best in class

The 7 Very Best Vacuum Cleaners

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

When it comes to cleaning dust, experts tell us that vacuuming will always do a better job than sweeping. That means a good vacuum cleaner is essential for keeping your floors, carpets, and rugs free of dust and mites. If you’re going to be using it weekly, or even daily, you don’t just need one that works — you need one that works well, is easy to use, and is built to last more than a few months. But how does one go about choosing a vacuum cleaner in a market dominated by major players who all sell a suite of different models?

To sift through the Hoovers, the Henrys, and the Dysons, we enlisted the help of 14 experts across the tidiness spectrum, from hoteliers to bloggers to cleaning technicians (as well as pop stars, directors, and Strategist contributors, who all have exacting standards when it comes to cleaning.) I also took a deep dive into customer reviews to compare and contrast comments concerning suction, weight, and size. The result is a comprehensive round-up of the best in class vacuum cleaners, from the best options for pet hair to the best cordless options for small spaces.

Best overall | Best (less expensive) | Best cordless | Best handheld | Best 2-in-1 | Best for pet hair | Best (less expensive) pet hair

What we’re looking for:

Cord or cordless: The kind of vacuum cleaner you need will depend on the space you are keeping tidy. Are you cleaning a one-bedroom flat in the Northern Quarter or a three-floor terrace in Brockley? Smaller, cordless vacuum cleaners are easier to carry and store out of sight, which is ideal if space is at a premium — but the canister will fill up with dust much quicker. Larger, plug-in vacuums will be heavier, but have a higher capacity, which is ideal if you’re cleaning several rooms in one fell swoop.

Suction: While most vacuum cleaners have a “high suction” and “low suction” option, not all suction involves the same amount of power. Air watts (AW) are used to determine a vacuum cleaner’s ability to pull debris through the air. This is not to be confused with watts, which just measure power, not suction. The kind of suction power you need will vary depending on your needs; if you have pets, for example, a higher-suction vacuum is necessary to deal with fur. Cleaning the filter will improve suction power, and cordless vacuums tend to have lower suction compared to plug-in vacuum cleaners. Not all vacuum cleaners featured here actually list its air watts — there is currently no regulator ensuring they have to do so — so where we can’t find that information, we’ve unearthed reader reviews and expert advice to best determine suction strength.

Battery life: For cordless models, we’ve also looked into battery life. If you have a small space to clean, such as a one-bedroom flat, a model with a shorter battery life might save you some money. If you’re cleaning a bigger space consider one that’s both easy to take from room to room, and has a longer battery life — or simply look for a corded model that won’t cut out while you’re in the middle of a deep clean.

Best overall vacuum cleaner

£99

Corded | 6L capacity

The Henry Hoover by Numatic was the most-recommended by the professional cleaners we spoke to. Six of them picked Numatic vacuums, with four mentioning the Henry model specifically. While it only has one setting, we made it our best in class because it offers professional-grade suction but is neat enough to tuck away in a cupboard, unlike some industrial-size models. It’s also pretty inexpensive compared to some of the cordless models on the market. Marta Lytovchuk from London-based cleaning service eMop called it a “good, medium-range, all-round vacuum cleaner with solid performance,” while Monica Nikolova, a supervisor at Cleaning Gurus, said it was very strong with “massive vacuum power.” It also came recommended by Zdravko Dimitrov, a lead technician at Fantastic Services, Dolapo Oni, managing director at CityGate Homes, and Wendy Iveson, owner of zero-waste shop The Green Stores in Hertfordshire. All three experts said it was durable, reliable, and worth the price point.

The Henry weighs 7.5 kg and has a 6-litre capacity, making it one of the bigger models we’ve reviewed. While Numatic doesn’t specify the AW, it has a power of 620 watts. If you are looking for a slightly bigger option, Numatic’s NRV 240 model has a longer cord, as well as a 9-litre capacity. Though it weighs 8.9 kg, Iwona Korczak, director of accommodation services at Royal Lancaster London, considers it “light, handy, and easy to carry, which gives you a significant advantage when you need to move it from one room to another or from one floor to another.”

Best (less expensive) vacuum cleaner

Corded | 1.5L capacity

Dolapo Oni, managing director of property-development firm CityGate Homes, said that vacuum cleaners cheaper than a Henry “usually don’t last.” But we were swayed by this vacuum from Amazon’s reliable basics line after hearing about it from Lytovchuk. “It’s good if you’re after a no-frills, no-fuss kind of everyday vacuum which won’t break the bank,” she says. “It’s compact and lightweight but with an incredibly powerful suction capability.” It’s also “not too noisy,” with an impressively low volume of 78 decibels to match the low price. It comes in three sizes — 1.5L, 2L, or 3L, though Ltyovchuk recommends the smallest of the three, which weighs 3.4kg, for its modest price. This 700-watt model also has 426 favourable customer reviews scoring an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars for suction. As it has removable filters, customers say frequently washing and cleaning filters will prevent the suction being compromised over time.

Best cordless vacuum cleaner

Cordless | 30 minutes per charge | 0.7L capacity

Dyson is one of the most well-known vacuum brands, so it’s perhaps no surprise that it came recommended by four of our experts. “It’s so easy to use that even my 3-year-old uses it,” Oni says of hers. “It’s very lightweight and effective, and the cordless feature makes it a really great user experience.” Elena Banuta, product expert at Ideal Cleaning, agrees. “It’s revolutionised vacuuming, really taking the backache out of it,” she says, adding that she is “relieved” when she finds out a client has a Dyson in their cupboard.

