A vacuum for pet hair should swiftly take in strands while preventing the hair from clogging the internal mechanisms. After a series of controlled environment tests in our New York Lab, we selected dozens of vacuums, in a variety of styles and price points, for six months of testing in real homes with real pets to see how each vacuum for pet hair held up with regular use.
“You want to look for a vacuum with a sturdy brush roll for hair because pet hair is more difficult than some other things to just pick up and get into the vacuum cleaner,” Jessica Ek, Senior Director of Digital Communications of the American Cleaning Institute told The Spruce Pets. “Longer hair is more likely it is to get tangled in something like the vacuum and the turbine, and the smaller hair, the tricky part is getting it off the surface.”
Pet hair takes up more space than dirt and dust so a vacuum designed to combat pet hair typically has a larger bin along with rubber fins or spiraled bristles on the roller brush to prevent tangling.
Our overall favorite is the Dyson V10 Cyclone Animal, which is easy to lift and steer and has a canister that pops open with the touch of a button so you don’t have to get your hands dirty. It’s incredibly low maintenance and features an anti-tangle screw attachment that prevents pet hair from getting stuck internally.
But depending on your needs, the type of surfaces you need to clean, and your budget, you may prefer another one of our other favorites.
Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum
Light, easy to lift, and steerable head for various angles
Two-year manufacturer’s warranty
Very easy to empty canister with a quick-release lever that forces dust and debris out
Anti-tangle design prevents hair from getting stuck around the roller brush
Two cordless vacuums in one: Powerstick and Handheld
Picking up kibble typically requires more than one pass
The highest power setting sounds high-pitched and irritating
Throughout our several stages of testing, including an ongoing stint in a home with two dogs and another with two cats, the Dyson V10 Cyclone Animal continuously emerges as one of the most effective (and delightful) vacuums to use for picking up pet hair, dirt, and debris. The stick-style cordless is actually two vacuums in one and easily transitions to a handheld device.
It’s worth the upgrade, even if you already have a Dyson with a similar body style, like the V10 and the V8. The pet hair-banishing anti-tangle technology is worth the upgrade alone. This anti-tangle design looks like a big corkscrew inside the motorbar cleaner head (it's also featured in the handheld tool), with deep grooves and spiraled bristles that reliably prevent hair from wrapping around the spinning roller brush. It really works—we've never had to tear off of this rolling brush head. It's a major change even from previous Dyson models, and a big improvement on traditional bristled roller heads.
For extended use as a handheld vacuum, attachments like the crevice tool, the combination tool, and the mini soft dusting brush, make it easy to reach and clean a variety of surfaces both high and low, including upholstery cushions, car interiors, shelves, and decorative molding.
The bin can hold up to 0.2 gallons and a point-and-shoot release lever on the bagless canister rapidly forces out the majority of the contents without the need to get your hands dirty. This is another big improvement on many handheld vacuum models, which often unload from the bottom, sometimes risking a spill.
There are three power settings to choose from and with a full charge of the lithium-ion battery, the Cyclone V10 Animal has a runtime of up to 60 minutes at the lowest setting and 35 minutes at the highest. The most powerful suction setting allowed for a much quicker cleaning but also emits a loud whining sound that we found irritating (though nowhere near as irritating as dealing with a hair-tangled brush roll!).
While this model does not have a HEPA filter, it does have Dyson's whole-machine filtration that promises to capture 99.99 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns. The vacuum is extremely lightweight and easy to steer. When switching out attachments, it makes a satisfying click sound to let you know the piece is properly in place. We did find that heavier particles, like kibble, require more than one pass to fully pick up, but it’s one of the most efficient vacuums we tested and well worth the price.
Price at time of publish: $470
Weight: 5.71 pounds | Power Source: Rechargeable battery with 60-minute run time | Bin Volume: 0.2 gallons or 25 ounces | Included Accessories: Crevice tool, mini soft dusting brush, hair screw tool, combination tool, docking station | Model Number: 394429-01
Best Upgrade Stick Vacuum
Dyson V15 Detect Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
The canister is easy to empty and does not require replacement bags
Lightweight, portable, and easy to maneuver with one hand
Seven attachment accessories are included
Wand clip provides convenient storage of combination and crevice tools
The canister started to pick up the smell of contents (e.g. dog hair!)
