A good vacuum isn’t just for carpet, but some are better for cleaning hardwood floors than others
Few homes have wall-to-wall carpet any more, with many people pulling back the pile and exposing or installing beautiful wooden floors. However, once you’ve got your hardwood floor, you might be left wondering whether your existing vacuum cleaner is the best tool with which to keep it dust free.
Traditional upright models use a motorised floor head with a rapidly rotating brush roller, which gets into the pile of a carpet and teases dust and dirt out into the path of the vacuum inlet. However, this kind of cleaner can be too rough on wooden floors, and isn’t ideal on any hard surface.
Thankfully, the vacuum manufacturers have come to the rescue, with a selection of technologies and tools that can help keep your hardwood floor clean and pristine. Here’s what you need to look out for.
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Best vacuum cleaner for hardwood floor: At a glance
- Best all-round vacuum cleaner for hardwood floor: Dyson V15 Detect
- Best cordless upright for hardwood floor: Shark Anti Hair Wrap ICZ300UKT
- Best vacuum cleaner for small hardwood floors: Dyson Omniglide
- Best value cordless stick vacuum for hardwood floors: Eufy HomeVac S11 Infinity
- Best robot vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors: iRobot Roomba j7
How to choose the best vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors
What type of vacuum cleaner should you choose?
There are many types of vacuum available, from corded uprights to cordless sticks. The only type you particularly need to avoid are handheld vacuums, because they don’t come with the correct apparatus to vacuum a floor. Similarly, many upright models don’t come with multi-purpose or removable floor heads, though a few do, so don’t rule them out completely.
The most obvious choice, however, is a cordless stick vacuum cleaner. These are often modular and come with different floor heads and different attachments for different jobs. Many come with soft rollers, which are specifically designed to gather dust and debris from hard floors.
Robot vacuum cleaners are slightly different, and usually come as is, without the ability to switch their rollers around. However, as with other types of vacuum, some are gentler towards hardwood floors than others.
What type of floor head do you need?
Many cordless stick vacuums (and a few uprights) come with a soft roller, which is ideal for hardwood floor, whether it’s delicate or not. Fluffy rollers still spin like brush rollers, but they’re softer and are more like wiping a floor with a soft dry cloth than scouring it with a stiff brush.
Many cordless sticks that include a fluffy roller come with two detachable floor heads, one with the fluffy roller and the other with a brush. A few come with a single floor head but several rollers, which you can swap around depending on the job you’re doing. This is usually more fiddly than just swapping the entire floor head, but prices tend to be lower as only one floor head needs to be supplied.
The third way is to put both types of roller on a single floor head, but you’ll only see that on Shark’s vacuum cleaners. With these you’ll usually find that you can slow down or switch off the brush roller when cleaning hardwood floor, so it’s less likely to cause damage. Shark also has some models with rubbery fins rather than bristles on its brushing bar, which aren’t as abrasive on hardwood floor.
How we test vacuum cleaners for hardwood floors
All our vacuum cleaners are tested extensively to ensure we consider every highlight and flaw. We test all our vacuums in a domestic setting, and also run a series of technical tests, measuring such things as suction and air flow.
We test the cleaning ability of corded and cordless vacuums using a series of measured spills on a variety of surfaces. By weighing how much of a spill the vacuum has managed to collect after a single pass, we can compare its results with models we’ve tested in the past. This helps us gauge exactly how good it is at its job.
We also measure the battery life of cordless models by timing how long it takes for the battery to cut out when running on both its most powerful and most efficient settings.
Robot vacuum cleaners have their own set of tests similar to the manual models, but are also tested for their ability to navigate and and more.
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The best vacuum cleaners for hardwood floor to buy
1. Dyson V15 Detect: The best all-round vacuum cleaner for hardwood floor
Price: £529 | Buy now from John Lewis
No matter what kind of floor you have, it’s hard to go wrong with the Dyson V15 Detect. However, it’s a particular winner on all types of hard floor. It comes with a specialist fluffy roller floor head, which is easily interchangeable with the standard carpet floor head, so you can quickly adapt your cleaning to the surface you’re on.
Dyson calls this floor head its illuminated cleaner head, because it lights the area in front of it with an eerie green glow. It isn’t just so you can see under furniture, like the lights on most vacuum cleaners; the laser beams fired out of this vacuum are at a precise angle to pick out dirt particles on the floor, so you can see where you’ve been and where you still need to clean. It’s a clever system that even manages to illuminate tiny dust particles.
The floor head is specifically designed for hardwood and other hard floors, and performed superbly in our hard floor tests. It’s also extremely gentle, and won’t cause any damage.
