The best vacuums for every type of mess


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Which vacuums are best for specific messes?

Vacuums shoulder a great deal of responsibility when it comes to cleaning floors and sometimes stairs, curtains and upholstery. No two messes are the same, and because of that, it’s helpful to understand which vacuum cleaners are best for managing specific messes.

Many basic vacuum cleaners are suitable for managing most dry messes, while some advanced models are capable of picking up messes composed of larger particles. Pet owners can attest to the importance of vacuums that can wrangle pet hair, while individuals with several cleaning needs value models with a diverse assortment of attachments. 

Key considerations when you shop for vacuums

Corded vs. cordless vacuums

Given the extensive availability of cordless vacuums now on the market, many shoppers wonder whether it’s time to enjoy cord-cutting freedom. However, it’s worth exploring the pros and cons of corded and cordless vacuums before making a final decision.

eureka RapidClean Pro Lightweight Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

Cordless vacuums give users the freedom to clean around the home uninhibited. They eliminate the need to unplug and replug the cord to reach far ends of the home, not to mention they’re ideal for navigating around tighter spaces. 

In lieu of power cords, cordless vacuums run on rechargeable batteries. Even on a full charge, some of these vacuums won’t have enough power to clean the entire household. Additionally, certain vacuums require lengthy charge times to reach a full charge.

Shark Rocket Corded Bagless Stick Vacuum

Corded vacuums offer consistent power, which means you won’t need to interrupt cleaning as you would with cordless models with limited run times. Many corded vacuums now have retractable power cords that wind themselves up with the push of a button.

One of the pitfalls of corded vacuums is that their usage range is limited to the length of their power cord. Children and pets may be drawn to vacuum cords as well, in which case they may pose safety hazards.

Bag vs. bagless vacuums

Another feature that separates vacuums is the way they accumulate and store debris. Vacuums are either bagged or bagless. 

Kenmore BU1017 Pet Friendly Lightweight Bagged Upright Beltless Vacuum Cleaner

Bagged vacuums require disposable dirt bags that need to be replaced after a few cleaning cycles. As expected, the bags are an ongoing cost for these vacuums, not to mention they’re sometimes messy to empty.

Shark Navigator Freestyle Upright Stick Cordless Bagless Vacuum for Carpet

Bagless vacuums, on the other hand, have removable dirt containers that can be dumped into trash cans. Many of these vacuums even offer mess-free, single-button emptying. However, these containers will require cleaning, disinfecting and degunking from time to time.  

Do I still need a mop?

Armor All, AA255 , 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

Even if you invest in the best vacuum cleaner — or cleaners — on the market, few are designed to handle wet or liquid messes. In fact, the only vacuums that should be used to manage liquid messes are wet/dry utility shop vacuums. 

O-Cedar EasyWring Microfiber Spin Mop

If a wet/dry shop vacuum isn’t in your budget, it’s a good idea to invest in a regular mop to handle larger liquid spills that can’t be scooped up with paper towels. Additionally, you may need to buy buckets, industrial sponges and floor cleaners.

Types of vacuum cleaners

Upright vacuums

eureka NEU182B PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Upright vacuum cleaners feature a single compartment with a cleaning head and handle at either end of it. They’re considered ideal for cleaning carpets of all pile heights, and some are suitable for hard floor cleaning. However, many upright vacuums are heavy and cumbersome to operate.

Canister vacuums

Kenmore 81615 600 Series Pet Friendly Lightweight Bagged Canister Vacuum with Pet PowerMate

Canister vacuum cleaners consist of a tank and hose design that gives users flexibility and range of motion in cleaning. Many of the tanks are wheeled for portability, though some older models only have handles, which means they’ll need to be picked up every time you move. 

Stick vacuums

eureka RapidClean Pro Lightweight Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

Stick vacuum cleaners are appreciated for their lightweight, easy-to-maneuver designs. In addition to floor cleaning, many models can be used to clean drapes, upholstery, stairs or ceilings. Unfortunately, only some stick models are suitable for heavy-duty or deep cleaning. 

Robotic vacuums

iRobot Roomba 694 Robot Vacuum-Wi-Fi Connectivity

Robotic vacuums offer a hands-free approach to everyday cleaning through apps. It’s easy to customize cleaning programs on a daily or weekly basis. Some of their pitfalls, however, are that they’re expensive and not ideal for deep-cleaning or cleaning up wet messes. 

