The 8 Best Vacuums for Carpets of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
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These vacuums make it easy to clean up household dirt and debris—yes, even pet hair.
A good vacuum is a necessity for a clean home, especially if you have a lot of carpet. After all, carpets hold onto dust, dirt, and moisture—and don’t even get us started on pet hair. But with so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to decide which vacuum is indeed good for your cleaning needs as well as your budget.
To help you avoid decision paralysis, we’ve done the hard work for you and tested over 250 vacuums. When looking for the best vacuums for carpet, we particularly focused on maneuverability, noise level, ease of emptying, and effectiveness in picking up hair and household debris—everything from sand and coffee grounds to pet kibble. We also consulted Chris Willatt, founder of Alpine Maids in Denver, CO, for his cleaning expertise.
“Go for something that looks simple,” says Willatt of choosing a vacuum. “Adding [multiple features] might make it five percent more powerful, but at the cost of adding complexity.” In short, if one of those “convenient” features break, you could be without a vacuum at all.
Whether you prefer a sturdy upright vacuum, a lightweight stick vacuum, or a canister vacuum with all the attachments that make it easy to get even the tightest corners clean, we’ve found the best vacuums for carpets in your home.
Shark NV501 Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum
Best Overall Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a powerful vacuum that’s reasonably priced and works well on multiple types of floor surfaces.
Who it isn’t for: People who prefer a lighter stick vacuum.
There’s a lot to like about this vacuum, which is why it made our overall top pick. We found that it cleaned up debris from the carpet very quickly, and can move seamlessly to hard surfaces. We liked the design (which wasn’t as bulky as other upright vacuums) and the variety of attachments. We found the setup easy thanks to clear instructions; in fact, unboxing it was the only thing that took long.
We were impressed with the suction on this vacuum, and appreciated that the suction power was very easy to adjust. It is a bit top-heavy, but it had good maneuverability on carpet, which is where it worked the best. It has a swivel head that makes it easy to turn around objects like chair and table legs, but it’s still a bit too large to fit under furniture. On the other hand, it has a lift-away pod that detaches from the base, allowing you to easily reach areas above the floor—and there are few useful attachments to clean every nook and cranny, including a crevice tool, dusting brush, and upholstery tool.
Emptying the dustbin is a clean and easy one-handed task, and the filter is also easy to access for cleaning or replacing. Other great features include LED headlights, which make it easy to see what you’re vacuuming, and a HEPA filter to trap allergens so they aren’t released back in the air while you vacuum. Overall, this is a fantastic vacuum if you’re looking for something that’s powerful, effective on a variety of surfaces, and easily adjustable in terms of suction power.
Price at time of publish: $300
Weight: 15.5 pounds
Cord Length: 25 feet
Battery Life/Runtime: N/A
Dustbin Capacity: 0.83 liters
Hoover MAXLife Pet Max Complete Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Best Budget Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: People who want to save on a vacuum that’s effective on pet hair.
Who it isn’t for: Those who prefer a vacuum with a sleeker design.
Pet owners love their fur babies, but not the piles of hair and dander they leave behind. That’s why we love this vacuum, which cleared upholstery of hair with one pass of the hose and a touch-up with the upholstery attachment.
This vacuum is easy to use right out of the box. It’s simple to put together, plus we love that all the attachments fit right on it for easy storage. Though this vacuum is lightweight, it does feel a bit bulky when using it. It’s not ideal for stairs, and we found wrapping up the cord to be a bit unwieldy. On the other hand, a lever changes the suction settings, so you can move from carpet to hard floors with ease. You might have to take a second pass on the hard floor—we found it was necessary when vacuuming both kibble and hair—but it did pick it up. It’s easy to pull off and empty the dustbin, though we would have liked it to snap back on a bit easier.
If you’re looking for a sleek and modern vacuum, you might be disappointed like we were by the old-fashioned appearance of this vacuum. But performance far outweighs aesthetics, and for such a budget price, it’s a great addition to your pet-friendly household.
Price at time of publish: $150
Weight: 17.1 pounds
Cord Length: 27 feet
Battery Life/Runtime: N/A
Dustbin Capacity: 2.5 liters
Miele Triflex HX2 Cat & Dog Vacuum
Best Splurge Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: Pet owners who are willing to pay extra for a sleek and powerful vacuum.
Who it isn’t for: Budget-minded individuals who prefer an electric vacuum.
This powerful vacuum cleaned up almost everything during our tests, including hair, and it only took about a minute when on the highest setting. This vacuum was effective on stairs without needing attachments, although an attachment would be needed to clear out coffee grounds from the crevices in the wood. We also liked that there are two places to put the power unit (at the top or the bottom of the stick) depending on your preference.
