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Best Upright Vacuums – 2024

The current Vacuum Wars Best Upright Vacuums ranking based on our own independent evaluation.

Shark Stratos AZ3002 Upright Vacuum

Shark Stratos

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Dyson Ball Animal 3 Upright Vacuum

Dyson Ball Animal 3

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Shark Vertex AZ2002 Upright Vacuum

Shark Vertex

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Kenmore FeatherLite Lift-Up DU4080 Upright Vacuum

Kenmore Featherlite

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Shark Rotator ADV LA702 Upright Vacuum

Shark Rotator Pet

Details coming soon


How We Test Upright Vacuums

At Vacuum Wars, we are dedicated to providing the most thorough and insightful vacuum cleaner reviews. This commitment is embodied in our detailed and specialized testing methods designed to assess various aspects of vacuum performance, from basic suction to more complex tasks like hair entanglement and battery efficiency.

Many Upright Vacuums at Vacuum Wars
Upright Vacuums we have evaluated at Vacuum Wars. © Vacuum Wars

We do not claim that our testing methods are the gold standard, or anywhere near true laboratory tests, but they are our best efforts at honestly and fairly evaluating the relative differences in these products from a consumer advocate perspective. And we have many years of data from doing these tests the same way over and over for hundreds of products. So we can easily spot if a product is much better, or much worse than average. Each of these tests are carefully designed to mimic real-life situations that a vacuum might encounter, ensuring that our reviews are both comprehensive and useful to consumers.

Here's an in-depth look at our upright vacuum testing methods:

Upright Vacuum Power Tests

Unsealed Suction Test

In our "unsealed suction test," AKA “usable suction” we have connected a digital manometer to a specially designed testing surface so that we can evaluate the real-world upright vacuum suction performance. This approach allows us to take into account the entire design of the vacuum cleaner, in particular the influence of the floor head elements, such as air gates and the seal created by certain elements on the bottom of the floorhead. These factors play a crucial role in the vacuum’s cleaning efficiency. This test is done on max power, and the highest score (in Kpa) is recorded. We like it because its not just about raw power but vacuum engineering as well.

Dyson Ball Animal 3 Suction Test
Dyson Ball Animal 3 Suction Test © Vacuum Wars

Airflow Test

We measure airflow using a digital anemometer, which calculates the volume of air passing through the vacuum in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Airflow is the stream of air that moves through the vacuum cleaner, carrying dust and debris from the cleaning surface into the vacuum and through to the dust collection system. Higher airflow means that more air is moving through the vacuum, which can carry more particles and larger debris with it. Essentially, better airflow results in better overall performance, though this is not always the case. We focus on measuring airflow at the brush and any other operational configurations such as from a detachable hose, or at the wand, in order to understand how the vacuum performs in diverse household scenarios. We typically measure the airflow in all of the power settings of the vacuum, though our scores are based on the maximum power setting.

Recording Suction and Airflow Test Results - Kenmore DU5092 Bagless Upright
Recording suction and airflow measurements of the Kenmore DU5092 Upright Vacuum © Vacuum Wars

Upright Vacuum Filtration Tests

At Vacuum Wars, our filtration tests assess how effectively vacuum cleaners can enhance indoor air quality and control allergens, which is especially crucial for individuals with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues. Using a fog machine, we visually confirm the effectiveness of the vacuum's filtration system and its capacity to contain vacuumed particles. This approach allows us to directly observe and evaluate the vacuum's ability to prevent these particles from re-entering the home environment, thereby providing a clear and tangible assessment of its filtration performance.

  • HEPA Filtration: We score higher for vacuums that use HEPA filters. Defined as High-Efficiency Particulate Air filtration, HEPA filters must meet stringent 3rd party standards that requires them to capture at least 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter. The benefits of such high-efficiency filtration include significantly reducing household dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens.
  • Sealed Systems: Our filtration test ensures that the vacuum is sealed effectively. A vacuum with a sealed system ensures that the air drawn into the machine passes through the filter before being expelled back into the room. This prevents unfiltered air from escaping through gaps in the vacuum’s body, which is essential for trapping allergens, dust, and particles inside the vacuum and preventing them from being recirculated into the air. Our tests check for the integrity of these systems, confirming that they work effectively alongside the HEPA filters to enhance the vacuum's overall filtration efficacy.
Exploring filtration quality of upright vacuums.
Exploring filtration quality of upright vacuums. © Vacuum Wars

Upright Vacuum Cleaning Efficiency Tests

Carpet Deep Clean Test

In our Carpet Deep Clean Test, we evaluate a vacuum’s ability to pick up fine debris that settles below a carpet’s top surface area, becoming embedded between the carpet fibers. In this test, we apply 100 grams of sand to an area of medium-pile carpet, and we work the sand into the carpet fibers to ensure that the sand has come to rest below the surface of the carpet. The vacuum is run over the carpet a set number of passes at the same basic rate of motion. These tests are performed on the vacuum’s maximum power setting. If the vacuum has adjustable gates, the tests are performed with the gates set to their lowest setting.

After vacuuming, the content of the vacuum’s dustbin is weighed to determine how much sand has been picked up. We typically run this test at least three times to ensure accuracy. A perfect score of 100 indicates that all the embedded material was removed from the carpet.

