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  • Writer's picture - Mal -

All About Vacuums – On Earth, Not in Outer Space!

Updated: Mar 12

Mal offers some helpful tips on choosing a vacuum that's best suited for your space.

Colorful illustration of a cartoon vacuum in outer space.

Decisions . . . decisions!

Confused as to what type of vacuum you should buy? Well . . . it all depends . . . here are a few things to consider before making your purchase:

  • Where do you intend to use the vacuum?

  • How large is the space that you intend to clean?

  • Who will be operating the vacuum most of the time?

  • Do you have lots of area rugs and/or carpeting, or just a few and mostly bare floors?

  • Do you have pets?

  • Do you have allergies — are you sensitive to dust and/or pet allergens?

  • How large is the storage space in which the vacuum will be kept?

  • Will you be cleaning typical household dust such as found in a house or apartment, or will you need to clean a workshop or manufacturing space?

  • How often will you be vacuuming? (Daily? / Weekly? / Occasionally? / Seldom?)

  • Is noise going to be an issue such as in a hospital, physician’s office, health facility, or commercial office space?

  • Do you need a vacuum that can quickly take care of small messes without having to drag out the “big guns”? (It’s just a figure of speech!)

  • Do you intend to perform specialty tasks such as cleaning windowsills, baseboards, overhead door and window trim, under furniture, upholstery, or curtains and drapery?

Here's a list of various vacuum categories plus Mal's take on the Pro's & Con's of each one:








  7. INDUSTRIAL (Wet/Dry)


  1. H.E.P.A (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting filter) – PRO's: You want to breathe clean air, don’t you?! CON's: None. For more info about the benefits of HEPA filtration, visit our Special services page.

  2. CordlessPRO's: Unrestricted mobility because you're not tethered by an electrical cord. CON's: Short runtimes and reduced suction power compared to a corded vacuum.

  3. BaglessPRO's: Saves $$ because no filter bags are needed over the life of the vacuum. CON's: Dust and dirt can escape into your space when emptying dust container. Interior of dust container must be cleaned periodically, which exposes you to even more dust & dirt.

Canister Vacuums

Colorful illustration of a canister-style vacuum.

You can stop here! This is Mal's pick for best all-around vacuum typepreferably with HEPA filtration.

Canister vacuum cleaners contain the motor, filters, and dust bag (or if bagless, a cyclonic enclosure) in a wheeled canister. Various tools are attached to a hollow wand that is connected to the canister via a flexible hose. The vacuum is usually pulled behind the user.


  • HEPA filtration and certified sealed HEPA airways are available on many models.

  • Because motorized or suction-driven spinning brush heads are available as accessories, canister vacuums are able to clean carpet just as thoroughly as an upright vacuum.

  • Special tools and accessories are available for cleaning of areas other than carpets such as bare floors, upholstered furniture, shelving, windowsills, stair treads, baseboards, overhead door/window trim, and curtains and drapery.

  • Usually equipped with variable suction, they are able to clean a small area rug without sucking it into the vacuum itself, as so often happens with an upright vacuum.

  • Their low center of gravity makes them highly maneuverable and not easily toppled over.

  • The lightweight hose and wand make it much easier to properly groom the nap of medium and high pile carpeting for best visual appearance, by pulling the tool only in the direction of the nap, then lifting it up off the surface before placing it back down on the carpet for the next grooming pass.


  • Because they’re usually dragged behind the user during vacuuming, a bit more care is required to avoid bumping into furniture and wall corners.

  • Less convenient for cleaning up small messes than a handheld or stick/broom vacuum

Upright Vacuums

Although many people buy them, Mal recommends that you think twice (maybe even 3x!) before purchasing an upright vacuum for home use ... there are way too many "Con's".

Colorful illustration of upright vacuum.

There are basically two types of upright vacuums — those with a large soft fabric dust bag enclosure (still used in many offices and commercial locations) and those with a rigid dust bag container or a rigid bagless cyclonic enclosure.


  • Fast cleaning of large areas of low-pile carpeting such as may be found in an office setting.


  • Even though upright vacuums are specifically designed for carpeting, because they must be pulled back and forth and are quite heavy, it’s difficult to properly groom the nap of medium and high pile carpeting in one direction for best visual appearance. This results in unsightly random track marks on your carpet.

  • On hard surfaces, the spinning brush roll actually can send dirt and debris flying before the vacuum even has a chance to suck it up!

  • Upright vacuums with rigid plastic cylindrical enclosures add extra weight and bulk. The hard enclosures can easily cause damage if accidentally allowed to bump into furniture.

