Finding the Best Vacuum Cleaner For Our Family

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Cleaning with children in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating oreos
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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):

  1. Ability to clean
  2. Durability
  3. Weight (if possible, lighter weight was preferable so the kids could use it too)
  4. No expensive upkeep (some vacuums had expensive bags, filters etc.)
  5. 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…

An Oreck Commercial

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?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


142 responses to “Finding the Best Vacuum Cleaner For Our Family”

  1. Kathy Avatar

    FilterQueen. It’s like a small shop-vac. We’ve had ours for 20 years and it’s still going strong! Love it!

    1. Katie Loxtercamp Avatar
      Katie Loxtercamp

      FilterQueen is my choice too. I couldn’t believe how much more it vacuumed up then my Kirby!! I have a solid flooring, i.e. hardwood, tile, heated tile that looks like wood. 🙂 we only have 1 set of stairs that I despise that has carpeting. My kids and I have horrible allergies including, our almost 12 yr old blue tabby Persian with heart disease who has lived way past what any vet thought; our house looks like something from the old west with dust bunnies tumbling across our floors. Our Kirby that was still in great shape but was so heavy, clunky, and I always had to have the hose on which was short & would cause it to topple over, getting caught on walls and changing from the hose to that heavy nasty head for an area rug was a pain in the tush! The simplicity, and Royal before that, did a good job but heavy, comber some and would cause my back issues. I LOVE our FilterQueen. It rolls so nicely, no expensive bags, has very nice head attachment with beater brush for my 1 area rug that pops on or off just like the other attachments, all attachments are on the top of it in a holder but can easily be removed if you don’t want it. It does everything including my feather/poly couch cushions (stuck in garbage bag, suck till flat the reinflate with air cycled through the hepa, repeat 2-3 times. I liked the premise of the Rainbow but didn’t like the clean up or having to essentially clean the toilet & scoop out all the mounds of cat hair b4 I could flush it. Our old septic system is not fond of hair.
      I have sucked up sheetrock pieces & dust, screws, Legos (they never really go away) charging cords- oops! No worries though, I popped the top off and had it out before Kid 2 found out his PSP charger was even gone and no damage. This works like a shop vac but does a better job, although I wouldn’t try it with water it’s not made for that- I think. When I feel it’s time to dump it out I just remove the cone shaped paper filter that keeps things from going into the next filter & eventually the hepa filter. I just take off the hose & go dump it in the trash outside or in. Put the new paper filter cone on & of course since I’m a freak I disinfect the inside with vinegar. It’s nice to know I can not only sanitize my vacuum which kicks more air into my home then any other object; esp. when the Kid cleans up the kitty litter mess with it. I also use it to cycle & clean the air through the hepa too! It’s not cheap, but if I never have to buy another vacuum as long as I live I’m very happy. Good luck to everyone searching.

  2. Joey Brame Avatar
    Joey Brame

    We have been married for 35 years, we have 6 kids, mostly grown. I have used only the commercial Orek for 25 of those years.

  3. Linda Sand Avatar
    Linda Sand

    We had a Kirby but an injury made it too hard for me to use it. We bought an Orek for its light weight and did a test run on the carpet my husband had just vacuumed with the Kirby. We were amazed at what the Orek picked up that the Kirby had missed! We have a Roomba now but agree about not liking the noise of it and its small dust cup. But I don’t have to push it so it will stay around until we break down and buy another Orek.

  4. Beth Avatar

    I love my Miele.
    We got a Dyson because they were supposed to be the “best,” but I hated emptying that bagless chamber. It’s probably great when you are only vacuuming confetti & Lego people, like on their commercial. Otherwise, that bagless chamber is just dusty & gross. And you’re supposed to wash the filters & air dry. That’s fine in theory until your filter is air drying & someone makes a mess, for which you need the vacuum!
    The Miele is too heavy for the kids (we got the upright, so it’s even heavier than the canister, but also a little less expensive), but I don’t mind doing the vacuuming, and there are so many other ways for the kids to help out around the house.

