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Last updated: 04 March 2019

Our experts lab test and review barrel and upright vacuum cleaners from brands such as Dyson, Miele, Electrolux, Shark and Vax to help you quickly find the best performers on the market.

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This test covers upright vacuum cleaners and barrel vacuum cleaners, as well as models that come either with bags or without.

Our expert testers give every vacuum a thorough workout to help find the models that:

  • are best at removing dirt and pet hair from carpet
  • are best at getting into corners and edges
  • are best at a quick clean
  • are the easiest to use
  • are the quietest
  • are the most reliable, according to our members
  • have the best range of extra features.

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which models come with a HEPA filter, are bagged or bagless, have variable power or come with on-board storage. Our Recommended list will help you quickly see which models come out on top. 

This review includes previously tested models that are now discontinued; to see them, select the filter at left under Related products.

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List of brands we tested in this review.


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Barrel vacs (aka cylinder vacs) are the type you pull along behind you – their long hoses and wands make them well-suited to cleaning a variety of spaces, including stairs and car interiors. Upright models are good for cleaning large areas of carpet as they have built-in power heads.

Dust collector

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Bagless vacs have on-board bins which can be messy to empty, but at least you don't need to worry about buying bags. Bags can be less messy to remove and replace, but are an ongoing cost. Water filter models use a water tank to trap dust; it must be emptied after each use. See our buying guide for more info.

HEPA filter

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High-Efficiency Particulate Air filtration – a filter for trapping very fine dust and pollen. Useful if you have allergies or asthma. Some are washable, others need to be replaced every year or so.

Test results

Pet hair removal score

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To test pet hair removal, we embed cat hair in the carpet and, as with the dirt pick-up test, vacuum it to a set pattern and speed. We rate the results based on how much cat hair is left behind after the test. Where supplied, the turbo brush or power head is used for this test; otherwise, we use the standard cleaning head. Pet hair for testing supplied by Woof Cat & Dog Grooming, Bondi, NSW.

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Noise (dB)

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Noise is measured at the user's position at maximum power setting. For comparison, a typical conversation is carried out at about 60dB, while city traffic is measured at around 80dB.

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Cleaning performance score

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This score is a composite of the quick carpet clean score (67%) and the complete carpet clean score (33%).

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Power head

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Has a motorised brush and is a good option for quickly cleaning up pet hair and lint as well as extracting dirt from carpet.

Turbo brush

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Has a rotating brush driven by the vacuum's air flow. Good for picking up pet hair and lint, though generally less effective than a power head.

On-board storage

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It's more convenient to store the tools and attachments in or on the body of the vacuum cleaner than to have to keep them separately elsewhere. Some models only have storage for one or two of the supplied tools.

Blower facility

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The vacuum can switch from suction to blowing out air. Handy for inflating things like airbeds and balloons, or for blasting dust from hard-to-reach areas.

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Included in this review

Members-only access
  • Recommended
  • Overall score
  • Cleaning performance score
  • Quick carpet clean score
  • Complete carpet clean score
  • Ease of use score
  • Cleaning corners and edges score
  • Pet hair removal score
  • Brand reliability score
  • Owner satisfaction score
  • Noise (dB)
  • Power measured (W)
  • Measured dust collector volume (L)
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Price
  • Availability
  • Type
  • Dust collector
  • Carpet-hard floor head
  • Power head
  • Turbo brush
  • Hard floor tool
  • Crevice tool
  • Upholstery tool
  • Dusting brush
  • On-board storage
  • Wand suction control
  • Variable power
  • HEPA filter
  • Washable HEPA filter
  • Dust bag full or clear bin indicator
  • Blower facility
  • Power stated (W)
  • Reach from power point (m)
  • Weight (kg)
  • Cost per bag
  • Items supplied with vac
  • Origin
  • Contact
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