5 Tips for Choosing the Best Vacuum Cleaner For Your Space

iStock.com/97
iStock.com/97

For those who hate housecleaning, choosing the right vacuum is essential. Some models are better suited to certain tasks and surfaces than others, and picking the right one will save you the hassle of having to skim the same section of carpet five times. There’s a lot to consider, so we’ve detailed the advantages and limitations of the five main types of vacuum cleaners.

1. UPRIGHTS TACKLE THE BIG JOBS.

A man uses an upright vacuum
iStock.com/SolStock

Pet parents love their fur babies, but it would be nice not to have tufts of hair littered throughout the house. The upright model is perhaps the most familiar type of vacuum, and its powerful suction makes it one of the best options for picking up pet hair. If you have lots of carpets or rugs, an upright vacuum cleaner with a generously sized bag or filter is a safe bet. These models tend to be cheaper than canister vacuums, but they’re often heavier, making them harder to push around. If you do opt for an upright vacuum and have hard floors to tend to, be sure to get one with a brush roll feature that can be turned on and off at will (on for carpets, off for hard floors). The best-selling upright vacuum on Amazon—a bagless Eureka NEU182A PowerSpeed—is selling for about $60. Traditional bagged vacuums collect dirt in disposable bags, while bagless models use filters to whisk crud into an onboard receptacle. Both need to be manually emptied from time to time, and bagless models may need to have their filters replaced after long-term use.

2. CANISTERS ARE EASY TO MANEUVER, BUT HARD TO STORE.

Using a canister vacuum
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This is the other type of vacuum that pet owners ought to consider. Unlike upright vacuums, these models are better at handling hardwood or tile floors. Some can even clean carpets as effectively as an upright—and they do so with less noise, too. The only real downside is that they tend to be bulkier and harder to store neatly in a closet because the hose is attached to a separate tank. On the other hand, attachments help you get in those hard-to-reach places, and they’re ideal for cleaning curtains, ceiling corners, upholstery, staircases, and the underside of furniture. Some models cost hundreds of dollars, but the best-selling bagless Bissell Zing sells on Amazon for about $50.

3. STICK VACUUMS HANDLE QUICK CLEAN-UPS.

A woman tries out a stick vacuum at a store
iStock.com/dusanpetkovic

Named for their slender shape, stick vacuums are good at getting into tight spaces like the crack between your refrigerator and wall. They’re lightweight and often battery-powered for convenient, cord-free use. However, they’re not great at cleaning carpets and tend to have the least powerful suction of all five types. There are situations where they come in handy, though. Consumer Reports recommends using stick vacuums for quick clean-ups, like spilled cereal. “They are mainly suited for picking up surface litter and aren't intended as a replacement for a conventional vacuum,” the product review site says. If you have kids or pets running around at home, you may want to buy a cheap one and keep it near the living room or kitchen, while storing a more heavy-duty vacuum elsewhere. One of Amazon’s best-sellers is the Eureka Blaze 3-in-1 vacuum, which costs about $30.

4. HANDHELDS FIT IN TIGHT SPACES.

A handheld vacuum
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Like the stick vacuum, surface cleaning is the handheld vacuum’s specialty. In fact, aside from their size and shape, they’re similar to stick vacuums in terms of their suction power, weight, and function. So which one should you choose? Good Housekeeping recommends using a stick vacuum for floors and spots underneath furniture, while handheld vacuums are better at cleaning the furniture itself and windowsills. Many handheld models are also lightweight and cordless, making them great tools to have around when it comes time to deep-clean the interior of your car. One of Amazon’s best-selling hand vacs is a $55 cordless Black & Decker. But if you want the best of both worlds, opt for a stick/hand combo that comes with nifty attachments like a dusting brush.

5. ROBOTIC VACUUMS DO (SOME OF) THE WORK FOR YOU.

A cat on top of a robotic vacuum
iStock.com/GummyBone

While robotic vacuums promise to take care of business while you lounge on the couch, they may not be as low-maintenance as they sound. They’re able to squeeze into tough-to-reach spots like under the sofa, but they don’t have the power of an upright or canister vacuum—so if you do use a robotic vacuum, you’ll still probably need to use a broom or more traditional vacuum to finish the job. However, they’re great for touch-ups in between cleaning sessions, especially when you’re busy doing something else. Newer models can be programmed with smartphone apps and voice assistants, so they tend to run a little pricier than other vacuums. One of Amazon’s best-sellers is the iRobot Roomba 690, which connects to Wi-Fi and costs about $300.

