When Dyson unveiled its latest cordless vacuum cleaner earlier this year – the Cyclone V10 – it was more than just a regular announcement. No longer, said founder James Dyson, would the company develop traditional corded vacuums; all future investment will go to improving cordless models.
Cordless vacuums (ie battery- rather than mains-powered) are still in their infancy, and represent a relatively low percentage of the market share. But Dyson’s statement feels like a concrete sign of things to come: they’ve seen the future, and it’s cord-free.
With that vision as the backdrop, we decided to see how cordless models – also known as stick vacuum cleaners – stack up against traditional options (spoiler: pretty well), and which will best help you keep your house squeaky clean. We’ve consulted with experts, posed as buyers in shops, and cleaned our houses more times than necessary in order to find the right option for you. To test out the cordless vacuums, we put them through regular tasks – carpets, wood floors, cars – and rated them for weight, ease of use, battery life and more.
Thankfully, all proved very easy to put together out of the box, come with several detachable components, and include chargers that can be connected to wall mounts for convenience. They make life easy, in other words.
Here’s what we found while reviewing the vacuums, starting with our very favourite…
Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute
Why we like it: Performs as well as a traditional vacuum, with a battery that outlasts the others.
£449.99, John Lewis & Partners
Dyson are so convinced of the technology in the Cyclone V10 they’ve decided to stop investing in corded vacuums (you’ll still be able to pick up a traditional Dyson, for now). It’s very expensive, but there’s no denying that it’s very good, too.
I was immediately struck by how light it is (just 2.68kg), which is arguably the most important benefit of a stick vacuum cleaner – if it’s heavy, there’s not much point. It was also by far the quietest (or, rather, least noisy) that I got my hands on. The most effective, too, thanks to a powerful motor that spins at 125,000 rpm. For it to be so quiet and functional at the same time is impressive – and immediately seems to justify Dyson’s decision to cut free from the corded vac.
The floor head is smaller and more streamlined than some, adding to the lightweight feel. You can easily switch between a cloth floor head, which worked wonders on wooden floors, and one designed for carpets – also excellent.
One aspect I particularly liked is that the floor heads rotated – really useful for cleaning stairs, under cupboards or around corners (though it’s worth saying that many competitors do this as well). I was also fond of the on-off trigger (most have buttons), which makes the Cyclone V10 feel extremely responsive, and helps save the battery, as whenever you remove your index finger it switches off.
As for the sucking power, well, this vacuum sucks. We have a cat that’s maltier than a mug of Horlicks, and a woefully attractive white sofa – to her, at least – that must be cleaned regularly; the V10 proved a godsend, removing all the hair in no time at all. Waving it felt a bit like brandishing a magic wand.
Run time is longer than most at 60 minutes on the lowest setting; on max, you won’t get that long. In all honesty, however, the weakest setting sucks up all but the most tenacious of carpet dwelling grime. And I didn’t find the need to go any higher.
The capacity (.76 litres) is larger than previous Dysons, too, meaning fewer trips to the bin.
While I can’t recommend the Dyson V10 highly enough, it is rather pricey. An alternative I also tested is the Dyson V7 Animal at £299.99. Not quite as powerful or silent, it’s still very good.
Bosch Unlimited BCS122GB
Why we like it: It looks smart and works well
In terms of design, the Bosch Unlimited was my favourite. With its streamlined, smart black and white body, you could leave it in your living room without it attracting adverse glances. It’s also one of the better performing vacuums on the market – though that comes at a considerable cost.
The battery is removable, so if you’re not using the wall mount, you can easily detach it from the device to charge (there was a loud humming noise when my battery charged for the first time, though not for the second.) Helpfully, the product comes with two batteries, which is useful if you’re vacuuming large areas, as you can swap them over rather than breaking for a recharge. Battery life is 60 minutes on normal mode, but a paltry seven on turbo – it does recharge quickly though, requiring 60 minutes to go from flat to full.
Speaking of the vacuum settings, the turbo was as powerful as anything I tried, but rather noisy. The normal setting works absolutely fine, though not quite as impressive as the Dyson. It’ll still suck up most debris on wooden floors, skirting, and carpet. But if your pet constantly sleeps in the same area, leaving thick layers of hair, you do need to pass over a couple of times before it all goes.
With the wand and floor head on, the Unlimited is heavier than the Dyson, but not as much as some others. I found the handle a little slippery, though not uncomfortable to hold. One other minor grievance was a slightly fiddly dust box (.4 litres), which took me a while to figure out. Most cordless vacuum cleaners empty at the click of a button; the Bosch canister has to be removed before depositing the dirt.
Overall, the Bosch will clean your house exceptionally, but there are just a couple of little things that set the Dyson apart.
Why we like it: Cheaper than the others – though not as powerful
The Gtech Pro is the only bagged cordless vacuum cleaner I tried. The bag element is a bit of a faff and you have to buy replacements, but according to Gtech a typical household will get through four to eight bags per year, which should cost less than a tenner. The bags holds 1.6 litres of dust – the largest vacuuming capacity in this list.
