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September 01, 2013

Cleaning power

As far as vacuums go, the better it sucks the better it gets

Kathy McCormick

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They’ve got curves and trendy colours. They make a fashion statement in your new home — but they’re not as sexy as gleaming granite countertops or rich hardwood floors.

It’s a given, though, that this is one of the most important buys you will make when you move into your new home.

Vacuum cleaners are essential to keep those counters and floors clean and beautiful — and to keep your family healthy and comfortable.

Today’s models are extensive, offering a variety of features and many different styles with varying positives (as well as some negatives).

The vacuum cleaner you choose is one item that is best bought in a store, not online, says Consumer Report, a valuable consumer resource company that rates a whole variety of products, including vacuums. (http://www.comsumerreports,org ).

Shop to find the vacuum that best suits your needs and wants, says the consumer resource company — and one that is right for not only your budget, but yourself since you will be the one who will be hauling it around the house frequently. Push the different models, pull them, turn them, lift them; check the suction power and noise level; find out the features; and test the controls. Check for quality and warranty.

And beauty isn’t just skin deep. These sleek new models can very competently do the job — and price isn’t always the factor that determines the best one, says Consumer Report.

But where to start? Today’s choices are endless, from canister, to upright, ‘bagless’, to ‘broom-like’ models, built-in vacuum systems, to robots that do the work for you.

“The first thing to determine when vacuum shopping is what you are using the vacuum for,” says John Hooke, category business manager, home cleaning and essentials for Canadian Tire nationally. “If it’s quick everyday clean-ups that you’re doing, a stick vac may be best.  If it’s regular weekly cleaning (or you only want one vacuum to take on all cleaning tasks), then an upright or canister vac is best. The decision then comes down to upright or canister.“

Historically the distinction has been that canisters were better for bare floor environments (hardwood, laminate, linoleum, and tile) and uprights were better for carpets and rugs — but that has changed, Hooke says.

“Today’s technology and design have made both uprights and canisters largely equally-effective on all floor types, so the choice now really comes down to personal preference. “

He points out some PROs and CONs to the various types of models available today:


Pro: Easy to push/pull because the bulk of the weight of the unit is sitting on the floor behind you.

Con: Some people don’t like dragging the main unit behind them as they go — can be difficult around corners, etc.


Pro: No unit dragging behind you; smaller footprint for storing the vacuum (no awkward hose to manage).

Con: May not be as good on bare floors as a canister that comes with a specialized bare floor tool (can be overcome if the upright has a similar tool included).

Central vac / Built-in

Pro: There is no actual vacuum unit to carry around while you clean, just the hose. Can be roughed in when you are building a new house.

Con:  In some cases, the hose can end up being as cumbersome and/or heavy as using an upright or canister.


Pro: Can visually see when the dust cup is full and needs emptying.

Con: If using a paper filter to clean the air, it may not provide any more suction power/stamina than a bagged unit (but not true in the case of true ‘no loss of suction” machines’. A smaller number of today’s ‘bagless’ units, there is no paper bag/filter used at all. Instead the air is spun around in a circular motion that allows dirt/debris to be separated to the edges of the dust cup and collected while clean air is pumped back into the room.  Since there is no bag/filter to clog up with debris, and there is no loss to the suction power of the machine over time.
His recommendation to help pick out the right vacuum for you: ask yourself these three key questions:

Primary floor type, carpet/bare/both – do I need a power head?

Weight – how important is weight of the unit to me?

Bells and Whistles – which are the key ‘extras’ that I need?  If you have pets, then a ‘pet hair turbo brush’ is essential. This is basically a smaller version of an air turbine head that has a small rotating brush roll that allows for easy pickup of pet hair from upholstery and stairs.

Some of the other choices you will need to make include the features such as the power head. Says Hooke: “The starting point for the decision should start with primary floor type. If you have predominantly carpets in your home, you should look for a vacuum (be it upright or canister) that has a power head.  This means that the brush roll is motorized and spins when turned on, allowing the bristles to disturb the carpet fibres and to loosen dirt which is then sucked up by the vacuum.

“Some models (particularly canister vacs) offer an ‘air turbine head’ instead. This does essentially the same thing in terms of rotating the brush roll but is powered by the suction of the machine itself, not an isolated motor.

“If you have predominantly hardwood or bare floor (i.e. non-carpeted), then a motorized power head is of less importance.  Rather, a lighter weight unit may be more important to you.

“One last consideration is ‘bagged’ versus ‘bagless’. Traditionally, vacuums have used paper bags to catch all of the dirt and debris sucked up by the nozzle. In recent years, the industry has developed ‘bagless’ technology that, instead of using a bag to separate dirty air from clean air, uses a cyclonic movement of the air to separate dirt particles from clean air. It means no dirty vacuum bags to replace and can mean better suction power over time. The overwhelming majority of upright vacs today are ‘bagless,’ whereas canister vacs are still split between traditional ‘bagged’ units and ‘bagless’.”

From here, it’s a matter of picking the right make and model at the right price. Some of the leading manufacturers are Dyson, Miele, Electrolux, Dirt Devil, Hoover, Bissel, Eureka, and Shark.

The top seller at Canadian Tire is the Shark Navigator Professional Lift-Away Vacuum, which is “a truly universal vacuum that can cover the entire needs of a household. The upright vacuum with a powerful motorized head is great for deep cleaning carpets — and has a specialized ‘dust-away’ bare floor tool for excellent results on hardwood, ceramic, and so on. This upright also features ‘complete seal anti-allergen’ technology — great for allergy and asthma sufferers.”

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