Ask Design Mom: Vacuums

Dear Gabrielle, I am shopping for a new vacuum. Is it worth splurging on an expensive one? Or are they just a lot of hype? I’d love your opinion or recommendation. Thanks! — Sara

Great question, Sara. I made do with a $40 vacuum I picked up at Costco for like 6 years or something. It wasn’t great, but it was fine. I only had a couple of area rugs that needed vacuuming. So the short answer is, if you’re not doing much vacuuming, a budget option is probably fine.

But my real answer is: I adore Dyson vacuums. (This is not a shocking statement, I’m sure. Design-centric people have long loved the Dyson.) We finally splurged on one when we moved here to Denver because we have mucho wall-to-wall carpeting. My sister advised me to buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond with one of their 20% coupons to help take the edge off the high price. It helped, but it’s still a big purchase. Like you’re buying a major appliance.

But man oh man, it’s such a great vacuum! It picks up so much more than any other vacuum I’ve tried. It’s built well and it’s easy to empty and maneuver. We chose the DC24, because it’s a manageable size for both the kids and the grownups to handle. If you’re in an apartment or other small space, my assistant Melanie swears by the new Dyson City. It’s super compact and made for all floor types.

What about you, Dear Readers? Any favorite vacuums you want to recommend to Sara?

131 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom: Vacuums”

  1. One shopping trip at Target we came across a Dyson DC24 on sale for 175.oo normally 310. It was
    a floor model without a box but in perfect condition. We did not need a vacuum but could not resist such a
    great deal. I am so happy that we have the Dyson now. We were using a bulky canister vacuum that made vacuuming such an awful chore. Now I do not mind vacuuming! It works great on hardwood floors as well. When it’s time for a new vacuum we will definitely be purchasing another Dyson even at full price!

  2. we have a dyson and do love how well it sucks, however our next vacuum will be a miele. ours broke once, and when we took it in to get repaired we discovered that it was merely a wiring issue that would normally be an easy fix, except that dyson stopped making replacement parts for our vacuum (and several of their other models). the vacuum guy had to sort of macguyver something that makes it work for now, but based on what he knows of vacuums (and what i’ve heard elsewhere) we can pretty much count on it breaking again. for a vacuum that’s as expensive as the dyson, i just don’t think it’s acceptable not to be able to permanently fix them when they break, especially when there’s a common problem among the ball units that tends to break frequently based on how they bend. i know several folks who have had dysons for ages, so it’s not like it happens to every one, but if you happen to get a lemon you’re kind of out of luck. the miele is a much better quality vacuum that sucks just as well and is fixable should anything go wrong.

  3. I’m an Oreck fan. I have a very lightweight one that cuts down on allergies. It has a bag inside. I don’t know what it is called. It was not cheap from the Oreck store. I spent over $200 for it. I’ll tell ya, with a golden retriever and two boys than have numerous snacks that end up all over the floor. I’ve had it for 4 years now and it is still great.

  4. Kirby for sure. Had a Dyson, and all the rest mentioned about. Just bought a kirby last month and it blows all of them out of the water!

  5. We LOVE our Oreck. My mom had one that lasted 15 years, so after 4 years of marriage and 2 broken vacuums, we finally bought ourselves an oreck. It feels like a lot to spend on a vacuum that looks like a little girl’s toy, but it’s amazing. Our carpets FEEL different than they did before, and it’s super light. I also prefer the bag to the bagless.

    The Dysons are beautiful tho.

  6. Miele! We got one from my in-law’s for Christmas. They are huge Miele fans and my mother-in-law had her’s for 20 years. She then gave it to my sister-in-law and it is still going strong.

  7. A VACUUM REPAIRMAN told me (when I asked why he didn’t sell Dyson’s in his shop) that Dyson’s actually have suction because as soon as the filter starts filtering, efficacy plummets, and that they are terrible for people with allergies because dumping the canister is like inhaling a dust cloud.
    He recommended Kirby’s and Orek’s, and definitely bagged vacuums. They are actually less gross than bagless when you change the bags as often as is recommended (once a month for a vacuum that is used daily).
    Dyson’s are pretty and trendy, but I want something that is really going to LIFT the dirt.

  8. we have a Dyson 24 too! It does a fabulous job, but is now going into the shop AGAIN. Sadly, it’s made of a lot of plastic. But, the warranty is covering it (again). So, I’m not sure if we’ll invest in another when the time comes.

  9. If you live alone, have no animals – or pets, *wink! Yah, you mom’s know what I’m talkin’ bout…. especially moms of BOYS!* well then, it doesn’t much matter.