The power button must be continuously held down for use
The laser-powered illumination on the Dyson V15 Detect is paired with a unique roller brush, the fluffy cleaner head, to shine a spotlight on the irritants in your path. This combination of light along with the nylon and anti-static fiber filaments of the roller brush productively lifts dust and hair from surfaces, including the gaps between hardwood panels where irritants get stuck. This powerfully targeted cleaning of pet hair, microscopic dust, and dander can help to relieve respiratory ailments. Plus, the vacuum features an innovative filtration system that keeps track of the particles it collects reporting back real-time metrics on the vacuum’s built-in LED screen which can be particularly insightful if someone in your home suffers from allergies.
The cordless vacuum comes with a wall dock making it incredibly convenient to reach for and use for clean-ups of all sizes. While testing in a home with a Labrador, quick daily vacuum sessions helped to keep the floors and upholstery clean. Similar to our pick for Best Overall, this Dyson device can be used as a handheld vacuum, but it’s a little bit heavier.
When passing over flooring surfaces of all types, the V15 Detect’s intuitive auto mode adapts suction settings accordingly. It comes with seven cleaning attachments, two for use as an upright device, the aforementioned fluffy cleaner head with illumination, and a digital motorbar which is particularly effective on carpeting and made with de-tangling vanes to automatically clear wrapped hair from the brush bar. For use as a handheld vacuum, the hair screw tool features an anti-tangle conical brush bar for small spaces, a crevice tool provides reach into tight areas, a combination tool offers a wide nozzle and brush for quickly switching between as needed, a mini soft dusting brush for delicate surfaces, and a stubborn dirt brush to lift embedded dirt and dander.
To empty, the canister features a quick-release lever that shoots all of the particles down into a waste bin. The internal filter is not HEPA certified, but it’s effective—capturing 99.99 percent of particles—and easy to maintain with a quick rinse in water. The fluffy cleaner head can also be cleaned by running it under fresh water. The vacuum cleaner is one of the more expensive selections on our list, but it requires little maintenance and comes with a two-year warranty from Dyson.
Price at time of publish: $750
Weight: 6.8 pounds | Power Source: Rechargeable battery with 60-minute run time with an option for click-in battery | Bin Volume: 0.2 gallons | Included Accessories: Laser fluffy cleaner head, digital motorbar, hair screw tool, combination tool, mini soft dusting brush, stubborn dirt brush, crevice tool | Model Number: 368340-01
Best Budget Stick Vacuum
Shark Wandvac Self-Empty System
The self-emptying system is efficient and the bin on the dock is easy to empty
Internal HEPA filtration system collects and seals off dust
Switching between handheld and power stick is very easy and convenient
Comes with a five-year manufacturer warranty
Only one power setting, but it’s effective across surfaces
With rubber fins and a built-in comb that loosens hair as you vacuum, the Shark Wandvac Self-Empty System has one of the most efficient roller heads for simultaneously picking up pet hair and preventing tangles. The two-in-one cordless vacuum easily switches from powerstick to handheld, and you can see the dust bin fill up as you clean which helps prevent clogging. Plus, it’s priced affordably and comes with a five-year warranty from Shark.
To charge, the vacuum comes with a dock that is equipped with a HEPA filter to collect dust and debris. Every time the vacuum is placed on the dock, the self-emptying system is activated and the contents within the dust bin are sucked out and concealed. The excavation is over within seconds but it’s loud and can be startling, so a mute button is conspicuously positioned on top of the dock which remains active until you push it again.
With weekly use, the main collection canister within the dock station typically requires emptying once a month. The condensed contents pop out quickly and do not produce a dust cloud. To maintain efficiency, the internal filters should be rinsed every 30 days and allowed to air dry thoroughly before putting them back into the docking system.
Two attachments are provided, a duster crevice tool and a pet multi-tool, both of which are equipped with optional brushes for lifting embedded dirt and dust off a variety of household surfaces. For storage, the vacuum features a front-facing clip that connects the handheld piece of the vacuum to the body while it sits on the dock, significantly reducing the overall height. But there is only one slot to keep one of the two attachments conveniently within reach. The Shark vacuum also only has one power setting, but it works well across hardwood flooring, upholstery, tile, and rugs without being too harsh.
