If you’re researching vacuum cleaners, the chances are that you’ll stumble across some jargon within the product descriptions and specifications. Different features like cyclonic technology, edge to edge technology, and anti-allergen seals, can sound complicated at first, but, understanding them is the key to getting exactly what you need. We explain what these features are, helping you to make an informed purchase.
A vacuum cleaner’s capacity is how much dirt it’ll hold before it needs emptying.
The larger it is, the fewer trips you’ll need to the bin (and bags you’ll get through if your cleaner needs them). Bagged vacuum cleaners can also lose suction as they approach full capacity.
The capacity will probably be somewhere between one and four litres, although some cylinder designs can be as high as nine litres. Remember, though; a large capacity does have its obvious benefits, but it’ll also make the machine heavier and more difficult to manoeuvre.
Cyclone technology is only available in bagless models, and many use multiple cyclones that are smaller in size, to make the process even more efficient.
In the past, vacuum cleaners used to simply suck the dirt into a bag.
The air would pass out through the back of the bag, which would act as an additional filter, leaving the dirt inside. The main drawback of this traditional method is that the warm air leaving the vacuum can still be dusty, making the whole cleaning process less efficient.
Cyclonic – or cyclone – technology, changed all of that. The air doesn’t pass in a straight line through the machine, but in a spinning motion, which encourages the dust to separate from the air, move to the outside edges of the bin, and remain inside it. Cyclone technology is only available in bagless models, and many use multiple cyclones that are smaller in size, to make the process even more efficient. It’s sometimes advertised as ‘no loss of suction’ technology, since bags can restrict air flow as they are filled.
Types of Filters
Even the super-efficient cyclone vacuum cleaners still rely on filters – motor, pre-motor, or post-motor filtration cleans the air before it enters the bin. Exhaust filtration is the main process which removes particles from the air as it’s leaving the bin, before it’s let back into your room.
These filters offer the lowest levels of effectiveness and are found on cheaper vacuum cleaners. Standard filters aren’t suitable for allergy sufferers, and can make vacuuming less efficient, as the small particles can pass through them, and back into your room. Multiple filters can make the process work better, and microfiltration uses at least four levels for cleaner air.
S-Class and HEPA
Designed with allergy sufferers in mind, S-class and HEPA designs offer the best level of filtration. Independently set standards ensure they remove the smallest microscopic particles, along with up to 99.97% of allergens.
Rather than needing to be replaced every 6 to 12 months, a washable filter can be cleaned with soap regularly, to keep it running at its best. Rinsable versions can only be cleaned with water. Both versions will save you money, since you won’t need to buy new ones.
Charcoal has odour removing properties, so a layer inside a filter banishes pet smells from your home.
For completely fuss-free maintenance, look for a lifetime filter. Only the more expensive models will offer this feature, which is designed to outlive your vacuum cleaner, without reducing effectiveness.
The latest trend is moving towards completely filterless cleaning. This works by using vibration to separate dust from the air, although only top-of-the-range models offer this currently.
Some vacuum manufacturers refer to their bags as filter bags. This means that they have multiple layers to reduce the number of particles passing out of the machine. They are usually combined with traditional filters.
Hypoallergenic Sealed Systems
A sealed system means air can’t escape the machine through any tiny cracks or gaps in its design. As a result, all of the air which leaves the vacuum cleaner has passed through the filter first – another great feature for allergy sufferers.
Even the super-efficient cyclone vacuum cleaners still rely on filters. Motor, pre-motor or post-motor filtration cleans the air before it enters the bin.
Beater Brush Bar
A rotating brush bar is found on virtually all uprights, and on some cylinder vacuums. The spinning mechanism helps pick up pet hair, even when it’s deeply entwined in the carpet fibres.
The lighter your vacuum cleaner, the less strenuous it will be to use it. Most upright and cylinder models weigh around 8 kg, but lightweight models can be as low as 2 kg to 5 kg.
As cordless designs place an emphasis on ease of use, they tend to be at the lower end of the scale. Some upright vacuum cleaners can be switched into a lightweight and handheld carry-around design, for when you need to reach those difficult spots.
This handy feature allows you to tilt the machine sideways to move around obstacles with ease.
The lighter your vacuum cleaner, the less strenuous it will be to use it.
A height adjustment feature will tweak the vacuum’s position so you can get as close to your carpet or hard floor as possible, for more thorough cleaning results. These can be manual, either with a foot pedal or button, or automatic, where it’ll automatically adapt to your floor type as you move between rooms.
Easy Grip Handle
Many manufacturers will design the handle for comfort. It might have curved edges, or be moulded to fit the hand.
Auto Cord Rewind
The majority of cylinder vacuum cleaners have a cord rewind feature. This will retract the cord inside the machine, for neat and speedy storage without any knots. Designs which don’t have this feature tend to have clips, which you wrap the cord around.
If you’re looking for corded vacuum cleaners, it’s worth considering the length of the mains power cable. The average length is seven to eight metres, but some are as long as 10 metres. A longer cable means a larger reach, and less time spent changing plug sockets. Remember, that although a cylinder vacuum may have a shorter cord, the hose and attachments could mean it has a larger reach. An auto cord rewind feature comes in especially handy for long cables.
This will let you know when a vacuum cleaner needs its bag replacing, taking out any guesswork.
Get right into the corners of a room with edge-to-edge cleaning. The design of the head extends suction up to your skirting boards, so you don’t need to depend on attachments as much.
A few upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners have sensors which can detect dusty spots, and will let you know using an alert light. Robotic vacuums tend to depend on sensors to clean, avoid walls, and detect drops such as the stairs.
Protect the lifespan of your vacuum by choosing a model which will never overheat. If the airway gets blocked, the motor will automatically switch off, protecting it from permanent damage.