Cleaning Pet Hair: Upright Vs. Canister Vs. Handheld Vs. Stick Vacuum

Cleaning Pet Hair: Upright Vs. Canister Vs. Handheld Vs. Stick Vacuum

Will an upright, canister, handheld, or a stick vacuum effectively pick up what your pet leaves behind?

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

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

First, specialists take 5 grams of long, feathery fur from Maine Coon cats and scatter, stomp, and smash it into the medium-pile carpet. Then they make several 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 dustbin. Average vacs leave behind visible patches, or fur becomes intertwined in the brush.

Best Vacuum Cleaners for Pet Hair We also test smaller vacuums such as stick and handheld models for pet-hair pickup. But since 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 utilize even less. In other words, we design our tests to challenge the cleaning capabilities of each kind 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 supervises 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 one more tip for pet owners: Consider a bagged vacuum over a bagless model, because each time you empty a bagless bin, the fur can fly.

Here, listed alphabetically by kind, 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.


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

  • Dyson Ball Animal 2
  • Kenmore Pet Friendly CrossOver 31220
  • Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog


If you have stairs in your home, a canister might be a good solution. This configuration is easier to use on stairs since 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 surpass at picking up pet hair.

  • Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly UltraPlush 81714
  • Miele Compact C2 Electro+
  • Miele Complete C3 Marin

Stick Vacs

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

  • Bissell Air Ram 1984
  • Shark APEX DuoClean Corded ZS362
  • Tineco Pure One S12


Handheld vacuums aren't intended 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 exemptions.

  • Black+Decker Flex BDH2020FL
  • Shark ION W1WV201

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