It's spring soon. Well, soon-ish. So it’s time to do some cleaning with the best vacuum cleaner you can lay your hands on. But what IS the best vacuum cleaner? The market is changing, and battery-less vacs are now outselling corded (in terms of market value, if not unit sales). As living spaces are getting smaller, they're getting ever more powerful. The result is that corded vacuum cleaners no longer have many advantages.
Dyson has supposedly even stopped developing new corded vacs entirely, focusing instead on its growing range of Dyson cordless vacuums. It still sells them, though, and clearly there's still a lot to be said for traditional vacuum cleaners when it comes to sucking stuff up at full power for more than 20 minutes at a time. However, right now, I would recommend a cordless over corded for most users. Unless you live in a castle, with carpet pile up to your armpits, it's all you need. Some day soon, we may not even need to have a separate list of best cordless vacuum cleaners.
Looking for a cheap vacuum? There are online sales and deals all year round, and you'll see today's best prices below. If you're specifically interested in Dyson deals, we have a separate page for that too.
How to buy the best vacuum cleaner
First up, the key question: which is the best type of vac, cylinder, upright or cordless?
It used to be cylinders, and we still prefer that type for corded. On balance we'd usually push new buyers towards a wireless vac now, though…
What, you want an even more detailed answer?
Yes, fair enough. There are longer answers to this but for most users, the best cylinder vacuum cleaners will do a great job on hard floors and an equally good job on most carpets. It's not like the old days when all they did was suck air through a tube; they have rotating brush heads for carpet now.
Cylinder vacs are also far more handy for cleaning sofas, and other surfaces.
The best upright vacuum cleaners are perfect for one thing: cleaning large expanses of carpet, especially deep pile. They make a decent job of hard floors too, but it's not really what they're for.
Some, to be fair, have pull-out hoses so they can double as really odd-shaped cylinder vacs, but the form factor is not ideal for use in this way.
In terms of storage, uprights have a smaller footprint on the whole, but are taller. You probably didn't need me to tell you that. They're easier to store away, although cylinders can be dismantled so as to take up much less space. But that does involve dismantling them, which is a bore.
Cordless vacs are what people are buying the most of however, and you can see why. If your house isn't absolutely huge, cordless, bagless vacuum cleaners are perfect. Some of them even look kind of chic, so they're a style statement. With the best will in the world, you can't really say that about a Henry, can you?
What about power and energy ratings?
The newspapers may be convinced that Europe’s energy efficiency rules mean that our houses will fill up with dust, so we all die, but this is FAKE NEWS.
The power rating does give some insight into how effective it will be, but when you consider that certain cordless handhelds with a 22v battery are able to effectively clean carpets, so long as they aren't deep pile, you can tell that some older vacs were, if anything, unnecessarily over-powered.
Just to confuse things, some vacuum cleaners list their power in watts (W), which is how powerful the motor is; others prefer to list suction power in air watts (AW), which tells you how much suction the device delivers. Either way, higher numbers are generally better, though not the be-all and end-all as the head and engine design can make an impact too.
In terms of their efficiency, the usual F to A+++++++++ (or whatever we're up to now) scale gives a very good idea of how eco-friendly your new vac will be in use. Even some of the best vacuums have alarmingly low eco-friendliness ratings – down into the Cs and Ds – but bear in mind that you aren't going to be using them for massively prolonged periods of time, so you aren't going to bankrupt yourself with electricity bills, or single-handedly cause the end of the world.
What are other key things to consider?
Most important: the length of the hose (on a cylinder or certain uprights) and the girth of the power cord. If you’ve got a lot of space to cover or stairs to sort, especially if your house is short of power sockets, this could become a critical issue over time. Of course you could always just buy a cordless vac and never worry about that again.
The best vacuum cleaners, in order
If your house isn't enormous or deeply carpeted, Dyson's V11 Absolute is the best vac you can get. It will quite happily replace a corded vac in all but the largest abodes and as long as you keep it plugged in when not in use, you really shouoldn't run out of juice if you're in a home that is the average size for the UK – or most major cities around the world, come to that. A handy new battery gauge will let you know if it's time to start panicking/take a breather.
