Types of Vacuum Cleaners Explained

Types of Vacuum Cleaners Explained

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum

There are different brands and models of vacuum cleaners on the market. They are designed for different needs and, therefore, you must be aware of your specific needs to make the best choice.

If you are purchasing a vacuum cleaner for the first time, choosing the best one for your needs can be challenging if not time-consuming.

But information is power. If you are aware of the different types of vacuum cleaners and what they do, the selection process will be easier. In this article, we are going to help you understand what each type of vacuum does and looks like.

Let’s get to it then…

Table of Contents

The 10 Main Types of Vacuum Cleaners

Before purchasing a vacuum cleaner, you must understand exactly what you need and why. Vacuum cleaners will cost you a good amount so you cannot make the mistake of buying the wrong one.

After identifying your cleaning needs and understanding what different vacuum cleaners can offer, you can pick one of the following:

1. Upright vacuum cleaners

An upright vacuum cleaner is a free-standing unit with the motor, floor nozzle, dust bags, filters, and all other parts build together in an upright shape. They are among the most common vacuum cleaners.

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - Shark AZ2002 Vertex DuoClean PowerFins Upright Vacuum
Shark AZ2002 Vertex DuoClean PowerFins Upright Vacuum

Uprights use a powerful motor-driven brushroll to clean both carpets and hard floors. Besides, some upright vacuums have settings that allow you to transition from carpets to bare floors and vice-versa for effective cleaning.

Also, they usually come with additional cleaning attachments for whole-house cleaning. These attachments include pet tools, upholstery brushes, crevice tools, and dusting brushes. They come in handy when vacuuming upholstery, drapes, stairs, and other above-ground surfaces.

Various manufacturers make different types of upright vacuums in terms of dirt collection. Some have bags where the dirt is deposited while others are bagless. Bagless vacuums have a dust/dirt bin or canister inside the main body of the vacuum.


  • They stand up alone hence easy storage
  • Most uprights can be used on different types of flooring
  • They usually come with additional cleaning tools for whole-house cleaning
  • Most have a wide cleaning path for faster vacuuming even in large rooms
  • Gives you an option to choose either bagged or bagless


  • Most uprights are bulky and heavy making them hard to maneuver
  • Very few uprights can reach tight spots like under furniture

Related: 15 Best Upright Vacuums of 2021

2. Canister vacuum cleaners

Canister vacuum cleaners have a separate unit with the motor attached to a long wand. The floorhead (nozzle) is attached at the end of the wand. They are light and easy to carry around.

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum
Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum

Also, most canisters feature a retractable cord and a suction hose making them effective for cleaning bare floors, carpets, the stairs, car interiors, and above the floor surfaces like curtains and upholstery.


  • Lightweight and easy to carry around
  • Powerful suction power
  • They can clean the floor, above-floor surfaces like stairs, curtains, upholstery, and hard-to-reach areas like under the furniture.
  • Come with extra cleaning tools to ensure whole-house vacuuming


  • The canisters can be bulky and hence difficult to store
  • Not recommended for very large spaces
  • Maneuverability is hard because it is a two-piece. So, you have to carry or pull the canister around.

Related: 13 Best Rated Canister Vacuums of 2021

3. Handheld vacuum cleaners

As the name suggests, these vacuum cleaners can be held in one hand. They come in handy when cleaning hard-to-reach areas, small and tight spaces like inside the car or between cushions.

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1 Corded Handheld Vacuum
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1 Corded Handheld Vacuum

Besides, if you have pets and children, handheld vacuums are the best for cleaning after their messes on the go. However, they are not suitable for general house cleaning. Therefore, you can only buy a handheld vacuum to complement your main unit.


  • Lightweight and compact hence easy to carry and store
  • Perfect for cleaning after kids and pet messes on the go
  • Sleek designs allow you to store them anywhere in the house without interfering with your décor
  • Available in both corded and cordless designs


  • Cannot be used for extensive vacuuming
  • Less powerful compared to canister and upright vacuums

Related: Best Handheld Vacuums 2021 (Corded & Cordless)

4. Stick vacuum cleaners

Stick vacuum cleaners have always been ranked as the least powerful, but they offer a lot of flexibility and convenience. Besides, modern technology has improved the suction quite a bit – they can now compete easily with upright vacuums.

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - Dyson V11 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum
Dyson V11 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum

They serve the purpose of handheld vacuums, but with the design of a complete vacuum. So, you can either use a stick vacuum as a full-size vacuum or quickly convert it into a handheld vacuum. However, a few models are purely stick vacuums without the 2-in-1 functionality.