The suction power is strong with this vacuum, though—too strong, depending on the type of carpet pile you have. Be sure to adjust the settings so it works effectively and doesn’t harm your rug. We did, and we found it cleaned medium- and high-pile carpets with efficiency, and we liked that there was a light to illuminate the floor so we could see what parts still needed to be vacuumed.
The battery depleted faster than we had hoped despite our toggling through eco and high modes to conserve power, but there is an indicator that tells you when you’re losing juice so you can plan your cleaning accordingly. The vacuum transitions well from carpet to hard surfaces, though, and we liked how easily it maneuvered around furniture legs.
Price at time of publish: $929
Type: Cordless stick
Weight: 8 pounds
Cord Length: N/A
Battery Life/Runtime: Up to 60 minutes
Dustbin Capacity: 0.5 liters
Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum
Best Cordless Stick Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: Those who want a lightweight vacuum that’s effective and easy to use.
Who it isn’t for: People looking for a less expensive vacuum.
We loved almost everything about this vacuum, from its lightweight construction to its easy maneuverability. The attachments were especially easy to switch out, and we liked the satisfying click you hear once they lock into place. In fact, if you’ve got little helpers at home, they would have no problem with this vacuum.
The Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal is particularly great on carpet for picking up kibble and hair— though if you’ve got hair clumps, don’t be afraid to engage the boost function; we loved how it grabbed the more stubborn bits of kibble and clumps of hair. It struggled a bit on tile floor, though, so you might find you’ll have to put the vacuum directly over any dirt to pick it up.
Emptying couldn’t be any easier thanks to the lever that opens up the dustbin; the only complaint is that we had to reach in to remove the hair that had collected around the filter.
The Dyson brand holds quite the reputation in the vacuum world, and we can see why with this cordless stick vacuum. The ease of use outweighs the fact that the attachments, though highly useful, do not store on board. We found the battery quite strong—after 18 minutes of continuous use, it was still going strong with no noticeable change in suction power.
Price at time of publish: $550
Type: Cordless stick
Weight: 5.71 pounds
Cord Length: N/A
Battery Life/Runtime: Up to 60 minutes (35 with Torque drive cleaner head)
Dustbin Capacity: 0.8 liters
Shark AZ2002 Vertex Powered Lift-Away Upright Vacuum
Best Upright Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: People looking for a powerful upright vacuum that’s effective on carpets, hardwood, and stairs.
Who it isn’t for: People looking for a lightweight vacuum.
We found this vacuum rather easy to maneuver, thanks to the pivot head that made it simple to turn. The roller is quite powerful when moving forward; however, pulling it backward requires a bit of an arm workout. It works great on carpet and trim and makes the transition well to hardwood surfaces, where it also is highly effective, making this a good choice for those with both carpeting and hard flooring.
We really liked that you can use this model like a handheld vacuum, too—all you have to do is remove the pod from the base and add an attachment to clean upholstery, shelves, or stairs. Though it's heavy, we didn't find it tiring when using this method. Emptying the dirt bin is a one-hand operation; just push a button and the bottom opens to let out debris.
We were pleasantly surprised that no excess hair got stuck around the roller brush, and the foam filter was not dirty after use. The cord is a good length and winds up easily, but we did find it odd that the base held only two of the three attachments. Still, this is a solid vacuum for the price, particularly if you plan to use it more on hardwood floors and carpets.
Price at time of publish: $318
Weight: 16.38 pounds
Cord Length: 30 feet
Battery Life/Runtime: N/A
Dustbin Capacity: 0.9 liters
Kenmore Pet Friendly POP-N-GO Bagged Canister Vacuum
Best Canister Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: Those who want a portable, powerful vacuum that comes with a HEPA filter.
Who it isn’t for: Those who prefer bagless vacuums.
Pet owners, take note: We really loved how well this vacuum picked up kibble. We were especially in business when we kicked it up to high or even medium, where we could pick up the kibble in just one or two passes, respectively. And even when it was pumped up to the highest setting, it seemed rather quiet.
This vacuum was extremely effective on the carpet on just about all settings, though you’ll likely have to experiment with suction settings when you move to hard surfaces, depending on the debris. Hair can get tricky on hard surfaces—you might have to pick up the vacuum and place it directly on the strands to clean it up. The best part? There was no hair wrapped around the brushes or wheels.
