Best Hardwood Floor Vacuums of 2016: The Top Lightweight Cleaners for Bare Surfaces

Hardwood floors present a unique set of challenges for vacuum cleaners, and most standard models aren’t up to the task. If you want to keep your hardwood floors pristine for years to come, the right hardwood vacuum is an essential tool.

As hardwood floors grow in popularity, there’s an increasing demand for specialized models that can effectively clean the surface of the wood without damaging the floor underneath.

However, just because it’s marketed as being best for wood floors doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you, your home, and your lifestyle.

There are many multi-purpose machines that perform well on hardwood, and there are many so-called hardwood models that deliver lackluster results.

That’s where we come in! We’ve analyzed some of the best selling hardwood models on the market today, carefully comparing user reviews, consumer tests, and expert opinions for each model. Our picks are the ones we felt stood out from the rest of the pack.

We’ve weighed the pros and cons of each option in our articles in order to help you find the best model for your home. We also organized our picks into articles to help you find the exact model you’re looking for.

First, we’ll provide a quick synopsis of some of our top picks from each category. Then, we’ll look at the qualities that make a good hardwood machine, and provide some tips for shopping for the right machine for you and your floors.

If you don’t find the right one for you, check back again soon—we’re always updating our site with new articles and the best vacuums!

Top Hardwood Floor Vacuum Reviews

Best Hardwood Vacuums Under $100

Great options aren’t out of reach for buyers on a budget—some our favorite models are under $100.

Inexpensive machines are also a good choice for shoppers who already have a full-sized model that works well for them, but are looking to purchase a secondary model for a specific purpose.

For example, if you have a mix of carpet and hardwood in your home, you might want one for your carpet and the other for your hard surfaces.

However, it’s important to distinguish between “cheap” and “inexpensive.”

Low-quality machines will break down quickly, leaving you with a dirty hardwood floor and a big headache. It’s important to avoid cheap components and low-quality machinery in your next cleaner, even if you’re shopping on a budget.

In order to filter out the low-quality hardwood models, we took a hard look at how each of budget models performed in the real word.

We found a few models that keep their retail price low, yet compromise little in terms of performance on hardwood floors and other hard floor surfaces.

Top Canister Pick: Eureka Mighty Mite DELUXE 3671A

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The Eureka Mighty Mite lives up to its name—this tiny canister model is capable of producing a mighty amount of suction from its small body.

It might not look like much, but the Mighty Mite has been in production for many years, and in that time has earned a dedicated following of owners who swear by this machine.

Fans of this little powerhouse say it truly shines on hard surfaces like cement, tile and hardwood. Driven by a powerful 12-amp motor, the Mighty Mite uses its ample suction to remove small particles from the nooks and crannies in hardwood floors.

The small size of the Mighty Mite makes it easy to store and carry around the home, and the extendable wand allows owners to reach difficult spots inaccessible to bulky upright models.

The combination of strong performance on hardwood, low price, and compact build made it our top canister model available under $100.

Top Ranked Vacuums for Pet Hair

Pet owners know—cat and dog hair is one of the toughest challenges for machines, and hard floors don’t make it much easier. Standard vacuums tend to scatter pet fur on hardwood and tile, and the longer hairs can quickly clog and tangle in the head of the machine.

Options that meet the special requirements for both pet hair and for hardwood floors are relatively hard to find. Luckily, we found some models that excel in both categories!

In our top picks for this article, we looked for machines with high ratings in pet hair and hardwood, as well as any special attachments included for pet hair.

We also checked out the filtration systems on the machines we reviewed. Pet hair and dander are common sources of allergies, and a good filter system on your machine is the best way to trap and contain allergens.

We looked for HEPA filtration, closed systems, and/or certifications from groups like the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in our top picks.

Top Upright: Hoover WindTunnel MAX

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The Hoover WindTunnel MAX is an inexpensive bagged upright model that earns high marks on bare floor and pet hair tests—despite the fact that it’s not marketed as specifically for hardwoods or pet hair.

Instead, the WindTunnel MAX is designed for all different floor types, featuring seven different floor height settings, from high-pile carpet to bare floor.

The brushroll in the head of the WindTunnel MAX can also be switched on and off to prevent damage to the delicate surface of hardwood flooring.

The suction from this model is augmented by Hoover’s “WindTunnel Technology,” a three-channel system that works to capture more dust, dirt, and debris, and prevent scattering. It’s an effective bit of technology that has helped Hoover’s WindTunnel series become one of their most popular lines.

“This machine deals with pet and human hair very well. I shed nearly as much as my two short haired cats and a single run around the house with this deals with any hair we managed to leave behind. Dust bunnies are easily sucked up and I use the attached hose to reach blinds, a/c intake vents, and wherever else we’ve managed to shed.”

Convenient Vacuums for Stairs

Staircases can present their own set of challenges for cleaners. There’s little room to navigate around on the steps, and the bulky bodies of traditional uprights are too cumbersome to effectively maneuver up and down the stairs.

Staircases also offer a host of nooks and crannies for dust and other debris to collect, making it even more of a chore as you hunt down every last dust bunny with your crevice tool. Without the right machine, cleaning the stairs can become a labor-intensive and time-consuming task—or even downright impossible.

When looking for the best machines for cleaning staircases, our top criteria were that they were lightweight, had a narrow floor head, powerful suction, and compact size.

We also looked for models with long power cords, or no power cords at all, to save you the trouble of having to switch outlets halfway up the steps.

Best Canister Vacuum: Miele S2121 Olympus Canister

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The German company Miele has earned a reputation for attractive, high-performance machines, and the sleek white Olympus continues the company’s tradition of quality. More than a few reviewers compared this one to a German luxury automobile!

