The Best Vacuum Cleaners for Every Kind of Dust, Dirt & Mess

We asked the Food52 staff about their favorite vacuums, and they had... a lot to say.

February  9, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Here at Home52, we commonly check in with the larger Food52 team for roundup-style stories, and it’s always interesting to see which topics engender immediate passion, and which we have to tease out more directly. Back in 2020, we asked our coworkers to share the very best things they bought for their home, which they responded to quickly and with excitement, eager to spread the gospel of standing desks, giant mixing bowls, and corn on the cob sculptures (yep).

The only topic that perhaps outdid that? Vacuums. When I put a poll out in the company-wide Slack channel asking for vacuums they “swear by/saved for/cradle in bed at night,” the responses poured in with speed and fervor. As it turns out (and lucky for my article, and you), working from home makes people passionate about ridding their homes of dust and debris—and our staff has lots to say about how their vacuums improve the quality of life.

If you’re in the market for a killer vacuum, or like us, simply love swapping tips with other dirt-busting experts, read on for our top picks. Oh and don’t be shy, leave a comment about your fave, too!

This article was originally published in February 2021. It has been updated in March 2023 to reflect the current prices of these favorites.

1. Shark Rotator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum, $199 $99

“First things first, I’m not a cordless-anything kind of gal. From power tools to vacuums, I find the inconvenience of something dying halfway through a job to be one of the most frustrating things ever. So, naturally, my vacuum of choice is corded. Not only does this guy really effectively clean up the mess of constant DIY projects on the rugs, but its “lift-away” pod and handle are truly amazing for vacuuming blinds, hard-to-reach corners, couches, shelves, and more. You can find me at least once a day toting this around my apartment, and it’s almost… fun?” - Caroline Mullen, Assistant Editor

2. Dyson V11, $650 $550

“I have two dogs that shed A LOT and it really does not stop. I am also somewhat lazy. Roll those two together and the Dyson V11 has been a game-changer for me. It doubles up as a floor vacuum AND a handheld for my stairs where my dogs lay all day. It’s expensive but honestly it has been worth every single penny because it does such a good job, and it’s soooooo light and easy to use.” - Lizzie Greene, Sales Director

3. Shark Rotator Freestyle Pro Cordless Vacuum, $149 $77

"This vacuum is lightweight and powerful, and most importantly, it's maintained its suction power over the last eight or so months that I've had it—a first for any vacuum I've ever owned. It gets me excited to clean because...well, it works, which, as a neat freak, is all that I can ask for.” -Erin Alexander, Brand Partnerships Editor

4. iRobot Roomba i7 (7150), $529 $410

Our Roomba (whose name is Mouse) is the best. It runs by itself and can get under furniture that is a pain to vacuum by yourself.” -Jeremy Beker, Principal Engineer 1

5. Shark Navigator Swivel Pro Complete Upright Vacuum, $159 $138

“I recently bought this vacuum after cursing at a heavy, traditional upright model for years. It's very maneuverable and lightweight in small apartment spaces and is also bagless which means you're not spending additional money on those things.” - Mark Linderman, VP of Engineering

6. My Dog

- Max McDonough, Social Media Coordinator

7. Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal, $550 $450

“We got the Dyson Animal vacuum (not an actual animal, unlike Max's suggestion above) on a Black Friday sale a couple of years ago, and it was a total game-changer! The only annoying thing about the Animal is that you have to keep the button pressed the whole time, but otherwise it's still a million times better than any vacuum I've ever had.” - Alex Egan, Senior SEO Strategist

8. Shark NV356E S2 Navigator Lift-Away, $230

“I too am a Shark Navigator fan! The Pet Hair Power Brush comes in clutch if you have a dog that sheds.” - Maurine Hainsworth, Copywriter

9. Dyson V8 Absolute, $424

“I got my Dyson V8 Absolute vacuum after lusting after it for a full year—and finally caved when they were running a really incredible sale. I've never felt older than when I admitted it was my "exciting Cyber Monday purchase," but so it goes. Warning: Even if you can snag a discount, it's quite pricey. Still, the first time I vacuumed with it and saw the amount of dust it picked up, I consider it some of the best money I've ever spent.” - Rebecca Firkser, Assigning Editor

10. BISSEL Pet Hair Eraser Hand Vacuum, $80

“I also just got a handheld Bissell Pet Hair Eraser, and that's been so helpful for quick sofa touch-ups! Also loving how I don't have to go to a car wash anymore to vacuum out my car.” - Maurine Hainsworth, Copywriter (returning for another hot tip)

11. Shark Rocket Corded Stick Vacuum, $270

“I've had both a Miele and a Dyson, but Shark makes the best line of affordable vacuums. I've had this one for over five years—it’s cleaned up construction messes and still works great—plus it doesn’t use bags.” - Dina Losito, B2B Business Associate

12. Shop-Vac 4 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac, $99 $90

“When my partner Trevor brought a Shop-Vac into our tiny Brooklyn apartment in response to my not-too-subtle hand-swiffering with our sad, existing dustpan, I made the flat-mouth emoji face. It is huge; it is ugly. But when we turned the thing on, I was stunned—it truly sucks anything and everything up (yes, as in huge puddles of liquid), has an incredible capacity, and its nozzle can get into every nook and cranny. It's now my favorite household item, but please don't tell Trevor this.” - Coral Lee, Podcast Editor

What's your go-to vacuum cleaner? Let us know below!

