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Did you know that the first portable, upright vacuum cleaners were launched almost a century ago in 1922 by Hoover? Upright vacuums have dominated the vacuum industry for a long time since. I remember my grandmother using a bulky Hoover to vacuum around our old home back in the day.
But the vacuum cleaner industry has been far from stagnant. On the contrary, innovations that reflect changing realities are launched every year. For example, mega-urban population centers such as NYC, San Francisco, and Washington have much smaller homes today than a century ago. As a result, the working urban population has a lot less free time today for household cleaning.
Smaller homes and lesser time meant that consumers did not want vacuums that were bulky and corded anymore. Instead, they wanted a lightweight and quick solution for homes smaller than 1500 ft2 to finish the job in under 30-45 minutes. In addition, they didn’t want a cord tying the cleaner up at one place, restricting movement. Instead, they wanted a smaller device that can reach the small nooks and crannies in their homes.
Vacuum manufacturers looked into these changing consumer trends and created stick vacuums, a perfect way to solve the urban cleaning problem. But does that mean that it is time to retire the old barrel and upright vacuum cleaner? We don’t think so.
Despite great advances, stick cleaners and upright cleaners still have distinct areas where they excel. So the final choice of which one is better for you depends on your particular requirements. Let us help you make that choice by pointing out the differences.
Stick Vacuum vs Upright: Summary Table
|Upright Vacuums||Stick Vacuums|
|Ease of Use|
|Ease of Maintenance|
Stick vacuums are gaining popularity, especially in the last two decades. They are extremely convenient for people who live in smaller apartments and need a quick, lightweight, easily maneuverable device that can pluck out dirt from the smallest corners.
Stick vacuums are usually (but not always) cordless, so you don’t have to keep plugging and unplugging them into electrical sockets as you move from one room to another. In addition, they come with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery so that you can charge them up during the night, and you are ready to use them the next morning.
If you have pets at your home, it is easy to remove their hair using a stick vacuum because they can give you short bursts of power and can reach places that an upright vacuum will never reach. Most stick vacuums also come with a good range of tool attachments such as crevice tool, dusting brush and pet hair removal tools.
On the other hand, stick vacuums are known to be typically less powerful. If you have a lot of rugs and carpets in your home, stick vacuums may not clean them as efficiently because they generally have less powerful suction. However, the latest cordless stick vacuums include intelligent suction to manage power output for when you most need it. This improves the cleaning efficiency of the vacuum which maximizes battery run time.
Secondly, stick vacuum batteries have notoriously poor charge capacity. If you live in a home any larger than 1500 ft2, stick vacuums may not be the way to go because you will be unlikely to clean your entire home in one charge.
Another annoying thing about stick vacuums is their small dust collectors. To make their machines smaller and easier to handle, manufacturers have reduced dust collector size to below 0.7L. So you may need to clean it very frequently. That is unless you get a Dyson Outsize, which has a dust bin around double the size found on other cordless sticks.
So who makes the best stick vacuums? Check out our reviews of some popular models: Shark vs Dyson and Miele vs Dyson for more information. We compare the latest stick vs upright vacuums from each brand.
- Small, light, easy to carry, and easy to use.
- A cordless stick vacuum reduces cleaning time compared to a plug-in vacuum because you don’t need to manage cords and power outlets.
- Can clean hard to reach places and tight spaces easier than upright models.
- Compact storage: easy to store because of the smaller size.
- They do very well on conventional hardwood flooring.
- Good for short bursts of quick cleaning on carpets.
- Convert to a handheld vacuum providing additional versatility.
- Suction power is generally poorer than upright vacuums, especially when price is considered. Only the most expensive stick vacuums can clean medium and high pile rugs with any efficiency.
- No beater bars.
- Battery life: the charge capacity is small, generally within 40 minutes at lowest power. For larger homes, you will end up charging it multiple times. Look for models with a removable battery so that you can charge a spare whilst cleaning.
- Smaller dust cups. They need constant emptying.
Upright vacuum cleaners haven’t stagnated over time. On the contrary, a lot of innovation has made them smaller, lighter, and more useful to consumers. Today, an upright vacuum will usually have a beater bar, a cleaning head, a handle, and of course, a large dust bag or dust bin. Furthermore, upright models offer the choice of bagged or bagless vacuum design options to suit user preference.
If you are looking for powerful suction, nothing beats an upright or a canister vacuum. These beasts are specialized in cleaning out your carpets and rugs because they work like a boxer’s one-two punch: the beater bar beats out dirt and debris, and the powerful suction of the vacuum then takes care of the rest.
If you have a large home, then it’s hard to beat upright models for thorough cleaning. In addition, with their considerably larger dust bags, you don’t have to keep emptying your dust bin every few minutes.
That said, replacing a dust bag is a bit of a hassle. Secondly, the cord is quite a nuisance, especially if you have a smaller home, because it will get stuck in furniture and may not allow the vacuum to reach certain places because the cord is just not long enough.
- Perfect for large homes as it does not depend on a battery.
- Deeper and more powerful cleaning.
- Specialized in carpet cleaning.
- Bigger dust bag.
- Often have better filtration such as HEPA filtration
- Typically have more tool attachments to cater to various types of cleaning.
- Bulky and difficult to handle.
- More difficult to store due to larger size.
- The cord creates problems since it may get stuck in furniture or may not allow you to reach certain spots.
Stick Vacuum vs. Upright: Feature Comparison
On average, stick vacuums will weigh between 3-8 pounds and will be very sleek, whereas upright vacuums can easily go above 15 pounds and usually take up a lot more space.
For example, the very popular Bissell Featherweight Stick vacuum cleaner weighs just under four pounds and has dimensions of 8.3 x 9.5 x 44.25 inches.