Generally, I quite liked this model, which provides a cheaper alternative to the Dyson and Bosch. It’s lightweight, at 2.4kg, and appreciated the minimalist design (admittedly some might find the bright green a bit garish). Runtime isn’t as long as some more powerful machines – 40 minutes on the lowest setting, 20 minutes on the highest – but those durations proved more than enough for a quick sweep around the flat. Its handle is comfortable, and on both carpet and wood it does the job.
One interesting feature is an LED headlight that means you can vacuum in the dark, should you wish, but is probably better suited to cleaning dark cupboards or under beds. A negative, however, is that it is rather loud, which is a bit of a turn off for me.
If you’re looking for a stick vacuum but don’t want to spend £400 or more, you can’t go far wrong with the Gtech Pro, even if it’s not quite as powerful as the Dyson.
Best of the rest
Vax Blade 32V
At sub-£200, this was cheapest option I tested, and honestly there wasn’t too much wrong with it. It’s not as powerful or quiet as some high-end models, and doesn’t feel quite as high-tech. But then again, it’s not too heavy, vacuums efficiently, has a fairly long run time at 45 minutes – on the lowest setting – and a .6 litre dust capacity. Switching between tools is easy, and the container is emptied at the flick of the switch.
A minor bugbear is that the toolkit – which you definitely need as it contains the crevice, tough dirt, textiles tools, a stretch hose and a dust brush – has to be purchased separately, unless you buy directly through Vax’s site.
At £450 (though often available for less), the Shark DuoClean competes with the Dyson V10 in the upper echelons of the cordless vacuum market. It’s good, but it’s not as good as its competitors. There’s no denying the powerful suction, and the footswitch to remove the floorhead is a nice touch: if you want to quickly remove the wand, zap up some cobwebs on the ceiling, and click it back in place, you don’t need to reach down. The wand also bends at the middle – great for reaching round corners.
However, there are two key problems. Firstly, it’s loud, with an almost screech-like noise. It’s also very heavy and cumbersome at 4kg, so if you are looking to clean above ground level, it’s quite the effort, even if that head does detach quickly.
Frequently asked questions about cordless vacuums
Why should I get a cordless vacuum?
When cordless vacuum cleaners first came out, they weren’t very good: they had a low run time and poor suction. Over the past few years, however, they have improved dramatically. These days, you can get suction as effective as a corded device; battery life of up to an hour; and a whole host of attachments for versatile cleaning – but you do have to pay a little more to do so.
The biggest draw, according to Craig Gardner, floorcare buying manager at Argos, is convenience. Rather than doing one big clean a week, with cordless vacuums, users can hoover in short, sharp bursts. The main advantage is that the vacuums tend to be smaller and lighter, and often come with a wall mount – so you can pick it up, dust off a spillage, put it back on the mount, and carry on with your life.
“They’re great, quick, easy, lightweight, convenient, they do a great job, and run time isn’t a problem anymore,” says Gardner. Very cheap devices should be avoided, but, if you spend in the ball park of £200, you should get a good quality, durable device, though the very top tier can cost at least double that.
How versatile are they?
I found stick vacuums incredibly versatile. Most consist of a main body, with a comfortable handle and an on and off button. Then there’s the wand: when the floor head is attached, you can push it around like a normal standing vacuum cleaner. Remove the head, and you can easily suck up cobwebs on ceilings or get inside cupboards. Remove the whole wand, and you’ve got just the handheld – which you can take to your car or use on a table.
A good cordless vacuum cleaner should come with further attachments like crevice tools for skirting and other tight corners; dusting brushes; and a docking and charging station. You could use a brush for table tops, for example. Just attach it to the handheld section and get rid of all those crumbs in no time at all.
The best I tested were equally comfortable on thick carpet, wood, sofas and skirting; and the very best were just as efficient as corded varieties.
What’s the battery life like?
There’s quite a big range in battery life. While some last under 10 minutes on the maximum setting, others go for much longer. The Dyson V10, for example, will function for an hour on the lowest setting, without losing power as the battery life diminishes. And, for what it’s worth, the lowest setting on the best devices was more than enough: I didn’t really find the need to use any on the max setting.
Charging the batteries is straightforward. You’ll get a plug to charge wherever you like, but you can also connect it to a wall mount (which has to be attached to your wall, and will become your charging station). Trickle charging ensures the battery won’t be depleted by being left on the charger like, say, an iPhone.
You’ll also get useful lights on the handheld section of the machine, to tell you how long you’ve got left. If you’re worried about the battery life, unless you have a huge home which you want to clean in one go, you should be fine. Never did I run out of battery, albeit in a small three-bed flat.
Do they have good dust capacity?
Aside from the Gtech, the machines I used are all bagless. Instead, they have dust canisters which ranged in capacity from .33 litres to .76cl (1.5l for the bagged Gtech). A smaller canister can fill up if quickly you’re cleaning your whole house, but emptying is as simple as flicking a switch or clicking a button.
Gardner says a bagged option might be better for dust allergy sufferers, or asthmatics, as there is a danger of breathing in particles when emptying the canister.
It’s also important to maintain your device properly, Gardner insists. “What customers don’t do a good job on is actually taking the filter out and cleaning it.” This can cause blockages, performance to decline, and a misconception that your vacuum is faulty. Cleaning the filter is as simple as running it under the tap and drying.