Best vacuums for every type of mess

Looking for the best vacuum cleaner for every type of mess? From pet hair to everyday messes, there are the leading vacuums that can handle them.

Pet hair

Many vacuums are designed with tangle-free brush rolls that lift pet hair from carpet and hard floors. The brush rolls are often accessible or removable for regular cleaning. It’s also common for these vacuums to come with advanced HEPA filters to capture pet dander and other debris. 

BISSELL MultiClean Lift-Off Pet Vacuum with HEPA Sealed System

BISSELL MultiClean Lift-Off Pet Vacuum with HEPA Sealed System

This model is equipped with powerful suction and a tangle-free brush roll. It comes with additional pet hair tools for deeper cleaning on floors and upholstery. 

Sold by Amazon

BLACK+DECKER Power Series Extreme Cordless Stick Vacuum

BLACK+DECKER Power Series Extreme Cordless Stick Vacuum 

This cordless vacuum has a brush roll with rubberized V-shaped bristles that lift pet hair from hard floors to high-pile carpets. It converts to a hand vacuum to navigate stairs and tight spaces.

Sold by Amazon

Everyday messes

Everyday messes include dry spills, dirt and dust. Since these vacuums are often used on a daily basis, they feature study construction with powerful motors. Many of these models boast extra-large dirt tanks or bags for less frequent emptying. 

Bissell Cleanview Bagless Vacuum Cleaner

Bissell Cleanview Bagless Vacuum Cleaner 

This bagless vacuum has a multi-cyclonic suction system that captures even the tiniest debris. It comes with onboard specialized tools, including a turbo brush for upholstery.

Sold by Amazon

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL Robotic Vacuum

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL Robotic Vacuum

Considered one of the best robot vacuums, this model is equipped with a self-cleaning brush roll and empties daily debris in a wall-mounted dust bin. The app lets users customize cleaning cycles and integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Sold by Amazon

Wet messes

Wet messes are best handled by utility wet/dry vacuums, whose thick hoses to suck up messes quickly. Casters are often attached to the bottom of these vacuums for portability. It’s common for these shop vacs to pick up dry debris from DIY and home improvement projects.

Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac 

Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac 

This shop vac has a 5-gallon tank and is powered by a high-efficiency motor. The vacuum comes with an 18-foot power cord and has onboard hose storage.

Sold by Amazon

DEWALT Poly Wet/Dry Vac 

DEWALT Poly Wet/Dry Vac 

This vac features a rugged design with ultra-durable rubberized casters for smooth movement. It comes with a washable cartridge filter and converts to a blower.

Sold by Amazon

Small messes

Handheld vacuums are ideal for managing small messes, including light dust and pet hair. An overwhelming majority of these models are cordless for portable convenience. Some of them come with attachments to maneuver around furniture or office electronics. 

BLACK+DECKER Handheld Cordless Dustbuster 

BLACK+DECKER Handheld Cordless Dustbuster 

This handheld vacuum has a rotating nozzle and extendable crevice tool to reach messes in hard-to-reach areas. The bagless dirt bowl offers easy, mess-free emptying.

Sold by Amazon

Shark Cord-Free Handheld WANDVAC 

Shark Cord-Free Handheld WANDVAC 

This model is considered ideal for lifting dirt, debris and dust from tight spaces, like between couch cushions and vehicle consoles. It has an ergonomic handle for comfortable maneuvering.

Sold by Macy’s

Upholstery and curtain cleaning

Vacuum cleaners with attachments are suitable for upholstery and curtain cleaning. These models often have extension hoses, brush tools and crevice cleaners to reach nooks and crannies. They’re often used to clean stairs and area rugs.

Eureka PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum 

Eureka PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum 

This vacuum comes with a variety of cleaning tools that lift debris and pet hair from floor to ceiling. At less than 10 pounds, it’s one of the lighter upright models on the market and is easy to push across floors.

Sold by Amazon

Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum

Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum

Touted as one of the best cordless vacuums around, it has an extended runtime to clean all upholstery and drapery in one fell swoop. It’s equipped with a whole-machine filtration system that traps over 99% of particles and allergens.

Sold by Amazon


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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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