Price at time of publish: $330
Weight: 13.85 pounds | Power Source: Lithium-ion battery | Bin Volume: 0.13 quarts | Included Accessories: Duster crevice tool, pet multi-tool | Model Number: WS642AE
Dyson Ball Animal 3 Extra
Stair tool attachment and 15-foot hose make it easy to clean a flight for strains
Builtin storage for attachments on vacuum
Bagless canister is easy and you can watch it fill up
Effective internal filter is washable
Louder than other vacuums cleaners we tested
Pet grooming tool is not recommended for use on all pets
The Dyson Ball Animal 3 Extra offers three power modes, a cleaner head that automatically clears tangled hair, and a hose extension, so it’s easy to reach and clean a variety of household surfaces and spaces including wood flooring, carpeting, tile, upholstery, curtains, and shelving. It is powered by a 35-foot extension cord providing reach and reducing the need to switch to a new power outlet while cleaning.
The body of the upright vacuum swivels effortlessly on a ball as the dense nylon bristles spiral into surfaces to lift out pet hair. With the stair tool attachment connected to the hose, cleaning a flight of stairs is significantly easier than with any other vacuum cleaner we’ve tested. for upholstery, the tangle-free turbine tool removes stubborn hair and debris from cushions and your dog’s favorite bed (which might be your bed). There is even a pet grooming tool that attaches to the hose that is designed to remove hair and skin that’s already been shed directly from a dog’s coat, but we don’t recommend using it if you have a nervous and/or small pet.
The generous canister holds up to 1.7 liters (roughly half a gallon) and was only full after cleaning an entire home (close to 2,000 square feet). To empty out the contents, the canister separates from the body of the vacuum with the push of a button. Once isolated, it’s easy to hover the canister over the trash bin to discard the dust and pet hair directly into a garbage bag. There is no need to purchase replacement bags with this vacuum cleaner, and the internal filter is washable.
Price at time of publish: $500
Weight: 17.3 pounds| Power Source: 35-foot power cord | Bin Volume: 1.7 liters | Included Accessories: 15-foot hose, tangle-free turbine tool, pet groom tool, combination tool, stair tool | Model Number: 394515-01
Best Budget Upright
Hoover Onepwr Evolve Pet Cordless Vacuum
The brush roll is easy to remove for cleaning
Weighs less than nine pounds
Locks in an upright position for storing
Cordless and bagless
Required a few passes on the tile floor to pick up pet hair
Does not have a hose extension
The roller brush has bristles instead of fins
The Hoover ONEPWR Evolve Pet Cordless Vacuum weighs less than nine pounds, locks in an upright position, and doesn’t keep you tethered to an outlet. While in use, the upright device sets a healthy boundary to keep it running efficiently and will automatically stop when the canister is full. Along with the easy-to-empty canister on the slim bagless vacuum, an internal filter helps to clear a space of pet-related particles, but it is not a certified HEPA filter.
The vacuum works across multiple floor surfaces—hardwood, tile, carpet—with the ability to turn on a brush roll to sweep up items of different sizes as you clean. The ONEPWR Evolve performs exceptionally well on carpeting, picking up both kibble and pet hair. On the tile floor, a few passes are typically required to completely clear the area of debris. The brush roll can easily be extracted to clear any contents that may get stuck or tangled, like long strands of hair.
Unlike other upright vacuum cleaners, this model is not equipped with a hose or additional attachments, so you will likely find that you need an additional vacuum on hand, such as our choice for Best Handheld, the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ Cordless Handheld Vacuum, for upholstery cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $210
Weight: 8.6 pounds | Power Source: Rechargeable battery with 35-minute run time | Bin Volume: 33.81 ounces | Included Accessories: Removable brush roll | Model Number: BH53420V
Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog Bagless Canister Vacuum
Internal HEPA filter captures 99.9 percent of dust and dander
Includes six useful cleaning accessories
The canister has a handle and wheels that are gentle on flooring
Includes a button to retract the power cord
No replacement bags required
The canister is too wide to place on a step while vacuuming stairs
The internal bin can easily spill contents when emptied
After six months in a home with a cat, a dog, and a bunny, the Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog Canister Vacuum continues to be a highly effective and versatile cleaning tool. It’s easy to transport around a space with a handle on the wheeled canister, and with the push of a button, the power cord self-retracts.
