Pet owners who suffer from allergies know that a good pet vacuum is an essential tool for maintaining a healthy home.
But what makes a good one?
There is a wide array of cleaners advertised with the word “pet” in their name—usually sold at a higher price than their multipurpose counterparts.
Before shelling out the extra cash for a specialized pet cleaner, it’s important to research which models actually live up to the claims of their marketing departments—and which fall flat. Moreover, it’s important to find out the best model for your needs, your home, and your lifestyle.
We created this site to look at some of the best-selling models in today’s market, to see which deliver the best performance sucking up pet hair, dander, dust, and other allergens. We weigh the strengths and weaknesses of popular models, and dig deeper to find out the truth behind marketing claims.
Our reviews on the Best Canister Vacuum are the product of extensive research into expert opinions, consumer tests, and customer ratings. We picked our favorites based on how well each model scored in real-life evaluations, as well as which ones had the best features for pet owners (especially those with allergies).
We’ve organized our top picks into categories based on the strengths and weaknesses of each one.
Some of our favorite models are particularly well-suited for hardwood floors, while others are perfect for cleaning the stairs. Some are best for budget shoppers, while others are high-end with the price tag to prove it.
Canister models might not be as ubiquitous as uprights, but they come with their own set of advantages that make them a worthy choice for many homeowners.
Compared to upright models, canisters are usually lighter, more compact, and more versatile. They use a wand (instead of the entire bulky body of an upright), allowing them to easily clean under furniture and above the floor. Their portable design also makes them better for cleaning car interiors and stairs—two areas uprights notoriously struggle with.
Ultimately, the choice between an upright and a canister is a matter of a personal preference. If you’re considering purchasing a canister for cleaning pet hair, here is our favorite candidate.
The Kenmore Progressive earned our top pick for its affordable price, strong suction, and superior HEPA filtration system.
This bagged canister model earns high praise both from owners and expert reviews.
It performs very well in consumer tests, often beating out models sold at twice the cost!
Though it’s not advertised strictly as a pet vacuum, it still earns an “Excellent” rating from Consumer Reports for its superior performance in pet hair removal. Pet owners particularly like the Pet PowerMate, Kenmore’s dedicated pet hair attachment.
The Progressive 21614 also earns high scores on emission tests, making it a strong choice for pet owners with allergies. The true HEPA filter does a great job at filtering out dust, dander, and other allergens from the air. It’s even certified as allergy and asthma friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Even some of the best models struggle with hard surfaces—particularly when it comes to hardwood floors.
Many popular machines are designed with deep carpets in mind. When faced with hard floors, however, they push around debris without sucking it up, sometimes even spraying and scattering it across the floor and into the air.
Even worse, the bristles on spinning brush heads inside of them can leave scratches on the surface of wood.
If you have hardwood floors in your home (and plan to use your next machine on them) it’s important to check how a prospective machine performs on wood surfaces. Some models are designed especially for hardwood and tile surfaces, while others allow users to adjust the cleaner head to accommodate different floor types.
A good hardwood floor cleaner also needs strong suction in order to remove dust and debris from the nooks and crannies in the floor. Finally, it’s important to make sure that it has rubber wheels, as hard plastic or metal can damage the wood underneath.
The upright, bagged Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Pet UH30310 is our favorite for hardwood floors. With five different height settings for different floor types and a dedicated pet hair system, the UH30310 is a great choice for homes with hardwood, tile and carpets.
This one also features a lever that turns the roller brush on and off—an essential component of a good hardwood model that prevents your floor from getting scratched.
Hoover sells this model at a budget-friendly price, and many owners found themselves pleasantly surprised at the level of quality offered at the bargain price of the UH30310. It may not be the best machine out there, but it’s certainly a candidate for the top model in its price bracket.
As a pet hair model, the UH30310 earns solid ratings from customers for its ability to pick up pet hair. It features Hoover’s Pet-Approved WindTunnel System, designed to minimize the blowback and scattering of dust, dirt, and other particles, while picking up more pet hair and other embedded materials.
For more choices on the Best Vacuum for Hardwood Floors read our reviews.
Stairs, like hardwood floors, present a unique set of concerns and challenges for cleaning.
Vacuums for stairs should be lightweight, with a head or attachment that’s small enough to navigate its way around the tread and the riser. A long power cord (or no cord at all) is also important in order to reach the whole length of the staircase, ideally without having to change outlets halfway through. Here’s a review on some of the Best Cordless Vacuums.
