inexpensive, decent vacuum cleaner?
June 7, 2016 5:45 PM   Subscribe

It's been 20+ years since I bought a vacuum cleaner. The other day that old Hoover dramatically gave up the ghost by belching dust onto a black rug 30 minutes before a photographer was due to photograph the room (long story for another time.) I need a vacuum cleaner. I don't want to pay a bunch of money for it. What do I get?

The world has changed and I am utterly without bearings. Back in my day, vacuums had bags - didn't they? - and weren't expensive. But when I go to look now, there's a whole category of "bagless" (is this good? Do you just empty it into the trash?) and some are cordless (this seems awesome -- is it?) and they have a weird form factor that seems heavier up top (don't they tip over? Do you have to carry its weight in your hand?) and there seem to be trendy/prestige brands involved, which I really don't understand. And they seem outrageously expensive.

I've read some cleaning blogs and they give conflicting advice on bags, bagless etc. I don't know. Does anyone have a recommendation for a vacuum cleaner that's simple (reliably picks dust, hair etc up off of carpets and floors) and not expensive to buy or maintain? Is Bed Bath & Beyond a good place to get one? When I look there, they seem to cost several hundred dollars.

posted by fingersandtoes to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The various Shark vacuums work well and are certainly much more reasonably priced than Dysons.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:57 PM on June 7, 2016

Best answer: Sweethome has it figured out for you.
posted by deezil at 6:01 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I received really great recommendations in this question. I ended up getting a Shark Navigator Lift Away NV360, and I loved it. At the time, I had inherited an apartment infested with carpet beetles (I know, gross). Within a month of using the Shark, I noticed the problem went down dramatically. I ended up moving away, but had I stayed any longer, I think the Shark would've eradicated the pest issue completely.

I liked it so much that when I relocated back to the West Coast, I ended up buying another Shark, this time the Shark Navigator Deluxe (NV42). Same great performance, I just didn't need the portable canister because I'm in a tiny studio. I follow theora55's advice, and use a seam ripper to cut out any hair tangled in the rollers.
posted by invisible ink at 6:04 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another vote for a Shark, it's a really excellent vacuum for a very reasonable price.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:11 PM on June 7, 2016

Best answer: Also a Shark, chosen over a Dyson. Super great, no complaints.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:34 PM on June 7, 2016

Best answer: I like the bagless vacuums much better. Also, in the past 15 years or so, vacuums are much lighter, quieter, and easier to maneuver, even the cheap ones. I ended up with this after a grudging trip to replace a heavily abused Dirtdevil. I figured for $80 I'd try it out, and I love the danged thing.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 6:42 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: we also have what is basically a cheap copy of a dyson (in our case it's a chinese made chilean brand, so i won't give specifics, but just nthing the general cheap bagless approach). for what it's worth, one way to compare different cleaners is the number of filter stages (presumably more is better). also, i believe that for bagless cleaners the larger diameter the tube that collects dust, the more efficient they should be.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:47 PM on June 7, 2016

Best answer: If you want to go deep, check out the famous Reddit AMA from a vacuum repair technician.
"In my opinion, Shark vacs are literally built to fail.

Take their steamer: The exterior panels use stainless steel screws to avoid corrosion. Neat, right?? Every screw and hose clamp inside is made of cheap steel that rusts and fails, quickly."

posted by JoeZydeco at 6:59 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Sweethome article deezil linked to also shows a Panasonic canister vac that I have and like. It is powerful and quiet, eerily quiet for someone who had an upright Eureka until a couple years ago. It's well thought out and is easily the best vacuum I have used.
posted by jet_silver at 7:19 PM on June 7, 2016

I was pleased to see the AMA vaccum guy endorses our current vacuum, a Miele canister. I've used/owned two Dysons (one upright, one canister) and I like the Miele a lot better.
posted by glitter at 8:21 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have said it before on here: my husband professionally repaired vacuums for years, and never recommends a bagless if you want a vacuum that will last. If you're on a strict budget, go on craigslist and get a used but working older Electrolux or Miele (especially the canister versions of either). And yeah, get something that needs a bag. They're pains in the butt, sure, but they're there to protect the mechanical pieces of the vacuum. We're using a fully functional canister electrolux from the 70s.

Based on his reports of trying to fix them, I would be very surprised if people's plastic bagless dysons or sharks last that long.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dysons aren't meant to be fixed by anyone but Dyson - repair shops hate them for that reason. They're good vacuums. Super overpriced.

Panasonic canister with powerhead would be my choice if I didn't feel like dropping $500 or more on Miele or Dyson; Shark vacuums are utter shit, the kind you buy yearly.
posted by Nyx at 9:38 PM on June 7, 2016

Best answer: I had a $50 Shark for my carpeted one bedroom, but it stopped working within two years. Technically, it worked but three minutes at a time. This is even after replacing the battery.

When I moved to a new apartment, I shelled out $600 for a Miele. My boyfriend has two cats that shed a lot and I knew I didn't want cat hair tumbleweeds everywhere. Plus we might get a dog next year, so it made sense to buy a nice vacuum that could grow with us.

It was a lot of money, but totally worth it. It's relatively quiet and sucks up everything. We use it on the hardwood floors, the high pile rugs, the low pile rugs, the sofas, etc. Plus it came with a seven year warrantee so I can take it back to the vacuum guy in town.
posted by mlo at 9:50 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a severe dust allergy, two cats, and a cocker spaniel. I bought a refurbished Dyson through Woot. I couldn't justify paying retail when only room in my house is carpeted. But after vacuuming that room, the air feels cleaner because I can breathe better. The mister, who initially scoffed at my purchase, uses it in the kitchen instead of sweeping. I've had it five years now. We're planning on replacing the carpet with hardwood and my mom is adamant that I give her the vacuum after. So if you can get one refurbished on the cheap, it's worthwhile.
posted by Ruki at 9:53 PM on June 7, 2016

Best answer: Dysons aren't meant to be fixed by anyone but Dyson - repair shops hate them for that reason. They're good vacuums. Super overpriced.