The wand has an adjustable height and is attached to a seven-foot hose to capture pet hair from all corners and at every level in a room. It also attaches to the canister in an upright position for easy storage. This Miele comes with several accessories including a brush attachment that works on upholstery and a crevice tool that slides into narrow spaces. The floorhead twists to fit into corners and is very easy to guide. All debris is collected in a removable bin, so no need to deal with replacement bags. When emptying the canister, most particles and pieces easily slide out, save for a few strands of pet hair which we had to clear by hand. And the internal bin where the contents of dust and pet hair are collected must be handled with care to prevent unintentional spilling.
For use on a staircase, this vacuum might be too wide to rest on a step, but the cord along with the length of the wand and the hose should be sufficient for the height in the majority of homes. With an internal HEPA filter and an internal self-cleaning system, the vacuum helps to reduce the amount of dust in a home and is easy to maintain.
Price at time of publish: $999
Weight: 19 pounds | Power Source: 21-foot retractable cord | Bin Volume: .5 gallon | Included Accessories: Electro plus floorhead, parquet twister floorhead, dusting brush, crevice tool, upholstery tool, and handheld turbo brush | Model Number: SKCE0
Best Budget Canister
Kenmore Pet Friendly Pop-N-Go Bagged Canister Vacuum
360 degrees hose swivel and retractable power cord
Check bag indicator on the screen lets you know when the bag needs to be replaced
Telescoping wand for reaching ceiling fans and upper corners of rooms
Weighs over 20 pounds
Requires purchasing replacement bags
To remove pet dander and other dust particles from the air, the Kenmore Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go Canister Vacuum features an internal HEPA filter along with an internal disposable bag to seal up all of the contents the vacuum picks up.
After several months in a home with beige carpeting and a black dog that sheds a lot, this vacuum continues to deliver results but often requires the highest, loudest setting for a thorough cleaning. With a 360-degree hose swivel, a telescopic wand, and onboard tool storage for accessories, we found the design of this moderately priced vacuum to be very functional and convenient.
The canister is on the heavier side with a weight of 24 pounds but not significantly more than our pick for Best Canister, the Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog Bagless Canister Vacuum with a weight of 19 pounds. To keep the Pet-Friendly Pop-N-Go vacuum running smoothing, a check bag indicator prompt appears on the built-in screen to let you know the bag, Kenmore Type Q, needs to be taken out and replaced. Depending on the size of your space, you may find you need to replace the bag frequently so we recommend factoring in the ongoing cost of bags, $20 for a pack of six on Amazon at the time of publishing.
The power cord extends 26 feet and self-retracts back into the vacuum with the push of a button. With four suction levels to choose from and a brush roller, this vacuum is effective across a variety of flooring types.
Price at time of publish: $350
Weight:24 pounds | Power Source: 26-foot retractable cord | Bin Volume: Not listed, requires Q replacement bags | Included Accessories: Dusting brush, long crevice tool, and bare floor brush | Model Number: BC4026
iRobot Roomba j7+ Self-Emptying Robot Vacuum
Easy to set up with the app and wifi connectivity
Edge brush is very effective with cleaning crevices upright vacuums can’t reach
Very quiet, you can easily have a conversation with the vacuum powered on
Automatic emptying when docked
Not suitable for use on upholstery
Does not travel up and down the stairs
Save time and pick up pet hair from places other vacuums miss with the iRobot Roomba J7. This wifi connected device zooms around a home seamlessly transitioning from surfaces–hardwood flooring, tile, carpeting–and altering you via the iRobot app with a photo whenever it encounters an obstacle, including any accidents your pet might leave behind.
The circular vacuum glides around a space heading to its plugged-in companion docking station to self-empty all the pet hair and debris it scooped up while it recharges for the next programmable mission you send it on. On its initial voyage, the Roomba J7 maps out the territory detecting obstacles and communicating with you via the app whether the object in question is temporarily in the way to learn where it should and should not venture. For temporary obstacles, the robotic cleaner can be deployed for a touch-up run once the objects have been cleared.
The Roomba’s ability to cross thresholds into other rooms is highly impressive among the robot vacuum set, and this device has an edge-sweeping brush which is highly effective with excavating unwanted crumbs and pet hair from tighter areas, like along a wall’s baseboard and under the legs of a chair.
