Wealthy homeowners are dropping nearly $40,000 on luxury stoves that won’t arrive for months. It’s a symptom of a broader appliance shortage hampering homeowners and industry insiders alike.

appliance deals 2021
  • Wealthy homeowners are dropping nearly $40,000 on luxury stoves that have a three-month wait time.
  • It’s a symptom of a broader appliance shortage that began last spring.
  • The shortage is due to surging demand, pandemic-related supply chain issues, and a chip shortage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Many wealthy homeowners have spent the pandemic renovating their multimillion-dollar homes, and it’s led to skyrocketing demand for appliances – including a certain $40,000 stove.

The New York Times’ Guy Trebay reported on the real estate boom among the rich and the surge in redecorating and renovating that followed. Interior designers are being flooded with requests to take on new jobs, realtors are booking tens of millions in sales, and decorators are sourcing sectional sofas that cost as much as $31,000.

And when it comes to appliances, the entry-level options won’t do. According to The Times, demand for items like Sub-Zero refrigerators, $4,000 ice machines, and high-end Wolf ranges surged in the third quarter of 2020.

The “must-have range” for 2021, a French range called the La Grande Cuisine 2000, has six gas burners, two ovens, and an electric griddle, and has a stylish matte and copper finish. It costs almost $40,000 and there’s a three-month wait-time to get it, the company that makes it, L’Atelier Paris, told The Times.

A post shared by L’Atelier Paris (@l_atelier_paris)

Appliances are in high demand, and the shortage isn’t letting up

While the wait time on a $40,000 stove affects a small subset of consumers, a broader appliance shortage is hampering homeowners across the country. Beginning last fall, many Americans embarked on home improvement projects ahead of a winter stuck indoors. It put a strain on appliance-makers, who struggled to keep up with the uptick in demand.

Executives from Swedish appliance giant Electrolux said on a conference call in October that it had entered the quarter with “unusually low inventory levels,” despite higher production levels.

“The increased time spent at home during the pandemic has resulted in more intensive use of appliances and higher share of household budgets allocated to home improvement,” executives said at the time.

Whirlpool, the other largest appliance-maker next to Electrolux, also pointed to high demand last fall. Whirlpool chief financial officer James Peters said in October that the company’s order backlog was “very high.”

While demand for appliances amid a home improvement boom is partially to blame, external factors are also making it difficult to buy new appliances. Factories shut down in the early months of the coronavirus last spring, slowing down production of new dishwashers and refrigerators. At the same time, wealthy homeowners started buying up extra appliances like freezers in order to stockpile groceries. At stores like Home Depot and Best Buy, freezers were sold out entirely or back-ordered for months at a time.

The shipping and logistics industries were strained last year too, leading to national chains like Lowe’s shifting their models to direct-to-consumer deliveries. And an ongoing chip shortage means that appliance makers who offer items with smart capabilities are feeling the strain.

Jason Ai, the president of Whirlpool in China, told Reuters in March that the company was facing “a perfect storm” of high demand and shortages. He told Reuters that Whirlpool has had a difficult time sourcing the processors that power more than half of its product lineup, including washing machines, microwaves, and refrigerators, according to Reuters.

“On the one hand we have to satisfy domestic demand for appliances, on the other hand we’re facing an explosion of export orders,” Ai told Reuters. “As far as chips go, for those of us in China, it was inevitable.”

Even after over a year of the pandemic, industry insiders don’t expect the shortages to let up anytime soon. Appliance store owners in various parts of the US warn that issues with supply could extend for several more months.

“Do not wait until the last minute if you’re trying to build a house or are shopping for appliances,” Paul Klein, the owner of an appliance store in Louisiana, told NOLA.com. “Get your order in now because I don’t think it’s going to get better until 2022.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best KitchenAid stand mixers we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • KitchenAid is a brand synonymous with stand mixers and has been making them for more than 100 years.
  • Its stand mixers are great for tasks that take a lot of effort to do by hand, like whipping and creaming.
  • The Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt Head Stand Mixer is the best stand mixer because it balances power and size.

A stand mixer is the crowning jewel of a kitchen, and KitchenAid’s stand mixers have been the standard for over a century. They make efficient work of tasks that typically take a lot of time or effort to do by hand, like whipping egg whites to soft or stiff peaks, turning cream into whipped cream, churning out big batches of cookies, and kneading tough, heavy bread doughs.

I’ve used a KitchenAid stand mixer daily – sometimes all day – while working in professional kitchens for more than a decade. I have years of experience with each stand mixer in this guide: I’ve broken them, repaired them, purchased them for my own personal use, and am intimately aware of each model’s advantages and limitations.

But I didn’t just rely on my previous experiences. I researched eight models and put four top-selling KitchenAid stand mixers through a standard set of tests for this guide. I used a King Arthur recipe for bagels, a stiff dough with a 10-minute mixing time; I prepared Compost Cookies (kitchen-sink cookies with five cups of mix-ins including chocolate chips, potato chips, and pretzels) from New York City’s Milk Bar; and put each mixer through additional tests to evaluate its capacity, mixing capability, and ease of use. You can read more about how I tested KitchenAid stand mixers in our methodology here, along with how to shop for a KitchenAid and what to make with it.

Here are the best KitchenAid stand mixers in 2021

The best overall

best stand mixer overall 2021 kitchenaid

This popular model balances power, capacity, and size for a mixer that is perfectly designed for most home bakers; plus it comes in more than 45 fun colors.

Pros: Easily accomplishes common cooking tasks, lots of customization options, work bowl has a handle

Cons: Too underpowered if you regularly make a lot of stiff or wet doughs

The Artisan Series 5 Quart model strikes a great balance of power, size, and design. During testing, it quickly became my favorite mixer to use. Tilt-head stand mixers have a smaller base than bowl-lift stand mixers so the bowls tend to be narrower and can feel cramped. You often have to stop the mixer and tilt the head back whenever you want to scrape down the mixing bowl. This wasn’t the case with the Artisan mixer; the large bowl of the felt open enough that I could scrape the sides without adjusting the head. The bowl also has a sturdy handle for easy lifting, and provided plenty of room for pouring in ingredients — particularly helpful when adding more than five cups of mix-ins for Compost Cookies. 

While it shook a bit when I made bagel dough, it was never overly noisy and I didn’t feel like I had to babysit it for fear of it walking off the counter. That said, I don’t think I would make multiple batches of bagels in a row to avoid overheating the mixer’s lower-powered motor. 

This model also offers customization, allowing you to choose from almost 50 color options, engrave your stand mixer or switch out the standard bowl for a patterned ceramic or glass mixing bowl.

Since initial testing, we’ve continued to use this model at least once a week. It’s worked its way through pierogi dough and filling, multiple babkas, and many batches of holiday cookies, and still functions as well (and looks as good) as it did when I first received it. We’ll continue to use this model regularly and report on its long-term durability.

Best budget

Best KitchenAid stand mixer Classic Plus

The least expensive model made by KitchenAid, the Classic Plus has all the quality components of more expensive mixers but it’s compact, efficient, and powerful enough to accomplish most tasks for casual bakers. 

Pros: Relatively inexpensive, spacious but still maneuverable, can handle most common tasks and occasional tough doughs 

Cons: Work bowl doesn’t have a handle, relatively low-powered motor, not ideal for heavy use

If you’re an occasional baker or just starting to dip your toes into cooking, the KitchenAid Classic Plus 4.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer is a great model to get started with. It’s made with the same metal parts as more expensive KitchenAid stand mixers, has a strong motor, and a relatively roomy work bowl. While on the smaller side, it still easily accommodates single batches of common recipes. 

An earlier version of the KitchenAid Classic Plus was, in fact, my first mixer. I used it heavily for about five years until it gave out on me while kneading dough for hand-pulled noodles (a notoriously tricky dough, and one known to tax stand mixers). This issue first highlighted to me how most stand mixers break and the importance of choosing a model built for your typical usage. 

I tested a new version of this mixer for this guide, and while it happily worked through cookies, egg whites, and even hefty bagel dough without issue, it’s possible that with too much heavy use, like making many batches of bagel or pizza dough back-to-back, the mixer can overheat or — in the case of my old mixer — wear down its gears. While the issue is repairable, it requires seeing a KitchenAid repair specialist, which can be expensive, so you’re better off purchasing a stand mixer with a wattage that meets your needs from the get-go. 

Best for bread

Best KitchenAid stand mixer Pro Line Series 7-Quart Bowl Lift Stand Mixer

The KitchenAid Pro Line Series 7-Quart Bowl Lift Stand Mixer is the largest, most powerful KitchenAid mixer you can buy without venturing into commercial models, which makes it perfect for avid bakers. 

Pros: Largest capacity of any residential model, bowl-lift design provides stability when mixing, wide mixing bowl for adding ingredients, powerful motor that can handle all kinds of doughs, work bowl has a handle

Cons: Heavy, takes up a lot of space, only comes in a few colors

Stiff or heavy doughs like bagel dough, pizza dough, and some noodle doughs require a large amount of power to knead properly, which can be taxing on many stand mixers. The 7-Quart Pro-Line model has a 970 watt motor for powerful and thorough kneading without overheating the mixer. The wider bowl-lift design also provides more stability during mixing, so the mixer doesn’t “walk” or shake as much during use. 

This is the model I primarily used during a decade of work in professional kitchens. The machine is reliable, nimble, easy to use, and remarkably quiet for such a large mixer. It can handle everything from whipping two egg whites to mixing triple batches of cake batter. KitchenAid claims the 7-quart size can make up to 14 dozen cookies in a single batch, and while I haven’t ventured to test the limits of that claim (I love cookies, but I don’t need 14 dozen), it made double batches of compost cookies and bagels with plenty of room to spare. 

The wide bowl is easy to remove from the mixer, has a large comfortable handle, and provides lots of space for adding ingredients during mixing. Avid bakers and especially those who make bread will appreciate its reliability — these mixers saw heavy daily use when I worked with them in professional kitchens and rarely needed repairs. If you take care of this mixer, it’s likely to last you decades. 

That said, it’s a hefty machine and not the sort of mixer you want to lug around, so it’s best for those with ample counter space to devote to its large footprint.

Read our full review

Best for small spaces

Best KitchenAid stand mixer Artisan Mini

The smallest of KitchenAid stand mixers, this model is the perfect size and strength for occasional bakers, new cooks, and those with petite kitchens.

Pros: Perfectly sized for small kitchens, easy to maneuver, makes single batches of most recipes well, ideal for occasional bakers, a good size for kids, work bowl has a handle

Cons: Too small for double batches, shakes a lot when running at high speed

When I moved into a 600 square foot apartment, every inch felt precious. Since counter space was limited, I needed a mixer light enough that I wouldn’t mind hauling it out from a cabinet every time I wanted to bake. The KitchenAid Artisan Mini 3.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer hit all these marks for me. 

