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man using vacuum illustration

When we’re cooped up all winter, it’s tough on us. All that recycled air, stuffiness, and dust can really do a number on some of us allergy-prone folks. In the winter, one of the best weapons we’ve got is our vacuum cleaner.

I bought a new vacuum cleaner 18 months ago and it was one of the smartest purchases I’ve ever made. Even as a lower-priced competitor that can’t offer quite the same dust-free promise as something four times more expensive, my bargain-priced Shark Navigator has the one thing that’s most important for quality vacuuming — an easy-to-empty dust canister.

So whether you have money for a high-end Dyson vacuum or you’re on a limited budget like I was when I bought mine, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. In no particular order:

Clearance

There’s nothing worse than putting out a ton of effort to vacuum your whole home only to have a 1″ strip of filth along every wall. The closer your vacuum can edge the wall, the less work you’ll have to do after the fact. If you can’t get close, then at least ensure there’s an attachment that deals well with corners and crevices, with a minimum of goofing around when you’re switching things up.

Ease of emptying

If you can’t easily pop your canister out to empty your filth, you’re really compromising your cleaning power. As soon as your cannister is ¼ filled with dirt, you’re dramatically affecting your suction power and tainting the quality of air blowing out. By cleaning your cannister out every time you vacuum, you’ll pick up more filth and breathe easier.

Reuseable or replaceable?

Vacuums with bags are so 1986. There’s no need to inflict yourself with bags anymore. From low-end to high-end vacuums, most offer easy-to-access dust canisters that can be HEPA-grade. When you’re futzing with a bag, it’s very, very easy to have a bunch of dust puff out, which sort of defeats the purpose of going on Dust Patrol in the first place.

Most vacuums today even have filters you can clean yourself and reuse for a long time. Whether high-test foam or metal mesh, having reusable parts and bagless vacuums are both better for the environment and easier on your wallet.

What about central vac?

There are pros and cons to going central with your vacuum. It’s a huge investment compared to buying something that’s upright. You can take a vacuum with you, but central vac ain’t leaving, but it’s actually a value-adding investment in your home.

They’re higher-maintenance and it’s more costly maintenance too, since it’s advisable to bring in a pro, but central vacs more powerful, and their design means the noise tends to be in an area separate from the living space so the housework is less invasive.

In a huge home, a central vacuuming system can make upkeep a lot less hassle, and some homeowners with bad backs say it makes all the difference, especially with stairs.

Clear dust canisters

There is nothing more eye-opening than switching from a bagged vacuum system or central vac to a clear dust canister. It’s a horror story when you see just how much can be picked up by a powerful vacuum. I’m astounded at how much I pull out of my area rugs and seeing the distustingness actually has helped me improve my upkeep ethic. I now vacuum twice a week and, as a result, I have a better handle on my allergies than ever before, and haven’t been sick since I got a new vacuum, coincidentally.

Corners, ceilings, and stairs

If you’re getting an upright, make sure it handles corners and stairs well. Lack of maneuverability will leave you frustrated every single time you clean. If you can’t test-drive a vacuum, don’t buy it.

Beyond its maneuvering is the ability to be flexible for other jobs. My little vacuum comes apart with a single button push, leaving the powerhead sitting where it is, so I can carry just the hose and canister. This is handy for stairs, getting cobwebs off the ceiling (and spiders, yay!), and it’s super convenient for all kinds of reachy-lifty jobs that make the difference between an “okay” environment and a dust-free home.

Worth the investment

Typically between $150-500 for your usual uprights, vacuums aren’t a “fun” item to buy and it’s easy to think your 15-year-old Kenmore is good enough. But is it? Really?

Nearly 30% of the population suffers from a dust allergy. The number-one way to keep dust at bay is with a great vacuum. If your vacuum doesn’t suck well, then that really sucks for you.

An easily-maintained, powerful vacuum makes all the difference in how well you live and breathe at home. If you’re looking to make a drastic change in your home’s health, investing in a new vacuum system this coming year might do wonders. After all, I know buying one improved my life.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.