Canister Vacuum Vs Upright Vacuum – Which is More Suitable For You?

When it comes time to buy a new vacuum cleaner you will likely be faced with the choice of deciding between a canister model or an upright vacuum.

Up until a few years ago, there was a clear distinction between upright vacuums and canister vacuums. Generally speaking, for heavily-carpeted areas, upright vacuums worked best, while hard surfaces such as wood floors called for canister vacuums.

However, as vacuum cleaner manufacturers are now designing vacuums to be more multipurpose, this distinction has become increasingly blurry. Nevertheless, canister vacuums are still considered to be most effective on hard surfaces, as upright vacuum cleaners may cause dirt scattering on these types of areas.


The Definition and Usage

Up until upright cleaners were designed, canister vacuums were the “original” vacuums. Many early vacuums were designed with a simple canister and hose. This simple design allowed canister vacuums usually last longer than upright vacuum cleaners.

An upright vacuum can be best described as the suction head and motor in a single unified body. So the vacuum weight is a very important consideration when getting a new upright as you need to push the entire machine while doing the cleaning.

If your home has more carpet than hard flooring, upright vacuums pack the power you need to get dirt and debris out of even the deepest pile. Many units include specialty tools for hard-to-reach cleaning jobs right on board in a compact design that makes storage easy.

With the latest advancement in technology, upright models are also very good at cleaning various types of floors. So, here we will let you know the pros and cons of this type of cleaner.  


Canister (or cylinder) vacuums have the motor and bag housed in a separate canister unit that is usually mounted on wheels and connected to the vacuum head via a flexible plastic hose with a nozzle. This canister is usually outfitted with a tool caddy and has some sort of head and agitator similar to an upright vacuum.

Not only are they ideal for hard surfaces, but they are also quite popular because they often feature maneuverable heads and are lighter in weight, also making them a great option for cleaning stairs and other hard-to-reach areas that may not be accessible by a traditional upright vacuum.

As two-story homes gained popularity, vacuuming the stairs and other nooks and crannies around the home was a feat in itself. Canister vacuums, however, provided a great solution. They were compact, easy to maneuver, and versatile enough to clean several different surfaces.

In addition, most canister vacuums come with a variety of tools that will work well on different types of surfaces in a home, including dusting tools, upholstery tools, and even crevice tools.


How to Choose the Right Vacuum for Yourself?

There are many criteria to consider when getting a new vacuum. The following are the three most important factors to consider when choosing either a canister or an upright vacuum.

1. The type of surface you need the vacuum to handle.

Do you have mostly carpeted floors or hard surfaces and are they big areas or small spaces with awkward corners?

  • For a large floor with carpet, you would need an upright vacuum with a wide cleaning path and powerful suction, with adjustable height for different piles of the carpet.
  • For areas that are mainly hard floors, a canister may be a better choice for maneuvering around furniture and into corners, although some models of upright have attachable flexible hoses and extra-reach tools as well.

Wooden and hard floors will need a cleaner head that will not damage the surface, while if you have both wood floors and carpets; you will need adjustable or interchangeable heads. Some upright cleaners have self-adjusting heights which will take you easily from one type of floor to another.

2. The space available for maneuvering your vacuum cleaner

Before you select which one to buy; in small tight spaces or where there is heavy furniture or immovable objects, a lightweight canister vac with extra-reach tools will give optimum performance. An extra large carpeted area that has many high shelves and ledges may require a strong suction canister vacuum with a wide head designed for carpets or an upright vacuum with a detachable hose and long-reach tools. Either of these will give you efficient cleaning of your carpet plus the ability to reach into awkward spots.

3. Bagged or bagless model?

You also need to think about whether you want a bagless cleaner, with a tank to be emptied, or a cleaner with removable or disposable bags. The new style cyclonic cleaners are very popular at the moment, but some people still prefer to stick to the tried and trusted bagged cleaners.

The debate about upright cleaners being too heavy for some people to handle is actually quite real; especially in the case of elderly ladies or those with arthritis. However some of the newer models of upright are a lot more lightweight than their older counterparts, but yet maybe a canister could be your best choice.

See the list of crucial factors to consider when getting a new stick vacuum.


Canister Vacuum VS Upright Vacuum – The Pros and Cons

Both types of vacuums have their advantages and perform better under certain cleaning circumstances or types of floors. To help you decide on the right vacuum we have put together a couple of lists of the pros and cons of each type.

The Upright Vacuum

Upright vacs can be great in homes with a consistent, flat carpet surface, but not all homes fall into this category. Some homes have tiled floors and others with hardwood floors. In this situation, an upright vacuum would be too inconvenient to use on a weekly basis. Most upright vacuums are heavier in comparison to canister vacuums, and although they can glide over large surfaces at a time, they can’t target smaller areas. Moreover, upright vacuums offer more powerful suction and can damage delicate hard floor surfaces.


  • On bagged models, the bags are usually larger than on canister vacuums
  • Easy to use in large, open areas which don’t require moving around furniture
  • A vacuum cleaner is one big unit that is always in front when vacuuming. Some people prefer this design.


  • Can’t get under furniture very easily.
  • Not as maneuverable as a canister vacuum as the wheels are fixed in a straight line (except for the Dyson Ball models).
  • Most don’t have a retractable power cord.
  • Usually heavier than canisters so they are more difficult to use on stairs and above
  • Sometimes the brush roll or a beater bar can damage delicate floors or carpets.
  • The hose is typically short and stiff making it hard to extend way out.


The Canister (Cylinder) Vacuum

Canister vacuum cleaners use a different power system from uprights. As uprights use a constant vacuum strength to clear out the dust and dirt from carpeted floors, canister vacuums typically have different settings and levels of vacuum suction so that you can suck away dust from delicate fabrics like those in drapes or upholstery. Some canister models also incorporate a strap in the event that you want to sling it over your shoulder while vacuuming.

Canister vacuums come in bagged or bagless varieties, and the one you choose boils down to personal preference. Surprisingly, the majority of canister vacuum cleaners are quieter than their upright counterparts. Their smaller size, quieter operation, and versatile use make it an ideal appliance for individuals living in multi-story apartments or dorms.


  • Those canister vacs with HEPA filter systems are ideal for asthma and allergy sufferers.
  • Easy to maneuver and flexible hose gives above floors cleaning greater versatility.
  • Low profile for easy cleaning of hard-to-reach places i.e. underneath furniture, etc.
  • Easy during vacuuming as the head is lightweight as opposed to the entire unit on an upright.
  • Great for multiple floor types like hardwoods, linoleum, and tile.
  • Most come with a power cord rewind feature.


  • The unit is usually behind you which you have to pull around the room. This can be awkward if you aren’t used to it.
  • These vacuums might require more lifting than uprights when moving between floor types.

Investing in a canister vacuum is a great idea because it can clean bare floors, drapes, upholstery, and underneath furniture many times better than upright vacuums. They also can maneuver around stairs with better accuracy and precision. They typically operate at quieter sound levels than upright vacuums and are also notorious for lasting long periods of time.



While we are biased towards canister vacuums and feel they are the best cleaners for the majority of households, there are times when an upright is a great choice. By understanding the main differences between these two types you can feel confident in buying the right vacuum cleaner for your home.

With the Internet at our fingertips, it is now much simpler to research before we purchase: research articles and sites for terms like “best upright vacuum” or “best canister vacuum” and spare some time to study carefully before making your selection.

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