Measuring just over 11 inches wide, the Mini is about 25% smaller than our best overall pick. While this may not seem like a drastic difference, the Mini is much more maneuverable, and I love that it fits easily under my cabinets or on a shelf. Less surface area also means less to clean, and the Mini’s work bowl doesn’t hog space in my sink or dishwasher.

Despite being more petite, the Mini is perfectly capable of whipping up a single batch of cookies or biscuits. I’ve made muffins, pasta dough, bread dough, pizza dough, cake, frosting, and more cookies than I can count in the Mini with no issues or changes to the mixing times called for in the recipes.

When I put my Mini through strenuous tests for this guide, it showed some of its limitations. The work bowl was just able to fit all the mix-ins for compost cookies, but it started to overflow a bit when I turned on the mixer. Bagel dough also came together fine, but the mixer shook and “walked” around the counter during the long kneading time, enough so that I felt like I had to keep an eye on it for the whole 10 minutes it was mixing. 

That said, if space is your primary concern or you’re an occasional baker, the Mini is a great option for an unobtrusive machine that can do just about anything a full-size mixer can do.

What else we considered

What else we considered, KitchenAid Stand Mixers

We also researched other KitchenAid models for this guide that we ultimately didn’t end up testing. Here are the products that didn’t make the cut and why: 

  • KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5 Quart Tilt Head Stand Mixer ($279.99): Previously our best budget pick, the Classic is identical in both function and design to our new affordable pick, the Classic Plus. We confirmed this with KitchenAid, who said the only difference is that the Classic Plus is available in a silver color. There used to be a slight difference between the Classic and the Classic Plus with the former having 250 watts, a slightly less powerful motor than the Classic Plus’ 275 watts. However, both models are now being made with 275 watts and are priced the same. Both are great options, and since KitchenAids have been in short supply, buy whichever you can get your hands on. We’ve seen some retailers still selling the 250-watt version of the Classic, so be sure to check the specs before you buy. 
  • KitchenAid NSF Certified Commercial Series 8-Qt Bowl Lift Stand Mixer ($699.99): Unless you’re running a bakery, you don’t need a mixer this large or this powerful. That said, if you are operating a bakery or food business, this is the only KitchenAid mixer that is certified by NSF International for commercial use. It has a two-year warranty (double the time of their other mixers) and a strong, durable motor for heavy use. However, home bakers are unlikely to need these extra features, which are designed to withstand hours of heavy use each day. 

Our testing methodology

While I drew from my own experience as a food editor working in professional kitchens and using these mixers over many years, I also put each model through a standard set of tests to see how they’d compare to each other. Here’s how I evaluated KitchenAid stand mixers:

Size, capacity, and ease of use: I weighed and measured all the stand mixers, including comparing the stated versus functional capacity (the capacity when measured from the bottom of the work bowl to the top of the mixing attachment) of each work bowl. I carried the mixers around and noted how comfortable they were to move and handle.

Power: We consulted the company to learn the power of each motor in watts. Residential stand mixers range from 250 to 970 watts, and mixers with higher wattage motors can mix heavy, wet doughs more readily. 

Whipping: I whipped two egg whites to stiff peaks in each mixer, which tests the mixers’ control during gradual ramping up of speed. It also tested the larger mixers’ ability to function well even with a very small volume of ingredients. 

Creaming: I used each stand mixer to make Milk Bar compost cookies, which have more than 5 cups of mix-ins. Not only did this test the functional capacity of the mixers, but also their ability to operate on different speeds — high speed for creaming butter and sugar, and low speed for incorporating delicate mix-ins like chips and pretzels without breaking them. 

Kneading: Each mixer was used to make a batch of King Arthur bagels; a stiff dough with a long, 10 minute mixing time. I made a note if any of the mixers shook or walked, struggled, or made excessive noise during this tough task. 

Durability: The true test of a stand mixer is how it performs over time. While I included information from my own experience working with these models over nearly a decade, I’ll continue to use the stand mixers in this guide and report back on any durability issues.

What we’re testing next

Our picks encompass most of KitchenAid’s offerings, but there are two models we’re interested in testing that we weren’t able to include this time around: 

  • KitchenAid Professional 5 Plus Series 5 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer ($419.99): Previously our best KitchenAid for making bread, this model was out of stock at the time of this testing. I’m of the mindset that if you’re going to upgrade from our best overall pick (which is also 5 quarts), it should also offer an increase in capacity. However, this model may be a good fit for those who prepare a lot of heavy, wet doughs but either don’t make large batches or are prioritizing cost. 
  • KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer ($499.99): This model offers a slight jump up in capacity from the 5-quart professional model and was also unavailable at the time of testing. It offers 15 colors; the most colors of any of KitchenAid’s bowl-lift models. We’d like to see if the slight increase in capacity justifies the big jump in price.

FAQs

What is the warranty on KitchenAid stand mixers?

Almost all of KitchenAid’s stand mixers come with a limited one year warranty, though you can purchase an extended service plan for another three years of coverage. 

What do I do if my KitchenAid stand mixer breaks?

When a KitchenAid stand mixer stops working, it can usually be repaired. The machines are designed so that inexpensive gears fail before the core part of the mixer; oftentimes a repair is as simple as replacing a gear. If your stand mixer is still within warranty, you should contact KitchenAid for a replacement. However, in my experience, don’t expect much from KitchenAid customer service if you’re out of warranty. While plenty of KitchenAid repair videos exist online, you’ll get the best results from a paid repair from the KitchenAid factory or by visiting a reputable appliance repair service. Keep in mind that you can void your remaining warranty if you attempt to repair your stand mixer on your own.

Will my KitchenAid stand mixer last a lifetime?

With proper care, it’s possible! Keep in mind that technology changes, so it’s never a guarantee that a small appliance like a KitchenAid stand mixer will be forever compatible with modern home wiring or safety specifications. (Your grandma’s toaster or microwave may still work, but it might not necessarily be safe.) While your stand mixer might not become a family heirloom, you should get many years of use out of it. 

How do I use my KitchenAid stand mixer?

I’d start with a solid recipe for something you like to eat often, like cookies or bread. Once you know what you want to make, a well-written recipe should guide you through when to add ingredients, what speed to use, and even when to scrape down the bowl. Recipes from cookbooks or food magazines are usually well-tested and thoroughly written. Some good cookbooks to start with include “Pastry Love,” “Black Girl Baking“, “Bravetart,” “Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book“, “The New Way to Cake,” and “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.” It’s also good to keep best practices in mind: avoid overloading the mixer or adding too many ingredients at once, and turn up the speed slowly to avoid kitchen messes. Only operate your stand mixer on a stable countertop or table, and don’t leave it unattended while it’s running. 

Can I use an electric hand mixer instead of a stand mixer?

Electric hand mixers are best used for light batters or frostings where you want to incorporate a lot of air, and it doesn’t take a lot of mixing to bring the ingredients together. While the electric mixer is spinning the whisks, you’re still responsible for moving the mixer around the bowl. This is much less efficient than a stand mixer where the whisk is rotating, but also moving in a circular motion around the work bowl. Electric hand mixers also aren’t very good for heavy doughs or recipes with a lot of varying textures since these tend to get caught in the smaller tines of the beaters. While an electric hand mixer is an efficient way to whip up a batch of brownies or frosting, stand mixers are much more versatile.

How to choose a KitchenAid stand mixer

How to choose, KitchenAid Stand Mixer

KitchenAid makes an overwhelming number of models. Here are some considerations to help you narrow down your selection.

Wattage: The higher the wattage of the motor, the more powerful the mixer will be. Mixers with higher wattage — like the 970 watt motor on the KitchenAid Pro — glide through tough doughs and don’t easily overheat. If you bake at least once a week or you regularly make a lot of heavy, wet doughs like pizza or bread dough, then you’ll benefit from a larger, more expensive model with a high wattage motor built for power and durability. However, if you’re the kind of person who breaks out the stand mixer once a year to make holiday cookies, you don’t need the Cadillac of KitchenAids. Occasional bakers will be perfectly well off with 250 or 275-watt models, like the Artisan Mini or the Classic Plus. Lower wattage models can also handle the occasional tough task like kneading bagel dough a few times a year. Be mindful that tough kitchen tasks can be hard on the gears of smaller machines, so give your machine time to cool down between uses if you’re making a hard dough in a lower wattage model. 

Capacity: The advertised capacity of a KitchenAid mixer is not its actual capacity. The advertised or stated capacity refers to how much the work bowl can hold when completely full. Not only would you have a big mess on your hands if you tried to use a mixer at full capacity, but it also wouldn’t operate effectively since the ingredients would actually cover the mixing attachment. Instead, the functional capacity is measured from the bottom of the bowl to the top of the mixing attachment and it’s usually about 1 to 1.5 quarts less than the stated capacity. One quart is about the size of a large deli container, so if you have a recipe that regularly makes enough dough to fill four or five of those, opt for a mixer with a larger stated capacity of 6 or 7 quarts. It’s also a good idea to buy a mixer with a larger capacity if you make a lot of bread since the mixer needs a fair amount of clearance to knead the dough effectively.  

Maneuverability and storage: The bigger the capacity and more powerful the mixer, the heavier and larger the mixer will be. The largest KitchenAid mixers in our guide can weigh almost 30 pounds. Unless you’re comfortable regularly lifting an appliance of that size, you’ll either need to consider a small mixer or have dedicated counter space. Larger mixers will take up about half the width of a standard size counter and may not fit readily under your cabinet overhang. If space is at a premium, consider a smaller, less expensive mixer.

Colors and customization: For some people, the most important factor in choosing a KitchenAid is the color. If a fun color is your priority, opt for a mixer from KitchenAid’s Artisan series. Our best mixer for small spaces and best overall pick are both Artisan mixers and are available in up to 47 different colors. Our best overall pick also offers further customization with interchangeable decorative work bowls in various patterns and materials. The Classic and Pro Line series offer a much more limited color choice — just red and a handful of neutrals.

Why buy a KitchenAid stand mixer

While there are a number of other stand mixer brands out there — including Breville, Sunbeam, Oster, and Bosch — none are as ubiquitous or revered as the KitchenAid stand mixer. Some people consider purchasing a KitchenAid stand mixer to be a life milestone, and according to The Knot, a KitchenAid stand mixer was the most-wished-for product on wedding registries in 2019. Julia Child’s KitchenAid mixer even lives in the Smithsonian Museum. But what makes KitchenAid stand mixers so special?

