All vacuum cleaners are not created equally. Your favorite vac for the carpeted areas of your home may not be the best choice for hardwood floors. A hard floor surface requires a vacuum cleaner with features that can't scratch or scuff the floor, while the typical upright vacuum is made for carpets and soft surfaces where scratches and scuffs aren't an issue. Canister, stick and even robotic vacs do a decent job for day-to-day hardwood floor care, but as with carpet vacs, some models are better than others.
Avoid These Features
While it may be tempting and cost effective to use your trusty carpet vacuum cleaner on hardwood floors, some carpet vacs can damage a wood floor. Flip the vacuum cleaner on its side and take a look underneath. If it has a brush roller or beater bar, this feature could actually be problematic on hard flooring.
This brush device, designed to loosen debris stuck between carpet fibers, could push debris farther away while vacuuming a wood floor, which hinders the cleaning process. In some cases, this roller could even scratch or mark the floor. On some vacuum cleaners, such as select models made by Bissell, the brush feature can be disengaged for hard-surface vacuuming. If your carpet vacuum has this option, it may be safe for wood floors.
Hard plastic wheels found on the typical carpet vacuum cleaner may also scratch hardwood floors. These wheels are designed to roll across soft surfaces, so they may be made of extremely hard plastic that scuffs a wood floor's finish.
What to Look For
The best vacuum cleaner for a hardwood floor has a combination of excellent suction power plus features that meet your vacuuming needs. For instance, if you have hardwood floors upstairs and down, a lightweight compact canister vacuum cleaner or stick vacuum cleaner is a better option than a heavy, unwieldy upright vacuum cleaner.
If pet hair is a problem, a vacuum with a wand and an upholstery brush attachment is a good choice. For those with allergies or asthma, a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter helps prevents the vacuum from blowing allergens back into the air. Even a robotic vacuum cleaner such as the various iRobot Roomba models can be a big help for cleaning hardwood floors, as they do their work without your help.
Compare options and read reviews on several different models before making a choice. The best vacuum cleaner to suit your needs doesn't have to cost a fortune. For instance, the Eureka Blaze NES210 plug-in stick vacuum cleaner, which costs less than $30 on Amazon, has features that are similar to those of several quality cordless stick vacuums that cost far more, such as the Black + Decker Powerseries Pro Cordless vacuum.
The Best Canister Vacuum Cleaners
Canister vacuum cleaners are ideal for hardwood floors, largely because they're easy to tote from room to room or even upstairs. The Miele Blizzard CX-1 series bagless canister vacuum cleaner offers multiple cleaning modes and has rubberized wheels that help prevent scratches on wood floors. This vacuum cleaner has various suction settings and an assortment of tools or hose tips to remove pet hair from upholstery or corners of the room. It also has a retractable cord. Multiple CX-1 models are available, and they're all a bit pricey, averaging $400 to $1,000.
The Bissell Hard Floor Expert is another excellent choice at a much better price, listing at $149. Though designed for wood and other hard floors, this vac also cleans low-pile carpet, drapes and upholstery. It also has nonmarking rubber wheels, a crevice tool, a dusting brush and a self-retracting cord. The dirt collection tank empties from the bottom, making it easier to discard dirt without making a mess. This vacuum cleaner has adjustable suction settings, allowing you to vacuum area rugs with ease.
The Best Upright Vacuum Cleaners
Though most upright vacuum cleaners are geared toward carpeting, some work well on wood floors too. The Kenmore Pet-Friendly CrossOver Max is designed for carpets and hard floors, offering features geared toward pet-hair removal. This device has a HEPA filter, a dusting brush, an extension wand and adjustable suction settings and retails for around $325. Another Kenmore model that costs approximately the same, the Elite 31150 Pet-Friendly Bagged Upright, has an infrared dirt sensor that detects fine particles you may not see. It also has an attachment designed specifically for removing pet hair around the house.
The Hoover REACT Powered Reach Plus upright vac is perfect for homes with carpeting in one room, hardwood floors in the next and tile in yet another. This vacuum cleaner automatically detects changes in the flooring type as you clean from one room to the next, adjusting the brush and suction settings on its own. It's great at removing pet hair, dander and other allergens from the air and sells for around $140.
Cordless vacuum cleaners are even more convenient than their corded counterparts, as there's no need to worry about maneuvering around furniture or finding a nearby outlet. The Dyson V11 Torque Drive works on low-pile carpeted floors as well as hard floors, automatically detecting the difference as it moves from one to the other. It has up to one hour of run time and charges in four-and-a-half hours. This vacuum retails for $700 and comes with various attachments and a docking station.
The Roomba i7+ robotic vacuum cleaner offers even more convenience, vacuuming and remembering floor plans for various rooms. This device even empties collected dirt into a bin that holds up to two months of debris and has 10 times the suction power of one of its siblings, the Roomba 600. At a price of $999, the i7+ is far more complex than basic robotic vacuum cleaners. You can even program it to stay away from specific objects, rooms or areas in its cleaning path. This vacuum cleaner removes pet dander and stores collected debris in special bags capable of preventing collected dust mites, mold and other allergens from getting back into the air.