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Best Vacuum Cleaner for Carpets

Updated: Jan 27, 2024 4:06 PM
best vacuum cleaner for carpets featured image that shows the top three best vacuum cleaner models

If you’re looking for the best vacuum cleaner for carpets, you probably want a model with power, furniture-cleaning capabilities – and enough filtration to keep that dust down. That’s especially true if you want to stop summer allergies or similar problems that crop up in winter when the house is shut tight. For other types of vacuum cleaners, check out our best vacuum cleaner guide.

So what is the best vacuum cleaner for carpets? It’s all well and good if your canister or upright vacuum cleaner is great on bare floors and kitchen tiles, but getting matted hair, dirt, and dust out of thick carpet is the true test for the best vacuums around. Don’t just look for the first vacuum cleaner that fits into your closet! Compact stick vacuums can be great for easy storage and maneuverability but when it comes to suction power upright vacuums are your best bet. Settings, rollers, and design type can have a big impact on how well vacuum cleaners clean carpet. That’s why we our #1 pick is the Shark Rotator Lift-Away ($259.99) for getting carpets clean again. The built-in versatility of the Shark model allows you to clean any type of upholstery, while the HEPA filter and dust cup allow for super-effective, time-saving dust removal. However, our other top picks have tons of power as well, so check out what made it on the list!

Best Vacuum Cleaner for Carpets

Shark Rotator Lift-Away Professional UprightMiele Dynamic U1 Jazz UprightHoover T-Series WindTunnel Pet-Bagged Upright
Rank#1 – Editor’s Pick/Best Vacuum Cleaner for Hardwood Floors and Carpet#2 – Best Vacuum Cleaner for Thick Carpet#3 – Best Vacuum Cleaner for Carpet and Pet Hair
Amazon Rating4andhalf-starsfour-starsfour-stars
Brush RollOn/OffAutomaticOn/Off
Dust TrappingAnti-Allergen Seal + HEPAHEPA AirCleanActivated Carbon HEPA
Water LiftUnknown111 inchesUnknown
Weight15.5 pounds21.4 pounds15 pounds
Air FlowUnknown144CFMUnknown
ContainerDust CupType U Eco-dustbagMedia Bag
On Board AccessoriesYesYesYes
Buy NowBuy NowBuy Now

How We Choose the Best Vacuum Cleaner for Carpets

We looked for a vacuum cleaner that digs deep into the carpet, and gets rid of debris without too much work. We don’t like having to pass over the same spot several times to get rid of burs or hair! Flexibility is also very important to us – we prefer vacuum cleaners that can reach carpet under furniture or around corners so that these areas don’t get skipped. It’s always a good idea to have the best carpet cleaner for your home, shop, or car.

When available, we also prefer to look at specs like water lift and airflow, which more directly measure how powerful a vacuum cleaner is and how well it seals in air and dust. If you really want an upgrade in power for deep carpets or large amounts of dirt and hair, then a vacuum with impressive lift (at least 90 inches) and CFM numbers (preferably more than 100 CFM for powerful vacuums) will deliver.

Also, if you have much experience in vacuuming a new carpet or rug, you know that they can fill your canister or bag in your best bagged vacuum very quickly: We also looked at the size of containers and how easy they are to pull out and dump when you need to. Finally, we know that many of you looking for a specialized carpet vacuum cleaner are worried about dust, allergens, and dander. So we looked for vacuum cleaners that included sealing technology (to keep dust from spilling back into the air) and filtration systems (particularly HEPA) for those who may have respiratory conditions.

Finally, a note on automatic vacuums. There are some models out there, such as the Gen 3 Roomba with carpet boost, that are designed specifically for carpets. However, we also considered how people with carpets need to vacuum – often dealing with stairs, corners, and upholstery – which is why our final picks didn’t include any automatic options, at least for this year.

Alternatively, our options didn’t include the leading car vacuums either, but you can always find those reviews on our site.

Why You Should Buy a New Vacuum Cleaner for Carpets

Not all vacuum cleaners can handle carpet – especially newer, thicker carpets. If you just moved or had a remodel that added carpet to your home, it’s time to think about getting a the best rated vacuum cleaner for carpets, with the necessary brush features and power to handle dirt and tangles hiding within carpet fibers. This makes suction power even more important – today’s modern vacuum cleaners have improved suction, typically based in water lift: Water lift is a rating used to describe suction, referring to a vacuum cleaner’s ability to lift a 1-inch column of water. The more inches a vacuum can lift the water, the more easily it can suck dirt and “heavy” debris from a carpet – even when the canister or bad starts to fill. Sealing, motor power, and more all factor into water lift.

Additionally, new carpet-cleaning vacuum cleaners tend to have better filtration systems that trap dust more effectively, even using HEPA-rated filters to get rid of the smallest allergen particles. Plus, they manage to do all this while weighing less than those clunky older vacuums you may still be stuck with.

