Thread Number: 36530  /  Tag: Recent Vacuum Cleaners from past 20 years
To Canister or not to Canister?
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Post# 391281   4/29/2018 at 18:14 by completenutt (West Hollywood, California)        

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That is the question!



Wondering what you all think is the best format for a vacuum (as a pure theory of vacuuming, not debating differences in agitation or exact air flow or water lift measurements) to be most effective and most versatile.  The answer that comes to me right away, is the Canister. 


Is the Upright only best in wall to wall carpet situations?.. and even then, wouldn't using a Canister with a Power Floor Nozzle always provide a better result in apples to apples situations? 


My thought is that the amount of suction created by a Canister is always more effective for any task because I think when a company designs a Canister, they design it considering the need for a more powerful motor to compensate for it's longer distance deterioration of air speed and strength  (assuming the loss of suction strength through even a good hose using any attachment including a floor nozzle) compared to the upright version (perhaps of the same cleaner in the same qualitative category and by the same company, for this thesis) that has a shorter distance for the dust and debris to travel from an Upright Nozzle to it's dust bin.


I'm not an Upright basher, but I think they were created as a convenience to the user, but not to improve or even maintain cleaning performance.  Actually, now on second thought, I remember watching the "History of the Vacuum" short film attached below remember them mentioning that the Upright was invented first.


So, therefore, was the Canister invented concurrently somewhere else in the world, or was it invented later as an improved way to get the best vacuuming results possible?


I guess I need some education!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO completenutt's LINK

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This post was last edited 04/29/2018 at 23:51

Post# 391285 , Reply# 1   4/29/2018 at 18:57 by fan-of-fans (USA)        

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Uprights were invented for floor cleaning. Hoses and above floor cleaning tools were added later, as was the revolving brush. Canisters were always designed for using with a hose and tools, this included floor cleaning. Brushrolls were added much later.

It really depends on a persons preference whether they like an upright or canister. I'm not sure why uprights outnumber canisters in most big-box retail stores, but it would seem to me that's what people want these days. They don't have the time or desire to bother with vacuuming everything, so a vacuum often seems to be for floor cleaning only.

Personally, I prefer a canister if I'm going to do a thorough cleaning.

Uprights and canisters each have their own disadvantages. To me, an upright is annoying to do above floor cleaning with, because in many cases the suction is so strong with the expanding hose, it pulls the whole thing over on me. Plus moving an upright around the room is not as easy as just tugging the hose. For floor cleaning an upright is simpler as there is not a hose and canister sitting on the floor, but it is harder to manuever around or under items.

For canisters the disadvantage can be the unit is on the floor and possibly geting in the way. A canister is much easier to manuever as far as cleaning around and under things because the weight and majority of the machine is behind you.

Canisters and clean-air uprights are basically designed on the same premise. A fan sucks the air through a bag or filters which then sucks air through a hose.

Post# 391286 , Reply# 2   4/29/2018 at 19:04 by eurekaprince (Montreal, Canada)        

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My philosophy has always been: uprights are best for cleaning carpeting, canisters are best for everything else. And “never the train shall meet”. The combination vacuums that try to do both are either too heavy, too bulky, too complicated and therefore too prone to problems that need repair.

I prefer to have one of each: a tool-less upright, and a suction-only canister. My clean-team of choice: a Hoover Bagged Platinum Lightweight, and a Miele C3 canister.

Post# 391287 , Reply# 3   4/29/2018 at 19:16 by blackheart (North Dakota)        
Uprights and canisters

When it comes to the cleaning of carpeting Direct air machines like Kirby, Sanitaire (bag on the back style) and royal, or tandem air machines do hold an edge over canisters. They have much higher flow at the nozzle and typically have much better agitation.

The advantages of a canister are as follows, Less weight in your hand, typically more airflow at the hose end, most uprights use stretch hoses and as they are stretched the corrugated pattern creates more resistance resulting in a loss of flow this means that attachment cleaning will typically be more effective on a canister, bare floor cleaning on them is typically better due to their included bare floor tools. Some power nozzles (namely Wessel werk and the tandem air tacony nozzles) do perform very well on bare floors due to a squeegee placed behind the brushroll chamber.

