If you're living in a small apartment, you'll notice that dust and soot accumulate more than if you have a spacious room, where the air circulates more freely. So, you'll want to vacuum that dust and soot up fairly regularly—but you don't need or want a bulky canister or upright vacuum to do that. A compact model will do. Also, you'll want to consider the air quality in your area—whether you have to deal with lots of soot from car exhaust, or whether the air in your apartment is relatively clean. The more pollutants, the more you'll want a vacuum with a special filter to pick up as many pollutants and allergens as possible.
Also, take into account time constraints when considering how often you expect to vacuum: If you'll vacuum every day or so, the vacuum cleaner can be a small-capacity model. If you vacuum once a week, it might tend to fill up the vacuum cleaner's bag or the removable dirt container. You'll need a greater capacity vacuum in that case.
To help you make the right choice, we have put together this buying guide including everything a city dweller in the Big Apple should know about vacuum cleaners that they should consider in order to make a good investment. It'll help you:
- Choose the right type of vacuum cleaner,
- See useful tips about that particular type of vacuum cleaner,
- Read reviews of different brands of vacuum cleaners, and what customers are saying,
- Select the right brand of vacuum cleaner, and
- Compare prices and find the best deals.
Considerations When Buying a Vacuum Cleaner for a NYC Apartment
What Design to Choose: The three major designs of corded vacuum cleaners are canister models, upright models, and handheld models:
- Canister: A canister model involves a stationary drum, called the canister, with a flexible, telescoping hose going out of it. The canister stays put, and you do the vacuuming by moving the hose around, vacuuming up the debris along the way. Look at the length of the telescoping hose--that will tell you how far you can vacuum from where the canister is situated. You can find models, such as the Bissell Zing Bagless Canister Vacuum, where the hose can extend your reach by as much as 8 feet.
- Upright: An upright model requires you to push the vacuum along while in a standing position. An upright will, therefore, be less maneuverable—unless it has a detachable head. So, in an apartment, you'll probably prefer the canister models. Since you just have to move the hose around, you have the freedom of vacuuming drapes, curtains, upholstery, and more.
- Handheld: There are also corded and cordless, handheld models, which give you even more liberty. The cordless versions will use a rechargeable battery, which frees you up from having to be attached to an outlet all the time. The small size also makes them more manageable. But they have less suction power, and also less capacity to store up dirt. That will require emptying them out more often. They are ideal for small jobs, where you don’t want to have to take out a 20-pound upright or canister vacuum cleaner. You won’t want a handheld for all of your vacuuming needs, but it can certainly help as a backup.
- Hybrid models: A nice innovation is the upright and canister models that convert into a handheld model with the press of a button. Examples of this design are the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional and the Dirt Devil Simpli-Stik Stick Vacuum. The upright will thus have a telescoping hose, to function as a canister vacuum, and will also detach, to function as a hand-held vacuum.
Surface: You may have to vacuum on a hardwood floor, tile floor, carpet, or linoleum—the floor surface enters into your considerations of which vacuum to buy.
- Wall-to-wall carpeting: If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, then you can suffice with an upright vacuum that is intended only for carpets—they employ a bristled, rotating bar that rotates at 1000s of times per minute, called the “beater bar” or “brush roll” which will dig into the carpet to lift out the dirt. That's good for a plush carpet—but take note that this brush roll design will scratch a linoleum or hardwood surface and ruin the finish. There should be a button or lever on the vacuum cleaner that you can manipulate when changing surfaces. There are many automatic vacuum cleaners, such as the Panasonic Model MC-UG223 Upright Vacuum Cleaner that doesn’t even require you to adjust settings when changing from hardwood floor to carpet. The vacuum cleaner adjusts the height of the bristle bar itself. Similarly, the Hoover REACT vacuum cleaner has “Floor Sense” technology--sensors which allow it to adjust automatically to the floor surface. It slows down the vacuum down when it runs on hardwood floors, so as not to scatter debris, and speeds up when going on carpets, so as to agitate the carpet's fibers better and get out the dirt.
