What is the best vacuum to buy for pet hair? It’s a hotly contested market. Any vacuum that sucks up hair and dirt could call itself a pet vacuum in theory, but it won’t deserve the name unless it has one or more of the following features…
A good filter is absolutely key. The ‘pet smell’ in houses comes from dander: microscopic particles of skin, saliva, sweat and other proteins which can be as small as two microns (two thousandths of a millimetre) and can hang in the air for long periods of time, before settling into every fiber of your carpet and upholstery. You want to make sure that when you vacuum the dander up, it stays vacuumed.
The acronym to look out for here is HEPA: a high-efficiency particulate absorbing filter will trap 99.95 percent of particles down to 0.3 microns in size, which includes pet dander as well as pollen, dust and many microorganisms, bacteria and some viruses.
“HEPA filters provide the best method of filtration,” says Katerina Petrova of the Happy House cleaning company. “You can find both bagged or bagless models and the prices range from cheap to considerably more expensive. Good examples of this type of vacuum come from Miele, Shark and Dyson.”
Of course, to be filtered the air first needs to be sucked up and that requires a powerful motor creating strong suction. Our buyer’s guide to the best vacuum cleaners explains the complicated matter of measuring suction, but if you can’t find any indication of the model’s waterlift (in mm), airflow (in m3/h) or output power (in airWatts), its motor power in Watts will give you a rough estimate: look for 600W or higher.
A bag or cyclone cylinder filled to the brim with pet hair will drastically reduce the vacuum’s suction power, so remember to empty the receptacle as regularly as possible. A cyclone has the advantage over a bag here, because the hair is visible, but its built-in filter will need to be cleaned regularly.
“Pet hair is small, fine, almost invisible and can get everywhere,” says Fola George of home cleaning specialists WeCasa. “It’s important to get it all up, especially if anyone in the house has allergies. That’s why I prefer the cyclones for that job, because it sucks it straight in, you can see it’s working and you get rid of it straight away.”
Finally, a good pet vacuum needs special attachments for removing pet hair, which can be finer than human hair, making it more likely to cling to fabrics due to static electricity. Hair can also easily clog the bristles of a standard vacuum cleaner head, reducing its ability to sweep up dirt.
Motorized rotating brush rolls, ideally with anti-tangle features, are a feature of most good pet vacuums but you should also check for accessories like turbo nozzles, crevice tools and dust brush tools designed for getting pet hair and dander out of upholstery, curtains and inaccessible corners.
There are pet versions of the best cordless vacuum cleaners, upright vacuum cleaners, cylinder vacuum cleaners and even robot vacuum cleaners (their sensors can identify pet mess and avoid it). We’ve tested them all to help you find the best pet vacuum for you.