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To say that my kids are capable of making messes would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, they are also a great help around the house and in the kitchen, but the sheer nature of having 7+ people in our home means I have to deal with a lot of dust, little pieces of paper everywhere, and other small items on the floor constantly.
Many days, I feel like I’m losing the battle against this endless pile of little items on the floor, so this popular Pinterest quote sums up my feelings well:
Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.
Part of my struggle has been finding a good vacuum that can actually stand up to my kids and their messes. We finally found a great vacuum that works and that is still running after a year of heavy use, and ironically, it was one of the last options I was willing to try.
We have literally tried dozens over the years, including all the popular name brands. I bought vacuums at yard sales, asked for them for Christmas presents, and saved up credit card reward points to buy them online. Some worked well for a while and then died. Others had problems from the beginning or weren’t strong enough to actually keep up with our floors.
Why A Post on Best Vacuum Cleaners?
I’ve been putting off writing this post for a long time because I felt silly chronicling our years-long vacuum saga, but all of the reviews and “best vacuum cleaner” lists and posts that I found while researching only covered the same name brands and none of those ended up working for us. In fact, I doubted that many of the websites actually tested those vacuum cleaners (or at least used them more than once) before reviewing, as they focused on the best features “out of the box” and the manufacturer data.
This post isn’t a review and none of the companies I’ve listed in this post even know I exist, I just hope it might be helpful to other moms who are looking for a good vacuum and who don’t want to over-spend on one that won’t work.
Don’t care about what I thought was the best vacuum cleaner?
I don’t blame you… it isn’t a very exciting topic! Go check out some recipes, or read about how adult coloring books can improve your brain or how tampons may be poisoning you…
If you are looking for a vacuum that actually works, this is my attempt at making this mundane topic a little more interesting.
My Vacuum Cleaner Criteria
I wasn’t concerned with how many awards a vacuum had won or how many special features it had. In fact, from my experience over the years, more features just meant more things that could break. After years of trial and error, the only criteria I cared about were (in this order):
- Ability to clean
- Weight (if possible, lighter weight was preferable so the kids could use it too)
- No expensive upkeep (some vacuums had expensive bags, filters etc.)
- Allergen-friendly (if possible, though many allergen and HEPA vacuums weren’t very effective)
Vacuum Cleaners I Tried:
- Dirt Devils (they eventually broke)
- Shark vacuums (not heavy duty enough)
- Dyson Vacuums (they also broke)
- Roomba Robotic vacuums (It worked well, but the noise drove me nuts and the canister wasn’t big enough so we had to constantly empty it)
- Miele Vacuums (It worked pretty well but was really expensive and not easy to use for the kids)
- Quite a few more from yard sales or hand-me-downs. The oldest ones seemed to be the most heavy duty but they eventually all died too!
I finally started looking at commercial vacuums, thinking they would be more durable and that is how we found the one that has actually worked for us.
The Best Vacuum Cleaner I’ve Found
The surprising vacuum that ended up being our best vacuum cleaner and the one we still use is…
I know, I know. I was surprised too. Especially because it was so inexpensive compared to many other options we’ve tried. It also wasn’t on any of the lists of best vacuum cleaners that I read while researching and I couldn’t find many reviews for it online (other than the 1,000+ on Amazon).
I put off trying this one for a really long time because I remembered the terrible commercials that used to air about “The 8-pound Oreck” and I doubted how well it would actually work. I eventually bought the commercial one on a Black Friday sale without high hopes for it.
It definitely met my criteria for ability to clean well, but I still wondered about its durability. It is lightweight so the kids can easily use it and there is no expensive upkeep (replacement bags are inexpensive). The one downside is that it isn’t specifically HEPA or allergy friendly, but since we use air filters in our home, I was less concerned about this than the vacuum’s actual ability to sweep things up.
Over a year later, and this vacuum is still going strong, despite quite a few bag changes and even a rough tumble down the stairs thanks to a certain 2-year-old (who was using it to vacuum the landing of our stairs).
It wasn’t the vacuum I expected to like. It certainly isn’t pretty and they had terrible commercials, but I do love that we finally found an option that works (and that cost much less than many of the others we tried).
I’d love to hear your opinion… What is the best vacuum you’ve ever owned?
Discussion (142 Comments)
I love this post! Even though I’m not currently in the market for a vacuum, I love your honest, unbiased, and unsponsored review. I’d love to see more posts like this in the future!
FWIW, I have a Dyson Animal vacuum and have had it for about 7 years with no problems whatsoever. I think a lot of it is just luck of the draw sometimes. I’ve heard bad things about Dysons but I’ve been very happy with mine.
We have had our Dyson Animal for 10 years and I love that it still has the same powerful suction that it had when new!
