When a vacuum cleaner review article or vacuum manufacturer advertisement cites performance properties of vacuum cleaners such as suction power, filtration capabilities and noise level we tend to trust what we read without knowing the source of the information. It is important to understand that the claims being made about performance, which may be a significant factor in your decision of which vacuum cleaner to buy, are valid and come from a trustworthy and independent source. 

There are a number of independent organisations across the globe that have established specific standards for testing the performance of vacuum cleaners and that carry out testing against these standards. If you are comparing the performance of different vacuum cleaners and you confirm that they are all tested to the same reputable standards you can be sure that you are comparing apples with apples and not simply being sold marketing hype. This article will confirm the main sources of standards, testing and certifications to look out for in your search for the best vacuum cleaner for your budget, so that you can be sure of the validity of claims made by manufacturers and in best vacuum cleaner reviews.

​Standards & Testing Organisations

The organisations providing standards & independent testing of vacuum cleaners performance are as follows :

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) is a trade association for the carpet, rug and textile industries has established a voluntary Seal of Approval/ Green Label program for vacuum cleaners. The SOA/GL program tests for soil removal, dust containment and carpet appearance retention. To earn the CRI Seal of Approval/Green Label certification, vacuums must pass the following independent laboratory tests:

  • Soil removal — CRI uses NASA-enhanced x-ray fluorescence technology instead of traditional gravimetrix testing to measure the precise amount of soil removed from carpet — either 30 oz/sy commercial cut pile carpet or 30 oz/sy loop pile carpet. This is referred to as CRI Test Method 112
  • Dust containment — The vacuum must not release more than 100 micrograms of dust particles per cubic meter of air, keeping dirt and dust locked tight in the vacuum — not escaping back into the air where it can be breathed. This is referred to as CRI Test Method 113
  • Surface Appearance Change — The vacuum must not affect the texture of the commercial cut pile carpet (900 passes with sample rotated every 50 passes) more than a one-step change based on one year of normal vacuum use. This is referred to as CRI Test Method 114

Under the Seal of Approval/Green Label vacuum program, vacuum cleaners are rewarded with Bronze, Silver or Gold ratings. CRI’s website provides a database of the vacuum cleaners that they have approved under the program and the rating given. You might also want to check out our top 5 best vacuums for carpet that are CRI Gold rated.

There are some major vacuum cleaner manufacturers that do not take part in the program, such as Miele & Dyson. Other manufacturers such as Electrolux & Panasonic only have their commercial model vacuums approved under the program. There are currently 84 vacuum cleaners listed as certified across their four categories of Energy Efficient Rating - Gold Level, Gold Level, Silver Level and Bronze Level.

CRI's Energy Efficiency Rating allows vacuum cleaner manufacturers to determine a vacuum’s energy use in relation to its cleaning effectiveness. The energy efficiency testing is either performed as a part of the regular Seal of Approval vacuum testing or as an optional test that can be carried out at any time after receiving the Seal of Approval rating. The only CRI Energy Efficient Rated Gold Level household vacuums are: 

  • Kirby Avalir; and
  • Oreck U4180 XL (Pro Plus II & Signature Plus II)

The Gold Level household vacuums include manufacturers Bissell, Fuller, Oreck, Riccar, Simplicity, Sirena Inc and Soniclean (Zenith Technologies). Our selection of the Best Vacuums for Carpet consists of our top picks of these Gold Level CRI certified vacuums.

Details of all the CRI certified vacuum cleaners can be found on their website (link).

Consumers Union is a widely renowned not for profit testing organization publishes the Consumer Reports magazine and conducts tests on vacuum cleaners from its research center in Yonkers, NY. They look at the following in their tests:

  • Carpet - how much embedded talc and sand a vacuum lifted from a medium-pile carpet.
  • Bare floors - Shows how well a vacuum picked up sand without dispersing it on bare floors.
  • Tool airflow - the strength of airflow through the hose.
  • Noise - Based on measurements in decibels.
  • Emissions - A measurement of the quantity of wood-flour particles that a vacuum released under two conditions: first, when only the motor was turned on, and second, while vacuuming.
  • Handling - how easy it is to push, pull, and carry a vacuum.
  • Pet hair - how well a vacuum picks up pet hair from medium-pile carpet.

