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Vacuuming. No one enjoys it – well, except for the occasional extra playful and curious pet. But it is a necessity to keep your home clean and healthy, and a stick vacuum can make vacuuming much easier for you.
Like most objects, your vacuum cleaner will break down due to constant use. Perhaps you vacuum every day. Or maybe only once a week.
Either way, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to find yourself a new vacuum cleaner someday. And, you might want to consider purchasing a stick vacuum.
With all these high tech appliances now available for our homes, it may get tricky and confusing when it comes to assessing the merits of a top stick vacuum. What makes it better than an upright vacuum cleaner, and why should you consider one?
Stick vacuums have come along way in recent years, and you can make a case that they have all of the same essential features that your standard upright vacuum has.
This guide will help you know the important features to look out for in a vacuum cleaner, including corded vs cordless vacuums, and stick vs upright vacuums. We'll talk about what are the best stick vacuums for carpet, floor, and pet hair. We’ve even included information about how to maintain your stick vacuum so you won’t need to replace it as often.
But first up, what is a stick vacuum cleaner and how is it different to any other vacuum cleaner out there on the market?
As the name suggests, a stick vacuum cleaner is literally a stick with sucking power. They may not sound amazing, but compared to the 1920s version of housework sweeping, they’re amazing!
They’re kind of like electric powered brooms, except instead of sweeping all the dirt and rubbish into one corner, the stick vacuum sucks it all up and holds the debris in a small bag or cup for later disposal.
Since stick vacuums are just sticks, they don’t require much storage space so are great for storing away. This makes them easy to use in small spaces like a tiny apartment or unit house.
All that being said, how do you tell the difference between a stick vacuum and an upright vacuum cleaner?
The biggest and most obvious difference is the appearance and the structure of the stick vacuum and upright vacuum.
Stick vacuums have a sleeker appearance since most have their dust holding containers inside the stick. You might call them the minimalist version of a regular vacuum. They are compact and small, making them a fantastic option.
With an upright vacuum, you can see the large dust bags as they are located outside the shaft of the vacuum cleaner. Stick vacuums utilize a much smaller dust bags.
However, it is common knowledge that although stick vacuums are more maneuverable and space saving, they are not nearly half as powerful as an upright vacuum cleaner.
Upright vacuum cleaners are able to do the heavy duty cleaning while stick vacuums typically perform the light cleaning.
Both types of vacuums are lightweight but the stick vacuum is lighter... often times, much lighter. Without the massive dust bags on the outside, the stick vacuum is lighter and can also be easily stored in tiny areas. If you have back problems, or even just have a large house that leaves you tired from vacuuming, the lighter nature of a stick vacuum might be a perfect solution.
Stick vacuums can further be broken down into several different categories. Different styles of stick vacuums are suited for different uses.
You’ll find that vacuums designed for a particular use, such as cleaning the carpet, will not be as effective at cleaning the bare floorboards.
Let’s take a look at the various stick vacuum styles available and the type of jobs each was designed to perform.
The popularity of cleaning with cordless stick vacuums is on the rise.
They’re easy to move around your home since you don’t have to worry about the length of your power cord. You don’t have to rely on a power socket being handy either.
Without the cord, it doesn’t get tangled up or caught in weird places while you’re vacuuming.
Cordless stick vacuums are also more lightweight and easier to use for vacuuming in those hard to reach places.
But of course, there are also downsides to having a cordless stick vacuum.
The battery inside a cordless vacuum cleaner is rechargeable but has a short life span. Most will last at least 15 minutes, with the best cordless stick vacuum lasting up to 40-45 minutes.
This is fine if you have a small house or just a tiny area to vacuum.
For larger houses, a cordless vacuum cleaner is not as practical. You’ll need to stop vacuuming halfway to recharge your batteries, dragging out vacuum cleaning to last a couple of hours.
Some vacuums also come with an interchangeable battery so while one battery is charging, you can use the other one. This will, undoubtedly, cost you extra.
So, considering the downside of the battery life of your cordless stick vacuum, the battery power in corded stick vacuums never runs out of battery power (because you plug it in).
You can finish vacuuming a large house much quicker than with a cordless stick vacuum since you don’t have to wait for the batteries to recharge.
Corded stick vacuums may be more cumbersome than cordless vacuums but they also have better sucking power on the carpet. The best corded stick vacuum will have 2x-3x the sucking power of a cordless stick vacuum.
So, if you have a larger home, or thicker carpet, a corded stick vacuum will be a better choice to the cordless one.
Of course, there is the issue of corded stick vacuums of requiring convenient power sockets and a suitable length of power cord present for the stick vacuum.
It’s not just the suction power of the stick vacuum that cleans the carpet.
It’s all about the balance between the brush roll which agitates dirt and dust out of your carpet. This is then sucked up by the vacuum.
Stick vacuums for carpets will contain a much stronger brushing action than carpets designed for bare floors. The bristles on the brush are also stiffer and stronger.
As such, you may find that using a stick vacuum for carpet cleaning to clean delicate things such as silk can damage your items.
