Vacuum cleaners are essential in general home cleaning. They make the task easier and with great results. However, not all vacuum cleaners are made the same.

On the contrary, they have different features. One of the elements, which characterize vacuum cleaners is a beater bar. Some cleaners feature the rotating brush whereas others do not.

This brings us to the question: is a vacuum that has a beater bar better than one that doesn’t have this feature? What are the differences? Does either of them perform better?

Let’s find out together.

Before we compare the beater bar and no beater bar vacuum cleaners, we need to learn what a beater bar is and how it operates.

What is a Beater Bar?

Hoover beater bar

An early Hoover advertisement highlighting the advantages of the beater bar

Beater bars are commonly misunderstood. Many people mistakenly understand the beater bar to be the rotating brush roll fixed at the bottom of the vacuum cleaner head.

This is incorrect, although the misinterpretation is understandable since it is rare to find “traditional” beater bars on modern day vacuum cleaners.

A beater bar is actually a smoothly contoured metal agitator bar that is fixed to the rotating brush rolls in addition to the bristle brushes.

Hoover invented this agitator bar in the 1920s to assist with lifting dirt from deep within carpet fibers through a vibrating action created when the beater bar rotates.  The beater bar beats the carpet to vibrate it and loosen the dirt whilst the vacuum’s suction draws the air and dirt up and the brushes sweep and groom.

Hence Hoover’s long time marketing slogan:

It beats, as it sweeps, as it cleans“.

Hoover regularly used this invention in their sales pitch noting that other cleaners used only suction and brushes whilst only their Hoovers were able to provide an additional vibrating action.

So the traditional beater bar is actually a metal bar on the brush roll not a brush strip or the brush roll itself.

However, these days there are very few (if any) vacuums that still feature this bar on the brush roll. It has largely been replaced with stiffer brush strips, which still provide agitation of the carpet but also brush at the same time.

Essentially the design of the brushroll has evolved through the use of brush stiffners, brushes with different degrees of stiffness and different brush lengths in order to create results close to a brushroll with a traditional beater bar.

Although the beater bar has been phased out the term is still mistakenly used by many to refer to the rotating brush roll on modern day vacuums. Or perhaps this is just evolution of the term?

Even the English Oxford Dictionary defines a beater bar as:

the rotating brush unit within the powerhead of a vacuum cleaner”.

How does a beater bar work?

beater bar vs no beater bar

Most upright vacuum cleaners made for carpet flooring feature a brush roll or what many people still refer to as the beater bar. The rotating brush is energized by either air or electric power.

The best upright vacuum cleaners use a drive belt powered by the vacuum’s motor to turn the brush roll. The brush is capable of making 6500 revolutions per minute. It is run by a belt fixed on the suction motor in most upright vacuum cleaners or on dedicated motor present in various canisters.

Modern day brush rolls generally have four sets of brush strips fixed to them. Where beater bars are used they are installed on the brush roll in place of the brush strips in an alternating arrangement with the brush strips.

The main purpose of the beater bar was to provide a greater agitation to the carpet to release dirt from deep within the fibers and bring it up, so that it could then be drawn into the floor nozzle via the action of the vacuum’s suction and brushes.

When the beater bars were first introduced by Hoover onto their vacuums, they led to a 101% increase in efficiency! This cleaning action was marketed by Hoover as “Positive Agitation“.

Another function of the beater bar is to fluff loose any trapped yarns that are down in the carpet under other yarns. A beater bar will vibrate these yarns loose and allow the vacuum to pull them back up.

How do beater bar vacuums compare with no beater bar vacuum cleaners?

Beater bar works only on fluffy carpets

different types of carpet

The beater bar works on fluffy carpeted floors. The rotating brush helps you to reach out to the depth of the carpet, dislodging any dirt and debris.

It performs best on fiber carpets, but the beater bar function may be damaging in other types of carpets. For example, if you have hardwood flooring, laminated floor, tiled or vinyl flooring, be sure to vacuum without a beater bar.

