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The Best Vacuums for Hardwood Floors

Updated

After over two years of testing nine vacuum types on a variety of surfaces, we’ve selected the Shark – Apex as the best corded vacuum for hardwood floors and carpets. The best cordless vacuum for hardwood is the recently released Dyson – V15 Detect that detects and automatically switches to the appropriate floor type. If you’re a clean freak, you’ll love the V15’s new sensor that displays the number of dust mites and allergens it’s sucked up. For a corded vacuum, we prefer the lightweight and user-friendly Shark – Rocket stick, and the Kenmore – Elite canister vacuum will be a sure bet for those who need full power together with maximum maneuverability.

Our Top Choices

For Carpet and Hardwood


Shark

Apex

Best Cordless


Dyson

V15 Detect

Best Stick


Shark

Rocket DuoClean

Most Flexible


Kenmore

Elite

After over two years of testing nine vacuum types on a variety of surfaces, we’ve selected the Shark – Apex as the best corded vacuum for hardwood floors and carpets. The best cordless vacuum for hardwood is the recently released Dyson – V15 Detect that detects and automatically switches to the appropriate floor type. If you’re a clean freak, you’ll love the V15’s new sensor that displays the number of dust mites and allergens it’s sucked up. For a corded vacuum, we prefer the lightweight and user-friendly Shark – Rocket stick, and the Kenmore – Elite canister vacuum will be a sure bet for those who need full power together with maximum maneuverability.

Table of contents

The 8 hardwood floor vacuums we tested

VacuumPriceTypeHardwood Head Type
1. Shark - Apex$$$$Convertible UprightRoller + Suction
2. Dyson - V15 Detect$$$$Cordless StickRoller + Suction
3. Shark - Rocket HV382$$Corded StickRoller + Suction
4. Kenmore - Elite$$$$CanisterSuction
5. Dyson - V11 Torque Head$$$$Cordless StickRoller + Suction
6. Dyson - V8 Absolute$$$Cordless StickRoller + Suction
7. Eureka - Mighty Mite Pet Lover$CanisterSuction
8. Bissell - Zing$CanisterSuction

Best corded: Shark – Apex

Shark - Apex

The best vacuum for hardwood floors and carpet is the innovative Shark – Apex, which uses an all-surface roller that will pick up any kind of dirt on any kind of floor. This is also our pick for the best upright vacuum, and it cleans both hardwood and area rugs as well as anything else we’ve tried. It’s Shark’s best corded vacuum, and we think even homes with mostly hardwood will love it.

Shark put every feature into their top model. The “Powered Lift-Away” design lets you take the weight of the suction motor off the cleaning head for better agility and to fit in tight spaces. Even though it’s a fairly heavy vacuum, the two-piece design makes it great for stairs.

The Apex is also the best vacuum for hardwood floors and pet hair, since the multi-surface brushroll also has a “Zero-M” comb that stops hair from wrapping up in the rollers. Shark builds these vacuums with a sealed air path and good filters, so it even keeps your air clean.

You can get some of these features in other vacuums, but the Apex gives you everything in one package for not much more than the price of the most basic upright vacuum from competitors like Dyson. It’s also much quieter than other full-size uprights.

Do-Everything Pick: Shark - Apex

Shark's DuoClean rollers are really good at picking up every kind of dirt on hardwood, and if you've got rooms with carpet or rugs the Apex makes switching modes for different floor types as simple as possible. This vacuum is also quiet, and has excellent air filtration.

In all our tests, the Apex didn’t bog down in anything but the longest shag carpet, and even then it was as good as the best competition.

The only downsides to this design are that it’s heavy at more than 17 pounds, and the hose is too short for lift-away mode to fully replace a canister vacuum for those who want maximum flexibility. It would be nice to see the powered lift-away system and DuoClean rollers show up on lighter, more affordable Shark models like our top pick for pet hair on carpet.

If you’ve got mixed hardwood and carpet in your home, this is the one vacuum that really does everything well. You set suction and brush roller power with a three-position thumb switch, and the area rug and bare floor settings work as intended. There’s no fiddling with carpet height switches or bypass valves required, you just keep vacuuming.

