The best vacuums for any kind of mess

Pet-hair-sucking robots, at your service.

There are a lot of powerful and brilliantly engineered vacuums available now, though not every good dust-sucker is going to be the right fit for your pad. A construction zone requires a different kind of prowess than your car. Whether you’ve got a cereal-chucking toddler or a horrible allergy to your loved one’s cat, one of these vacuums will suit. You certainly don’t need all of these in your house, so assess your situation and then pick the one that’s right for you.

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional

A high-quality upright that won’t break suck all the money out of your pockets. Amazon

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The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional is the best traditional upright option for people who don’t want to drop a house payment on a vacuum. It’s particularly great for folks with pets, considering it does a good job trapping dust and other allergens inside the vacuum so they don’t return back into the air. The main inhaler has a 9.25-inch-wide cleaning path, though the device also comes with a 5-foot hose equipped to clean both shag carpets and wood floors. The whole thing only 12.5 pounds, and uses a swivel head to allow for more manageable steering. It also comes with a pet hair upholstery tool, crevice tool, and brush tool.

Black + Decker portable vacuum

A cordless vacuum to make sure your car looks freshly detailed. Amazon

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If you—or ahem someone you know and love—has not mastered the art of eating fast food in the car, a portable vacuum can save your upholstery. The Black + Decker Lithium Flex Vac is totally cordless and can hold a 1.5-hour charge—meaning you can leave it in your car for emergencies. The circular waste receptacle can hold 17-ounces of debris, and the vac spins dirt away from the (washable!) filter to maintain performance. It weighs only 3.2 pounds, and comes with a pet hair attachment, too.

BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Turbo Plus Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner

The pet-havers companion. Amazon

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Most vacuums can pick up pet hair, but not all vacuums are designed to pick up pet hair. The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is engineered to suck up finer hairs, and its brush was built to keep all those strands from catching and clogging. Its “Cyclonic Pet Hair Spooling System” keeps the hair from getting caught in the waste canister, too. It comes with tools that claim to remove pet hair from couches and even eliminate pet odors.

eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S

Vacuum for lazy people. Amazon

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Eufy’s RoboVac 11S is thin—only 2.85-inches tall— can clean for more than an hour and a half without needing a recharge. It recognizes the type of floor it’s trying to clean and automatically adjusts its suction level for maximum pickup. It uses an infrared sensor to avoid obstacles like furniture or your pet. The vacuum won’t take orders from a smartphone but it does come with a remote that can create cleaning schedules.


Shop-Vacs are perfect for larger debris inside or outside your home. Amazon

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This 5-gallon Shop-Vac will pick up pretty much anything that fits through the hose’s 1.25-inch mouth. I purchased one to clean up after a cleaning crew and it easily gobbled up chunks of plaster, screws, and dust. It has an airflow of 175 cubic feet per minute (it’s a powerful beast), and can also be used to blow air out. The stainless steel base is on wheels, and is connected to the point of suction by a 6-foot-long hose. It’s pretty easy to maneuver around a room, and very uncomplicated to empty (it’s just a latch lid that clamps on both sides). Within the body, circular filters and filter bags trap finer dust particles. It also comes with a storage rack for accessories. It’s basic, but very effective.

Dyson V11 Animal Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

Stick vacuums are easy to store, lightweight, quiet, and cordless. Amazon

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Generally, stick vacuums are not as powerful as other types, but they are way easier to store and use. They’re often lighter and less noisy, too. Dyson has seriously cranked the suction power in the V11 mode with a digital motor that rotates at up to 125,000 rpm. The 6.68-pound cordless Dyson stick vacuum, has a wall-mounting charging and docking station, and features a .75-liter dustbin that’s super easy to empty into the garbage. The LCD screen on top displays crucial information like the remaining battery life, when you need to change a filter, and what mode you’re in—eco, auto, or boost.

Sturdy nylon bristles in the cleaning head dig dirt out of even shaggiest carpets, while anti-static carbon fiber filaments pick up stubborn dust particles. Internal fans help suck in microscopic air particles to complete the cleaning trifecta. When the vacuum senses a change in floor type, Dyson’s DLS system automatically adjusts the suction power accordingly for optimal cleaning. The V11 model can run for over 60 minutes on a charge. On top of that, the whole thing easily transforms into a handheld vacuum and comes with multiple attachments to reach into cracks and narrow areas.

iDili Mini tabletop vacuum

A mini tabletop vacuum will help keep your dining table and kitchen counter devoid of crumbs. Amazon

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Not all messes require a gigantic vacuum. If you’ve got a couple of crumbs left on the table after a meal or after doing some crafts, grab this little handheld desk vacuum. It fits in your hand and runs off of two AA batteries. If nothing else, it makes for a great gift for a child to encourage cleanliness.

Billy Cadden
Billy Cadden

Billy Cadden is the Director of Commerce for the Camden Media tech group. He was part of NYC indie rock band The Postelles, and currently releases solo music under his name. His latest work is available on all streaming platforms. Contact the author here.