Cordless vacuum cleaners and robotic models like the Roomba are incredibly popular for the convenience they offer. And while many of these models are impressive, plug-in upright vacuums remain the tried-and-true standard by providing stronger and more reliable suction power, hence a deeper clean.
Corded upright vacuum cleaners have powerful motors that can lift deep-seated dirt and hair from even the thickest carpets more effectively.
These models typically have built-in flexible hoses that can be used to clean upholstery as you would with a handheld vacuum. Some hoses are fairly long and come with attachments, which make it easy to reach curtains or ceilings. Their dust bins are usually twice the size of cordless models, letting you clean your home without stopping to empty it in between.
Corded vacuums tend to be fairly heavy, often weighing 10 to 20 pounds compared to around 7 pounds for cordless models. (As for robot vacuums, well, you don't have to push them around, so their weight is pretty irrelevant.)
But with corded upright vacuums, there’s never a need to wait for a battery to recharge, and they cost significantly less. They’re usually $100 or more cheaper than comparable cordless vacuums. For example, a top-of-the-line cordless vacuum can cost $400 or more; many corded vacuums with similar (or even more) suction would cost about $250.
Upright vacuum cleaner buying guide
Whether you live in a small apartment or a two-story home, have carpet everywhere or just in a few rooms, there’s probably an upright vacuum that’s perfect for your cleaning needs.
Here are some factors to consider when comparing models:
• Suction power. Manufacturers typically use watts (usually between 500 to 2,000 watts) or amps (between 6 to 12 amps) to describe a vacuum's suction power. However, these metrics simply indicate how much power the machine consumes. High power consumption doesn’t always translate into more suction power — a vacuum’s overall design and quality also impact performance.
Some manufacturers disclose their vacuum’s suction power in air watts (how many watts the machine consumes to move air). This metric is usually more reliable but doesn’t necessarily reflect the true suction power of the vacuum while in use. Since air watts are often measured directly at the machine’s motor, that fails to take into account how the filter, hose or cleaning attachment diameter affect air flow. Still, if a vacuum has more air watts, it’ll probably provide powerful suction capacity. A vacuum with 100 air watts or more is recommended.
• Adjustable suction. Some vacuums have different suction settings for hard floors and low- or high-pile carpets. The suction power can be adjusted with buttons located near the handle or by opening or closing vents in the floor cleaning attachment.
If you have a variety of floors in your home, it’s good to have a vacuum with suction that can be easily adjusted. Vacuuming certain carpeted areas can become difficult without proper suction power if the vacuum creates too strong of a seal. On the other hand, you also don’t want a weak seal used in spots that would leave deeply impacted dirt behind.
• Dust bin and filter. Upright vacuums typically have a large dust bin (also called dust canister) in front of the machine's body, near the floor head attachment. Most are large enough to handle vacuuming for days or even weeks before needing to be emptied. Still, it’s a good idea to compare dust bin sizes, especially if you live in a big home.
Manufacturers often measure dust bin capacity in quarts, and most upright vacuums have a capacity of around one quart. You may come across models with higher capacity, but beware that number may actually refer to the bin’s overall capacity and not how much it can handle before reaching the maximum fill line. If you don’t empty the bin when it reaches the fill line, that can hurt the suction power.
Besides the dust bin, consider the quality of the filter. If someone in your home suffers from allergies, you’ll benefit from purchasing a model with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Machines with HEPA filters are usually completely sealed and prevent allergens from spilling back into the room.
• Bag or bagless. Bagless dust bins are convenient as they can be emptied and washed as needed, without the recurring costs of replaceable bags that collect dust and other debris. However, each time you open a dust bin to empty it, a dust cloud will spill out no matter how careful you are. If you’re concerned about allergens, consider a bagged model.
A bagged vacuum has a bag (as the name suggests) in its dust bin to capture and store dust and dirt. Once the bag is full, you place the dust bin over a trash can and press the eject button to dispose of it without ever coming into contact with allergens.
Although dust bags are a recurring cost, they are not prohibitively expensive. Replacement packs usually don't exceed $50 and may include five or more bags, each one capable of holding several months worth of dirt. Some bagged upright vacuums come with a six-bag supply included, which can last up to a year depending on the amount of dirt, hair or type of debris you encounter.
• Attachments. All vacuum cleaners come with a floor attachment, which can be used on hard flooring, carpets or adjusted for both. Additionally, vacuums may include brushes or other tools for dusting, crevices or upholstery. It’s common to find models labeled for pet owners that come with motorized nozzles designed specifically to pick up pet hair.
Best upright Vacuum cleaners
1. Best Overall: Shark AZ2002 Vertex DuoClean Upright Vacuum
Billed as Shark's most powerful vacuum, the Vertex is one of the models with the strongest suction power around, capable of deep-cleaning everything from hard flooring to thick, high-pile carpets. What makes the Vertex really stand out over other high-powered vacuums is Shark’s DuoClean technology.
Instead of having a single rotating roller, the Vertex features two rollers, which increases suction power. One roller is designed to pick up large debris, such as cereal, in a single pass. (Vacuums have a notoriously hard time picking up debris of this size over hard flooring and instead often end up pushing some of it forward or aside.) The second one has rubber wipers that dig deep into carpets and can pick up hair of all lengths, without tangling.
