Upright or Canister: The Vacuum Cleaner Choice You Don’t Need to Make

The choice of vacuum cleaners on the market today is bigger than ever before. But with choice comes a big conundrum: what’s the best vacuum cleaner for my home? Is an upright the way to go, or will I get more from my canister?

Those are the questions we want to answer today. We’ve put together a comprehensive comparison. So, depending on the needs of your home, you can be sure you’re investing in a vacuum cleaner that can cope with the demands you place on it.

What is the difference between an upright and canister vacuum?

Most vacuum cleaners are either an upright or a canister. But there other types available. Cordless cleaners are lightweight, mobile and perfect for spot cleaning relatively small areas. But uprights and canisters are still the most popular. And the difference between them is very clear.

The upright vacuum

An upright vacuum cleaner is the traditional “push and move” model that is perfect for larger homes. You push it in front of you, meaning you don’t have to bend down. Today, most good uprights have independently powered brushrolls. This allows them to agitate dust and debris that lies deep within carpet pile.

The canister vacuum

A canister vacuum — often referred to as a cylinder vacuum — is designed to be pulled behind you. They consist of a long, flexible hose. The canister travels on wheels as you pull it around, which makes it more manageable for people with mobility problems in their hands, arms and shoulders.

It’s also worth pointing out that, although most vacuum cleaners are now bagless, bagged versions are still available throughout Europe.

Should I buy an upright vacuum cleaner?

While often more expensive than canister vacuums, uprights possess some very clear advantages. For a start, they’re very good at covering large expanses of floor quickly. And if you have large areas of carpet, there’s nothing better.

Today’s upright vacuum cleaners are agile and lightweight. With a simple flick of the wrist, you can make 90 degree turns with ease. This is ideal if you’re negotiating furniture or if you have awkwardly shaped spaces in your home.

Uprights also tend to be better at one-pass cleaning. They’re heavier, and they also tend to deliver more power. These qualities are essential if you always struggle to find the time to clean. And they deliver a wider cleaning path — requiring less movement and walking.

Are there any disadvantages to owning an upright vacuum cleaner?

There are a few significant disadvantages, but not all of them will apply to you. For example, most brand uprights aren’t adept at cleaning stairs.

Another major issue to consider is an upright’s bulky nature. If you have lots of tight spaces to clean in your home, gaining access to them isn’t easy with an upright. Invariably, you have to use attachments, which can take time, effort and quite a bit of bending down.

The average upright has a cable length of around eight to nine metres. If you’re vacuuming a very large house with limited power outlets, this might be an issue — albeit a minor one.

Should I buy a canister vacuum cleaner?

The most obvious advantage to using a canister vacuum cleaner is its compact nature. If your home is short on floorspace, this particular benefit could be very important.

Canisters are pulled, not pushed. This might mean moving it around can be easier, which is important if you struggle with mobility issues.

And don’t forget access. A cylinder vacuum’s bendy hose is perfect for reaching out-of-the-way areas. Yes, you can use an attachment on an upright, but that involves using accessories. If you’re accessing these awkward areas daily, a canister could deliver convenience and speed.

Are there any disadvantages to owning an upright vacuum cleaner?

Many of the disadvantages associated with canister vacuum cleaners are strengths of the upright. For example, using a canister on large expanses of thick carpet can be a real slog. You don’t have the weight of the machine helping you, so you have to do more of the hard work.

Tip: If you’re determined to go with a canister, choose one with a motorised brushroll. This should make pushing and pulling against heavy pile a lot easier.

Another drawback relates to storage. Uprights are designed in a way that allows you to get the wires and flexible hose well out of the way. With a canister, however, the hose will always take up extra space.

It’s also worth thinking about how you use your vacuum. For a lot of the time, a canister is behind you; you pull it around. As you’re not watching it all the time, there’s a chance it might bump into walls and furniture as you move around. Over time, this can cause scuffs and damage.

To summarise, here’s a list of the pros and cons of both types of vacuum cleaner:

Upright pros

  • Efficient at picking up from deep within pile
  • Transitioning between carpet and hard flooring is done by foot (no bending)
  • Less bending generally, thanks to an ergonomically designed handle
  • Storage is simple and tidy
  • Good for large expanses of floor
  • A wider cleaning path

Upright cons

  • Uprights have a tendency to be a little noisier
  • They’re relatively heavy
  • Many of them struggle on stairs
  • They can be less effective at reaching corners, under furniture and awkward spaces

Canister pros

  • Lighter and easier to carry
  • More agile and able to access tight areas, underneath furniture
  • Great for cleaning at height (no new attachments required)
  • Quieter
  • Easier on joints
  • Better for cleaning stairs (using built-in hose)

Canister cons

  • There’s often a little bit of assembly required before you can use a canister
  • They’re harder to store than uprights and cordless vacuums
  • Dragging a canister around can cause damage to walls and furniture
  • There’s often more bending involved
  • They can struggle with thick-pile carpet

What if I want the best of both worlds?

No home consists of just expanses of a single type of flooring. In reality, we live in complex homes with different needs. And if more than one person is responsible for vacuuming, the requirements might differ substantially. What happens if you want the best of both worlds; the speed and power of an upright and the accessibility of a canister?

The Shark Lift-Away system is the answer. Why? Because it’s both an upright and a canister. Use the upright mode to cover your thick carpets. And when it’s time to vacuum tight areas or around furniture, lift off the dust canister with a single click — and move around wherever you like! There’s even a canister caddy available for most models so you can wheel the dust canister along.

With Powered Lift-Away you can even reach underneath furnature using the floor head of your vacuum, making it easier to clean those hard-to-reach spaces.

Shark’s Lift-Away system is two vacuums in one. So, whether you’re cleaning your caravan, stairs or your living room, all your vacuuming needs are covered.

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