The Best Canister Vacuums

Cleaning is hard, but it’s easier with the right vacuum.

Regular, upright vacuums are useful, but they don’t necessarily make cleaning more attractive. They can be difficult to maneuver and intrusively loud. Canister vacuums were designed to combat these challenges.

But not all canister vacuums are created equal. To choose the best canister vacuum for your home, you need to know which features are important to you. Do you require powerful suction to pick up even the most stubborn pet hair, or would you rather enjoy the portability of an ultra-lightweight unit? With so many canister vacuums out there, it can be tough to weed through your options and land on the best one for you.

That’s why we wrote this guide. We’ve reviewed the top canister vacuum cleaners of 2019, so you don’t have to. We also break down the key details you need to know to buy a high-quality canister vacuum.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Canister Vacuums

Best Overall
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Kenmore 81614 Bagged Canister Vacuum

Great at cleaning both hard and carpeted floors, this is the best canister vacuum out there.

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$262.23 USD

Why We Picked It

The Kenmore is the ultimate all-in-one canister vacuum. It has an attachment reach of over 10 feet, and the handle controls let you switch up your suction speed without having to bend over to adjust it on the unit. Storage is easy, too. Once you’re done, press a button to retract the cord. Most importantly, it’s got power, thanks to its two-motor system and Power Flow technology.

The Kenmore includes two floor nozzles, a motorized pet hair brush, and a floor brush (which are all stored inside the vacuum). The handle pops off whenever you want to use the nozzle alone for cleaning upholstery and tiny spaces. It even includes a HEPA filter, which is a great perk for those with allergies, asthma, or anyone concerned about air quality.

Keep in Mind

All that power comes with a heavier weight. At a little over 20 pounds, the Kenmore weighs more than the other options on our list.

In a Nutshell

  • 22 pounds
  • Bagged vacuum
  • Includes two floor nozzles and pet brush
Best Budget
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Eureka Mighty Mite

The Mighty Mite packs a big punch on multiple floor types and is ultra-portable.

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$68.06 USD

Why We Picked It

At just 8.6 pounds and an affordable price point, the Eureka Mighty Mite is our budget pick. This canister vacuum may be small in stature, but it can handle any surface with 10 amps of power. In fact, this vacuum is so lightweight, you may find yourself toting it out to the garage to clean your car, too.

Cleaning is easy with handle controls, two extension wands, and a 20-foot cord that reaches almost anywhere. Sealed dust bags prevent debris from entering your home, as does the blower port feature, which you can use to blow debris out of your home or garage.

Keep in Mind

While this vacuum can clean any floor type, including carpets and rugs, it excels at bare floors. If you’re looking to remove pet hair that’s embedded deep in your carpet, another vacuum may be a better choice.

In a Nutshell

  • 8.6 pounds
  • Bagged vacuum
  • Includes floor tool, dusting brush, crevice tool, and two extension wands
Best Splurge
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Miele Complete C3 Marin

HEPA filtration, numerous attachments, and premier construction make this vacuum a worthwhile extravagance.

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$1,089.00 USD

Why We Picked It

For a premium canister vacuuming experience, you can’t go wrong with the Miele. This vacuum gives you fine-tuned control over the entire cleaning experience, with six suction speed adjustments and footswitch pedals. There’s also an automatic speed setting, if you prefer to let the vacuum handle it for you.

This Miele features first-rate construction, with a 180° swivel design, a stainless steel wand that reaches 36 feet, and a HEPA filter that maintains ultimate air quality. The Miele vacuum cleans powerfully across all floor types. In addition to the floor tool, it also includes a dusting brush, upholstery tool, and crevice nozzles.

Keep in Mind

This Miele canister vacuum is not cheap, but you can expect it to last 20 years or more with regular use, so it more than pays for itself in the long run.

In a Nutshell

  • 19 pounds
  • Bagged vacuum
  • Includes floor tool, dusting brush, upholstery tool, and crevice nozzles
Best Lightweight
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Oreck XL Pro 5

Ultra lightweight and equipped with numerous tools, the Oreck XL Pro 5 should last for years.