  • Upright vacuums with soft bags are outdated, because the porous inner dust bags and outer fabric enclosures routinely allow fine dust particles to escape into the room. In addition, the outer fabric bags tend to absorb unpleasant odors that can then be dispersed into the room while vacuuming.

  • Upright vacuums outfitted with accessory hoses and wands can be toppled easily if you pull too hard on the hose, resulting in damage to furniture and/or valuable possessions.

  • A much taller storage space is required to accommodate the height of the vacuum.

  • They’re just plain clumsy!

Stick/Broom Vacuums

Stick/Broom vacuums are good for quick clean-ups, but not much else.

Colorful illustration of stick/broom vacuum.


  • Compact and relatively lightweight.

  • Can be used for quick clean-ups of small messes.

  • Usually cordless, so they save time when moving from one location to another.


  • Limited suction power compared to a canister-style or upright vacuum.

  • Limited selection of dusting attachments hampers ability to effectively clean the wide range of surfaces encountered in a typical home setting.

  • Battery capacity does not allow for extended vacuuming sessions, such as may be needed by a housekeeper or maid service.

  • HEPA level filtration is not always an option.

Handheld Vacuums

Colorful illustration of a handheld vacuum.

Handheld vacuums usually are made of molded plastic containing the motor, filter, and dust container in one integral unit.

PRO's & CON's

  • Similar to Stick/Broom vacuums in their advantages and disadvantages.

Robot Vacuums

Colorful illustration of a robot vacuum.

Battery-powered vacuums capable of automatically navigating throughout a space without any intervention from an operator.


  • Extremely compact.

  • You can be doing something else the entire time your robot vacuum is doing its thing

  • Some models will return to a base station when the battery runs low, recharge themselves, and then continue where they left off. When the session is complete, they’ll return to the base station for a full recharge.

  • Some models can be pre-programmed for multiple sessions and cleaning schedules.

  • Newer models use mapping technology that allows programming them to avoid certain areas where they could become entangled or stuck.


  • Suitable for cleaning floors and carpets only.

  • Limited suction power compared to a canister-style or upright vacuum.

  • Requires careful preparation of each room to allow vacuum to run without interference.

  • Can sometimes become trapped in tight spaces or by furniture that is too low to allow free passage.

  • Although HEPA filters are available from different manufacturers, true HEPA level filtration is not available in most models, because the vacuum and filter compartment do not have certified sealed HEPA airways.

Backpack Vacuums

Colorful illustration of a backpack vacuum.

Portable canister vacuums that strap onto the operator’s back, just like a hiking backpack. There are corded and cordless models, with and without HEPA filtration.


  • Hands-free and highly portable because they are carried on the operator’s back.

  • Vacuuming can be done almost as fast as the operator can walk.

  • They have a wide range of tools and accessories that are easily attached/detached for specialty cleaning of areas other than floors and carpets.

  • Because they're not tethered to an electrical outlet, cordless versions can provide the extreme mobility needed when vacuuming aircraft, train, and bus interiors as well as large office interiors with many work stations spread out over a wide area.


  • Because they're attached to the operator by a shoulder harness, they are not easily set aside if it becomes necessary to perform a task other than vacuuming. For this reason, they are primarily used by dedicated vacuum technicians working for professional cleaning services.

  • Not really suited for in-home use by a homeowner or apartment dweller.

  • Their weight and bulk usually requires a fairly strong, fit operator during the longer vacuum sessions typically encountered during commercial use.

Industrial Vacuums

Colorful illustration of an industrial vacuum.

Large canister-style vacuums, up to 55 gallons in size, with larger hose diameters intended for clean-up of large particles of post-construction dirt and debris, power tool dust collection, wet spill and flood clean-up, etc.


  • Able to pick up larger particle sizes and chunks of debris such as found on construction sites.

  • Powerful suction due to increased motor size.

  • Some models are able to pick up both wet and dry messes.


  • Much noisier than residential canister vacuums, because they usually do not have sound-proofing insulation.

  • They are less maneuverable due to their large size.

  • The selection of tools and accessories is limited, and the few tools that are available tend to function in an unrefined manner.

  • Their larger size makes them heavier and more difficult to transport.

Still Undecided ??

Call Mal at 212-366-1500 . . . he'll be glad to answer all of your vacuum and/or cleaning questions.


Information / Manufacturers:

Women's Health Magazine - 10 Best Cheap Vacuums Under $100 - Mal's Expert Advice:

Miele® Vacuums

Backpack Vacuums

Dyson® Vacuums

Robot Vacuums



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