There are all sorts of vacuum cleaners, including specialty types like hand vacs, car vacs, wet/dry vacuums and the like. But for most of us there are only two that matter: uprights and canisters. Future posts will get into the finer points of each, but here’s a rundown of the basic differences.
Uprights generally have a revolving roller brush that agitates the carpet to loosen dirt and debris. Most have a single motor for the brush and suction. The better ones have two motors, one to drive the brush and a second motor for suction.
Upright vacuum cleaners are really good at cleaning synthetic carpet (nylon, olefin or polyester). Many also have the ability to turn off the agitating brush for cleaning smooth floors. And with on-board attachments and integrated extension hoses for above-floor cleaning, uprights have become so versatile many people choose them over the generally more versatile and efficient canister.
Uprights have traditionally been the favorite type of vacuum cleaner in the U.S. and Great Britain. In the rest of the world, canisters are the vacuum cleaner of choice.
A canister vacuum cleaner has a base unit with the vacuum motor, dust bag and filter system. Where there is one basic type of upright, there are three types of canister vacuum cleaners. All three used with a hose, extension wands and attachments to suit the chore. It is the attachments that define the difference.
The first type of canister has a simple suction nozzle with a stationary brush. It’s called a straight suction canister, because…well that’s all it does. It sucks the dirt straight off the surface into the dust bag, and not much else.
The second type of canister uses a turbine, or turbo power nozzle. The vacuum uses airflow created by the canister’s suction motor to power a revolving brush that is powered by the airflow.
The third type of canister features a nozzle with a brush powered by a separate electric motor. This type of canister is sometimes referred to as a power team.
Canisters are by far the most versatile vacuum cleaner design, offering outstanding performance on carpet and smooth floors as well as above the floor surfaces.
Because the cleaning tools are used with a hose and wands, canister vacuum cleaners are more maneuverable and easier to get under most furniture and into tight spaces.
Is a canister better than an upright? It depends on the type of cleaning you do. But our experience is if you do a lot of above-floor cleaning, such as furniture, drapes, moldings, and the like, the quality of the attachments and maneuverability of the canister will make cleaning faster and easier.