Carpets and rugs give our homes character. They liven up the place and increase its aesthetic appearance. That’s why carpets make up over 50% of the U.S. flooring market.
If your home has carpeting, the best vacuum for carpets and rugs is an essential tool to have. These appliances ensure that your rugs and carpets get a deep cleaning.
In this article, we explain that makes a good carpet vacuum. More importantly, we go in depth into understanding the types of cleaners you can and can’t use for different types of rugs and carpets. This includes low pile and high pile.
This way, you know which products fits your home’s cleaning needs. And, don’t risk harming your lovely floors.
Our Picks: The Top Options for Carpets and Rugs
- Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away TruePet (NV752) – Top pick for pet owners
- Dyson Ball Multi Floor 2
- Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional (NV356E) – Has detachable canister module
- Bissell 9595A Vacuum – Affordable choice
- Miele Compact C1 Pure Suction – Top pick for low pile carpets
- Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet – Our choice for shag, soft and plush carpets
- Miele Complete C3 Kona Canister Vacuum – For medium and deep pile carpets
- Dyson V8 Absolute – Cordless 2-in-1 stick/handheld vacuum
- Hoover Linx BH50010 – Cordless lightweight stick
Vacuuming Your Home’s Carpet
Carpets are a great addition to homes. They give your floors more character and enhance your homes interior. For these reasons carpets make up 51% of the U.S. flooring market.
In this section, we take a closer look at your home’s carpets. And, by understating your carpet flooring, learn the best ways to clean and vacuum them.
High Pile vs. Low Pile Carpeting
Carpets are often categorized into high pile and low pile. A carpet’s pile refers to the fabric loops of your carpeting. This is the soft area you see and feel.
- A high pile carpet has taller and looser fibers. Because of this you get longer strands. For this reason people also refer to them as long pile, deep pile or tall carpets. Some high pile carpets are dense or thick, others aren’t. They’re often soft and plush. They also make your home look luxurious and classy. Shag carpets are an example of a popular high pile carpet.
- Low pile carpets are the opposite. They have short fibers and tighter loops. You’ll see many of these in retail stores and service establishments. The tighter loops make them more durable. This makes them ideal for high foot traffic areas.
- It’s worth mentioning that in between the two there are some medium pile carpets. But for the most part, people just group these into high or low pile.
Which type of carpet flooring suits your home or office will depend on your needs. Here are some features you can expect from high and low pile carpeting.
High Pile Carpets
- They increase visual appeal. Often, increasing the luxury and elegance of a space.
- High pile carpeting is comfortable and warm. They create cozy atmospheres.
- They are fluffy and soft compared to others. This makes them somewhere you can sit or lie comfortably.
- They don’t flatten over time. This makes them look better and adds character to your home.
- Generally, they’re more expensive. And, need more care because they’re more delicate.
Low Pile Carpets
- More practical for busy homes.
- They’re easier to clean. Less dust and dirt is collected because the fibers are shorter. Stains are also easier to get out.
- Because they accumulate less dust, they’re better for anyone with allergies and asthma. The lower pile reduces the amount of allergens hiding in it.
- They’re more durable. This makes them ideal for homes with kids and pets running around.
Generally, they’re less costly than high pile carpets.
Getting to Know the Types of Carpets
A carpet’s pile refers to its height. Within high and low pile carpeting, you can also choose the type of carpet you want. This refers to the style of how the fabric is woven.
Two of the most common types of floor carpeting are cut pile and loop pile. These refer to their construction styles.
Cut Pile Carpets
Cut pile carpets are made by cutting the yarn loops. Here the fibers are cut evenly. This lets them stand upright. The straighter pile allows them to loop more elegant and formal compared to loop piles. For this reason they’re used in decorative homes and rooms.
A few common cut pile carpets include:
- Plush Pile
Loop Pile Carpets
Loop pile carpets meanwhile are made from uncut loops of yarn. This makes the loops visible. The construction makes them bounce back easily.
Loop pile carpeting is more durable. This makes them ideal for high foot traffic and why they’re used as all-purpose carpets.
Here are some common loop pile carpets.
- Level loop
- Multi-level loop
Combination Cut and Loop Pile
It’s also worth noting that there carpets that are a combination of cut and loop pile. These use a combination of cut and looped yarns. As a result, you get more intricate patterns like swirls and squares. These styling features allow them to add visual appeal to your floor.