If you’re looking for a machine to tackle pet hair on the stairs, there are a few options available to you.
Homeowners who already have a primary vacuum that they like may want to consider purchasing a handheld vacuum or a stick model. These lightweight and often less expensive models are ideal for tackling difficult surfaces that give full-sized machines trouble.
If you’re in search of a full-sized machine that’s equally competent on staircases and open floors, you should consider either a canister model or a lift-away model. Lift-away models are a relatively new design that combines the advantages of uprights and canisters into one machine. We have a full review of different kinds of Vacuums for Stairs you might be interested in.
Shark is one of the most popular brand names in pet hair vacuums, and their lift-away series has earned the respect and praise of experts and consumers alike. The Navigator Lift-Away is currently the best selling upright model on Amazon, offering versatility and solid performance for a great price.
Shark’s lift-away models feature a removable, portable canister that’s perfect for cleaning stairs. With the press of a button, the dust canister and wand detach from the head of it, transforming into a fully functional canister model.
The lift-away feature makes the Shark Navigator one of the most versatile models around. Not only is it great for the stairs, but it also works well for cleaning cars, ceilings, and other hard-to-reach areas.
The Navigator earns high marks in the pet hair department, as well. The vacuum includes a motorized tool (Shark’s “Handheld Premium Pet Turbo Brush”), which is designed to remove hair from fabric surfaces like upholstery and drapes.
Read more on our reviews including Shark vs Dyson.
There are a few qualities that are important in a good pet hair vacuum. Most multipurpose vacuum cleaners on the market simply aren’t designed to handle large amount of hair and dander, and the wrong model can leave you frustrated, and your home covered in sheddings. To avoid too much shedding, you can learn a few tips if you click here.
But just because a vacuum has the word “pet” in the name doesn’t mean it’s suited for your needs. Not only do many vacuums deliver poor performance removing hair (despite the claims of their advertising departments), but different vacuums are designed to suit different purposes.
The Size of Your Home
It’s important to think about the size of your home (and/or any other area you’re planning to vacuum) when you’re purchasing a vacuum. Smaller vacuums may be lighter and easy to use, but they can make vacuuming a large room a chore.
Similarly, there’s no need to buy a big, powerful vacuum if you live in an apartment or condo. It’s also useful to think about the storage space you have available—it’s going to be frustrating your vacuum doesn’t fit in the closet.
The size of your home should also affect the size of dust cup/canister on the vacuum you pick. Vacuums with smaller dust cups will have to be emptied often, which will become frustrating in a large home.
The Types of Floors in Your Home
Of course, one of the most important factors to consider is the kind of floor you plan to vacuum. Some vacuums deliver great performance on deep carpet, but only leave deep scratches and lots of scattered dust on hardwood and tile.
Homes often have some combination of tile, hardwood, and/or carpeting. Luckily, many vacuums come with an adjustable cleaner head that can change heights based on the floor type. Many also include attachments for surfaces like hardwood, carpet, or tile.
Be sure to check how well a prospective model performs on your specific floor type, and whether that model comes with adjustable settings or attachments suitable for your flooring. If your favorite model doesn’t include them, check the company’s website. Manufacturers often have separate compatible attachments for sale online.
The Filter on the Vacuum
For animal lovers with allergies, a good filter on their vacuum is crucial. Vacuuming is one of the best ways to clean the allergens from the air and surfaces in your home, thereby improving your mood, energy level, and general quality of life.
But if your vacuum is expelling dirt, dust, and dander right back into the air after sucking it up, it can make the allergen situation in your home even worse. That’s why it’s important to make sure your vacuum has a good filtration system.
HEPA or multi-stage filtration systems are key elements to look for in a good vacuum. These help minimize the emission of allergens into the air after they flow through the vacuum.
For allergy sufferers, it’s also a good idea to clean or change your filter more often than recommended to ensure the highest quality of air possible.
Attachments Included with the Vacuum
Most vacuums come with attachments, but not all of them will be useful to you. One of the most important tools to look for is a pet hair brush for upholstery and other fabric surfaces. Many modern vacuums feature motorized pet hair brushes designed to make quicker work of pet hair on spots like your car interior (view our reviews on Best Car Vacuum), furniture, and drapes.