With the touch of a button, the dust bin separates from the vacuum’s body and turns the Vertex into a handheld vacuum with a 5.5’ flexible hose, making it easy to clean curtains or tight spaces like stairs. Detaching the dust bin also lets you operate the Vertex as a lightweight stick vacuum, ideal for reaching under low furniture.
The dust bin is large enough to clean multiple rooms without emptying it. It’s completely sealed and has a HEPA filter to keep allergens and dust from spilling back into the air, making it a great option for allergy sufferers.
2. Best Dyson upright vacuum cleaner: Dyson Ball Multi Floor 2
A list of the best vacuum cleaners wouldn’t be complete without a Dyson model. The brand’s vacuums have been in high demand for years because of their quality, cool design and, most importantly, powerful suction.
Dyson stopped developing corded plug-in vacuums in 2018 to focus on cordless models. Yet even without the benefit of corded power, Dyson offers some of the very best upright vacuum cleaners, period.
The Ball Multi Floor 2 isn’t the newest or priciest Dyson model, but it remains one of the most powerful upright vacuums out there, and it’s lighter than other Dyson uprights. The floor cleaning head self-adjusts to create the best possible seal across different floor types, resulting in near perfect suction capacity. This vacuum can pick up small debris like sugar from any carpet or wooden floor crevice with ease.
As the name suggests, the Ball Multi Floor 2 features Dyson’s well-known ball-like design, a component near the machine’s cleaning head that allows for easy maneuverability and tight turns. The built-in flexible cleaning hose allows you to clean tight spaces, upholstery and even some ceilings.
Although the Multi Floor 2’s suction power is impressive, many users complain that it creates such a strong seal over medium- and high-pile carpets that it's nearly impossible to push the vacuum around. So, although it's ideal for providing the deepest clean possible, the seal might actually hamper your cleaning session and tire you out if most rooms in your home have thick carpets.
3. Editor’s pick: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360
Shark’s Navigator Lift-Away line has been a homeowner favorite for years, consistently delivering outstanding cleaning power with high-quality lightweight models. The Navigator NV360 is the lowest-priced vacuum in the line, and it’s an affordable yet solid machine with enough power to clean tough messes on both hard floors and carpets.
The NV360’s bristle brush and strong suction do an excellent job of digging out deep-seated dirt from carpets. If using it over hardwood floors, you can turn off the brittle brush to prevent scratches. Turning the brush off also prevents the scattering of finer debris, which is common over hard floors with vacuums in this price range (around $200). Like the Shark Vertex DuoClean model above, the NV360’s dust bin has an anti-allergen seal and is detachable, allowing you to use the vacuum as a handheld or stick model.
Other models in the Navigator Lift-Away line, including the NV352 and NV356e, are slightly different in terms of the colors available, dust bin size and included cleaning attachments. The NV360 is easy to find on sale for around $150, sometimes even cheaper. Meanwhile the NV352 retails for $200 and the NV356e is listed at $250, and these models are also often available on sale for $50 to $100 less.
4. Best for low prices: Bissell Cleanview Swivel Pet Bagless Vacuum
For around $100, this Bissell vacuum is reliable and powerful enough to clean most floor types, including low-pile carpets. In fact, its rotating brush has bristles specifically designed to loosen and dig up hair that may be tangled in carpets, a plus for pet owners. The vacuum has a built-in flexible cleaning hose that can be used with the included small brushes to clean upholstery.
While the Cleanview does a solid job overall, keep in mind that, like most other vacuums in its price range, the dust bin doesn’t have a HEPA filter. So some allergens may spill back into the air. Additionally, its suction capacity might not be enough to deep-clean homes with high-pile carpeting.
5. Best for allergies: Kenmore Intuition BU4022 Bagged Upright Vacuum
Most upright vacuums nowadays have a bagless design, featuring a dust bin users can empty with the touch of a button, as well as a washable filter that can sometimes last up to a year. Although many people prefer this system, it can be a nightmare for people with allergies, especially considering the dust cloud that forms when shaking the dust bin to empty it properly.
For people with allergies (or just anyone worried about their respiratory health), bagged vacuums are the better option; and the Kenmore Intuition BU4022 is one of the best. It delivers powerful suction power to deep clean just about every type of flooring, including high-pile carpets, and a light indicator lets you know when the dust bag needs to be replaced. When the bag is full, just press the ejection button while standing over a trash can. There's no need to ever touch it, which further reduces your contact with allergens.
The BU4022 comes with six HEPA-grade dust bags, each one large enough to last more than a month. Actually, the six-bag supply can last up to a year depending on the amount of dirt, hair or other debris you encounter as you clean. Additional bags come in packs of six and cost around $30.
6. Best lightweight upright vacuum: Eureka Airspeed Ultra-Lightweight Compact Bagless Upright Vacuum
Upright corded vacuums have a stronger suction power than stick models. However, many people prefer stick vacuums for their lightweight build, especially when cleaning small areas. If you’re looking for a midpoint between maneuverability and suction power, Eureka’s Airspeed Ultra-Lightweight is a worthwhile option.
At a little under eight pounds, the Airspeed is less than half the weight of most upright vacuums, and even around five pounds lighter than some other models touted as lightweight. It has enough power to deal with dirt and dust over hard floors — however, it might struggle with some carpets.
The dust bin features a washable filter and has a capacity of around 1.7 liters, which is just as big as standard models, letting you clean several rooms without having to empty it.