Although only around 15 minutes of cleaning is possible with the 'Boost' setting, 15 minutes is probably longer than you think. The other reason that this is not a huger issue is that the middle-range 'Auto' mode lasts longer – 25-30 minutes generally – and is also very effective on most surfaces. Auto mode varies depending on what tools you use and what your floors are like as it 'Auto'-magically adjusts accordingly – sucking harder on carpet being thew most obvious outcome. Auto mode does seem to maximise battery efficiency very effectively. The 'Eco' mode isn't bad at all, especially for hard floors and handheld dusting, and lasts for up to an hour, which is surely longer than anyone really wants to vacuum for.
The V11 Absolute is a bit bigger than older Dyson cordless vacs and so not as much fun to use handheld, but it is still light and manoeuvrable enough, and more powerful. It's got a bigger bin at 0.76 litres, and it's ever so easy to empty.
Especially with the Absolute model's adaptive, High Torque Head fitted – it isn't included with the more affordable V11 Animal model – the Dyson V11 Absolute is by some margin the most effective 'corded replacement' vac to date.
Considerably more affordable than the Big Ball Animal 2, this nonetheless offers a great mix of excellent cleaning as an upright vacuum cleaner – it's main job – with a side order of handling smaller jobs in a more cylinder vac style, via a choice of accessories that attach to a removable suction tube.
A simple button system alternates between carpet and hard floor modes, or you can easily pull the suction tube out of the handle of the Light Ball Multi Floor and get stuck into stairs, 'crevices' and miscellaneous surfaces.
It's hard to get fully accurate statistics on, but this Dyson is probably the UK's top seller, and it deserves that status. It's lightweight, turns on a dime – well, okay, on a £50 note – and is quiet and energy efficient. I'd recommend it more for mainly carpeted abodes, and Dyson has also toned down the colour scheme compared to the previous model, which is something of a plus.
If you want something considerably heftier and more powerful, you should consider the Dyson Ball Animal 2. Our reviewer found it altogether too hefty, but he's quite a little fella.
• Read our Dyson Ball Animal 2 review
The best absolutely-no-frills-at-all vac with a rictus grin, this is a close relative of the vacuum cleaners used by office cleaners absolutely everywhere – not that they get to choose them. Henry is the exact, diametric, dictionary opposite of Dyson and Miele's machines in practically all ways, apart from its ability to suck up detritus.
That is to say, it's cheap and totally not stylish or sophisticated. Nor does this version have any setting other than 'on', or any clever brush heads.
However, Henry sucks up a storm, is engineered incredibly simply but well, and has never knowingly let anyone down. Okay, he does topple over at times when pulled around, at which point his permanently leering face does seem ever so slappable. But for cleaning anything that isn't delicate, he's great.
True story: I once left a Henry (not this model) outside on a damp balcony for two years, then used him to clean up shards of broken glass from a broken lampshade – not only did it work, I was also not electrocuted to death on the spot.
I've also sucked up wet plaster, gravel and damp stuff out of wall cavities with him. You're not supposed to do any of those things of course, but Henry, as his Satanic fixed grin suggests, is seemingly impossible to kill.
I wasn't sure if Henry's rather meat-and-potatoes approach to cleaning would work as well at the lower power ratings now required but this one seems to suck well enough.
This is a rather more staid looking device than the Dyson, but maybe you have enough style and excitement in your life already. It's also lighter than the Dyson and has a longer cable, but is a bit more of a pain to haul about due to its smaller casters. A variety of speed settings and heads – including a turbo floor brush and swivelling hard floor head – foot controls and integrated tool storage make it as versatile as it is easy to use.
It’s a tough old bird too: Miele actually crash tests its vacuums to make sure they can handle life’s lumps and bumps. although a D energy rating is the price you pay for cleaning this good. As with Dyson's Big Ball 2, there are several versions of the C3 PowerLine, including ones for pet owners and allergy sufferers.
One thing to note about this Miele – most Mieles, in fact – is that on carpet the suction can become so powerful that you may actually find it hard to move the brush head. In Miele's native Germany, most of the floors are hard, you see.