Choosing a Carpet Style for Your Home
If you’re in the process of choosing a carpet for your home, here’s a quick video that explains the different options you have.
How to Vacuum Popular Types of Home Carpets
Below we look at a few common styles found in homes. In each of the cases you can use an upright or canister vacuum. A backpack vacuum works just as well or better since you don’t need to put the machine on the surface.
Stick vacuums are another option. They work well for low pile carpets in smaller spaces. They’ll save you the trouble of pushing a big, heavy cleaner.
We don’t recommend handheld because they lack the power to thoroughly clean these carpets. At best, they’re for spot cleaning carpets.
Plush and ultra plush carpets are beautiful and elegant. They have a soft velvet appearance with the fibers standing upright. These are delicate and you can leave vacuum wheel marks and footprints in them.
When choosing a vacuum for plush carpeting you want to look for a few things.
- Strong suction power, preferably with strength setting adjustment.
- Vacuum with a rolling brush.
- Adjustable height is also important.
- If possible, lightweight.
- Big wheels for better maneuverability.
You’ll want to adjust the position the vacuum’s head right where it lightly touches the carpet’s fibers. The brush will help agitate dirt that stuck in the carpet letting the suction do the rest. Big wheels help a lot because soft, plush carpets make it harder to push the cleaner.
Shag carpets are another type of carpet that looks great. It is just as difficult to clean as plush and velvet carpeting. They’re very visually appealing. But, are just as delicate and easily damaged.
What makes them hard to clean is that you can easily pull out the fibers because they’re not tightly twisted together. This means you should not use a brush roll when vacuuming them. Doing will can fray, pull out and damage your shag carpeting.
The best way to vacuum shag carpets is using suction only. Make sure to turn the brush roll off if your vacuum has one.
As with other high pile carpets, you’ll want to get a cleaner with height adjustment and large wheels. The former lets you clear the carpet’s fibers so you don’t scrape or pull them while pushing the machine. The latter make maneuvering easier.
In addition to being hard to vacuum, they also collect a lot of dust and dirt. Their high pile allows particles to get stuck deep in the fibers. As such using a HEPA vacuum or one with S-Class filtration is important. These higher end filters prevent small dust particles from getting back into your home.
We have a more detailed article on the best vacuums for shag carpets here.
Frieze carpets are what many people call modern shag carpets. They look luxurious and also come with a shaggy look. They’re less formal than plush and shag carpeting. But, they’re still expensive as well.
This type of carpet has a long pile, though shorter than shag, that goes in different directions giving it deeper texture. They’re also more durable than shag carpets.
Very similar to shag, you’ll want to be careful when vacuuming frieze carpets. Here are a few reminders.
- Turn the brush roll off. Use suction only.
- Adjust the vacuum’s height to just the right level.
- Preferably use a good suction vacuum that lets you adjust strength settings.
Berber carpets are denser than the other types. This is because it uses thicker loops of yarn. They are very popular because they durable and more stain resistant compared the other types. In addition, they don’t show footprints or vacuum tracks.
While the carpet itself may be able to withstand the high-speed spinning brush, we suggest turning the brush roll off when vacuuming berber carpets. The reason is they are made of thick loops of yarn.
The thick loops can get caught in the brush’s bristles. And when this happens, you can pull them out and destroy your carpet. Using only suction is the way to go with berber.
The good news is, because it isn’t as tall as the others above, a vacuum with strong suction works very well.
Berber carpeting does attract a lot of dust. As such, using a vacuum with good filtration is important. Preferably, you want to get one with HEPA or S-Class filtration.
Important Features to Look For When Choosing a Carpet Vacuum: Buying Guide
Now we know more about the different types of carpets and their characteristics, it’s time to figure out which vacuum to get for your home carpet.
1. Brush Roll or Suction Only
Carpets are made with fibers. This makes them prone to collecting dust. The deeper your carpet is, the more likely it has more dirt and dust stuck in it.
For this reason vacuuming carpets regularly is necessary. It improves home hygiene. And, just as importantly, it is essential for proper carpet maintenance.
The type of vacuum you need will depend on the kind of carpet you have.
Here are the important points to remember.
Vacuums for Shag, Frieze and Thick loop carpets
Use suction only. If your vacuum comes with a brush roll, make sure you can turn that brush off. Letting the brush spin on these types of carpets will pull the fabric and destroy your carpet.
