If you are vacuum shopping, two of the more popular choices are upright and stick vacuums. Stick and upright vacuums have been around for decades, a sign that both vacuum technologies have stood the test of time. As each has its strong points and shortcomings, the choice between the two could significantly impact your cleaning experience (or buyer’s remorse). Below we’ve compiled important pros and cons of each type of vacuum to consider before making a purchase.
Stick vacuums are designed to be lightweight, easy to maneuver, and convenient. These vacuums typically have a long, slender body with a handle similar to a stick, which is why they’re called stick vacuums. Most people who buy stick vacuums usually choose them because of their lightweight and compact design.
In the past decades, more and more stick vacuums have moved from corded to cordless, further increasing their convenience. And, as battery, motor, and airflow engineering have improved, the best cordless stick vacuums have proven their ability to take on even deep cleaning, which has historically been territory reserved for corded vacuums. Each year we’re more impressed with how manufacturers continually improve the cordless vacuums we review.
Related: One thing we recommend whether buying a cordless stick vacuum or upright is a model with HEPA filtration and a sealed system.
Today, most of the stick vacuum models on the market are battery-powered, making them ideal for cleaning large spaces or multiple rooms of your house since they are not restricted by the length of the power cord. However, it is crucial to consider the battery capacity of these vacuums since it affects how long you can use them on a single charge.
Benefits of Stick Vacuums
- Maneuverability: The lightweight and smaller size of stick vacuums makes them more flexible than upright vacuums. Besides being lightweight, stick vacuums are also usually equipped with a swivel head, making it easier to navigate in and around furniture, tight corners, and hard-to-reach areas.
- Cordless operation: As mentioned earlier, the majority of stick vacuums are battery-powered, eliminating the need for power outlets or having to deal with tangled cords. This makes them much more convenient for cleaning places that are further from power outlets such as stairs and car interiors.
- Portability: By design, stick vacuums are generally more compact and easier to carry around than upright vacuums. If you’re looking for a vacuum cleaner that you can use for several hours without getting fatigued, stick vacuums can be a great choice. One word of caution is that not all cordless stick vacuums are suited for handheld tasks. When we review cordless vacuums, we measure their handle weight and use them as handhelds. If you think you’ll be using your vacuum as a handheld often, look for the lightest option you can find.
- Versatility: These vacuums usually come along with attachments and accessories for specific purposes. For instance, many cordless stick vacuums come with specialized attachments that you can use when tackling different surfaces, including carpets, hard floors, and upholstery.
Drawbacks of Stick Vacuums
- Limited dustbin capacity: Since stick vacuums are designed to be compact, they usually have smaller dustbins when compared with upright vacuums. This can mean more frequent emptying, even when simply doing routine house cleaning.
- Less powerful suction: The compact design of stick vacuums also comes at the cost of the suction power. This makes them the less ideal choice for true deep cleaning or removing stubborn dirt from rugs or high-pile carpet. While there are cordless vacuums that do well at more intensive tasks, they generally cost far more than an upright that could do the job as well or better.
- Battery life limitations: Most stick vacuums on the market last about 20 minutes to one hour on a single charge when used in their low or medium power setting. This can be a deal breaker if you have a larger home or intend to use the vacuum cleaner for extended periods.
One thing to look out for when shopping for a battery-powered stick vacuum is how long the battery lasts at each of the vacuum’s power settings. Manufacturers often provide a maximum run time when marketing their vacuums. This time is achieved by running the vacuum on its least powerful suction setting, and often with no attachment at all.
Upright vacuums have been around far longer than stick vacuums with the first Hoover vacuum dating back to the early 1900’s. Just like their name, they feature a tall and upright body with a handle and a cleaning head at the vacuum’s base. They usually have more suction than stick vacuums, which is why almost all uprights are corded–they need more energy that batteries can’t supply for extended periods.
Did you know: There are cordless upright vacuums. Two that immediately come to mind are the Lupe Cordless and the Hoover ONEPWR Evolve Pet Elite.
These vacuums are typically equipped with strong motors and efficient airflow systems, making them highly effective for extreme cleaning conditions. They usually have good-sized dust bags or bins, so you won’t have to frequently empty them when cleaning large spaces.\
Benefits of upright vacuums
- Powerful suction: Upright vacuums usually have high-wattage motors and efficient airflow systems that enhance their suction. More suction means more effective lifting and removing of dirt and debris, whether on the surface or deep in carpet fibers.
- Deep cleaning: Their upright design, powerful suction, powered brushrolls and often adjustable height settings make these vacuums effective in deep cleaning carpets.
- Large capacity: Their larger size also allows for much bigger dust bags or bins, enabling longer cleaning sessions than stick vacuums.
- Versatility: Like stick vacuums, upright vacuums also come with extra attachments and specialized tools to handle the different cleaning tasks.
Tip: Be sure to check your vacuum’s manual and keep up with your vacuum’s maintenance schedule. A well-maintained vacuum will perform at its best and last longer.
Drawbacks of Upright Vacuums
- Weight and maneuverability: Upright vacuums are usually larger and heavier than stick vacuums, making them less maneuverable. This makes cleaning tight spaces harder with upright vacuums. Being heavy, upright vacuums can be more challenging to move from floor to floor, especially for the very young or old.
- Limited portability: Since most upright vacuums are not battery-powered, they are typically ideal for floor cleaning and some above-floor tasks. In contrast to cordless stick vacuums, however, they are far less convenient to use for tasks like car cleaning.
- Noise: The larger motors and airflow systems can result in upright vacuums generating more noise when cleaning.
Which to choose, a stick vacuum or an upright?
In this stick vs. upright vacuum comparison, we hope we’ve covered the most relevant benefits and drawbacks to consider before deciding which one to purchase. In summary, stick vacuums are lightweight and versatile, offering excellent maneuverability due to their cordless design. On the other hand, upright vacuums generally provide more powerful suction, deep cleaning capabilities, and larger dust capacities, making them suitable for more demanding and extended cleaning tasks.
If you are looking for a vacuum cleaner primarily for simpler tasks such as cleaning your apartment floor, stick vacuums are the best option. However, upright vacuums are the ideal choice if you require a vacuum that can handle more challenging cleaning jobs, such as heavy carpets. It is important to assess your specific cleaning needs and preferences to make an informed decision between the two.
We find that many homeowners have settled on having more than one vacuum, choosing a cordless stick vacuum for flexible, day-to-day convenience and an upright vacuum for deep cleaning.