    If, however, you find that you vacuum up legos, rubber bands, hunks of bread that the manufacturor would say was too big for a vacuum, but too small to justify bending over a lot – well then the DYSON is for you.

    I have the purple one, bought @ BB&B, and when it gets clogged, I can use a butter knife to undo the screw and fish out… well, lets not get into that. Just ‘cuz MY kids suck up their socks doesn’t mean that yours will. You can fix it, yourself, for just about everything but a burned out motor. Most carry a 5 yr warranty, and it has blessed my life. When I got a loaner though, they did mention that someone had returned it with bullet casings in the bin. Oh yeah. That’s MY kind of vacuum….

  10. My brother was a vacuum repair tech and he insists that Miele canister vacs are the best. I’ve been happy with my 10 year old Hoover, but maybe he’ll give me a Miele for my birthday so I can compare. ;-)

    If you go to a vacuum store rather than a big box chain, be wary of the salespeople! They can be worse then a used car salesman. Do your research before you go shopping.

  11. Really? This smacks strongly of product placement. How much did they pay you for this? Or did they just give you a free one? I know you sometimes own up to your sponsorships, but sometimes I feel like this blog is too heavy on the advertising. Hmmm.

    1. Aw shucks! Too bad you don’t like the post. Charlotte, I’m very careful about acknowledging sponsorships and I assure you, I paid for my Dyson with my own pennies.

      Anything positive you’d like to add? We’d love to hear about your favorite vacuum. :)

      1. Okay. I like my old upright Hoover. It reminds me of the one my mom used to have, or the one you see the guy at the grocery store using to vacuum the front door mats in winter. I can’t afford a new *whatever* brand, but I occasionally take my Hoover to the repair shop for a tune-up because the old guy who repairs it makes it good as new.

  12. I’ve had my Dyson for more than 5 years and it’s still the best vaccuum. I use it on carpet, tile and wood floors. It is very versitile and fairly light for the amount of power it has.

  13. We have the purple “animal” and it makes me feel like a total slob!
    I’m a very clean person but man it sucks up everything! Seriously, we have 2 cats and you’d never know it. Love our Dyson. I’m thinking of getting the City for our main floor and use the animal in our bedrooms and staircase.

  14. i’ve had a dyson for 5 years now, i love it. we got ours on ebay, new in the package with the warranty. great deal. before we bought it we had a kirby salesman give us a demonstration, was thisclose to purchasing one. friends have them and love them.
    what i love about the dyson is the easy to empty canister, long handled host and super long cord.

  15. I have had SEVERAL Dysons but they just couldn’t take three dogs and five kids!!! After trying almost every brand out there, we decided to invest in a Miele and we absolutely love them!!! Yes, I said them! We have one for each floor of our home.

    I agree with Wynn . . . MIELE is the BEST vacuum you can buy!

  16. I, too, am a huge Dyson fan. We saved a bit at Bed, Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon as well. We’ve had the Dyson for a little over two years and still LOVE it.

  17. If you want something that will last forever get a Kirby, I bought one from a door to door salesman and I love it. It works great on carpet, wood and it also has an attachment for shampooing. It’s an investment, but you can usually talk them down quite a bit. They are mostly made of metal, so no little plastic pieces that will break off or a motor that will burn out and loose suction.

  18. All hail the Dyson! My house has never been cleaner.
    Make sure you check out the online deals. We got our DC25 online through Walmart then just picked it up in store when it came in. Saved over $150 and got the $80 car and upholstery kit for free.

  19. I love my Miele. It works equally well on both flat floors and carpet, and is easy to maneuver on stairs. Also, it’s red, and it makes me smile.

    It’s not as designy as the Dysons, but I’ve rarely been more satisfied with a purchase. It’s still going strong after nearly 8 years, two houses, two small boys, three cats, and innumerable home improvement projects.

  20. I have the Bissell Cleanview Helix deluxe and it ROCKS! It was 1/4 the price of a Dyson and I really believe it works just as well. Several family members and friends have gotten the Bissell after hearing me rave about it and they love it, too!

  21. I LOVE my Electrolux! Ok, so it’s actually my mom’s Electrolux, handed down to me 10 years ago and still going strong! She’s on her fourth one now (keeps upgrading when one of us kids moves out and needs a vacuum) and will never switch brands!

  22. LOVE my Dyson… just be sure to clean the filter once in awhile… : ) Just an FYI, 4 yrs is too long to go without cleaning it!

    AND… Don’t leave it at the top of the stairs while you do the stairs… it only leads to staples in your scalp!

