Best Vacuums for Hardwood Floors

Extend the life and beauty of your floors with one of these winners from CR's tests

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A cat knocking over a potted plant on a hardwood floor. Photo: iStock

What’s the best way to care for hardwood floors? Vacuum manufacturers are answering that question with vacuums and features designed specifically for wood floors.

“If you need to clean only hardwood floors, you might be able to get away with just using a stick vacuum,” says Frank Rizzi, who conducts Consumer Reports’ vacuum tests. “Otherwise, opt for a more powerful vacuum, such as an upright or a canister.”

Whichever type of vacuum you choose, follow these tips to keep your wood floors looking their best. And if your current vacuum isn’t cutting it, see below for the vacuums that knock it out of the park in our bare-floor test.

Place a doormat outside entrances to keep people from tracking dirt and grit indoors. Establishing a no-shoes policy indoors will go even further toward preserving floors.

Use plastic or felt protectors under furniture legs to prevent scratches. When rearranging furniture, always lift pieces rather than sliding them.

In the kitchen, place a mat in front of the sink and range to avoid wearing out sections of flooring.

Don’t use a steam mop on hardwood floors. “Vapor can get pushed into cracks and crevices, causing cupping and a hazing of the finish,” says Brett Miller, vice president of education and certification at the National Wood Flooring Association.

For more information, see our vacuum buying guide and flooring buying guide and ratings.

CR’s take: In general, canister vacuums do a better job on bare floors than upright or stick vacuums because they’re less likely to disperse dust and debris while vacuuming it up. The bagged Miele Complete C3 Marin is the best of the best, sucking up sand like a champ. And it features a brush on/off switch, which minimizes the dispersal of dirt and protects the finish on hardwood floors. It also earns a Very Good rating in our carpet cleaning tests.

CR’s take: Canister vacuums also come in bagless versions, which save you the hassle and expense of changing bags, though they often require additional filters that need to be replaced. If you don’t mind that trade-off, the bagless Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog earns top scores for bare floors and earns an Excellent rating in our pet-hair test. The hose suction is pretty good too, which means you can use this vacuum on curtains or upholstery without harming the fabric.

CR’s take: Though canister vacuums have the edge overall in our bare-floor tests, there are some darned good uprights to choose from, including the top-rated Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly 31150. In addition to earning an Excellent rating for pickup on bare floors, the vacuum also has exceptionally strong airflow through the hose, and it’s terrific at containing the dirt and debris it collects (rather than allowing particles to escape back into the room).

CR’s take: A Target exclusive, this Shark Navigator upright vacuum has a 26-foot cord and weighs about 16 pounds. It earns a top rating in both our pet-hair and bare-floors tests, though it doesn’t fare as well on carpet. Our testers found that this vacuum handles well, but it’s noisier than other upright vacuums. In our member survey, Shark earns good marks for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: The “ultralight” moniker for the Shark Vertex Ultralight HZ2002 refers to its light hand vac mode (our testers weighed it at 2.9 pounds). The Shark aced our tests for carpet, bare floors, and pet hair, and has scores for cleaning edges that are almost as impressive. Although not as versatile as a cordless vacuum, this model has a 30-foot cord that’s long enough so you won’t have to constantly map out your electrical outlets.

CR’s take: The cordless Tineco Pure One S11 cleans impressively in all our major tests and has many features to boot. An LED panel shows how much battery life you have left as well as the suction level, which varies when you switch from bare floors to carpet. A sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly. If you’re so inclined, you can connect to a Tineco app that indicates cleaning performance, such as battery life, on your smartphone. In CR’s tests, it runs for about 30 minutes per charge on low and 10 minutes on high.

CR’s take: The Roomba S9+ is pricey, but it delivers great performance across the board. The vacuum earns top scores down the line in our cleaning tests, and it’s the best of the best when it comes to cleaning bare floors and edges. This is a self-emptying model that discharges its dustbin into a dirt bag, no hands required.

CR’s take: Not all handheld vacuums can tackle pet hair with aplomb, but the Shark Ion aces that task. It’s also a champ at cleaning bare floors, earning an Excellent rating at that and getting into hard-to-reach places. And it’s not too shabby at cleaning carpet, either. The vacuum and all its attachments can be stored on the charging base, making it a real space saver. And at just 1.4 pounds, it’s one of the lightest handheld vacuum in our tests. The only downside to its small size is the small dust bin, which may have to be emptied more than once if you have a sizable spill.

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.