5 Tips for Choosing the Best Vacuum Cleaner For Your Space

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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
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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
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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
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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.

How British Spies Used a Cupcake Recipe to Stop Terrorists

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iStock.com/400tmax

In 2011, Arabian Peninsula-based Al-Qaeda members published a 67-page English-language magazine called Inspire in an attempt to recruit new terrorists. Instead, they might have inspired a new generation of bakers.

In the United States and United Kingdom, intelligence agencies knew the magazine was being launched well in advance. The also knew the magazine would be digital-only and could be downloaded as a PDF by anybody with an internet connection. For months, the U.S. Cyber Command planned on attacking the publication's release, crippling it with a hail of computer viruses. "The packaging of this magazine may be slick," one counterterrorism official said, "but the contents are as vile as the authors."

Their plans, however, were blocked by the CIA, which asserted that targeting the magazine "would expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence," according to The Telegraph. So as progress halted in the U.S., British agents cooked up their own plans.

It involved treats.

At the time of the magazine's launch, the UK Government Communications Headquarters and the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, successfully hacked the computers distributing the mag and tinkered with the text. They removed articles about Osama bin Laden and deleted a story called "What to expect in Jihad." Elsewhere, they destroyed the text by inserting garbled computer code.

One sabotaged story was an article by "The AQ Chef" called "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom," which explained how to make a pipe bomb with simple ingredients that included sugar. The new code, however, contained a sweet recipe of a different kind.

Instead of the bomb-making instructions, the article contained code leading to an article called "The Best Cupcakes in America," hosted by the Ellen DeGeneres Show website [PDF]. The page featured recipes for "sweet-toothed hipsters" and instructions for mojito-flavored cupcakes "made of white rum cake and draped in vanilla buttercream" (plus Rocky Road and Caramel Apple varieties!).

Two weeks later, the magazine's editors found the errors and fixed the edition—but, presumably, not until some bad guys discovered that "the little cupcake is big again."

6 Big Problems With Building Tiny Houses

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iStock.com/TexasPixelPro

Minimalism is in. A growing number of people are adopting a lifestyle that’s scaled down both physically and financially, taking on only the bare minimum of material possessions and living space in order to function. Mental Floss’s own Shaunacy Ferro reported on her experience in a tiny house plan, an elfin piece of real estate that’s often less than 500 square feet.

Tiny house advocates celebrate the ease of relocation, a smaller carbon footprint, and no looming mortgage to worry about. Unfortunately, there are also some hazards to tiny house plans that don’t get quite the same amount of attention. Take a look at a few perils of downsizing.

1. In a tiny house build, you’re going to be thinking a lot about poop.

With no fixed septic system in place for tiny or portable houses, less-is-more enthusiasts have to make some difficult decisions on how best to get rid of their waste. Some toilets divert solids to be used as compost, while other, “dry” toilets essentially act as a giant diaper, wrapping and storing your deposits for future disposal. Either way, tiny living quarters can sometimes have odor issues. To combat this, newer toilet models actually incinerate poop, reducing it to a pile of ash for removal. If setting your eliminations on fire seems extreme, then so might the entire idea of minimal habitation.

2. Zoning laws are no little problem for tiny houses.

It can feel exhilarating to build a tiny house and have the freedom to pull up stakes and go wherever you like. Except you really can’t. City and town zoning laws often dictate what minimally constitutes a house—like square footage or number of rooms—and it might not include the specs of your Keebler-sized tiny house build. Minnesota, for example, mandates that homes of any type have minimum ceiling clearances, ventilation, and heating standards [PDF]. Other areas insist that new single-family homes measure 1000 square feet or larger.

3. Tiny house builds are not cheap.

You may assume giving up your dreams of a finished basement and half-bath may result in substantial cost savings. Depending on what part of the country you live in, that may not be so. Nationwide, tiny homes can cost twice as much per square foot as houses built at a more common scale. One company, Tiny Home Builders, offers models at $61,000. Why so much? Downsizing can often mean premium features, like a tankless water heater.

You can find some ultra-modest options for $25,000, but a house with top-end amenities can creep into the six figures. That doesn’t include the price of buying or leasing land to put it on. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the cost of materials can start at $10,000. Some homeowners opt to buy a “shell,” or prefab exterior, for a reduced price, but it can cost thousands to fill the empty interior.

4. Obtaining insurance for tiny houses can be difficult.

Insurance companies deal in precedents and manage their expectations accordingly. They know if you’re in a flood zone, if you’ve recently driven through your garage door, or if you have a waterbed. What they have more trouble accounting for is a house without a foundation, that may or may not be up to building codes, or the fact you’re towing it across the country. As a result, securing insurance for tiny homes can be problematic, and you may find yourself paying a premium for the coverage.

5. Tiny house occupants need storage space.

The dream of discarding worldly possessions is often easier said than done. Many people have mementos, belongings, collections, and other ephemera that they don’t have room for but don’t necessarily want to part with. That’s why some tiny house occupants end up renting storage units for things they no longer have the space for. While rarely a budget-busting consequence, it is an added expense that downsized dwellers should be aware of.

6. Someone might steal your tiny house.

Homeowners often worry about the potential for burglaries, but tiny house residents need to worry about something else entirely—having their entire abode stolen. In 2018, a woman in St. Louis discovered the wheel-mounted house she had left parked in a commercial lot turned up missing. It was recovered 30 miles away.

[h/t The Conversation]

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