The disk-like vacuum fully charges in two hours and a light notification lets you know when it’s ready to go with a run time of 75 minutes. The vacuum is not suitable for use on stairs or on upholstery (which is true of all the robot-style vacuum cleaners we tested), so you will likely need to supplement with another style of vacuum, like our choice for Best Handheld, the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ Cordless Handheld Vacuum.
Price at time of publish: $800
Weight: 7.5 pounds | Power Source: Cord-powered docking station and lithium-ion battery | Bin Volume: Not specified | Included Accessories: Extra dustbin bag and replacement edge brush| Model Number: j755020
Best Budget Robot
Neato D8 Intelligent Robot Vacuum
Easily connects to wifi and can be controlled via Neato app
Avoids obstacles using laser-powered technology (LiDAR) which works in the dark
D-shape is capable of getting into corners
Replacement filters included
We felt the instructions for emptying the bin could be more detailed
Required up to three passes to fully clean a space
The Neato D8 Intelligent Robot Vacuum is moderately priced and capable of covering up to 750 square feet on a single charge. The D-shaped body of the robotic vacuum glides around furniture legs and also gets into corners to pick up pet hair and debris.
Similar to our choice for Best Robot, upon its maiden voyage the Neato D8 connects to WiFi and maps out its new digs communicating through the NeatoApp on a mobile device. From the app, areas can be restricted, cleanings can be scheduled, and the overall maintenance needs of the vacuum can be monitored. Unlike other robotic vacuums that rely on a camera sensor to move freely around a space, this vacuum from Neato Robotics uses laser-powered technology known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to autonomously transition across surfaces while successfully avoiding individuals—like pets and children—and objects that cross its cleaning path, even in the dark.
The Neato D8 has two cleaning modes—turbo and eco. Turbo offers more suction power but it also emits significantly making it difficult to have a conversation while running. Eco is quieter, but several passes were often needed to clear the surface of pet hair.
The vacuum is equipped with an internal filter and comes with two replacements. The spiral combo brush is suitable for use across hardwood, carpet, and tile, and a brush cleaning tool is also included to help the spiral combo brush maintain its efficiency. The bin holding all the dirt and pet hair pick up is slightly larger (0.7 liters) than other robotic vacuums but does require manual emptying. When the Neato D8 is running low on battery, it will guide itself to the docking station which has a six-foot power cord.
Price at time of publish: $400
Weight: 8 pounds| Power Source: Lithium-ion battery | Bin Volume: 0.7 liters | Included Accessories: Docking station, brush cleaning tool, spiral combo brush,| Model Number: 945-0372
Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ Cordless Handheld Vacuum
Weighing under three pounds, the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ Cordless Handheld Vacuum provided 25 minutes of powerful cordless suction during our testing trial.
The portable vacuum quickly scooped up kibble and wet hair from hardwood surfaces. However, it required an additional pass to completely pick up the kibble from the carpeting, which was common among the handheld vacuum cleaners we tested. The pet power brush attachment roll has silicone fins instead of a traditional brush roll, and not a single strand was found around the roll when emptying. The UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ comes with two additional attachments, a crevice tool to clean between cushions, and a scrubbing brush to pick up dirt and debris from the upholstery.
With the push of a button, the canister can be emptied directly into a trash can. Some of the wet hair got stuck inside, so we did have to reach in and wipe it away to fully clean out this section of the petite vacuum. With a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a washable filter, this small but mighty vacuum from Shark will help you clean up after your pet from a variety of spaces, including the inside of a car. A power cord is provided, but the docking station is sold separately. Shark also offers a two-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $100
Weight: 2.8 pounds | Power Source: Lithium-ion battery | Bin Volume: 0.45 quarts | Included Accessories: Pet Power Brush, crevice tool, scrubbing brush | Model Number: CH951
Our top selection, which we feel most pet parents will benefit from, is the Dyson V10 Cyclone Animal. The two-in-one stick easily converts to a handheld vacuum cleaner, with a design that prevents pet hair from tangling around the roller brush. If you are looking for an autonomous robot vacuum, we recommend the the iRobot Roomba J7. It will steer clear of obstacles–like your pet–while cleaning and communicating with you via an app on your mobile device.