Conducting the Carpet Deep clean Test with the Shark Rotator LA502 Upright Vacuum © Vacuum Wars
Conducting the Carpet Deep clean Test with the Shark Rotator LA502 Upright Vacuum © Vacuum Wars

Crevice Pickup Test

The crevice pickup test is an assessment of the vacuum’s power and floorhead design, showing its ability to effectively vacuum debris that can collect in the cracks and crevices of a floor’s surface, such as seams, transitions, or tile grout.
In this test, we apply coffee grounds over a specially designed testing surface that has a ¼ inch deep crevice and a 1/8 inch deep crevice. We run the vacuum over it once at its highest setting, with adjustable gates closed if applicable. Vacuums that collect all of the debris from both crevices get a perfect score.

Crevice Pickup Test - Shark Vertex Upright Review
Crevice Pickup Test - Shark Vertex Upright Vacuum © Vacuum Wars

Surface Debris Pickup Test

In the Surface Debris Pickup Test, we assess how well vacuums pick up debris on hard floor and carpet without needing to adjust their settings. We use various sizes of debris, such as fine coffee grounds to the largest items such as cereal. The aim is to assess both the effectiveness and the aesthetics of the cleaning, ensuring that vacuums can handle everyday messes across different surfaces.

We take away points for issues like:

  • Snowplowing: Snowplowing is where the debris is pushed forward ahead of the vacuum instead of being picked up.
  • Scattering Debris: Some vacuums will scatter debris, particularly fine debris, instead of quickly picking it all up.
  • Ineffective Pickup: A vacuum is simply leaving behind debris that it has passed over and should have been able to pick up.
Shark Stratos Upright Vacuuming Debris of All Sizes
Shark Stratos Upright Vacuuming Debris of All Sizes © Vacuum Wars

Anti-Hair Wrap Test

The Anti-Hair Wrap Test challenges vacuums to handle 1 gram of 7-inch and 14-inch hair without getting it tangled in the brush roll. This test is crucial for understanding how well the vacuum deals with hair, a common issue for many homeowners, especially those with pets. In this test we lay the hair before the vacuums, run a pass over the hair, and then visually inspect the roller for hair tangles. Vacuums with no hair tangles receive a perfect score.

Inspecting Anti-Hair-Wrap Brushroll - Shark Rotator Lift-Away DuoClean Pro ZU782
Inspecting Anti-Hair-Wrap Brushroll - Shark Rotator Lift-Away DuoClean Pro ZU782 © Vacuum Wars

Upright Vacuum Maneuverability Testing

During our vacuum testing process, we assess the vacuums in a simulated household environment that includes common obstacles such as chair legs, low furniture, and area rugs. Our focus is to evaluate whether the vacuum navigates easily across both hard floors and carpets and if it can be smoothly steered around furniture. This testing helps determine the vacuum's maneuverability and overall ease of use in typical home settings.

Great on Hard Floors and Carpets - Bissell CleanView Swivel Pet 2252
Evaluating the Bissell CleanView Swivel Pet 2252 at Home © Vacuum Wars

Vacuum Lift-Away Functionality Tests

We specifically test the lift-away capabilities of various upright vacuums, which are sometimes referred to as lift-up features. This functionality allows the main unit of the vacuum to detach from the floor head, enabling users to clean hard-to-reach areas more effectively. Importantly, some models offer a powered lift-away option, where the floor head remains active and motorized even when detached.

Our testing focuses on the ease of use of these lift-away mechanisms and their overall effectiveness in everyday cleaning scenarios. We assess how seamlessly these vacuums transition from traditional upright operation to their lift-away state and back, ensuring that these features enhance the vacuum’s versatility without compromising performance.

Using the Shark Vertex in Lift-away Mode at the Vacuum Wars Studio
Using the Shark Vertex in Lift-away Mode at the Vacuum Wars Studio. © Vacuum Wars

Upright Vacuum Feature Evaluations

We also award points for the inclusion of features that enhance the functionality and effectiveness of cordless vacuums. These feature assessments include:

  • Number of Attachments: Includes tools such as crevice tools, upholstery brushes, and more, enhancing the vacuum's versatility.
  • Hose/Wand: Provides extended reach for cleaning above-floor areas like drapes and ceilings.
  • LED Lights: Located on the vacuum head to illuminate dark spaces and ensure thorough cleaning.
  • Swivel Steering: Facilitates maneuverability around furniture and obstacles, improving the cleaning experience.
  • Bin Size: Larger bins accommodate more debris, allowing for extended cleaning sessions before needing to be emptied.
  • Cord Length: The length of the power cord can determine the range of cleaning from one outlet.
  • Noise Level: The operational sound level of the vacuum.
  • Handle Weight: The weight of the handle affects the ease of maneuvering and using the vacuum, especially when cleaning for extended periods.
  • Overall Weight: The total weight of the vacuum affects maneuverability and ease of transport from one area to another.
Our Ball Animal 3 with a full bin after a good deal of cleaning
Our Dyson Ball Animal 3 with a full bin after a good deal of cleaning. © Vacuum Wars

Upright Vacuum Comparative Analysis

When we have completed our evaluations of a vacuum, we log and track the results according to our established upright vacuum testing standards. This structured approach enables us to compare the performance of each vacuum against others we have tested within the same category. By doing so, we can tailor our recommendations based on specific criteria such as price category, floor type, and features. This methodical comparison ensures that our vacuum performance testing and recommendations are objectively grounded, providing a consistent, fair, and unbiased framework for our analysis.

#NotSponsored Reviews

Vacuum Wars has made a significant shift towards complete independence by officially adopting a policy of not accepting free products from companies or doing sponsored content. This ensures that all reviews are based on products purchased with our own funds, thereby eliminating any potential bias that might come from manufacturer influence.

Best of the Best

Current Vacuum Wars product rankings:

Best Cordless Vacuums
Best Robot Vacuums
Best Upright Vacuums
Best Carpet Cleaners
Best Air Purifiers