Best Vacuums for Pet Hair

Mary H.J. Farrell

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As far as we know there’s no vacuum called the Golden Retriever Fur Reliever, but there are a lot of vacuums sold with fuzzy claims and “pet” in the model name. Do they work?

Well, some are capable vacuums overall, but others are good at pet-hair pickup and little else. To test such claims, Consumer Reports devised a very tough pet-hair test for full-sized upright and canister vacuums.

First, technicians take 5 grams of long, feathery fur from Maine Coon cats and scatter, stomp, and smash it into medium-pile carpet. Then they make multiple passes with the test vacuum to see how much of the hair it picks up. Vacuums that rate an Excellent collect all the fur in a bag or bin. Average vacs leave behind visible patches, or fur becomes entangled in the brush.

We also test smaller vacuums like stick and handheld models for pet-hair pickup. But because we don’t expect them to accomplish the deep cleaning of a full-sized vacuum, we use half as much cat hair for the stick vac test. And with handheld vacuums, we use even less. In other words, we design our tests to challenge the cleaning capabilities of each type of vacuum we rate.

“Typically, a vacuum that does well in our carpet and bare-floor tests will also do pretty well in our pet-hair test,” says Susan Booth, who oversees our vacuum testing. “Although we do see some exceptions, so if you have a pet that sheds a lot, look for models that get our top score in that test."

Our testers have another tip for pet owners: Consider a bagged vacuum over a bagless model, because every time you empty a bagless bin, the fur can fly.

Here, listed alphabetically by type, are some of the best in show for pet hair from our tests of upright, canister, stick, and handheld vacuums—all score an Excellent in that test. We don't score robotic vacuums on a specific pet-hair test. For more choices, see our full vacuum ratings and recommendations.

Uprights

Upright vacuums are a good choice if you have a lot of carpet and area rugs in your home, because they tend to be better than canisters at carpet cleaning. Here are three top upright vacuums that excel at picking up pet hair.

Canisters

If you have stairs in your home, a canister may be a good solution. This configuration is easier to use on stairs because the weight is distributed between the powerhead and the canister, and it's convenient to carry from one level to another. Here are three top canister vacs that excel at picking up pet hair.

Stick Vacs

Stick vacuums are great for quick messes, and their cleaning power has been improving in recent years. They're lightweight and easy to pull out of a closet. Some also ace our pet-hair test. Here are three top stick vacs that excel at picking up pet hair.

Handheld

Handheld vacuums aren't designed for heavy cleaning, but they're a good choice if you're whisking up cereal from under a high chair or off the floor mats in your car. Few can tackle pet hair, but these two are notable exceptions.

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