Keeping it Clean Here, Boss!
February 13, 2008 4:20 PM   Subscribe

We need to replace two horrible bagless upright vacuum cleaners which make an unbearable amount of noise and are largely ineffective, with a good relatively quiet single unit.

We have a mix of hard and carpeted floors. Are all bagless vacuums worthless and terribly loud? Ours, purchased with the best of intentions, are almost unusable. They kill us with the noise and they just move the dirt around on the hard floors. We actually use noise protectors when vacuuming with one of them. We're not noise freaks otherwise and we love loud music.

When we moved to our first two story home in summer 2005, our rationale for owning two of these was that we'd be more inclined to keep things clean if we had a unit for each of our two floors.

However, now we'd gladly trade off dragging a vacuum up and down the stairs to find something which works and does not require ear protection.

We'll buy bags in a heartbeat if that's what it takes.
posted by imjustsaying to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I love our Dyson DC17 Animal. It is bagless, relatively quiet, and comes with the best bare floor attachments I've ever used. It made our black carpet look new, which is quite a feat considering how much shedding our dogs do.

One thing the Dyson is not is cheap.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:29 PM on February 13, 2008

Melee's insanely expensive vacuums are very quiet and pretty light. I didn't vacuums could be that quiet till I got one. Melees are primarily noted for their excellent air filtration systems. I got one because my doctor said it would help with my allergies. Like the Riccar TWF mentions, melee had a suction powered brush head though I'm not sure if they still make them.
posted by chairface at 4:43 PM on February 13, 2008

Roomba! We just got our second Roomba (2 stories), and we got a Scooba when we moved to a loft with concrete floors. The robot does it while you're out, too, and gets under the bed.

Downside, though, is that it's not heavy duty. Does the job if you don't let it get out of hand. Also known to eat rug fringe and power cords.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 4:43 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

We have 3 kids and they all make lots of messes...We've been through the cheapos from target, the more expensive ones on line and the one that keeps humming? A 1984 Kirby Heritage from a garage sale. I know this probably isn't the advice you're looking for, because the Kirby isn't purple, or have lots of clear moving parts so you can see the dirt, and you won't find glowing reviews for it on Amazon or Consumer Reports, but man, the thing just keeps going.

With 3 girls in the house, the thing just sucks hair up and you never see it again. I can't tell you how many evenings I spent with a pair of scissors and a grimace on my face trimming hair out of the rollers. I've never cleaned the Kirby's rollers.

It is heavy. It isn't that loud compared to some cheap units we've used. You may not relish carrying it up and down stairs, but hey, think of it as short workout you don't have to go to the gym for. It does bare floors with a manual height adjustment and a lever to turn the belt off. And, at 100-150 a pop, you could buy 4 for the price of a dyson...

Ahh, and the best part...get the hair cutting attachments ;-)

Ebay Search for Kirby Heritage
posted by johngalt at 4:46 PM on February 13, 2008

I once heard that home vacuum cleaners are made louder than necessary, so that people will think they're cleaning, in much the same way dish soap is engineered to make more suds so people will think it's cleaning better. I was searching for confirmation of this, but didn't find any. But I did find plenty of pages saying to check the filter. So, whatever vacuum you end up getting, I guess, make sure and keep the filter clean, and replace it however often is suggested.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2008

We also have a Dyson (the model sold at Cosco with umpteen attachments). It is a very good vacuum, and gets a significant amount of dust and small dirt -- our son and I have dust allergies, so this was important. It's moderately noisy, but not as bad as our old Hoover. FWIW, it was also moderately expensive

Like johngalt, we also used to have an old Kirby. Man, I loved that thing! Built like a tank, sort of squat and ugly. Eventually, the cord separated from the motor and we decided to get a new one instead of having it fixed. We got the aforementioned Hoover, which sucked, and not in the good way.

The old Kirbys are indeed tough and admirable machines, and real workhorses on stuff like hair and general dirt. Having owned both, I think the Dyson we have now is probably the better vacuum for dust. Neither model is particularly quiet.
posted by mosk at 5:17 PM on February 13, 2008

I think chairface meant to be typing "Miele". They truly are amazing, and fit all of your requirements.
posted by Roach at 5:34 PM on February 13, 2008

I'm one of those people who has to wear earplugs to vacuum usually. My friend brought over her Dyson Animal and I was impressed. It's not whisper-quiet but the noise was totally tolerable and didn't make me feel like my ears were bleeding. I used it on carpets, harwood floors and getting dust and spiderwebs out of everyplace and it was pretty easy to move around and easy to empty.
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 PM on February 13, 2008

Eureka Mighty Mite can suck up a sock from across the room and is under $100. It's a small unit, not an upright, uses bags. Get the HEPA filter one for about $30 more. It's not necessarily quiet, but it is very efficient so you'll not have to use it as long as it sounds like you have to use what you have now. I have cats and it is great on cat hair, too.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:51 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

A thumbs-down antivote for Miele. Our upright Miele is fairly quiet and sucks averagely well, but is badly designed internally and the plastic bits break easily. I wouldn't get another.