- Beware with some carpets: It is advised not to use a brush-roll even on certain types of carpets, such as Berber or oriental carpets. The beating of the brush roll actually will damage the carpet. For these special carpets, raise the brush roll and just employ suction to get the carpet clean.
- Brushroll cleaner: After continued use, you’ll notice that a brush roll will get entangled with hair and the like, seriously compromising its efficiency. That might require you detaching the brush roll and cutting off the hairs with a knife or pair of scissors. (Make sure you do so only if the vacuum cleaner is disconnected from the electricity!) Some vacuum cleaners have a feature to automatically clean hair and thread tangled around the brush roll. Examples include the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean and the Eureka Brushroll Clean. They have a button that you press that activates a cutting tool. It cuts the hairs that are trapped in the brush roll and dislodges them.
- Hardwood and Linoleum: As we mentioned, the wrong type of vacuum cleaner can scratch hardwood and linoleum floors. If you want to vacuum a hardwood or linoleum floor, it is better to choose a lightweight vacuum, without a beater bar. Alternatively, employ a vacuum which adjusts to the floor type automatically, or manually by pressing a button.
- Wheels on the vacuum cleaner: Another possibility to not damage hardwood or linoleum floors is an upright with rubber (and not plastic) wheels. Also, look for a vacuum with padding in the front, so as to eliminate the possibility of scratching the floor as you advance through the house.
- Weight: If you'll be using an upright model, you clearly will prefer a lightweight design, to reduce your exertion to a minimum. If it can convert to a hand-held vacuum cleaner when necessary, then that's an even bigger plus. The Dyson V6 Animal vacuum cleaner is an example of Dyson innovation. Even though it should strictly be considered an “upright”, since you carry the vacuum's receptacle along with you when vacuuming, all of its weight is distributed in the handle. The result is a lightweight vacuum cleaner--only 5 pounds!--with a long wand, which is suitable for vacuuming curtains or other surfaces that are at a higher location.
- Silent: A silent model gives you the freedom of using the vacuum cleaner any time you want, without any concern that it will disturb the neighbors. There are models where the motor is sealed—these tend to be quieter.
What People are Saying
- Inexpensive small vacuum: If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet efficient vacuum, consider the Dirt Devil Vacuum Cleaner Quick-Lite Plus Bagless Cordless Upright (Cat. No. UD20015). It is a surprisingly powerful vacuum despite its small size. It weighs only 9 pounds, which is also a big plus. The dust cup has a large capacity, that some customers saw that it only had to be emptied after six times vacuuming. One of the drawbacks was the noise factor, even though it was efficient in vacuuming a carpet.
- Onboard storage: Some customers said that they admired the Panasonic MC-UG471’s engineering design--especially the fact that it has “onboard storage”: you can put the vacuum attachments on the vacuum cleaner itself. You can access and attach the attachment you need when you need it. For example, you can vacuum your carpet, and immediately attach the upholstery attachment when you want to vacuum your couch or lounge chair.
- Removing pet hair: If you have pets in your apartment, then you'll have the added challenge of removing pet hair. People praised the efficiency of the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum for its efficiency in removing cat hair (one customer has as many as 8 cats in the house!). It also is able to compact the dirt and hair in the dust cup, even after the cup has filled up. Another Shark product, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional with Dust-Away has a special attachment just for removing pet hair. The attachment uses static electricity generated by a rotating rubber roller, which works together with the suction to dislodge pet hair.
Useful Tips for Shoppers
Things you shouldn't vacuum: Despite the versatility of today’s vacuums, there are certain objects you should pick up with the old-fashioned broom and dustpan:
- Large pieces of glass: These can puncture the vacuum’s bag or the hose, causing major damage. Alternatively, they can get stuck inside.
