Choosing the right vacuum cleaner for your home
Vacuum cleaner technology has come on a long way from the days when everyone had an upright Hoover - but with so many options available, it can be hard to understand your cylinders from your cyclones.
If you are looking to buy a new vacuum cleaner for your home, the first thing to do is think about what you'll be using it for. Will you be vacuuming hard floors, carpets or both? Are stairs involved? And is cleaning up after pets a factor? Happily, the range of vacuum cleaner manufacturers and models means that there's a solution for virtually every need.
Upright or cylinder
One important consideration is whether to opt for a cylinder vacuum cleaner - where you have a separate brush and wheeled dust collector, connected together with a flexible hose - or the more traditional upright shape.
Cylinders have become increasingly popular in Britain in recent years, partly due to their compact size - which makes them easy to store - light weight and overall portability. The manoeuvrability of the hose and head also makes it a great choice for cleaning hard-to-reach places, such as underneath a sofa or bed. Many models also come with a range of tools for more specialist cleaning tasks, such as a hard-floor tool that's ideal for wood, laminate or tiles; a crevice tool for getting into awkward corners; or a dusting brush for more delicate surfaces.
These days, however, there are many attractive upright models too. Though not always as easy as cylinders to carry around, modern uprights are increasingly lightweight and usually come with handy attachments for cleaning areas such as stairs.
Bagged or bagless
Like cylinders, you can also choose between bagless upright models - where dust is collected in a cyclone that you can empty - or the more traditional dust-bag format. If emptying the vacuum isn't your favourite task, be sure to check the bin capacity - usually specified in litres - when you're comparing models, and be alert to the fact that uprights often have a higher capacity compared to the equivalent cylinder.
Pets and allergies
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, modern vacuum cleaners offer plenty of solutions to make your life a little easier. Look out for models with HEPA filters, which help to capture airborne household allergens, such as pollen or dust mite faeces, as well as allergens produced by cats and dogs. Choosing a filter that's washable will ensure that it keeps its performance for the long term.
If you do have pets in your home, it's definitely worth choosing a vacuum cleaner that makes it easier to clean up after your furry friends. Many manufacturers produce models that are specially designed to lift stubborn hairs from your carpets and sofas, using what they might describe as a 'mini turbine head or 'turbo brush', keeping the allergens at bay and your home hair free.
If you're only cleaning a small space, modern cordless handheld vacuum cleaners - powered by a rechargeable battery rather than from the mains - are also worth a look. Though you can get corded handheld vacuums, cordless models - which obviously give you complete flexibility of movement when cleaning your home or car - are understandably more popular.
As you'd expect, a handheld's bin capacity is typically much smaller than a cylinder or upright model, and you also need to be alert to the advertised run time - usually 15 to 20 minutes at best - as you don't won't your machine to run out of puff halfway up the stairs or midway through vacuuming the car.
The advantages of cordless handhelds, of course, are their light weight and small size, meaning that they are convenient to use and can easily be stored away (and charged) in a cupboard or utility room. A lot of handhelds also incorporate special pet-hair brushes, making them perfect for keeping on top of your animals' frequent shedding.
Many people own a handheld vacuum cleaner alongside an upright or cylinder model, to ensure that they have a ready solution to every cleaning problem! If you do have a relatively small space to look after, an alternative option is to go for a product such as the Dyson DC35, which begins to bridge the gap between a handheld and full-size vacuum. These models combine a cordless handheld vacuum with a long wand and powerful motorised floor tool, making them a great choice for everyday cleaning of carpets and hard floors as well as the more traditional handheld uses.
So, the key thing is to understand what you want your new vacuum cleaner to achieve, and to do your homework before buying it - that way you'll be delighted with your purchase and will be well equipped to maintain the clean and healthy home that you desire!
Photo credit: Muris Kuloglija Kula