11 Thoughtful Gifts for DIY Enthusiasts

iStock/ASIFE
iStock/ASIFE

It can be tough to find the perfect gift for the people who make everything themselves. Why not give them the tools and supplies they need to create works of art with their own personal touch? Check out these gift ideas for every DIY enthusiast on your list.

1. Prismacolor Premier Hand Lettering Advanced Set

DIY Prismacolor Hand Lettering Set on Amazon
Amazon

With this set of high-quality pens and pencils, your artistically minded giftees will have the tools to add a personal flourish to letters, signs, greeting cards, and more. The kit includes two graphite pencils, seven illustration markers, two dual-ended art markers for bold lettering, an instruction guide, and—perhaps most importantly—an eraser.

Find It at Amazon for $20 and also at these retailers:

2. Urban Cheesecraft Mini DIY Farmer's Cheese Kit

DIY Farmer's Cheese Cheesemaking Kit from Urban Cheesecraft
Urban Cheesecraft

Portland, Oregon-based Urban Cheesecraft’s DIY cheese kit will make three to five batches of homemade farmer’s cheese, a versatile kind that can range in flavor from light ricotta to funky feta. Instructions are included along with cheesemaking materials. Just add milk!

Find It at Etsy for $14.

3. Olfa Rotary Essentials Kit

Olfa Rotary Essentials Kit on Amazon
Amazon

Perfect for paper crafters and scrapbookers, this kit includes two rotary cutters (in 45-millimeter and 18-millimeter sizes) and a self-healing mat. These tough tools will cut paper as well as leather, cloth, vinyl, film, photos, wallpaper, and more.

Find It and Amazon for $38 and also at these other retailers:

4. MoMa Design Store Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Growing Kit

MoMA Design Store Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Growing Kit
MoMA Design Store

Coax a Lagerstroemia indica from seed to tiny tree with this made-in-the-U.S.A. kit. In its second summer, this fast-growing crepe myrtle will bloom with mini pink and red flowers, then drop its leaves to reveal its distinctive gray-on-red branches. After five years, the tree will sport a pretty crown of deep green leaves and red blossoms in season.

Find It at MoMA Store for $36.

5. Impressart Metal Stamping Kit

ImpressArt Metal Stamping Kit on Amazon
Amazon

This slightly intimidating kit contains everything a crafter needs to stamp impressions into metal jewelry or objects. Along with the 1-pound hammer and small steel anvil, the Stamp Straight Tape helps you make impressions in a straight line and keep letters evenly spaced. The stamps themselves feature the letters of the alphabet (upper and lower case kits are available) and special characters.

Find It at Amazon for $113.

6. Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit

Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Your bestie will be weaned off Sriracha when he concocts his own sauce with dried guajillo, chipotle, and arbol peppers. The kit contains the essentials (like gloves and bottling materials), plus all the ingredients needed for six custom-made bottles of the hot stuff.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $35.

7. Solar Photography Kit

Solar Photography Kit and photo examples from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Popularized in the 1840s by Anna Atkins, the first female photographer, solar photographs (also known as cyanotypes thanks to their blue color) use sunlight to develop images on chemically treated paper. Just lay a photo negative or object on the paper, place it in the sun for a while, and voilà. This kit includes six sheets of photosensitive paper, a light-proof storage envelope, and instructions. Fabric kits are also available.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $15.

8. Churchmouse Yarns Lykke Indigo Interchangeable Needle Set

Lykke indigo interchangeable knitting needles set from Churchmouse Yarns
Churchmouse Yarns

Your lucky giftee can take her knitting to the next level with this set of solid birch needles. Dyed an elegant indigo blue, the needles range in size from US 4 to US 17 and come with five cords in different lengths, two cord connectors, four keys, and four stoppers in their own denim-look carrying case.

Find It at Churchmouse Yarns for $138.

9. Southern Bourbon Stout Beer Brewing Kit

Southern Bourbon Stout beer brewing kit from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Why fight the drunken hordes at your local craft brewery when you, or your gift recipient, can brew your beer in the comfort of your home? This artisanal kit includes the hardware—a fermentor jug, racking cane, funnel, and more—and malt extract, specialty grains, fresh hops, and yeast to make one gallon of homemade brew. This particular formula relies on oak chips soaked in bourbon (booze not included) to add woodsy vanilla notes to your beer.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $45.

10. Cavallini Flora and Fauna Rubber Stamp Set

Cavallini flora and fauna rubber stamp set from Amazon
Amazon

Create woodland scenes on mail art, gift cards, holiday decor, and more with these rubber stamps on wood blocks. Vintage designs include an owl, songbird, deer, dogwood flower, and other forest friends. The stamps come in an attractive tin with a high-quality black ink pad.

