Vacuum & Carpet Cleaner Buying Guide

Whether your home has carpets or hard flooring, or a combination of both, there are various cleaning appliances for keeping your floors clean. Before you buy, compare all the available features to ensure you purchase a model which suits your needs.

Upright Vacuum Cleaners

Upright vacuum cleaners are probably the most common household vacuum.

The vacuum works via a motor which drives a fan to suck air through the cleaning head. The suction created, combined with one or more rotating brushes (or brushbars), helps to sweep loose debris into the path of the vacuum.

To use, simply switch on and push the whole vacuum cleaner around as required. Some models also have a 'beater bar' which helps to dislodge and lift dirt out of carpets as the cleaner moves along. On some models, you have the option to switch off the brushes / beater bar which enables you to vacuum hard floors such as tiles, wooden or laminate floors.

The main benefit of an upright vacuum cleaner is that it is easy to use and control, and the quickest way to clean large areas of carpet. It is not always possible to reach into awkward corners, however most upright models do have a means of converting the cleaner to use a flexible cleaning head / hose in order to clean awkward spots and stairs.

Some upright vacuum cleaners have inner bags to collect dirt, which is disposed of when full. This means you need to keep a supply of bags ready for use. Increasingly, modern vacuum cleaners tend not to require an inner bag, having an integral, removeable container or bin instead, which can simply be emptied and replaced.

Cylinder Vacuum Cleaners

Cylinder vacuum cleaners tend to be smaller than upright cleaners, however they work in a similar way: using a motor to create suction. However, unlike an upright cleaner, the cleaning head on a cylinder vacuum cleaner is located on the end of a tube connected to the vacuum, and does not usually incorporate brushes.

To use a cylinder cleaner, simply use the flexible cleaning head / hose to access the areas you wish to clean, pulling the main unit behind. Dirt is collected in either a disposable bag, or an integral container which is emptied after use, in the same way as an upright model.

The main advantage of using a cylinder cleaner is that the cleaning head is more flexible and can easily be used to clean in awkward corners, under furniture and on stairs. Having no brush or beater bar to worry about, a cylinder cleaner can also be used on hard floor surfaces such as wooden / laminate floors.

Vacuum Cleaner Features

Before buying a vacuum cleaner, it is useful to learn about and compare the various features to decide which model is best for you.

  • Filters - all vacuum cleaners have at least one filter system to help filter and trap small particles of dust and dirt before air is pushed back out into the room.

    It is important to regularly clean these filters in order for your vacuum cleaner to work effectively - if they become blocked, air cannot circulate properly through the vacuum cleaner, which in turn will compromise the performance of the vacuum cleaner, making the vacuum cleaner work harder, and eventually overheat.

    There are many different types of filter, and they vary from machine to machine. Some filters are replaceable and others are washable - check the individual manufacturer's instructions for specific details on how to maintain the filters on your vacuum cleaner. Some models have very sophisticated filtering systems designed for allergy suffers (HEPA - High Efficiency Particulate Air) or households with pets.
  • Tools and attachments - most vacuum cleaners feature a selection of attachments and cleaning heads which enable you to adapt the cleaner to clean different areas, such as stairs, under furniture, and upholstery. Look for a telescopic hose attachment if you need to reach high spots.
  • Power is measured in wattage, with a higher wattage usually meaning a more powerful cleaner. However, in vacuum cleaners, this is not always an accurate indicator of performance, as some suction systems perform better than others. There is no industry-agreed standard measurement, and vacuum cleaners do not require energy efficiency grading as they do not use much electricity. Some models have variable power controls.
  • Cable length - if you have large rooms and / or stairs to consider, or if you do not have many available power sockets, a long cable is a must. Cable length varies from model to model, so look for a cable long enough to enable you to reach all the areas you need to.
  • Weight can vary greatly from model to model, and some can be heavy to carry up and downstairs, so check the weight before you buy if this is an issue. Most good vacuum cleaners have a built-in carry handle.
  • Dust Bag Full Indicator - this is a feature on some models which indicates when the dustbag or container is full, usually by a warning light.
  • Automated cord rewind - this feature allows you to quickly retract and wind the power cord at the touch of a button. Vacuum cleaners without this feature require manual winding and storage of the cord.

Carpet Washers

Carpet washers, also known as carpet cleaners or carpet shampooers, allow you to deep-clean carpets, removing dirt, grime and stains that cannot be vacuumed away. They work by lightly spraying a solution of carpet shampoo and water onto the surface, which is then 'agitated' using brushes and / or beater bars. The solution is then extracted, along with the dirt.

Additional features to look for when buying a carpet washer:
  • Attachments - look for extra attachments and cleaning heads which allow you to clean awkward spots of carpet, stairs or upholstery.
  • Heat - most carpet cleaners use cold water, however some have a heating element which helps to shift stubborn stains.
  • Variable Temperature Control - where heat is a feature, look for a model with variable temperature control which will allow you to select the best water temperature for the carpet you are cleaning.

Wet And Dry Carpet Cleaners

Another option is a combined wet and dry carpet cleaner, which work as a standard vacuum cleaner, and can also be used to clean up wet spills. Some models can also be used to shampoo a carpet, in the same way as a carpet washer.

Steam Cleaners & Steam Mops

Steam cleaners are becoming another popular choice for cleaning & sanitising floors and other surfaces in the home. These are very efficient at cleaning hard floors, and some models can be used for carpets, tiles, bathrooms, ovens and even curtains!

One benefit of using a steam cleaner is that it cleans to a very high standard with no detergents or chemicals are required. This is a good option for anyone with allergies, or where hygiene is very important.

Steam mops have revolutionised the way we clean our floors. They take away much of the effort associated with traditional mop and bucket cleaning and provide better results in a shorter space of time. Their convenience and practicality are the driving force behind their rising popularity. For many people, it's hard to imagine going back to traditional cleaning after using a steam mop.

Steam mops work by allowing boiled water to pass through the mop head as steam. This technology results in a more sanitary and hygienic form of cleaning as the steam sterilises surfaces and doesn't spread dirt around. There's also no need to use detergents with a steam mop, however, you can choose to do so if your steam mop is compatible with such chemicals.

Generally, steam mops can only be used on hard surfaces such as the kitchen floor, although some newer models can also be used on carpets. They won't give the carpet a full clean as such, but they will 'lift' the carpet and make it smell fresher and cleaner. It's also worth noting that the mop heads are double-sided, re-usable and cheap to replace. Simply flip the head round when it gets too dirty or rinse it out under a hot tap.

The effortless cleaning technology utilised by steam mops makes them the ideal cleaning device for people with back problems. You don't need to stoop over and expend any excess energy when using a steam mop, taking away the strain from your back.

We have a great range of steam mops available, which range from £29.99 for basic models to £59.99 for more advanced models.