For comparison The highest nozzle cfm i've seen from a canister was 77.07. It's suction was 90" at the machine. From the "Black" Model Filter queen Filter Queens lose airflow rather rapidly in my experiences though.
The highest Nozzle CFM i've seen in an Upright was 141.27 CFM coming from a 6.5 amp bag on the back Eureka. It's suction was 30" at the nozzle

The motor on the filter queen definitely produces higher suction 90" vs 30" and uses more electricity but this doesn't mean it cleans carpeting better.

Post# 391291 , Reply# 4   4/29/2018 at 20:49 by sleepdoc (St. Louis, MO)        
The way you've phrased the question...

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...eliminates the possibility of comparing vacuums according to their attributes.

"...pure theory of vacuuming (sic), not debating differences in agitation or exact air flow or water lift measurements...," doesn't leave anything left to compare except the design of brush rolls and attachments. And, those, or other aspects that might occur, aren't a canister vs. upright comparison.

"...most effective and most versatile" aren't a single item that reflect each other. They might, but they certainly don't necessarily. These, too, aren't canister vs. upright comparisons. Canisters can be very versatile, but so can uprights.

"Apples to apples situations" really don't exist, and, if they do, that circumstance can be established only by measuring the items you precluded in your first set of conditions. The fact is that you can establish versatility empirically, but effectiveness is a set of measurements. (When VacLab see this and gets hold of it, he might have a few things to say if he can negotiate constraints of your question.)

Ultimately, you probably can't have both at the same time under most circumstances, which mean you have to set your own priorities or have multiple vacuums. Most people on this site, like me, have multiple vacuums that we select to use for different tasks. (I have far more than what I need for that, but that's for fun because I'm a vacuum geek/collector.) I have Mieles that I love for almost everything; they're almost infinitely versatile for domestic vacuuming. I have Rainbows, which are more versatile and effective in a few ways, less versatile and effective in others. I have Kirbys that are less versatile (at least conveniently) that others but more effective than anything that exists, as far as I know, at cleaning carpets. I have a TOL Riccar Tandem-Air upright, TOL full-size canister, and a Riccar central vacuum that is one model down from the TOL, and they're all extremely effective and versatile. The Riccars and Mieles are so good that the canisters vs. uprights in the TOL range are hard to compare empirically. (BTW, I rely heavily on VacLab's tests, and he hasn't tested every vacuum I own; I'm not about to make requests of him because he donates his time to the the vacuum collector community to a tremendous degree already.)

As far as which came first, that's not such an easy question, either. I think if we limit our consideration to machines that made it into mainstream distribution, uprights came first but not by much, and I wouldn't vouch for their effectiveness or versatility knowing what we know now (which isn't fair to the innovators of those days, obviously).

I linked to Google's page on "The Vacuum Cleaner: A History", which is available on iBooks and will impart more knowledge about vacuum cleaner innovation than you may have known existed. It's very technical in some sections, but I learned a lot from it and have been collecting vacuums since I was a toddler.


Post# 391295 , Reply# 5   4/29/2018 at 21:10 by kirby519 (Wisconsin)        

In the history of vacuuming. The first vacuums were a central unit on a wagon pulled by horses thru the city. Anyone that wanted to "vacuum clean" their home and more often Apartment. A hose was strung up to and thru a window if a door wasn't close enough. The Hoover vacuum was the first portable vacuum introduced so that the homemaker could vacuum clean at any time it was convenient for them. From there the rest is history as one would say.

Post# 391314 , Reply# 6   4/30/2018 at 01:28 by broomvac (N/A)        

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Take a ballroom, long hallway, or a simply particularly wide room and try to vacuum wall-to-wall with a canister vacuum. Dragging the canister fifteen or twenty paces forward may be only slightly less convenient than doing the same path with an upright, but when you then want to pull the nozzle back over the same twenty paces...have fun with that.

I mean no disrespect towards canister vacuums or those who like them; I am simply describing why an upright vacuum is the ideal choice for large areas of carpet

My living room is quite large and in some sections I make long, sweeping forward-and-backward passes. If I did this with a canister, I'd be dragging it all over the place. If you can stay within the radius of the hose of a canister and do most of your cleaning without dragging the unit, then a canister would be perfect. Otherwise, an upright is your best bet.

Just my humble opinion.