KitchenAid stand mixers have been around for more than a century. According to KitchenAid, the brand got its name in 1919 when an executive’s wife called the first home model stand mixer “the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had.” The name stuck and KitchenAid has been synonymous with stand mixers ever since. While there are a number of great stand mixers from other brands out there, KitchenAid still stands out in a number of ways.

Durability: I’ve tried almost every brand of stand mixer out there in my seven years reviewing kitchen products, and KitchenAid mixers are the only ones that use an almost all-metal construction. Other brands cut costs by using plastic in part of the design: either in the body of the mixer, on knobs and dials, in the mixing attachments, or even in the gears. Mixers made with a lot of plastic are usually lighter and less expensive, but much less durable. KitchenAid mixers can last for decades because of their strong metal parts. While this stronger construction comes at a premium — KitchenAid mixers are among the most expensive out there — their durability makes them a great investment. Even the most affordable KitchenAid mixer shares this same hearty construction and powerful motor and will last for decades with proper care. There is also a robust network of authorized KitchenAid repair technicians who can repair your stand mixer if something does break.

Stability: The all-metal design makes KitchenAid mixers much heavier than most other brands. While they can be a pain to lug around, the added heft produces an important benefit: more stability when mixing. Lighter machines can shake or “walk” off countertops. The heaviness of KitchenAid mixers helps them stay put. 

A mixer for everybody: Many brands that make stand mixers only produce one or two models. KitchenAid makes almost a dozen models with different capacities, power, and price points. This allows you to choose a model that meets your needs and excels at the tasks you perform most.

Attachments: KitchenAid is the only brand that has produced a robust lineup of attachments that extend the versatility of its stand mixers. These attachments can turn your KitchenAid into a food processor, meat grinder, ice cream maker, spiralizer, pasta machine, and more — eliminating the need to buy separate appliances that are often larger and more expensive. 

Colors: It’s undeniable that one of the major selling points of a KitchenAid mixer is the sheer number of colors available to choose from. KitchenAid offers its mixers in 47 different colors — no other brand even comes close to that much customization. While choosing an appliance based on color may seem silly to some consumers, the ability to pick out a color that matches your personality or decor is one of the reasons people feel such an affinity to KitchenAid mixers.

Glossary

KitchenAid Glossary

Tilt head: A common mixer design where the work bowl twists onto the base of the mixer. The head of the machine tilts forward for operation and lifts back so you can attach a paddle, whisk, or dough hook; add ingredients to the work bowl; or use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. These machines have a lever that allows you to lock the head in place so it doesn’t accidentally lift during mixing or moving. This style is common in smaller capacity mixers and is contrasted to a bowl-lift design.

Bowl lift: A mixer design where the work bowl sits on a Y-shaped arm extending from the body of the mixer. A lever allows you to raise and lower the bowl. A raised position brings the bowl closer to the mixer head for operation, while a lowered position allows you to more easily add ingredients or add/remove the paddle, whisk, or dough hook. This design allows for more stability during mixing but comes at the cost of a larger footprint. 

Hub: A circular port at the front of the mixer head where you place KitchenAid branded attachments such as the meat grinder, pasta cutter, or spiralizer. When not in use, the hub is usually covered by a silver medallion with the KitchenAid logo. 

Paddle: A flat, open mixing attachment included with every KitchenAid stand mixer. The paddle is used for mixing ingredients together when you don’t want too much air incorporated, such as when creaming butter and sugar, mixing cookie dough, and combining some batters. Think of it as the stand mixer equivalent of a wooden spoon. 

Whisk: A balloon-shaped wire whisk mixing attachment included with every KitchenAid stand mixer. The whisk attachment is used when you do want to incorporate a lot of air into the ingredients you’re mixing, like when whipping cream, making meringue or frosting, or mixing cake batter. It’s used in similar ways to a hand whisk.

Dough hook: A corkscrew-shaped mixing attachment included with every KitchenAid stand mixer. The dough hook is used for kneading bread dough. Typically you’ll mix the dough with another attachment such as the paddle, and then use the dough hook to form the dough into a ball and knead it. The corkscrew shape pushes the dough against the sides of the work bowl in an action that approximates kneading by hand. 

Attachment: Can refer to the paddle, whisk, and dough hook that come with the mixer, but also used to describe the various accessories you can purchase to extend the versatility of your stand mixer such as the ice cream maker, food processor, or meat grinder.

What to make in your KitchenAid stand mixer

What to make with KitchenAid Stand Mixer

We’ve put together a number of how-tos for making the most out of your KitchenAid stand mixer. KitchenAid makes more than two dozen different attachments that expand the versatility of your machine and let you make everything from zoodles to sausage to ice cream and more. Most of the attachments operate from the “hub” of the mixer — the portion underneath the metal disk on the top front of the machine. Since all KitchenAid mixers have this hub, almost all the attachments are compatible with every KitchenAid model in our guide. If you’re interested in KitchenAid attachments, we reviewed them all here

Here are some of our favorite things to make with our KitchenAid mixers and attachments:

Fresh pasta: This is one of those tasks that shows the true versatility of a KitchenAid stand mixer. You use the stand mixer and work bowl to make the dough, and then the KitchenAid pasta sheeter or pasta extruder to form the pasta shapes. Read more about how to make pasta in your stand mixer

Bagels: Chewy bread like bagels are one of the hardest and most arduous tasks to do by hand, which means they’re the perfect recipes to outsource to your stand mixer. While writing this guide, I used this recipe by King Arthur and it churned out perfectly springy bagels that reminded me of home in New Jersey.

Sausage: KitchenAid makes several attachments that allow you to grind your own meat for homemade sausage. Read more about how to grind meat and make sausage with a KitchenAid stand mixer.

Pizza dough: This type of dough is really wet and sticky, but a stand mixer excels at pulling it all together. Here’s a recipe I really love for pizza dough made in a stand mixer. 

Ice cream: KitchenAid makes a special bowl that fits on all stand mixers except the Artisan Mini that makes homemade ice cream. Read more about how to make ice cream in your Kitchenaid stand mixer

Check out our other kitchen appliance guides

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Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best microwaves we tested in 2021

  • The best microwaves cook food evenly, quickly, and feature useful preset buttons.
  • We consulted experts, researched popular and well-rated models, and tested five products to find the best microwaves you can buy.
  • The Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven is our top pick because it’s powerful, moderately-sized, and has many helpful presets.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

When microwave ovens were first introduced in the late 1940s, they were more than 5 feet tall, weighed about 750 pounds, and cost thousands of dollars. Thankfully, microwaves have come a long way since their inception – they now fit on your countertop and many households use them every single day to reheat or cook food.

A good microwave should heat your food safely, quickly, and evenly. In addition to our research and testing, we spoke with Bob Schiffmann, a microwave heating expert and president of the International Microwave Power Institute, as well as Jared Lodico, a postdoctoral researcher in physics at UCLA, to better understand how microwaves work and what to look for when shopping for a microwave.

We shortlisted to five popular microwaves and put them through a series of tests, starting with the marshmallow test – an actual industry-standard experiment to check for hot and cold spots by heating marshmallows for a set period of time. We also used each microwave to reheat beverages and cook frozen foods and tested every model’s presets (like Popcorn and Sensor Cook). Finally, we used the microwaves for several days throughout a normal routine, evaluating how easy they were to use and how well they cooked. You can read more about our methodology here.

The best microwaves you can buy in 2021

The best microwave overall

Panasonic microwave

The Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven packs 1,200 watts of power to cook food quickly and evenly. It’s compact, yet has a spacious interior, and comes with many helpful preset buttons for easy cooking.  

Pros: Five useful preset buttons, 1,200 watts of cooking power (more than most microwaves), includes a child-safety lock button

Cons: Fingerprint smudges are visible, the light inside isn’t bright enough to check food while it’s cooking, it’s loud, Frozen Foods feature doesn’t cook accurately, doesn’t have Express Cook buttons

At 1,200 watts, the Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven  packs a punch and cooks food fast. The microwave heats remarkably evenly, which we saw during the marshmallow test. The marshmallows all expanded evenly, and at the end of two minutes, there was only a bit of burning in the very center of the marshmallows.

The microwave’s power levels start at P10, the highest cooking level, and go down to P0, the Keep Warm level. P10 is the default setting and the one I used regularly for heating and cooking.

If you’re using this microwave to simply reheat leftovers, the Sensor Reheat feature works well. Once cooking, it detects the humidity level of the food inside and starts counting down the cooking time. I also tried the more niche preset buttons like Popcorn and Coffee/Milk preset, and both worked better than the presets on other microwaves I tested.

That said, I was less impressed with the Frozen Food preset that categorizes food groups into numbers, much like Sensor Reheat. I used this when making frozen mac and cheese and found that the microwave grossly overestimated the amount of time needed to cook it. 

A few other minor downsides: the light inside the microwave is dim, so it’s hard to monitor the food while it’s cooking, and fingerprints are highly visible on the control panel. However, this is overall a great microwave that balances power and size with easy-to-use features. 

Best microwave on a budget

Commercial Chef microwave

The Commercial Chef Microwave is bare-bones, but dead simple to use. It’s moderately powerful, well-priced, and compact enough for small kitchens.  

Pros: Simple to use, compact, quieter than most models, heats evenly

Cons: Doesn’t have a clock, can only set cook time by the minute, not very powerful (only 600 watts), too small for large dishes or plates over 10 inches in diameter

Editor’s note: Commercial Chef has an updated model of this microwave with digital controls, at a lower price point. We’re currently looking into testing it.

At less than 18 inches long and 11 inches deep, The Commercial Chef Microwave is super compact and well-sized for small kitchens or dorm rooms. In many ways, it resembles an old-school toaster oven, and even “dings” like one when cooking is complete. Its controls consist of just two rotary knobs — one for power level and one for cook time. Unfortunately, you can’t set specific seconds if you’re zapping something quick, like warming a piece of bread, heating a mug of coffee, or melting butter. It also doesn’t have any special features or buttons.

That said, if simplicity is what you’re after, this model has it. It’s easy and intuitive to use, and heats relatively evenly. When I did the marshmallow test, I noticed a few browned pieces on the outer edges where the marshmallows expanded more, but overall no major hot or cold spots. 

At just 600 watts, it’s a little underpowered. In the absence of any preset buttons, I just used the package instructions to cook frozen mac and cheese. After the four minutes recommended on the package, it was warm throughout but not hot. You’ll likely have to add a minute or two to any package instructions when cooking in this microwave. 

If you want a no-frills microwave that reheats and cooks food in a simple, quick manner, this is a great option, especially if you don’t have much kitchen space to work with.