Consumer Reports is a subscription service, for further information visit their website (link). 

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) - this is another non-profit organization that is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards. Over 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world for materials, systems, products and services. Their testing programs for vacuum cleaners is one of the most extensive and widely used. The commonly used ASTM testing protocols for vacuum cleaners are as follows:

  • ASTM F558 - Standard Test Method for Measuring Air Performance Characteristics of Vacuum Cleaners
  • ASTM F608 - Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Carpet Embedded Dirt Removal Effectiveness of Household/Commercial Vacuum Cleaners
  • ASTM F1977 - Standard Test Method for Determining Initial, Fractional, Filtration Efficiency of a Vacuum Cleaner System
  • ASTM F2607 - Standard Test Method for Measuring the Hard Surface Floor-Cleaning Ability of Household/Commercial Vacuum Cleaners

For further information on ASTM International visit their website http://www.astm.org/

​Allergy testing

As noted in our article How Effective is Vacuuming in Removing Allergens, there are several organisations that provide certifications for the performance of vacuum cleaners specifically in relation to allergen capture and removal.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) - this is the leading nonprofit organization in the US fighting asthma and allergic diseases.

Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) - this is a global certification company that prepares independent standards for testing a wide range of products to determine their suitability for asthma and allergy patients. ASL’s management team comprises qualified physicians in a variety of medical fields including asthma and other allergic diseases.

The AAFA and ASL have collaborated together to establish the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program. The program scientifically tests and identifies vacuum cleaners and other consumer products that are more suitable for people with asthma and allergies. The proprietary series of Certification Standards are developed by ASL and adopted by the AAFA after a review and agreement by an independent Medical Review Panel.

Vacuum Cleaners that are certified asthma & allergy friendly™are tested to the ASP:03:01 Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard. The Certification Standard utilizes an algorithm of proprietary and recognized scientific techniques to assess Vacuum Cleaners for their ability to reduce allergenic and irritant materials, both when new and after extended use.

ASL subjects the Vacuum Cleaner to allergen and particle count-based performance testing to ensure that the Vacuum Cleaner reduces total allergen burden, while minimising any increase in airborne allergen levels.

The Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard includes:

  1. Evaluation of capability to remove allergen-containing test dust from carpets
  2. Evaluation of airborne allergen levels during vacuuming
  3. Evaluation of the integrity of the air filtration system
  4. Assessment of the performance of the Vacuum Cleaner immediately prior to activation of bag replacement / receptacle emptying signal and filter change signal
  5. Assessment of exposure to allergens during bag change or receptacle emptying

Dyson, Samsung and Kenmore are the only vacuum cleaner manufacturers currently participating in this program (media based filtration).

Further information on the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program can be found on their website (link

Allergy Research Limited (Allergy UK) - this is the trading company of the UK charity, the British Allergy Foundation. Allergy UK provide an endorsement in the form of a “Seal of Approval”, which provides consumers with guidance when purchasing products. Vacuum cleaners carrying the Seal of Approval have been scientifically tested to prove they are efficient at reducing/ removing allergens from the environment. The testing is carried out by an independent laboratory to protocols which have been created for the Seal of Approval by leading allergy specialists, specifically to benefit the sufferers of allergy, asthma, sensitivity and intolerance. There are a larger range of vacuum cleaner manufacturer’s participating in this program than in the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program, including Samsung, Sebo, Shark, Hitachi, LG, Dyson and Mitsubishi.

For further information on the Allergy UK Seal of Approval visit their website (link)

Summary​

​By now you should have a good understanding of the organisations and certifications to look out for when reading best vacuum cleaner reviews or vacuum cleaner manufacturers marketing materials. All of these testing organisations use different types of dust or soil for testing with variations in amount, type, and particulate size, however their tests are thorough and provide the consumer confidence in the performance of the vacuum cleaner and verification of manufacturer's claims.

Ensure that you check or ask for confirmation of the independent certifications and approvals noted above for any vacuum cleaner you are considering. You will often see the independent tests that have been carried out noted in the small print at the end of manufacturers marketing materials or at the bottom of their websites. It is interesting to note that the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association (VCMA) doesn’t recognize, endorse or support the CRI testing program, but it does recognize the ASTM testing standards, and has supported their development over several years. 

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