Post# 391323 , Reply# 7   4/30/2018 at 09:44 by sptyks (Skowhegan, Maine)        
The best and most effective option...

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Is a combination of both types of sweepers. An upright for carpets and rugs and a canister for everything else.


In my experience the best uprights for carpets and rugs are Direct Air machines like the Kirby G series and Royal metal uprights. No other upright will deep clean your carpets better than either of these two machines. Remember: It's not Suction that cleans carpets, It's Airflow and Agitation that deep cleans the best and a canister with a powered floor nozzle just doesn't cut it when it comes to deep cleaning dirt and sand embedded deep in your carpets.


As far as above the floor cleaning goes, just about any canister that has good suction and good tools will do just fine.


My personal combo that I use in my home is the small lightweight but powerful Eureka Mighty Mite canister that also works in Blower mode. For my carpeted rooms I use either my Heritage II Legend or my Kirby Sentria. The Sentria also doubles as a very effective carpet Shampoo system that I use 2 or 3 times a year.



Post# 391324 , Reply# 8   4/30/2018 at 10:27 by n0oxy (Saint Louis Missouri, United States)        
canister all the way for me

I'm definitely a canister person, whether it's a machine that you pull behind you, a bbackpack or a central vacuum. The main reason is that these types of vacuums are much more flexible and vercital. I think uprights are much more difficult to get around and under things with and canisters provide many more options when it comes to using attachments. A well designed canister will clean carpets as well as an upright and work great for above the floor cleaning. For those who have a large area to clean and don't want the canister itself getting in the way, there are two ways around that. Use a backpack vacuum or use a free standing central vacuum unit, this is where you connect a hose directly to the unit without pipes. Both of these options will give you the flexibility of a canister without pulling anything behind you.

Post# 391325 , Reply# 9   4/30/2018 at 11:36 by panasonicvac (Northern Utah)        

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I prefer to have a home with mostly carpets than to have a home with mostly barefloors. However though, I wouldn't use a canister for either one. If I want something to clean everywhere else besides carpets, I would go for a central vacuum. Depending on which model, I find most of them to be easier, quieter, and more powerful than most canisters.

Of course I prefer uprights over canisters. Since my favorite vacuum company is Panasonic, one of the things that I like about most Panasonics and it's not just only Panasonic but also with Sharp, Sanyo, Riccar or Simplicity, Bernina or Cirrus, and Royal is that I can put an extension hose through the inlet valve and clean everywhere else that most uprights have a hard time getting. Kinda feels like using a central vacuum almost. In fact, most of these extension hoses are even longer than most hoses on canisters.

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Post# 391336 , Reply# 10   4/30/2018 at 16:01 by Real1shep (Walla Walla, WA)        

The original post will only serve for endless debates, i.e., people who use nothing but tanks/canisters and people who use nothing but uprights....and everybody in between.


Even if you could quantify the cleaning results set up in a controlled 'demonstration home' per'd still get people who physically prefer a tank/canister over uprights and vice versa. A lot of it's depends on your height, how well you bend over, your muscle,  muscle memory and what you've e seen/experienced since you were a kid etc, etc.


This is exactly analogous to going on a car/truck forum and asking what the best motor oil is.




Post# 391337 , Reply# 11   4/30/2018 at 16:39 by bryan1980 (Texas)        
Ideally one would have both

since the two are suited for different tasks, or rather, one does certain tasks better than the other. I have a house that's about 50/50 bare floors and medium-pile carpets. I use my Electrolux Epic for the bare floors, and the area rug in the living room. It also comes in really handy for cleaning out the cars and the dog's crate. My Kirby(s) get used for the carpeted areas. Sure, the Electrolux could do those areas, but the Kirby's airflow, agitation, and the ability to form a "seal" with the carpet makes it the better machine for that. It's weight helps with that, too.

It's just handier to have both kinds of machines. The canister's tools are right there on the unit, whereas I have to drag the caddy out of the closet to use the Kirby's.

A previous poster mentioned the lack of canister vacs for sale in the USA. It wasn't always that way; uprights only took the lion's share of the market in N. America once wall-to-wall carpeting became popular. European homes generally have all hard floors, making canisters the most popular choice over there.