We had an Oreck before, and it was just as well made as the Miele, sucked better, and weighed much much less. Of course, it was very overpriced thanks to all Oreck's heavy advertising, but I would consider another.
posted by anadem at 7:07 PM on February 13, 2008

One way to choose a vacuum cleaner (at least in the US) would be to consult Consumer Reports magazine. They rate vacuums on many criteria, including noise. Looks like their latest tests are in the January 2008 issue, probably available at your local library.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:13 PM on February 13, 2008

This is probably way off base buy you might consider retrofitting a central vacuum. I have a similar setup: two story home with a mixture of hardwood and carpet. We had a heavy Kirby that worked well but had a bag and was horrible on those with allergies. I started researching central vacs about 6 months ago and here's what I found:

-unit kept in garage, utility room, etc minimizing noise and nearly eliminating dust released by most vacuums.
-no heavy unit to carry around
-no bags to replace (with bagless model)
-installable kick vent in areas without carpet to collect swept up dirt
-much more powerful motor providing more suction. central vacs can come in bag, bagless and cyclone models.
-could add value to the home

-likely more expensive than a regular vacuum like the Dyson. (I paid ~ $500 for the unit, hoses, head unit, outlets and piping - mostly on ebay)
-installation could be expensive in a retrofit (I will install myself but received quotes for anywhere between $200 and $500)
-installation difficult in an existing home. you have to figure out a way to run the pipes but there are plenty of guides/suggestions to be found on the internets
-wall outlets needed. some find these "ugly"
-storage needed for hose and vacuum head. i have two 30' hoses, one per floor, in hall closets. additionally, hoses are not exactly light but not nearly as heavy as a vacuum.

I think the retrofit thing scares most people away but there are plenty of options in older homes.

Good luck
posted by toomuch at 7:17 PM on February 13, 2008

seconding Kriby.

i have 2 one i found next to a dumpster (has a stinky bag, but it really sucks. i mean has great suction. i use it without a beater bar for cleaning garage floor. really!) and one i got at a church rummage sale for $4.

check eBay. just don't buy a new one for $2K.
posted by KenManiac at 7:42 PM on February 13, 2008

Seconding Dyson.

We've had ours for about 3 years and I don't have a single complaint. Consumer Reports must have some type of bias towards Dyson as they conisistently rate them in the middle of the pack. (As a side note, I'm not going to renew my CS subsciption and will use Amazon reviews for product information). My wife hated the other bagless vacuums we've had before but likes the Dyson because of its inovative dust collector.

We bought ours from word of mouth and I love it. I've had two Kenmores, a Panasonic and a Eureka before and all of them had faults. Not so with the Dyson.
posted by qsysopr at 4:13 AM on February 14, 2008

Nthing the Dyson. Specifically the DC17 Animal.
We were replacing other uprights every 8-9 months, mainly because my long hair was killing them. We bought one 2 years ago and haven't had one problem. It is pricey, though.

In fact, it comes with a, as the saleslady termed it, a "throw it down the stairs and its covered" 5-year warranty on everything. I had gotten something lodged (a screwdriver, dont ask) in the hose and called Dyson to see if they could tell me how to get it out and they overnighted me a new wand, hose and attachments. That night the screwdriver fell out. I called Dyson to tell them the obstruction was removed and they told me to keep all the new pieces. woo hoo! Replacements just in case!
posted by sandra_s at 5:07 AM on February 14, 2008

I actually had some Kirby door-to-door sales kids come to my house last Monday when I was home with a hangover. The machine they were pitching was something like $1600 and I rent a place so I don't really care for the carpet, but this beast (I don't remember which model) sucked up a hell of a lot of dirt. I was mainly just happy to get my floor vacuumed for free. I would consider checking out Kirby in the future.
posted by gravity at 8:32 AM on February 14, 2008

I had an Electrolux for years. When it, um, stopped sucking, I got a Simplicity (around 2001?). Cost about $600, but it is awesome! Great on hardwood floors and carpet. It had an electrical problem with the hose after a couple years, but that was covered under warrantee. No problems since.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2008

Ditto the Miele. Expensive, but powerful and quiet.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2008

Linens & Things has a 20% sale this week and I bought a Dyson DC17 Animal at my local one...getting $110 off. Now I have a DC07 for the downstairs and a DC17 for the main level (have a 1967 split level). The Dyson is heavy and I hate dragging it downstairs but they do make a light model now. I have 3 dogs, 2 cats and you'll take away my Dyson(s) when you pry them from my cold dead hands.
posted by andreap at 3:22 PM on February 14, 2008

A lot of people like the Dyson's, and I think they do a good job as well. Like Andreap said, some of the are pretty heavy though. They do have a new one out that's almost a stick vacuum style, it's pretty nice.

I also think Kirby vacuums work great, but I would never pay that much money for it. Getting one at a garage sale would be the best option.
posted by hufferbomb at 9:04 AM on August 3, 2008

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