Best Canister Vacuums of 2021

10 canister vacuums that are easy to handle and tough on dirt

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Tester surrounded by canister vacuums in lab
Vacuum tester Alex Nasrallah gets ready to test some new canister models at Consumer Reports.
Photo: Consumer Reports

If you’re shopping for a vacuum, a canister model is worth considering. All the canister vacuums in Consumer Reports’ tests do a terrific job cleaning bare floors, and some are very good at cleaning carpet. What makes canisters stand out is their design. Because the weight is distributed between the canister itself and the powerhead, they’re easier to move around than upright vacuums. That’s ideal if you live in a house with multiple levels.

“Canisters have an advantage for cleaning stairs because you’re not lifting the whole vacuum, plus the wand and hose give you a longer reach,” says Frank Rizzi, a senior CR lab technician who tests vacuums. “They’re also easier to maneuver than an upright.”

But not everybody appreciates the advantages. Canisters make up a small slice of the vacuum market, about 2 percent. However, 11 percent of Consumer Reports’ members report owning one. Of those, more than 40 percent own a Miele and 20 percent own a Kenmore. Those are the two brands that perform best in our tests. We also test Dyson canister vacuums, but none rise to the level of earning a CR recommendation, mostly because of their iffy performance on our carpet-cleaning test.

Consumer Reports continually tests vacuums in its labs, and both canisters and uprights go through the same battery of tests. For the carpet-cleaning test, we embed talc, sand, and pet hair into carpet before vacuuming. For bare floors, we use the same type of debris and observe whether the vacuum picks it up or scatters it around. To judge how easy a canister is to operate, we maneuver it around and under furniture just like you would. The Overall Score for each model incorporates results from these performance tests, as well as ratings for the brand’s reliability and owner satisfaction, based on CR’s exclusive member survey.

Here are 10 terrific canister vacuums from our tests, listed in alphabetical order. For more on vacuums—canisters, uprights, sticks, handhelds, and robotic—see our vacuum buying guide and complete vacuum ratings.

CR’s take: The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly UltraPlush 81714 is indeed friendly to pet owners, earning an Excellent in our test for removing pet hair. It’s also a champ at cleaning bare floors and a solid performer at cleaning carpet, making it a smart choice if you have a combination of flooring. It makes the grade in our emissions test, but in terms of noise, there are quieter choices. Strong airflow through the hose makes it a good choice if you use attachments often. Kenmore canisters earn average scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction in our member survey.

CR’s take: The versatile Kenmore Pop-N-Go BC4026 makes an impressive showing on both our bare floor and pet hair tests, leaving little to nothing behind. It also earns a Very Good rating for carpet cleaning. The Pop-N-Go name refers to how easy it is to attach the floor brush, and our testers like the way this vacuum maneuvers around and under furniture. Emissions are clean, and this vacuum has robust airflow, making it a good choice if you often use your attachments to clean upholstery.

CR’s take: The Kenmore 200 Series BC4002 offers both performance and value, and earns our CR Best Buy designation. At this relatively low price you get an impressive vacuum that vanquishes pet hair and leaves floors spotless. It’s also quite capable at cleaning carpet, earning a Very Good on that test. Emissions are clean, and tool airflow is strong, so you’ll have no problem using your attachments. Our testers found it pretty easy to handle and move under and around furniture.

CR’s take: If a quiet vacuum is what you want, then the Miele Complete C3 Alize is your best bet—it’s the quietest canister among all the models in our tests. Like all the canisters here, it earns an Excellent rating for cleaning bare floors, but it’s only average at cleaning carpet. All the Kenmores and two Mieles score better on that test. It does a decent job removing pet hair, but if you have a pet that sheds a lot, there are other canisters from this brand that are better choices.

CR’s take: Our top canister vacuum, the Miele Complete C3 Marin, earns impressive marks in almost every test we threw its way. It’s a champ at bare floors and embedded pet hair, and its emissions are free of debris, earning an Excellent rating. Its carpet-cleaning capabilities are on a par with the best performers here. It’s the most expensive canister in this group, but its consistent high performance has made it one of our top canisters for several years running.

CR’s take: Read on if you are looking for a canister that performs well on carpet. (It’s not this one.) But if you have uncarpeted floors, the Dyson Ball Multi-Floor is worth a look, as it earns an Excellent score on that test. Emissions are clean, so once you do the work, the debris stays in the vacuum. It’s fairly quiet, and suction through the hose is solid, so you can use all the attachments. It’s not the best at pet hair removal. Dyson canisters earn middling scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, based on data from our member survey.

CR’s take: In our tests, the Dyson Big Ball Multi-Floor performs as well as its brandmate above but gets dinged a bit because it doesn’t feature an on/off button for the brush roll. Switching the brush roll off prevents you from scattering dirt about as you work on bare floors. It’s below average on cleaning carpet but earns an Excellent rating for bare floors. It’s fairly quiet and earns a respectable rating for removing pet hair.

CR’s take: Impressive cleaning, lots of airflow for tools, and fairly quiet operation helped make this bagless canister a top pick. The Kenmore 22614 is also a great choice for cleaning up pet hair. Key features include manual carpet pile-height adjustment, suction control, a brush on/off switch, and a retractable cord. One caveat: Handling this vacuum’s 23 pounds takes some muscle. In our member survey, Kenmore canisters earned average scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: The Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog is on the pricey side for vacuums, but it’s one of the best canisters you can buy. It earns an Excellent rating on our bare floor and pet hair tests, but it’s not as great when it comes to cleaning carpet. This vacuum also performs well in our emissions tests; it doesn’t release debris back into the air of the room you just cleaned. Miele vacuums have a devoted following, and in our member survey, they earned top scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: Let’s just say that the Rainbow SRX is unusual. For starters, the Rainbow uses water instead of bags to trap debris. When you’re finished vacuuming, you have a tank full of dirty water—and you’re advised not to dump it down your drains, so as not to clog them. Another peculiarity: The design of the floor nozzle pushes debris along bare floors before sucking it up. But despite the caveats, it received high praise in CR member surveys, earning an Excellent rating for predicted reliability and a Very Good score for owner satisfaction. It’s expensive and mostly available through Rainbow reps rather than your local retailer. And at 36 pounds, it’s quite a beast—the heaviest of any canister in our tests.


Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.