Vacuuming is one of those essential household chores that you can’t avoid. But there are so many vacuum options from which to choose. Two of the most popular options are canister and stick vacuums. How do you know which one is right for your home?
Let’s look at each in more detail.
A canister vacuum consists of a canister that houses the motor along with an attachment that you use to clean the floors or other surfaces or areas of the home. To clean, move the wand versus the entire vacuum. They usually have retractable cords.
|Light, easy to carry||Low to the ground so you have to bend down|
|More powerful because they are corded||Could bump into things in cluttered areas|
|Gets into hard-to-reach places||Need more room to store when not in use|
A stick vacuum, on the other hand, is a more lightweight and typically smaller style vacuum that can be used with a variety of attachments. The motor and suction head are located in the same unit, so you simply push it back and forth in front of you to clean. Some models are cordless, operating on a rechargeable battery for a short period of time before they need recharging.
|Small, lightweight, portable||May not be as powerful as canister vacuum|
|Ideal for carpeting, large spaces||Hard to clean stairs if it’s corded|
|Not as noisy as traditional uprights||Difficult to get into crooks and crevices|
|Can be cordless||Cordless models only run for a limited time per charge|
|Some detach to use top portion as handheld|
|Easy to store when not in use|
|Easy to empty|
Should you choose a canister vacuum?
Canisters vacuums are typically pretty light and easy to use, bringing it from room-to-room as needed. Many are quite small and have handles you can use to pick them up and bring them up stairs, or into other rooms.
They are also usually more powerful than stick vacuums, able to clean a variety of floor surfaces with good suction. This is great if you have pets, or someone in the home who has allergies or asthma and is particularly susceptible to dust, dirt, debris, and pollen.
Canister vacuums shine on hardwood floors
They are particularly good for hard floors, so if most of your home has hardwood flooring, a canister vacuum might be the perfect option to ensure it gets all of the dirt and debris from between the crevices of the tiles or wood boards. The retractable cords included on many canister vacuums can also make it easy to pull the vacuum along without worrying about tangled cords, even though you don’t get the benefit of wireless operation.
Just keep in mind that you still have to drag it behind you, which is fine in large, open spaces but might not be so easy if you’re vacuuming a cluttered area with a lot of obstacles in the way, like a child’s playroom. It could end up bumping into things.
Another advantage with canister vacuums is that they are pretty quiet and run smoothly, so if you tend to vacuum most often late at night or in the early morning hours when the rest of the family is still deep in slumber and you don’t want to disturb them, or have a baby or small child at home that takes midday naps, this could be a deal-breaker.
Clean up those hard-to-reach spaces
Using a canister vacuum, you can also get into hard-to-reach places because it can easily bend and twist to get all of the crooks and crevices on stairs, upholstery, behind furniture, blinds, and more. Though they can be tough going up stairs if you have to haul the canister with you. They usually work with a number of optional (or included) attachments and accessories for cleaning different surfaces and crevices, not just floors. So, for whole-home cleaning, they are the most versatile option.
But, bending and storage can be a chore
However, since they are designed to be low to the ground, you will have to do a lot of bending to pick them up and move them, turn then on and off, or to pull out the cord or retract it into the housing when you’re done. If you suffer from back pain, or have limited mobility, a canister vacuum might prove too cumbersome for you.
Storage could be an issue if you have limited space or live in an apartment. You’ll need to find a good spot to store it away when not in use, including both the canister as well as the long hose and various cleaning attachments if you have multiple ones.
Should you choose a stick vacuum?
Stick vacuums are generally super lightweight and small, which makes them easy to push along and clean with minimal effort, and quickly. They are ideal for quick clean-ups, whether it’s rice or flour spills on the kitchen floor, sand by the front door, or just a quick pass-through before guests come over. But for the convenient design, you are also sacrificing a bit on power; in most cases, you won’t get the same level as power as you’d get with a canister vacuum.
Stick vacuums are really easy to use
They are also really easy to use, usually triggered by pushing and/or holding down a button then moving it back and forth. If it’s cordless, even better as you can clean until the battery dies without having to find a plug for it. Though that also means they only run for a limited period of time, which makes them difficult for whole-home clean-up. Some of the latest models, however, do extend battery life beyond the usual 15-30-minute timeframe that older models might do.
You can go cordless
Cordless models usually mount on a charging dock on the wall so they can be kept neatly out of the way as well while also always being at your fingertips when you need them. I have my stick vacuum mounted on a corner of the kitchen between the refrigerator and the back door to the backyard so it’s right there when I need to clean up a quick spill or do a quick pass of the main level or stairs.
Some detach from the stick for portable use
Many cordless stick vacuums can also come apart so you can use just the top portion with a specific attachment to clean hard-to-reach spots, a mattress, blinds, ceiling fixtures, or even take it outside to vacuum the car.
But corded models can be awkward for areas like stairs
But if it’s a corded model, you might find it awkward to clean areas like stairs if you have to manage both the large stick design and the long cord. And without the ability to detach or use other attachments, getting into tiny crooks and crevices could prove challenging with the long stick design.
Great for large spaces
The wide-body design of a stick vacuum is, however, particularly good for large spaces, and especially carpeting, including area rugs, giving them a thorough clean. And while they might not be the quieter than canister vacuums, stick vacuums are often less noisy than larger upright.
Emptying them is typically a breeze
Emptying them is usually pretty easy, too. You can just open it up and dump the contents right into the garbage without worrying about bags or other complicated disposal methods.
Canister Vacuum or Stick Vacuum: The Choice is Yours
Which type of vacuum you select will largely depend on the size, layout, and flooring of your home, what surfaces you want to use it to clean, and your overall capabilities and preference. If you just want something for quick clean-ups of open floors and stairs, a cordless stick vacuum would be ideal. If you have pets, large homes, and different floor surfaces plus other things you want to vacuum, like blinds and upholstery, a canister vacuum would make more sense.
Personally, I’d recommend having both. I use a canister vacuum for larger jobs, and a stick vacuum mounted on a charging dock for daily quick clean-ups.
I also have a robot vacuum which does a wonderful job at regular (and effortless) maintenance. If I don’t have time to vacuum, I’ll run it on the main level before I leave the house, or while I’m getting ready in the morning. When we’re entertaining, I’ll usually let it do a pass of each room as I prepare food and do other chores to help save time as well. But all three vacuums play important roles in my clean-up process.