Key takeaways:

  • For bigger houses with mixed flooring, the Shark – Apex is top of the food chain.
  • The DuoClean brushroll design is very good on hardwood floors.
  • On long carpet, the Apex easily beat all competitors.
  • Shark’s powered lift-away design gives flexibility.
  • Good design keeps dust and noise to a minimum.
  • The Apex is a bit heavier than less-powerful vacuums.

Best cordless stick: Dyson – V15 Detect

Dyson v15 vacuum

With each new release, Dyson continues to upgrade its V Series of vacuums, and the Dyson – V15 Detect is its best model to date. Dyson upped its game with the release of the V10 and V11 (see review below), and with two new engineering improvements, the V15 really is the best cordless stick vacuum for hardwood and carpets that money can buy. Like all Dyson vacuums, the V15 has a hefty price tag, but don’t let that be a deterrent. The V15 has 20% more suction power than the V11, and its integrated HEPA air filtration system picks up 99.99% of allergens, dust mites, and microscopic bacteria.

Physically, the V15 resembles the V11. They both have digital screens that display battery life and vacuuming mode, on/off triggers, quick-release, no-touch bins, rechargeable batteries, and can be converted to a handheld vacuum. The most noticeable change in the V15 is the digital screen. The Piero sensor display is a four-bar graph that shows the amount and the type of debris. Yellow for allergens, orange for microscopic dust (usually in the lower millions), pink for dust mites, and purple for larger debris, including fleas.

Best Cordless Stick: Dyson - V15 Detect

The new Dyson V15 has several improvements over previous models that help you thoroughly clean allergens, dust mites, and other debris from hardwood floors and carpets.

At first, we were shocked that the numbers were so high in our testing. But then realizing that the V15 had actually picked all that stuff up, it was a relief to know our floors were allergen- and dust-free.

The second improvement is the Laser Slim Fluffy cleaning head. The fluffy head had been eliminated in the V11 model, but it was very popular, so Dyson responded to consumer complaints and restored it. This fluffy head, though, is equipped with a green LED laser that illuminates dust so it appears almost 3D, making it easy to find, particularly in a dimly lit room. Also added to the V15 is the battery pack, which can be removed from the handle and charged separately.

The Dyson – V15 Detect will keep your hardwood floors spotless, and if you’re a pet owner who’s allergic to dander, the V15 is worth the investment.

Dyson V15 detect vacuum

Key takeaways:

  • The Dyson – V15 Detect is the most technologically advanced cordless stick vacuum that Dyson has released to date.
  • Its Piero sensor and Laser Slim Fluffy head detect and pinpoint allergens, dust mites, and microscopic bacteria.
  • The V15 is expensive, but if you suffer from allergies, it’s worth it.

Best corded stick: Shark – Rocket DuoClean

Shark - Rocket Stick Vacuum

If you don’t mind the cord, the best stick vacuum for hardwood floors is the Shark – Rocket DuoClean HV382. With more suction than any other model in our stick vacuum review, the unique dual-brushroll DuoClean system also takes top marks for grabbing dirt and small objects on hardwood floors.

Our testers loved the handling of the Rocket, with swivel steering to maneuver around obstacles and into tight corners. The fully motorized head runs for as long as you need it to on plug-in power, so it’s a good compromise between a full-size upright vacuum and a cordless design. It can also work just as well on carpet and hardwood with one head, unlike the Dyson which needs to switch between surfaces.

Like its big brother, the Apex upright vacuum, the Rocket is heavier than the competing designs in the same category. At nearly 10 pounds, it’s about 40% heavier than the cordless Dyson and three times heavier than the lightest vacuums we’ve tested. That said, it’s still an easy vacuum to use, great for apartments or anywhere the 1-quart dust cup will be big enough to make sense.

Best Stick: Shark - Rocket DuoClean

Shark has taken all of the best hardwood-friendly features of the top-class Apex and successfully transferred them to this more compact package. It's not the lightest vacuum out there, but the suction power and soft-brush pickup are both excellent for hardwood.

The Rocket isn’t as powerful as the Apex, and it’s as noisy as most vacuums. Surprisingly, despite the lack of a HEPA-class filter the Rocket does a good job of managing dust, but it’s not an air-cleaning machine like the Kenmore – Elite sealed canister system.

If you’re after something more maneuverable than a full-size vacuum, but you don’t want to give up excellent cleaning ability on both hardwood and carpet, the Shark – Rocket is an ideal choice.

