If you share your home with a furry friend or two, you will need a pet-friendly vacuum cleaner, but which is best for you?
You would be forgiven for assuming that any vacuum cleaner stands a good chance of tackling most suction-based cleaning jobs. However, as any owner of a shaggy dog or shedding cat will tell you, pet hair is one of the toughest jobs for a vacuum cleaner to handle.
The problems are manifold. Pet hair gets everywhere, it never stops growing, it appears regularly (and in vast quantities) and it’s spectacularly good at sticking to things. Your standard vacuum’s floor head might be enough to make a good effort on your floors, as long as it’s got a rotating brush bar with stiff bristles. However, you probably don’t want to use the floor head to pull the hair out of your furniture, and they’re usually too bulky to tackle stairs.
Don’t worry. There’s a good range of vacuum cleaners available that have been designed specifically with pets in mind. Here’s what you need to look out for.
How to choose the best vacuum cleaner for you and your pet
What type of vacuum cleaner should you choose?
There are many types of vacuum available, from corded uprights to cordless sticks. The type of vacuum cleaner you buy doesn’t really matter, but look for one with a floor head that has a brush roller. These spin as you vacuum, lifting dirt and pet hair out of carpet, which means the vacuum will perform a better job regardless of how powerful it is.
Do you need anti-hair tangle?
The biggest problem with brush rollers is that they tend to collect hair, particularly if your pet has longer hair. Standard brush rollers can wrap hair around themselves as they clean, before the vacuum has a chance of whisking it away. This can easily be cleared with a pair of scissors, but will need to be performed regularly. Choosing a vacuum with a way of protecting the roller from build-ups of hair means you won’t have to maintain your vacuum cleaner as regularly.
Does it have to say “Pet” or “Animal” on it?
Not necessarily. While this is a good indicator that a vacuum cleaner comes with the correct equipment for tackling pet hair throughout your home, there are certainly some models that come with the right bits without trumpeting it.
Buying a pet-specific vacuum cleaner usually means that it comes with a pet accessory. This is a handheld tool that looks like a smaller version of the main floor head, with its own motorised brush roller. To use it, simply clip it onto a hose or the end of the device as you would a crevice tool or other accessory. You can then use it on furniture and upholstery. These attachments are good at cleaning stairs, too.
How we test vacuum cleaners
We test all our vacuum cleaners with an identical series of technical challenges, so we can compare the abilities of every model with all the other vacuum cleaners we’ve reviewed.
Both cordless and corded upright cleaners are tested using measured quantities of flour and Cheerios, which we spill onto both carpet and hard floor. The collection bins are weighed before and after a single pass using the cleaner’s standard motorised floor head, to see how efficiently the mess is cleaned. We also run battery and suction tests, timing how long it takes to run the battery down and measuring the suction.
Each vacuum is then extensively used in standard household cleaning jobs, so we can see exactly how well it performs in the real world. Here we also test all of a vacuum’s attachments, including those designed for specific purposes, such as collecting pet hair.
The best vacuum cleaners for pet hair in 2023
1. Shark Anti-Hair Wrap ICZ300UKT: Best cordless upright vacuum cleaner for pet hair
Price: £430 | Buy now from AmazonShark’s ICZ300UKT is slightly unusual because it’s a hybrid model, mixing the form of an upright with the convenience of a cordless. Watch out for the product name on this one, because there are two very similar models, and only the ICZ300UKT comes with its TruePet Anti Hair Wrap Pet Tool.
This is Shark’s take on the motorised accessory for cleaning upholstery and other vacuumable areas that aren’t your floor. It uses stiff fins on the roller, instead of brushes, which does a great job of flicking dirt up and into the suction outlet. The handle of the main unit detaches from the extension wand but stays connected to the hose, and you attach the motorised pet tool onto the end. The main unit can also be lifted away from the floor head, which helps it get to places that are trickier to reach.
Read our full Shark ICZ300UKT review
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 260 x 250 x 1080mm (WDH); Weight: 6.2kg; Bin capacity: 600ml; Vacuum Type: Cordless upright; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: N/S
2. Dyson Ball Animal: Best corded upright vacuum cleaner for pet hair
Price: £430 | Buy now from DysonIf your house is large or your pet is particularly messy, a corded upright vacuum cleaner such as the Dyson Ball Animal is worth considering. It plugs into the mains rather than running on a battery, so it will never suffer from fading suction or run out of charge part way through a clean. It’s also larger, with a voluminous 1.8l collection bin and a large floor head for covering more floor space in less time.
As you will gather from the name, the Ball Animal is specifically configured to clean up after your pet. A key addition to the latest models is the anti-tangle floor head, which combs long hair out of the rotating brush bar to avoid tangles. This innovation, passed down from Dyson’s stick vacuums, saves you having to clean and maintain the brush as regularly.