Unlike carpet, on the bare floor, there’s no debris trapped in the fibers of your carpet. Cleaning bare floor is a much different process for a stick vacuum than cleaning carpet.
Thus, you don’t need such a strong brushing action from your stick vacuum in order to clean the bare floor. The most important thing about stick vacuums for cleaning bare floors is the suction power.
Even so, the amount of suction power required to pick up debris from a bare, hard surfaced floor is very little. So, stick vacuums for bare floors tend to not require much suction power or brush roll action. Stick vacuums are a fantastic option for your home if you have a lot of bare floor.
A stick vacuum for bare floor and laminate floor will have wheels and a brush roller that are specifically designed to not damage your floor.
Often, you’ll find that using a stick vacuum designed for bare floors will be unsuitable for carpets since the dust will still be trapped in the carpet.
Having a pet means your carpet and furniture is constantly covered in fur. And, it just isn’t convenient to always haul out the big vacuum cleaner to clean up pet fur.
Enter stick vacuums for pet hair.
These stick vacuums hold the typical features of being lightweight and portable.
Most stick vacuums designed for cleaning up pet hair contain a motorized brush. This brush sweeps up the fur. This is one of the most efficient ways of vacuuming up pet fur.
Unfortunately, it does require a lot of maintenance for your stick vacuum, as you’ll need to clean all the hair from the motorized brush after each use.
Other stick vacuums used for cleaning up pet hair use a method called agitation.
The brush roll in the stick vacuum agitates the pet hair until it comes loose from the carpet or furniture. The suction from the vacuum then collects the pet hair in a container for later disposal.
The agitation method doesn’t require as much maintenance of your stick vacuum but it is not as efficient at cleaning pet hair.
The top pet hair stick vacuum will leave your home completely void of hair and dander, while also cleaning your floors and carpet.
Vacuum cleaners may have a specific purpose in mind but the weight, power option and brush roll options are features that all stick vacuums contain.
These features allow your stick vacuum to perform at its peak so it’s important we understand the different specifications available for stick vacuums.
Stick vacuums are meant for cleaning every surface of your house. This means the floor, the stairs and all sorts of other hard to reach places.
What this means is that you’ll be carrying your stick vacuum all over your house. Including up the stairs.
Pick a stick vacuum that is lightweight enough for you to carry everywhere. Especially one that is easy to transport up and down stairs.
It’s possible to find some stick vacuums that weigh as little as 5 pounds!
Does your stick vacuum run on battery or power with a power cord?
If it’s battery powered, it’s important to consider how long your stick vacuum can run before it runs out of charge.
As mentioned earlier, most cordless stick vacuums last between 15 and 40 minutes. Some cheap models may only last 7 minutes!
It’s not just the battery life that’s important, but how long will it take to recharge so you can use it again?
If you’re the type of person who tends to forget to recharge their appliances or if you have a large house, you may want to consider a corded stick vacuum.
The brush roll is a cylindrical object with bristles on it. The brush roll rotates rapidly and removes the dirt from the carpet.
Not all brush rolls are the same. They can be made of various materials, such as wood, plastic, steel or aluminium. The best stick vacuums contain brush rolls that last for many years, and will typically outlast the sucking portion of the vacuum.
The bristles on the brush roll may be really stiff, making them more capable at agitating the dirt from the carpet.
Brush rolls can even come in different shapes and sizes, with contours in the cylinder. This affects the air flow and thus enhances different aspects of the vacuuming.
Some stick vacuums give the option of adjusting the height of the brush roll for the best performance when cleaning.
You can adjust the dial until the tone of the vacuum cleaner drops to a lower pitch. This indicates that the brush roll is at the best height for cleaning the carpet.
If the brush is any higher, it won’t be able to brush the carpet. If the brush is any lower, then air won’t be able to move around the sides of the brush roll, making the vacuum unable to suck up the dirt and dust.
The brush roll is not ideal for use on bare floor boards. The brush roll can scratch the floor or move dust and dirt around the room.
Not all vacuums have adjustable brush rolls, so make sure you pay attention to the type of stick vacuum you are purchasing.
Let’s not forget that each manufacturer specializes in different types of stick vacuums. Below we have included a brief overview of the types of stick vacuums you can expect from these respected vacuum cleaner manufacturers.
Carpets lead a hard life. All the walking on top of them and then brushing and cleaning. Bissell vacuums are designed specifically for deep cleaning your carpets.
These deep cleaning Bissell stick vacuums get into the nitty gritty of carpet cleaning, keeping your carpet soft and clean. The best Bissell stick vacuum will deep clean your carpet as a part of its natural vacuuming.
Bissell also aims to help improve your cleaning experience.
Their stick vacuums are lightweight, weighing in at about 2.5 kg. They’re also low profile, so they’re easy to move around your house and discreet when it comes to storage.
They’re also mostly cordless. The battery life is expected to be up to 30 minutes, with short recharge times of 2 to 3 hours.
The handles can also be folded or even removed, so that you can clean in those hard to reach places.