Designed exclusively for hardwood floors, the Olympus is one of the least expensive members of the the Miele line.

It’s a bagged canister model that earns high marks on bare floor tests, with a lightweight body and long reach that’s perfect for tackling the stairs. Between the extendable wand, hose and long electrical cord, the Olympus has a reach of about 30 feet from the outlet.

The Olympus is capable of producing powerful suction, the strength of which can be adjusted via a knob on top of it.

It also comes with a multi-floor tool attachment that evenly distributes this suction across the head of the attachment (in contrast to most vacuum heads, which have the strongest suction in the middle, and weakest near the edges).

The Miele Olympus is a strong choice for shoppers looking for a machine that can take on their stairs and the rest of their home. If you already have a vacuum you like, and you’re looking for a model specifically for your staircase, check out our other two picks.

Shark vs. Dyson

Instead of choosing individual models for this article, we take a look at a couple models from two of the most popular brands today—Shark and Dyson. One of the most common questions among shoppers is, “Which of these two brands is better?”

We wanted to find out the true differences between the two brands where it counts: price, performance (especially on hardwood floors), quality, and operation. In our reviews, we picked similar models for head-to-head comparison of the two companies.

How to Buy the Right Hardwood Vacuum

When it comes time to clean a hardwood floor, many homeowners instinctively reach for the dustpan and broom, mop or Swiffer. Vacuums are seen as a tool for cleaning carpets, as that’s been their primary purpose since their invention.

But if you want to keep your hardwood in peak condition for years to come, a good hardwood vacuum is the ultimate cleaning tool. Over time, the small cracks in the wood and the crevices between slats become a haven for dust particles and other fine debris. Only a powerful hardwood vacuum is capable of removing all of the debris embedded in your floor in an efficient manner.

Why Do I Need a New Vacuum?

You might be reluctant to purchase a new, specialized machine if you’ve had a traditional model that has served you well on carpets for years. But the wrong type of vacuum can do more harm than good to your hardwood.

Machines designed for carpet usually use a brush roll—a spinning roll of thick, stiff bristles located in the head of the vacuum—to dislodge dust and dirt embedded in the fibers of a carpet.

While this is an effective way to clean carpets, the stiff bristles of the brush roll easily scratch the soft surface of the wood. Brush rolls also tend to scatter debris across the floor and away from the suction path of the machine.

Furthermore, models designed for carpet often have plastic or metal components (like wheels) that will also scratch hardwood. Hardwood vacuums, in contrast, usually feature rubber wheels and some kind of padding to prevent damage to the floor underneath.

What to Look for in a Hardwood Vacuum

Now that we know why it’s important to use the right kind of machine on a hardwood floor, let’s look at some of the important qualities and features of a good hardwood vacuum.

No Brushroll

If you’re considering a particular vacuum for your hardwood floor, first check the head of the vacuum to make sure there’s no brush roll. Some models allow you to slow down or switch off the brush roll with a switch, which is a good feature if you’re looking for a vacuum for carpet and hardwood.

Some newer models use a roll of spongy or soft bristles for hardwood. Soft bristle brushes can be used on hardwood without damaging the surface—just make sure to avoid the stiff bristles used in carpet vacuums.

Strong Suction

Hardwood vacuums need stronger suction than carpet vacuums to be effective at removing dirt. Without the aid of a brushroll to dislodge embedded dirt, hardwood vacuums must rely on suction alone for deep cleaning.

Padding and Wheels

Make sure to check your prospective vacuum for any components that could scratch your floor. Sometimes hardwood vacuums use felt or rubber padding to prevent damage during use. Keep an eye out for rubber wheels, which are gentler on the surface of the wood than hard plastic.

Lightweight Body

A lighter vacuum is always preferable to a heavier model, but this quality proves even more important on hardwood. The heavier the vacuum, the higher the likelihood you will accidently scratch or scuff the floor.

Hardwood Attachments

Though they aren’t essential, many vacuums come with special attachments designed especially for hardwood floors that make taking care of your floor just a bit easier.

For example, some vacuums include an attachment that combines suction power with a microfiber cloth for a Swiffer-like cleaning tool that polishes as it cleans. Keep an eye out for these useful tools.

Recognize the Different Vacuum Styles

There’s a great deal of variation in size, shape, and design among hardwood vacuums. Different styles are often a matter of personal preference, but there are few key qualities it’s important to recognize in each vacuum type before you make a purchase.

Upright

Upright vacuums are the most common variety of vacuum, and are probably what most people think of when they imagine a vacuum cleaner.

Upright models have all their components—the dust canister, the head of the vacuum, hose, etc—contained in the body of the vacuum. They’re primarily designed for use on the floor, although some feature extendable, detachable hoses for above-floor cleaning.

Canister

Canisters are often a bit more pricey than their upright counterparts, but offer some advantages that make them the preferred style of many homeowners.

They’re usually lighter and more compact than uprights, making them easier to carry and maneuver around the home. The canister design is also more versatile than the upright—both canisters and uprights make quick work of the floor, but canisters are also adept at handling above-floor cleaning (such as ceilings, fans and shelving).

Stick

Stick vacuums are a relatively new development in the world of vacuuming, but they’ve quickly become some of the most popular models on the market. Stick vacuums are styled like upright vacuums, but are much slimmer and lighter. They’re often significantly less expensive than full-sized models.

Unless you live in a small apartment, a stick vacuum isn’t the best choice for your primary vacuum cleaner. Instead, they’re better suited as a supplementary tool—great for cleaning up a small area, but a chore to use for the entirety of your floor plan.

What’s Next?

Check out the vacuums that your fellow buyers love most on the Amazon best sellers page!