Best vacuum cleaners 2021 – for carpets, pet hair and hardwood floors

Our roundup of the best vacuum cleaners in 2021, featuring reviews of upright, cylinder, corded and cordless vacuums
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  • The best vacuum cleaners offer superior suction and can be used for cleaning up pet hair, carpets and even upholstery. We’ve been putting the best vacuum cleaners from Dyson, Miele, Vax, Henry Hoover and SEBO to the test to find the very top options for your home, no matter your budget. This includes capable upright vacuums, classic canisters and some cordless options, too.

    Take a look at the best cordless vacuum cleaners for more options

    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.

    How to choose the best vacuum cleaner

    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.

    You can also take a look at our guide to the best Shark vacuums for a branded roundup, or keep reading for our complete list of the best vacuum cleaners in 2021.

    Best vacuum cleaners 2021

    1. Miele Blizzard CX1

    Best canister vacuum cleaner

    best-corded-vacuums-Miele-1

    Cordless? No
    Dust tank capacity: 2 litres
    Weight: 8.71 kg
    Reasons to buy: Outstanding turbo brush performance
    Reasons to avoid: 

    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 

    2. Dyson Ball Animal 2

    Best upright vacuum

    Dyson Ball Animal 2

    Cordless? No
    Dust tank capacity: 1.8 litres
    Weight: 1.8 kg
    Reasons to buy: High power and long cord
    Reasons to avoid: A hefty option

    Owners of large homes will love the Dyson Ball Animal 2. It’s got a cable length of over 10 metres and a bagless design for easy emptying. The canister has a push mechanism that makes it easy to eject dirt and dust.

    In testing we liked how well the Dyson Ball Animal 2 reached even the edges of walls and the corners of a room. It is a bit hefty when compared to a cordless vacuum, but plenty powerful enough to compensate for this.

    The vacuum comes with a stair tool, combination tool, carbon fibre turbine tool and on-board storage to make it easy to switch between different cleaning modes. Noise wasn’t too bad given the powerful operation and the ball makes it easy to swerve around the room as needed.

    3. Vax ONEPWR Blade 4

    Best vacuum cleaner for most budgets

    Cordless? Yes
    Dust tank capacity: 0.6 litres
    Weight: 3.1 kg
    Reasons to buy: An amazing value cordless vacuum
    Reasons to avoid: Not all tools come included

    The Vax ONEPWR Blade 4 is a winner when it comes to value. We were impressed by its performance on carpet and hardwood floors alike, and even when it came to picking up pet hair it did a sterling job. The design makes it easy to clean underneath furniture and around corners, and the floorhead rotation means there’s minimal wrist work to pick up dirt and dust.

    Lightweight and well-balanced, we were impressed by the battery life, which can also be increased by simply buying a backup battery for larger homes. This is also great because it means the lifespan of your vacuum isn’t limited by an in-built battery. Simply dispose of the battery if you think it’s dying faster than you’d like after using it for a year or so, and buy a replacement online.

    Attachments include a crevice tool and dusting brush, but you can pay extra for the ProKit 2 toolkit, which is useful for smaller tasks such as upholstery and textile.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    4. Dyson Big Ball Animal 2

    Best vacuum cleaner for pet hair

    Dyson Big Ball Animal 2

    Cordless? No
    Dust tank capacity: 1.5 litres
    Weight: 5 kg
    Reasons to buy: Capable on pet hair and hardwood, with hassle-free operation
    Reasons to avoid: If your home is pet-free you may get away with something less hefty

    Dyson’s clever take on the canister vacuum is a crowd-pleaser. Its party trick is that it sits atop a large ball, for manoeuvrability. It’s bagless and the design is colourful. Although the design is visually complex, the ball steers simply.

    Its cleaning prowess was impressive. You can hear the power as you navigate hardwood and carpet. 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. Pneumatic suction automatically swaps over from the floor to the hose. The hose is stretchy, and tools easily attach to switch as you go.

    Emptying was easy: 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.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

    5. Dyson V11 Outsize

    Best vacuum cleaner for functionality

    Best-cordless-vacuum-cleaner-Dyson-V11

     

     

    Cordless? Yes
    Dust tank capacity: 1.7 litres
    Weight: 3.5 kg
    Reasons to buy: Easy emptying mechanism
    Reasons to avoid: It’s an expensive option

    The Dyson V11 Outsize wowed us in testing, and it was only that steep price point that held it back from a five star rating. The packaging was entirely plastic-free, which was a big thumbs-up for our appliances editor, and it arrived with 20% battery already loaded up. Perfect for having a quick spin before setting it up to charge. The run time is up to 60 minutes, which is pretty impressive for a cordless vacuum.

    There are three modes to choose from: Eco, Auto, and Boost, and each one results in a different noise level and suction, although all three settings held up very well in testing.

    The soft roller head did a wonderful job on hardwood floors, and it comes included in the Dyson V11 Outsize. The vacuum also comes with a charging dock, and will take 4.5 hours from empty to fully charge.

    6. Numatic Henry PET200

    Best budget vacuum cleaner

    best-corded-vacuums-Numatic

    Cordless? No
    Dust tank capacity: 9 litres
    Weight: 8.5 kg
    Reasons to buy: Generous 9-litre capacity
    Reasons to avoid: Pet hair turbo brush could be larger

    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 

    7. SEBO Automatic X7

    Best upright vacuum cleaner for a professional clean

    best-corded-vacuums-Sebo (1)

    Cordless? No
    Dust tank capacity: 5.3 litres
    Weight: 7.4 kg
    Reasons to buy: Superb cleaning performance on floors
    Reasons to avoid: Lacks manoeuvrability

    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 

    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 simple? See our best robot vacuum roundup for hands-free cleaning

    What features should I look for in a vacuum cleaner?

    best-corded-vacuums-Vax (4)

    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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