Vacuuming may be one of the most common household chores, but that doesn’t mean there’s no strategy involved. To keep your floors free of dust, dirt and other debris, you’ll need to create a routine, choose the right type of vacuum, and follow some simple steps for use and upkeep.
Danielle Lessing, vice president of global product development at SharkNinja, says how often a person vacuums depends on their lifestyle and space. If you’re a pet-free empty nester living in a small condo with hardwood floors, you probably need to vacuum once a week; families with multiple kids or pets should vacuum more often. It’s a good idea to spot-clean high-traffic areas every other day or so.
“If you don’t, the dirt you bring in can cause early wear on carpets and bare floors,” Lessing says.
You can take steps to preserve the lives of your vacuum and flooring. Professional house cleaner Irina Nikiforova, owner of Rocket Maids LA, says it’s important to pick up larger particles before vacuuming to avoid jams. Then vacuum in lines: first up and down a room, then side to side. “That makes sure you also vacuum against the direction of the pile, so the vacuum can pick up smaller particles you may have missed,” she says.
It’s also critical to choose the right vacuum for the job. Heavy-duty cleaning may require an upright canister or bag model. Lighter-weight models, such as stick or wand vacuums, work well for smaller messes: crumbs under the dining table or dust on your hardwood. For cleaning bare floors, Lessing says, the model matters. Most vacuums have brushes that intermittently contact the ground; good hard-floor vacuums have constant contact and seal to the floor, creating a wiping action that picks up the fine layer of dust you only see when sunlight enters the space.
Just as you care for your flooring to lengthen its life, you can promote your vacuum’s longevity by following the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. Lessing suggests removing hair from brush rolls once a month (or sooner if you notice jamming). Clean your filter frequently, too. Erin Reed, director of dry specialty marketing at Bissell, suggests doing this after every two to three uses to ensure proper airflow and suction. Most filters are washable; just rinse in a utility sink and air-dry.
As for the bag or canister, be aware of the line indicating the optimal fullness level. “When you go past that, the vacuum will lose suction and pick up less,” Reed says.
To avoid a mess when emptying a canister, Nikiforova suggests taking out the bigger, stuck-together dust or hair particles by hand, so you don’t have to shake the canister too aggressively. Reed recommends sticking the canister as far down into an empty trash bag as possible to clear it, or dumping it into an outdoor trash bin. You can also tie a plastic shopping bag around the dirt bin to contain the dust plume.
With the variety of models available, it can be tough to choose the one that will best keep your space free of dirt, dust and debris. Here’s what you need to know about each kind of vacuum.
Pros: Hand vacs are lightweight and easy to store. They can also reach corners and tight areas that larger vacuums can’t. Newer models may have more battery life and suction power.
Cons: Many hand-vac models have notoriously short battery lives and small canisters.
Best for: Quick cleanings of small spaces, such as beneath couch cushions or in the car, where you don’t have a power source. Hard-to-reach areas, such as corners, counters and staircases, also benefit from hand vacs. And you can use a brush attachment to clean your car interior or dust off your baseboards.
Pro recommendation: The Shark WV201 Wandvac ($120 at amazon.com) is the model Nikiforova recommends. “It’s quite powerful for a handheld vacuum and can be purchased as a whole system with a regular floor attachment,” she says.
Pros: Think of a stick vac as a happy medium between a hand vacuum and a full-size upright model. They generally have more capacity and suction power than hand vacs, Lessing says, but they’re also cordless and lightweight, which makes them easy to maneuver and store.
Cons: They may have shorter battery lives, depending on the model, and because they’re lightweight, you’ll have to empty the canister more frequently. They also don’t have as much suction power as upright models.
Best for: Everyday cleaning of hard floors and rugs. Nikiforova says many stick vacuums come with attachments, so they can vacuum high-pile carpeting, too. If you’re concerned about space, a stick vac is a great option; just store yours in a small closet or attach it to a hook on the wall.
Pro recommendation: Austin Miller, founder of Spruse Clean in Seattle, suggests the Dyson V11 Animal ($599 at amazon.com).
Pros: They’re among the most powerful vacuums in terms of suction, and because they’re larger, you’ll have more time between emptying the bag or canister. Many come with attachments for different jobs; Nikiforova likes to use brushes to clean baseboards. Some vacuums come with crevice attachments for corners.
Cons: Upright models are usually corded, so you’ll be confined to one space. They’re heavier, more difficult to maneuver and may not effectively clean tight spaces without attachments.
Best for: Your weekly or biweekly deep clean. Just as you would change your iron’s heat level by fabric, Reed says, it’s important to choose the right setting to prevent damaging floors. Many vacuums have hardwood, leather or upholstery features and accessories. You can also adjust the floor brush to more effectively vacuum high- or low-pile carpeting.
Pro recommendation: Miller recommends the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 ($200 at amazon.com). “Our staff use these daily,” he says. “Over the course of years, they still hold suction, and they’re easy to clean out when needed.”
Pros: They essentially do the work for you, extending the time between deep cleans.
Cons: They may not be as thorough as vacuuming yourself, and you may encounter snags with rugs or furniture.
Best for: According to Lessing, robot vacuums are ideal for daily maintenance. “They’re best for the person who leaves in the morning and wants to come home to a clean space,” she says.
Pro recommendation: Miller suggests the iRobot Roomba 675 ($280 at amazon.com). “If your home is multi-floor, we encourage buying one for each floor to keep your floors spotless throughout your entire home.”
Pros: Carpet shampooers combine suction power with washing to keep carpets and rugs fresh.
Cons: Carpet shampooers can be bulky and heavy, and they’re not versatile. That might be a problem for people with limited storage; however, many home-improvement stores offer rentals.
Best for: As-needed spot- or deep-cleaning rugs and carpets.
Pro recommendation: The Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner ($300 at amazon.com) is the model Nikiforova likes.