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$123.75 USD

Why We Picked It

The Oreck XL Pro 5 is a commercial vacuum that homeowners will find durable, versatile, and easy to use. The 30-foot power cord means you won’t be constantly unplugging and moving the vacuum around your house. While there are no wheels, an integrated shoulder strap should help with portability. The vacuum comes with a variety of tools and attachments, including a crevice tool, upholstery tool, and a larger floor attachment.

Note that the Oreck XL Pro 5 is a bagged vacuum, so it does a good job catching dust particles but will also require you to replace the disposable bag periodically.

At under $125, the XL Pro 5 provides great value and durability at an accessible price point.

Keep in Mind

This vacuum is not designed specifically for carpet, so if you have more carpet than bare floor, it may not be the best option for you.

In a Nutshell

  • 5 pounds
  • Bagged vacuum
  • Includes 30-foot power cord for more efficient cleaning
Best for Pet Hair
Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum

Easy to empty and plenty of power to tackle even the furriest messes.

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Why We Picked It

This pet vacuum lives up to Dyson’s reputation for future-forward design and exceptional suction power. Carbon fiber filaments pick up pet dust and small furs, while nylon bristles capture longer hairs and dirt. You also get to work with a true 360° of rotation and a reach of 35 feet.

Beyond cleaning up pet hair, this vacuum offers an additional perk for homeowners. There are no bags to buy and no filters to clean. The Dyson canister vacuum uses 36 small tips to clear your canister of clog-prone microscopic dust, so when you’re done cleaning, you simply eject the dirt right into the trash bin.

Keep in Mind

This vacuum is on the expensive end of vacuums, but it’s backed by a 5-year warranty, and you’ll save on replacement bag and filter costs.

In a Nutshell

  • 17 pounds
  • Bagless vacuum
  • Includes two floor tools, stiff bristle brush, combination nozzle, and stair tool

How We Chose the Best Canister Vacuums

Wondering how we chose our top picks? Here are the features we reviewed when choosing the canister vacuums on our list:

Versatility

Versatility is the standout feature of canister vacuums, so we looked closely at this when reviewing our vacuum picks. We wanted to see vacuums that could clean everywhere in your house (all those nooks and crannies that uprights can’t quite reach), and included the necessary attachments to do so. The vacuums we chose all have power cords long enough to minimize the number of times you have to pick up the unit to move around your house.

Another feature we like to see is a canister vacuum with different height settings, so you can clean your hardwood floor just as well as your carpeted areas.

Maneuverability

Canister vacuums are designed to be lighter weight than upright vacuums, in order to offer you superior maneuverability. We looked for lightweight canister vacuums with ergonomic handles that were easy to pick up and move around the house. But, our picks have sturdy wands as well, for those who prefer to pull their vacuums behind them.

We also aimed to find canister vacuums that offered the sweet spot between having cords long enough to extend throughout the house without being so long they get tangled up.

Weight

Weight goes hand-in-hand with maneuverability. We opted for models that weighed around 15 to 20 pounds or fewer (our lightweight vacuum pick, the Eureka Mighty Mite, weighs under 8!). A canister vacuum of this weight should be light enough for most people to pick up and carry easily, as they move throughout the house or go up and down the stairs.

We also selected vacuums with lightweight handles that won’t strain your arm during cleaning.

Cleaning Power

Unlike robot vacuums (which are more for augmenting a regular vacuuming routine), people buy a canister vacuum because they want it to be their full-time vacuum. As such, it needs to be strong enough to do the job. None of the vacuums we picked skimp on cleaning power.

However, a suction speed switch can be a nice-to-have, so you can lower the suction power when vacuuming sensitive items like decorative rugs, and have it go full-blast when tackling a pet’s area.

Speaking of pets, we recommend canister vacuums that include an extra pet brush if you’re a pet owner. This tool will help you suck up those stubborn pet hairs on upholstered items.

Ease of Emptying

We chose vacuums with decent-sized, well-designed canisters, so emptying or replacing the bag is a simple, infrequent, and relatively debris-free process.

We especially kept this in mind when choosing our best pet hair vacuum, since pet owners will be filling up their canisters more quickly than others.

Noise Level

Power is great, but you don’t want to feel like you’re pulling a jet engine around the house. While all vacuums make noise, we took care to choose canister vacuums that kept the noise levels to a minimum, while providing the suction power you need.

