaning results from the Cat & Dog turbo brush; it left floors spotless. And the canister was easy and fairly dust-free to empty.

    Cleaning pauses for a few seconds from time to time: frustrating till you realise this is because the machine cleans its own filter. There’s also a lifetime HEPA filter to catch the smallest particles. Vacuumed bacteria, allergens and mould spores remaining safely within the filter for the vacuum cleaner’s lifetime of the Blizzard CX1. As a result, this vacuum cleaner has British Allergy Foundation approval.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Miele Blizzard CX1, £329.99,

    2. Hoover Velocity Evo Reach Upright VE02 – best bagless vacuum cleaner


    It was love at first sight with the Hoover vacuum cleaner, for one simple reason: storage. We’re practically minded and far too many vacuum cleaners are incapable of storing their own tools on the move. The Hoover has a place for everything.

    The power cable is 12m long. Add a 4.5m hose and you have an impressive 16.5m reach when using the hose. We found we could clean an entire floor of the house from one socket and reach an entire flight of stairs with the hose, leaving the Hoover safely at the bottom.

    There are no controls on the handle, you have to reach down to the top of the body of the machine. Press the carpet button next to it if you want the powerful brush bar to spin too – great for picking up hair. Stand it upright and the brush bar stops, to protect floors.

    Cleaning is multi-cyclonic and therefore bagless, with HEPA filtration of fine particles, great for allergy sufferers.

    Accessories (all stored on board) are a versatile crevice tool with slide-down brush tip for dusting, an extension tube, a hose and a mini turbo brush perfect for getting pet hair off furniture and cleaning the car.

    The upright’s handle slides out at the push of a button and becomes the wand for when you’re cleaning using the hose. You can extend it with the tube – it’s long and light enough to tackle ceiling cobwebs with ease.

    As an upright, this vacuum cleaner is manoeuvrable, powerful and pleasant in the hand. Converting it to use the hose and accessories takes a minute but is easy. Our only criticisms were with the mini turbo brush: it sticks out straight, rather than an angle, which feels wrong at the end of the wand, and sometimes it made a whistling sound.

    One button releases the dirt canister; another then pops the bottom open over the bin. It wasn’t too dusty. You can also open the top of the canister to access the washable filters. Ratings are outstanding too. A+ for energy efficiency and As all round for performance on carpets and hard floors and dust emissions.

    This vacuum cleaner is impressive, easy to use and has superb tools and tool storage.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Hoover Velocity Evo Reach Upright VE02, £127, Amazon

    3. Numatic Harry HHR200 – best budget vacuum cleaner


    Henry and its (his?) siblings have a reputation for being workhorses: the cleaner’s cleaner of choice, designed and made here in the UK. We put the Harry vacuum cleaner (sometimes known as the Henry Pet) through its paces. Harry boasts a large 9-litre capacity, the same as the Henry HVR200, and it has similar features. It’s a bagged cylinder vacuum cleaner with a 10m cable, giving it an overall reach of 13m from the power socket. Its floor head is straightforward, with a lever that you press to go from hard floor to carpet, or vice versa.

    Build is simple, solid and bombproof: the cord winds up manually, the top clips on solidly, the wand is in two pieces but not telescopic. This vacuum cleaner feels semi-industrial. There is very little to go wrong. Harry also has extra features designed for pet owners. The HairoBrush is a small turbo brush designed to whip up pet hair. And the cleaner’s large fabric filter has a built-in MicroFresh activated charcoal layer designed to tackle pet odours.

    Air is pulled through the HepaFlo bag, which captures even fine particles of dust, then cleaned with the activated charcoal filter for good measure. Harry comes with three other tools: crevice tool, soft dusting brush and upholstery nozzle with slide-on brush. If you clip them together, you can just about carry them all on board thanks to two slots on the back, next to the wheels.

    But the only way to store the HairoBrush when you’re on the move is in the slot where you’d naturally dock the floorhead and wand. A second slot would have been good, so you could stow them at the same time. Also, the Harry vacuum cleaner is too big to sit on a stair. Cleaning power is impressive, however. The floor head was simple but very effective, and Harry the vacuum moved fairly well behind us.

    Our only criticism with this vacuum cleaner is that, as pet-owners, we’d have preferred a full-sized turbo brush. The HairoBrush is very effective at picking up hair but it seems too small to use as a floor head.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Numatic Harry HHR200, £129, Currys

    4. Dyson Light Ball – best vacuum cleaner for functionality


    This is a reasonably affordable Dyson upright vacuum cleaner. Its party trick is that it sits atop a large ball, for manoeuvrability, with two small wheels perched behind it and the floor head in front. It’s bagless and multi-cyclonic. Its two filters are washable. The design is colourful, and not everyone’s cup of tea, but we did like the fact that all tools are stored on board. And although the design is visually complex, the ball steers simply.

