The 5 Best Vacuums, According to a Cleaning Obsessive
From a pet-hair pro to a small-space wonder.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:14 AM
Confession: I’ve always loved vacuuming. I kid you not; I must have been the only 9-year-old whose mom pushed them out the door to go play outside to keep me from cleaning our carpets. Listening to the crackle of crumbs, dust, and other household debris being sucked into a vacuum is my ASMR. Making those “stripes” across the carpet as I push and pull an upright is like raking a rock garden. And that snap as the cord retracts back into the vacuum? Ah, it’s the sound of a job well done. But not all vacuums are created equal, and so as a hyper-enthusiastic cleaner, I set out to find the very best models, from handheld to upright, on the market right now. Each one of these options is a pleasure to wield while chasing down dust bunnies around the house.
The Short List
- Best overall: Miele Classic C1 Cat & Dog Canister Vacuum Cleaner
- Best budget: Shark NV352 Navigator Lift Away Upright Vacuum
- Best for small spaces: Miele Triflex HX1 Battery Powered Bagless Stick Vacuum
- Best robot: iRobot Roomba s9+ (9550) Robot Vacuum
- Best for small messes: Dyson V7 Mattress Handheld Vacuum
Best Overall: Miele Classic C1 Cat & Dog Canister Vacuum Cleaner
Classic C1 Cat & Dog PowerLine, Miele ($699)
Why I love it: If you want to buy a vacuum once and never again, get a Miele. Yes, they’re pricey (this one starts at $699), but I’ve owned the same Miele canister vacuum for more than 13 years, and beyond a few scratches here and there, it still works perfectly. They’re the best at pulling out the smallest bits of dirt, fur, and debris from hard floors, carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture. And this pet-centric model’s powerful 1,200-watt motor means you won’t have to pass over the same spot. Plus it’s like getting a vacuum and air purifier in one: A carbon filter means your home will not only look cleaner, it will smell better after you’re done vacuuming.
The best part: If you live in a space with thin walls or like to clean at odd hours like I do, the C1’s quiet mode is a welcome option you can activate with the turn of a dial, hushing the motor down to a modest din.
Best Budget: Shark NV352 Navigator Lift Away Upright Vacuum
Why I love it: In the nothing-fancy-but-really-solid category is the Shark Navigator, a lightweight vacuum capable of effectively cleaning both hard and carpeted surfaces. It swivels as gracefully as an ice-skater, making it easy to navigate around furniture, pets, and family members. The brush roller can switch on or off (great for toggling between hard floors and rugs), and while this upright may wield the power of a full-size vacuum, it’s light enough to lift with one arm.
The best part: Both filters are easily removable and washable, which means less waste and less money you’ll have to spend over the lifetime of owning this vac. The filtration system is also HEPA rated, sealed to retain allergens down to .3 microns inside, the same particulate size responsible for sneezing and watery eyes.
Best for Small Spaces: Miele Triflex HX1 Bagless Stick Vacuum
Why I love it: The Triflex HX1 is the first stick model I’ve tested that made me consider ditching my canister completely. Whether I was chasing down dust bunnies under furniture, extracting crumbs from rugs in a single pass, or pulling off embedded pet hair from upholstery, this sucker knew exactly how to adapt. It’s light enough to carry up and down stairs with one hand, and takes up about as much space as a broom. Or if you have an extra-large cleaning closet, it’s a great secondary vacuum you can grab for those mad-dash, two-minute cleanings just before guests arrive.
The best part: The three-in-one form factor is truly versatile. During testing I used all three configurations to suck in cobwebs from overhead, hunt tracked cat litter, clean carpet tiles, and even tidy our car’s seats and dash.
Best Robot: iRobot Roomba s9+ (9550) Robot Vacuum
Why I love it: Robot vacs get a bad rap for their low suction and for getting stuck in corners, but iRobot’s newest model has the company’s most powerful suction and an array of sensors that scan the room for any furniture and other objects, meaning more cleaning and less rescuing. While it won’t completely replace cleaning with a real vacuum, if you’re pressed for time (or just don’t love cleaning regularly), it can help keep dust and dirt in check until you have time to pull out a more heavy-duty vacuum.
The best part: Three words: automatic dirt disposal. Instead of emptying the vac’s dust bin every one or two days, this model will automatically dump everything it’s sucked up around the house into a base station, where it’s stored in a larger sealed disposal bag that can hold up to two months’ worth of dirt.
Best for Small Messes: Dyson V7 Mattress Handheld Vacuum
Why I love it: Dyson vacuums are remarkably powerful and effective at pulling in all varieties of household debris, so I keep one under our sofa for small accidents (aka cat hair balls) and to regularly freshen up upholstery with a single pass. Even though this one is technically for mattresses, the brush attachment coaxes even stubborn pieces of lint or pet hair into its easy-to-empty bin. I use this cordless model daily, specifically when the mess is too small to warrant pulling out the full-size canister from the closet.
The best part: Dyson’s MAX mode unleashes the full fury of the company’s proprietary digital motor when you need a little extra dust-busting oomph for small spills.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews from both our creative community and third-party websites to know that they pass the test IRL.
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