How to choose a vacuum cleaner

Living Well | Sarah Marinos | Posted on 16 July 2019

Dread cleaning? Choosing the right type of vacuum may make the job easier. 

You may live in an apartment with a laminate floor, or in a big house with carpet and timber floors. If you live with a pet or two, keeping floors spotlessly clean can be more of a challenge. Nobody wants to spend longer than necessary vacuuming, so what types of cleaner can reduce the time and effort it takes to keep floors fresh?

Vacuum cleaner

Understanding vacuum cleaners: a guide

Stick vacuum

“Cordless stick vacuums are the fastest-growing category in floorcare and they’re ideal for hard floors and cleaning up quick spills,” says Kim Gilmour, team leader household at CHOICE. 

But they have smaller dust collectors – from 0.2L to 0.7L – so need to be emptied frequently, and on maximum power you may only get around 13 minutes’ use before they need a recharge. They’re suitable for all floors, but particularly hard floors. 

Barrel or upright 

Old-school barrel vacuums are ideal if you have a large area to keep clean as a traditional barrel-style or upright vacuum has a three-litre dust collector. 

“In many homes, people still keep a bigger, traditional corded vacuum for big cleans,” says Kim. 

Barrel or uprights are good for large homes with a lot of carpet. Uprights have the edge for large areas while barrel models are easier to handle when cleaning stairs and reaching awkward spots.


These new-age vacuums make their way around your home using inbuilt sensors to map out a route. “Modern-day models can be scheduled to clean your home via an app. Some even work with your Google or Amazon virtual assistants, so you can verbally instruct them to stop, start or return to their charging dock,” explains Kim. 

They have small dust collectors so are good for tackling light dust but don’t perform as well on carpet.

Bag or bagless

Most vacuums use a bag to collect dust or have a compartment that collects dust. Bagless models are more popular but bags are less messy. When it’s time to empty the vacuum cleaner, bags contain the dust and can be put straight in the bin. When you empty a bagless model, dust can be released into the air so a vacuum cleaner with a bag may be a better choice if you have allergies. 

Bags usually hold more dust than a bagless model, so the vacuum won’t need to be emptied as often, but there is the ongoing cost of replacing the bags. 


CHOICE recommends stick vacuums for cleaning pet hair, or choose a vacuum with a turbo brush. It uses airflow to spin the brush and stir up the pile of carpet, making it easier to extract embedded pet hairs.

The good news is that, no matter what style of vacuum you choose, you don’t have to spend a small fortune to get good performance.

“Often CHOICE finds great-performing vacuums at a range of prices,” says Kim. “Very expensive vacuums we’ve tested won’t necessarily perform much better than models that you can buy for much less.”