Read the vacuum repair AMA if you don't believe my husband's experiences. This is from one of his follow-ups:
I'm sure some people think [Dysons are] great vacuums. But, as a professional and Dyson warranty technician, I know better. I know how often they break. I know how many design flaws they have. I know what they leave behind in the carpet. I know how they compete against real premium vacuums.

Look, it's like this: There's a reason no vacuum repair techs use bagless vacuums in our homes, and it's certainly not because we get our bags for free. It's because we know what are and are not good vacuums.


There really is no comparison. There is NO Dyson EVER that will last a quarter of the lifespan of a high-end Miele. They just are poorly built vacuums.

I don't know what else to tell you, if you're not willing to believe an impartial party.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 PM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Cross posted, on non-preview. I would never pay full price for a Dyson. But for what I paid, it's served me well.
posted by Ruki at 9:58 PM on June 7, 2016

I had a Dyson for 6 years, 4 of which have been less-often used in a home with wood floors. My husband hated the thing, even after we moved and I started using it as a sort-of-canister because I had the hardwood floor tool.

I just picked up an old Electrolux from the 60s off eBay for ~$100 and the thing is quieter and does a better job vacuuming than my modern Dyson ever did.
posted by bookdragoness at 10:59 PM on June 7, 2016

Dustbags are big and stupid and expensive and not a bit cool. Vortex dust separators are cunning and clever and look rather wonderful.

But here's the thing: dustbags work better and don't emit the deafening whistles and shrieks made by vortex separators.

Go find your nearest specialist vacuum cleaner store, and find out what they have to offer in high-capacity canister vacs with dustbags. They're still made and they're still good, because commercial cleaning still needs to happen.

The new-style bagless designs exist only to ride on the coattails of Dyson's incredibly successful marketing campaigns, cost less than the Dysons they're knocking off, have even worse build quality, and have almost completely displaced proper vacs from general electrical retail outlets. If you want a good vac, go to a store that specializes in vacs.
posted by flabdablet at 12:59 AM on June 8, 2016

I bought a refurbished (by a random vacuum cleaner guy, not by Dyson) Dyson Ball Animal on craigslist for $120 and I love it. Last month my roommate also found a regular Dyson Ball on the street, which works perfectly and I prefer it for our hardwood floors. I use the bigger one for carpets and soft furniture because it has crazy intense suction that makes it hard to use on wood floors.
posted by ananci at 2:34 AM on June 8, 2016

we've had to throw away a cleaner before because we could no longer find the right sized bags.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:19 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have the basic Kenmore bagless upright, the 10 years ago model of this. It was cheap and still works great, and occasional belt or filter replacements are easily gotten at Sears.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:24 AM on June 8, 2016

Bought a shark. crap quality, weak vacuum, battery failed quickly. I consider the brand disposable.
posted by lalochezia at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2016

I have an older model of the Bissell Cleanview that the Sweethome hates, and it's 100% fine. I had an older one for something like six years, and it's fine. I had a household change and bought another one four years ago, and it's been fine. I think it actually works great. I don't spend anything like $20 per year on filters or belts. The belts I do replace every six months or so, but they're a couple bucks. You do have to clean the lower filter to keep the vacuum running at full power, but that's mostly just pulling hair and knocking dust out of it the exterior foam. We broke the latch that holds it up at one point, and I replaced it using a YouTube video as a guide for less than $10.
posted by cnc at 2:44 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

nthing old Electrolux off of wherever.

About 6 months ago I picked up an 1952 Electrolux Model E for $25 with retractable cord, re-usable cloth bag etc. It is simple, light, sturdy and cleans well.
posted by lampshade at 12:39 AM on June 9, 2016

I've had a shitty Dyson for 16 years.

I also own a Miele. The bags are easy to replace, it's lighter and more convenient than the shitty Dyson. It definitely makes things look cleaner than the shitty Dyson. I had to replace a part for the Miele because I compulsively take things apart, in a hurry, without taking account of where everything ends up. The vacuum repair place had a replacement for this oddly shaped plastic/metal thing on hand. It was inexpensive. And they knew what I was talking about when I said, "the thing...the thing that fits onto the thing with the other thing and the stuff."

But I kind of like the shitty Dyson.

I have some generic bag-less for my office. I got it at a garage sale with some sweet ass old crates for twenty bucks. It's a piece of shit. Does just fine.

The Miele picks up more. No doubt. But that doesn't tell me how much is left. Is my shitty Dyson getting 80% and the Miele is getting 90%? Is my shitty Dyson getting 5% and the Miele is getting twice as much?

Who knows.

I bought the Miele because of that reddit AMA. That's fine. If you're pinching pennies, get a lightweight bag-less that's impossible to repair with all those cheap parts but then don't store it in the rain where it's gonna get all shitted up with rust.

My wife likes the Miele. But I've cleaned the house with both and lied about it. Nobody knew the difference.

I'm allergic to something produced by trees, but it's just irritation, not like I'm gonna kill myself. We use the cheap air filters and dust and vacuum regularly. That keeps me comfortable in the house.

Take that with a grain of salt, though.

I live in Minnesota.

We swim in lakes where animals eat, drink, piss, shit, fuck, die and decay.

It's possible it's just really filthy here which might disguise how amazing the Miele is.
posted by garry.smith at 9:59 AM on June 10, 2016

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