  5. Heather Avatar

    We had our Oreck for 8 years before it died. Works great. The only downside for me is that it doesn’t have attachments!

  6. Summer Avatar

    I’ve tried them all, Kirby, Rainbow, Filter Queen, Oreck, Shark, Kenmore, Dirt Devil, Dyson and now a Sebo. Of them all I loved the commercial Oreck for its light weight, but having serious allergies I needed a vacuum with a HEPA filter. The Sebo is hospital commercial grade and it makes your carpet look brand new. Heavier than an Oreck but not by too much, its motor pulls the vacuum forward with suction and it automayically adjusts like a Range Rover’s suspension to lower on floors and higher on carpets. Hands down best vacuum ever. Worth the investment and not as expensive as you would think considering all it’s features.

  7. Michelle Avatar

    I love your info! I had to laugh when I read this post because this is the vacuum many hotels use for housekeeping when I worked in the hotel business. Question, how does work on hard wood floors vs. carpeting? Also, these don’t have a wand to suck up dirt against the wall or baseboards. What do you do in that case? Congrats on the birth of your beautiful baby, by the way! 🙂

      1. Susan Avatar

        What hand vacuum do you use? I’ve owned a dirt devil and a black and decker and was not happy with either one of them.

          1. Kay Avatar

            Katie, You just said in the comment above that “I occasionally just use a hand vacuum around the baseboards if needed but this vacuum does pretty well to get close to baseboards…” [So what did you mean “We don’t use a hand vacuum…” here?]

            When we bought our first Oreck [by catalogue, YEARS ago] it came with a small canister vac called the Buster B. When Oreck put a retail store in our town, we finally got a new Oreck XL (which has a HEPA filter too) back in 2002. It came with another Buster B and has a 21 year warranty and we take it in for a free yearly “checkup” to keep the warranty in effect. While dh and I were away for our 39th anniversary last month (August 2016) the “loop handle” (that’s used to lift the vac up and down stairs and is part of what the cord wraps around during storage) broke. [Not sure how the adult kids living at home managed to break it, but at least someone was actually vacuuming while we were away! 😉 ] Will be taking it into the Oreck store soon for repair, but it still vacuums great. I love my Oreck and the Buster B handles the little stuff like baseboards when I bother to use it. I must say we don’t use the big one as much now that we have Pergo flooring throughout the house, but I still use it on a couple of heavy floor mats at the doors (and hubby will use it instead of the SwifferVac on the kitchen floor before he steam cleans it for me). ~ All’s grace, Grandma Kay

          2. Wellness Mama Avatar

            Opps! I apparently responded to the wrong comment there, it’s now corrected and linked to the one we have. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Jane Avatar

    Bought my Oreck 9 years ago. Works as well as the day I purchased it. No repairs to date. Prior to that bought a new vacuum every year or two.

  9. Jamie Avatar

    Same vacuum I bought a little over a year ago. It is a great vacuum. I wish it had a light on it but that’s just minor for me. The only thing I truly miss is the attachments. The hose came in handy. But yes it is a great vacuum that’s holding up really well

  10. Tiffany Anderson Avatar
    Tiffany Anderson

    I used to have an Oreck and loved it until I traded it in for a Riccar. I went to get another Oreck and the salesman talked me into the American made Riccar. It’s the same make as the Oreck and just as light. I totally recommend it, next time you are in the market for a vacuum. You’ll love it!!

  11. Elizabeth Avatar

    I have my grandmother’s Oreck which is probably 15 or 20 years old. Only 1 child, but lots of dirt!

  12. Marisa Avatar

    I love my Dyson. We’ve had it for over 5 years, and have had one part replacement (the hose got stretched too much and ripped.) Great suction, no bags to buy or deal with, detachable hose option is wonderful.

    1. Valerie Avatar

      I have a Kenmore that my parents passed on to me. It’s got to be 30 or more years old and still runs like a champ. The hose developed a crack, which I duct-taped over. It ain’t so pretty anymore, but it’s not like I use it for decoration anyway.

