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When it comes down to getting things cleaned up, you need a vacuum cleaner that can take care of business. Over the years I have bought a myriad of what I thought were cool vacuums. While they were not expensive, I sometimes kicked myself for expecting that much power out of something so small or that ran on a charged battery.
Lithium Ion Battery Vacuums
You need to be very careful when purchasing a battery-powered vacuum. I have bought several, and they always seemed underpowered, even the small $60 one.
This leads me to believe that with rechargeable vacs you really get what you pay for. Good lithium-ion batteries are not cheap. When you pay very little, you are getting low-quality batteries that don’t have the power load to take care of business.
When a vacuum gets good feedback from those with pets, I pay attention. Yes, this is just a hand vac but for those of us that need something to vacuum small spaces and nooks and crannies, that is exactly what is needed. This vac comes in at $65 but it has a good lithium ion battery. You get three tool options with the vac so you can take on upholstery and hard surfaces with cracks. We have very hairy dogs so it is important to get into the small spaces. For those concerned about allergies, this vac offers triple filtration, and it is easy to clean out the filters.
The Dyson is a major splurge when it comes to vacuums. They have a great reputation and are very powerful. This is what I mean when I say you have to pay a lot to get maximum power in a battery-powered vacuum. The Dyson line of lithium-ion battery vacuums doesn’t disappoint. There are different levels of vac. I have seen this model in action at my husband’s parent’s house and I was very surprised how well it cleaned and picked up pet hair and small bits of dirt on the hardwood floor. The one disadvantage is that you have to empty the vacuum fairly often.
If I had to pick one vacuum to always have on hand, it would be a Shop Vac. We have a large one because we needed something big and sturdy while building our house. That tells you just how long we have had it. The filters are inexpensive and you can get attachments such as upholstery brushes. I get out the Shop Vac for when we really need to deep clean. I like being able to vacuum the walls.
This is just a classic Shop Vac with a few extra attachments. For those that are looking for a heavy duty vacuum, this is a hard combo to beat. This set even comes with the upholstery brush I mentioned was really handy for cleaning all over the house, especially the walls. You can get extra lengths of hose to increase the reach of your Shop-Vac if you ever feel the need.
Small Shop-Vacs cost almost as much as the mid-sized 4 gallon version but they are easier to carry around and more suitable for some people. The small Shop Vacs are excellent for cleaning out cars so you don’t spend money at the car wash. If you have stairs and other areas that are hard to clean, this could be an alternative to a traditional hand vac.
While bagged uprights are not for me, I cannot do a vacuum article without making a few suggestions for those that like a traditional style vac and want a lot of power for their money. The vac weights just 8 lbs but is rated for commercial use which makes it a good choice for those that have a lot of cleaning to do. The top fill bag design is a little easier for some to use and it helps minimize spills and messes. It is actually much more cost effective than a lot of the vacuums in this post.
The vac gets a seal of approval from the National Arthritis Foundation so it is a good upright choice for older folks. The switch is located on the upper handle so you don’t have to bend up and down as much. A real standout feature is that the head automatically adjusts if you go from vacuuming a hard surface to a carpeted surface. That is really nice because it is a pain to have to stop vacuuming and manually adjust your vacuum.
The Orek XL is truly a classic when it comes to vacuums. I remember hearing more than I wanted to about this vacuum as a middle-schooler that was forced to listen to Paul Harvey every morning by our school bus driver Millie. Paul really must have got a lot of ad money from Orek XL because that is all I can remember about his show.
Of course, country music came on right after that. Millie just turned it on that station and that is what we had to listen to. Paul Harvey was considered non-controversial, unlike the rock station that we all wished she would switch it to.
The Bissell is under $100 and has plenty of power for a regular household. The Clearview features mean that you can see when it starts getting full so you are not as likely to forget it. For those that like an upright and want to avoid bags, it is a vacuum that a lot of people have been happy with, especially for the money. The filter is washable. The hose and crevice tool means you can truly vacuum the whole house with this machine and not leave out the corners and hard to reach places. The vac comes with a dusting brush as well so you can clean even better. Around my house, I have to have a dusting brush for my vac with all the woodwork we have to clean and the dogs and cats running in and out!
Powering a Vac
Of course, powering a vacuum cleaner can be hard if the grid is down. This is where 12-volt vacuums can work. Also, if you are living off-grid, you may want something that works for you instead of just sweeping and mops. Things can get pretty messy living out in the country, especially if you have dogs or cats.
I have a vac but no carpets
Some of you may be able to manage having a carpet but I simply cannot. Between our farm work and pets, carpeting would get gross in no time at all.
We do have sheepskin rugs but I can take them outside, beat them, deodorize them, and deep clean sometimes. Anything that is like a scatter rug is okay to have out in the country because you can clean it. Carpet that is installed must be cleaned a lot and rules followed or you get a gross mess that can cause allergies or make them worse.