Best convection microwave

Toshiba microwave

If you’re looking for a microwave that does it all, the 1,000-watt Toshiba Microwave Oven with Convection, cooks, reheats, bakes, and even roasts food quickly and thoroughly. 

Pros: Quiet, many quick-touch preset cooking buttons, a multi-functional appliance that can bake and roast, includes a child-safety lock

Cons: Heavy and bulky, convection feature heats up kitchen quickly

If you’re trying to condense the number of kitchen appliances in your home, then the Toshiba Microwave Oven with Convection is a good multi-functional appliance to have. Not only does it work as a traditional microwave, but it also bakes, roasts, and toasts. It’s also the only microwave we tested that has an Express Cook feature, which allow you to quickly start the microwave by just pressing numbers one through six on the number pad.

At 1,000 watts, the Toshiba microwave oven is powerful. I definitely saw the results when I did the marshmallow test: the marshmallows in the center of the tray burned after two minutes, and there was a lot of moisture buildup on the tray underneath the parchment paper. Aside from the burning in the middle, I didn’t notice any hot or cold spots. It also cooked frozen mac and cheese thoroughly.

One of the unique features of this microwave is that it also works as a convection oven, so you don’t need to buy a separate toaster oven. To test out the convection oven, I warmed up some frozen French fries, which typically comes out soggy and flabby in a regular microwave. The heating options were confusing, so I had to refer to the cooking chart in the manual to see what level to cook the French fries. I was pleasantly surprised to see the fries turned out as crispy as they do in my air fryer (though it took twice as long and the settings were a bit more complicated).

You can also make toast with the convection setting. When I tried this, I found it toasted very unevenly and the results were paler and flabbier than a regular toaster, so I don’t recommend this microwave for that use.

Overall, this microwave heated well, the buttons are easy to use and smudge-proof, and the microwave beeps loud and clear. The only major downside is you will need plenty of countertop space to accommodate this large oven, and at nearly 50 pounds, it isn’t easy to move.

Best large capacity microwave

Panasonic microwave 2

This microwave, which can also be installed as a built-in, is large enough to fit two plates at a time and features an easy-to-use dial to heat and cook your food.

Pros: Quiet, powerful 1,250 watts, the dial is easy to use, comes with useful preset buttons, includes a child-safety lock, can be installed as a built-in microwave 

Cons: You can’t see the food well while it’s cooking, dial only goes up in 10-second increments

The Panasonic NN-SD975S Microwave Oven is large in both size and capacity; with a 16.5-inch turntable, it’s ideal if you’re cooking for a family.

One dial controls the cooking time and it only goes up or down in 10-second increments; a minor inconvenience, but otherwise operates smoothly and easily. You can also use the dial to input weight for food you’re defrosting by turning the dial clockwise to increase or decrease until you get to the proper weight. 

At 1,250 watts, it’s the most powerful microwave we tested, and it overcooked frozen mac and cheese when I cooked it according to package instructions. You’ll likely need to decrease cooking time by a minute or two from any package instructions with this microwave. However, it heated very evenly. When I did the marshmallow test, it produced the best results of any microwave I tried with no hot or cold spots, even in the center. 

Like other microwaves we tried, you can program up to three stages of cooking, and the display screen will let you know where you are in the cooking process. If you’re using the multi-stage cooking feature, you can use the Keep Warm setting as your final stage.

While it’s a powerful microwave with lots of helpful features, it’s extremely large and bulky, so best suited for large kitchens or households with many members who will take advantage of its larger capacity. This microwave can also be built into a cabinet or other static feature in your kitchen, though I left it on my countertop for easier testing.

Best smart microwave

GE Smart Microwave Oven Review 2021 lead image

GE’s Smart Microwave Oven is Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled, so you can cook your food using voice commands or from your smartphone.

Pros: features smart technology and scan-to-cook technology at a reasonable price, heats food quickly, spacious yet compact enough to fit in a small kitchen

Cons: doesn’t cook food as evenly as other microwaves we tested, doesn’t come with a trim kit to mount over the stove or underneath cabinets, the voice commands are finicky.

The GE Smart Microwave Oven looks like any ordinary microwave on the market. It’s sleek and relatively compact, but a dinner plate still fits nicely inside. Its defining feature is its smart connectivity.

To see how well the microwave heats food, I cooked marshmallows in the microwave for two minutes on high to see how they heated. I noticed some hot spots and the outer edges and center cooked more quickly than the rest of the marshmallows. I also microwaved frozen mac and cheese according to the package instructions. At 900 watts, this microwave isn’t the most powerful, but it heats up pretty quickly. 

The best part of having a smart microwave is that you can control the settings and check the status of your food from your smartphone or by using voice commands with a virtual assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. I tested the microwave with my Google Home Mini, and I was able to use voice commands to perform basic functions including start/stop, pause/resume, set the microwave for a specific amount of time, add time (but I couldn’t subtract) and ask how much time is left (I can also check this from my smartphone.)

Frankly, most people don’t need a smart microwave. However, the hands-free technology makes cooking easier when you’re multitasking, and it’s more sanitary since you are reducing the amount of times you touch the microwave. 

It also features a scan-to-cook function where you can scan the barcode on a package of food using your smartphone, and the cook time and settings automatically display. All you have to do is press or say “start.” 

Other smart microwaves on the market can be upwards of $300, so for the price and reliability, this is a great microwave. It’s a good option if you’re budget-conscious but are in the market for a smart microwave.

Read our full review of the GE Smart Microwave Oven here.

Testing methodology

Microwave Methodology

In addition to speaking with Bob Schiffmann, a microwave heating expert and president of the International Microwave Power Institute, and Jared Lodico, a postdoctoral researcher in physics at UCLA, I put all the microwaves through a standard set of tests, evaluating how well they cooked food, how easy they were to use, and any special features or extra buttons. Here’s how I tested microwaves: 

Marshmallow test: The first test I performed with every microwave was the marshmallow test, an industry-standard way to check your microwave for hot and cold spots. To conduct this test, I cut parchment paper to the size of each microwave’s glass tray and completely covered it with mini marshmallows, leaving no blank spaces. I cooked the marshmallows in the microwave for two minutes on high to see how they expanded and cooked. The marshmallows that expanded first revealed the microwave’s hot spots, while marshmallows that still appeared raw showed the cold spots. Colder spots are potentially dangerous because they can mean your food is undercooked and possibly unsafe to eat in those areas. A good microwave produces even cooking across the entire surface — no burnt or uncooked marshmallows.

Frozen meal test: I also cooked frozen mac and cheese in each microwave, using the same brand and cook time and checking for evenness, or burnt or cold spots.

Ease of use: I looked at how easy and intuitive the microwaves were to use, and how much space they occupied on my counter. I also evaluated how much noise they made during cooking and how loud and persistent their alarms and beeps were. 

Presets and additional functions: Where applicable, I used and tested each model’s preset buttons according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This included Popcorn, Reheat, Sensor Cook, and Keep Warm buttons. I evaluated how well these settings performed their intended function and how easy they were to use.

What we’re testing next

What we look forward to testing Microwave

Here are some models that we’re looking forward to testing in the future:

GE Smart Microwave with Scan-to-Cook ($67.97): An updated version of our current best budget pick, this model features digital controls, a compact footprint, and a low price point. We’re looking into testing it and will report back soon with our findings.

Whirlpool 1.9-cubic-foot Over-the-Range Microwave ($619.99): This over-the-range microwave appeared as a pick in the previous version of this guide. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test it this round because my kitchen isn’t outfitted to accommodate an over-the-range unit. However, if you’re in search of a microwave that sits over the stove, this may be a good option. This model is both a convection oven and a microwave, and according to reviews, it’s spacious, easy to use, and easy to install. We hope to test it for a future update of this guide.

How microwaves work

How microwaves work

While microwaves may seem mystifying to some, at their most basic, they’re not much different than stoves, ovens, or grills in that they use energy to cook food. “Generally speaking, the process of putting energy into something is pretty much how we heat/cook all food, it just depends on how we do it (such as on the stove, in the sun, or with a microwave),” said Lodico. 

The difference is that microwaves generate energy in the form of electrical and magnetic rays. “Microwaves generate ‘microwaves,’ which is a form of electromagnetic radiation,” Lodico said. “This electric field transfers energy to the food as the waves pass through it.” The energy transfer causes water molecules in the food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food practically from the inside out. Because of this, foods that are high in water content, like potatoes or other fresh vegetables, cook much faster in the microwave than they do in other appliances, like the stove.

What to look for in a microwave

What to look for in a Microwave

We consulted experts on what to look for when purchasing a microwave. Here are the major qualities you should consider:

Power: The biggest consideration when shopping for a microwave is power. How much power you’ll need depends on what you primarily use the microwave for. If your household is only using the microwave to reheat food, then you can look for a cheaper model with less wattage, said Schiffmann. “Around an 800-watt oven works [for reheating], and popular ones are between 800 to 1,000 watts,” he says. 

Today, microwaves can do a lot more than just heat up cold food; they can defrost, cook, roast, bake, and more. If you want a microwave that actually cooks your food rather than simply reheating it, expect to spend a little more for a quality oven with more than 1,000 watts of power. 

Presets and additional functions: It’s also worthwhile to consider how and when you typically use preset functions. Many consumers are fine primarily operating a microwave with the number pad or Express Cook buttons. However, if you’re someone who does a lot of cooking or defrosting, you may find preset functions helpful.

If you’re in the market for a microwave that can also replace a toaster oven, opt for a model with convection settings, but keep in mind that this functionality often comes at a higher price and the technology can be hit or miss. 

Price: Schiffmann said you should expect to spend between $100 and $150 on a good 800 to 1,000-watt microwave, and a bit more as wattage increases. You’ll also pay more for extra features, like convection settings or lots of presets. While Schiffmann says you don’t have to spend a lot to get a quality microwave, he cautions about considering microwaves under $100. “Anything cheaper will most likely break down and be unstable,” he said, so you’re better off investing in a machine that costs a little more but will last longer. 

Safety features: If you have young children, you will want to purchase a microwave with a child-safety lock feature. “Many toddlers can get injured when reaching in the microwave, but many manufacturers have a digital lock now where you put in a combination of numbers to lock and unlock the microwave,” Schiffmann says. Out of the microwaves we tested, all but the Commercial Chef microwave have the ability to lock itself. Note that this feature prevents the microwave oven from operating; it does not lock the microwave door. 

FAQs

Microwave FAQ

Does standing near a microwave put me at risk for radiation exposure?