Canister Vacuums vs. Upright Vacuums

A canister vacuum has a canister unit on wheels, with a hose and suction piece attached to it. You’ll manually pick up the canister and move it as you clean various rooms in your house, as opposed to an upright vacuum where you push the unit around.

While upright vacuums are more common, they’re not the preferred style for all homeowners, and they’re notorious for being unable to reach tight spots. A canister vacuum gives you a lot more flexibility when cleaning, since you’ll have a hose to clean vertical surfaces like curtains, and a slim floor tool to slide under furniture, into corners, and up and down stairs.

Another advantage to canister vacuums is their comparatively lower weight. Much of the weight is concentrated in the canister, which sits on the ground, so the wand feels like a light-weight extension of your arm.

Canister vacuums boast the same suction power of upright vacuums; they’re just easier to maneuver around and much more flexible. Both types of vacuums also come in bagged and bagless models.

What to Look for in a Canister Vacuum

What should you consider when choosing a canister vacuum? Here are the key points to keep in mind when buying a canister vacuum.

Price

A top-of-the-line canister vacuum costs over $1,000, while the cheapest are under $100. How to decide how much to spend? Consider how often you’ll use the vacuum and how long you want it to last.

Better-constructed models tend to be more durable—and more expensive. If you’ll only be using the vacuum occasionally, to clean hard-to-reach spots or vertical surfaces, a cheaper model may be able to last you longer. But, if you plan on using the canister vacuum as your primary vacuum (which many homeowners do), a more durable option may be worth the splurge.

Also, additional features (like suction speed settings and pet hair brushes) can drive up the cost of the vacuum, so if you don’t need these features, look for cheaper models that don’t offer them.

Weight

The weight distribution of a canister vacuum affords you more mobility when cleaning. Much of the weight is in the canister unit on the floor, so you don’t feel like you’re pushing a heavy upright vacuum around.

However, lightweight canister vacuums will typically have less power than their heavier counterparts. If you won’t be moving the vacuum up and down stairs, a heavier model can be a better option. If portability is paramount, opt for a lighter model instead.

Bagged vs. Bagless

After you’ve made the upright vs. canister decision, there’s the next great debate of vacuum cleaners: should you go with a bagged or bagless vacuum? There are pros and cons to both.

Bagged vacuums can last longer than bagless vacuums, mostly because they’re less likely to clog up the canister. They’re also a better choice for people with allergies or asthma, as they’re not as likely to spill debris into the air. But, you’ll need to replace the bags every few months, which can add up in costs. Bags don’t cost very much, usually just a few bucks a bag, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Bagless vacuums, on the other hand, eliminate the task of buying and replacing bags altogether. However, you will still need to replace the filter from time to time, although on a much less frequent basis.

Hose and Power Cord Length

The ideal hose and power cord length is ultimately a matter of personal preference. When weighing your options, we recommend noting the length of both of these and considering how they relate to the size of your home.

The shorter these are, the more often you’ll have to pick up and move the canister. There’s also less of a chance of the cords getting tangled in the meantime. We’ve noted the maximum cleaning reach for all of our picks, so you can make the best decision for your home.

Why Should I Choose a Canister Vacuum?

A canister vacuum is a great addition to many homes, but you may be unsure whether it’s the right choice for your home.

A canister vacuum can be particularly useful if any of the following scenarios describe you or your home:

  • You have strength and mobility issues. If you have trouble moving or pushing an upright vacuum around, a canister vacuum enables you to continue to enjoy having a clean home, without the physical stress of operating a heavier unit.
  • Your floors are mostly hardwood or tile. If your home mostly consists of bare floors, particularly wood or tile, that’s where a canister vacuum shines. Canister vacuums can have somewhat lower power than their upright counterparts, which may make them less effective at sucking up everything found in your carpet. However, adjustable suction settings can allow you to clean different floor types, and ensure you keep lightweight area rugs dirt-free without destroying them.
  • You want to clean upholstery and vertical surfaces. Canister vacuums are prized because they’re able to reach a lot of the spots upright vacuums can’t. That includes curtains and vertical areas, as well as tight corners around your furniture. If you have upholstered furniture or drapes you want to clean, you can save yourself the cost of buying a handheld vacuum and use a canister vacuum’s wand extender instead.

Related Resources

Want to weigh your options a bit more first, before committing to a canister vacuum? Check out our other vacuum guides.

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David Rubin