  23. Well it looks like I’m a lone sole here. I bought our vacuum about 5-6 years ago after having a slew of cheap ones fail us. We have hardwood floors, area rugs and wall-to-wall carpet, so we needed a versatile CANISTER vacuum. At the time Dyson’s were new and didn’t sell a product to match all of our needs. After some research, we landed on a Bosch. I really couldn’t be any happier. It’s the quietest vacuum I’ve ever met, it’s suction is great and it has a HEPA filter. Love, love, love it….and it’s similarly priced to a Dyson and less than a Miele.

  24. I saved up and finally bought my very own Rainbow this summer. And I LOVE IT.

    My Mother-in-Law has a Kirby, my Sister-in-Law has a Dyson, and my Mother has a Rainbow. I vetted them all carefully and the Rainbow just seemed like more for our money.

    The Rainbow won out because it has less problems and my mother literally runs it all the time – meaning it acts as an air purifier when you are not running it as a vacuum. It just sits in the corner humming softly all the time. The air is filtered through water. She has 5 dogs in her house, and you would never know.

    Since we have purchased our Rainbow E Series (an old model), it has cut down on my husband’s sinus problems and I don’t have to dust as much. It picks up EVERYTHING and I have cut down my dusting by more than half.

    Unfortunately it is a bit bulky and difficult to move around. Sometimes the water is a hassle to get rib of, but no more than a bag, I suppose.

    1. My mom and dad are on their 2nd Rainbow… 49 YEARS. They truly have the cleanest house I’ve ever been in…..ever. I was saving my money for a Rainbow, but this post has me thinking I could just just a Dyson or Miele right now. Hmmmm….I’m sick of spending under $100 every other year for a vacuum that just doesn’t suck…..or does;)

  25. I agree with the Miele-lovers. I finally broke down – on our 4th home (after getting married and using hand-me-down upright vacuum cleaners). I love it for all of it’s parts – the upholstery brush, the floor brush, the slanted one for getting the stair corners – it makes my job easier! and it’s not difficult to lug around! Would love to try a Dyson sometime, though, bc other than a bunch of old Hoover Uprights and my mom’s cadillac Kirby vacuum cleaner (which weighs a TON), I have nothing to else to compare it to.

  26. I was just reading about your rental home in France and I have to say that the post about vacuums just doesn’t compare. ;) What a dream… will you be renting a room to fellow blogger friends? ;) I stayed in a B&B in Bloise, France that looks a lot like your rental. WoW! “Calgon take me to FRANCE!”

  27. I comparison shopped a Dyson with a Riccar at a local vacuum shop, and the Riccar won HANDS DOWN. I had never heard of that brand before, but it is made in the USA, has a fabulous warranty, and the Riccar Supra-lite weighs only 8 lbs. I’ve had it for 2 years and it has not let me down once.

    I found Dyson to be a lot more hype than performance, and the vacuum shop where I bought my Riccar says the same thing. He actually gets a lot of trade-ins when people bring in their Dyson for repairs.

    You can only buy Riccar from an authorized dealer, and before you spend any money on a Dyson, I’d try out a Riccar.

    LOOOOVE IT!!! Go Riccar!

    1. I absolutely agree (I have a Riccar Sunburst Subcompact). One downside of a Dyson is that it’s difficult to find shops that will repair them from you. I bought a Riccar because I knew that if anything happened, I would be able to have it serviced rather than having to buy a new machine (and therefore saving lots of plastic from the landfill).
      I also like the HEPA filter in the Riccar and the fact that it is very lightweight.
      Furthermore, many Ricca vacuums are made in the USA.

  28. Get a Kirby. Sure they weigh 10,000 tons and look something straight out of the 60’s, but they will get the job done. It’s solidly built and will last beyond your grandkids’ grave.

    I took my Kirby apart down to a bolt just to appreciate the engineering that went into it and I was well pleased. Kirby is the epitome of minimalistic, sound mechanical design with solid metal parts to back it up. It’s as utilitarian and durable as pre-GM Saab 900’s and pre-Ford Volvo 240DL’s. What more can I say?


    P.S. Mine did work great again after I put it all back together.
    P.S.S. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have foreclose your home to own a Kirby. I got my refurbished/reconditioned Kirby on eBay BIN for $275 shipped. Bet you can snipe one for cheaper if it’s on auction.

  29. Hi! Like the woman who commented above, I love my Bissell Lift-off Revolution. If you have hardwood floors or area rugs and want something primarily for cleaning baseboards, inside the couch, etc.. this is the vacuum!! I love how I can remove the canister and have something so light-weight and portable to carry around the house. I highly recommend this!

