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How we test vacuum cleaners

Every vacuum cleaner is put through identical tests, to gauge performance on a variety of floor surfaces, battery life (where applicable), power consumption and noise levels. The exact process is broken down below.

We test all our vacuums in identical ways, to enable consistency across products and to help us compare between models. Here’s how:

Performance tests

Carpet test: images are taken before and after to show the cleaning process. We sprinkle a dark carpet with carpet freshening powder, baking powder and talcum powder mix all the way up to the skirting board. Each cleaner gets two complete sweeps (up and back is a single sweep) to test cleaning performance.

Stair test: how well does the vacuum cope with stairs? We test if the cleaner has the right tools, how far any hoses and mains cable reach, ease of carrying and how easy the machine is to carry and, if necessary, place on a step.

Pet hair test: a 40cm diameter circle of pet hair is combed into the carpet. We time how long it takes for each vacuum cleaner to completely remove the hair using the standard head or, if provided, pet head.

Pet hair test: vacuuming at full power for one minute, we take the peak power consumption figure measured in kW.

Noise: at full vacuum power on carpet, we use a sound meter to measure the noise produced by each model in dB, measured at a distance above the vacuum cleaner to replicate the user experience of using the machine.

Battery: for cordless vacuum cleaners, we measure run time from a full charge on max power with power accessories on carpet; on max power without powered accessories for general cleaning; and on low/normal power without power accessories for general cleaning.

Usability tests

Each product gets tested for usability. These include:

  • ease of assembly
  • manoeuvrability
  • dust capacity (and ease of emptying)
  • an overview of the accessories including how useful they are and their build quality.

For plug-in vacuums we measure the cord length. Cordless vacuum cleaners also get a set of incidental tests, where we test portability by cleaning cobwebs off of ceilings, soft furnishing tests and access under low objects.

Scoring and verdict

After all the tests are complete, we score the product using the criteria outlined in the criteria mentioned here. We first check to see if the machine’s performance matches the manufacturer’s claims, and that all the features work as expected and advertised.

Value is a consideration during scoring, too. If a competing product offers equivalent features or performance for less money then this will affect the score. Equally, if a device is only slightly more expensive but performs significantly better then we’ll score accordingly.