Key takeaways:

  • The Shark – Rocket HV382 is maneuverable and compact without sacrificing performance.
  • Shark’s DuoClean design uses two specialized brushrolls to pick up dirt and debris very well on both hardwood and carpet.
  • While this is smaller and easier to push around than a full-size vacuum, it’s bigger than most other stick vacuums.
  • The Rocket’s noise and dust output are both higher than our other top picks.

Best canister: Kenmore – Elite

Kenmore

Picking the best vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors meant considering all of the different room layouts that would give different vacuums the advantage, and for tight quarters we like the flexibility of a canister vacuum. The Kenmore – Elite won top spot in our canister vacuum review, and its best qualities make it excellent on hardwood.

The bare-floor head of a canister vacuum is ideal for hardwood because it’s light. If you don’t have carpet, you don’t really need the brushroll and heavy motor in your floor cleaning tool. Even if you have to wiggle a bare-floor head around or lift it up to pick up the larger stuff, it’s easy to do.

Kenmore made this vacuum easier than most to switch between hardwood and carpet by designing the hard-floor head to snap into the carpet head, which they call a “crossover” design. The carpet-cleaning head features full control for height, so it won’t get bogged down in long-pile carpet like most other motorized heads do.

Most Flexible: Kenmore - Elite

If you need to reach around and in-between furniture, a canister vacuum is an excellent choice. The Kenmore - Elite is good on carpet with its motorized and height-adjustable cleaning head, but it's also especially nimble on hardwood in the Crossover bare-floor mode. Good air filter and noise performance along with handy accessories round out this package.

Even if you’re not looking for an excellent carpet-cleaning accessory, the quiet performance of the large and powerful motor Kenmore uses will help it reach deeper into cracks. Kenmore also made this bagged-type dust collection system with an excellent sealed airway and a HEPA filter that cleans your air as you clean your floor.

The Kenmore – Elite is more expensive than even the Dyson cordless vacuum, but it’s designed to compete with $800 German canister vacuums, not plastic stick vacuums. If you’re going to be weaving between your furniture, the Kenmore keeps the weight and power at the end of the hose so it won’t weigh you down.

Key takeaways:

  • For the most power and nimble handling, the Kenmore – Elite competes with canister designs that cost double or triple this price.
  • The bare-floor head docks with a fully featured carpet head for quickly changing between floor types.
  • The included HEPA-class filtration works well enough to clean your air while you vacuum.
  • Even at full power the Kenmore is relatively quiet.
  • This is a big vacuum and takes up the most space in storage

Other products we tested

Dyson – V11 Torque Head

Dyson v11 vacuum

If you don’t feel like shelling out big bucks for the Dyson – V15 Detect, another great cordless option is the Dyson – V11 Torque Drive. The V11 was a big techno jump from the V10, but it’s pretty much the same as the V15 without the Piero sensor and laser detect. The V11 has the same power as the V15, so it will make short work of vacuuming up allergens, dust mites, and debris, but you won’t know how much it’s actually grabbed from your hardwood floor. The LCD screen was also changed from the V10 and tells you how much time the battery charge has remaining and the vacuuming mode you’ve selected.

The Torque Drive head was also a leap forward. It detects what type of floor surface you’re vacuuming and automatically shifts into the appropriate mode for doing the best job. The Torque Drive also gives a burst of power when the foot lever is depressed, which makes the vacuum charge ahead. The power rush made vacuuming easier, but we did find it made steering the vacuum in the direction we wanted a bit of a challenge.

The V11 is a pound heavier than earlier models — and the same weight as the V15 — so that small extra weight was felt when we separated the stick and used the vacuum as a handheld. That aside, the V11 is still a viable option for vacuuming your hardwood floors spic-and-span clean. Oddly, the V11 is currently the same price as the V15; however, you can get a completely refurbished one from Dyson for a significantly discounted price.

Dyson V8 Absolute

Dyson hardwood roller head

The Dyson – V8 Absolute is an award-winning stick vacuum that really turned the tide for the cordless vacuum-cleaner market. Cordless vacuums used to be heavy, noisy and so ineffective that you wouldn’t even consider using one on your carpet. Dyson put a lot of thought into these shortcomings, and with some very careful engineering, they made a cordless “stick” vacuum with enough power to make you seriously consider giving up a full-size vacuum.