  30. Let me start by saying I have a Central Vac system. It does not suck. literally. My kids are over the joke. Anyway, in the past I had given my husband an edict that there were to be no gifts that had a plug. Since I own a LARGE (110#) golden retriever, I started lusting over the Dyson 25 Animal. I really wanted one – I read the reviews and could not wait to try it out. My girls talked him into buying it – he was scared it was not a good gift! When I got it, I was excited! Love the machine! I am telling you, I can do a room and the canister is full half way through! It is like my central vac never worked! I love to run it and I am amazed at the crap that my central vac had left behind!

  31. Miele vacs are also very good. I’ve had their cat & dog model for years & it’s still the best at picking up all the fur!

  32. How fun and interesting to read all the comments. We are thinking about buying a new vacuum. And just yesterday I was pondering it again and still couldn’t make my mind up whether I should save pennies for a dyson or just go for a miele. (miele is cheaper here) We have but two rugs, the rest is wood or stone floors. Actually I’d want one that sucks better, than the one we have and I’d love a longer line, as I’m constantly replugging. But I don’t want to spend that much money for a vac! Now I know more and will test some miele models.

    1. ok..I checked on miele, seems they’re in the exact same price range like a dyson. I don’t like them tough. no washable filters, bags… the only model I’d go for would be the hybrid… ;)

  33. I am also soooooo in LOVE with our dyson! We have it now for 6 years and I will never ever have something else than a dyson :)
    I’m dreaming of a second one (better for a third one too) because I’d like to have one on each level of our house…

    It got nothing to do with cleaning, but someday I also would like to have a fan of dyson – just for the design :)

  34. WELL WELL I may be the only naysayer of the DYSON but i HATE them. THEY are heavy, awkward and I too bought into the hype and purchased one. When I had a ton to vaccuum, including a bunch of stairs I realized that I hated vacuumming due to the large, bulky DYSON- it went out on me too after only a year. I promptly returned it, got my warranty replacement and continued on with the DYSON again to HATE it. I finally sold it and got a SIMPLICITY Vacuum. It has better suction, light as a feather, cheaper, american made, full warranty and I LOVE IT!!!!(and anyone who asks I tell them STAY AWAY FROM the DYSON- its the marketing that gets ya- but its not superior!!!!!)

  35. I have an older Dyson (yellow–don’t know the model). We got it on clearance at Target for about $180.

    The plus side: it sucks stuff up much better than my old Hoover upright did. I know this, because first we vacuumed with the old one, then with the new one, and filled the canister half way up with grit and dog hair. Gross. It’s easy to take apart to get things out that are gumming up the works. The negative: It’s worthless on bare floors. (I don’t have wall to wall carpeting, I have rugs. I have had maybe 4 vacuum cleaners in the last 20 years and not ONE of them works well on floors, or can get up the stuff along the edges of the rug without switching over to the hand attachment.) The plastic feels cheap. I’m in constant fear that one of the plastic latches is going to snap off in my hand. It’s heavy, and the carrying handle is way, waaaaay too high up on the body to be able to carry it upstairs without whacking myself in the legs with the head. Maybe if you’re a tall Scandinavian guy it’s in the right place :) If you want to use the hand attachments, you have to have the cord completely unwrapped off the little storage hooks to pull out the hose. I am sick to death of wrapping and unwrapping the cord!

  36. we have the dyson pet. i love, love, love my dyson. it picks up anything and everything. we have had ours for 6 years and only had to replace one part. it was easy to order from dyson and replace ourselves.

  37. Miele ALL the way! It’s small and virtually silent too. Bonus for pets and small children that don’t like loud noises! We bought a Dyson for our weekend place and took it out of the box turned it on…and immediately put it back in the box and returned it. Too big and bulky and LOUD. We’re now the proud owners of two Miele machines. Worth. Every. Penny.

  38. I’d love a high-end vacuum, but it’s not in the budget so we opted for a refurbished electroluxe on overstock. Love it! Definitely worth the 150 beans we paid and hopefully it will last years and years.

  39. I just replaced my 8 year old Dirt Devil, which has basically been beat all to hell by cat, rabbit, and now dog (Great Pyrenees, no less) hair, plus my long hair. It’s actually still in working condition, but the motor makes an awful noise, and I was afraid… anyway. I wanted a Dyson, but just could not bring myself to spend more than $500 on the model I thought I needed. I ended up with a Kenmore Intuition, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s easy to clean the dust cup and filters – everything basically snaps apart for easy cleaning. It has a nifty dirty/clean LED that goes from red (dirty) to (green) as these little sensors sense the amount of dirt coming into the canister. It’s heavy, but I figure I can use the workout anyway. I really like that it doesn’t have a drive belt, so no more belt replacements needed. It does a great job of cleaning up the long, fluffy dog hair that gets embedded into my carpet – I sweep about once a week, and my 9 year old carpet looks fantastic. I highly recommend it!

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