Canister vs Upright Vacuum: Which Is Best For You? - Best Vacuum For Hardwood Floors 2018

Canister vs Upright Vacuum: Which Is Best For You?

August 4, 2016

Everyone likes a sparkling, sanitized home and a vacuum is an integral part of your cleaning arsenal. We will guide you through the pros and cons of a Canister vs Upright Vacuum.  Make no mistake, each offers a unique set of advantages, but there are drawbacks to each. So it all comes down to your personal vacuuming needs.  Make sure you know what your priorities are and this guide will be even more helpful.

We understand that everyone has different requirements so we will outline some of the key similarities and also the major differences between these types of vacuum cleaners.

As with most situations in life, if you are well-informed you can make better buying decisions. We hope to arm you with the knowledge to ensure your purchase will be a sound investment,  not something you regret spending money on.

Canister vs upright Vacuum Which is best for You?

Canister vs Upright Vacuum Quickfacts:

  • Upright Vacuum

The upright vacuum is great for cleaning homes which are mostly carpeted. The attached rotating brush will work wonders on the pile of your carpet.  Its rotating action will pull out more dirt, pet dander and lint balls out than a wand without the rotating brush.  

  • Great for houses with lots of carpet
  • Huge Power available
  • Rotating Brush is a Plus
  • Removable Hose 
  • Canister Vacuum

These petite vacuums are much more light and easy to use than uprights.  If your only consideration is the wand weight, it isn't even close.  But remember, you also have to tote the canister around.  If you have a smaller home then a canister model could be just what you are looking for. These canister vacuums are also very easy to push around because you are only pushing the wand.  They work very well for hardwood floors and tile floors.

  • Great for Hardwood Floors
  • Strong Cleaning Power for Tile Floors
  • Very Manuverable
  • Excellent on Stairs

Upright Vacuum

When most of us think of vacuums, the standard upright is what immediately springs to mind. The upright works well cleaning all types of flooring but really comes into its own for carpeted areas. Many of these models, although large, are extremely easy to maneuver. Innovations in technology have led to tons of improvements in simple steering and overall movement. If you suffer from lower back pain, an upright eliminates much of the bending and stretching required with a cylinder.

Remember that added size brings with it increased capacity. With an upright, you will reduce your time emptying your vacuum on a regular basis.  On all Uprights, you have the rotating brush at the business end of the vacuum.  The rotating brush really helps to get a deep clean on all different types of carpets.  Many uprights now come with a removable hose for quick dusting.  This little improvement is very handy and I would look at upright vacuums with this feature.

canister vacuum vs upright nv356e shark

Canister Vacuum

If you have a smaller home then the reduced size and weight of a canister vacuum is a definite selling point. They are no trouble to move around and can be stored away after use in limited spaces. Although an upright can hold its own in terms of maneuverability, it goes without saying that a canister will be more maneuverable around obstacles such as chairs and for sure the dreaded stairs. If you are getting older or find physical exercise more problematic, then a canister vacuum is a good way to make your life easier.

A canister is truly multi-purpose. Whether your home is mostly carpet or has hard floors, a cylinder vacuum performs super well on all surfaces. For me, though, I think the canister  is a great choice if you are looking for the best vacuum for hardwood floors, especially in a small apartment.  It will also make cleaning your stairs a walk in the park.

Overall, if you have the need to clean hard-to-reach areas and want an affordable and versatile vacuum, a cylinder model could be just what the doctor ordered.

canister vacuum vs upright

Canister vacuum vs upright - Battle Continues - Features!

Lets talk a little bit about some key points for you to consider when choosing between these two very different varieties of vacuum cleaner styles.  

  • Performance

If you are looking for raw power, an upright is the perfect choice.  The upright puts the suction power right down on the floor where you need it.  You don't lose suction from running through the long wand and hose.  The rotating brush helps to pull dirt right out of the carpet.

NLOS (no loss of suction) technology offers superior cleaning power. This takes advantage of a multi-cyclonic action. Say goodbye to clogged filters and maintain maximum suction power.  You may have seen this type of setup with vacuums like the Dyson.