- Fine dust: You’d assume that your vacuum is made to pick up dust. But too fine dust will tend to clog the filter quickly. Even if you can wash the filter, a broom and dustpan would be less work in this situation.
- Wet food: Vacuuming up a liquid in a regular vacuum cleaner can cause a short circuit in the vacuum cleaner's fan. It can also pose a risk of electrocution. Even if what you're vacuuming is just moist (for example, soggy breakfast cereal), it can cause the bag to become moldy. In these cases, fall back on using a dustpan here as well.
- Small metallic items: These would include coins, paper clips and the like. Since the motor will draw in a powerful draft of air, these pieces of metal are liable to break pieces of plastic in the vacuum.
- Wide cleaning path: The width of the vacuum’s nozzle determines the width of its cleaning path. You can find nozzles that are between 11” to 14” in width. The wider the nozzle, the more quickly you will be able to vacuum your floor. But, too wide a nozzle might make it difficult to get into tight places. The Dirt Devil SimpliStik is a stick vacuum with a 9-inch cleaning path, while the Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vacuum has an 11-inch cleaning path. Make your decision based on how much furniture you have, and whether a wider cleaning width is to your benefit.
- Retractable cord: If you have a corded vacuum cleaner, you would like a long cord, so that you can reach every part of the room without having to look for another outlet. But, a long cord might also be a hazard: you don’t want to risk tripping over the cord. So many corded vacuums have a retractable cord feature, which zips the cord back into the vacuum's base. An example of this design is the Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Rewind Plus Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner (Cat. No. UH70120).
- Trapping the dust and allergens: If you have a problem with allergies, people notice that a vacuum cleaner that uses disposable bags (as opposed to a dirt cup) tends to trap allergens better. You pop the bag out and dispose of it—you just have to worry about buying new bags every so often. Look for a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (= High-efficiency particulate air) filter. That is a US government standard that a filter must remove all particles (up to a certain size) from the air that passes through it. HEPA filters are typically made of fiberglass, where the distance between the fibers is smaller than 0.3 micrometers. It can remove 99.97% of the particles that are 0.3 micrometers or more in size. This is sufficient for blocking pollen, dust mites, and other allergens.
- Washable filters: You'll see that some vacuum cleaners have “washable” filters, which you wash and put back in place. They will be more expensive, but that will quickly pay for itself in the fact that you don't have to replace them periodically.
- Attachments: Vacuums come with attachments that make them suitable for many odd cleaning tasks around the house. The attachments that you will typically find on a vacuum cleaner are:
- Extension wand--which allows you to reach high places, or to vacuum underneath furniture without having to move your couch or recliner.
- Crevice tool--This is convenient for getting in between the cushions on a sofa or armchair. It is also good for vacuuming the baseboard: the wooden board or linoleum strip where the wall meets the floor. You can use it on the ribs of a radiator, on the back of your refrigerator, or the openings of a vent as well.
- Upholstery tool—This is a wider attachment with a lint-catching strip. It's handy for removing lint and dust from your furniture such as sofas, chairs, mattresses, and cushions.
- Dusting brush-- This is the attachment with brush bristles. It is designed for getting the dust off of windowsills, bookcases, and lampshades. You will find that it is also good for vacuuming a computer keyboard.
Dyson was founded by the engineer James Dyson in 1993 in Cotswolds, England. He employed innovative ideas to vacuum cleaners, fans, and hair dryers. Dyson sells upright, canister, cordless, hand-held, and robot vacuums.
Shark is a maker of household appliances and cleaning solutions, with its headquarters in Needham, Massachusetts. They make vacuums, steam mops, and garment care products.
Hoover was founded in North Canton, Ohio in 1908 by W. H. Hoover. They are an established name in vacuum cleaners, making upright, canister, cordless, robot, stick, and hand-held vacuums.
Dirt Devil is a maker of a wide range of vacuum cleaners: uprights, stick, hand-held, canister, and cordless vacuums, as well as hard-floor cleaners and carpet washers.