Upright Vacuum vs Canister Vacuum – What is The Best?

April 13, 2017

Vacuum cleaners can either make your life easier or make cleaning the house a hassle every time it gets too dirty. If you get the right vacuum, it’s going to make it a lot easier to clean your home! But, that decision takes a little more thought and consideration than you might imagine. One of the biggest questions people have is what the differences are between upright vacuum vs canister vacuum cleaners are. I want to help you understand how these two are different and which one might be best for you.

Differences Between Upright and Canister Vacuums

These are two separate categories of vacuums. They are both large and powerful, but are designed to work differently in various situations around the house. While uprights are tall vacuums with the motor attached directly to the long, stick-like body, canisters have the motor and filtration as a separate piece from the hose and attachments. Each is uniquely designed to do well in certain tasks around the house.

Which is Better for Carpet?

Both canisters and uprights are good for use in carpeted houses, but uprights are better. Whereas canister vacuums need a special brush roll head attachment to work on carpets, uprights are built with a powerful brush head roller as a standard feature. Since it’s built directly into the vacuum, the brush head on an upright is usually better at extracting dirt from carpets, especially very thick carpets.

If your house is all carpeted, an upright is a great choice. But, if there is a mix of carpet and hard floors, a canister vacuum might be an equally useful choice.

Which is Better for Hardwood Floors?

Most homeowners prefer canisters for hardwood floors, but there is a catch. If you get a canister vacuum, you’ll want to make sure it has rubberized wheels and a high enough profile that it won’t scrape and scratch the floor. Uprights are not well built for hardwood floors, since they are more likely to scratch them and they aren’t as flexible for moving into smaller spaces.

If you are going to use an upright vacuum on hardwood floors, you have to be sure you can turn the brush rolling head off. Brush heads are fantastic for carpets and rugs, but they can easily scratch and tear up your wood floors.

Does a Canister or Upright Have Strong Suction?

Canisters almost always outrank uprights in terms of suction power. Their motors being separate allows them to be heavier and designed for power instead of portability or light weight. It’s common to find canister vacuums that are more powerful than similarly designed uprights.

What’s Better for Allergies and Filtration?

Both uprights and canisters are a fairly even match for filtration capabilities. As long as you buy the models with the right filtration features, both will do well and will clean up the air while you’re vacuuming the floors. But, in many cases the standard canister vacuum has better filtration than the standard upright. This all has to do with the closed system in a canister.

Uprights are all built in one solid piece that’s connected to the handle. Canisters are made with the filtration and motor separate from the hose, meaning they don’t have to be as flexible or mobile to move with you. Many canister vacuums are built with a partially or fully closed filtration system. They are also easily to unload without making a mess, even if they use the dirt cup collection instead of bags.

What Type is Cheaper?

Generally speaking, uprights are cheaper than canister vacuums. They are still one of the most common types of vacuums that are designed by nearly every company. It’s easier to find a high quality upright vacuum for a smaller price tag than a comparably high quality canister vacuum.

Which is More Portable?

If you’re talking about vacuuming the stairs, canisters beat out uprights by a lot. It’s much easier to carry a canister vacuum up and down the stairs than to lug a large, heavy upright from different floors. It’s also a bit easier for most people to pull a light weight canister around as they vacuum, although that is a matter of personal preference. Plus, it brings the risk of bumping and dinging furniture with the canister.

What is Better for Reaching Small Spaces?

Canisters also beat out most uprights when it comes to getting in the small spaces. Since the motor and filter are not attached to the vacuuming head, it’s easier to get the head and hoses lower to fit underneath furniture. It’s also easier to switch the head on a canister to vacuum between tight spaces or around the corners.

Which Vacuum is Easier to Store?

Uprights are simple for storage. Although they seem bulky, they are built to take up just a little space when standing up straight. This makes them perfect for storage in closets or even for leaving out while you do something else in the house. You can simply stand up the vacuum up straight and expect it to stay properly.

Canisters don’t give this kind of luxury. They are a bit difficult and frustrating to store, since the hose is usually hard to wind up in any reasonable way. Usually, you’ll just end up dumping it into the closet and hoping for the best!

Pros and Cons of Upright Vacuum vs Canister Vacuum Cleaners



  • Great for carpets
  • Powerful motors
  • Convenience features like self-propelled pushing
  • Many attachments help with versatility
  • Less need to bend over while cleaning or emptying dirt
  • Easy to store in a closet
  • Better pricing for good vacuums


  • Difficult to use on the stairs
  • Not ideal for hardwood floors
  • Harder to reach underneath and around furniture



  • Strongest suction designs
  • Great for hardwood floors
  • Easy to maneuver around the house
  • Best large vacuum type for the stairs
  • Ideal for getting into tight spaces to vacuum
  • More closed filter systems for better air quality and filtration


  • Need rubberized protection to avoid dinging furniture
  • Difficult to store nicely
  • Manual head attachments need to be changed for different floor types
  • More bending over is required to clean properly


Different homeowners have their own preferences for vacuum cleaners. While canisters and upright vacuums both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, it’s not a black and white line to decide which one you should get. Based on what you now know about upright vacuum vs canister vacuum cleaners, you can make a decision about which one will suit your house better.

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