You may have heard that standing too close to the microwave while it’s operating can expose you to radiation, but according to experts, that’s a myth. “Microwaves are very safe — as long as they aren’t damaged,” Lodico says. “The metal housing and mesh screen on the door act as a shield from the radiation that is generated inside. As the radiation approaches the wall of the microwave it induces a current and magnetic field that cancels out the incoming wave.” While there was once some concern about operating a microwave if you have a pacemaker, the FDA says this is no longer an issue with modern pacemakers, though individuals with pacemakers should always check with their doctor first. 

Why are there holes in my microwave door?

According to experts, these small holes are another safeguard against radiation, canceling out incoming electromagnetic waves just like the metal housing in the microwave does. Lodico said holes are only a concern if they’re very large, which these intentional holes are not. “In fact, the holes on the door are actually 10 times smaller than what they theoretically need to be. But, it makes sense to make them smaller in case the door is damaged in some way,” Lodico said. “Rule of thumb: If there is a hole in your microwave greater than three millimeters in diameter, it’s time to get a new microwave.”

Should you defrost meat in the microwave?

We’ve all been there: You forgot to put the frozen meat for dinner in the refrigerator to thaw out. The defrost feature on a microwave can come to the rescue. Defrosting sets your microwave’s power between 30% to 50% so it thaws your food without cooking it. Although it’s recommended to safely thaw meat in the refrigerator, you can use your microwave’s defrost button to thaw meat in a pinch as long as you cook it immediately after you thaw it. According to the FDA, microwaves may heat food unevenly which could result in harmful bacteria growth if the food isn’t cooked immediately after defrosting.

While we know from the marshmallow test that many microwaves have natural hot and cold spots, defrosting presents an additional challenge for microwaves because the waves don’t penetrate or heat frozen foods as effectively as thawed foods. “So there is a dilemma: Once the meat starts to defrost somewhere, it will continue heating there. But the frozen parts will heat up more slowly, leading to non-uniform temperatures,” said Schiffmann. “I break up the defrosted ground beef with a fork since it has usually softened, then I continue the defrost cycle for another minute or two, breaking up any softened, but completely melted parts.”

Schiffmann also said it’s important when cooking or defrosting food in the microwave to keep an eye on food temperature. “When cooking your food, measure several places with a food thermometer to avoid undercooking or underheating,” he said. According to the FDA, a safe final cooking temperature for poultry and ground beef is around 165 degrees Fahrenheit while roasts and steaks are safe around 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

What foods should I cook in my microwave oven?

“Microwave ovens are really poachers or steamers, so those foods that fit that profile do well,” says Schiffmann. “They’re great for cooking fish, vegetables, and chicken, but don’t expect dry foods to crisp or brown.” Any food with high water content does well in the microwave, like potatoes or fresh vegetables, and you can also use them as a shortcut when making boiled foods. For example, you can put dry pasta in a bowl of water and microwave for the cooking time on the pasta package. The pasta will cook perfectly and you don’t even have to wait for the water to boil. 

Check out our other small appliance buying guides

best juicers methodology
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The 4 best vacuum cleaners we tested in 2021 for carpet, hardwood, and even pet hair

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Depending on how you feel about it, vacuuming can be the most dreaded chore of all, or a therapeutic ridding of all that dust, dirt, and whatever else might be hiding on and within your floors and carpets.

We’ve tested plenty of vacuum cleaners over the years, and we have written several in-depth guides focused on everything from the best robot vacuums and the best affordable vacuums to the best vacuums for pet hair and the best cordless vacuums. But here, we have our top picks from each of these respective guides for an easily digestible look at the best of the best.

Apart from our testing, we’ve also spoken with experts during our research phases, including former Dyson Optimization Manager and engineer Edward Chudleigh about some common vacuum cleaner pitfalls and how to shop for a reliable appliance, which can be found here.

A good vacuum cleaner should have no trouble tackling both carpeting and hardwood, and the best ones we’ve tested can automatically detect the difference between the two and adjust their suction accordingly. Ease of use, cleaning, and maintenance are all important too – in fact, one of the most common losses of suction in a vacuum is a clogged filter or airway.

Whether you’re more of a set-it-and-forget-it robot vacuum type or you prefer to do it yourself with the ease and mobility of a cordless vacuum, or somewhere in between, you’ll find what you need below.

The best vacuum cleaners in 2021

The best cordless vacuum

best cordless vacuums 2021 best overall shark anti allergen

The Shark Anti-Allergen Cordless Vacuum is a strong performer all around, picking up particles of most sizes on a variety of surfaces in a smooth and efficient fashion. We also love the light that illuminates your cleaning path and the flexible hose that lets you reach under low spaces better than any other cordless vac.

Pros: Versatile, strong suction, cleaning path light, great for under-furniture cleaning, comes with attachments 

Cons: Loud and high-pitched noise, thick grip that may be uncomfortable for small hands, weaker on high-pile carpet and rug  

This Shark vacuum had the best overall cleaning performance of all the cordless vacuums we tested, picking up every bit of flour, cat litter, ground coffee, and dog hair from hardwood and tile with ease. It also does well with large particles like whole Cheerios. It’s less effective on high-pile rug. 

It’s not the lightest cordless vac out there, but it’s really smooth to operate and easy to use. There are distinct settings for hardwood and carpet located near the grip and they’re easy to slide between. There’s also a power boost trigger that you can hold down whenever you need some extra suction power. 

Rolling the cleaning head around hardwood and tile feels very smooth and soft, instead of clunky and abrasive. The cleaning head also has two useful features: a light that shows you exactly what you’re cleaning and highlights small particles you might’ve otherwise missed, and a green alert button that turns red when a blockage occurs, so you can address the problem right away. 

We also love how it can get lower and flatter than any other cordless vac. The middle of the stick can bend into a flexible hose “elbow,” allowing the entire bottom half of the stick to lay flat and get under beds, couches, chairs, and other tricky spots. 

Read our full guide to the best cordless vacuums.

The best on a budget

best vacuum 2021 sharkvac

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away offers solid performance, a useful set of tools, and best of all, a reasonable price tag.

Pros: Low price, superior performance, five-year warranty, lift-off canister and hose

Cons: The hose is a bit short at five feet, the electric cord is also relatively short at 25 feet (but an extension cord will fix that)

A canister vacuum offers powerful suction and versatility while an upright vacuum offers the convenience of easy navigation. The Shark Navigator Lift-Away offers the best of both worlds and its versatility has earned it the top spot in our guide to the best budget vacuum cleaners. It easily operates like an upright vacuum, but when you need to get under low furniture, vacuum the stairs, or even clear high cobwebs from your ceiling, the canister lifts off the base and becomes a much more portable machine.

The hose allows you to reach into tight places and anywhere the broad brush head won’t go, though it’s a bit short at just five feet, so you’ll have to carry the canister with you as you clean. Hose attachments include an eight-inch upholstery tool and two different crevice tools.

The vacuum cleaner has two settings, one for hardwood and one for carpet, which activates the brush roll. The bagless dust bin is quite large at 2.2 quarts and is sealed with a HEPA filter — a requirement of a good vacuum these days — to ensure airborne allergens don’t escape.

While a budget vacuum may not have the longevity offered by some of the more expensive models on the market, Shark offers a five-year limited warranty which all but guarantees you’ll get your money’s worth out of the machine. The filters are also easy to clean, so you’ll be able to maintain your machine’s suction.

Read our full guide to the best affordable vacuum cleaners.

The best for pet hair

best vacuum 2021 Dyson Ball Animal 2 Upright

The Dyson Ball Animal 2 prioritizes maneuverability, but the tangle-free brush setup is really what sets this machine apart for pet owners.

Pros: Powerful suction, great maneuverability, keeps dust and allergens in the machine, tangle-free turbine tool gets into tight spaces

Cons: Rollerball prevents you from getting under furniture, heavy, power cord does not retract

A vacuum specialized for pet hair should boast an easy-to-clean brush head, HEPA filtration to lock in allergens, and a removable hose with an upholstery attachment so you can suck up pet hair wherever it happens to land. The Dyson Ball Animal 2 checks all the boxes.

This upright vacuum easily handles both hardwood and carpet — with a rotating brush head that gets deep into area rugs and low-pile carpet very well. The self-adjusting head helps the vacuum create a tight seal against any type of flooring for a better clean.

The large-capacity bagless dust bin is sealed with a HEPA filter, locking in dust, hair, and pet dander. To empty it, simply lift it off the base and press a button on the canister handle to release the bottom and let the dust fall out. The filter is easily removable and washable.

Where the Ball Animal 2 really stands out is in its wand attachments. Not only does it come with a combination brush for hard-to-reach places and a specialized stair tool, but it also comes with its unique tangle-free turbine tool specifically formulated for pet hair. Chudleigh actually had a hand in developing the design, though we had already selected the vacuum as among the best before we ever reached out to him for this guide. The tool features counter-rotating spinner brushes which sucks up hair without giving it the chance to get tangled. It’s great for furniture, curtains, pet beds, and any other fabric you need to detail.

The Ball Animal 2 has a couple of downsides, the largest of which is that the roller ball makes it difficult to fit under furniture. When pet hair floats around the house and settles in hard-to-reach places like under the couch, the Dyson might have trouble getting there. The wand will be helpful, but you won’t get as thorough a clean you would with the brush head. It’s also a heavy machine at 17.5 pounds.

But overall, the powerful suction, tangle-free brush tool, and deep-cleaning spinning brush head make this the best overall pick in our guide to the best vacuums for pet hair. If you’re looking for other options in this category, check out our full guide here.

Read our full guide to the best vacuums for pet hair.

The best robot vacuum

best vacuum 2021 Roborock S6

The Roborock S6 has excellent suction power, runs quietly, is easily programmable, and comes with a bunch of extras that make cleaning up cat hair, cereal, and dust a breeze.

Pros: Excellent suction, works with Amazon Alexa, extra attachments, mopping capabilities, quiet, one-year warranty

Cons: Loud when on the highest setting, too tall to clean under some furniture

Insider Reviews’ James Brains has tested 25 robot vacuums, putting them through rigorous tests to see how well they pick up coffee grounds, cat litter, flour, and pet hair on both carpet and hardwood floors, and the Roborock S6 tops the list. 

Not only does it handle both hardwood and carpeted flooring with ease, but it also gets deepest into the corners of any robot vacuum we tested. It also did a good job navigating its cleaning paths, getting stuck very infrequently.

The Roborock S6 is Alexa compatible and comes with an app that allows you to set your cleaning schedule, determine varying suction levels, and set no-go zones once the vacuum has had a chance to map out your space.

The S6 also comes with a mopping tank attachment that allows you to transform it from a robot vac to a robot mop. According to Brains, the mopping attachment works well and the tank can be set to disperse just enough water, so you won’t have to worry about accidental flooding.