Find It at Amazon for $25 and also at these other retailers:

11. The Chart of Hand Tools


PopChartLabs

Your favorite tinkerer will always know which equipment to enlist for their next home improvement project, thanks to this detailed graphic of 300 hand tool illustrations, organized by use case.

Find It at PopChart Labs for $40.

7 Packing Tips for a Basic Economy Flight

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Booking a basic economy flight can be a smart way to save money if you’re traveling light. But if you’re planning on taking an extended vacation or a long trip home for the holidays, it could end up costing you more in the long run. Some airlines limit basic economy fliers to one personal item that fits under their seat, which means if you show up to the airport with a full-sized carry-on, you’ll have to pay to check it. That shouldn’t be an excuse to skip the cheapest options when shopping for plane tickets. We spoke to some travel experts, who explained how to pack everything you need for a long trip into one personal bag.

1. Choose the right bag.

For a basic economy flight, you need to start with the right bag before deciding what to pack and how to pack it. Most regular-size luggage won’t fit under an airplane seat, so look for a quality purse or backpack instead. Size is an important factor, but according to Matthew Kepnes of the travel site Nomadic Matt, you should also find a bag that helps you stay organized. “Bring something flexible and with lots of pockets so you can better organize your things,” he tells Mental Floss. “Ideally, your bag will also have outer pockets so you can take advantage of the space outside your bags for things like flip-flops or a water bottle.”

Hitha Palepu of the travel site Hitha On The Go recommends two of her favorite bags as your personal item: the metro tote from MZ Wallace, or the bento bag from Nomad Lane.

2. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane.

Bringing heavy clothing on a trip is necessary if you’re traveling someplace cold for the holidays. Instead of wasting valuable real estate in your bag, set aside the items that would take up the most space and slip them on before heading to the airport. “I try to wear my bulkiest items—the heaviest shoes, a coat, chunky sweater,” Palepu tells Mental Floss. And if you start to get hot beneath all those heavy clothes, you can always strip off a layer and use it as a pillow on your flight.

3. Take a minimalist approach.

When packing for basic economy flight, look at each item before putting it in your bag and ask yourself if you really need it. If you hesitate, set it aside and move on to the next thing. Having a minimalist attitude is the only way to leave the house with a personal bag you can fully zip closed. “We often get overzealous when it comes to packing for your trip, thinking we will need this and that when the truth is, we usually don't,” Kepnes says. “Don't plan for every contingency and bring your whole wardrobe. Keep it simple.”

4. Pack your most versatile wardrobe staples.

Instead of sacrificing your personal style on your next trip, stick to a few basic clothing pieces that are able to do a lot of work. According to Kepnes, versatility is key. “Bring clothes that all go well together so you can make up more outfits and not only have specific clothing combinations,” he says. “Just try to get the most mileage from each item.”

5. Plan to re-wear clothes.

There’s no trick that will help you fit two weeks' worth of clothing beneath your seat. The only choice is to pack as much clothing as you can fit and plan to re-wear those items—which, according to Kepnes, isn’t the end of the world. “You can always do laundry at your destination, too, so don't worry about running out of clothes,” he says.

In order to stretch her travel wardrobe as far as possible, Palepu packs essential oils so she can refresh pieces between wears. You can also fill a tiny travel-size spray bottle with Downy Wrinkle Releaser to smooth and freshen your clothes before and after wearing them.

6. Don't waste money on vacuum-sealed bags.

Using a space-saving vacuum bag may seem like an appealing option if you’re struggling to fit all your stuff in your backpack, but both Kepnes and Palepu say not to bother. “If you're careful about what you pack, you don't need a vacuum sealer or packing cubes to conserve space,” Palepu says. Instead of a special folding strategy, she’s conserves space by being mindful of the order she packs her items in. “When I pack, I pack the heaviest and bulkiest items first and my smallest, most flexible items last so I can fit them in the small nooks and crannies left by the bigger items.”

Kepnes also doesn’t endorse any special folding methods, but he sometimes uses packing cubes to stay organized. “If you still don't have enough room in your backpack, that just means you've got too much stuff!” he says. (He recommends his favorite backpacks here.)

7. Buy what you can at your destination.

There’s no reason to buy travel toiletries and gifts for your host on the way to the airport. If you need something that you’ll only be using at your destination, wait until you arrive to pick it up. “Keep your packing to a minimum and just aim to buy a few things upon arrival,” Palepu says. “That will keep you within the size limits but still allow you to have everything you need for your trip.”

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