Shark makes a range of unique, ugly-but-effective hybrid vacs, where the bin and motor lift away, transforming from an upright to a cylinder. The NV801UK is the current flagship for this dual-purpose approach and also features 'Duo-Clean' technology, to keep the theme of duality going.
Viewed as a pure upright vac it's an excellent performer. The unusual, DuoClean brush works very well on both carpet and hard floor. The searingly bright headlamp is another big plus, although the amount of dust it reveals in my place when used is faintly terrifying.
I am not convinced by the 'Lift Away' concept - it's just too unwieldy, and when in cylinder mode, we're talking about a cylinder with no wheels, which is a tough sell. However, you can operate it more like the Dyson and Miele uprights further up this list, attaching brush heads to the tube coming from the cleaning head. Being able to Lift Away the dustbin and motor is also handy on stairs and trickier to reach areas.
The dustbin could do with being bigger, and perhaps the NV801UK could have been bashed with the Ugly Stick just a couple of times fewer, but it's a very good machine. Pet owner and allergy sufferers may want to step up to the double-sealed, Pet Power version of the vac, which has both a HEPA filter and a Fort Knox-esque dustbin seal.
This latest cordless Blade from Vax is generally at least £100 cheaper than a Dyson V11. That's a handy saving when you consider that it comes to battery life and ability to clean floors, it seems at least as good.
On both hard and carpeted floors, in my view, the Blade 4 narrowly outperforms the old Dyson V10 and is not far off the V11 Absolute. Its spinning brush bar is highly effective, apart from a few occasions when it sprays stuff around rather than diverting it down the Vax's suction tube, and suction is good enough to mean it's effective even if you turn it off.
Perhaps the OnePWR Blade 4's real pièce de résistance is its headlight, which activates alongside the brush bar and really helps with cleaning in dimly lit areas. The bin mechanism isn't as ingenious as Dyson's but it's easy enough to empty.
There are drawbacks to the Vax Blade 4 OnePWR. Compared to the Dyson V8 in particular, its bulk and awkward handle arrangement mean it's much less fun to use as a handheld, when cleaning surfaces other than your flooring. It also doesn't feel as solidly built, perhaps not surprisingly – although that's not to say it's outright flimsy. Also, the Blade 4 is a bit uglier than the Dyson, and it makes a much more unpleasant noise.
Even so, if you want an affordable cordless vac, this splendid Vax stands above the many other, excellent and affordable cordless vacs out there.
Achieving Peak Dyson, the Big Ball 2 cylinder vac now comes in just one variant – Animal – now that the Total Clean and Cinetic have been discontinued. What Dyson has got spot on here is the weight of the Big Ball cylinder and how it navigates and balances. Should it fall over, it will actually right itself, greatly reducing incidences of vac rage.
Suction is exemplary and while you do have to swop heads to get the absolute best results, you could probably slap on the turbine tool and use it for 80% of what you need to clean. The bin is easy to empty and the filters easy to clean, if you're one of the few people in the universe that actually does that. Unless you have great, sweeping vistas of deep pile, this is among our top recommendations. It's just so easy to pull around, looks good, and cleans more than admirably for the price.
- Read our full Dyson Big Ball Animal 2 review
Hoover Telios Extra Pets comes with a plethora of tools and nozzles, including a pet-hair-chomping turbo head, and has a very handy, extendable arm for doing curtain rails or removing cobwebs from corners. It's also nicely lightweight, compact and quite stylish. I think one could diplomatically say that it has 'taken some design cues' from Miele vacuums costing considerably more.
The Telios is a lot of vacuum for your money, then. It is not the most powerful – it's certainly not comparable to a Miele in that respect – but it gets the job done and is very easy to pull around, with a fairly long power cord. It's also got QuietMark certification although I wouldn't go so far as to say it's 'ultra quiet', as Hoover claims. Excellent VFM all round, though.
If you're not just serious about cleaning but very serious indeed about it, the VK200 is something you should consider investing in.
Only sold online or via representatives who visit your home and give demos, this is £750 in its most basic form, with a vacuum head that detects whether it's on hard floor or carpet and instantaneously adjusts its suction and mechanised, spinning brush accordingly. This doesn't seem 100% necessary, but it is very clever, and you can't argue with the results, which are unfailingly excellent.
