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Best Vacuums for Hardwood Floors

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

Hardwood flooring is hot. In 2016, 35 percent of designers expected to install more of it, making it flooring's highest growth category, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. And the amount spent on wood flooring in the U.S. was up roughly 400 percent from 20 years ago, reports the National Wood Flooring Association.   

So what's the best way to care for all that hardwood? Vacuum manufacturers are answering the question with machines and features designed for wood floors. Below are several standouts from Consumer Reports' tests

Whichever vacuum you choose, follow these tips to keep your floor looking good.
• Place a doormat outside entrances to keep people from tracking dirt and grit indoors. Instating a no-shoes policy will preserve floors even better.

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

• In the kitchen, place a mat in front of the sink and range to avoid wearing bare spots in the floor.

• 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 flooring association.  

See our buying guide and ratings for wood floors.

Top-Cleaning Canister
Miele Complete C3 Marin

Miele Complete C3 Marin

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 before sucking it up. This bagged Miele canister is the best of the best, sucking up sand like a champ. It also made short work of the embedded talc in our grueling carpet test. And it features a brush on/off switch, which minimizes the dispersal of dirt and also protects the finish on hardwood floors. Most of the vacuums included in this roundup have this feature as well. 

    A Bagless Canister to Consider
    Panasonic MC-CL935

    Panasonic MC-CL935

    Canister vacuums also come in bagless versions, which save you the hassle and expense of changing bags, although they often require additional filters that need to be replaced. If you like that trade-off, this Panasonic is one of our favorites, and it costs a fraction of the Miele. Pickup on bare floors and in our pet-hair tests were both superb, and it is has the requisite brush on/off switch. Panasonic is also even with Miele when it comes to brand reliability in the canister vacuum category.     

      Best Upright for the Job
      Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly 31150

      Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly 31150

      Though canister vacuums have the edge overall in our bare floors tests, there are some darned good uprights to choose from, including this top-rated Kenmore. In addition to its superb pickup on bare floors, the vacuum also has exceptionally strong airflow through the hose, and it’s excellent at hanging on to the dirt and debris it collects (rather than allowing particles to escape back into the room).  

        An Upright With Plenty of Pickup
        Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away XL Capacity NV755

        Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away XL...

        If you’d rather have a bagless vacuum for your hardwood floors, consider this top-notch model from Shark. Bare floor cleaning is superb and it boasts an extra-large bin, good if your home collects a lot of dirt and dust. The "3-in-1" machine also converts from an upright to a handheld canister or a full wheel canister vacuum with the touch of a button. 

          Softest Touch
          Dyson V8 Absolute

          Dyson V8 Absolute

          Near-flawless performance—on bare floors and carpets alike—vaulted the Dyson V8 Absolute to the top of our stick vacuum ratings. But we particularly like the machine in homes with a lot of hardwood because of its soft roller cleaner head, which is made of woven nylon with rows of anti-static carbon fiber filaments. That makes the Dyson gentle on hardwood floors but still able to make them spotless. Other kudos include quiet operation and very long run time for a battery-powered cleaner.     

            Two Vacs in One
            Black+Decker Smartech HSVJ520JMBF27

            Black+Decker Smartech HSVJ520JMBF27

            This nifty machine from Black+Decker is a battery-powered stick vacuum that converts to a handheld vacuum with the touch of a button. Superb cleaning across bare floors helped earn it a place on our recommended list. We also like that the brush roll can easily be removed for cleaning. It’s equipped with a telescoping crevice tool for hard-to-reach areas, and there’s a dusting brush tool to take care of wood furnishings—once your wood floors are spic and span. 

              Roaming Robotic
              Roomba 880

              Roomba 880

              In addition to its superb cleaning on bare floors, this Roomba excelled at navigating around furniture and other entrapments in our tests, making it a smart choice in open-plan homes with intricate floor plans. One caveat: It had trouble picking up cat hair in our tests. So if you have pets at home, you might want to upgrade to the Samsung POWERbot SR20H9051 Series robotic vacuum, $1,000, which was able to suck up embedded pet hair, as well as fine grains of sand.      

                Capable Handheld
                Eureka Easy Clean 71B

                Eureka Easy Clean 71B

                A handheld vacuum is good to keep around for spilled cereal and other quick cleanups. Eureka’s corded handheld aced our bare floors test, and its electric rotating brush adapts nicely for vertical surfaces. It’s mediocre on carpets, in case your home does have some of them lying around.   

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                  Daniel DiClerico

                  I've written about remodeling and home products for 17 years. When I'm not covering the subjects for work, I’m putting the knowledge to use on the renovation of a Brooklyn brownstone, where I live with my wife and kids. You can also find me most weeks on the soccer field.