It’s easy to maneuver, too. You can carry the canister with one hand as you work the hose with the other. We found the canister trailed after us easily, thanks to the rather long cord, which is great if you hate swapping outlets while cleaning. We love that you can simply retract the cord at the touch of a button, and all the attachments are stored right on board the canister for even easier storage. And if you’re used to bagless vacuums, take heart—this vacuum’s bag was easy to remove and change, and it’s totally worth it for the HEPA filter, which traps allergens and irritants.
Price at time of publish: $340
Weight: 24 pounds
Cord Length: 26 feet
Battery Life/Runtime: N/A
Dustbin Capacity: Not listed
Shark ZU62 Navigator Pet Upright Vacuum with Self-Cleaning Brushroll
Best Pet Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: Anyone with pets and carpeting.
Who it isn’t for: Those with vinyl flooring—it can scratch the surface.
You may have noticed that there are a lot of pet-friendly vacuums on our list. That’s because vacuums made with pets in mind typically have stronger suction, which is good for vacuuming carpets. In particular, we recommend this Shark vacuum, which cleaned up cat food and dog hair very quickly from both hard floor and carpet. We loved how easily it seemed to navigate both hard surfaces and carpets of varying pile levels with ease, and how it managed the transition between the surfaces.
The extra-large dustbin is easy to empty when there are larger or heavier pieces of debris, but dust and hair need a little extra effort to clean out. This vacuum is quite heavy if you attempt to manage it with just one hand, so it is a bit of a chore to use on stairs. However, it is very efficient with its stair cleaning, so you won’t mind the arm workout or having to take more time to wipe out the dustbin.
The long cord makes it easy to carry up the stairs and all around the house without having to constantly plug in, unplug, and plug in again. We liked the extendable hose attachment, which made it easy to get into hard-to-reach corners and even remove some dust from the ceiling. While you might prefer a lighter cordless stick vac for easy on-the-spot cleaning, this powerful vacuum is really great for deep cleaning. If you’ve got pets, you’ll want this to clean your space, as it masterfully takes on both carpets and hard floors with ease—and it contains a HEPA filter, which will help keep pet dander contained while you clean.
Price at time of publish: $280
Weight: 16 pounds
Cord Length: 25 feet
Battery Life/Runtime: N/A
Dustbin Capacity: 2.6 liters
iRobot Roomba 694 Robot Vacuum
Best Robot Vacuum for Carpet
Who it’s for: Those who like a hands-off approach to cleaning.
Who it isn’t for: Those who want a robot vacuum with more features, like mapping and self-emptying.
The Roomba 694 was very efficient at picking up hair (both pet and human) as well as cereal. Pet owners will be happy to know that pet hair didn’t get tangled up in the brushes, though longer human hair will. Good news: It’s easy to remove hair from the brush roller, and it’s even easier to empty the dustbin.
There aren’t many features on this robot vac, but it does sync up via Wi-Fi to an app that makes it super easy to get rolling—literally. The initial setup is done through the app, and we felt like an expert user after just a couple of cleanings with it. We were happily surprised to see how well it picked up sand, too, even when it was embedded in the carpet pile. Where it struggled—and this is often the case with robotic vacuums—is making the transition between bare floor and rug.
It doesn’t have mapping capabilities, so you’ll have to block or guide it to avoid places you don’t want it to go. Though it’s good at maneuvering around chair legs and other large obstacles, be warned: It “ate” two socks and went right through pudding piles (our version of pet mishaps), which could be a problem if you decide to set up the vac to run while you’re not at home. Still, for what the vacuum is supposed to pick up, it did very well, and at a very affordable price compared to other robot vacs.
Price at time of publish: $275
Weight: 6.8 pounds
Cord Length: N/A
Battery Life/Runtime: Up to 90 minutes
Dustbin Capacity: Not listed
The Shark NV501 Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum earned our top spot for the way it skillfully managed various floor textures without missing a beat—but it was especially effective on carpets. We liked that it offered the best of both worlds, since you can utilize the lift-away pod to make it easier to reach hard-to-clean spots like stairs, upholstery, and even shelves.
Our Testing Process
We’ve tested over 250 vacuum cleaners, including upright, cordless stick, canister, handheld, and robotic models. Our tests have focused on ease of setup, noise level, effectiveness on both hard floors and carpeting, maneuverability (using a timed obstacle course), portability, ease of emptying, and overall value. For vacuums designed specifically with pets, we tested the vacuums’ ability to suck up real pet hair; for cordless stick models, we tested runtime and charging time. Most of the vacuums we’ve tested have also been sent to real-world testers over a period of several months, who use the vacuums and provide long-term testing insights.