Stick vacuums are most effective in handling small chores like cleaning spills on the kitchen floor, cleaning after your kids, picking up hair from the bathroom aftershave among others. More powerful stick vacuums such as Sharks and Dysons are effective for whole-house vacuuming.


  • Lightweight hence easy to carry around
  • Their sleek design complement interior décor
  • Very easy to store
  • Effective for small messes
  • Excellent for vacuuming bare floors
  • Most stick vacuums can be converted to handheld vacuums for quick clean-ups


  • Generally less powerful compared to uprights and canisters
  • Most stick vacuums easily topple because they are top-heavy


5. Robot vacuum cleaners

Robot vacuum cleaners have been gaining popularity over the years because they do not require a lot of human effort. This technology allows you to concentrate on other chores as the robot does the vacuuming for you.

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - iRobot Roomba i7+ (7550) Robot Vacuum
iRobot Roomba i7+ (7550) Robot Vacuum

Robotic vacuum cleaners will clean your house with or without your presence as long as you have set commands on when to clean. So, they do not only save your time but also offer you the convenience you cannot get from any other type of vacuum cleaner.

Besides, most robot vacuums allow you to issue commands and get reports directly to your smartphone. You can also speak to your vacuuming buddy via Alexa or Google Assistant – amazing, isn’t it?

Also, this new technology makes it possible for the vacuum to avoid falls, clean specific spots/rooms, and recharge and resume cleaning. Some newer models even empty themselves without your intervention.


  • It’s a hands-free device. You relax as it does the cleaning
  • They are not bulky hence easy to store
  • It roams in the house cleaning even those tight spots
  • They can be controlled with a tablet or smartphone
  • Some robot vacuums can receive voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant
  • You can schedule cleaning and get reports to your smartphone
  • Some inexpensive models perform quite well


  • The best robot vacuums are very expensive
  • They are not suitable for carpet (especially high-pile)

Related: 10 Best Robot Vacuums in 2021 (Reviews)

6. Wet/dry vacuum cleaners (shop vacs)

Wet/dry vacuum cleaners can remove wet spills from your floors. We are used to vacuuming cleaners that only collect dry dirt, but with type, you can collect both bread crumbs and spilled milk.

Types of Vacuum Cleaners - DEWALT DCV581H Wet Dry Shop Vac
DEWALT DCV581H Wet/Dry Shop Vac

Also, they do not use bags for dirt collection but two storage areas to separate dry and wet dirt. While such vacuums can be great for day-to-day cleaning of the house, they are most normally used in workshops and garages where such messes are common.

No wonder most people call them shop vacs.


  • Inexpensive
  • Most wet/dry shop vacs are built to last
  • Flexible cleaning since they can handle both wet and dry messes
  • Perfect for homes with kids and pets because they spill all the time
  • Powerful suction power compared to other vacuum types
  • Ideal for garages and workshops


  • Can get smelly especially if you collect things like urine
  • They are usually heavy because of their high storage capacity, but wheels make movement bearable

Related: The 10 Best Shop Vacs of 2021 (Wet/Dry Vacuums)

7. Backpack vacuums

Backpack vacuum cleaners are worn like a backpack. By wearing the canister at the back, its weight and that of collected dirt are evenly distributed on your body preventing back injuries as you try to lift it.

Types of Vacuums - ProTeam Super CoachVac Backpack Vacuum
ProTeam Super CoachVac Backpack Vacuum

With the canister on your back, your hands will be free to operate the hose, wand, and the cleaning head. Also, movement from room to room or up and down the stairs becomes very easy.


  • It is a good choice for people with back problems
  • User’s hands are left free to operate the lightweight hose
  • Provides a further reach
  • Eliminates the possibility of tripping-related injuries because they don’t have to be pushed
  • It’s very easy to maneuver around obstacles such as furniture
  • They are great for reaching tight spots where bugs may be hiding
  • Extra-large dirt capacity


  • Adjusting the straps might be hard in some backpack vacuums
  • They are usually bagged, and buying replacement bags may be costly in the long run

Related: Best Backpack Vacuum Cleaners for Home & Commercial Use 2021

8. Central vacuum systems

A central vacuum system is also known as a whole-house vacuum system. It is a vacuuming system installed in an entire building. It includes pipes installed inside the walls which connect to a large dirt collection and power unit stored in the garage or basement.

