5 Tips for Choosing the Best Vacuum Cleaner For Your Space

iStock.com/97
iStock.com/97

For those who hate housecleaning, choosing the right vacuum is essential. Some models are better suited to certain tasks and surfaces than others, and picking the right one will save you the hassle of having to skim the same section of carpet five times. There’s a lot to consider, so we’ve detailed the advantages and limitations of the five main types of vacuum cleaners.

1. UPRIGHTS TACKLE THE BIG JOBS.

A man uses an upright vacuum
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Pet parents love their fur babies, but it would be nice not to have tufts of hair littered throughout the house. The upright model is perhaps the most familiar type of vacuum, and its powerful suction makes it one of the best options for picking up pet hair. If you have lots of carpets or rugs, an upright vacuum cleaner with a generously sized bag or filter is a safe bet. These models tend to be cheaper than canister vacuums, but they’re often heavier, making them harder to push around. If you do opt for an upright vacuum and have hard floors to tend to, be sure to get one with a brush roll feature that can be turned on and off at will (on for carpets, off for hard floors). The best-selling upright vacuum on Amazon—a bagless Eureka NEU182A PowerSpeed—is selling for about $60. Traditional bagged vacuums collect dirt in disposable bags, while bagless models use filters to whisk crud into an onboard receptacle. Both need to be manually emptied from time to time, and bagless models may need to have their filters replaced after long-term use.

2. CANISTERS ARE EASY TO MANEUVER, BUT HARD TO STORE.

Using a canister vacuum
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This is the other type of vacuum that pet owners ought to consider. Unlike upright vacuums, these models are better at handling hardwood or tile floors. Some can even clean carpets as effectively as an upright—and they do so with less noise, too. The only real downside is that they tend to be bulkier and harder to store neatly in a closet because the hose is attached to a separate tank. On the other hand, attachments help you get in those hard-to-reach places, and they’re ideal for cleaning curtains, ceiling corners, upholstery, staircases, and the underside of furniture. Some models cost hundreds of dollars, but the best-selling bagless Bissell Zing sells on Amazon for about $50.

3. STICK VACUUMS HANDLE QUICK CLEAN-UPS.

A woman tries out a stick vacuum at a store
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Named for their slender shape, stick vacuums are good at getting into tight spaces like the crack between your refrigerator and wall. They’re lightweight and often battery-powered for convenient, cord-free use. However, they’re not great at cleaning carpets and tend to have the least powerful suction of all five types. There are situations where they come in handy, though. Consumer Reports recommends using stick vacuums for quick clean-ups, like spilled cereal. “They are mainly suited for picking up surface litter and aren't intended as a replacement for a conventional vacuum,” the product review site says. If you have kids or pets running around at home, you may want to buy a cheap one and keep it near the living room or kitchen, while storing a more heavy-duty vacuum elsewhere. One of Amazon’s best-sellers is the Eureka Blaze 3-in-1 vacuum, which costs about $30.

4. HANDHELDS FIT IN TIGHT SPACES.

A handheld vacuum
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Like the stick vacuum, surface cleaning is the handheld vacuum’s specialty. In fact, aside from their size and shape, they’re similar to stick vacuums in terms of their suction power, weight, and function. So which one should you choose? Good Housekeeping recommends using a stick vacuum for floors and spots underneath furniture, while handheld vacuums are better at cleaning the furniture itself and windowsills. Many handheld models are also lightweight and cordless, making them great tools to have around when it comes time to deep-clean the interior of your car. One of Amazon’s best-selling hand vacs is a $55 cordless Black & Decker. But if you want the best of both worlds, opt for a stick/hand combo that comes with nifty attachments like a dusting brush.