Same here. We’ve had a dyson animal for 10 years and I love it. It’s still going strong.
Rainbow vacuum is the one for us! It is a bit heavy to lug up and down the stairs, but I’m not sure it’s easy to transverse floors with any vacuum. I’ve also borrow my mother-in-law’s Electrolux and like it, but the filters and bags and expensive. We love the Rainbow because all the waste is caught in the water basin and flushed away down the toilet! No bags, no dust. And it has a powerful cleaning head to suck up all those nasty disease-spreading dust mites. We use it on our mattresses every once in a while, too.
I didn’t like it because of the water, which always seemed to make a bigger mess…but that could just be me 😉
Thanks for your research! I go thru vacuums every year! I’ll take your advice. Thanks again!
I agree with the comments on the Rainbows. Best vacuum I’ve ever tried as far as cleaning, suction and durability. It is however a big upfront investment. I was lucky enough to find one used for a steal. For the price I paid I love it, but had I paid the retail price of $1200 or so I would’ve been disappointed. Although I can vacuum an entire floor of my house from one outlet cause of the long cord and hoses it is heavy to lug up and down stairs. Also while the water basin is the whole concept of the vacuum and keeping dust trapped it is a pain in the butt to be emptying and cleaning it everyday.
Katie, did you and your husband watch a demonstration in your home and purchase a Rainbow, or did you use a borrowed one?
We have seen a demonstration but did not purchase one. I have used borrowed ones before as well.
Gotcha. My husband sells Rainbows so I have often wondered what vacuum you use haha! Maybe y’all just need to see a better demo to be convinced of its superiority… 😉 If only you lived in North Carolina 😉 🙂
I would also be concerned about the mold factor with the water.
Are you referring to mold caused by the rainbow? If so you don’t have to worry about about that because the water stays in a canister that all of the dust and anything else you vacuum gets sucked into. My mom and gma had a rainbow when I was little and now I have one! We made the investment because I believe it really makes our home healthier.
You can dump and refill your Rainbow after each use…..or leave all the dirt and nastiness in a bag or canister vac to ferment. You know that, “Vacuum smell,” when you turn on your vac? That is bacteria spewing into the air you breath folks. Yikes. I will take the fresh smell of water any day…or the nice smell of my essential oils I drop in the water to freshen up any area I am vacuuming. In between cleaning, the Rainbow sits on low cleaning your air and preventing the room from needing to be dusted as often. The water does not sit stagnant for mold to grow. You empty it after vacuuming, put in fresh water and leave it on low.
My family bought an Electrolux canister vaccuum over 22 years later and it’s still working well. 🙂 One hose replacement so far, but Electrolux makes parts that still work with their vaccuums from years ago. If I ever invest in a good vacuum (married with my own home now), Electrolux is what I would consider first.
My ELECTROLUX bit the dust after 35 years of faithful service. I just purchased a 13 year old model for 300. which is excellent! I expect it to last as long.
I have a Rainbow E series that I’ve had for 12 years and it’s still going strong. The only thing I’ve ever had to replace were the hepa filters and tho they are a bit expensive, this last time, I bought ones I can rinse out and reuse, and they last a very long time. New the machine was $1200, but it cleans EVERYTHING from floors, carpets, furniture, drapes, walls, and anything else you can think of. It has a water basin so NO DUST or dirt EVER pass thru into the air. You can even use this machine to filter the air in a room and take the dust out of the air. I have always loved my Rainbow and have never regretted getting it. and after 12 years +, I feel I’ve gotten my monies worth out of it. It also has a floor squeegee and a carpet steam cleaner. I mean, this machine does EVERYTHING! and it does it all very well too.
Anyone commenting here should have a Rainbow demonstration in your home! They will educate you about what your vacuum is spewing into your indoor environment and you will never want to turn on a dry vacuum again. Rainbow user all the way! Have one on each level of my house. It is a shop vac. It is an air purifier. It does not weigh a ton.
You’re not kidding, rainbows are the best. Mine was a hand me down from a relative. I recently had to replace it, but it got over 20 years of use!!!!! They are amazing machines for the money. I always say if you’re not using a rainbow, you’re working twice as hard for half the clean 😉
I’ve had my Rainbow for over 20 years. I wouldn’t trade it for any brand. I’m not sure what HEPA filters you refer to, mine doesn’t use them. I love that I can put a few drops of thyme or other essential oil into the water to refresh and disinfect the air while I vacuum. I also use it without the hose attached for major air cleaning, like when the dog ripped a hole in our down comforter and I had the filling flying everywhere. It was amazing to see the down and feathers swirl in the air and then flow into the vacuum.