These types of carpets are constructed such that they’re very delicate. This means you’ll want to be careful when cleaning.
Besides turning the brush roller off, you’ll also want to avoid dragging your cleaner on it. To do so, here are a few reminders.
- Use a vacuum with height adjustment. This lets you set the vacuum head right above the carpet’s fibers. This will prevent it from dragging or getting caught up in the fibers.
- Get a vacuum with big wheels. Big wheels make it easy to maneuver on long pile carpets. It also prevent your vacuum’s bottom from scraping against the carpet as you push.
- You can also go with a canister or backpack vacuum. Both keep the vacuum’s body away from the carpet. And, they come with hose attachments that do suction only.
Vacuums for High Pile, Plush, Premium Soft and Wool Carpets
For this group of carpets, you’ll be using a different technique.
In this case, you can take advantage of the agitating ability of the brush roll. This makes it easier to loosen particles stuck in the carpet. It also allows for more thorough cleaning.
Note that you still need to be careful. Some of these carpets aren’t very durable. So you can still damage them if you go too rough.
Because these carpets have a long pile, you’ll still need to use a vacuum with height adjustment. Big wheels are very useful for the softer surfaces.
Vacuums with high suction that aren’t too concentrated in the one area work very well. Ideally, you want something that lets you adjust suction strength.
- When vacuuming these carpets, position the head to lightly touch the fibers. This will let the brush get enough of the carpet to loosen the dirt and dust. Be careful not to bring the head too low. This will make the brush spin on the carpet making the fibers fuzzy and fraying them. Going too high meanwhile, will reduce suction to the point you aren’t cleaning efficiently.
Vacuums for Low Pile and Other Carpet Types
Here, you have a lot more leeway. Using strong suction and your vacuum’s rotating brush are recommended. These types of carpets are durable. Their low pile also makes them able to withstand the rigors of the high speed brush without any issue.
2. Carpet Height Adjustment
As mentioned above, a vacuum with height adjustment helps with carpet floors. They’re more important if you have thick or high pile carpets. The settings will let you clear the carpet’s fibers enough when vacuuming.
This is less of a problem for low pile and some medium pile carpets.
3. Suction Power (plus strength settings)
Suction power is key to cleaning carpets. Their fabric trap a lot of dirt and dust, which results in more allergens at home.
As such, you want a product that has enough suction to pull out dirt that’s deep in your carpets. As we’ve seen, you aren’t always able to use the rolling brush. This means for certain types of carpets, you’ll need to rely on suction power alone.
Depending on the carpet type you have, you may need to choose a vacuum that has suction strength adjustment.
This is true for soft and very soft carpets. In these cases, the strongest suction doesn’t always work the best. They may just pull in that area where suction is concentrated.
Since not all soft carpets respond well to high suction. Having a strength setting adjustment will let you slowly bring down the suction power to the right level that works best.
For low pile and regular carpets, the more suction the better. Here you can pick out whichever product that offers high suction ability.
4. HEPA or S-Class Filtration
Carpets trap and accumulate a lot of dirt, dust and other particles. This means a good vacuum will pick up a lot of things.
This makes it important for your vacuum to have a good filtration system. The filters prevent the particle that have been sucked in from escaping back out. This is especially true with bagless vacuums. Bagged vacuums use sealed bags. This essentially traps the dirt in the vacuum bag.
Bagless vacuums on the other hand, allow air to pass. This gives small particles a chance to escape out the machine’s exhaust.
Vacuums with multiple filters do a much better job at trapping these particles. The filters are placed at different sections of the machine to do so.
When it comes to vacuum filters, HEPA and S-Class filters are the best choices. HEPA is more common. And, it traps 99.9% of all particles. Both HEPA and S-Class filters do give you similar in results. So, either works well for carpet vacuums.
5. Check the Wheels
If you own high pile or thick pile carpets, picking a vacuum with big wheels goes a long way. It will make maneuvering the cleaner much easier. This is also true for soft carpets, which make mobility harder.
6. Pick the Right Type of Vacuum
Besides the usual factors involved in deciding between a canister and upright vacuum, there are a few more involved for carpet cleaning.
The type of carpet you own plays a role here too. The more plush, soft or high pile your carpet is, the less weight you want being pushed on that surface. This is especially true for delicate carpets. Low pile and all-around carpets don’t have this problem.