    Its cleaning prowess was good enough, but not the best on test. But some of Dyson’s vacuum cleaner design touches impressed. Simple things make all the difference. For example, once you’ve got the hang of it, the wand and hose pop out of the handle easily and are ready to go. Suction automatically swaps over from the floor to the hose. The hose is stretchy, the wand is telescopic and the crevice tool has a brush that slides to the end, making it good for high cobwebs. The other tool is a “stair tool” that looks like an upholstery head. Combined with a 9.5m power cord, there’s a reach of nearly 14m.

    The Dyson vacuum cleaner steered well but it clattered on our parquet floor and we weren’t grabbed by the stair tool. It’s small, struggles to pick up hair and ground-in dirt, and the hose wasn’t stretchy enough. We got up 11 steps but not the whole flight. Emptying was good though: press the red button at the top of the dirt canister to pop it off the cleaner body, then hold it over a bin and press it firmly to open the bottom. This is good because the button is at the top of the tall canister, so you can lower it well into a wheelie bin: you’re further away from the dust.

    We like some aspects of the Light Ball’s design a lot, and it’s affordable and pretty quiet, but this vacuum cleaner has flaws.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Dyson Light Ball, £199,

    5. Vax Air Lift Steerable Advance – best vacuum cleaner for cleaning stairs


    The Air Lift Steerable Advance has an unusual party trick: the middle pops out and works independently, a bit like some cordless vacuum cleaners. As an upright vacuum cleaner, the multi-cyclonic Vax picks up dust well but it’s a bit annoying to use. There are three control buttons at the top of the body and it’s not easy to spot which is for power. Even reclining the machine to begin cleaning is a pain: you must put your foot in a particular place.

    Another of the three buttons on the top turns the brush bar on and off. The third ejects the middle of the cleaner for handheld use. The Vax vacuum cleaner comes with six tools but only storage space for one of them. This undermines the benefits considerably. Most useful are a small turbo brush for pet hair, a versatile three-in-one crevice tool and a bendy brush tool. But there’s also a large upholstery tool, a smaller brush and an unusual rubber-bladed tool for stubborn fur and fluff.

    You will easily fill a carrier bag with the tools. Then you’ll have to carry it with you whenever you might need them. You don’t have to eject the middle bit to use tools. Rather, you detach the hose and clip on a tool, using the Vax body as a base and pulling out the upright’s handle to act as a wand. This works well.

    Ejecting the body is effective too: good for stairs and stuff like car-cleaning. But after a while the weight is a drag. We yearned for a telescopic wand, so we didn’t have to eject the body just to reach cobwebs. Or even to sling the cleaner on our back, Ghostbusters-style. Unlike cordless convertibles, you’re tethered to the power cord. The cord is 10m long. Combined with the hose then, you have a reach of around 12m. We liked the idea of a convertible cleaner, but the Vax’s lack of onboard storage for its many tools drove us bananas.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Vax Air Lift Steerable Advance, £129.99,

    6. John Lewis 14V M Cyclonic Bagless Cylinder – best vacuum cleaner under £100

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    This vacuum cleaner is fantastically affordable (less than £90 at the time of testing) without being too basic. A bagless, multi-cyclone, cylinder vacuum cleaner, it features HEPA filtration to remove fine particles, making it good for allergy sufferers. The cylinder is manoeuvrable on two large wheels plus a small castor. And it can sit on end to perch on a stair. A 1.5m hose plus telescopic tube gives an overall reach of more than 9m from the power socket.

    The 3 litre dust container pops off the top so you can take it outside and empty it. One button at the top pops it off, then a button at the bottom of the container releases the floor – it unhinges so the dust drops down smoothly. There’s a washable filter at the top of the dust compartment and also a HEPA filter in the body of the machine that needs replacing twice a year (but the cleaner comes with four filters, so that’s your first two years covered).

    It comes with just one tool (a crevice tool with a small brush that twists into place) and two floor heads, helpfully labelled A and B. A is good for hard floors or low-pile carpets. B for hard floors or deep-pile carpets. You press a lever on the floor head to change from hard to carpet setting. We found cleaning performance on hard floors to be good, carpets not so much – you have to work to lift dirt because there’s no turbo brush.