His complaints were minimal and mainly centered around the higher profile of the S6 when compared to other robot vac models. It can be a tight fit under some low-profile furniture which can lead to it getting stuck.

Read our full review of the Roborock S6.

Read our full guide to the best robot vacuums.

What to look for in a good vacuum

Like any home appliance, there are certain things to watch out for as you shop, certain boxes you should be sure to tick, and a good amount of homework to do before making a decision. Edward Chudleigh, a former Dyson engineer of 11 years, walked us through some of the common pitfalls of vacuum cleaners and how to shop for the best machine for your needs.

Here are some more specifics to look for:

A brushless motor: A vacuum’s motor is, of course, what powers the mechanism, ultimately providing suction and ensuring a clean home. Motors fall into two categories: brushed and brushless. Chudleigh recommends sticking to brushless motors: “Brushless motors are very efficient and translate much more of the available power from the battery to cleaning the floor. The trouble with brushed motors is that there is more friction in the system which in turn eats some of the battery power and, amongst other things, makes the machine less efficient.” He said brushes can also wear down over time and may emit carbon pollution into the air. Both Dyson models and the Roborock we recommend use brushless motors, but we were unable to determine what type of motor the Shark uses.

A well-designed brush head: “It’s all good having efficient motors and batteries, however this only works with a well-designed pick-up head,” said Chudleigh, who was involved in developing Dyson’s Tangle-Free Turbine Tool — a key feature in our recommendation for the best vacuum for pet hair. A well-designed brush head ensures the dirt and dust on your floor is actually making its way into your vacuum. You can see a good example of how we test vacuum pick-up in our guide to the best robot vacuums.

A bagless design: “Bagless every time,” said Chudleigh. Vacuum bags have tiny holes that allow air to pass through them and act almost like a filter, trapping dust and dirt. But over time, those tiny holes get clogged. “The suction of the vacuum then decreases as more holes get blocked. It’s essentially like strangling a vacuum cleaner,” said Chudleigh. Bagless designs employ a cyclonic system that “spins the particles out of the airflow” allowing clean air to pass through the motor without clogging anything or impeding suction. All of the vacuums we recommend are bagless.

A lightweight machine: This one’s pretty simple. You’d want a vacuum somewhere around 10 to 15 pounds that you can easily carry around your home, up and down flights of stairs, and even out to your car.  

A strong warranty: Chudleigh said that the most common parts that fail in vacuums are hoses and batteries, so ensure the warranty on any vacuum you buy has a suitable guarantee to replace those parts should issues come up. He also recommends you look for a good money-back guarantee that ensures you can return that machine for any reason if you’re unhappy with its performance.

Types of vacuum cleaners

Robot vacuum: A robot vacuum is an autonomous vacuum cleaner that roams around your house with no effort on your part aside from maybe setting a scheduled cleaning time or freeing it when it gets tangled in a power cord or stuck behind a piece of furniture. They’re not as powerful as other types of vacuum cleaners and need to be emptied regularly, but they can’t be beaten when it comes to convenience.

Canister vacuum: A canister vacuum has its motor and dust bin in a standalone canister with the brush head attached by a long suction hose. The canister is usually on wheels, and it follows you around a bit like a lost puppy. Canister vacuums are known for their superior power and excellent suction, but they don’t offer much versatility and are particularly difficult to move around the house given that you’re tethered to a separate piece that you have to tote around with you.

Upright vacuum: An upright vacuum is what you likely picture when asked to imagine a vacuum — if you’re in the US, that is. (If you’re in the UK, you’ll likely picture a canister vacuum.) Unlike canister vacuums, upright vacuums have the motor, dust bin, and head all aligned in one package. The vacuum stands upright on its own and the body of the machine tilts back when you need to vacuum. Upright vacuums balance power and versatility, but can still be clunky to operate in some cases. They are often equipped with a removable hose to reach places the main brush head can’t go.

Stick vacuum: Stick vacuums prevail when it comes to convenience and portability, but they often do so by sacrificing power. Often rechargeable and cordless, the batteries they’re equipped with simply can’t generate as much power as corded vacuums and they need to be recharged often. The dust bins are often smaller than upright or canister vacuums as well. But it’s the most lightweight category of vacuum, and a low profile makes it easy to slide under almost any furniture.

Handheld vacuum: Just like Jell-O became synonymous with gelatin desserts, so too did Black & Decker’s Dustbuster become synonymous with handheld vacuums. A handheld vacuum is ultra-compact and good for spot cleaning — think of a spilled box of cereal, stray kitty litter, or picking up dust after sweeping. You certainly won’t want to clean your whole house with one, but they’re good to have around for quick messes.

Vacuum parts

Head: This is the part of the vacuum that moves across your floor and picks up dirt and dust.

Brush roll: The brush roll is situated in the head of the vacuum and should be activated when cleaning carpet. It spins to help agitate the carpet pile to dislodge dust and dirt.

Dust bin: A canister on the main body of the vacuum where trapped dirt and dust is stored.

HEPA filter: A high-efficiency particulate air filter or HEPA filter must filter 99.97% of airborne particles in order to meet HEPA standards. Most high-quality vacuum cleaners contain HEPA filters. Many are washable and reusable and should be cleaned regularly.

Wand: Often featured on upright vacuums, wands detach from the main body to allow you to reach spots the head can’t go. They’re useful for cleaning stairs, corners, and upholstery.

Crevice tool: A long, flat attachment with an angled tip. It’s good for getting into tight corners including baseboards and stairs and between couch cushions. 

Dust brush tool: A small attachment with soft bristles. It’s good for blinds, windowsills, and delicate objects. 

Upholstery tool: A wide, flat attachment that allows for strong suction. It’s good for furniture with fabric upholstery like mattresses, chairs, and couches. 

Lithium ion battery: A type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium ions and can store high amounts of energy and deliver higher voltage than nickel-based batteries. It doesn’t display memory effect, but it is less stable than nickel-based batteries and has a tendency to overheat. 

Nickel battery: A type of rechargeable battery that comes in either nickel-cadmium (Ni-Ca) or nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) form. It can store high amounts of energy, is more difficult to damage than Li-ion batteries, and suffers from memory effect.

Check out our other vacuum buying guides

best vacuum 2021 Bissel cordless vacuum
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The Home Depot is offering up to 20% off furniture, bedding, and decor

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Home Depot Winter Sale

It’s about that time of year when people start venturing into the wood-scented aisles of The Home Depot in an effort to take care of mandatory home fix-ups, appliance replacements, and lofty (but doable) projects. You don’t have to be a handyman to know that it’s the best place to shop when you’re trying to complete a DIY project.

Even for ambitious tasks, The Home Depot is there to help – and for a limited time, the store is offering some pretty great deals like up to up to 20% off select kitchen furniture, home office furniture, wall decor, and artificial plants. Some duvet covers and sets are also up to 50% off.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best deals from the sale as a jumping-off point.

Shop all sales and deals at The Home Depot now or keep scrolling for our favorite deals

Glenville White Kitchen Cart with 2 Shelves (medium)5-Piece Gray Solid Wood Dining Set (medium)Finwick Bar Stool with Wood Seat (2-piece) (medium)Kitchen Cabinet (medium)Rose Pink Leisure Armchair (medium)Electric Standing Desk (medium)Ergonomic Mesh Office Chair (medium)Artificial Hedyotis Topiaries (2-piece) (medium)Industrial L-Shaped Desk (medium)Medium Down Cotton Comforter (medium)

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The 5 best blenders in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • When selecting a blender, you’re going to want one that’s powerful enough to do any job you need.
  • The Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender is our best pick as it has a  powerful motor, is affordable, and is easy-to-use.
  • We also recommend other blenders that have powerful motors, rival professional models, and more.

A blender seems like a simple kitchen tool, and for the most part, it is. Blenders give you a variety of settings to help you achieve the consistency you need for a particular recipe. And even if you don’t use it specifically for cooking, a blender is essential when you want to whip up, say, kale smoothies or homemade vanilla milkshakes.

Although blenders all seem to perform the same tasks, a good blender has a powerful motor, and can handle blending everything from frozen drinks and smoothies to fruits and vegetables. A blender is a great investment if you enjoy having smoothies frequently, make a lot of dips and sauces, or if you simply would like some help prepping and chopping ingredients while cooking. We tested several blenders and recommend the following options due to their power, affordability, and versatility in blending several kinds of foods.

Here are the best blenders in 2021

The best blender overall

calphalon blender

True to its name, the Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender automatically senses the correct speed for the ingredients you’re blending and can be used for smoothies, dips, and milkshakes.

Pros: 1100-watt motor that automatically senses ingredients and adjusts for best results, four preset functions, 10 adjustable speeds, easy to clean, features durable stainless steel blades, comes with a Blend-N-Go jar for added convenience

Cons: Lid that goes with smoothie cup is slightly awkward to use

The Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender has four preset functions, 10 adjustable speeds, and a 1100-watt motor that automatically senses the thickness of your ingredients. 

I put the Calphalon Auto-Speed through its paces, and it’s held up well to daily use, resulting in thick, silky smoothies. It do much more than make smoothies, however, which makes it a great multi-purpose tool to have on your kitchen counter. The pulse feature allows for food prep and chopping — and makes great salsa. There are also four preset functions for dips, milkshakes, frozen drinks, and smoothies as well as adjustable speeds for more hands-on control.

I especially like the addition of the reverse pulse button which helps pull the ingredients further down into the blade if necessary to prevent any jams, resulting in a smooth blend. The 6-point stainless steel blades are durable and easy to clean thanks to the way they’re angled.

Presets and speeds are controlled by a dial on the front that’s clearly labeled, and you can start, pause, pulse and reverse pulse at the push of a button. The easy to read digital interface shows you how long you’ve been blending, or counts down to the finish if you choose to use one of the presets.

Each part of the blender that attaches to the base is also dishwasher safe for further convenience. I’ve cleaned each of these parts in our own dishwasher multiple times with no issue.

When blending, you can either use the 2-Liter pitcher for larger quantities, or the convenient 25-ounce Blend-N-Go Jar for single-serving-sized smoothies and drinks. While I liked using the Blend-N-Go Jar, I did find the drinking lid that comes with it slightly awkward to use. It prevented any spills, but the attached cap was sometimes more of a nuisance than anything else. — Kylie Joyner

The best blender on a budget

blender

The KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender is a solid, affordable blender that can make soups and smoothies easily.

Pros: Sturdy, affordable, makes good smoothies, decent motor, five speeds

Cons: Not as powerful as others

Although you certainly can spend hundreds of dollars on a blender, you don’t have to if you only want an occasional smoothie, soup, or blended dessert. I’ve owned the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender for several years, and it’s still going strong.

