How We Review Vacuum Cleaners
Carpets and Rugs
Performance of the vacuum on carpets and rugs
is the first area of testing.
Our first test involves seeing how the vacuum does with small particles or fine dust. To show how a vacuum performs, we pour white flour on the carpet and then vacuum it up.
We are looking at a few things during this test. First of all, did it clean up the small particulate matter in one pass, or did it take multiple passes to clean the carpeting.
Second, when the flour is next to the wall, does the vacuum clean all the way up to the edge of the carpet?
Our next test on carpeting involves using larger particles and pouring it onto the carpeting or rug. Some of the examples of larger things we use for this test include rice, dirt, crushed up crackers, navy beans, and even pine needles.
We once again look at if the vacuum can suck these larger particles up in one pass, and if the vacuum can clean up these objects if they are up against the edge of the carpeting.
The final and most important test that we do for pet owners is the pet hair test.
Using clumps of pet hair that we mash into the carpeting, we see if the vacuum can clean up fur that is embedded into the carpeting.
We also take a look at if a vacuum does well on carpeting compared to how it does on an area rug. Why is this important?
Well, sometimes a vacuum that has excellent suction power isn't exactly the right choice to clean a rug.
For example, we tested a Dyson DC14 and it would suck the rug up into the machine a bit, which created an awful grinding noise. This machine was great for carpets, but bad for rugs.
Also, a machine that isn't great at cleaning up against the edge of the carpet wouldn't be bad if you are using it just for cleaning up area rugs.
Performance on hard floors is our next area of testing. We take the vacuum and see what it can do in different situations you may run into while cleaning up a hard surface.
Once again, we use flour to simulate dust on the floor. We clean it up in an open area, and also see if it can get these small particles up against the wall. Most vacuums do fine in this area of performance.
The next test on hard floors involves using larger particles like crushed up crackers. This is a test that shows some vacuums biggest weaknesses.
Many vacuum models have brush bars that can't be turned off. If this is the case, the vacuum often will have the brush bar going and kick particles away from the vacuum instead of sucking it up on a hard floor.
A good cheap vacuum from Hoover called the Hoover Widepath has this problem. It did a great job on all of our carpeting tests, but on the hard floor it would spit larger particles all over on the hard floor instead of sucking them up.
The brush bar can't be deactivated, so the only way to suck up larger particles on a hard floor was to use the hose and attachments.
On Board Tools
On Board Tools are another area of our extensive testing. Most vacuums come with a hose and some basic cleaning tools. Some of the most common tools include a crevice tool for small spaces, and an upholstery brush for furniture.
We get out the hose and see how far it can reach, if it is easy to access the on board tools, and if the tools work well.
An example of a vacuum with a nice hose and easy access to the On Board Tools was the Miele S7 Salsa. The hose and the tools were stored so nicely on the back of the unit, we didn't even realize they were there.
Sometimes, vacuums come with additional equipment that helps you clean well in many different situations. The Dyson Animal series is an example of how certain vacuums add additional tools for specialty cleaning situations.
This type of vacuum comes with a motorized power brush that attaches to the hose and extension wand. This is very important for people who want to get pet hair off of couches or chairs.
Cleaning stairs also involves using the on board tools, so we see how easy or difficult it is to carry the vacuum up and down as we clean each step.
Technical Measurements - Noise, Filtration and Suction Power
Testing the Noise Level, Filtration Quality, and Suction Power are all very important things to know for many consumers. At Vacuum Wizard, we use a specific tool to measure each one of these vacuum qualities.
Measuring Noise Of A Vacuum Cleaner
First up, we use a decibel reader to determine how loud a vacuum is when it is operating. The average vacuum's noise level is around 80 decibels.
To put this amount of noise in perspective, if you were operating the vacuum, someone who is only 10 feet away would have to shout to you for you to hear.
Vacuums that are 70 decibels or less are considered quiet, and vacuums that are 85 or higher can actually damage your ears if you are using the vacuum for an extended period of time without ear protection.
This level of noise is rare, but when we tested some floor scrubbers like the Hoover Floor Mate, the noise was unbearable in a small space like a half bathroom.
Filtration Quality Test
To measure the filtration quality of the vacuum, we use an Airborne Laser Particle Scanner. This very expensive and highly accurate tool measures the amount of dust that comes out of a vacuum down to 0.3 microns in size.
