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.
Our test environment
We test all of our vacuum cleaners in a purpose lab. Here, we have the same types of floors to test our vacuum cleaners, including a custom made rug for carpet, carpet tiles for our edge performance test and our test hard floor.
We use both a suction meter and an anemometer to measure the suction power and air flow of each cleaner.
Images are taken before and after to show the cleaning process. We sprinkle a dark carpet with flour and then give the cleaner a two sweeps (forwards and back) on regular power through the middle. We then complete the test with high power and low power through the top and bottom of the remaining mess.
On carpet tiles, we spread flour right up to the skirting board, then see how well the vacuum cleaner does with two seeps.
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
Pet hair is combed into the carpet. We use a pet head if available (standard if not) and give each cleaner two sweeps through the mess to see how well it picks up.
We measure the vacuum cleaner on each power setting, testing suction and airflow, combining the results to give a total figure in airwatts (AW). The higher the better.
At each power setting, 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.
Each product gets tested for usability. These include:
- ease of assembly
- 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.
Scores are weighted towards the product’s intended use. That means a budget vacuum cleaner designed for light use can score as highly as the most expensive top-of-the-line cleaner designed for those that want the absolute best.
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.
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