      1. Marilyn Avatar

        No one has mentioned the VitaStar vacuum! Over 15 years old now and still going strong…used almost daily. Aeronautical small canister is light-weight and the suction is still great. Love it??

  13. Susannah Avatar

    I used an Orek professional fairly frequently at an old job and was not impressed. I have also used my sister in law’s Dyson(the older model pet one), many times and it is so complicated, very heavy, unwieldy, and mediocre performance wise. I had a Roomba that was cool but my son spilled hot tea on it! I had a Kirby for one day before I decided that there were way too many parts to assemble and reassemble on a regular basis. We had a dirt devil for 8 years, it was okay, but very heavy, and that was before we had a big dog. We finally bought a top of the line Royal cannister, not realizing thst they had been bought out by a company in China, who also now owns Hoover, Dirt Devil, and others. It was great at first. It had silicone wheels which were great for hard floors, and it used bags, which I really prefer. However, it kept breaking and the warranty process was such a pain. At one point the vacuum guy had it for 4 months, and when we got it back, the part in question was actually for a Hoover, so my $600 vacuum now looked like it had been thrown together from spare parts. When it broke the last time, I still had time on my warranty but didn’t bother. I keep it in the garage for vacuuming out the car, because it was the brush area that broke and it still works well with all the other attachments. My husband wanted to wait and do some research before we bought another vaccum. Did I mention that we have a cat, three boys, a German Shepherd, and like 2000 SF of carpet? I waited a week during which time he did zero research while the pet hair piled up in drifts. I shudder just thinking about it. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, and I knew that ALL vacuum cleaners have some kind of issues. I knew my husband would end up picking something overpriced that I would hate, and that it might be another two months before he made up his suggestion(not an option!). So I went to the nearest store that sold vaccums and got a $79 Eureka pet vacuum. It doesn’t work on hard surfaces, but I use microfiber for those areas anyway. I was just expecting to use it until we got something better, and then I was going to keep it for the two top floors of the house that get vacuumed less(townhouse with so many stairs!), but I absolutely love it. It is light enough to carry anywhere (I’m very petite), and I’ve used it pretty much daily. It uses rewashable filters that have to be cleaned once a month, but it really picks up pet hair like a champ. It’s the first vacuum I’ve used that I actually ENJOYED using! It feels a little flimsy, has to be emptied after every room or two, and has very few bells and whistles but it still has all its suction after a year and picks up pet hair like a champ! Way better than my sister in law’s Dyson. I really don’t see the point of spending money on vaccums at this point, when I feel like the simple cheepies work just as well if not better!

  14. Amber Avatar

    I’ve killed many vacuums in my adult life but I now have a Shark Lift Away (purple one) that I absolutely love! It very rarely clogs, never loses suction and I fee like it’s pretty powerful. I almost cried last week when it started making a terrible noise and the motor got hot! Turned out the little hose at the bottom that connects the head to the canister was super clogged! It was still sucking up stuff, not as well as usual but still never stopped working!

  15. Leslie Avatar

    The best vacuum for my family of nine was the Kirby. I wasn’t happy with how heavy it was , but it was certainly heavy duty when it came to suction and longevity. I was younger then, so the weight wasn’t an issue. Now in my older , empty nest years , I have a Dyson. Not too bad. , it does the job.

  16. Lorri Glasgow Avatar
    Lorri Glasgow

    My Orek lasted 10 years. Then my husband ordered parts and fixed it. We have a large family, kids, grandkids and critters. I will try a commercial one next time. It always amazes me how light it is. When it starts getting heavy, I realize, duh, change the bag..

  17. Jaimi Avatar

    We have four kids so we are constantly vacuuming. We went to our local vacuum shop and he recommend the Riccar (which I had never heard of). We’ve had it for 2 years now and it still works great, running 1-2 times every day. It was a bit pricey, but so far has proved to be a good investment. We had looked at the Oreck but it didn’t have a hose.

  18. Boni Avatar

    I LOVE my Dyson Animal! 14 dirty feet on 3200 sq ft of 100 year old wood floors with deep cracks and I am super pleased. Love all the attachments for under bed and over doors and fans.

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