Why is 0.3 microns an important number to know? If a vacuum spits out particles larger than this size, it can cause problems for people who have asthma or if they are allergic to dust, pet dander, or pollen.
Many vacuums claim they have HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration systems, which means the filter eliminates 99.97% of the dust down to 0.3 microns in size, but our particle scanner tests to see if this is valid.
Measuring Suction Power
Another valuable tool we use is a water lift gauge for measuring the vacuums suction power. The higher the number for the water lift (or inches of water) the more suction power.
An average vacuum will have a rating of around 80 inches of water. The amount of suction is extremely important for any vacuum because the more suction it has, the cleaner your carpets will be.
For homeowners with medium to high pile carpeting, you need to purchase a powerful vacuum.
There are a lot of fancy, lightweight vacuums on the market now, but most of them don't have the power of a full sized upright. Our water lift gauge helps you see if a vacuum will truly get your thick carpeting clean.
Maintenance and Recurring Cost are two very important aspects to consider with any vacuum purchase.
It's important for a vacuum to do a good job cleaning, but it is equally important to see how easy or difficult it is to maintain. Every vacuum has a filtration system, and the first thing we investigate is how this filtration system is cleaned up.
Many of the newer vacuum models have gone to a bagless dust collection bin. This has many positive aspects, but it does increase the amount of maintenance you will have to do.
First of all, a bagless vacuum still needs to have the dustbin emptied out.
Since the dust and debris in dustbin has to be dumped into a garbage can, the transfer is often very messy. You have to dump this debris out correctly or you will get a face full of dust.
The second part of a bagless vacuums filtration system is the filters that are hidden somewhere in the machine.
These filters either have to be replaced often, or they have to be washed out in the sink after so many hours of use.
Often, many people forget about performing this routine maintenance, and this can end up damaging, or causing the vacuum to overheat and break.
The more traditional bagged vacuum models avoid some of these issues because the bag often acts as the filter.
The bag will fill up with dust, causing the vacuum to lose suction power, or the vacuum will have an indicator light to let the user know it is time to take the bag out and put in a new one.
Changing the bag is usually not as messy as dealing with a bagless machine. You just take the bag out, drop it in the trash and put in the new bag.
Bagged vacuum cleaners do have recurring costs. You have to purchase a new bag often to keep your machine running effectively.
What Type Of Vacuum Cleaner You Need?
Size and Type are two other qualities that are important when choosing a vacuum. You have to pick a vacuum you are comfortable with.
The four most common choices are lightweight vacuums, which are sometimes called stick vacuums, full sized vacuums, which are called uprights, canister vacuums which roll on the ground and have a long hose, and the small handheld vacuum units.
There are even robotic vacuums out now that can clean the floor without you even having to lift a finger!
Completing The Reviews
Other miscellaneous issues we review with each vacuum cleaner include cord length, cleaning width, maneuverability and weight. With all of these types of vacuums there are a few other areas we would like to point out.
One thing that is important is cord length. If a vacuum has a cord of 20 feet or less, that is a pretty short cord. You will have to change outlets for every room you want to clean.
Another area is the width of the cleaning head. A vacuum with a wider width can clean a large room quicker. The only problem with a wide width vacuum is it won't fit into narrow spaces easily.
Maneuverability is important to consumers as well. This is an area that has largely been ignored by vacuum manufacturers until recently.
Now the Dyson Ball series has come out and changed the way we look at how a vacuum can move.
Other vacuums have followed suit like the Electrolux Ergorapido, which has a nifty swivel head for easy cleaning in tight spots.
Weight is another thing we mention to our readers. This isn't a big issue if you don't have to go up and down stairs, but if you have to carry your vacuum at all, lugging around a 20-pound vacuum or more can be a daunting task.
"This Vacuum Is Best For..."
The final few paragraphs of each article are the most valuable to the consumer. We recommend whom the vacuum would be ideal for.
Sometimes a vacuum does better on carpeting than hard floors. Then this vacuum would be great for a home without a lot of tile, laminate, or wood flooring.
The opposite is true for other vacuums. Maybe it doesn't do well on carpets and rugs, but it does a fantastic job on hard floors. If you have a home devoid of carpet, then we would recommend this machine for you.
Value For Money
We also consider the price of the vacuum in our review. For example, we love the Miele series of uprights and canister vacuums, but quite simply, the price of these machines are too high for many consumers.
That's why we review all the inexpensive models too and see how well they perform in each situation. What's right for one person isn't necessarily what is ideal for another.