Oh, and if you’re worried about vacuuming on hardwood floors as well, it’s all right: our top picks are specifically designed for carpet work, but they can clean wood or tile easily as well – versatility is an important factor, and the more surfaces you can clean with a vacuum cleaner, the more worthwhile a purchase is.

#1 Pick Shark Rotator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Shark Rotator
Shark’s vacuum cleaner can do a little bit of everything.

Award: Editor’s Choice/Best Vacuum Cleaner for Hardwood Floors and Carpet

Price: $310.00 | Brush Roll: On/Off | Dust Trapping: Anti-Allergen Seal + HEPA | Container: Dust Cup | On Board Accessories: Yes

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A modular design, plenty of tools, and easy-to-clean dust container put this model at the top.

Shark’s nimble Rotator Lift-Away Bagless Upright vacuum cleaner is the ideal carpet-cleaning machine, no matter what your goals are. The 30-foot cord should be enough to easily clean a carpeted room, and the lightweight, quiet nature of this upright model was like a breath of fresh air – you can temporarily turn this model in a separated, canister system to reach the hardest-to-get areas. We also appreciate how easy the dust cup was to pop up and empty – carpet vacuum cleaners benefit greatly from these easy-dump containers as opposed to traditional bags. However, just like the Shark Navigator NV352, this Rotator also manages to include sealing HEPA filtration (high efficiency particulate air) technology for removing dust, dander, and other tiny allergen particles, making it great for health-related vacuuming.

But, as they say, that’s not all! Despite being a relatively slim upright, this model also includes an array of cleaning accessories, including a brush, crevice tool, power brush for pet hair, and several other attachments. That makes it great for furniture, too. Note, however, that because of the canister-separation feature, these tools are only partially “on-board.” However, they’re still easy to use and essentially transform the model into several different vacuum cleaners as needed. It is a good alternative to the best dyson vacuum for versatility.

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#2 Pick Miele Dynamic U1 Jazz Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Miele Dynamic U1
Miele’s model is powerful, with all the features you could want.

Award: Best Vacuum Cleaner for Thick Carpet

Price: $550.00 | Brush Roll: Automatic | Dust Trapping: Sealed HEPA AirClean | Container: Type U Eco-Dustbag | On Board Accessories: Yes

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Power and HEPA filtration make this model good for anyone with allergies around the house.

If you’re looking for power, flexibility, and simplicity all in one package, this vacuum cleaner offers it. While this model looks a little bulky at first glance, it actually has a lot of maneuverability with it comes to sliding out furniture and around objects. Plus, the brush roller has a spring-based automatic adjustment that raises and lowers the roller based on the surface, which is ideal for switching from hard floors to carpet, and moving between different types of carpet.  There’s also a dial-based speed control that you can use to control suction power with four different settings, so you can go easier on some types of carpet and harder on dirtier areas: If you want the best vacuum cleaner for thick carpet, here’s your model. And if you want a vacuum cleaner that can collect the finest dust, check our best vacuum allergies guide.

In case you’re wondering why the front roller looks so odd, it’s partly to house the row of LED lights for under-furniture sweeps, and partly to contain the HEPA filter, which can be quickly popped out and replaced when it’s done trapped all those tiny particles. With a water lift of 111 inches and an amazing 141 CFM of air flow, the suction behind this model is also impressive enough to deal with any mess.

Two final notes about the Miele U1. First, it is a bagged model, and while we don’t like bags quite as much as simple dust cups, they are usually better at containing dust – just make sure you’re ready to buy spare bags when necessary. Second, while everything about this model is top notch, it also comes with a high price tag: If it’s too much for you, look for deals and discounts on this model.

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#3 Pick Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Pet-Bagged Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Hoover T-Series
Hoover’s model is versatile and great for pets or allergies.

Award: Best Vacuum Cleaner for Carpet and Pet Hair

Price: $134.00| Brush Roll: On/Off | Dust Trapping: Activated Carbon HEPA | Container: Media Bag | On Board Accessories: Yes

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A low price combined with powerful suction make this model a winner for pet-lovers.

All right, what’s a Windtunnel exactly? It’s Hoover’s name for a suction system that’s designed to reduce blowback – once you suck something in, it’s not coming back out, even in tiny particles. That, plus the upholstery tool, is why this model has the word “pet” in the name. It’s great for cleaning up pet hair trouble spots or spills, especially with the 12-foot hose and accessories. You can also adjust the height over five different settings based on the height of your carpet – it’s not automatic, but if you like customization it’s a great feature to have.

The filtration system is impressive as well. The bags use an activated carbon HEPA filter system, and includes an easy drop-and-replace bag system that makes it nearly as easy to deal with as a dust cup. Just keep on eye on the bag indicator light, because HEPA bags can fill up fast.

