The dirt on how we test stick vacuums
There's no denying that stick vacuum cleaners are useful for those times you just want to do a quick clean and don't want to get out your full-sized vacuum cleaner. Great for around the kitchen and other areas of the home when you have an annoying spill, a stick vacuum will save you from getting out the dust pan or brush. Easily hidden away in a cupboard, most can also be split into two devices, with a handheld vacuum being a part of the stick vacuum.
Here we'll tell you what goes on in the vacuum lab to give you the results that help you choose the best stick vacuum cleaner for you.
Our expert testers
Our expert tester Peter Horvath is the master of testing all general appliances. His expertise is also behind our espresso machine reviews, toaster reviews and steam mop reviews. But that's not all; his pet projects involve getting out of the CHOICE laboratory and heading out to the race track to test car tyres or heading to the Hunter Valley to test tents, lawn mowers and all other sorts of goodies.
How we choose what we test
With so many to choose from, what makes us pick one stick vacuum to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular models on the market and what you're most likely to see in the retailers.
We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models, we check market sales information and we also check for any member requests to test specific models. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and buy each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they're the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.
How we test
Hard floor dirt pick-up
We use a variety of different materials such as cornflakes, potting mix and flour to evaluate how well the stick vacuum picks up each of these from a hard floor surface.
Cleaning corners and edges
Sand is spread into a right-angled corner and vacuumed to see how close to the corner each cleaner is able to pick-up dirt using the standard cleaning head.
Pet hair removal
We embed cat hair into the carpet and vacuums it to a set pattern and speed in exactly the same way as the dirt pick-up test. Pet hair for testing is supplied by Woof Cat & Dog Grooming in Bondi, NSW.
Dirt removal from carpet
We embed sand evenly into a section of carpet and vacuums it. The sand is weighed and recorded; this is done twice for each model and the results are averaged. With normal vacuums we pre-load the dust collector with dust, but these stick vacs have a very small dirt receptacle capacity so we adapted the method by not pre-loading.
Quick clean test
We measure dirt pick-up from carpet after just four passes of the cleaning head. Our usual test involves 10 passes up and down the carpet. This result doesn't form part of the overall score.
For those that separate from the stick into a handheld vacuum, we disperse pebbles and sand throughout the front and rear floor of a car and evaluate how well they pick up these materials. This is not counted towards the final score, as not all vacs are 2-in-1 products.
Ease of use
To determine how easy stick vacuums are to use, we assess:
- how easy it is to manoeuvre the cleaner
- how difficult it is to empty and clean the dirt receptacle
- how easy it is to operate the controls
- how easy the supplied accessories are to use and store.
Scratch test We set the cleaning head to the hard floor setting and stops the brush from rotating where possible. All models score 100% in the scratch test so we no longer carry out this test.
Noise is measured at the user's position at maximum power setting. Some models emit a high-pitched whistle that can be irritating, even though they may not be louder than others.
Test criteria explained
The overall score is made up of:
- Hard floor dirt pick-up (30%)
- Ease of use (30%)
- Cleaning corners and edges (15%)
- Pet hair removal (15%)
- Dirt removal from carpet (10%)
Our test lab
Our testing laboratory is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.
Ready to buy?
Are you ready to buy one? Have a look at the results in our stick vacuum reviews.