Vacuum cleaners buying guide


Vacuum cleaners vary from models that pick up dog hairs to ones that aid allergy sufferers. To help you choose the right cleaner, here are a few pointers you might like to consider. View our range of vacuum cleaners.

Should I buy a cylinder or upright cleaner?

It's often a matter of taste but each type has its own advantages.


How do they work?

In upright cleaners the motor is situated in the head of the cleaner. It drives a fan which sucks up air and dust into the dust bag via a tube. The dirt is retained in the bag, and filtered air passes over the motor before it is pushed out of the cleaner. As well as suction power, upright cleaners have revolving, belt-driven brushes and sometimes an agitator beater bar that help to loosen and sweep up ingrained dirt from the carpet.

In cylinder cleaners the motor turns a fan that in turn sucks up dust and dirt from the cleaning head, through the hose and into the dust bag. Cylinder cleaners rely entirely on suction to draw the dust in, so they tend to be more powerful (that is, of a higher wattage) than uprights.     

Bag or bagless?

This is a highly debatable point between certain manufacturers. Bagged cleaners are usually cheaper than bagless models, but you have the added expense of purchasing additional bags. Some have self-sealing bags, making disposal less messy – a boon for allergy sufferers.


With bagless there’s no fuss with inserting fresh bags, and though the technology makes the initial outlay expensive, in the long run they can be cheaper.

Some bagless models are easier and cleaner to empty, and come with anti-bacterial protection which substantially reduces house dust mite and cat allergen content. These models carry the British Allergy Association seal of approval.

Type of flooring

The main type of flooring your home has should dictate the type of cleaner you buy:

  • Wooden, tiled or vinyl: cylinder cleaners are best.

  • Loop pile carpet: either, but make sure you turn any turbo roller attachment off as it may flatten or damage the pile.
  • Cut pile carpet: upright, or cylinder with a turbo brush attachment. 


All cleaners have some form of filtration system but there are some models that have more sophisticated filters or ones suitable for those with either allergies or pets.

  • Stage filters: usually vary between 3 and 7 stages. A typical 4-stage filter would comprise a double-skinned bag (2 stages), a filter between the dust bag and motor chambers, and a final filter.
  • Lifetime filters: no need to change the filter during the lifetime of the machine – normally 7-10 years. 

  • HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air): also known as S-Class, these retain even the smallest of allergy-causing particles. Look out for those machines that have been given the British Allergy Foundation’s seal of approval.
  • Charcoal filter: with a charcoal layer that removes any nasty smells. Particularly suitable if you have pets. 

Energy efficiency

From September 2014, all vacuum cleaners made in the UK or shipped into the UK must comply with EU eco-design and energy labelling regulations, designed to tackle climate change. This means that all new upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners should be energy-efficient and carry an energy label showing how efficient they are, but the regulations don’t apply to rechargeable vacuums, wet and dry vacuums or robot vacuums.

The new EU requirements for vacuums includes: 

·          Power of less than 1600 watts 

·          Electricity consumption of less than 62 kWh per year 

·          Dust removal efficiency grading

Understanding the energy label

All vacuums will be given a rating between A-G based on energy efficiency and cleaning performance on carpets, hard floors and their dust emissions. An energy efficiency class for each individual vacuum cleaner will be based on these details.. The new system will be similar to that of some white goods such as fridge freezers and washing machines. These are the specifications included on the new energy label for vacuum cleaners:

Energy efficiency: This shows the overall efficiency with ‘A’ as the most energy-efficient vacuums and ‘G’ as the least efficient.

Energy consumption: This shows the amount of energy the vacuum cleaner is estimated to use over a year, measured in kilowatts per hour, per year. The lower the number, the more energy-efficient the vacuum is.

Dust pick-up (Carpet) : This grade shows you how efficiently the vacuum will pick up dust from carpets. The vacuums that pick up the most dust will be rated as ‘A’. For effective dust removal on carpets, choose an efficiency class of ‘C’ or above.

Dust pick-up (Hard floor) : This grade does the same but for hard floors such as tiles or wooden floor , and again the vacuums that pick up the most dust will be rated as ‘A’. For effective dust removal on hard floors, choose an efficiency class of ‘C’ or above.

Dust re-emission: This grade determines how clean the exhaust air is and is an important factor to consider if you have allergies to contend with. The exhaust air is dependent upon the quality and type of filter along with how well the vacuum is sealed. An ‘A’ grade vacuum has the lowest level of dust re-emissions, while a ‘G’ grade has the most.

Noise level: This shows the noise rating in decibels for the vacuum cleaner. The lower the number, the quieter the vacuum.

How will the regulations affect your vacuum cleaner?

These regulations don’t affect your existing vacuum cleaner, but have been put in place to provide you with accurate comparable information in order for you to make an informed choice when you buy a new one. 

vacuum cleaner efficiency label


Most cleaners come with three attachments: crevice tool, upholstery and dusting brushes. Some machines have an additional turbo brush, often powered separately, for extra suction. They’re good on cut pile carpets and for picking up pet hairs. For wooden or tiled floors consider a horsehair/parquet brush. For hard-to-reach areas look to see if the cleaner has an extendable tube.

Other points to consider

  • Bag capacity: these vary enormously. Opt for a larger capacity if you have a big area to vacuum.
  • Cable length: if you have a large house then look at the length of cable supplied. 

  • Weight: important for less abled people or if there are stairs involved.