Many upright vacuum cleaner models have the ability to switch off the brush roll rotation and can be used with suction alone.

In some carpets they are damaging

how to care for diffferent types of carpet

Depending on the type of your carpets be it Persian or any other type of the carpet, using a bristle bar frequently, may be damaging. Some carpets have soft fibers, which can come off, as the brush runs along the carpet. They include some Orientals and Berber.

Hence, if you really want to maintain the brand new look of your carpet, you need to know your carpet type and whether it is safe to to vacuum with the brush roll/ beater bar switched on.

For vacuum cleaners with brush rolls that are specifically designed to care for your carpets we have taken advice from the Carpet & Rug Institute for advice. They actually certify vacuum cleaners that take the best care of carpets and we used this to select our favourite vacuums for different carpet types.

Beater bar needs to be replaced often

Upright Vacuum Repair

With the brush roll rotating about 6500 rpm, it is only natural that it will wear out over time. When the bristles on the brush are worn out, their effectiveness will reduce. You should check it as part of your regular vacuum maintenance to ensure the brushes are in good condition.

You will also need to check whether the beater bar drive belt has worn and needs replacing. Is it noisy when in operation?

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Vacuum Repair for further information and tips!

The more frequently you use your vacuum, the more often you will need to replace the brush roll/ beater bar. This adds to the overall maintenance cost of the beater bar vacuum cleaner. Obviously with the “no beater bar” vacuum cleaner, you would avoid this cost.

No-beater bar vacuum cleaners are a speciality for hard floors, shag carpets and other soft rugs

If you want to maintain the appearance of your elegant hardwood floors or laminated flooring, it is best to vacuum without a beater bar.

For these types of floors we would recommend choosing a good canister vacuum.

Your Berber carpets or laminated flooring needs a suction-type vacuum cleaner. This will leave the floor clean while maintaining its original finish.

A lot of money goes into installing a home with a wooden floor, especially if you’re dealing with a hardwood.

Beater bar vacuum cleaners are essential in homes with pets

carpet care for pet owners

The beater bar and rotating brush roll excels at removing all kinds of debris from carpeted floors.

If you have pets, they will shed hair, dander and other debris on your floors. In this case you would not want to be without the beater bar on your vacuum (or a good stiff brush roll as is now more often the case).

This is because most suction type vacuum cleaners are not able to remove large particles of dirt from deep within carpets. The best vacuum cleaner in this situation should have a beater bar or brush roll function.

Should you buy beater bar or no beater bar vacuum cleaners?

Traditional beater bar vacuums and “no beater bar” vacuum cleaners do not bear many differences in performance if we are talking about vacuums with brush rolls with or without a metal beater bar fixed to them.

The decision these days is likely to be between a vacuum with a powered brush roll versus one that relies purely on suction (and has no powered brush roll).

This decision really comes down to your flooring type.

If your home has mainly carpets you need a vacuum with a brush roll if you want your vacuuming efforts to be most effective and efficient.

However, you need to be cognisant that a beater bar can leave scratches on certain floors. For instance, you should not use this type of vacuum cleaners on your hardwood or laminated flooring. Furthermore, they are also not suitable for some high pile, delicate carpet types.

If you have a mixture of flooring in your home consider getting a vacuum cleaner that allows you to use the beater bar when you need it and switch it off, when you do not. This is a key feature to look for when purchasing a vacuum. That way, you can vacuum without the beater bar to protect your floors when required.

To sum up, its important to understand the difference between beater bar and no beater bar vacuum cleaners so you can clean your floors effectively without causing damage. If you want to maintain your flooring in good condition, you may have to vacuum without using the beater bar.  But, in some cases, for example, if you own pets and have carpets, a beater bar vacuum cleaner is an essential choice. That is why, it is recommendable to have a vacuum cleaner, which enables you to use the two functions.