Best →

Suction vs Airflow in Vacuum Cleaners

Christen da Costa Profile image

Written By:

Updated July 22, 2022

Suction and airflow in vacuum cleaners are two factors to help you better determine which brand and model fit your lifestyle best. This rule applies whether you are buying a mid-range vacuum or a top-tier vacuum cleaner. They may have different functions, but both are equally as important to your cleaning performance.


  • Suction and airflow are complementary tools of measurement that should be taken into account together for best results. 
  • To ensure you get all the extra dirt, look for vacuums with high CFM and an excellent rating for inches of water lift. Unlike cyclonic vacuums which don’t lose their suction due to their unique design.
  • You can think of suction as what pulls the air inside the vacuum, while airflow is the amount of air available for the suction.

The Difference Between Vacuum Airflow and Suction

Both suction and airflow are essential in determining if a vacuum is powerful enough to be an excellent cleaning tool rather than a shoddy purchase. There are lots of different types of vacuum cleaners, so if you want one that does the job well, understanding the difference between airflow and suction is crucial.

Explaining Both Vacuum Airflow and Suction

Before you can understand the difference between them, you should understand both topics separately. We’ll break down below what you need to know about airflow and suction.

Insider Tip

Vacuum airflow refers to the capacity of air a vacuum can take in and is measured in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM).

What is Vacuum Airflow?

Vacuum cleaner airflow refers to the capacity of air a vacuum can take in and is measured in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM). CFM is by far one of the most critical factors in whether you have an excellent cleaning tool on your hands or something with a low airflow rating and an even lower level of suction power.

What is Vacuum Suction?

Suction works a bit differently, although it is closely related. Suction refers to the vacuum motor’s force that generates the “pull” of air into the machine.

How are Vacuum Airflow and Suction Different?

There are a couple of key ways that suction and airflow contrast. We’ll explore those more below so that you can fully understand the similarities and differences between these two critical measurements.

Suction Comes from Motor Power

A Powerful motor will always produce excellent suction. This is how vacuums can pull air through carpet, upholstery, and other thick materials, thus pulling in dust particles and debris. And while a strong suction is a good thing, sometimes you also need the right tool for the job. For example, if you are in the middle of a bid DIY project that involves wet and dry messes, then you’d want to know how a wet dry-vac works.

The Purpose of Airflow in Vacuums

On the other hand, airflow is the amount of air pulled by suction at one time. The two functions work synergetically and should balance each other out for best results.


Always contact the manufacturer before attempting any vacuum repairs to see if you have a warranty.


What is the highest suction power of a vacuum cleaner?

Since vacuum attachments lower suction power, the highest recorded suction power is 200 CFM using a commercial vacuum.

How much suction power is enough?

Your lifestyle will determine the answer to this almost entirely. Differences in flooring types, for example, will make one solution vary significantly from the next. Carpeted homes will always require higher suction power. Wood flooring lets you get away with more.

Is repairing a vacuum cleaner worth it?

Generally speaking, no. Unless the model you have is costly, it’s almost always better to just replace the entire vacuum. Always contact the manufacturer before attempting any vacuum repairs to see if you have a warranty.

Why are they called “vacuum” cleaners?

The name “vacuum cleaner” comes from the method through which they clean. Vacuum cleaners create negative air pressure to “suck” air inside of them.

STAT: HEPA filters that are of higher quality can lower CFM by upwards of 30%. (source)

Tyler Lacoma Profile image