The Ball Animal also comes with a range of extra tools designed to help with tricky pet problems, from flexible crevice tools for difficult to reach areas, to a range of upholstery- and mattress-cleaning attachments. This all helps make it an ideal option if your pet’s mess is too much for a regular cordless.
Read our full Dyson Ball Animal review
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 280 x 390 x 1,065mm (WDH); Weight: 7.4kg; Bin capacity: 1.8l; Vacuum Type: Upright; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: N/S
3. Vax Blade 4 Pet & Car: Best value cordless vacuum cleaner for pet hair
Price: £299 | Buy now from AmazonIf you’re looking for a more affordable cordless stick vacuum that still has the tools you need to clean up after your pet, then the Vax Blade 4 Pet & Car is just the ticket. This is essentially the same main unit as a standard Vax Blade 4, but it comes with some unique accessories to help combat pet hair and tricky-to-reach areas.
The main helper for those tackling pet hair is the Mini Motorised Pet Tool. This can be attached to the device in place of the extension wand. It resembles a miniature version of the floor head, with a rotating brush roller that lifts hair from furniture so the vacuum can suck it up. For extra convenience, the Pet & Car version also comes with a Flexible Powered Hose, which can also power the Pet Tool when connected. This helps get the tool into the awkward places your pet might visit that aren’t otherwise easy to get vacuum tools to.
Watch out for offers on this one, as it’s regularly discounted as low at £199.
Read our full Vax Blade 4 Pet & Car review
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 185 x 240 x 1,140mm; Weight: 3.1kg; Bin capacity: 600ml; Vacuum Type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Suction power – stated: N/S
4. Vax ONEPWR Blade 5 Dual Pet & Car: Best cordless stick for pet hair
Price: £438 | Buy now from AOThe Vax ONEPWR Blade 5 Dual Pet & Car is a well-equipped cordless stick vacuum that has all the accessories you need to tackle pet hair. For starters it has a mini motorised pet tool, which is specifically designed to lift troublesome pet hair from your furniture and car. It can be clipped directly to the vacuum unit for use in handheld mode, or connected to a powered bendy extension hose if you need to get it into awkward places.
For pet-related cleaning on carpet and hard floor, the powered floor head comes with both a brush bar and a fluffy roller. This makes it equally effective on both surfaces, without requiring you to swap the floor head when you change between surfaces.
For the price, it’s also impressive that this model comes with two batteries. That’s particularly useful, because if one battery runs out, you can charge it up while you’re using the other one, giving you twice the cleaning time of a single battery.
Read our full Vax ONEPWR Blade 5 Dual Pet & Car review
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 270 x 260 x 1,040mm (WDH); Weight: 3.85kg; Bin capacity: 0.7l; Vacuum Type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: N/S
5. Gtech Multi MK2 K9: Best handheld vacuum that combats pet smells
Price: £200 | Buy now from AmazonShedded hair isn’t the only thing that pets bring into the house. Many also deliver a certain aroma that only their owners could love. If you aren’t so enamoured with your pooch’s pong, the Gtech Multi MK2 K9 has the answer – a scented cartridge that freshens the air as it passes out through the vacuum’s filter.
It sounds like a bit of a gimmick but it actually works rather well. If you’re inclined to spray air freshener around to tone down the smells your pets leave behind, this alternative air-freshening system takes the freshness straight to the nub of the problem without directly spraying the soft furnishings you’re using it to clean.
The vacuum itself is great, too. It’s a handheld only cordless with few extra frills, though it does come with a motorised pet power head that’s armed with a rotating brush roller. It’s comfortable and light to use and is a great handheld addition to your vacuuming arsenal.
Read our full Gtech Multi MK2 K9 review
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 136 x 386 x 250mm; Weight: 1.5kg; Bin capacity: 400ml; Vacuum Type: Handheld; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: N/S
6. AEG QX9: Best cordless stick/handheld hybrid for tackling pet hair
Price: £237 | Buy now from AmazonThe AEG QX9 has a cordless handheld vacuum cleaner at its heart, though it will probably spend most of its time attached to its tubular frame. This is a bit different to most stick vacuums, since you don’t just clip an extension tube onto the end, but rather mount it in the frame, which converts it into a more substantial device that can even hold itself upright.
There are various configurations of the QX9 but pet lovers should opt for the QX9-Anim, which comes with AEG’s Motorised Pet Nozzle attachment. This is a miniature version of the main motorised foot, which can be attached to the handheld unit and used to lift the pet hair out of upholstery.
If you often find yourself picking pet hair out of your existing vacuum cleaner’s brush roller you will also appreciate the self-cleaning mechanism that AEG has built into the main floor head. This has a button on it which, when pressed with your foot, engages a cutting mechanism that shreds any trapped hair, sucking the resulting detritus up and into the collection bin.
Read our full AEG QX9 review
Key specs – Size: 256 x 131 x 1,101mm (WDH); Weight: 2.7kg; Bin capacity: 350ml; Vacuum Type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: N/S