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How to Choose the Best Vacuum for a Busy Parent

Choosing a vacuum is one of those not-very-glamourous household tasks that may not get much thought. I remember looking at vacuums just after I’d moved out on my own and choosing one based on colour as much as any other features it offered. Now that I’ve been vacuuming my own floors for a decade and a half, and tried several different vacuums in that time, I’d like to share a few tips about how to choose the best vacuum for a busy parent.

How to Choose the Best Vacuum for a Busy Parent

My primary vacuum right now is my iLife robot vacuum, which I turn on after everyone goes to bed. It doesn’t get into all the corners, though, and its spot clean feature requires some patience (although the kids do like watching it go round and round and round over whatever they’ve spilled).

For a while I had a handheld vacuum that I’d grab for small spills around the house, but it had a 5-minute battery life so it could only handle small spills (or big spiders).

My Kenmore canister vacuum is so big and clunky that I honestly think twice about pulling it out, especially just for a spill, but it is great for those times when my teenager finally decides to clean her room or I want to vacuum behind the couch and under the bookshelves. It was also more effective for a black area rug we had that the robot vacuum wouldn’t clean (the black portion of the rug apparently made the robot vacuum think it was going to fall off a cliff).

Here’s what I’ve learned about vacuuming from these vacuums (and a couple others). I hope my experience can help you choose the best vacuum as a busy parent!

1. Use the Vacuums

This first tip may seem obvious, but the biggest problem I had when choosing my very first vacuum was that I’d hardly ever vacuumed any floors. My parents had a built-in vacuum in their home so yes, I occasionally pulled it out to vacuum my room or help my mom. That was my only experience with any vacuums until I moved into my own apartment. Which did not have a built-in vacuum. So then I was standing in a vacuum store, looking at all these different vacuums, while a salesperson asked me if I wanted an upright or a canister vacuum. Um, what???

Believe me, I’ve got a few more opinions about vacuums now. I’ve used both upright and canister vacuums, robot vacuums and handheld vacuums. My first tip to you in shopping for a vacuum would be to try out different types of vacuums, if it’s at all possible. Visit your mom and offer to vacuum. Visit your mother-in-law and offer to vacuum. Visit your friends and offer to vacuum. Ask them all what type of vacuum they have and what they like or don’t like about it. You can also read reviews and ratings for different vacuums.

2. Where Are You Using Your Vacuum?

Next, look at your home or apartment or condo. Where will you be using this vacuum?

If you have a lot of stairs, then a canister vacuum is a better option than an upright. If you have carpet in your home, then an upright with a carpet brush will give you a better clean. If you vacuum your car out once a week because the dog leaves hair all over the seats or the kids squash fishy crackers into the floor regularly, then you may want a cordless vacuum. If you don’t have time to vacuum because you’re a busy parent with five kids, then I recommend a robot vacuum to run at night while you’re sleeping.

Mom reading while a robot vacuum cleans her hardwood floor.

Where you are using your vacuum will also influence what sort of tools you want with your vacuum. Most vacuums come with a standard head but then also offer extra tools for getting under couches or into corners. If you’ve decided you want a canister vacuum but can’t decide which model is best, compare the tools included with the vacuum and think about where you’ll be vacuuming.

3. Who Is Using the Vacuum?

When buying your vacuum, consider who will be using it. Do you want a vacuum that the kids can grab to clean up after themselves? Or maybe you want a vacuum with more power that Daddy can run at the end of the day. Perhaps a robot vacuum that gets most of the dirt on a nightly basis works, with an upright vacuum to do a good clean on the weekends.

Vacuuming is one chore that I’ve been unable to delegate to my kids because I have a big heavy canister vacuum that most of them can’t drag around. My friend Anna, on the other hand, got a small cordless upright vacuum for her basement. Now when one of the kids spills the pencil shavings from the pencil sharpener or drops all their crackers on the floor, they can grab the vacuum and clean up the mess right away. That not only teaches the kids responsibility but also makes mom’s job easier. Sounds like the best vacuum for a busy parent to me!

Dad vacuuming the living room while chatting with his son.

4. Bagless vs. Bagged Vacuums

Nowadays, many vacuums come with canisters rather than vacuum bags for catching the dust and debris that you suck up in your home. I highly recommend looking at bagless vacuums rather than bagged vacuums. With most bagless vacuums, you can see how full the canister is getting and simply dump the dust and dirt into the garbage bin as needed. There are several reasons I prefer this method to changing a vacuum bag.

First, bagless vacuums save you the cost of buying paper bags for your vacuum, which will get thrown out with the dirt inside them.

Second, bagless vacuums save you the time of running over to the vacuum store (even if it is a block away likes mine is) to get that box of vacuum bags when you run out.

Third, if your kids happen to not clean up their Lego before you start vacuuming, you’ll have better chances of fishing it out of a bagless vacuum than a vacuum bag. (Honestly, I’ve never even tried to retrieve vacuumed Legos or tiny toys from the vacuum bag. If it goes in my Kenmore, then it’s sorry kids, you should have cleaned up better.)

My robot vacuum has a small canister that I empty every night before turning it on. I much prefer this to the large bag in my canister vacuum. It’s easier to see when the vacuum needs to be emptied and much easier just to empty that canister than to carefully pull a full vacuum bag out of the canister without spilling or ripping it, and then install a new bag.

5. Other Considerations

Other considerations that affect how to choose the best vacuum as a busy parent include the members of your household. For example, how many kids do you have and how much mess do they make? Do you, your spouse, or your kids have allergies? Do you have pets who leave hair on the floor and furniture?

If you’re frequently vacuuming up your toddler’s spilled rice cereal, your Golden Retriever’s shed fur, and the grass tracked in on your son’s soccer cleats, then you’ll want a more powerful vacuum with a bigger canister. If you have teenagers who remember to kick their shoes off at the door but have allergies to dust and dander, you’ll want a vacuum with a better filter to pick up any particles in the home.

Your personality can also play a part in helping you choose the perfect vacuum. Remember when I said I picked my first vacuum based on its colour? (Dark forest green, by the way.) Hey, if the colour, shape or size of a certain vacuum makes you more excited to vacuum your floors, then go for it!

What type of vacuum do you use? What do you like or dislike about it? What do you think is the best vacuum for a busy parent?

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