Post# 391346 , Reply# 12   4/30/2018 at 18:34 by jp10558 (Southern Tier, NY, USA)        

One thing I find interesting from this thread is the very different view of Kirby here vs on reddits vacuum subreddit.

Post# 391356 , Reply# 13   4/30/2018 at 23:22 by dartman (Portland OR)        

As a kid we always had some kind of a Kirby, later we had a few canisters like a Compact and some others. I ended up eventually with a Royal 413 canister with a power head and loved it, it worked great on the carpet in rental and I bought it from the Kirby salesman as one of his trade ins in almost new condition in 90 for 200 bucks. I kept replacing hoses and fixing it as needed till new hoses got hard to find and I upgraded to a 4650 with the better powerhead needing some work for 25 bucks about 14. It even groomed the carpet in our new house better but again finding good hoses and parts is getting hard. Recently my saved search turned up a Free Stark/Royal 5700 in great shape with bags and belts because they upgraded to wood floors and didn't need it anymore. I'd say the 4650 is almost a equal to the upright but the upright is a beast and actually lifts the carpet as it grooms it and is easier to use because it's self contained and I don't run into the corners of the walls easily. The bag is twice the size and dirt cheap for a bunch of them. It tends to suck up papers and plastic bags get wrapped around the brush roll and impeller but it's fairly easy to tear it down to clean them out. The cannister vibrates the rug with the brush roll so much all the crumbs start dancing next to it and it also grooms the carpet great. It doesn't tend to get stuff wrapped up in the brush roll as easy, it's easy to get under and into tight places and all the attachments and hose are great for cleaning furniture, cleaning cobweb dusting and special things like that, it also has the variable speed motor which is great for cleaning throw rugs and delicate picky things. After having both I'd do a cannisterif I only had one, but a high quality old one with a good power head, and otherwise the combo is great because one of them will be able to do whatever the other one doesn't.

Post# 391360 , Reply# 14   5/1/2018 at 00:56 by compactc9guy (Bathurst New Brunswick Canada )        

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If all you have is carpet get an upright .
But im a cansiter person my Compact C9 whit new hose and rebuild power head cleans so well on rugs and floor.I prefer a canister more versatile and can clean most anything whit one machine .Most upright lack in air flow and suction at the hose thats why i prefer canister vacuum like Electrolux Compact Filter Queen heavier yes but has tons of power to deep clean. Also whit my sore back i find a canister whit a long hose to reach almost anwere.

Post# 391361 , Reply# 15   5/1/2018 at 00:59 by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

Canisters for large carpet areas-the smaller bags will fill QUICKLY and have to be replaced often-only exception is the commercial "canister" the NSS M1.
For me I use BOTH--there are jobs for BOTH machines.I like Kirbys---BUT SELDOM use their hoses and tools-a separate canister is better,really.However its fun to set up the Kirby as a "canister" and use the Volt powernozzle with it.Brian the Kirby guy was amazed!

Post# 391483 , Reply# 16   5/3/2018 at 09:42 by Rolls_rapide (Scotland)        

Uprights are best for dirt removal from carpets - especially the 'direct air' Hoover machines (Hoover Senior, Junior, Turbopower 1, Turbomaster). Uprights are self-contained and easy to store.

'Clean fan' uprights do a good job, and with tools are pretty reasonable all-round cleaners. I've always found that the multi-stretch hoses (Electrolux Airstream, Hoover Turbopower 2; especially Turbopower 3 and Purepower) are more usable than non-stretch plastiflex hoses (Electrolux 551). Some machines are quite elegant, but several were/are just plain ugly to the eye.

Cylinders are perhaps easier to use for above floor cleaning. But it depends on the machine. Again I've found the Hoover 'double stretch' hoses (Hoover Conquest, Powerglide, Sensotronic)to be more suitable for reachability into far corners, curtain pelmets, etc, than heavy 'power hoses' (Hoover Alpina, Panasonic). Dyson cylinders are too clumsy in my opinion.

Dyson once mentioned that a cylinder "lives and dies by its suction". The Which? magazine always said that good uprights removed more dirt than cylinder cleaners.

And I have cleaned carpets belonging to someone who only ever used a cylinder machine (Hoover Compact, Hoover Vogue). The Hoover upright (Turbopower 3) removed litres of dirt from supposedly 'clean' carpets!