Types of Vacuums - OVO Heavy Duty Central Vacuum
OVO Heavy Duty Central Vacuum

Also, suction ports that resemble power sockets are installed on the walls. To vacuum, you will insert the hose into the suction ports which transfer the dirt to the storage unit.


  • Typically less noisy
  • This system is more powerful than portable vacuum cleaners
  • Eliminates re-circulation of dirt and dust into the indoor air because the debris container is outside.
  • It requires minimal human attention
  • Central vacuums are ideal for bare floors and carpet cleaning
  • The have a very long lifespan


  • Can be expensive to buy and install

Related: 10 Best Central Vacuum Systems 2021 Reviews

9. Leaf vacuums

Leaf vacuums are mostly used to clean up the backyard, lawn, patio, or porch. Most leaf vacuums are versatile and offer a 3-in-1 capability. So, you can suck up leaves and small twigs, shred them (mulch), or simply blow them towards a particular area for collection.

Types of Vacuums - Toro 51621 UltraPlus Leaf Blower Vacuum
Toro 51621 UltraPlus Leaf Blower Vacuum

Also, leaf vacuums are usually found in the garage because of the nature of tasks that they are used for.


  • They are lightweight and compact
  • Can be used as blowers and mulchers
  • Are usually inexpensive
  • You have the option of gas-powered or electric leaf vacuums


  • Limited to vacuuming leaves

Related: The 9 Best Leaf Vacuum Mulchers in 2021

10. Mini vacuums

Believe it or not, there are some miniature vacuums on the market. Such vacuums are not for vacuuming your floors, stairs, or upholstery. Instead, they are ideal for vacuuming electronics – PCs, speakers, laptops, and keyboards.

Types of Vacuums - MECO Rechargeable Mini Vacuum
MECO Rechargeable Mini Vacuum


  • Cheap to buy
  • Stylish designs
  • Cordless convenience
  • Ideal for vacuuming electronics
  • Lightweight, compact, and easy to carry or store


  • Not for extensive cleaning
  • Batteries last for a very short period

Related: Best Computer Vacuums 2021

Final Words

We have discussed the 10 types of vacuum cleaners on the market and what to expect from them. So, if you are looking to buy a vacuum cleaner, this should make your work easier. They are available in different brands, models, colors, sizes, and even prices, but there is one for every household.

If you want a device that will help you with cleaning high traffic areas or heavily soiled carpets, consider a canister or an upright vacuum. They have powerful suction power and additional cleaning tools to tackle the deep mess. The storage space is also plenty.

If your main concern is a mess left behind by your children or pets, or you want a vacuum for your car, lean towards handheld and stick vacuums. They are lightweight and portable. Also, they are best for those hard-to-reach spaces and tight spots in the house or car.

All vacuum cleaners work, but not every vacuum will be effective for your house. So, do not buy a vacuum because you saw it perform magic in your friend’s house. Narrow down to a model that suits your unique cleaning needs and you won’t regret it.


How Vacuum Cleaners Work

How Vacuum Cleaners Work

How Vacuum Cleaners Work

Maintaining a clean environment whether at home or in the office is essential for your health. If you don’t have a vacuum cleaner, yet, you are risking your respiratory health because dust contains particles which cause such complications.

Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters keep your environment safe and clean by capturing dust and other particles as small as 0.3 microns from your floors and surfaces.

Could it be you have not yet bought a vacuum cleaner because you do not understand how they work? In this article, we are going to elaborate on how vacuum cleaners work. The fact that most vacuum owners do not understand how the machine does its magic will surprise you.

Let’s get into it…

Table of Contents

The Science behind Vacuum Cleaners

The physics of vacuum cleaners is simple. I could say as simple as it is to use them. We will divide the process into three steps as discussed below:

1. Creating negative pressure

Vacuum cleaners apply the principle of creating a pressure difference hence suction. For materials to flow from one point to the other, there must be a difference in pressure and this is the working principle of vacuum cleaners.

This is the same principle that applies when using a straw. As you suck up juice using a straw, the pressure at the bottom of the straw drops compared to that at the top of the straw. This pressure difference brings about suction, pushing juice into your mouth.

For vacuum cleaners, the electric or battery-powered motor spins a fan which leads to airflow. As air is being pushed forward, air pressure increases in front of the fan and drops behind it. This pressure drop behind the fan creates a partial vacuum inside the vacuum cleaner resulting in suction.