I apologize if I have offended anyone about carpets but I am still traumatized from when I had to run a carpet cleaner over a 20-year-old carpet that had been heavily used. Unless you are a low use person with no animals, stay away from the carpet.
This style of vacuum is a bit like a nicer home version of a Shop Vac. You get a big canister for storing all the garbage you vacuum up but there are a lot of attachments that come with it and you have a blower function that can be useful for cleaning some spaces. I like that it has a wider head than the typical shop vac.
The one thing that I don’t care for about this vacuum is that it has a dust bag. Since the dust bag is small and made to be easy to remove, it may not be a deal breaker for some. Huge uprights that have large bags are where you run into it being cumbersome.
Off Grid Options
Unfortunately, vacuums are pretty power hungry and those that don’t burn a lot of power are disappointing a lot of the time. A lot of people that build off-grid homes just have area rugs or similar because they need something that mostly is easy to clean with a broom and light mop.
Here are a few tools to consider for cleaning carpet off grid.
This handy tool uses no electricity and is good at getting up dirt and debris. Those that have short to medium carpet will find that the Bissell glides across and gets a lot of dirt in a single pass. I am glad to see that they still make these. I remember using one of these as a kid at times. Some parents say that it is a good way to get young kids to sweep. At $25 this is a bargain off grid cleaning tool. If you have area rugs this would be an excellent way to keep them touched up.
Small 12 volt hand vacs that plug into a regular car socket are often a good choice for those that are off the grid. You can use these easily with something like the Jackery Explorer 240 power center that I reviewed. The car vac pictured above is one of many options. These vacs are inexpensive and have a lot of attachments for cleaning small spaces.
Other options for off grid
The truth is that most people are going to want to use what energy they get from alternative power for things besides vacuums so running a standard vac is just something people give up when choosing to live off the grid. If you have a lot of extra power, then it may not matter so much to you. Do remember that vacs vary a lot in power consumptions so go with the smallest one you can use to do what you require.
Our Shop Vac used to have wheels, but it doesn’t now. A big Shop Vac is handy, but it is bulky and takes a lot of power. A smaller vac can be a lot more versatile for some people and they cost less. You may find that you want two or three different vacs of varying sizes to make the most use of your time and energy.
Bag Versus Bagless Vacuums
I am always of the opinion that I would rather empty a vac often than have to rely on vacuum bags. The cost of vacuum bags and the hassle of having to remember to buy the right size often enough is not something I want to deal with. Bags do mean that you have a lot of debris concentrated in an easy to throw away bag.
In my experience, people forget to change out their vacuum bag often enough. A lot of bagged vacs have a little indicator that lets you know when the bag should be dumped but it is easy to miss or ignore. Bagged vacs are not clear, so it is not like you can just glance and tell when it is full. Bags can be really heavy and hard to manage for some people.
Wet Versus Dry Vacs
Shop Vacs are nice because they are the most inexpensive and heavy duty wet and dry vac you can buy. Not all vacuums can handle wet conditions and you want to make sure that you know that ahead of time! Remember that some wet stuff should probably be cleaned up another way first. I would not want to use my Shop Vac to vacuum up a bunch of wet sticky liquid because that would create a big mess inside the hose and vac. If you use your vac for wet stuff, make sure to clean it out well afterward or you will regret it. Even just dirty water will smell awful and make your vac nasty if let for an extended period.
Regular dumping of filters and bags is crucial to keeping a vacuum going
You absolutely have to clean the filter or change the bag of your vacuum regularly. If you don’t it will result in your vacuum not having good suction and at worst you will cause it to overheat and cease to function. It saves a lot of time and money to be good at maintenance. Empty your bagless vacs after a use or two depending on how heavy you clean each time.
I have heard of people that did not realize they had to empty a filter, burning up $300 vacuums in a few months. Make sure you know where all the different filters and potential spots for clogs are on your vac and take steps to keep them clean and clear. Remember that if your vac is not performing well, it takes you more time to do the same amount of cleaning.
Always double check what size bag or filter your vac takes
It is easy to order the wrong size bag or filter. Always check to make sure a filter or bag is right before ordering. I have ordered filters that were supposed to fit and did not quite work but I have to say I was buying a cheap generic brand and that was probably where I went wrong.
Wheels and brush head rollers
I remember when I used uprights a lot and had carpets at the apartments Matt and I rented when we were in our early 20s. The vacuum tended to get thread and carpet fibers wound up in the wheels and the brush head. This required scissors and time to clean out and it was sometimes a little gross to do. If you don’t do this and let it goes too far, you will probably smell something that seems a little burnt sometime and be alarmed. That is at least how it happened with me more than once. Just remember to take a look under your upright once in a while and clean as needed.
What is your favorite type of vacuum? Do you have any advice for mid-priced high-quality options I have not mentioned here? Have you ever tested the limits of your vacuum? Please share in the comments below.