Disclosure:  Eureka, Dyson, Bissell, Hoover, and Shark all sent me the vacuums you see in this post free of charge.  The opinions are all our honest opinions of the vacuums; we were not swayed by compensation - though we are grateful to the companies for participating!  :)

Our family vacuum was AWFUL.  We agreed it was time to buy a new one, but I had literally no idea where to start.  I'm pretty sure there are nearly a bajillion different kinds of vacuums out there and I was horribly overwhelmed.  Then inspiration struck - I figured I can't be the only parent out there who'd rather not spend hours researching vacuums - so I'd write a post about it.  I contacted seven of the top vacuum brands and five companies agreed to participate.  They knew we'd be giving honest reviews of their products and that we'd be choosing a winner at the end.  I gave them my list of needs and they supplied what they felt was the best performing vacuum from their line given my needs.

Bissell, Dyson, Hoover, Shark, and Eureka vacuums are put to the test to see which does best at keeping up with the mess created by a 6 year old who loves crafting, a 3 year old who spills food constantly, and two long-haired cats.
All images in post are courtesy of the respective brands.
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

Here's the list of requirements I provided:

Must be good with pet hair (we have two cats)
Must be good on carpet and hardwood (we have both)
Stairs are a bonus (we have them)
Must be good at picking up little bits of things (rice, salt, sand, etc)
Must be good at picking up larger bits of things (food our toddler spills)
Must be good at picking up large bits of craft supplies (paper, stickers, yarn, etc)

 I rotated through all five for over a month to get a better sense for each and I'll share a few sentences on my observations.  In addition to my observations, at the end of a month of sporadic usage, we tested all of the vacuums with six challenges.  I did not take apart and clean the vacuums at any point, though I did make sure to empty the canisters prior to the testing.  I surveyed a few friends, and the general consensus (as well as my own habits) was that most people do not read the instruction manual and do not use every attachment that comes with their vacuum.  Accordingly, I did neither when evaluating these.  At the end of each evaluation, I'll provide a link to more information on the brand's site in case you'd like to read more...for the most part I'll try to keep the information here short and to the point!  :)  Please let me know if you have any other questions about any of them in the comments below and I'll happily answer.

Shark Power Rotator Lift Away

The Shark has SO many awesome additions.  It has a light that turns on (on both the vacuum and on the hose!) when you are using it, it comes with a ton of great attachments, including special ones for cleaning hardwood floors.  Our only complaint was that we couldn't get great suction with the hose.  It's possible that our hose was faulty in some way or that we attached it incorrectly.  I was supposed to call into their customer service and didn't have a chance to with my two little hooligans running around all day.  
Click here for more information on the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away from the manufacturer or here to see the listing on Amazon.

Bissell Powerglide Deluxe Pet Vacuum 
with Lift-Off Technology

This vacuum had the best suction of all the vacuums we tried.  It was amazing.  I am seriously impressed because I even accidentally sucked up a giant rock and it just kept on trucking.  It is also very compact and fits easily on stairs if your house has those.  We were huge fans of this vacuum, but it is on the harder side when it comes to moving and turning (it doesn't quite swivel as smoothly as some of the others we tried).
Click here for more information on the Bissell Powerglide Deluxe Pet Vacuum with Lift-Off Technology from the manufacturer or here to see the listing on Amazon.

Eureka Brushroll Clean with Suction Seal

This vacuum was the most difficult to maneuver and it was also the heaviest.  *It worked really well on cat fur and toddler messes for the first 2-3 times I used it.  After that I presume a filter got clogged or something got stuck because the suction was very impacted, and remained that way when we tested it.  Not everything was exactly the same when we tested each vacuum so it's possible this one got hit with more cat fur or a bigger chunk of toddler food than the others, but one of the things I wanted to test was hardiness over time, which is why this one didn't get taken apart and cleaned prior to the challenge.  It does have a very strong hose, and despite the main vacuum being impacted, the hose suction remained strong for the challenge.  It also has some neat features that the other vacuums didn't - such as an automatic cord rewind (I hate winding cords, so this was pretty snazzy) and a pedal you can push with your foot that scrapes the brushroll clean (which is also awesome because I hate touching the brushrolls).
Click here for more information on the Eureka Brushroll Clean with Suction Seal from the manufacturer or here to see the listing on Amazon. 