Other Notable Vacuums
Tineco Pure ONE S15
One of the most quiet vacuums we tested with suction powerful enough to take in a bath mat. Fortunately, it’s equipped with a safety mechanism that triggers the vacuum to power off when it takes in too much at the head. It’s most comparable in terms of style and price to our choice for Best Overall, the Dyson V10 Cyclone Animal, but it’s heavier and more difficult to maneuver. Ultimately we found the Dyson to be more versatile and durable, but the Tineco Pure One S15 has an LED illumination light which you may find useful if someone in your home has respiratory allergies.
Price at time of publish: $400
Dyson Outsize+ Powerstick Vacuum
The Dyson Outsize+ Cordless Vacuum is the upgraded version of our pick for Best Upgrade Stick, the Dyson15 Detect. It too illuminates particles that are often overlooked and left behind by vacuum cleaners. The suction is so strong, that even hovering it over a hard-to-reach space attracts pet hair and particles like a magnet. It has a runtime of 120 minutes, but it weighs close to 8 pounds and the head is bulkier than our other picks for stick vacuums which makes it more difficult to maneuver.
Price at time of publish: $949
IRIS USA Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
If you are looking for a handheld vacuum to tackle pet hair in your car or spot cleaning upholstery (like a dog bed!), the IRIS USA Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner is a solid choice. It’s not large enough to be the only vacuum cleaner in a home, even if you live in an apartment, but it’s very effective and affordable.
Price at time of publish: $90
Types of Vacuums for Pet Hair
The size of your home and the surfaces you want to clean will factor into the type of vacuum that’s best suited for you. And you may find that you need more than one to optimize your ability to pick up pet hair from your home. The five types of vacuums at a glance:
- Robot: Designed to traverse flooring of all types on all its own, but not suitable for use on stairs or upholstery.
- Handheld: Lightweight, cordless, and easy to maneuver to quickly pick up pet hair and debris from upholstery, car interiors, and targeted cleaning on a variety of surfaces within reach.
- Powerstick: Portable and lightweight with a slender design offering versatility and extended reach to clean a variety of surfaces. Plus, many can be converted to use as a handheld vacuum cleaner.
- Canister: Powerful suction with the extended reach of a hose connected to an ample container with a bag for collecting pet hair throughout a home without the need to recharge a battery.
- Upright: Adjustable height and suction suitable for all types of flooring including stairs and often feature a hose for extended reach and versatility.
Best Practices For Dealing With Pet Hair
For most, vacuuming a home once or twice a week will keep the pet hair to a minimum, but you may find that you need to increase the frequency. “This is especially true if you have someone in the house that has any allergies or if you expect to have people coming over for the holidays that might have allergies to your pets,” Jessica Ek, Senior Director of Digital Communications of the American Cleaning Institute told The Spruce Pets. If you have a cat or dog that is prone to shedding, or upholstery that tends to collect fur, like velvet, your need to vacuum may increase. The introduction of a Robot vacuum can be very advantageous for those looking to cut down on the amount of manual vacuuming they do across their flooring each week
Bin vs. Replacement Bag
“Whatever vacuum you choose, one of the things that you want to be careful of is to not overfill it because it can become clogged, and it will work less efficiently," Ek told The Spruce Pets.
A bag will eliminate the risk of spilling the contents you’ve collected, but they need to be regularly replaced (monthly for most) to keep the vacuum functioning properly. The replacement bags are often specific to the manufacturer and model you select so finding the correct replacement can be burdensome and it also adds to the overall cost of maintenance and is an ongoing need.
The bin vacuums we selected all feature a button or lever to keep the emptying experience primarily hands-free while reducing, if not illuminating, a dust cloud. A bin may require the need to manually reach in and clear pet hair from time to time, but most are clear so it’s easier to monitor when it needs to be emptied. They are primarily made of plastic which can crack if the vacuum hits a hard surface, and over time you may find that it starts to pick up the scent of the items you vacuum (e.g. pet hair).
