The best upright vacuum cleaners for spotless carpets and hard floors (2023)

An upright vacuum may seem old fashioned when compared to newer cordless or robot models, but for cleaning power and reliability, it still beats the competition.

It's easy to store —an upright vacuum can stand by itself and has a narrow body — and, as with a cylinder vacuum, it’s plugged into the mains rather than battery-powered.

A cordless vacuum may only last for a few minutes on max power, so while they’re handy for spot cleaning, “a corded upright would have an advantage for a thorough clean,” says Katerina Petrova of the Happy House Cleaning Company. Petrova says there are very good models on the market for around £150, so an upright vacuum will be markedly cheaper than a cordless model on average.

The best upright vacuum cleaners excel on carpet but work well on hard floors, too – look for the option to switch off the motorised brush roll to protect wood, tile or linoleum floors, or for models that come with an extra floorhead especially for that purpose.

Upright vacuums have a significantly larger capacity than their cordless counterpartsso are a good choice for larger homes, and can clean a large area quickly.

The downsides are weight and bulk; upright vacuums are larger, chunkier and usually more cumbersome than cordless, which means they can be harder to lug up and down the stairs or get into tight corners or under furniture.

How do you know if a vacuum has good suction?

Most vacuums come with an input power rating in Watts, although this is not quite the same as measuring suction. After all, a badly-designed vacuum might have a powerful motor but fail to transmit that to the business end.

In an ideal world all vacuum cleaners would come instead with an output rating, measured in AirWatts (AW). Dyson do this, but it's not widespread. Below we have listed whatever information is available to help you compare, but our at-home tests compare how well they suck up large, medium and fine dirt, as well as hair, on a variety of surfaces for a plain-English assessment of their suction abilities.

How we tested the best vacuum cleaners

Each of our top picks was hand tested by the Telegraph Recommended team or recommended by an expert. We tested the power and pick-up of each model, as well as taking into account how easy it is to use. Below are the best upright vacuum cleaners for fuss-free cleaning, starting with our favourite. (And if you're preparing for a deep clean, why not read our guide to the best carpet cleaners next?)

The best upright vacuum cleaners –at a glance

The best upright vacuum cleaners

1. Shark Lift-Away Upright Pet Vacuum NV612UKT

£189, Currys

Best suction power

We liked: it’s excellent value for money

Our top pick for performance and value for money. The brand comes highly recommended by Petrova (and celebrity “cleanfluencer” Mrs Hinch, too). And for good reason – this is a lightweight, versatile model that has impressive cleaning power and a dedicated pet hair tool to remove embedded hair from upholstery.

The canister is detachable, so you can lift it up and use it like a cylinder vacuum to reach up high or clean stairs and furniture with an extendable hose. This makes it almost as practical as a cordless model for spot cleaning, but with the suction power of an upright. Even in an upright position it's light, compact and easy to move around. It's freestanding and the suction power can be easily adjusted via a switch on the handle.

It has headlights on the floorhead to illuminate hidden dust and grime –and if your house is anything like mine, you’ll be shocked at how much a conventional vacuum cleaner misses. This is a premium feature considering this vacuum costs under £200. It also has an "Anti-Allergen Complete Seal" that traps an alleged 99.9 per cent of dust and allergens.

I also like that it’s bagless, although the capacity leaves something to be desiredat 0.83 litres. It’s easy to empty, but expect to have to do so frequently.

Key features: 0.83 litre capacity, 750W, 8.5m power lead, weight 5.65 kg

2. Dyson Small Ball Allergy Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner

£229.99, John Lewis

Best for allergies

We liked: how easy it is to manoeuvre and empty

The distinctive Dyson ball on this vacuum means it’s easier to manoeuvre than most uprights, and a motor in the “brush bar” means it gets deep into carpets to get rid of stubborn dirt and dust. It’s by no means the cheapest on the market, but the Small Ball Allergy is significantly less expensive than Dyson’s top of the range cordless vacuums, and we don’t hesitate in recommending it. Here’s why.

It excels when used as a classic upright– it has three suction modes, and the ball means you can easily navigate round furniture and obstacles. However, you can also release the hose and use smaller attachments to clean in hard-to-reach spots, up high or behind furniture. I prefer the easy-to-empty “one click” bagless design to faffing around with dust bags, although that does mean the capacity is slightly smaller.

It’s certified by Allergy Standards LTD as asthma and allergy friendly, and comes with dedicated tools for removing dust and allergens from mattresses and upholstery.

Key features: 1.6 litre capacity, 90AW suction power, 9.4m power lead, weight 6.9kg

3. Dyson Ball Animal 2 Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner

£330, Argos

Best for pet hair

We liked: it's great at deep-cleaning carpets

Widely regarded as one of the best upright vacuums on the market, the second of our Dyson picks is especially excellent at sucking up pet hair and dust from carpets. It's significantly more expensive than the Small Ball Allergy above, which is why it comes further down the list, but if you have a large area to clean it could be a worthy investment.

The power lead is just over 10 metres long, so you can clean from room to room without unplugging the vacuum. It also has a slightly larger dust bin (1.8 litres). But its USP is excellent filtration of allergens and a powerful pick up, especially when it comes to pet hair. It has a motorised floorhead for deep-cleaning carpets, and also comes with a pet tool, slim cleaner head (for getting under furniture) and telescopic extension tools.

Key features: 1.8 litre capacity, 90AW suction power, 10.8 metre power lead, weight 7.8kg

4. VAX Mach Air™ Revive Upright Vacuum Cleaner

£89.99, Currys

Best budget

We liked: it offers good cleaning power for the price

This simple, no-frills bagless vacuum cleaner has considerable suction power, a quiet motor and a lightweight construction – all very decent for under £90, which is why it’s our top choice for value for money. It only takes a couple of minutes to set up from the box, as it comes almost fully assembled.

Don’t expect all the bells and whistles–you have to adjust the suction manually on the floorhead, and it doesn’t really have any fancy features to speak of, but it does the basics well.

In addition to a motorised brushroll for rugs and carpets, it comes with a 3-in-1 soft dusting brush, crevice tool and upholstery tool. It’s light enough to carry up and down the stairs, but as the power cord is only 7m, you may have to unplug it to move between rooms.

Key features: 1.5 litre capacity, 820W, 8m power lead, weight 5kg

5. SEBO Felix White Art Upright Vacuum Cleaner

£339.90, SEBO

Best capacity

We liked: the large dust capacity and retro design

We were charmed by the retro-inspired design and choice of colour schemes for this vacuum, and SEBO, a German-engineered brand, has a loyal following among professional cleaners in the know. But there’s no getting around the fact it’s expensive.

However, it does perform well enough to justify the price. It has the largest capacity of any upright vacuum we tested, which means it’s a good choice for large households. It’s suitable for all floor types, as the motorised brush head can be switched on and off, but it performs especially well on carpet. It makes light work of hair and crumbs with its strong suction power.

It has a clever L-shaped floorhead and a swivelling “neck” that allows you to get right up against the skirting board and into tricky corners for thorough cleaning. It comes with a five year guarantee.

Key features: 3.5 litre capacity, 700W, 11m power lead, weight 6.8kg

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