Floor care with pets, not-so-small-space edition
May 26, 2019 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Shedding pets, hardwood, carpet, laminate, tile, and a preference for cleanliness: what gadgets are best for a multi-floor, multi-surface house?

I have a ~1100 sqft house (excluding however big the partially finished basement is) with:
  • Concrete and laminate in the basement
  • Hardwood flooring in the living room
  • Ceramic tile in the foyer, kitchen, and bathrooms
  • Light-coloured low-pile carpet on the stairs and second floor
I also have a heavy-shedding floof of a cat and chances are another four-legged shedder (dog, cat, goat, hell if I know) will join my home soon. Current cat has good litter box habits, so I'm not dealing with pet stain removal issues, but I'm sure that carpets can begin to get some eau de pet butt going on.

I've mostly lived in smaller apartments/condos before, and never previously had pets in a home with carpeted floors or non-leather furniture, so trying to keep up with a stick vac and microfibre mop isn't really working.

What appliances do I need to keep things clean? Do I need to invest in a steam mop? A multi-surface cleaner? Or do I just need a better stick vac? I would prefer to not have to spend Dyson-level dollars on a single tool unless it can do all the things. Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by blerghamot to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I used to be impressed with the obvious cleverness of the Dyson cyclonic vacuum cleaner design; adapting industrial dust separation technology to home use struck me as a brilliant move.

Then I owned a cheap knockoff (a Piranha, which I think is a rebadged Shark). That shat itself. Then I owned a Dyson. Bits broke off it, then more bits wore out, then it shat itself. And for the whole time I owned these things I was constantly needing to interrupt my cleaning to empty too-small canisters that wouldn't separate dust once they got about a quarter full, and to wash and dry filters that would otherwise clog and cut the suction back to nearly nothing.

Then I noticed that I'd only ever met one person who cleans for a living and likes Dyson gear, and that all the vacuum cleaners that the school cleaning crew used were capacious canister units with large disposable bags, and the scales fell from my eyes.

I am super happy with my Pullman PC4 canister vac. It sucks like a black hole with a hose, it's quiet (unlike a Dyson, all of which just shriek) and the bags are big enough that it doesn't lose suction until it's good and full. That takes a couple of months at my place, and our small friends are also very floofy.

I think the PC4 is a rebadged generic Chinese vac of some sort, but if some incarnation of it is not available where you live, I strongly recommend looking around at what's available in low-end commercial vacuum cleaners near you. You want something that takes big disposable bags and doesn't try to look pretty and petite like all the domestic vacs do. Ugly, lumpy, huge, cheap to buy, cheap to run, hard to break, gets the job done: commercial vac. To get anything even close to commercial vac performance in a domestic vac could easily cost you five times as much.

The only mod I made to the PC4 was rearranging the strain relief tag on the power cord, which used to attach to the removable motor section at the top of the body and encourage the machine to fall over backwards whenever the cord snagged. I now have it hooked to a loop I bolted to the rear of the body right opposite the hose entry, and that issue is solved.

Ask anybody who fixes vacuum cleaners for a living and they will tell you that the motors in a bagged design always easily outlast those in a bagless, and their HEPA filters need changing less often. This is because the bag itself does a much better job of retaining all but the very finest dust than a cyclone (even a multi-stage cyclone) will ever do. Cyclones are also not really well suited to separating hair, which tends to make its way straight into the first filter and block it up with impregnated felt.

I like disposable bags a lot better than the cloth bags my Mum's old vacuum cleaner used to use; not because I'm squeamish about emptying a vac bag, but because of the clogging issue. The reason Dyson was ever able to use non-clogging as a selling point in the first place is that cloth bags do clog; the fabric gets all choked with fine dust that never really comes out. But by the time that's happened to a paper bag, it's full enough to replace anyway. The only real downside of the paper bags is cost, but for what you pay for a Dyson you can easily get a nice big commercial vac and a ten year supply of bags and still come out ahead.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 PM on May 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Seriously, in our pet-ful house we have an elderly (close to ten years? Is that possible?) Roomba that no longer has functioning anti-stair-suicide sensors and is probably going to figure out how to undo the baby gate at the top because it is just its time. I set it to vacuum every day we are both working and it does its job well enough and is certainly much much better than me vacuuming every couple weeks. When it finally dies I will absolutely replace it.

In addition to that I do the hardwood with a squirt and mop product occasionally, and have a cheap steam mop for the tile (but we have a LOT of tile). The frequent Roomba-ing is what make the fur situation livable, though, and it does fine on the hardwood, tile, low profile carpet and deep carpet.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:42 PM on May 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I can't afford to get a new vacuum, so I go over the carpets (and soft furniture) with a rubber broom like this one before vacuuming, to get most of the cat hair up. (Current kitty is half Norwegian Forest Cat and previous cat was a Maine Coon, so I feel you on the floof.)

Unless there's a spill or something, I've always just used a dust mop on hardwood floors.