The V8 is also quiet, even when the motorized head is running. It’s one of the quietest vacuums we’ve tested, but it achieves that with carefully designed noise baffles rather than by giving up airflow like other quiet vacuums.

Air-filter performance was excellent, too, so the V8 actually collects more fine dust than it spits out.

The Dyson is, as you can probably guess, was one of the most expensive picks in our original testing. Dyson has since released three other updated models,  so it’s now priced competitively with other hardwood-friendly cordless designs like the Shark – ION F80. The Shark lacks HEPA filtration, and its much longer battery life isn’t as big of a deal as it sounds, since the whole benefit of a stick vacuum is quick cleanups.

The V8 is an older model, but it has plenty of power for hardwood floors. At the time of writing, the V8 is about $200 less than its upgraded “cousins.” If you don’t want to shell out for the pricier new models, the V8 is still a great option for cleaning hardwood floors.

Eureka – Mighty Mite Pet Lover

Eureka

For a house with mostly bare floors to clean, a canister vacuum with a good bare-floor pickup tool works very well. The Eureka – Mighty Mite Pet Lover puts a powerful bag-type vacuum in a compact canister, then adds a good filter and extra tool options to make it just a bit nicer than other budget-priced canister systems.

You can use the two-mode floor-cleaning tool on a rug by retracting the bristles so it glides along the top of your carpet pile, but unless you open up a bypass valve to let some air slip into the hose this design will just get stuck on medium-length carpet. It also lacks a system to agitate or brush dirt that’s trapped below the surface.

Eureka doesn’t give you all the luxury features that come with most canister designs, like adjustable power control or a retractable cord. But the filter makes up for that by helping keep your air clean. The Eureka wasn’t a top performer in any one category, but for bare floor cleaning it’s a solid showing given the price.

Bissell – Zing

Bissell

Like the Eureka, the Bissell – Zing is a stripped-down package that gives you tools best suited for bare floors. The Zing has a few perks over the Eureka, but it also makes some compromises.

The Bissell has a compact, easy-to-store body. The cord retracts with a tap of your toe on the pedal, and there’s even a power-control knob to turn down the suction for attempting thick carpet. It’s also the most affordable vacuum we tested.

You give up dust filtration to get the low price, though. Hardwood cleaning performance is very similar to the Eureka, and it’s not quite as useless on area rugs with the extra power control, but we think it’s worth paying the full price for a HEPA filter and a multi-surface brushroll.

How we selected

For the most part, experts at sites like Consumer Reports and Wirecutter agree that cleaning a hardwood floor isn’t an especially difficult job for any vacuum. You’re using the vacuum airflow to grab loose dirt and small objects off the floor as a broom would. (See our guide to cleaning hardwood for more details on other steps to keep your hardwood looking amazing.)

The trick with vacuums is finding a design that picks up the loose dirt without causing other problems: Even if you can turn off a brushroll to keep it from flinging dirt across the room, it might still hang up on lumps and pebbles and just snow-plow them around.

We’ve tested many vacuum categories in the past, including stick vacuums, upright vacuums, canister vacuums, vacuums for pet hair, and lightweight vacuums. We looked at all of our past picks carefully and chose six designs that have features for excellent hardwood cleaning.

In the past, this meant a suction-only cleaning head that glides around on stiff bristles. The downside with these designs has always been the way they push around objects that don’t slip through the brush.

For three of our top picks we chose newer vacuums with fluffy roller-brushes designed to capture all sizes of dirt and pull it in.

We also considered the importance of rugs in homes with hardwood, with top picks that work well on multiple flooring types and make switching easy.

How we tested

Cleaning tests

We started this test with a set of vacuums we already love. In past reviews, we’ve considered all of these vacuums and selected them for good (if not excellent) performance in picking up dirt and sand.

VacuumSuction PowerDirt CaptureArea RugsPet Hair
Shark - Apex★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Dyson - V8 Absolute★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Shark - Rocket HV382★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Kenmore - Elite★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Eureka - MightyMite Pet Lover★★★★★★★
Bissell - Zing★★★★★★★

Each pick is also esteemed for qualities like handling and versatility, most edging out the competition for overall ease of use. We’re featuring vacuums here that perform well on small area rugs and doormats since that’s often the most difficult job for a vacuum.