Most canister vacuums are potent enough to get your house cleaned but they are never going to compete with an upright in terms of overall sucking performance. When it comes to power, if you need to suck lots of dirt out of your carpets, uprights definitely would be your choice in the canister vacuum vs upright decision.

  • Bagged or Bagless

By far the majority of vaccums now come free of those bothersome bags. It’s quicker and simpler to remove the container than to replace the bag. It’s also, clearly, more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly because you don't have to keep buying bags all the time.

On the other hand, an  advantage of the bagged variant is more capacity. With some bags, the dust is sealed away to facilitate disposal. With others it’s a messier procedure. Read some honest product reviews to check on this.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, it’s worth targeting a bag-less upright which removes allergens from the airflow.

Think carefully about which suits you best.  

Whether you are using an upright or a cylinder vacuum, the choice about whether or not you want a bag will depend on the factors outlined above more than whether it’s an upright or cylinder.

  • Maneuverability

Weighing anywhere between 1-10kg, uprights will usually vary significantly in terms of size and weight.

Think about where you will use your vacuum. If you are carrying it up and down stairs frequently then consider a lighter model. If you need to clean the stairs themselves regularly then an upright is not the best option without special tools.

Overall, uprights are not difficult to move around but consider these provisos when researching the best model to buy.

Cylinders, on the other hand, are tailor-made for carrying around and using to access awkward spots without overexerting yourself.

In a heads-up between these two types of vacuum for maneuverability, the canister wins hands down.

  • Capacity

Most uprights will hold between 1-4 liters of dust.

Not to state the obvious, but we're going to state the obvious.  The larger the capacity of the vacuum, the larger the vacuum cleaner will need to be.  So, if you want to minimize how often you are emptying out the dirt and dust, you will need a bigger vacuum.  

Cylinders, although smaller and lighter, tend to hold roughly the same amount of dirt.  This is because the vacuum motor and the container are in the separate unit.  

On this point, the canister vacuum vs upright question is dead even.  So, analyze your requirements and take into account the size of your home.  Do you want a smaller unit?  If so, you will be making more trips to the trash can.  For us, we would rather make 3 more trips to the trash a year and have a smaller vacuum to push around.  But we're lazy like that.

  • Pet Hair

Any pet owner knows just how tough it can be to satisfactorily remove animal hair. As well as being unsightly and difficult to deal with, pet hair leaves unpleasant odors.

If you have pets at home, it’s worth investigating designated Pet models. With boosted suction power and high speed brushes, this specialist vacuums will make cleaning up after your animal a breeze. They also often come with brushes and attachments – known as mini turbo tools – to further simplify the process.

Uprights are generally a sound bet for coping with the mess left behind by pets but it’s worth investing the time to choose the most suitable version.

The advantage of cleaning with a cylinder is that you get closer to any stubborn stains and can work on them more easily. They are also more practical to carry around making cleaning up behind your pet hassle-free.

  • Accessories and Attachments

Homes come in different shapes and sizes with lots of nooks and crannies that can be hard to clean.

Most uprights and cylinders come with a range of accessories to make this tricky jobs a bit less problematic.

Crevice tools help you get around and under furniture or kitchen appliances. Upholstery tools are great for cleaning fabric – they work well in the car too – while dusting brushes are wonderful for the finishing touches of cleaning.

Different models come with different attachments so look into the ones which will be most useful for you and make sure they are included. Whether you decide upon an upright or cylinder, make certain that the accessories provided are the ones that you need most.


As the saying goes, there are horses for courses. It is almost impossible to decide which is better in the canister vacuum vs upright debate.  Either an upright or a canister vacuum could be considered as “better” or “worse” depending on your requirements. They are simply different tools that are designed with different tasks in mind.

In our opinion, if you have a large, carpeted house and don’t mind spending on a good quality cleaner then an upright vacuum would likely be more suitable.

For those with lots of stairs to clean and the need for a more compact unit, a canister offers many plus points and also comes in at a lesser price.


Think carefully about which type of vacuum meshes best with your needs. Pay close attention to whether or not you want a bag and what attachments you will get then use this information to make sure you buy the best upright or canister vacuum that you can afford.

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