For tile, I love my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Roller Mop.

One of these textured rubber mats next to the cat box cuts down on tracking stray bits of litter all over the place.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:31 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For eau de pet butt on carpets I would hire a carpet cleaning machine and use that once a year or however often.

I use a miele traditional style vacuum for my looks-like-a-cat-exploded-covered-in--fur rugs, and it works very well. Then I just sweep all the smooth surfaces every day with a regular old floor brush. It's easy, light, and very fast. In a pinch it works surprisingly well on fur on carpet too.

I also have a bunch of brushes like this that I use to brush down clothes, furniture, blankets, rugs, occasionally the cats... Cannot recommend them enough.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:47 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a basic canister vacuum, like this (mine's a Panasonic, but takes Kenmore bags), a plug-in stick vacuum (as I have had bad experiences with battery drain with rechargeable stick vacs), and an old upright Oreck that refuses to die, but it's good on rugs. The stick vac is a Bissell, think I got it for $20 at a big box store years ago, still works, is bagless, and has a washable filter.

I use the canister vacuum mostly to get pet hair off of furniture. When I lived in a house with carpeted stairs, it worked well on the stairs, but was a little awkward at the midway point, hauling it up. I like the retractable cord.

I use the stick vacuum to do quick pick-up of sand, dust bunnies, and cat hair off the laminate floors, and the upright vac to get the rug in the bedroom. I could use the canister vacuum for rugs, but the Oreck is lightweight and works on my runner rug and little rug in front of my sink, saves me from hauling out the canister vacuum and messing with attaching the floor attachment.

I did not want to spend a lot on a vacuum with attachments, and while there are mixed reviews on that model, mine has kept working so far (purchased in 2012). I wish the hose were a bit longer, so I can reach dust on the ceilings better, but it does the job.

I also have washable furniture covers, like this, which helps cut down trying to vacuum cat hair out of my duck cloth furniture. I still have to use a velcro cat hair remover to get the bulk of the hair off before washing (if you use furniture covers, don't wash them with anything you don't want matted cat fur on, like I did last week). Those furniture covers are quilted and reversible (I got dark green/light sage green), but they are not waterproof, so will not protect your furniture from pet stains like urine, but they are handy when kitty barfs on them, I can just wipe it up and then throw them in the wash.

For mopping, I just use a regular old sponge mop, after I've run the stick vacuum around and swept.

I ordered a 10-pack of bags online for my canister vacuum, and still have many left.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:09 AM on May 27, 2019

Best answer: We love our Shark vacuums so much we have one on each floor of our house. I was unimpressed with Dyson. Sharks are cheaper, last forever (our upstairs Shark vacuum is 12 years old), and work just as well if not better. Also a Swiffer WetJet for good cleaning and a Swiffer. Multiple dogs, lots of hair.
posted by biscotti at 4:53 AM on May 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have a sheddy dog and a sheddy cat, and this Roomba knockoff that allows me to exist relatively hair free.
I love this vacuum so much, it really cuts down on random hairs and fluff buildup on my wood floors ad tile kitchen/foyer floors. It sweeps up on low pile carpet as well, but doesn't do quite as good of a job there. I find that carpets will still need defurring on occasion.
I have it set to go off at around 2am and I just need to remember to pick up stray cords before I go to bed. I otfen will run it during the day as well if I'm around because why not?
posted by newpotato at 6:18 AM on May 27, 2019

Best answer: LOVE LOVE LOVE the Shark! I actually use it to vacuum my couches, too. Works great on hard surfaces and low-pile carpets.
posted by cooker girl at 7:02 AM on May 27, 2019

Best answer: I am anal level clean and I have two giant sheddy dogs and 1200 sf of hardwood, tile, laminate and carpet. I will never be without a dyson cordless. The key is that it’s very easy to empty and charge, so I can whip it out and vacuum the whole place at least once a day. The suction is great for a cordless but not as good as a canister vac, but because it’s so convenient I can use it for 90 seconds without much hassle.
posted by pintapicasso at 5:23 PM on May 27, 2019

Best answer: We have hairy dogs. Nthing a Shark for weekly or bi-weekly vacuumings, plus a Roomba knock-off (we love our Deebot N79) that runs every couple of days. My husband is a clean freak with allergies, and it keeps him happy.
posted by nosila at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions everyone! I have heard multiple good things about Shark vacuums as Dyson alternatives but now I'm pretty sold. I'm also interested in checking out some of these Roomba knockoffs for daily cleaning needs - it looks like altogether I'll still end up spending Dyson-level money on appliances.

I'm wary of canister vacs despite everyone's suggestions because ugh narrow staircases, but I'll definitely keep them in mind if a cordless model isn't sucking enough.

PS: as for my cat tax late payment, this should given a sense of how intense my de-floofing needs are.
posted by blerghamot at 3:10 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Awww, li'l Armadillo McFloofenberry!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:28 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

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