If you’re researching vacuum cleaners and other floorcare appliances, chances are that you’ll stumble across jargon in the product descriptions and specifications. Features like cyclones, edge to edge technology, and anti-allergen seals can sound complicated at first, but understanding them is the key to getting what you need.
A vacuum cleaner’s capacity is how much dirt it will hold before it needs emptying. The larger it is, the fewer trips you’ll need to the bin and the fewer bags you’ll get through.
The capacity will probably be somewhere between one and six litres, although some cylinder designs can hold up to nine. It’s important to remember that a large capacity will make the machine heavier and more difficult to manoeuvre. And, bagged vacuum cleaners can also lose suction as they approach full capacity.
In the past, vacuum cleaners simply sucked the dirt into a bag. The air would pass out through the back of the bag, which would act as an additional filter, and leave the dirt inside. The main drawback of this was that the warm air exiting the vacuum could 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 out and collect at the bottom of the bin. 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.
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.
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 leaves 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.
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 six to 12 months, a washable filter can be cleaned with soap regularly, to keep it running at its best. Rinseable versions can only be cleaned with water. Both will save you money and reduce your impact on the environment, 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. They typically last for seven to 10 years.
Dyson is even 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.
For completely fuss-free maintenance, look for a lifetime filter, or even better, filterless cleaning.
HYPOALLERGENIC SEALED SYSTEMS
A sealed system means air can’t escape through any tiny cracks or gaps in the machine’s design. As a result, all the air which leaves the vacuum cleaner passes through the filter first – another great feature for allergy sufferers.
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 5 to 8 kg, but lightweight models can be as low as 2 kg.
As cordless designs emphasise ease of use, they tend to be at the lower end of the scale. Some upright vacuum cleaners can also be switched into a handheld design, for when you need to reach more difficult spots.
Technology has moved on from swivel steering, which lets you tilt your machine sideways to move around obstacles.
Ball-based manoeuvrability – made famous by Dyson – makes steering even easier and cleaning even smoother.
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. This option can be manual – either with a foot pedal or button – or automatic, where it’ll 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.
LOW PROFILE HANDLE
Some models now have ultra-low profile handles, so they can slide under furniture easily without you needing a tool or attachment.
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. Designs which don’t have this feature tend to have clips, which you wrap the cord around.
The majority of cylinder vacuum cleaners have a cord rewind feature.
If you’re looking at 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 or 12 metres. A longer cable means a larger reach, and less time spent changing plug sockets. Although a cylinder vacuum may have a shorter cord, the hose and attachments could make it go further than you think.
There can be a huge difference between run times in battery-powered vacuum cleaners. The majority of models last for around 15 to 30 minutes, but some can run for an hour before needing to be recharged.
This will let you know when a vacuum cleaner needs its bag replacing, taking out any guesswork.
LED DISPLAY AND LIGHTS
Want to monitor how much charge is left in your vacuum battery? You can find models with LED displays which will keep you up to date. Plus, LED lights help you clean better under everything from your sofa to your bed, illuminating spaces you usually can’t see.
Get right into the corners of your rooms with edge-to-edge cleaning. The design of the floorhead on these vacuums extends its suction to your skirting boards, so you don’t need to depend on attachments.
A longer cable means a larger reach, and less time spent changing plug sockets.
All-round, synthetic bumpers can protect your vacuum and your furniture from damage, following bumps and scrapes.
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 usually depend on sensors to clean, avoid walls, and detect drops such as stairs.
Vacuums often have several power settings, which may include Max modes for deep cleans, and Quiet modes for cleaning that’s lighter on your home and your ears.
All-round, synthetic bumpers can protect your vacuum and your furniture.
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.
Modern robot vacuum cleaners can be connected to your smartphone, letting you schedule and track your cleaning.