It also removes 99% of allergens from the air, boasts a A+ energy efficiency rating, and isn't ear-splittingly loud either.
Fall further down the Vorwerk wormhole, however, and you can end up spending a lot more. The brand doesn't just do specialised heads for mattresses, glass (!), carpet dry cleaning, crevices and upholstery, it also sells cleaning solutions, stain removers and more.
Perhaps the best combo is the VK200 and SP600 set (available from Vorkwerk here). This adds a head for hard floors which simultaneously mops and vacuums, with water and cleaning solution siphoned from a small tank. This tends to need topping up after each room, but that's fine. The mop heads (there are different ones for parquet, laminate, etc) are a cinch to attach and easy to clean after use in your washing machine.
I'd go so far as to say that for people like me who have a bit of carpet and a whole lotta light-coloured wood flooring, this is a game changer, a revelation and an Exceedingly Good Thing. Yeah, it's a bit on the pricey side, but what price clean floors, eh?
You can also go the whole hog and buy a VK200 with this and a plethora of other heads. There's even one head that is specifically just for spreading dry carpet cleaner onto your carpet. Yes, that's right: just for putting it there, in an even way. You then use a different head to massage it into your carpet, before eventually vaccing it off.
You can call this genius or OCD depending on your point of view but again, the results are hard to argue with.
If I had to quibble about this set of products, it's that the level of complexity is probably above and beyond what a lot of people want to deal with, and the way the bags are attached is both unnecessarily fiddly and also doesn't feel very robust.
Miele does mainly bagged vacuum cleaners but the bagless CX1 range is also available, presumably in part to tempt Brits away from their Dysons. With this version, the Germans have done a great job.
In terms of pure cleaning power, I'd say this beats any Dyson. That's undoubtedly true on hard floors, where the impressive suction, allied to a massively wide parquet head that wrenches dirt from the gaps between old boards, makes hard floor cleaning almost pleasurable. Almost.
On carpet, it's less straightforward, for quite an amusing reason. Yes, the Blizzard CX1 does a good job here too, but with its 'EcoTeq Plus' head on, it actually sucks so hard onto carpets and rugs that it can become quite hard to push it around. On Amazon, there's even a few people complaining they literally cannot move it, or that it starts to suck the carpet up off the floor… although I think they might be exaggerating a touch.
So if your home is mainly carpets, another option might be advisable. If you have old wooden floors with multiple crannies – or even just laminate, with tiling in the bathroom – this is a fantastic vac.
The bagless container isn't huge at 2 litres, but it's easy to empty once you've had a few practice goes. The on-handle speed controls, although hardly essential, are pleasing. They operate via something like Bluetooth, meaning you will have to change the watch battery in the handle every 18 months or so.
One slightly annoying quirk is that the cylinder neatly houses the crevice tool and small upholstery attachment, but for whatever reason can't find room for the dusting one. That doesn't seem like a great example of German efficiency.
The model we reviewed – the Powerline – has a HEPA filter, but those who are allergic to both bags and pet hair should consider the Miele Blizzard CX1 Excellence Cat and Dog, which comes with tools for removing things that animals leave behind.
• All of the various CX1 models are worth considering in fact – check out the best prices on the whole range below:
You can read our V8 Absolute review, but you are probably pretty familiar with this old stager, as it has been around for years.
To put it briefly, although the V11 is a better corded vac replacement, the V8 is still the best 'pure' handheld vac you can buy. In smaller homes, especially where hard floors dominate, it's still among the best vacs to consider.
Where the V8 really scores is being ready at any time to clean up spills or do maintenance on a shelf, cupboard or worktop. It's the epitome of 'clean a little but often'. The rather short battery life when using the turbo mode – the standard mode isn't bad but I doubt most users ever turn off 'turbo' – also encourages using it for short spells only.
With its rotating spongey head on an extender arm, the V8 is also a corking hard floor performer. It also laps up muck when used with it close-up cleaning brush head or, come to that, the rotating brush head that's intended for carpet. I wouldn't use it on a space with lots of deep shag, baby, but for the occasional rug or smaller carpeted areas, it's perfectly adequate.
- Gtech AirRam Mk 2 K9 review – cordless upright