The Die Cast Metal Base is sturdy, so it doesn’t shake as it blends, which is something that a lot of cheap blenders tend to do. Although it’s not as powerful as many of the blenders in our guide, the KitchenAid has a perfectly capable motor that helps the stainless steel blades blend just about anything with little effort.

KitchenAid’s Intelli-Speed Motor Control tech ensures that ingredients are blended equally. The 56-ounce BPA-Free pitcher is easy to clean, as is the two-piece lid. Years of use haven’t harmed the sturdy plastic pitcher or the lid, which still fits snugly. — Malarie Gokey

The best high-powered blender

blender

The Ninja Professional Blender delivers plenty of power to crush ice and blend a variety of ingredients to create perfect smoothies every time.

Pros: Perfect option for creating smoothies at home, good price point, offers many different kinds of blending options, works to crush ice, blends many kinds of foods successfully

Cons: Unit’s lid can be difficult to clean, blades are sharp when you take blender apart for cleaning

If you’re looking to create great-tasting smoothies at home, you’ll want a blender with plenty of power to ensure the ingredients are well mixed and delivered at the desired texture. The Ninja Professional Blender has the features needed to pulverize ice and create the highest quality smoothies possible.

It boasts 1,100 watts of power with three speeds, a pulse setting, and a single-serve function. Ninja also includes two 16-ounce to-go cups so you can take your breakfast smoothie with you. The blender’s 72-ounce pitcher is a good size and it has a form-fitting lid and a nice big handle.

Guides Editor Les Shu has seen the Ninja in action. The multiple sharp blades that run up the core of the blender cup, while befitting of the Ninja name, look both frightening and ridiculous. When it’s running, the blender is jet-engine loud. But it did a terrific job cutting through ice and fresh pineapple for piña coladas.

Indeed, the Ninja blender does a great job with all kinds of blending needs, including crushing and pureeing for smoothies. It’s the perfect choice for people who don’t want to invest in our top pick but still need a powerful blender.

As for downsides, the Ninja blender is difficult to take apart and clean, in large part because of the sharpness of the blades. The lid also has some crevasses that are tough to clean properly. But otherwise, this is a great pick. — Kyle Schurman

The best professional-style

Screen Shot 2018 07 23 at 2.53.02 PM

The Vitamix Professional series 750 offers everything you need in a blender, and its proven longevity makes it worth the price.

Pros: Consistent, powerful motor, strong blades stay sharp, 7-year warranty

Cons: Price tag

We know this is a lot to spend on a blender, or anything, really. But if you want the most consistent consistency, and you use your blender on a daily basis, it’s easily justified. When you go to a smoothie shop, you’re probably paying well over $5 per drink, and if you do so even two or three times a week, that adds up (I’m a writer, so I’ll let you do your own math).

The Vitamix 750 is a professional-grade, 1440-watt blender built to last the better part of a decade, and Vitamix’s 7-year warranty is enough to attest to that. Sure, you may have some 20-year-old anvil of a thing living on your counter that still works, more or less, but I’ll bet your smoothies turn out to be laden with large, blade-neglected chunks of your chosen fruits. I’ll also bet it’s not the prettiest thing in your kitchen, either.

The Vitamix 750 has 10 speeds as well as four automatic settings for smoothies, hot soups, frozen desserts, and purées. These settings allow you to walk away from the blender while the automatic drive on the blender assesses the power and speed needed to acquire the proper consistency of your desired dish.

For those who use their blender only every so often but still demand perfection, the Vitamix 5200 is of comparable quality, just with a less technical interface and no automatic drive for setting your blender to smoothie mode and walking away. — Owen Burke

The best vacuum blender

breville the super q z

The Breville Super Q Blender isn’t inherently a vacuum blender, but together with Breville’s Vac Q attachment, it becomes one of the best.

Pros: Extremely powerful, versatile, automatic shut off/hands-free

Cons: Expensive, not as easy to manually operate as a Vitamix if you’re getting technical

Breville’s Super Q Blender is a great blender on its own, but when you add the VacQ attachment to it, it becomes a vacuum blender and removes all air from your concoctions.

An 1800-watt motor that drives steel blade tips at 186 miles per hour; it’s a remarkable feat of technology for blending (and nearly juicing) just about anything you can get your hands on. The Super Q also has five programmed presets for easy use.

Insider Reviews editorial director Ellen Hoffman and I set up shop at Insider Reviews Headquarters (otherwise known as our office kitchen) where we stuffed the Breville Super Q with every fruit and vegetable we could get our hands on. We ended up with a host of perfectly consistent, sometimes strange-tasting concoctions (through no fault of Breville).

Two things impressed me about this blender in comparison with the Vitamix. First, the Super Q is unbelievably quiet. We were able to carry on with a conversation at normal volume while the motor was whirring away somewhere between a whisper and a barely vocal growl. This is, far and away, the quietest, albeit most powerful blender I’ve ever put to use. 

What really makes the Super Q a solid buy, however, is the Vac Q, which, unfortunately, comes separately. That’s my only gripe with this machine so far. A small-handled vacuum about the size of a coffee mug that you place over the top of the pitcher or smoothie cup, the Vac Q pulls as much air out of the container as would seem possible. This process creates such a tight seal on the lid that it’s almost impossible to open without using the depressurizing cap, which reduces oxidation and bubbles.

In short: It makes your juice taste better and last longer. The more foam and froth in juice, or anything you’re blending, the more nutrients you lose. Sure, there are many reasons we drink juice, but most of us are taking nutrition into account, too. — Owen Burke

Breville Vac Q Attachment

Breville Super Q Blender

The best personal blender

breville boss to go sport

For the smoothest smoothies, shakes, and juices, the powerful Breville Boss To Go Sport is your go-to personal blender.

Pros: Powerful, blends ice and harder foods, two travel cups and lids

Cons: Only one speed

The Breville Boss To Go Sport is a perfectly sized blender for on-the-go smoothies in the morning or smaller blending jobs. But don’t let its compact form-factor fool you: This is a powerful 1000-watt blender that can pulverize ice and hard fruits.

Besides the powerful motor, the Boss To Go Sport uses what Breville calls a Kinetix blade. The unique curved design of the four blades helps to create smoother foods — great for silky smoothies and shakes, not so much if you like chunky guacamole. And it does things fast, which is great if you’re short on time in the morning.

The blender comes with two travel cups and lids, one 23-ounce and one 15-ounce. There’s only one speed, however. But like all Breville products, the Boss to Go Sport looks industrial-sleek. 

The Boss To Go Sport is pricey, but like many Breville products, we believe it’s a good investment and it’s backed by great customer service. You can purchase personal blenders at half the price (or more) of the Boss to Go Sport, like those from NutriBullet. However, in our experience, NutriBullets are notorious for leaking and their motors tend to blow out too easily. — Les Shu

What to look for in a blender

Here’s what we look for in a great blender:

  • Power: The motor is the most important part of any blender, and the higher the wattage, the better the performance. Always get a blender with a motor that’s more than 500 watts. If you want to make frozen drinks, you may need one with 1,000 watts of power.
  • Blades: Some blenders have blades made for solid objects like ice, while others are better equipped for blending softer foods. Stainless steel blades are best.
  • Size and materials: We look for durable, wide blender jars with tight-fitting lids. 

Types of blenders

There are a few different types of blenders, each with its own unique features: conventional, multi-function, personal, and immersion. 

  • Conventional: A conventional blender is the most common type for use in your home kitchen; it can perform a variety of functions from making soup to blending smoothies.
  • Multi-function: Multi-function, professional-style blenders have powerful motors and are often used in restaurants. F
  • Personal: These small appliances make single servings and may run from a battery for portability.
  • Immersion: These stick-like handheld blenders can be placed directly into a pot or other container to puree soups, sauces, and smoothies. We left immersion blenders (also called hand blenders) off of this list because they have their own comprehensive buying guide, which you can check out here.

Check out our other small appliance buying guides

Breville 98xl juicer

 

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The best vacuum cleaners in 2021

  • No matter what kind of flooring or carpet you have, you need a good vacuum cleaner to keep them tidy.
  • We like vacuums from Dyson, Shark, and Roborock for their strong suction and long battery life.
  • Read more: The best robot vacuums 

Depending on how you feel about it, vacuuming can be the most dreaded chore of all, or a therapeutic ridding of all that dust, dirt, and whatever else might be hiding on and within your floors and carpets.

We’ve tested plenty of vacuum cleaners over the years, and we have written several in-depth guides focused on everything from the best robot vacuums and the best affordable vacuums to the best vacuums for pet hair and the best cordless vacuums. But here, we have our top picks from each of these respective guides for an easily digestible look at the best of the best.

Apart from our testing, we’ve also spoken with experts during our research phases, including former Dyson Optimization Manager and engineer Edward Chudleigh about some common vacuum cleaner pitfalls and how to shop for a reliable appliance, which can be found here.

A good vacuum cleaner should have no trouble tackling both carpeting and hardwood, and the best ones we’ve tested can automatically detect the difference between the two and adjust their suction accordingly. Ease of use, cleaning, and maintenance are all important too – in fact, one of the most common losses of suction in a vacuum is a clogged filter or airway.

Whether you’re more of a set-it-and-forget-it robot vacuum type or you prefer to do it yourself with the ease and mobility of a cordless vacuum, or somewhere in between, you’ll find what you need below.

The best vacuum cleaners in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

 

The best cordless vacuum

best vacuum 2021 dyson v11 outsize vacuum review

With a bin that’s 150% larger than the previous model, strong suction power, and a two-hour battery life, the Dyson V11 Outsize is made for cleaning large homes with ease and efficiency.

Pros: Lightweight, very powerful for a cordless vacuum, stores almost anywhere, long battery life for a cordless vacuum, large dust bin, easily reaches under furniture

Cons: Very expensive, batteries aren’t removable, heaviest of Dyson’s cordless vacuums

Cordless, compact, battery-powered “stick” vacuums are ideal for homes and apartments where space is precious. They’re slim, lightweight, and easy to store, but in the past, we’ve hesitated to recommend them to folks with larger homes due to limited battery life.

But the Dyson V11 Outsize solves this issue by improving its battery life to up to 120 minutes, and it complements the longer run time with a full-size dust bin and large cleaning head. Collectively, the Insider Reviews team has tested a host of cordless vacuums, and senior editor Jada Wong and senior reporter Connie Chen both agree that the Dyson V11 Outsize has impressed us the most.

“The V11 Outsize has all the features you could want in a high-tech vacuum: it’s big and efficient, but it still looks sleek, and it can get into low, tough-to-reach areas. Outside of the core cleaning task, it’s easy to empty, maintain, and store. If you want to invest in an effective cordless vacuum, I can’t imagine a better choice,” said Chen.