If the V15 is too expensive, the Dyson V12 Detect Slim is a smaller and cheaper alternative. On the other hand, if you want a larger cleaner, try the Dyson Outsize, which comes with a larger version of the same floor head.
Read our full Dyson V15 Detect review for more details
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 250 x 252 x 1,264mm (WDH); Weight: 3kg; Bin capacity: 760ml; Vacuum Type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: 240AW
2. Shark Anti Hair Wrap with PowerFins, Powered Lift-Away & TruePet ICZ300UKT: The best cordless upright for hardwood floor
Price: £400 | Buy now from Amazon
For those regularly transferring between carpet and hard floor, a Shark is an easy option. Shark is the only vacuum manufacturer that builds two rollers into one floor head. This means you have both fluffy roller and carpet-agitating roller in a single unit, so you don’t have to keep swapping them over. It’s arguably not the best option if you’re predominantly working on one or the other, though.
This model has Shark’s PowerFins instead of the usual brush roller. These are made of a fabric material and aren’t as abrasive as a brush roller, so are kinder to hard floors. You can also reduce the speed of its rotation when you’re on delicate floor.
The other thing we like about this vacuum cleaner is its cordless upright styling. It means all the weight is centred around the base of the unit rather than the handle, which makes it easy to push around. The vacuum can also balance in an upright position, so you don’t need to keep finding somewhere to lean it when you take a break from cleaning.
Read our full Shark CZ300UKT review for more details
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
3. Dyson Omni-glide: The best vacuum cleaner for small spaces with hardwood floors
Price: £350 | Buy now from Argos
The Dyson Omni-glide is unusual for a Dyson cordless stick in that it only comes with one floor head. This head is unique to the Omni-glide, with two soft rollers that rotate in opposite directions, drawing dirt and dust in towards the suction inlet in the middle. To do this, the floor head sits on four tiny coasters, which lift the rollers so only their fine dusting hairs are touching the floor.
With a 360 degree rotating socket connection between the stick and the floor head, the vacuum glides effortlessly over hardwood floor, feeling more like a hovercraft on a stick than a regular vacuum that you have to hoof around. It’s also spectacularly gentle on flooring and good at picking up bits of all shapes and sizes.
The only downside is that it’s relatively small, with more of a wand-like feel than the gun grip you usually find on Dyson’s sticks. That makes it perfect for smaller spaces, but we’d recommend upgrading to a Dyson V12 Detect Slim or better if you have a lot of floor to clean.
Read our full Dyson Omni-glide review for more details
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 185 x 240 x 1,140mm; Weight: 3.1kg; Bin capacity: 600ml; Vacuum Type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: 50W
4. Eufy HomeVac S11 Infinity: Best value cordless stick vacuum for hardwood floors
Price: £230 | Buy now from Amazon
Although the Eufy HomeVac S11 Infinity is versatile, coming with both a regular brush for carpet and a soft roller for hard floors, it only comes with a single floor head. This means that you have to remove and replace the roller in the floor head each time you want to change surfaces. This is more fiddly than Dyson’s system, which sees you swapping the entire floor head, but looking on the bright side, it contributes towards this vacuum’s significant advantage on price.
Once you’ve got the soft roller in place the vacuum is a breeze to use. It’s light, easily manoeuvrable and performed well in our cleaning tests. The soft roller is particularly good on hardwood floor and with the main brush bar well out of the way, there’s no risk of damaging your floor.
Read our full Eufy HomeVac S11 Infinity review for more details
Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 220 x 260 x 1,250mm; Weight: 1.5kg; Bin capacity: 650ml; Vacuum Type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: 180AW
5. iRobot Roomba j7: The best robot vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors
Price: £150 | Buy now from Amazon
Most robot vacuum cleaners use a regular brush bar to sweep up debris, and rarely come with alternative rollers better suited to delicate hardwood floors. The one exception to this is the iRobot Roomba j7. This doesn’t use a standard brush roller, but instead has two rollers, covered with a soft and flexible rubber jacket. These rotate in opposing directions, picking up dirt and flicking it into the vacuum. This works well on hardwood floor and isn’t as abrasive as a brush.
Elsewhere the iRobot Roomba j7 is an accomplished robot vacuum. Powerful and easy to use, it has the capacity to steer clear of cable nests and even pet poo, which might seem superfluous until your dog decides it can’t wait to be let out while you’re at work. If you’re looking for a model that can also empty itself, the £900 iRobot Roomba j7+ comes with a self-emptying base station.
Read our full iRobot Roomba j7 review for more details
Key specs – Size: 340 x 340 x 92mm (WDH); Weight: 3.3kg; Bin capacity: 250ml; Vacuum Type: Robot; Bagless: Yes; Suction power: N/S