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Canister or Upright Vacuum Cleaner?

By Edited Oct 4, 2016 0 0

When I went to my mother’s house the other day, I noticed she had two almost new upright vacuum cleaners in the garage. She said she was trying to decide which one worked the best. Knowing her, she will probably keep both.

That got me to thinking, what is the best type of vacuum cleaner and is the difference between an upright and canister vacuum?

Well, if you are like me, you probably did not realize they still made canister vacuum cleaners. My first memories of any type of vacuum cleaner was a long tube dragging a rolling canister behind it on The Brady Bunch.

Vacuum cleaners are not simply used for carpet. Many models can be used on hard wood floors or have attachments to vacuum upholstery, curtains and furniture.

So if you are in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, what are some of the things to look for?

Upright Vacuum

Canister or Upright Vacuum
Uprights are the most commonly used and most recognizable vacuum cleaners.

They function as an all in one unit, with both the motor that powers the suction action in one compact design. However, some models offer dual motors, one to drive the vacuum and the other to drive the brush. The advantage to this design is that it offers better suction power.

There is a reason why uprights are the most commonly used vacuum cleaners. Most people find them quicker and easier to use than dragging a canister around the house behind you. And if you have back problems, you probably want to stick with this type of cleaner since it does not require bending at an angle to use.

Many models also come with the hose and attachments that allow you to clean sofas and stairs within 5 to 15 feet of the upright.

They also transition with just a flip of a switch to being able to suction deep carpeted floors to bare hard wood floors without switching out attachment nozzles.

Finally, most types of uprights require less maintenance because they tend to hold more dust and debris than their canister cousins.


Some of the pros of canister cleaners are also the cons of uprights. If you need to clean under low profile furniture or beneath sofas or chairs, uprights cannot perform this type of functions. Yes, you can use some of the provided attachment hoses, however, they are much more cumbersome and less effective for reaching under furniture than the long hose and nozzle of a canister.

Uprights are also bulky and what I call awkward weight. Sometimes things are harder to carry, not because they weigh more, but simply because of their shape and design. Uprights are not only awkward weight, but bottom heavy weight which makes them more difficult to carry up stairs. Contrast this with a canister model which typically has a handle on top which can be carried in one hand like a suitcase, and the hose and nozzle in the other hand.

Canister Vacuums

Canister or Upright Vacuum
A canister model consists of two separate parts that include a body housing the motor that is pulled behind the suction hose on wheels.


Canisters typically have larger motors which create better suction allowing for a more thorough cleaning. They also offer better maneuverability allowing you to reach under tables and furniture with a low profile. They are also great at vacuuming stairs, something that is difficult with an upright.

Because of the lightweight hose and head nozzle, canisters are better for individuals that have trouble moving or lifting heavier objects. Most of their weight is in the canister itself, which is simply dragged along as you use it rather than slinging around a heavier upright model.

Canister or Upright Vacuum

The very thing that makes canisters easier to maneuver for those unable to lift and move heavier objects also can be one of its biggest cons for some people.

The act of dragging the canister behind as you vacuum can be irritating if vacuuming a large open area, and there is always the possibility of banging it into your furniture.

Also, you have the change the head nozzle on the hose when switching from vacuuming carper to hard wood or tile floors on most models.

Finally, they tend to cost more than upright models, but this is not always the case.

Things to Consider Before Deciding on a Vacuum

So which type of model is best?

It depends on your needs, your home, your physical condition, how often you vacuum, the type of flooring in your home and whether or not you have an upstairs and downstairs in your home.

Another consideration may be whether or not you own pets in your home. Some models are better at removing pet contaminants or have HEPA filters inside.

Sometimes the most important consideration for some may be whether or not the electric cord retracts on its own or not. Both uprights and canisters now offer this convenience, so no more rolling cords up and down if you like.

HEPA Filters for Allergies

If you own pets or have really bad allergies, you may want to consider getting a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA certified filter. Both canister and uprights models offer this option.

HEPA filters are certified to remove dust particles, pet dander and allergens from air inside the home.

To be effective, vacuum cleaners for allergies and pets are recommended to have a strong motor of at least 12 amps to create more suction.

However, most importantly, look for canister models with the right attachments for pet hair or uprights with adjustable settings for the different types of flooring.

Bag or Bagless Vacuum Cleaner?

If you do not like changing vacuum cleaner bags, there are a lot of options for bagless models. Both types clean well, but bags may seal contaminant better than bagless design.

With a bagless model, you only need to detach a separate piece on the model which contains the debris, then simply dump it without pulling bags out and getting dust everywhere. The other obvious advantage is that you do not have to buy replacement vacuum cleaner bags.

So it really comes down to whether or not you have bad allergies or pets and want to prevent more of the dust, debris and pet dander from potentially getting into the air. If that is your primary concern, you are probably better off with a bag design. And again, consider a HEPA filter.

Canister or Upright Vacuum


There are two things I cannot stand to hear: a hair dryer and a vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaner noise is one of those grating things I cannot stand, especially if someone else is using it.

If you really hate vacuuming like me, you can get one of the new robot models that travel across the floor in a random pattern, sort of like a robot pool vacuum cleaner. These self-propelled models have built-in sensors that guide them so they do not constantly bump into furniture.

The type of model you ultimately choose will depend on a variety of factors. Most people opt for an upright vacuum cleaner for its all in one convenience; however, do not discount canister models because they are more versatile, able to reach more places.

Additionally, consider the layout of your home, your physical condition, type of flooring and how often you will be using your vacuum cleaner before making a final decision.

If you do decide on a canister model, you will probably have to order it online. A recent visit to a Wal-Mart, I noticed they did not have anything but upright models. However, I cannot speak for other retail stores such as Target or Macys.

Eureka Mighty Mite Canister Vacuum, 3670G - Corded
Amazon Price: $45.24 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 4, 2016)


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