Bissell stick vacuums at compact convenience. Their vacuums are great for cleaning small messes or for a quick clean of your whole home.
Shark stick vacuums are innovative, taking advantage of the latest technologies to keep your home clean and healthy.
With most stick vacuums weighing under 12 lbs, they may be slightly heavier than some other stick vacuums but the quality of the clean is definitely worth the extra weight. The best Shark stick vacuum typically outlasts other brands over time.
Shark stick vacuums are highly maneuverable so you can clean easily under and around furniture while still maintaining excellent control.
The brush roll in the Shark stick vacuums can be swapped with other brush rolls with different bristles and surfaces. All at the press of the button, the other brush roll comes out – no fiddling around with bolts and screws.
This flexibility allows you to safely use your Shark stick vacuum on both hard floor surfaces and on the carpet without worrying of damaging either.
Ahh the good ol’ Hoover. It’s a brand name we can all trust when it comes to vacuums. They’re so well known, we even call our vacuum cleaners “Hoovers”.
Hoover makes a massive variety of vacuum cleaners besides stick vacuums, including upright vacuums, bagged and bag-less vacuums.
These Hoovers can work for 20 to 30 minutes on a single charge, similar to Bissell stick vacuums. The main difference between these two manufacturers is the price; Hoovers are quite a bit cheaper than Bissell models.
Hoover vacuums take advantage of Windtunnel technology. The air flow in these vacuums comes from 3 tunnels which enhances dirt removal from the carpet.
This also helps to trap dirt inside the vacuum rather than spitting it back out afterwards.
Dyson vacuum cleaners boast of being the world’s first bag-less vacuum cleaner.
These amazing devices harnesses cyclonic vacuum technology, which separates all the dust and dirt particles from the air using centrifugal force.
This prevents your stick vacuum from getting clogged with dust and in turn this prevents suction loss over time. The best Dyson stick vacuum are highly functional and last for years and years.
The Dyson stick vacuums also easily transform into handheld mode so you can vacuum the spider webs in the corners of your ceiling without hassle.
Consisting of Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminium batteries, these batteries are more effective than Lithium ion batteries, allowing more cleaning time and less recharging.
Eureka makes your run-of-the-mill, standard stick vacuums.
These ones can also come with cords, unlike the vacuums made by the other manufacturers above, so you don’t need to worry about clean time.
The on/off brush roll feature also allows you to swap between cleaning carpets and bare floor with ease.
Small and lightweight, Eureka stick vacuums keep things simple and basic, making them suitable for people who just want a no frills appliance to clean their home.
All vacuums produce dust, regardless of the quality of your vacuum. Better vacuums are superior at keeping this dust trapped within the vacuum than cheap stick vacuums.
These airborne dust particles cause problems if you have allergies as bad vacuum cleaners can aggravate your allergies or asthma due to their poorer performance at retaining dust.
These small dust particles can clog up your lungs, causing breathing issues and damage to your lungs.
Good vacuum cleaners use a HEPA filter system (High efficiency particulate air). All the air that passes into your vacuum cleaner is then expelled through the HEPA filter.
The HEPA filter traps all the fine particles in the air, ensuring that minimal dust is coughed back out into the air and thus reducing allergies and asthma.
Sometimes, your stick vacuum will require cleaning too. Cleaning your stick vacuum regularly will help to keep it performing at its peak.
The most obvious and easy tasks involve cleaning out the dust container before it fills up.
The brush roll can (and should) also be cleaned, to remove all the long hair from pets or people. This is especially important if you live with a long haired animal friend – as they will molt a lot in summer and clogged up hair could damage your vacuum.
Cleaning the brush roll will help stop the brush roll from getting “caught” when it’s cleaning and so the rotating action is maintained.
The brush roll can be removed from your stick vacuum easily.
You may find that the brush roll has started to worn out with use and may even consider replacing it with a new one.
Filters help to keep the air inside your home clean while you’re vacuuming by decreasing the amount of dust that gets spit back out.
If your stick vacuum has a filter, you’ll want to clean or change it often.
Plastic filters can be taken out and washed with water. Paper or fabric filters can be given a good shake outside to remove the dust particles trapped in it.
Not all filters are washable! So, check your user manual to make sure that your filter is washable before you wet it.
A clogged filter also decreases the suction power of your stick vacuum which will decrease its efficiency when cleaning, so it’s especially important to get the filter cleaned and changed.
Most filters now can last the entire life span of your vacuum cleaner. So as long as you take good care of your filter and vacuum cleaner, you can expect them to last a long time.
Other vacuum cleaners have replaceable filters which will need to be changed every 6 to 12 months depending on how often you use your vacuum cleaner.
Hopefully you’ve managed to suck up all the information we’ve provided about stick vacuums (pun intended!)
By now, you should have a good idea of the type of stick vacuum you should be looking for to maintenance your home quickly and efficiently.
Don’t forget to check out our buying guide for stick vacuums to help point you in the right direction if you’re serious about purchasing one. With all the brands and models out there, picking the best stick vacuum isn’t the easiest job in the world, but it is possible.
Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.