Upright vacuums have more capacity and can be more powerful than stick vacuums – here are our favourites of 2023
Upright vacuum cleaners might not be as sleek or enticing as cordless cleaners like the latest Dyson V11 but there are still plenty of reasons you might want to choose one. Their main killer feature is the ability to stand without the need for external support but they’re typically also more powerful and can be more flexible than their skinny rivals, too.
In this category, there are different models to choose from and in a crowded marketplace, it can be hard to pick the right one. To make it easier to choose, we’ve included a handy buying guide to the product category and listed our favourite models below that.
How to choose the best upright vacuum cleaner for you
What is an upright vacuum cleaner?
With so many different types of vacuum cleaners on the market these days, it’s worth defining what exactly we’re going to be reviewing and talking about in this roundup.
An upright vacuum cleaner, for the purposes of this article, is a machine that can stand up on its own two legs; so to speak. These cleaners usually have powered roller brush heads and dust collection boxes or bags attached to the handle and most are mains powered. In recent times, we’ve seen an increase in the number of cordless upright vacuums, which blur the lines between the two types somewhat, but these tend to be more expensive.
Are upright vacuum cleaners heavy?
Another area where uprights have been modernising in recent years is weight. Where once lugging the vacuum cleaner up the stairs was a real struggle, modern upright vacuums are now much lighter and more manoeuvrable than they used to be.
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If flexibility is a top priority, though, some even allow the vacuum unit and hose to be detached from the handle, making it easier to clean awkward areas like the stairs and in tricky corners like around the sides of the sofa.
Are upright vacuum cleaners suitable for hard flooring?
With advances in brush head technology, notably in the ability to switch off the roller, uprights have become extremely versatile; they’re suitable for all types of flooring.
Will upright vacuum cleaners take up a lot of space?
One disadvantage of most upright vacuum cleaners is their physical size. They’re usually chunkier than stick vacuums and will occupy valuable cupboard space. If space is at a premium, consider opting for a stick vacuum instead; these often come with wall-mounting charging points and can be stowed away far more neatly.
Are upright vacuum cleaners suitable for allergy sufferers?
Some, but not all uprights have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters included. These remove at least 99.95% of dust particles that pass through them, which are a key differentiator for allergy suffers, notably for those who are sensitive to house dust mites.
What about dust bin capacity?
One final reason you might want to opt for a larger upright vacuum over a cordless stick, is that uprights typically have larger dust collection bins, which means fewer trips to the bin to empty it and less mess overall. You can choose bagged or bagless cleaners, too; the former are more expensive to run than a bagless cleaner but compress dust and dirt for even longer between emptyings and make far less mess when they’re emptied.
How we test
To put the vacuums to the test, we use large and fine debris (Cheerios and plain flour) across two floor types: short-pile carpet and hard flooring. We scatter a set amount of this dirt on the floor, pass the vacuum over it once forwards, slowly and then weigh how much debris was picked up on each pass.
We also measure battery life for cordless models, suction (in kilopascals) where possible and also assess if the vacuum cleaner is easy to manoeuvre, straightforward to empty, and how convenient it is to access the washable filters.
The best upright vacuum cleaners to buy in 2023
1. Vax AirLift Steerable Advance: The best budget upright vacuum
Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon
The AirLift is reasonably priced yet it defies the odds and still delivers exceptional features and cleaning performance. It has a lift-out cylinder that makes it more convenient to clean the stairs and behind the sofa; it has a HEPA filter, which is good news for allergy sufferers; and, most important of all, it has stellar cleaning performance.
With a right-sided intake port and a brush head that stops working at extreme angles, it isn’t as flexible as the Dyson Small Ball Allergy listed below. However, the Vax AirLift Steerable Advance delivers more bang for your buck than any of its rivals.
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 300 x 240 x 1,112mm; Weight: 6.2kg; Bin capacity: 1.5 litres; Vacuum type: Corded; Bagless: Yes
2. Dyson Ball Animal: The best all-round uptright vacuum cleaner
Price: £380 | Buy now from Argos
The Dyson Ball Animal is a corded upright vacuum cleaner designed to tackle the ultimate vacuuming problem: large homes with hairy pets. This is a heavy-duty vacuum, with a large 1.8 litre bin capacity and powerful suction.
The main floor head has been updated with anti-tangle technology that’s filtered down from Dyson’s top-of-the-range cordless sticks. This consists of a comb inside the floor head, which extracts hair from the roller before it has a chance to get tangled around it. It’s a very effective way of keeping the brush bar clear of hair.
It also comes with a good range of attachments, including special tools for extracting dust, dirt and hair from upholstery and mattresses, and from under difficult to access low-clearance furniture.
Read our Dyson Ball Animal review for more details
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 280 x 390 x 1,065mm; Weight: 7.4kg; Bin capacity: 1.8l; Vacuum type: Corded; Bagless: Yes
3. Shark ICZ300UKT: The best cordless upright vacuum
Price: £430 | Buy now from Amazon
Upright vacuum cleaners are usually corded models that plug into the mains and are better for bigger jobs than their cordless stick cousins. However, the Shark ICZ300UKT ditches the cord, relying instead on a beefy rechargeable battery that can clean for 60 minutes between charges.
This makes for a brilliant hybrid, untethered from the wall socket so it’s easy to move from room to room, but still has the features and options you’d expect from an upright. In fact, it looks a lot like Shark’s classic uprights, with a hose you can use with attachments, and a lift-away section for tackling stairs, upholstery and high places.
It also comes with a full complement of Shark’s innovations, including the DuoClean floor head that’s brilliant on both carpet and hard floor, and Anti Hair Wrap rollers that don’t get clogged up with long strands of hair.
Read our Shark ICZ300UKT review for more details
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 260 x 250 x 1,080mm; Weight: 6.2kg; Bin capacity: 0.6 litres; Vacuum type: Cordless; Bagless: Yes
4. Bosch BCH6PETGB: The best lightweight upright vacuum
Price: £234 | Buy now from John Lewis
Its name is a bit of a mouthful but the Bosch BCH6PETGB has got it where it counts. Designed to take all kinds of dirt in its stride, particularly pet hair, the multi-purpose brush head delivers superb cleaning performance across all floor types. As for battery life, the cordless vacuum cleaner lasts an hour on a single charge, but it takes a monumental six hours to charge from empty.
Aside from its performance, the BCH6PETGB’s slim design means it will fit into the narrowest of utility cupboards, while the interchangeable handles and tools make it easy to clean the entire house. It’s also one of the lightest upright cleaners, too, at only 3kg.
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 250 x 185 x 1,160mm; Weight: 3kg; Bin capacity: 0.9 litres; Vacuum type: Cordless; Bagless: Yes