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Home > Ideas & Tips > Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide

Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide

With so many different floor care machines, it can be difficult to choose exactly what is right for your floor. Our vacuum cleaner buying guide will help you decide what is best for your floor and how to prolong its life. Lowe's is happy to provide this vacuum cleaner information as a service to you.

Vacuum Cleaner Information

Wet/Dry Vacuums

Wet Dry Vac

A wet/dry vacuum is no longer just for the workshop. Over time, wet/dry vacuum technology has improved, decreasing the loud "screaming" noise commonly associated with it.

When you buy a vacuum cleaner with wet/dry features, you need to know some details. Wet/dry vacuums are available in a variety of sizes and horsepower ranging from 6 to 22 gallons and 1.5 to 10.5 HP. The capacity of the vacuum should match your needs:

  • Wall-mount vacuums with 1.5 HP and a one-gallon tank are available for quick and easy cleanup jobs. Also, hangs up for out of the way storage.
  • A six-gallon vacuum accommodates small jobs and is easier to maneuver and store than a larger model. However, smaller wet/dry vacuums (less than 10 gallons) can be louder and more prone to tipping. The smaller the tank, the more often it has to be emptied.
  • A higher capacity model (more than 10-gallon capacity and a four to six HP motor) is recommended for your workshop or garage to clean up large spills. The larger capacity tank decreases the number of times it has to be emptied.

Look for the following options to determine which wet/dry vacuum is best for your needs.

  • A pleated cartridge filter is rinseable and reusable. It provides more filtration area than a flat filter and doesn't have to be removed when switching from the dry to wet vacuum function.
  • An automatic shut-off mechanism is available on most high-quality vacuums. The mechanism automatically shuts off the motor when the tank is full of water.
  • Wide-set wheels help prevent the vacuum from tipping over.
  • Some larger wet/dry vacuums (usually 16 gallons or larger with at least a 6.25 HP motor) have the ability to convert to a leaf blower.
  • A drain valve or spout makes emptying the vacuum easier. Otherwise, the lid is removed and the tank is tipped to the side for emptying. Depending on how full and heavy the tank is, you could accidentally spill the liquid on the floor. Smaller vacuums usually don't have a drain or spout option.
  • Wide hoses and floor nozzles are a plus. The wider the hose and nozzle the less likely the vacuum is to clog.

If not provided with the vacuum you choose, the following replacement accessories are available:

  • Crevice tool-gets in tight corners and around the edge of the floor.
  • Extension wand-makes the hose longer for hard to reach areas.
  • Hose couplings-joins the extension wand to the hose.
  • Combination wet/dry nozzle-alleviates the need to switch nozzles before switching functions.
  • Gulper nozzle-great for the wet vacuum function.
  • Round brush-used for scrubbing.
  • Cleaning kit-includes all items needed to clean upholstery and other areas.

Vacuum Buying Guide: Vacuum Options

Steam Cleaner

Hard Surface Floor Steam Cleaners

Hard surface steam cleaners can be used on any hard surfaces. No chemicals are needed.

  •   • Has a 25" cleaning radius.
  •   • Sanitizes and cleans floors with 220° F steam.
  •   • Uses plain tap water and no chemicals are needed.
  •   • Replaces mops/buckets/cleaners.
Deep Cleaning Vacuum

Deep Cleaning Vacuums

Steam vacuums can be used on hard surface floors and carpets and are good for cleaning spills, stains and other accidents.

  • Rotating brushes (agitates dirt out of carpet and scrubs hard surface floors).
  • Headlights (for working in poorly lit rooms and corners).
  • Automatic tool conversion (simply press a button to switch from carpet to hard surface floors).
  • Hot water and a cleaning solution cleans carpet.
  • Can switch from floor cleaning to tool use (stairs and upholstery).
  • One hand tank removal.
  • No faucet hookup.
  • Nozzle for cleaning soiled spots.
  • Sizes range from compact to large carpet/bare floor cleaners.

Good idea: If your floor care product requires bags, be sure to keep the style number of the bag in an easy to remember place. You'll thank yourself when it comes time to buy refills.

Upright Vacuums vs. Canister Vacuums

Uprights and canisters have long been the staples of floor cleaning. How do you decide which one is best for your home? Think about the surfaces you'll be cleaning. Uprights are generally best suited for carpets while canisters are more suitable for hard floors. Also, the weight of the vacuum should play into your decision. The more attachments you have the heavier the vacuum is to pull or push.

The following chart provides available options for both types of vacuums and will help narrow down your choices.

Good idea: When choosing a vacuum don't use the amount of amperage as a deciding factor. Amperage is the amount of electricity the motor uses not the suction power

Upright Vacuum

Upright Vacuum

Standard options:

  • Cleaning path width ranges from 12" to 15" wide (based on model).
  • Swivel caster system for better maneuverability.
  • Furniture and wall bumper guard to protect furniture and walls.
  • Carpet height adjustment.
  • Headlight.
  • Self-propelled.
  • Standard attachments-include a hose, dusting brush, crevice tool, and upholstery tool (on most models).

Other features to look for:

  • Bare floor cleaning (turn the brush off).
  • HEPA sealed system filter.
  • Adjustable suction to clean lampshades and curtains.
  • Retractable cord.
  • Longer electrical cord (more than 20' is desirable).
  • Longer hose (more than 5').
  • Dirt sensor accessory- reduces the suction strength if the floor isn't very dirty or increases the suction if there is a great deal of dirt.
  • Edge cleaner for hard to reach corners.
  • Full bag indicator (lets you know when the bag needs emptying).
  • Motor protection (protects motor from items such as coins, paper clips etc. that are vacuumed up.)
  • Bagless also referred to as hard bag.

Canister Vacuum

Canister Vacuum

Standard options:

  • Cleaning path width ranges from 12" to 15" wide (based on model).
  • For homes with more than 50% hard surface floors. Floor to ceiling cleaning including stairs, shelves, drapery and upholstery.
  • Instant carpet to bare floor cleaning
  • Power brush nozzles for agitating carpet are usually standard, but some models are "suction only" for hard surface floors.
  • Standard attachments-a wand, bare-floor brush, dusting brush, crevice and upholstery tool.
  • Retractable cord.

Other features to look for:

  • HEPA sealed system filter available on some models.
  • Edge cleaner for hard to reach corners.
  • Long electrical cord (more than 20' is desirable).
  • Long hose (more than 5').

HEPA filters are good for allergy sufferers or those with air quality concerns.

Broom Vacuums

Broom Vacuum

A broom vacuum is good for small apartments with hard surface floors or for people who have difficulty maneuvering heavier, full-sized vacuums.

Features of a broom vacuum:

  • Lightweight, easy to store.
  • Quiet operation.
  • Bagless (dust cup).
  • Great for quick pick ups on bare floors, carpets, rugs, and stairs.
  • Cordless models are available.

Hand Held Vacuums

Hand Held Vacuum

Hand held vacuums are convenient for picking up small messes without dragging out the full-size vacuum.

  • Lightweight.
  • Corded and cordless rechargeable models.
  • Wall-mountable.
  • Bagless (dust cup).

Attachments available on some models:

  • Crevice tool with extension wand.
  • Extension wand.
  • Furniture/upholstery brush.
  • Lockable "on" switch.
  • Agitator brush for spills and stains on furniture and carpets.
Shop All Vacuum Cleaners

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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