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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


Samuel W. November 24, 2023
This article provide a real sense of how these vacuums perform in different scenarios. It's refreshing to see such diverse opinions catering to various needs—from dealing with pet hair to maneuvering in small spaces. Plus, the insights into specific features like suction power retention and maneuverability are incredibly helpful. Overall, it's a goldmine of information for anyone looking to invest in a reliable vacuum cleaner. If you are interested to get some more information then please visit:
Newcook March 20, 2023
I clean houses for a living.
I wouldn’t dream of even touching any of the vacuums listed, when considering overall pros and cons.
MIELE CANISTERS are where it’s at….and have been for a very, very long time.

I know that this was a shout-out survey of co-workers, and I know that each vac listed has its limited plus sides.

But MIELE leaves everything else in the dust, so to speak.
quietforest March 19, 2023
From that list, I'd say your company must pay its staff very well. I find myself gravitating to Dirt Devil models. We're still using the one we bought twenty five years ago.
janet V. March 19, 2023
Kenmore Canister vacuums have been my choice for the last 50 years, both at home and in my cleaning business. (I hear the snickering) They are affordable and offer many different styles and options. Switching from carpet to bare floors is effortless. The pet hair attachment is great for furniture and stairs. Easily adapts for cleaning every nook and cranny of your car as well.
janet V. March 19, 2023
Kenmore Canister vacuums have been my choice for the last 50 yrs both in my home and my cleaning business. (I hear the snickering) They are affordable and offer many different styles and options. Switching from bare floors to carpet is effortless. Compact pet hair attachment is great for furniture and stairs.
bestdyson May 21, 2021
If you want to get more idea for Dyson using please follow guideline:
Smaug February 10, 2021
Another possibility is a built in- I installed them a couple of times for friends; it requires a dedicated circuit at the location of the vac (basement, in both those cases) and plastic piping needs to be run, with wall outlets for the hose. The hose is quite long but most houses will need at least 2 or 3 outlets. Also, the vac will require an exhaust outlet to the outside. All of this would be pretty ambitious for a DIY project (though possible if you enjoy that sort of thing) but fairly easy as part of a remodel or new construction. My friends have been very pleased with the system- I don't remember who makes them, but Google doubtless does.
AntoniaJames February 10, 2021
Sebo K3 with a separate attachment for carpets. Perfect for our large house with lots of large Persian rugs and hardwood floors on three floors. Built like a tank and works better than any other vacuum I've ever owned or tried. German engineering FTW. ;o).
Johanna February 9, 2021
Can't believe you didn't mention Miele. Mine is 18+ years old. Just had to have a tune up. It is worth every penny. Sucks up everything. Easy to use. Just fabulous, and long lasting.
witloof February 9, 2021
I came here to say the exact same thing. I love my Miele!
Smaug February 9, 2021
Possibly no F52 employees own one; like so many of these "survey" stories this is drawing on a very limited and not necessarily typical sampling.
Caroline M. February 10, 2021
This is true! We love sharing our favorite things, so while perhaps not an exhaustive sampling, it's very earnest.
bestdyson May 21, 2021
Smaug February 9, 2021
If you want a shop vac, there are better brands- I use an Aero, by far the best I ever used, but there are some premium brands I haven't tried; I know Fein makes some really good ones. My faithful old Eureka Mighty Mite refuses to show its considerable age, still the best for spot pickups.
Caroline M. February 10, 2021
Maybe when I move out of the city I'll get a shop vac (and workshop full of tools and supplies).
AntoniaJames February 10, 2021
Thanks for the tip, Smaug! When we moved from the Bay Area, I ended up giving our shop vac to a very grateful worker on my next door neighbor's renovation project. I need to buy another shop vac, so I'll look for an Aero! ;o)
Smaug February 10, 2021
By the way, Aero was formerly known as WAP- I suppose the name somehow failed to resonate with the American public. As a disclaimer, my experience with these things is a few years back, don't know what's new out there.
AntoniaJames February 11, 2021
Or perhaps they had problems with search engine results as WAP is used widely for both Wireless Access Protocol and Wireless Access Point.