How to Shop for Vacuums for Carpets Like a Pro
The best type of vacuum for your home is really the one that you’ll have the easiest time using. “I like uprights because [they’re] all one piece,” says Chris Willatt, founder of Alpine Maids. Upright vacuums are also particularly well-suited for carpeting, because they’re typically more powerful than cordless stick vacuums and can more easily lift up hair, dirt, and debris that’s embedded in carpet fibers. (Our best overall pick, the Shark NV501 Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum, is an upright vacuum.)
On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the convenience of cordless stick vacuums. While they typically aren’t as powerful as corded upright vacuums, cordless stick models are much more lightweight and easier to store, as shown by the Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum, our best cordless stick choice. They’re best if you have mostly low-pile carpeting or a combination of carpet and hard flooring, and typically last between 30-60 minutes before they need to be recharged.
Canister vacuums aren’t as popular, but they tend to be the simplest and most durable models. They have a main unit with a motor and either a vacuum bag or dustbin, and a long hose that can be used with several different attachments for vacuuming your entire house (our best canister pick is the Kenmore Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go Bagged Canister Vacuum). If the idea of a bagged vacuum is intimidating, take note that they’re better for those with allergies, because you won’t ever have to empty the bags and potentially re-release their contents into the air.
A vacuum’s suction power is measured in wattage. Higher wattage means a stronger suction, but Willatt notes the same wattage might perform differently across different vacuums, depending on the strength of the motor. Carpeted surfaces need a higher suction—and if you have multiple types of flooring in your space, you’ll want to ensure there are various settings to vary the suction power accordingly.
The dustbin capacity is important to keep in mind so that you’re not having to empty it out halfway through your cleaning. Larger is typically better, but be careful—depending on where it’s located on your vacuum, it might make it difficult to navigate in or under tight spaces. Ideally, you’ll want a dustbin that’s easy to empty without causing more of a mess.
As Willatt said, simpler is better for vacuums, especially if a broken attachment gets in the way of the vacuum’s main function. But attachments are undeniably useful depending on your home’s cleaning needs. If you have pets, a handheld attachment that cleans upholstery, stairs, and other tight spots will be very important for removing hair and dander.
More Vacuums for Carpet to Consider
Tineco S10 Cordless Smart Stick Vacuum Cleaner: We liked the swivel head on this vacuum, which made it easy to maneuver around corners and furniture legs, but we thought the unit was quite heavy. We found that even on the highest setting, it struggled to pick up heavier debris like corn kernels. However, when the setting was used with attachments, the suction power was too strong and we could barely move it.
Bissell 1984 Air Ram Cordless Vacuum: This vacuum struggled with food debris like cereal and popcorn, though it did well picking up fine debris like coffee grounds and hair. However, we found that long hair easily wrapped around the roller, which didn’t bode well for future uses. It was harder to push on carpet, and there was no adjustment for medium or high pile carpet. We also would have liked some attachments for hard-to-reach areas, as the suction wasn’t strong enough for tight corners.
Questions You Might Ask
Can a vacuum be too strong for carpet?
More suction power isn’t always better, depending on your floor surface. Don’t just buy the vacuum with the highest suction power you can afford and think you’ve scored a winner. “If you have really long [pile] carpet and really high suction, that vacuum is going to be a terrible fit for you,” says Willatt. In fact, if you have deep-pile carpet, make sure you read the manufacturer’s guidelines for care; if you damage the carpet with your vacuum, you could void the warranty.
How often should you vacuum carpet?
Vacuuming regularly is crucial, especially if you have a busy household that includes kids and/or pets. For high traffic areas in busy households, you may need to vacuum every day, while lower traffic areas (like bedrooms) can be vacuumed weekly or biweekly.
What is the easiest type of vacuum to push on carpet?
Upright vacuums, despite being the most effective on carpet, can be heavy and difficult to push. If that’s a concern, there are lighter stick vacuums that are much easier to maneuver on carpet, like the Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal. It also depends on how large your space is. Area rugs in a small space will likely not need as powerful a vacuum as wall-to-wall carpet in a larger home, so a lighter vacuum is perfectly functional.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Barbara Bellesi Zito, a freelance lifestyle writer based in Staten Island, NY. To compile this list of best vacuums for carpets, she analyzed testing insights we compiled after testing over 250 vacuums. For expert advice on what consumers should know when purchasing carpet vacuums, she consulted Chris Willatt, founder of Alpine Maids in Denver, CO.
What Is Real Simple Selects?
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.
Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.
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