I bought a “Big Vac” –I think it’s by Hoover– back in 2001 from The Clean Team online. I had a house cleaning business for a short period of time. It’s a cannister vac , loooong hose, loooong cord, a carpet attachment that’s powered by the very good suction, a crevice tool, upholstery brush and a bare floor/rug attachment. It uses bags that are not expensive but not cheap either. I really like it, it’s a good’un 🙂
Ellen, I need a canister Vac and would REALLY appreciate if you could tell me the exact one you got. Is there a name or a number you could pass on to me??
We’ve used nothing but Oreck’s for probably the last 25 years. They hold up well and are lightweight. Also, we have a retail Oreck store within a few miles of us, and they give excellent service, often while we wait. My husband took ours up there just last week for a minor problem with a bag, and home again in 30 minutes after they showed him what was wrong (user error) and how to avoid it in the future.
Kirby! The door salesman doesnt lie. It is the best vacuum EVER! I believe it uses 1 horsepower which is very powerful.
I found the Kirby to not have enough suction power to clean throughly…
I found the Kirby to be too heavy and bulky…the maneuvering of it…….
Katie, we have had our Kirby for two years now and I love it! when my fiance bought it I wasn’t happy because I thought it was ugly,,,and gee its heavy and bulky but the one we have has the best suction, in my option but I don’t know what kind of carpeting you own. we have a rug in our living room and one bedroom has medium shag carpet and the other is what I would consider regular carpet appropriate for a child’s room. I have come to love it despite its looks. Interesting article!
I have 2 Orecks- one upstairs and one downstairs. One is a regular Oreck and the other is a commercial. They both take the same bags so it works. I love it. I tried different vacuums as well, and love this one. Good choice!
Which do you like better, or the same….regular/commercial?
My husband works with mold and also carpet cleaning on a daily basis. He says you need a HEPA filter. So this would not work for us. ?
We run HEPA filters in our home as air filters, but I’ve never found a vacuum with a HEPA that actually works and holds up to long-term use… we’ve tried quite a few…
Oreck vacuums are HEPA filtrated. The outer back is HEPA and you can purchase HEPA inner bags (they are the grey cloth bags as opposed to the green or blue paper bags).
Thank you for that important info Stephanie!
Our Kirby has done well for 4 years with a hepa filter. They are about $12 for 3 to replace and they last us a while. We vacuum hardwoods and carpets about 3 times a week or more. 4 year old use it easily on hard floors and carpet. It is heave but drives itself when on. Just up the stairs is when you really lift it. It even has a stair carpet attachment for the hose. And it works really well as a carpet shampoo cleaner.
It was definitely money up front but I got tired of spending $100 a year and sill not having a great tool.
My SHOP VAC is, hands down, the best I’ve ever owned.
Because I’ve ruined regular vacuums when I should have used a shop vac. A shop vac can transition between wet and dry. (Spilt GLASS of milk?!?). It holds gallons, rather than ounces. Some have great air filters. It is made for the workshop, so it can handle drywall dust, saw dust, puddles, nails, shards of glass, Legos (oops! did I really type that!), and any mess that children (big or small) can create. Buy one for Dad and borrow it as needed.
Seriously. A Shop Vac.
We bought our Kirby about 15 yrs. ago, and it is still going strong! I SO love it! True it is heavy, bit I just learned the correct way to carry it up the stairs. We have always had cats and dogs, and for years I also had a lisenced childcare in our home, so I vacumed often and daily! I had it in for a repair a few moths ago, but really havent had any big problems with it all these years. I plan to buy a second hand one of this one ever does go, but this one I purchased brand new. I’m definitely for Kirby!
Totally agree with Kathleen. I use a Rigid shop vac. You can’t beat the suction and that is works on wet or dry. Only thing it needs is a beater brush.
At age 56, I have owned two Electrolux canisters and Electrolux central vac system The first Electrolux was still going strong after 10 years when we got an Electrolux central vac. I did bring it into a repair shop to do a routine It continued to work even after my teenage daughter vacuumed up a jar of jelly with it! We moved so I’m not sure how long it lasted. I so miss central vac. It had a big tank (larger than any regular vac) that was easy to change. And it was very light because you don’t have to roll around a canister, etc. In 1800 sq. foot home I only had three places to plug it in-one for each floor. The hose was long enough to reach every part of each floor and had plenty of power. I have to say, vacuums will last longer if you maintain them regularly and clean the beater brush every time you use it. My current $450 Electrolux canister 11 years old and still going strong with no problems! That said, my pre-school granddaughters love to use the Black and Decker cordless handheld vacuum clean their crumbly messes and run to get it with excitement when they have the opportunity to do so. No problems with weight or motivation here!