If you’re not ready to financially commit to the V11, Dyson’s other cordless models including the V8 and V10 are still excellent performers that will suit you well, especially if you have a smaller home.

Read our full review of the Dyson V11 Outsize.

Read our full guide to the best cordless vacuums.

The best on a budget

best vacuum 2021 sharkvac

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away offers solid performance, a useful set of tools, and best of all, a reasonable price tag.

Pros: Low price, superior performance, five-year warranty, lift-off canister and hose

Cons: The hose is a bit short at five feet, the electric cord is also relatively short at 25 feet (but an extension cord will fix that)

A canister vacuum offers powerful suction and versatility while an upright vacuum offers the convenience of easy navigation. The Shark Navigator Lift-Away offers the best of both worlds and its versatility has earned it the top spot in our guide to the best budget vacuum cleaners. It easily operates like an upright vacuum, but when you need to get under low furniture, vacuum the stairs, or even clear high cobwebs from your ceiling, the canister lifts off the base and becomes a much more portable machine.

The hose allows you to reach into tight places and anywhere the broad brush head won’t go, though it’s a bit short at just five feet, so you’ll have to carry the canister with you as you clean. Hose attachments include an eight-inch upholstery tool and two different crevice tools.

The vacuum cleaner has two settings, one for hardwood and one for carpet, which activates the brush roll. The bagless dust bin is quite large at 2.2 quarts and is sealed with a HEPA filter — a requirement of a good vacuum these days — to ensure airborne allergens don’t escape.

While a budget vacuum may not have the longevity offered by some of the more expensive models on the market, Shark offers a five-year limited warranty which all but guarantees you’ll get your money’s worth out of the machine. The filters are also easy to clean, so you’ll be able to maintain your machine’s suction.

Read our full guide to the best affordable vacuum cleaners.

The best for pet hair

best vacuum 2021 Dyson Ball Animal 2 Upright

The Dyson Ball Animal 2 prioritizes maneuverability, but the tangle-free brush setup is really what sets this machine apart for pet owners.

Pros: Powerful suction, great maneuverability, keeps dust and allergens in the machine, tangle-free turbine tool gets into tight spaces

Cons: Rollerball prevents you from getting under furniture, heavy, power cord does not retract

A vacuum specialized for pet hair should boast an easy-to-clean brush head, HEPA filtration to lock in allergens, and a removable hose with an upholstery attachment so you can suck up pet hair wherever it happens to land. The Dyson Ball Animal 2 checks all the boxes.

This upright vacuum easily handles both hardwood and carpet — with a rotating brush head that gets deep into area rugs and low-pile carpet very well. The self-adjusting head helps the vacuum create a tight seal against any type of flooring for a better clean.

The large-capacity bagless dustbin is sealed with a HEPA filter, locking in dust, hair, and pet dander. To empty it, simply lift it off the base and press a button on the canister handle to release the bottom and let the dust fall out. The filter is easily removable and washable.

Where the Ball Animal 2 really stands out is in its wand attachments. Not only does it come with a combination brush for hard to reach places and a specialized stair tool, but it also comes with its unique tangle-free turbine tool specifically formulated for pet hair. Chudleigh actually had a hand in developing the design, though we had already selected the vacuum as among the best before we ever reached out to him for this guide. The tool features counter-rotating spinner brushes which sucks up hair without giving it the chance to get tangled. It’s great for furniture, curtains, pet beds, and any other fabric you need to detail.

The Ball Animal 2 has a couple of downsides, the largest of which is that the roller ball makes it difficult to fit under furniture. When pet hair floats around the house and settles in hard-to-reach places like under the couch, the Dyson might have trouble getting there. The wand will be helpful, but you won’t get as thorough a clean you would with the brush head. It’s also a heavy machine at 17.5 pounds.

But overall, the powerful suction, tangle-free brush tool, and deep-cleaning spinning brush head make this the best overall pick in our guide to the best vacuums for pet hair. If you’re looking for other options in this category, check out our full guide here.

Read our full guide to the best vacuums for pet hair.

The best robot vacuum

best vacuum 2021 Roborock S6

The Roborock S6 has excellent suction power, runs quietly, is easily programmable, and comes with a bunch of extras that make cleaning up cat hair, cereal, and dust a breeze.

Pros: Excellent suction, works with Amazon Alexa, extra attachments, mopping capabilities, quiet, one-year warranty

Cons: Loud when on the highest setting, too tall to clean under some furniture

Insider Reviews’ James Brains has tested more than 16 robot vacuums, putting them through rigorous tests to see how well they pick up coffee grounds, cat litter, flour, and pet hair on both carpet and hardwood floors, and the Roborock S6 tops the list. 

Not only does it handle both hardwood and carpeted flooring with ease, but it also gets deepest into the corners of any robot vacuum we tested. It also did a good job navigating its cleaning paths, getting stuck very infrequently.

The Roborock S6 is Alexa compatible and comes with an app that allows you to set your cleaning schedule, determine varying suction levels, and set no-go zones once the vacuum has had a chance to map out your space.

The S6 also comes with a mopping tank attachment that allows you to transform it from a robot vac to a robot mop. According to Brains, the mopping attachment works well and the tank can be set to disperse just enough water, so you won’t have to worry about accidental flooding.

His complaints were minimal and mainly centered around the higher profile of the S6 when compared to other robot vac models. It can be a tight fit under some low-profile furniture which can lead to it getting stuck.

Read our full review of the Roborock S6.

Read our full guide to the best robot vacuums.

What to look for in a good vacuum

Like any home appliance, there are certain things to watch out for as you shop, certain boxes you should be sure to tick, and a good amount of homework to do before making a decision. Edward Chudleigh, a former Dyson engineer of 11 years, walked us through some of the common pitfalls of vacuum cleaners and how to shop for the best machine for your needs.

Here are some more specifics to look for:

A brushless motor: A vacuum’s motor is, of course, what powers the mechanism, ultimately providing suction and ensuring a clean home. Motors fall into two categories: brushed and brushless. Chudleigh recommends sticking to brushless motors: “Brushless motors are very efficient and translate much more of the available power from the battery to cleaning the floor. The trouble with brushed motors is that there is more friction in the system which in turn eats some of the battery power and, amongst other things, makes the machine less efficient.” He said brushes can also wear down over time and may emit carbon pollution into the air. Both Dyson models and the Roborock we recommend use brushless motors, but we were unable to determine what type of motor the Shark uses.

A well-designed brush head: “It’s all good having efficient motors and batteries, however this only works with a well-designed pick-up head,” said Chudleigh, who was involved in developing Dyson’s Tangle-Free Turbine Tool — a key feature in our recommendation for the best vacuum for pet hair. A well-designed brush head ensures the dirt and dust on your floor is actually making its way into your vacuum. You can see a good example of how we test vacuum pick-up in our guide to the best robot vacuums.

A bagless design: “Bagless every time,” said Chudleigh. Vacuum bags have tiny holes that allow air to pass through them and act almost like a filter, trapping dust and dirt. But over time, those tiny holes get clogged. “The suction of the vacuum then decreases as more holes get blocked. It’s essentially like strangling a vacuum cleaner,” said Chudleigh. Bagless designs employ a cyclonic system that “spins the particles out of the airflow” allowing clean air to pass through the motor without clogging anything or impeding suction. All of the vacuums we recommend are bagless.

A lightweight machine: This one’s pretty simple. You’d want a vacuum somewhere around 10 to 15 pounds that you can easily carry around your home, up and down flights of stairs, and even out to your car.  

A strong warranty: Chudleigh said that the most common parts that fail in vacuums are hoses and batteries, so ensure the warranty on any vacuum you buy has a suitable guarantee to replace those parts should issues come up. He also recommends you look for a good money-back guarantee that ensures you can return that machine for any reason if you’re unhappy with its performance.

Types of vacuum cleaners

Robot vacuum: A robot vacuum is an autonomous vacuum cleaner that roams around your house with no effort on your part aside from maybe setting a scheduled cleaning time or freeing it when it gets tangled in a power cord or stuck behind a piece of furniture. They’re not as powerful as other types of vacuum cleaners and need to be emptied regularly, but they can’t be beaten when it comes to convenience.

Canister vacuum: A canister vacuum has its motor and dust bin in a standalone canister with the brush head attached by a long suction hose. The canister is usually on wheels, and it follows you around a bit like a lost puppy. Canister vacuums are known for their superior power and excellent suction, but they don’t offer much versatility and are particularly difficult to move around the house given that you’re tethered to a separate piece that you have to tote around with you.

Upright vacuum: An upright vacuum is what you likely picture when asked to imagine a vacuum — if you’re in the US, that is. (If you’re in the UK, you’ll likely picture a canister vacuum.) Unlike canister vacuums, upright vacuums have the motor, dustbin, and head all aligned in one package. The vacuum stands upright on its own and the body of the machine tilts back when you need to vacuum. Upright vacuums balance power and versatility, but can still be clunky to operate in some cases. They are often equipped with a removable hose to reach places the main brush head can’t go.

Stick vacuum: Stick vacuums prevail when it comes to convenience and portability, but they often do so by sacrificing power. Often rechargeable and cordless, the batteries they’re equipped with simply can’t generate as much power as corded vacuums and they need to be recharged often. The dustbins are often smaller than upright or canister vacuums as well. But it’s the most lightweight category of vacuum, and a low profile makes it easy to slide under almost any furniture.

Handheld vacuum: Just like Jell-O became synonymous with gelatin desserts, so too did Black & Decker’s Dustbuster become synonymous with handheld vacuums. A handheld vacuum is ultra-compact and good for spot cleaning — think of a spilled box of cereal, stray kitty litter, or picking up dust after sweeping. You certainly won’t want to clean your whole house with one, but they’re good to have around for quick messes.

Vacuum parts

Head: This is the part of the vacuum that moves across your floor and picks up dirt and dust.

Brush roll: The brush roll is situated in the head of the vacuum and should be activated when cleaning carpet. It spins to help agitate the carpet pile to dislodge dust and dirt.

Dust bin: A canister on the main body of the vacuum where trapped dirt and dust is stored.

HEPA filter: A high-efficiency particulate air filter or HEPA filter must filter 99.97% of airborne particles in order to meet HEPA standards. Most high-quality vacuum cleaners contain HEPA filters. Many are washable and reusable and should be cleaned regularly.

Wand: Often featured on upright vacuums, wands detach from the main body to allow you to reach spots the head can’t go. They’re useful for cleaning stairs, corners, and upholstery.

Check out our other vacuum buying guides

best vacuum 2021 Bissel cordless vacuum
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