Using a vacuum attachment on window blinds.
Illustration: Chris Philpot

Almost all upright and canister vacuums come with a variety of attachments—extra brushes, hoses, and other tools—designed to make it easier to clean more than just the floor.  

"These tools are meant to help clean different surfaces and difficult-to-reach spaces,” explains Frank Rizzi, who conducts Consumer Reports’ vacuum tests.

But unless your vacuum has adequate airflow, the tools might not be that useful. All the upright and canister vacuums in our vacuum ratings undergo a tool airflow test to determine a vacuum’s suction capabilities.  

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“The tool airflow test isn't just about the power of the vacuum, but how well it maintains suction as the dust bin or bag is filled,” says Rizzi. “If suction decreases during the test, that can lead to a worse score.”

Two vacuums we’ve tested that rated Excellent for airflow are the Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly 31150 upright and the Miele Complete C3 Marin canister, but you can find many more in our full vacuum cleaner ratings.

Read on for a rundown of the most common vacuum attachments—and the best way to use them.

The Right Vacuum Tool for the Job

If your vacuum lacks any of these brushes and tools or you've lost them over the years, check the manufacturer's website to see whether you can buy them.

A vacuum attachment

Airflow Brush

Comes with: uprights and canisters
How to use it: The airflow brush looks like a smaller version of your vacuum’s powerhead, but it’s not motorized. (The airflow brush on some higher-end vacuums is motorized.) You can maneuver an airflow brush into tight spaces where a larger powerhead won’t fit, and some manufacturers recommend using this attachment for your upholstery as well.

A vacuum attachment

Crevice Tool

Comes with: uprights and canisters
How to use it: Because it's so thin, a crevice tool can get tiny debris out of tight spaces, such as around the wooden valance of a window or in between couch cushions. You can also use this slim tool to clean the front of your bookshelves where dust collects.

A vacuum attachment

Hose Attachment

Comes with: uprights
How to use it: Of course, canister vacuums feature a hose. But uprights come with accessory hoses to use with attachments. Generally made of plastic tubing, a hose can be attached to an upright vacuum to help you maneuver in cramped spaces, such as underneath a bed, where an upright won't fit. It also makes it easier to vacuum stairs. If you attach an airflow brush to the end of the hose, you’ll get some of that suction action across the tread of the stair.

A vacuum attachment

Dust Brush

Comes with: uprights and canisters
How to use it: This small, round tool has soft bristles and a circular head. It can be attached to both an extension wand or hose. Use it for gentle cleaning, such as around picture frames or ornate mantelpieces, or on the fins of your window air conditioner.

A vacuum attachment

Extension Wand

Comes with: uprights and canisters
How to use it: These slim, cylindrical plastic or metal wands are your ticket to vacuuming out-of-reach places. Typically, they’re attached to the end of the vacuum hose before you attach a tool, such as a crevice or brush tool. With both the extension wand and the tool in place, you can easily clean the corners of your ceiling where cobwebs collect, as well as along door mantels and behind units such as media cabinets.

A vacuum attachment

Floor Brush

Comes with: canisters
How to use it: A floor brush is the lighter-weight head of a canister vacuum cleaner. Full-sized canisters typically include a floor brush instead of a powerhead to use on wood floors. (If you have an upright, make sure to turn off the motorized brush roll to avoid scattering dust or scratching the floor.)

A vacuum attachment

Upholstery Brush

Comes with: uprights and canisters
How to use it: An upholstery brush usually has a short, flat head with tough bristles. It can be used on your couch or an overstuffed chair to remove pilling and dust.