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Of course, these days there is a wide variety on offer and prices can range from £20 into the hundreds. So if you are pondering your next vacuum purchase, check out our guide to making the right choice.
Upright, cylinder, with bags, without bags, handhelds, or multi-purpose, which cleaner you choose will largely depend on your budget and your needs. A lightweight handheld, for instance, is great for cleaning up small areas, which can be particularly handy for those with little ones, or vacuuming the car, but it won't get you far when it comes to the living room carpet.
The two most familiar types of vacuum cleaner are, of course, upright and cylinder. The latter is ideal for those with limited space, as they are easily hidden away, and are excellent at hitting those hard-to-reach areas. Generally lighter and more manoeuvrable, they are often not as effective at cleaning carpets, particularly the long pile variety, as their upright counterparts, but they are suited to both carpet and hard floors.
For those with large areas to clean, the upright will typically prove the most effective and won't give you a backache while you vacuum. They are, however, a fair weight and not always the easiest to manoeuvre.
Voted a Best Buy by Which?, the Miele S7210 (£250) is not only extremely manoeuvrable thanks to a swivel neck joint, but can also lie flat on the floor for difficult areas and has an operating radius of 14.5 metres. Excellent cleaning with a stylish design.
For a cheaper alternative, try the bagless Bissell Powerforce (£69.95). While it doesn't have quite the cleaning power of other more expensive uprights, it does the job and has the advantage of being height adjustable.
If you've got a good budget but not a lot of space, the SEBO D2 Total is the way to go. Priced at around £249.99, it's not the cheapest by any means, but it is a powerful cleaner, specifically designed to capture allegens, so is ideal for allergy sufferers or pet owners. It also works on both carpet and hard flooring and is easy to store.
If you're not too worried about all the high-tech stuff though, good old Numatic Henry will manage all floor types and is remarkably reliable for around the £99 mark.
The Black & Decker Orb-It (£27.95), from the company that brought us the original Dustbuster, is a stylish little gadget that literally fits in the palm of your hand. Though it's not hugely powerful, it's great for quick clear-ups and spillages and is easy to empty.
At the other end of the market, Dyson's DC44 Animal Cordless Vacuum cleaner is unlike your standard handheld in that it boasts a detachable long-reach wand, but its lightweight, slimline design means it has all the advantages of a handheld with a good few more besides. Not only will a full charge provide 20 minutes of constant suction, but it's a good deal more powerful than most and can clean pretty much anywhere. Of course, the extra power comes at a price - namely £279.