But what might draw you most to this model is the low price. You can find this model for far less than our other picks, which may put it right in your budget if you’re trying to save money – or looking for a vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors and carpet alike.

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What to Look for When Buying the Best Vacuum Cleaner for Carpets?

  • Motorized Brush: This may be the most important carpet feature if you’re wondering how to pick a good vacuum cleaner. The brush roll is that spiraling brush on the bottom of many larger vacuum cleaners. Some roll by themselves as you push the vacuum, which has limited usefulness. Others are motorized, which means they spin, propelled by the motor. Motorized versions are excellent for pulling out the trapped debris in carpets. Rolls that you can turn on or off are more versatile if you have non-carpet areas.
  • On Board Accessories: Chances are really good that if you are vacuuming a carpet, you’ll also be around furniture, upholstery, drapes and other various fabrics that you’ll want to clean off. That’s why it’s a really good idea to pick a vacuum cleaner for carpets that comes with a few on-board accessories and a detachable hose/nozzle array. This allows you to quickly clean everything in one rotation. However, make sure the accessories match your needs, but there’s a lot of variance here!
  • Try Going Upright: There are several different types of residential vacuum cleaners, including canister vacuum cleaners and upright models. If you have a lot of carpet, you should look at upright models first. They tend to be better at cleaning carpets more quickly and thoroughly than other models. Canister options are really only better if you have a lot of carpeted stairs and edges to deal with, while stick models are good if only have a small amount of carpet to clean and what a vacuum and carpet cleaner combo.
  • Dust Protection: Even if you don’t suffer from allergies or asthma, you probably don’t want your vacuum cleaner spitting out the dust it gets from your carpet. Look for sealing technology and containers that effectively trap dust without letting it back out again.
  • Automation: Look for automation features that make your job easier! That includes automated lights for vacuuming under furniture, automatic height adjustment for different levels of carpet, and more. Modern vacuum cleaners have more of these features than ever before, and they can save you time while cleaning more effectively.
  • Noise Level: Unfortunately, upright vacuum cleaners also tend to be the noisiest models. Look for any technology that helps the vacuum cleaner run more quietly. Typically if a manufacturer claims that a model is quiet, they actually put some work into dampening motor sound – and every little bit helps when looking for the best vacuum cleaner for tile floors and carpet.
  • Container and Bag Usability: As we mentioned, carpets tend to fill up containers very quickly. Look for models that have plenty of room for storing loose fibers, as well as containers that are easy to dump. These days, bags are more common for high-quality filtration vacuum cleaners, but they should also be easy to replace when needed.
  • Easy, Flexible Steering: Carpets are never just there – they’re covered with stuff! You’ll be dodging all sorts of furniture legs and objects. Look for a vacuum cleaner that has plenty of maneuverability when it comes to steering. You probably don’t want a brush that’s too wide, but you do want swiveling and tilting features to reach all the awkward places.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Ignoring Your Carpet When Buying: Carpets are not created equal! They vary in density, twist level, height, pile type, and more. Some carpets may suffer under a vacuum cleaner that’s too powerful and pulls out piles. Some carpets may need a powerful vacuum cleaner to reach hard-to-find dirt and dust, or even the best steam vacuum carpet cleaner for major renovation projects. Take a look at your carpet before you choose what type of vacuum cleaner to buy!
  • Buying Based on Appearance: Vacuum cleaner manufacturers try to make their models look high-tech and ultra-modern. Unfortunately, this rarely if ever has an impact on actual performance. Don’t get sidetracked.
  • Going Too Large: Super-large vacuum cleaners probably aren’t necessary unless you have a lot of carpet to clean (and they cost more, too). A smaller vacuum cleaner with the right features will be lighter and serve just as well in many cases. Resist the urge to buy a beast if you don’t actually need it.
  • Not Thinking About Your Home Life: Do you have pets that shed? Look for the best vacuum cleaner for carpet and pet hair – or a vacuum specifically designed pet related things. Do you end up tracking a lot of dirt inside? Find a model that does a deep clean. Do your kids spill often? Look for a cleaner that you can whip out at a moment’s notice, and back it up with some liquid stain remover too!

What Else You Should Think About

When considering the best vacuum cleaner for carpets, remember to thinking about how a vacuum cleaner and air purifier can work together – you may want to look at air purifiers as well, especially for serious allergy issues.

If you’re interested in other models from Shark, check out the Best Shark Vacuums. Shark continues to research the market with new and innovative models such as the Shark Apex UpLight – a Lift-Away DuoClean Stick Vacuum.  Another compact stick vacuum from Shark is the Shark Rocket True Pet, a vacuum cleaner that converts into a handheld vacuum and includes a mini motorized brush designed for pet hair.

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