Upright vs. Canister Vacuums – Which is Better?

Both upright and canister vacuums have their pros and cons, as well as their fair share of loyal users willing to go to bat for their favorite style. If you are in the market for a new vacuum cleaner and can’t decide which one is right for you and your home, here is a side-by-side comparison outlining the positives and negatives of both canister and upright vacuums.

Canister Vacuums

Canister vacuums are typically much easier to maneuver than their upright cousins, and were designed to reach under far under low-sitting furniture like coffee tables and couches. They also often have a flexible hose that lets you use your reach overhead to clean tall furniture like bookcases, something that is impossible with an upright vacuum. Canister vacuums are also more compact and lightweight (the bulk of the weight is in the canister itself), making them a much better candidate for homes with a lot of stairs or for anyone that doesn’t want lug a heavy appliance around. Because canisters are much smaller than upright vacuums, they are also easier to store and take up less storage space. Most canisters today even come with retractable cords, meaning you don’t have to manually wind the power cord!

Some don’t like the fact that they have to “drag” a canister vacuum behind them, saying it’s easier to push an upright. They also claim that a canister vacuum is more likely to catch the user in the back of the heel or snag a piece of furniture while you’re pulling it around the house. Most canister vacuums usually include separate heads for carpet and wood/tile floors, requiring a manual change as you transition from one surface to the other. Canisters are usually more expensive than upright vacuums as well.

Upright Vacuums

The majority of upright vacuums transition between a beater head for carpets and a static suction for bare floors with a simple foot switch. This makes it easier to move from room to room and means fewer attachments to keep track of for upright owners. Plus, most upright cleaners work better on carpet than canister vacuums, which is something to keep in mind based on how much of your home is carpeted. If you have difficulty bending over then it’s much easier to empty an upright vacuum, whether it’s a bagged or bagless model. Also, since an upright bag will hold more debris than a canister bag, you don’t have to replace the bag as frequently.

Uprights are less able to reach into tight spaces, making it even harder to reach those hard-to-reach places. While many have extendable hoses, they aren’t typically as long as the canister vacuums. The upright vacuum’s greatest flaw is its weight, making it harder to carry up and down stairs.

When deciding between an upright and a canister, you have to understand how/where you’re going to be using your vacuum. If you’ll be carrying the vacuum up and down flights of stairs, a compact canister may be the best choice. If you house is mostly carpet than an upright might be a better option. How much space do you have to store your vacuum? How many attachments are you going to need? What kind of dirt and debris do you need your vacuum to be able to contend with on a daily basis? There is no “right” vacuum, just the vacuum that’s right for you.

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