Fire up one of these powerful suckers to rid your floors of dust and grime, even zap bacteria and bed bugs.—Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
What happened to the bags?
For manufacturers, vacuum bags were a simple solution that guaranteed follow-up sales: Once you had a Hoover, you had to pony up for Hoover bags. The problem is that sacks can weaken a cleaner’s suction power from the start and only get worse as they fill up. James Dyson invented a work-around: a cyclone mechanism that uses centrifugal force to spin dirt out of the airstream.
So is it all about Dyson?
Not at all. That brand is just the most visible example of recent innovations. New vacuums have durable, lightweight bodies made from the same stuff as some motorcycle helmets (ABS plastic). They’re also better for you, with HEPA filters that eliminate dust and allergens—no more sneezing fits and musty odors—and UV lights that kill pests and germs.
Do robot vacs really work?
Early models were like errant hockey pucks that bounced around the room, but today’s robotic floor cleaners use sensors, IR, and lasers to navigate obstacles and track their progress, making sure every nook gets cleaned. They’re still no substitute for a thorough manual vacuuming, but they’re great at keeping daily dirt and dust bunnies under control.
Wattage labels correlate to the amount of electricity consumed, not sucking power. That depends on other variables like the distance from cleaning head to motor. But in general, if you’ve got deep shag rugs, look for machines over 1,000 watts or 8 amps. Uprights are convenient, but they require more storage space. Apartment dwellers are better off with canisters (the motor is housed in a separate, wheeled unit), which are more portable (hello, grubby car mats!) and easy to disassemble. Pets? Make sure you’ve got a flexible hose, rotating brushes, and a wand for pulling fur off upholstery.
How We Tested
We tried these out in a high-traffic office, where food debris and street grime accumulate quickly on the concrete floors and carpet tiles. We also used them at home, where we dumped coffee grounds on our rugs and wood floors.
The Animal represents the best of Dyson’s evolving technology. The machine packs 12 cyclones (the parts that generate the particle-extracting centrifugal force) and a washable filter into a relatively light 17.4-pound body. The oversize ball hinge works as advertised, allowing the vac to move nimbly in any direction. Befitting its name, the Animal fights pet hair with a motorized cleaner head, and the elongated wand lets you reach up to clean the dust off that old stuffed moose head.
WIRED Less bulky than previous models. As agile as a robotic dragonfly—which it resembles. Brush bar automatically adjusts to floor surfaces.
TIRED Tough to see past the price. Needs its own closet—and a large one at that.
Rating: 8 out of 10