Soft roller tests

We designed a specific test to see if the new soft-roller vacuums from Shark are fit for hardwood: Taking samples of dark-stained hardwood floor, we dry-brushed a thin layer of white watercolor paint onto the surface. Next, we piled sandy dirt onto the samples and used the vacuums to slowly crawl across the hardwood. We were worried we might see some scuffing or scratching from sand caught in the bristles, but all of these vacuums passed without leaving any scratches.

The soft rollers all do a great job picking up dirt or even larger items, but Shark’s soft rollers work on both bare floors and carpet, while Dyson’s soft roller is made for hardwood only. Shark’s top-tier vacuum also has “Zero-M” anti-hair-wrap combs, so it sucks up hair instead of wrapping and tangling it.

VacuumPickupAnti-Hair-WrapMulti-surface?
Shark - Apex★★★★★YesYes
Dyson - V8 Absolute★★★★★NoNo
Shark - Rocket HV382★★★★★NoYes

Noise

We tested all of the vacuums from the same distance, at ear-height while moving the vacuums as they would be used for cleaning. We used a sound pressure meter with an a-weighted frequency bias, which emphasizes the effect of bothersome high-pitch noises and is the standard method to measure noise (rather than something like music).

VacuumDust Filter PerformanceNoise: Suction Motor (dBA)Noise: Brushroll (dBA)
Shark - Apex★★★★8893
Dyson - V8 Absolute★★★★6063
Shark - Rocket HV382★★★★6472
Kenmore - Elite★★★★★9394
Eureka - MightyMite Pet Lover★★★100N/A
Bissell - Zing97N/A

HEPA filtration

We’ve tested each of these vacuums to see how well they keep dust inside once it’s been sucked up. The best performers are fully sealed airflow systems with HEPA filters that will actually clean your air as you vacuum.

Important features to consider

Multi-floor designs: Doormats and area rugs help capture dirt and keep it off your hardwood, but they require different tools than typical bare floors heads. An add-on or multi-purpose brush roll helps deep-clean rugs, but you usually need power and height control to keep it from getting stuck and just sliding your rugs around.

Finish-friendly brush rolls: Dyson and Shark both offer a special brush roll that’s soft. These bristles will grab every last bit of fine and coarse dirt, but they won’t scratch polished floors.

Bagged vs. bagless system: Bags often capture fine dust better, and they can make it easier to dispose of what you’ve vacuumed up if you don’t have the option of stepping outside to empty it.

Onboard tool storage: Specialized tools for detail cleaning are handy to have, but if there’s no place to keep them on the vacuum itself, many of us will keep them in a box and forget about them quickly.

HEPA-class filters: High-efficiency particulate air filters (almost always called HEPA-class) are defined by the U.S. Department of Energy as filters trapping 99.97% of tiny 0.3-micron particles that pass through. If the manufacturer doesn’t specify HEPA filtration, you’re almost certainly blowing a lot of fine dust into the air when you vacuum.

Sealed-system airflow: Expensive filters are needed to capture allergy-triggering dust, but if your vacuum isn’t sealed, some of that dust will just leak out all the same. Most high-end vacuums with HEPA filters are supposed to be sealed, but some are better than others.

The bottom line

Picking a vacuum for a hardwood floor requires some careful consideration. But after you decide which features are the most important, you can pick the vacuum that will serve you best.

For houses with mixed hardwood and carpet, finding a vacuum that does both jobs well will save you time and frustration. Our top pick for upright vacuums is the Shark – Apex because it has excellent multi-surface performance as well as enough control to work with area rugs that would get stuck in other vacuums. It’s also quiet and keeps dust contained.

The recently released Dyson – V15 Detect is the company’s most technologically advanced cordless model yet with features that ensure your hardwood floors are spotlessly clean.

If you’re looking for a bit more power and versatility than the Dyson, but you don’t want to buy a full-size carpet cleaning vacuum, the corded Shark – Rocket DuoClean stick vacuum has a similar soft-brush head and won’t ever run flat halfway around your living room.

Finally, for homes with a lot of furniture in a small space, a canister vacuum has much better maneuverability. We like the excellent power and refined accessory features of the Kenmore – Elite, especially for quick switching between carpet and hardwood.

Top Pick: Shark - Apex

Shark's soft roller makes cleaning hardwood easy, and it's a quiet vacuum that cleans your air as you go. If you've got any carpet or rugs the Apex also makes switching modes for different floor types as simple as possible.

Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.

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