Caring for Floor Heads and Attachments
With bristles, hair easily becomes tangled and prohibits the vacuum from functioning properly, adding to the time-consuming, burdensome nature of vacuuming that many pet parents experience and that we are trying to prevent. Many vacuums for pet hair effectively rely on rubber fin-like rows on a roller brush—like our pick for Best Budget Stick Vacuum, the Shark Wandvac Self-Empty System. Other effective vacuums designed for pet hair have spiraled rows of bristles and an internal self-cleaning mechanism that combs while vacuuming, like our Best Overall selection, the Dyson V10 Cyclone Animal, which has a floor head and an attachment with an anti-tangle comb.
If you do have a tangle within the bristles, it’s important to address it immediately to prevent the tangle from growing. Becky Rapinchuk, cleaning expert and owner of Clean Mama recommends using a seam ripper on bristled rolls to cut through effectively.
All filters require maintenance and eventually will need to be replaced. The specifics depend on the vacuum selected and we highly recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions.
HEPA Filters: The U.S. Department of Energy set the definition and standards for HEPA filtration, which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, HEPA certification is given to filters capable of removing at least 99.97 percent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns.
Proprietary Filters: Many vacuum manufacturers have their own filtration systems, such as Dyson, which offers vacuums with certified HEPA filters and others with their own whole-machine filtration that promises to capture 99.99 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns.
How We Tested
Hundreds of hours of hands-on testing have informed our top selections.
To begin, we tested a variety of vacuums in The Lab where we replicated common household surfaces—carpet, tile, hardwood, and upholstery—and sprinkled specific amounts of pet kibble and tufts of pet hair on each to challenge claims made by manufacturers.
Each vacuum was set up and taken through several testing trials to rate and compare features and functionality.
We evaluated our findings across multiple categories, including effectiveness, maneuverability, ease of emptying, portability, noise level, ease of setup, and overall value.
We then narrowed down our top performers and sent each vacuum to at least one real home with real pets.
Vacuums were paired with testers living in spaces where the particular features of their assigned vacuum would be put to use, e.g. upright vacuum in a home with a staircase.
For up to six months with regular monthly check-ins, each tester was required to document and capture the performance of the vacuum in their home.
They took note of how often they needed to maintain their vacuum, how easy it was to keep running efficiently, whether the performance declined as time passed, and if they found the vacuum to be beneficial.
Equipped with this first-hand information, we ranked and categorized our top picks to simplify your search for the right vacuum for cleaning up pet hair in your home.
How often should your space be vacuumed to keep pet hair to a minimum?
Experts recommend a minimum of weekly vacuum sessions to pick up loose hair and dander. If you have multiple pets or pets that are prone to shedding, you may find it beneficial to vacuum two or three times a week. If you want to free up your hands and reduce the time you spend vacuuming, we highly recommend adding a robotic vacuum into your routine, like the iRobot Roomba J7, which will map out your space and self-empties the internal dust bin every time it returns to its dock.
Do I need a vacuum with a HEPA filtration system?
Not necessarily. Many vacuum manufacturers have their own proprietary filtration systems. HEPA, which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, refers to an industry standard and definition set by the U.S. Department of Energy.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, HEPA certification is given to filters capable of removing at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. The Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technologies provides the guidelines for conducting a HEPA filter test, and it is often conducted by manufacturers on their own products
Does vacuuming remove pet odors?
Not entirely, but vacuuming can help to reduce lingering pet odors–especially in areas where pet hair and dander tend to get trapped. To fully get rid of pet odors caused by organic matter, like poop, pee, and vomit, you will need an enzymatic cleaner. Since bodily fluids like feces and urine also contain organic proteins, they can be effectively countered by enzymatic cleaners, which break down complex organic molecules into their constituent parts. The Spruce Pets recommends Kids 'N' Pets All-Purpose Stain + Odor Remover which successfully removed odors in our lab testing and is safe to use in a home environment.
How can I maintain the suction power of my vacuum?
If your vacuum is losing suction, you should start by emptying the bin or replacing the bag. You should then inspect the floor head to clear out any tangles and check for any debris that may be lodged inside. Regular monthly maintenance of a vacuum can help keep the machine functioning properly.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets
This roundup was written by Anna Mejorada, a writer for The Spruce, who shares her home with a happy pomeranian named Gidget who politely leaves the room when a vacuum enters the space. Before researching and writing about pet products for a living, Mejorada embarked on a self-mandated, ongoing quest to find the optimal items for her dog. She is now delightfully devoted to helping humans discover and select the most favorable products for their pets.