How We Tested
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.Click here for testing insights >
Upright Versus Canister Vacuums: What’s the Difference?
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with vacuuming — it’s not exactly the most fun activity, but it’s a necessary task to keep your home clean.
But if you’re tied of lifting your heavy vacuum up the stairs, or dealing with one that doesn’t have quite enough suction to grab all the pesky particles on your floor… well, you’ve come to the right place.
Enter: Canister vacuums.
They typically have more power, are more maneuverable, and have higher flow rates and suction than their upright cousins. They’re also usually more powerful and can be used on both hardwood and carpeted floors.
And while there are some similarities between canister and upright (traditional) vacuum cleaners, there are key differences. Learning what they are can help you identify which product type will best meet your needs.
In an upright vacuum, the motor and the suction head are both integrated into one unit. Typically, these vacuums feature a columnar design with a handle at the top that allows you to push the unit forward and backward in front of you. Many people also find that an upright vacuum is easier to control than a canister model because of this design.
Upright vacuums are good for cleaning carpets and thick rugs because they have motorized brush heads and rollers with bristles. These bristles can sweep deep into carpet or rug fibers to remove dirt. Their integrated design also means that they are easy to store.
However, they are typically heavier than canister models and often weigh 20 pounds or more. They are also noisier than canister vacuums. It can also be challenging to use an upright vacuum to clean a tighter spot because of their wide footprint.
In contrast, canister vacuums separate the suction head or nozzle from the body, which contains the motor and the bag or receptacle to hold the dirt and debris sucked up by the vacuum. Canister vacuums are typically more powerful than upright vacuums. This is because there is more space to put a larger, more powerful motor in a canister vacuum than there is in an upright vacuum.
Canister vacuums also weigh less than upright models, with some options even weighing less than 10 pounds. Many users also prefer canister vacuums since they make less noise than upright models.
Most canister vacuums come with a variety of attachments designed to help you clean different surfaces with easy. This makes them a more versatile option than upright vacuums.
On the negative side for canister vacuums is the fact that they are bulkier and take up more storage space than most upright models. However, many canister vacuums do come apart, allowing them to take up less space when they are not being used.
Canister models can also be a bit more challenging to move around the room with you as you clean since you need to pull the large canister along with the hose. Many models may also require that you bend down to the canister to power the vacuum on or off or change the suction settings.
What to Look for in a Canister Vacuum
With that in mind, it’s important to note that not all canister vacuums are created equal. Before purchasing one, you’ll want to take some time to read through this guide. We’ll help you identify some of the key factors you’ll want to consider before choosing a canister vacuum.
Power and Performance
Two of the first things you should look at when choosing a canister vacuum are how powerful it is and how well it will perform. You will want to choose a model that features strong suction that will do a thorough job removing dirt, dust, hair, and other debris from the surfaces in your home. This can include different power settings that you can operate depending on your needs.
If you’re aiming to get a canister vacuum with ultimate suction power, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for ones with multiple fans, as well as adjustable height settings and a high cubic feet per minute (CFM) count. These factors will increase the amount of airflow the vacuum can generate.
Next, look at whether the vacuum has a filter system and how effective the filter system is. Many canister vacuums have HEPA filters that can trap debris and allergens an additional layer. These filters help capture fine particles, so they’re typically worth the investment.
Keeping them trapped in the vacuum where they won’t be able to escape back into the air you breathe can really pay dividends.
Ease of Use
It’s important to also consider how easy setting up and using a given model is. Vacuuming in and of itself can take time, so you likely won’t want to spend additional time getting it set up, attaching tools, or playing with buttons to get it to work properly.
You should also take into consideration how easy to the vacuum is to move around a room. Look for something that is lightweight and has wheels to help it move seamlessly.
Pay attention to what, if any, accessories are included with your purchase. Think about what surfaces in your home you’ll want to clean with your vacuum, and look for a product that will provide you all the tools you’ll need to accomplish these tasks.
Canister vacuums are pretty good for cleaning cars, but be sure to check out our list on the best auto detailing vacuums for more on that topic.
Bagless or Bagged Canister Vacuums
Canister vacuums can also come either bagless or bagged.
With bagless vacuums, you won’t have to buy replacement bags regularly. That said, they can be messy and release particles back into the air — you’ll likely want to steer clear of these if you’re sensitive to dust and allergies.
If you fall in that camp, you may prefer bagged models. With these, the dust and dirt stay trapped in the bag and won’t get back out into the air when you empty the dirt canister. They also tend to be better at deep cleaning those hard-to-get spots on your floors, too.
When it comes to choosing the best canister vacuum, it’s important to weigh all of these factors before making a decision — they can serve as helpful guidelines that can help you determine where you can compromise and where you won’t want to budge. It’s also worth deciding whether you’d prefer a bagless or bagged canister vacuum, as your preferences may fluctuate there, too.
Other Products We Considered
The Fat Kid Deals editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
- Kenmore 81414 400 Series
- Soniclean WhisperJet C2
- Bissell Deluxe 1161
- Prolux Tritan
- Miele Complete C3 Kona
- Eureka 3670M
- Sanitaire SL3681A