Types of Vacuum Cleaner

There are many different types of vacuum cleaner designed for different purposes – perhaps more than you would think. Below is an introduction into the different types of vacuum cleaner available on the market today.

Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Types of vacuum cleaner - UprightThe upright vacuum cleaner is most popular in the USA and the UK. They normally use a spinning brush roll (also known as the beater bar) which brushes up dirt and dust out of carpets for a deep clean. There are two main types of upright vacuum cleaner:

  • Clean-air/fan-bypass upright – Most commonly found on domestic vacuums, a motor sucks air through a bag and filter where dust is caught and then the air is expelled out by the motor.

  • Direct fan upright – These are found more in commercial vacuum cleaners and consist of a large fan that sucks air and dirt into a bag. They do a good job as carpet cleaners, but the suction is lost quickly when using pipes, making them inefficient for anything else.

The brush roll on upright vacuums traditionally use a belt connected to the main motor to make them spin, but more modern designs tend to use a separate smaller motor for this as belts can be susceptible to wear over time.

Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner

Types of vacuum cleaner - CylinderCylinder (or canister) vacuum cleaners house the motor and dust collector (either bagged or bagless) inside a unit which is on wheels, with a hose connecting it to the vacuum head. This makes it more versatile than the upright model, but unless a motor or turbine is fitted in the brush roll as in uprights then they do not perform as well on carpets.

Drum Vacuum CleanerTypes of vacuum cleaner - Drum

The drum vacuum cleaner is a beefier version of the cylinder vacuum which may be connected to compressed air for strong suction. These are most often found in industrial environments where high performance and a large capacity are vital.

Cyclonic Vacuum Cleaner

Types of vacuum cleaner - CycloneDomestic cyclone vacuum cleaners are a relatively modern invention, but the idea had been in use in central vacuum systems – semi-permanent fixtures in buildings where a centralised power unit and collection container is connected to hoses or outlets around the building. This technology wasn’t introduced into domestic vacuum cleaners in the UK until 1993 when Dyson released the DC01.

Air and dust is sucked into a vortex inside the dust collection cylinder where the dust and dirt is pushed outwards due to centrifugal forces, separating it from the clean air (although the air will normally pass through multiple filters before expulsion to remove the finer dust particles). Cyclone vacuums have exploded with popularity, particularly in the UK, due to providing excellent suction until the container is full (unlike their bagged counterparts which will lose suction when the bag is as little as 1/3 full).

Robot Vacuum Cleaner

The futuristic robot vacuum cleaner (or robovac for short) were uncommon due to their price and limited functionality, but sales have been steadily increasing over the last few years with the Roomba the most popular model in the USA. Whilst the technology isn’t good enough to replace your existing vacuum cleaner, leaving them to roam your house will mean you shouldn’t need to perform daily touch-up vacuums.Types of vacuum cleaner - Robot

Robot vacuum cleaners usually consist of a spinning brush head in the bottom of the device, much like those found in upright vacuums. The robot vacuum will then use infrared sensors to detect objects and work its way around the room, hopefully without getting stuck on furniture. They lack the power, speed and ability to get into tight spaces that the other types of vacuum provide, but in an ever increasingly busy world it may just take one job off your shoulders for a while.

Handheld Vacuum CleanerTypes of vacuum cleaner - Handheld


The handheld vacuum cleaner is small, lightweight and can be powered by either a rechargeable battery or directly from the mains. They are popular for cleaning car interiors or small spills thanks to the freedom they give you, but lack the power for anything more intensive.

Wet and Dry Cleaner

These types of vacuum cleaners also employ a mop like feature which uses carpet shampoo to provide an easy and affordable clean for spillages and some minor stains. Whilst not generally too popular, buyers with young children or pets may consider one of these to frequent spills that may occur.

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