5. ROBOTIC VACUUMS DO (SOME OF) THE WORK FOR YOU.

A cat on top of a robotic vacuum
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While robotic vacuums promise to take care of business while you lounge on the couch, they may not be as low-maintenance as they sound. They’re able to squeeze into tough-to-reach spots like under the sofa, but they don’t have the power of an upright or canister vacuum—so if you do use a robotic vacuum, you’ll still probably need to use a broom or more traditional vacuum to finish the job. However, they’re great for touch-ups in between cleaning sessions, especially when you’re busy doing something else. Newer models can be programmed with smartphone apps and voice assistants, so they tend to run a little pricier than other vacuums. One of Amazon’s best-sellers is the iRobot Roomba 690, which connects to Wi-Fi and costs about $300.

You're Probably Raking Leaves All Wrong

iStock.com/Zbynek Pospisil
iStock.com/Zbynek Pospisil

'Tis the season for viewing fall foliage, which means the less lovely season of raking dead leaves isn't far away. You may want to brush up on your raking technique, because apparently there's a wrong way to tidy up your lawn, according to The Spruce. Several wrong ways, in fact.

First, you'll want to check your toolshed to make sure that what you have in your possession is, in fact, a leaf rake. There are over a dozen different kinds of rakes suited to different tasks, and it's easy to mistakenly use the wrong kind. Leaf rakes are a little like lawn rakes, except they have plastic instead of metal tines—and yes, it makes a difference.

Fortunately, raking is one of those chores where procrastination is okay, and even encouraged. The Spruce suggests holding off on raking until almost all of the leaves have fallen. That way, you can do it all at once and save yourself the hassle. However, it is recommended that you occasionally use a mulching mower or lawn mower with a bag attachment to collect any leaves that drop early on in the season.

If you have a garden, The Washington Post suggests using a mower (with a bag) to shred the leaves, which can then used as mulch to nurture your flower beds or soil. And if you really loathe raking, just start a compost pile and let it break down naturally over the winter. Local wildlife that find their food in piles of leaves will thank you.

For everyone else, put your raking skills to the test on a dry, windless day. You should be raking "deeply and vigorously" so that you're scraping up lawn thatch (dead grass) in addition to leaves. WeatherBug recommends that you rake small amounts of leaves at a time, using a "medium-paced, quick sweeping motion." It's quicker than long sweeps, and less likely to tire you out. Keep your back straight, knees bent, and periodically switch up the position of your hands so that you're not putting pressure on just one area.

If this sounds a little like preparing for rigorous exercise, it's because raking leaves is moderate physical activity, according to experts. Be sure to wear gloves and long pants, and try to enjoy autumn while it lasts. After all, raking leaves is still better than shoveling snow.

[h/t The Spruce]

There's an Easier Way to Use a Cheese Grater

iStock.com/brazzo
iStock.com/brazzo

Most kitchen gadgets don't come with manuals, but maybe they should. Time and time again, humans have demonstrated a knack for taking something simple—say, a can opener—and finding a way to use it in the most difficult and least-efficient way possible. (Hint: The rotating handle should be placed on top of the can, not off to the side.)

Well, the internet has once again stepped in to save us from ourselves. There's apparently an easier way to use a standard four-sided cheese grater (a.k.a. a box grater), according to a short video that was originally uploaded to Instagram by Menu World. Instead of holding it vertically in one hand, you lay it down horizontally on a table or counter and start grating your cheese from side to side instead of up and down. This prevents the grater from moving around while you hold it, and it's a little easier on your arms. (In a similar vein, you can also apply a coat of cooking spray to the outside of the grater to make it less of an upper body workout, and this is especially recommended if you're grating sticky cheese.)

The cheese grater hack has been going viral on social media, so don't feel bad if you never thought of doing it this way—lots of other people haven't, either.

This method is also helpful because the cheese collects inside the grater, providing a handy visual guide for figuring out how much cheese to shred. When it's grated directly into a large bowl with other ingredients, it can be a little harder to judge.

Here's one final tip for your next cheese-infused dinner: Try using an old toothbrush to clean out all of the grater's little holes. It will save you some time (and perhaps prevent minor grater-related injuries). For more tips like these, Mental Floss has a couple of guides for awesome cleaning hacks.

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