On the other hand, the most popular upright model from Bissel (the Clean View) weighs above 17 pounds and has dimensions of 13 x 14 x 44.5 inches. You can see the difference.
If you don’t have a lot of storage space or need to clean your car, or have stairs in your home (basically anything that requires lifting the vacuum), stick vacuums are the way to go.
Winner: Stick Vacuums
Upright Vacuums are kings when it comes to suction power. On average, the top 5 most popular upright vacuums on Amazon have higher than 960W power, whereas the top 5 stick vacuums have 240W of power.
These numbers, of course, do not mean that there are no stick vacuums with powerful suction. Dyson, Miele, and Shark would argue that the suction power of their cordless models is very close to or on par with their corded models. However, on average, if you are setting out to buy a powerful vacuum, you should lean towards the upright ones.
Winner: Upright Vacuums
Ease Of Use
Ease of use is an easy category to judge. Stick vacuums were designed specifically to cater to ease of use. They are lighter, easier to use, they don’t have cords, they are designed to get into small spaces, and in many other ways, stick vacuums are just better at understanding ease of use.
There are certain applications such as cleaning your car or cleaning on multiple floors that you cannot imagine using an upright vacuum.
Apart from ease of use, these vacuums are also a lot quicker to use because you don’t have to plug and unplug the cord every time. For a quick clean around the living room just before guests arrive, stick vacuums get the job before upright ones are even out of their closets.
Winner: Stick Vacuums
Ease Of Maintenance
The top five stick vacuums on Amazon have dust cups that are smaller than 0.7L, and ideally, the max line is nearly half of that amount. Therefore stick vacuums often end up with you cleaning the bins at least once or twice during each cycle.
It wouldn’t have been so bad to clean out the dust bin, but somehow manufacturers haven’t given much thought to design either because it’s never easy to take out and empty these confounded things.
In most cases, there is no indicator on the machine that tells you that the dust cup is now ready for an emptying out. Most of the time, you realize it when you have seen that the vacuum has stopped picking up dirt from the floor.
Upright vacuums have much larger bins and bags. On average, you will find most of them having a capacity of more than 2 liters. This large dust capacity makes the upright vacuums much easier as far as maintenance is concerned. You can cover a large area of the house without having to once empty the dust compartment. However, replacing the dust bag in an upright vacuum is more of a hassle than just dumping out the dust cup in a stick vacuum.
Winner: Upright Vacuums
Types Of Flooring
If you have wall-to-wall carpeting in your house, then it is the ultimate test of your vacuum cleaner. We find that in most cases, stick vacuums have started to give upright ones a run for their money in this crucial segment.
However, most of these models are high-end ones that are bound to cost you a pretty penny. So if you are looking for a value for money product that can get your carpets spic and span, you should look towards upright ones.
Hardwood flooring is a staple for vacuum cleaners. Cordless vacuums have been performing satisfactorily on them for many years now. However, since they are lighter, easier to handle, and some have softer heads designed specifically for making it easy to pick up debris and dirt, stick vacuums are preferable for hardwood flooring, especially as hardwood floors do not require as much suction power to clean compared to carpets.
Winner: Stick Vacuums
Pet hair, especially dog and cat hair, is a major challenge for any vacuum cleaner. While stick vacuums have started to get better at this crucial parameter, the new challenge that has emerged is that stick vacuums become filled up very quickly due to the high amount of pet hair.
As mentioned earlier, their dust cups are very small, so you might end up having to remove pet hair far too often. In addition, most stick vacuums have inferior filtration compared to upright models. This can be very troublesome for people who have allergies.
Another problem is that if you run a stick vacuum at its maximum power for a long time, you are bound to run out of battery power pretty quickly.
Upright vacuums don’t suffer from these problems because they are corded and have larger dust collectors. They are also more likely to have a turbo brush or powerhead that can extract pet hair from carpets and rugs, making them perfect for this task. Upright models are generally better vacuums for pets unless you go for the most expensive models of sticks such as the Dyson V15.
Winner: Upright Vacuums
Corded upright vacuums have no constraint on how long you can run them, apart from the size of the dust collector. But with stick vacuums, you can often find that using them at high capacity will knock out power very quickly. Most stick vacuums have a battery runtime of no more than 40 minutes on low power.
Some brands have introduced innovative solutions to this problem, such as giving you swappable rechargeable batteries. This way, you can charge one battery while the other one is in use. However, these features come at an additional cost, and batteries are quite expensive.
As long as you have a small house and know where and what to clean, stick vacuums can get the job done. But if you start exploring areas and experimenting with power settings, you are likely to get stranded with empty batteries.
Winner: Upright Vacuums
These days, noise levels for stick vacuums and upright vacuums are more or less equivalent. Secondly, comparing multiple models across multiple power settings and intensity levels is not an easy task. Do consider, however, that stick vacuums tend to be higher pitched. Therefore, this parameter is best judged in the case of individual vacuum cleaners.
If low noise is important to you check out our review of the quietest vacuums on the market.
Cost is again very, very subjective and depends on the model and the brand. You can find cheap upright vacuums and expensive stick ones; it is really up to you as to which brand, model, functionality, and performance level you find satisfactory for your needs.
We’ve made it easy for you to find a vacuum to suit your budget here at Home Vacuum Zone. Check out the best vacuums under $300, under $200 and under $100 to find a model that’s right for you and your wallet.
To summarize, both stick and upright vacuums have their place and clientele. If you have a smaller home, don’t have too many carpets and rugs, prefer quick and regular cleanups instead of regular deep cleans, need to clean your car, or have multiple floors in your home, then stick cleaners are the way to go.
On the other hand, if you have lots of carpeting, a big floor area, and are looking for a lot of suction power, upright vacuums are the form factor for you.