Upright vacuums can be heavy with many weighing over 20 pounds. Add the force involved in pushing it, you may end up pulling some carpet fibers out.
With the more delicate carpets, canister vacuums or backpack vacuums are a better option. They stay off the carpet and let you use the hose attachment. You do want a canister that comes with a non-brush attachment though (or a brush you can turn off).
Stick vacuums are another option. They’re ideal for small homes and apartments.
Handheld vacuums are not good options. They often don’t have enough suction to clean carpets thoroughly.
Best Vacuum for Carpet Reviews
We like that this product does it all. It cleans hard floors and carpets. It also handles pet hair and stairs.
It is able to do this thanks to its versatility. The Shark TruePet is a 3 in 1 vacuum cleaner. You get:
- An upright vacuum.
- It also converts into a lift-away canister vacuum.
- And, it also transforms into a slim, lightweight stick vacuum.
So, you get all 3 major types of vacuum cleaners in 1 appliance.
The unit runs on high powered suction. We like that it doesn’t lose suction as the dirt container fills up.
The Shark Rotator Lift-Away is easy to use. This is thanks to its swivel head that makes maneuvering easy. There are also lights on its cleaning head to help you see under furniture.
One area it excels in are carpets. The brushroll works very well in agitating carpet fibers to loosen dirt particles. You can also use the upright or canister depending on your preferences.
For areas under furniture, you can remove the body of the vacuum. This leaves you with a slim, stick cleaner which fits under chairs, beds and coffee tables easily.
If your home has a lot of hardwood floors along with carpets, this is a great choice. It does cost more than the Shark TruePet above. But it also works better on hardwood floors.
This is a vacuum that’s designed for different types of floors. It excels in both carpets as well as hard floors.
It is slightly heavier than the TruePet above. But, also packs a bit more power. As of this writing, this Dyson Ball model is among the brand’s strongest suction vacuums, behind the Animal model. It packs 245 air watts of suction. And, gives you a maximum cleaning reach of 40 feet.
Besides its high suction ability, we like that it comes with an automatic height adjustment. This enables the cleaner to vacuum carpets that are medium and deep pile.
For stairs and under furniture, it comes with a hose and extension wand. The hose is built into the vacuum which gives it added versatility.
As with other Dyson vacuums, it uses Radial Root Cyclone Technology. This provides it with no loss suction. And, lets you clean carpets and bare floors very well.
For big rooms capable of medium & deep pile carpets
For those who like canister vacuums, this is our top choice.
We like that it comes with excellent suction power. Plus, it is designed for low, medium or deep pile carpets. The latter is something not many canisters can boast of.
In addition, it is capable of cleaning big rooms without heating up or making you keep moving the cleaner.
It bears mentioning that the Miele Complete C3 Kona isn’t cheap. It is an investment. This is why recommend it if you need to clean medium and high pile carpets. Otherwise, a more affordable unit like the Miele Olympus is more practical. The Olympus also packs good power. But, its design makes it more suitable for low pile rugs and carpets.
The Miele C3 Kona lets you select how much suction you want. This lets you choose a lower strength for delicate furniture and higher suction for thick, deep pile carpeting.
Do note that the unit is a bagged vacuum. This means you’ll need to replace dust bags when they get full. The good news is, they do offer the benefit of more thorough cleaning. In addition, a HEPA filter ensures that none of the dust particles or allergens you’ve vacuum go out the exhaust.
The Hoover Linx is a cordless stick vacuum. It runs on removable lithium ion batteries. The batteries are rechargeable. This makes it easier to get longer run times should you need it. All you need to do is get a spare battery. This lets you use one while the other is charging.
The unit works well in hard flooring and carpets. It is lighter in weight. And, much smaller in build. This makes it easier to carry and store.
As you’d guess, it doesn’t pack the suction the others in our review has. This is why we recommend it you’re cleaning smaller spaces. Doing so will save you money. Plus, you’ll have an easier time carrying it.
The unit is easy to maneuver. Its head has low clearance letting you get to tight areas. The brush roller can be turned on and off via switch. This lets you transition seamlessly from hardwood to carpets.
Overall, this is an affordable, lightweight vacuum. It works well on different floor types. The one thing we wish it had was onboard tools or something that will let you clean above floor areas.