    And both the cylinder and floorheads clatter around a bit on hard floors: fine on reclaimed floorboards, not ideal for posh parquet. This isn’t the very cheapest vacuum cleaner money can buy, but it’s the cheapest one we’d recommend. Good for hard floors if you’re not too precious.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: John Lewis 14V M Cyclonic Bagless Cylinder, £90, John Lewis & Partners

    7. SEBO Automatic X7 – best upright vacuum cleaner for a professional clean

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    The automatic in the name of this upright vacuum cleaner comes from the built-in computer that measures brush action and automatically adjusts the cleaning head height. Move from hard floor to rug and back again and the bottom of the X7 moves up and down for improved performance. We tested the Pet ePower model, which features a smaller stair and upholstery turbo brush for pet hair and activated charcoal filter to remove odours.

    It’s a bagged vacuum cleaner with S-class filtration, which filters out tiny particles from the air it puts out, much like a HEPA filter. A button on the handle powers it up, but to tilt the handle back and start moving, you need to press the red brake with your foot. A light on the front of the floor head illuminates cleaning.

    The machine tilts back completely flat to go under furniture. If you click the body up into resting position, to pause or to reach for the wand, the SEBO’s brush automatically lifts to protect the flooring. Annoyingly the brush keeps spinning and floor suction continues, which feels like a waste of energy. But we loved that the wand was ready to use immediately, with no fiddling around.

    Crevice tool and upholstery tool are on board, ready to use too. But there’s no storage for the smaller powered turbo brush, dusting brush or the extra-long extension hose for stair cleaning. The extension hose daisy chains onto the built-in hose for a reach of more than 4m. It could stretch further but there’s a risk of the cleaner toppling over. The power cable is 10m.

    Emptying this vacuum cleaner is easy thanks to the bags. And a clever cover on the side of the floorhead pops off so you can slide out the brush roller for easy cleaning. Handling is unusual: the SEBO vacuum cleaner feels solid and weighty in the hand. It wants to clean floors. A lot. It feels like a professional cleaner you’d get in a hotel. But it lacks the nippy manoeuvrability of more modern designs. Build quality is impressive though. The SEBO vacuum cleaner feels as though it could last decades.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: SEBO Automatic X7, £287,

    How to buy a vacuum cleaner

    How much should I spend on a vacuum cleaner?

    Budget around £150 for a vacuum cleaner with decent cleaning power. But you can spend twice that or more that on premium models. More money can buy you more powerful cleaning and better tools for stuff like pet hair.

    Which type of vacuum cleaner is right for me?

    Upright vacuum cleaners are very ergonomic to push around, so they’re ideal for cleaning large floor areas in open-plan kitchens. Their powerful, rotating brushbars are great for picking up hair from pets and humans in thick living room carpets. But they are tall and bulky to store and not so good for cleaning stairs.

    Cylinder vacuum cleaners are usually smaller and lighter, so they pack away better. The power cable is stored away neatly inside and hopefully there’s onboard storage for tools. But they might not have a motorised brush head and capacity may be smaller.

    Want something super lightweight? See our Best cordless vacuum cleaners to make light work of vacuuming

    What features should I look for in a vacuum cleaner?

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    Image credit: Vax

    1. Vacuum cleaner filters – what do I look for?

    When buying a vacuum cleaner look for HEPA or S-class filters if you have allergies, as these are designed to retain tiny particles like pollen and dust mite faeces. Sealed HEPA filters are most effective as all air goes through the filter, while washable filters will save you money on replacements.

    2. Bagged versus bagless vacuum cleaners – which is better?

    Vacuum cleaner bags cost money but a well-designed bag keeps dust contained. Bagless saves money on consumables, but emptying the dust container can be a pain and not good if the person who does the vacuuming has dust allergies. Cyclonic bagless designs promise suction that’s consistent even when the container is nearly full, because the dirt is flung to the sides while the air passes through the middle.

    3. Are there special vacuum cleaners for pet hair?

    Most vacuum cleaners have motorised turbo brushes that pick up pet hair effectively. Special pet models are optimised for this and often also have a mini turbo brush for cleaning furniture and the car.

    4. How important is vacuum cleaner hose and cable length?

    A long vacuum cleaner hose is important if you have stairs. The length of the two together dictates reach: a long reach means you rarely need to unplug and move to a new socket.

    5. What vacuum cleaner tools do I need?

    A vacuum cleaner crevice tool and a brush for upholstery/dusting are handy as a bare minimum but our pet peeve is vacuum cleaners that don’t incorporate tool storage. The tools need to be on hand or they’re of no use.

    6. Can you explain a vacuum cleaner’s EU label?

    The European Union has set a limit on vacuum cleaner power, so new models are more eco-friendly than ever. The compulsory label will give you ratings not just for energy efficiency but also cleaning performance on hard floors and carpets, how much dust is emitted and noise levels.

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