Hoover Air Pro Bagless Upright

This was another fantastic vacuum.  It performed very well - it only struggled with the largest paper scraps.  It took 4 passes to get those up, but it did eventually get them.  I love that the head of the vacuum is very long and flat because it easily sneaks under the edges of couches, which are always gross around here (toddler) and I'm way too lazy to get the hose out to clean them (usually).
Click here for more information on the Hoover Air Pro Bagless Upright from the manufacturer or here to see the listing on Amazon.

 Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy

The Dyson was the vacuum with the second best suction and was amazing at tackling even giant chunks of rice cake and other BIG toddler food messes.  The only real complaint you could have is that it is on the heavier side, so if you need to move it up and down stairs frequently and want the lightest possible vacuum, this may not be your ideal vacuum.  The biggest paper scraps were immediately vacuumed up, but they didn't make it into the canister and eventually fell out once the vacuum was off.
Click here for more information on the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy from the manufacturer or here to see the listing on Amazon.

The winner?

My 6 year old daughter, S, my husband, and I all tested these vacuums.  Here are each of our answers to the question - which is your favorite?

My 6 year old chose the Dyson as her winner.  Her reasoning was that she felt this vacuum was the easiest for her to move herself (the Shark was her second favorite for the same reason) and she felt like it was one of the best cleaners (we all voted on the grades listed above).  She also says it's way the prettiest.  It probably is.  It's very shiny.

My husband and I chose the same vacuums for the same reasons (we're twins - ha!), so I'll list our thoughts here.  Our first choice for us was the Bissell.  We were both impressed by its insane suction power and it didn't matter to us that it was a little harder to maneuver.  We did both feel that the Dyson was a very close second, and should be your first choice if your priority is an easily moveable vacuum.

I'd like to again thank the companies - Eureka, Hoover, Bissell, Dyson, and Shark - for participating in our vacuum challenge!  Please let me know if you have any questions about aspects of the vacuums I didn't address or if you'd like to know more about any of the tests, etc. by commenting below.  :)


  1. Awesome write up... after reading it would actually be a toss up between the Dyson animal and the Hoover Air pro (which actually got a great rating from Consumer Reports). Glad you found one that's right for you!

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution

    1. They were both great! Thank you, Jennifer! :)

  2. we LOVE our shark, glad to see it get good reviews here :)

    1. Oh good! Does the hose work well? I am very curious if something was just "off" on ours...

    2. Aisa, I have a shark as well. It is a slightly different model, but I use the hose all the time with great results! I have 2 large dogs who shed horribly, (if I don't sweep or vacuum everyday we have snow drifts of fur). I've found that I use the hose most of the time. I can get under dressers, tables the couch and whatnot with it to catch all that fur!

  3. We are impressed by your clear description of your topic. Thanks for the information. Keep on writing.

  4. Thank you for the thorough comparison, I will keep this in my back pocket for future vacuum purchases.

    Though, we don't have pets, we have three kids (1, 3, 6 years old) and lots of food/craft/garden bits that end up around the house.

    Our original vacuum was a dyson animal slim. It's cordless and reaches under sofas/beds but runs out of juice pretty quick (and at $300+ quite expensive - though we were able to purchase it with a rebate at costco). But since it doesn't have a hepa filter we were in the market for another vacuum.

    For us, something light enough for the kids to use and a vacuum with a hepa filter was a must and so we purchased a VonHaus which is amazing, super light weight and really affordable at $40. (

    1. Oh interesting! I've never heard of that brand before!

  5. Your information is so clear about this topics. Such a great post and given the best idea about vacuum. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  6. Are there any updates now that you've had the vacuum a while?

    1. The top 3 continue to be Hoover, Dyson, and the Bissell. Sadly at this point all of them have clogged at one time or another. I've found that paper pieces are the WORST -- they always clog whatever vacuum we're using (my daughter and son make lots of crafts, so we've always got them on the floor). I think really any of those three would make a great vacuum. Hope that helps!

  7. I have always been impressed with Bissell vacuums, they just seem to have more suction than every other one I have tried, including Dysons!

  8. Use a brush to remove it instead of using a vacuum cleaner, unless you have a super powerful vacuum cleaner. I find that brush is strong enough, give it a go!


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