Air goes into the vacuum cleaner through the intake port and leaves through the exhaust port allowing the motor to continue working.

2. Trapping dust, dirt, and debris

As long as that the fan is still spinning, there will be a constant stream of air entering and exiting the vacuum cleaner, and this results in friction. The stream of air disturbs dust and debris on the floor and carries them through a pipe into a dust bag or dust canister.

Note that for the dust particles to be sucked into the vacuum, they must be loose and light. Also, the vacuum must produce enough suction.

To remove embedded debris and dirt from carpets, some vacuum cleaners employ rotating brushes at the intake port to increase friction.

The debris and other particles trapped in the dust bag or dust canister cannot escape. While the dust bag can trap dust particles, it cannot trap the air that came in carrying all the contaminants.

Finally, the clean air finds its way out of the vacuum cleaner through the exhaust port.

3. Cleaning and releasing exhaust air

Is the air that leaves the vacuum safe for breathing? It is not, because air contains tiny air pollutants like allergens and bacteria which may escape from the dirt bag or dust bin. Therefore, before the air flows into your space, it passes through filters.

However, filtration efficiency largely depends on the type of filters inside the vacuum. The most commonly used and effective filters are HEPA filters which trap particles as small as 0.3 microns in diameter. After air passes through these filters, it is safe for breathing.

Watch the below YouTube video by SharkClean to see how a vacuum cleaner sucks up dust and dirt:

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Factors Affecting the Suction Power of a Vacuum Cleaner

As mentioned earlier, the suction power determines dirt pick up. For the best performance, you should get a powerful vacuum cleaner. The strength of the suction power depends on:

Power of the motor

The wattage of the motor determines the speed of the fan. For a vacuum cleaner to create sufficient suction power, the fan must spin faster. So, you should be keen on the wattage of the motor when purchasing a vacuum cleaner.

Clogged air path

After vacuuming for a while, the dust cup will be filled with dirt, and if not emptied it results in the loss of suction power. With a filled-up dust cup or dust bag, there will be a lot of resistance as air tries to find its way out. To avoid such instances, empty your dust bags often.

Also, vacuum cleaners that have cyclonic technology actively prevent large particles from clogging the filters. This results in constant fade-free suction as you vacuum.

Size of the intake port

Narrow intake ports suck in air at high speed creating stronger suction power. If you want a vacuum cleaner to help you with heavy-duty tasks go for models with narrow entry ports.

Essential vacuum cleaner parts

These are the parts that make the vacuuming process possible:

  • Motor – This is the heart of a vacuum cleaner, so it must be on and functional for the device to work. If your motor dies, your vacuum cleaner is dead too you may have to replace it.
  • Brushroll (or beater bar) – this is found on the floor nozzle and rotates to agitate and dust and dirt so that it can be easily sucked into the vacuum.
  • Intake port – This is the part that allows air and dust particles to be drawn in the vacuum cleaner. Most intake ports have a rotating brush to increase friction and remove embedded dirt in carpets.
  • Exhaust port – With air coming in, it must go out and this happens through the exhaust port. The air coming out should be clean, therefore it is advisable to keep your collection bags empty and filters clean.
  • Fan – The internal fan has blades that spin to create a pressure drop and hence suction power. For the vacuum cleaner to continue working there must be a continuous flow of air and this can only happen if the fan is spinning.
  • Filters – Filters ensure that only clean air is blown back into the air. Most vacuums have a pre-filter and an additional filter (usually HEPA).
  • Dirt bag or canister – This is where dirt is stored once it enters the vacuum. The dirt bin should be emptied often to maintain suction power. If your vacuum uses a bag, replace it once it reaches halfway or three-quarters full. Some vacuums have full-bag indicators.
  • Source of power – A vacuum can either be corded whereby you plug it into a power outlet or cordless (uses batteries, usually lithium-ion).


There we go, we have explained how a vacuum cleaner works and it is not rocket science as you would have expected. It is as simple as drinking your favorite juice using a straw. The straw and vacuum cleaner operates on the principle of creating a pressure difference which results in suction.

Also, we have mentioned some essential parts of a vacuum cleaner including the motor, an intake port, exhaust port, fan, dust bag or dust canister, filters, and the power source.

There are different types of vacuum cleaners such as Shark vacuums and Dysons, but they all operate under the principle of creating negative pressure to remove dust and dust particles from your floors and surfaces.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feel free to ask anything in the comments section below.