There are several different Dyson models, however, and our experts were split on the best ones. While professional cleaners love the Dyson Cyclone, which has an LCD screen and “smart cleaning” technology that changes suction based on the type of floor, those high-tech features ensure the Cyclone costs upwards of £600. My own Dyson is the V7 Animal, which has fewer bells and whistles but is still a powerful, compact, and sleek vacuum; best of all, it costs less than half the price of the Cyclone. That said, the Animal has no LCD screen (which I have no qualms with) and doesn’t vary the suction speed. It also lacks one of the attachments — a soft roller head designed for hard floors — but it includes the other heads, including one for carpets or rugs, and a narrow nozzle for skirting boards or corners.

Pop star Zara Larrson, who has gone through several vacuums in rapid succession, said, “I love the feeling of the Dyson cordless model, because it’s so light, and I just find the aesthetics of the little push button very satisfying.” Spice Girl Melanie C also recommends the Animal, though she uses the hand-held version that lacks the telescopic attachment. “I’m trying to fashion a holster at the moment, because I’m carrying this vacuum cleaner with me everywhere,” she said, noting that it’s actually made tidying up quite fun. This feels like the best Dyson if you don’t want a splashy model, but it does require emptying the canister after every use. Luckily, the whole thing comes apart quite neatly if you want to wash the filters and keep it in good nick.

Best handheld vacuum cleaner

Cordless | 0.3L capacity | 9 minutes per charge

Like any parent, tailor Charlie Casely-Hayford said he’s “always on my knees hoovering,” cleaning up after his two kids, aged eight and one. As such, he says he can’t live without his Black + Decker handheld vacuum, and that while he has a Dyson for larger cleaning jobs around the house, this mini vacuum “is really handy, especially during periods of pure chaos.” Despite the size, the volume is just under half that of a Dyson, and it is one of the best-reviewed handheld vacuums on Argos (where 83 percent of reviewers recommend it) and Amazon. While the charge is just nine minutes on a full battery, I think it’s an excellent, inexpensive addition to a bulky vacuum cleaner — I’d love one to tidy up excess soil or dirt around my house plants, for example.

Best two-in-one vacuum cleaner

Cordless | 0.5L capacity | 45 minutes per charge

Strategist contributor Nathan Ma said his AEG CX7 vacuum is a sturdy and hardworking cleaner that is also lightweight enough to carry around his Berlin flat. Even better, it features a detachable hand-held vacuum. “With the press of a button, the core console pops out of the CX7’s body, revealing a handheld vacuum that can be run along kitchen surfaces, across the tops of furniture, and into the hard-to-reach corners that collect cobwebs and dust.” The CX7 model stands at around hip height, according to Ma, and has a swivelling head that “can curl into tight corners or around table legs without pause.” Ma’s exact model is discontinued, but we found a newer, updated version, which comes well-reviewed on Amazon. In terms of both size and power, this is around halfway between the Black + Decker handheld and the cordless Dyson model we’ve featured. It also has LED lights which can help illuminate hard-to-see spaces under beds and in chests of drawers.

Best vacuum cleaner for pet hair

Corded | 4.5L capacity 

The main difference between “pet-hair vacuums” and regular vacuum cleaners is the quality of the filters and the bristles, which are designed to help trap and collect fur more easily than standard cleaners. Four of our experts recommended the Miele C3, with Lytovchuk calling it “probably one of the best vacuum cleaners I’ve ever used”, noting that the only real downside is the price tag. Philip Schlee, head of UK operations at cleaner-booking service Cleanzy, points to its “long reach” socket, its 4.5-litre bin capacity (“much higher than cordless alternatives”), and the fact that it works on all floor types as reasons to invest. Nikolova, another Miele user, echoes Schlee’s sentiments. “The vacuum power is great, they have a lot of capacity in their bags, and you can clean all kinds of surfaces,” she says. Dimitrov also uses a Miele. “It’s compact and it has plenty of filters and several suction modes depending on what you need,” he says. While the C3 comes in a range of different models, our experts tend to favour both the Cat & Dog PowerLine and the Silence EcoLine — the former is notable for its expert combatting of odour and pet hair.

Best (less expensive) vacuum cleaner for pet hair

Corded | 1.5L capacity

For a less expensive option, the Pet Cylinder from Vax gets a thumbs-up from Banuta, who praises its affordability and reliability. “It’s perfect even if you don’t have pets, as it has been built to deal with tricky and tough-to-remove dust and hair,” she says. “You know it will work and not run out of steam within a few months like other similarly priced brands.” Tinuke Awe, parenting blogger and founder of Mums and Tea, cleans up after her two young children with the help of Vax’s Air Max Pet model. “I can get into the corners and all those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies with its detachable features,” she explains. “It means I can quickly and easily clean up mess on the carpet from the kids after they play with sensory rice or have a particularly messy dinner.”

Some other vacuum cleaners we've written about:

Our experts:

Tinuke Awe, parenting blogger and founder of Mums and Tea
Elena Banuta, product expert at Ideal Cleaning
Melanie C, singer
Charlie Casely-Hayford, tailor and designer
Zdravko Dimitrov, lead technician at Fantastic
Services
Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer for MaidPro
Wendy Iveson, owner of zero-waste shop The Green Stores
Zara Larsson, singer
Marta Lytovchuk, from cleaning service eMop
Nathan Ma, Strategist contributor
Monica Nikolova, supervisor at Cleaning Gurus
Dolapo Oni, managing director of CityGate Homes
Philip Schlee, head of UK operations at Cleanzy
Iwona Korczak, director of accommodation services at Royal Lancaster London

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The 7 Very Best Vacuum Cleaners