Post# 391491 , Reply# 17   5/3/2018 at 12:21 by Tseg (World Traveller)        

My wife won't use a canister, so an upright is necessary to compliment the canister I use. Our main floor is 50/50 carpet and wood flooring so the Miele U1 Jazz is showing up this weekend. Hopefully I can convince her to turn the brush roll off when over the wood floor. When I'm using it I'll throw the Parquet brush on the wand for the wood flooring.

As I've always said, the best vacuum is one that gets used.

Post# 391492 , Reply# 18   5/3/2018 at 14:08 by completenutt (West Hollywood, California)        

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@Kevin. Your comparison to motor oil type choice in a car is not accurate. A better analogy would be what one prefers to drive, a car or truck. Trucks can haul more and stay on the road better while cars can get under low overpasses and into smaller parking spaces. Clearly, there's a need for both! It would have nothing to do with the grade of the motor oil.. that's ridiculous. They also handle completely differently..weight, balance, torque, cornering, etc. It depends on what is most useful at the time, and with what one feels comfortable and familiar. And please don't continue to try to minimize my questions, that's all they are... nothing to be intimidated by. I'm happy to debate, but not with someone who needs to be right by belittling others thoughts. You can add to a conversation, but not at my expense. Thanks!

@ everyone else. I really enjoyed and learned from all your opinions and am currently reading Patrick's recommendation of the book "The Vacuum Cleaner: A History". It's fantastic. Loving the journey! Especially how even cave men/women must have swept their caves of dust and debris, then on to brooms, interesting to correlate that beginning of housekeeping to today's world where we still faithfully perform that same task by using our current iteration of that same tool.. The Vacuum Cleaner. So cool!

As you can see by the attached YouTube, enthusiasm starts with innocence.. let's keep it that way!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO completenutt's LINK

This post was last edited 05/03/2018 at 20:15
Post# 391498 , Reply# 19   5/3/2018 at 15:30 by Real1shep (Walla Walla, WA)        
Hey Bill

don't lecture me on how to post or what to say. You don't have dominion over me. It's obvious that the fluff in your posts is designed to insight comments. Don't expect the answers to always go your way...that's ridiculous.


Your question was almost pedantic I was obviously meant to stir emotional responses and the answer as you should know, is subjective. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' answer to the uprights versus canisters/tanks debate. As I said in my post...even if you could scientifically quantify the cleaning results in a test house, people would still choose on emotion, convenience and learned habits.


You missed the point about posing the question; 'what is the best motor oil?' The analogy is that question would only serve for endless debates...just like; 'what are the best vacuums; uprights or tanks/canisters?' 



Post# 391502 , Reply# 20   5/3/2018 at 20:12 by completenutt (West Hollywood, California)        

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Post# 391680 , Reply# 21   5/8/2018 at 12:00 by vacuumdevil (Denver)        

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I would say most upright vacuums cost less to manufacture their for Less to the consumer this is the reason for their popularity in the United States.

In practicality of use canister vacuums with a powerhead are the best solution for portable vacuums. Generally speaking canister vacuums or more maneuverable lighter weight not having to hold the suction motor allows manufactured put the ideal suction motor in the vacuum.

Of course why not eliminate those push behind and dragged around tragedies all together? #CentralVacuumpropaganda

Post# 392245 , Reply# 22   5/23/2018 at 10:37 by sleepdoc (St. Louis, MO)        

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@completenutt, Did you make it through the book yet? Some of it is pretty technical, dense material. I learned a lot about design, among many other things, when I read it.

Post# 392653 , Reply# 23   6/1/2018 at 18:13 by completenutt (West Hollywood, California)        
The vacuum bible!

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Hi Patrick,

Thanks for checking in! Sorry for the delayed response.. I literally just noticed you left it when I was checking My Posts.

No, I haven't finished yet. I actually try to understand it all, but some of his writing is, as you say, super technical and actually has the same effect on me as your routine medical products, lol. I'm only about half way through so far.

Hope all is well on your end! Are you going to the VCCC?


P.S. I put in a bid on my first Vintage vacuum purchase. It was brought up in a thread on VL earlier and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Check it out!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO completenutt's LINK on eBay

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