Dear Millennials, Buy a Vacuum Cleaner

Being young is no excuse for not having a clean house.

A vacuum cleaner Credit: / Kori Perten

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A friend of mine recently confided in me a secret she shares with millions of other millennials: She doesn’t own a real vacuum cleaner. Despite being 30 years old, having her own place, and living with a cat, she’s cleaning her apartment with a $50 stick vac she picked up at Target.

Although stereotypes say that 18-34 year olds have no problem opening their wallets for smartphones, craft beer, and pricey urban apartments, data shows that many young adults overlook a crucial weapon in the arsenal of adulthood: A vacuum cleaner tougher than a dustbuster.

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When millennials buy a vacuum, they tend to spend less than $150—22 percent less than older adults spend. That leaves them with inexpensive uprights, cheap cordless vacuums, and plug-in stick vacs. Those are great for cleaning up debris tracked in from outside or crumbs spilled in the kitchen, but they’re virtually useless for getting allergens out of carpets—let alone cleaning upholstery or chasing dust bunnies from under furniture.

For that, you need a vacuum with a motorized brush and enough suction to get that dirt into a bag you can throw away. It should come with attachments that can clean between couch cushions and under bureaus. Preferably, that vacuum will be a canister, with a hose that gives you the option of reaching tight spaces. Prepare to spend more than $150 on it, and get ready to use it every week.

Don’t like the sound of the vacuum-owning life? Sorry! Like paying taxes, going to bed early, and getting your cholesterol checked, having a real vacuum in your closet is just part of being a grown-up.

See, we’ve tested stick vacuums and regular vacuums, and have conclusively determined that stick vacs—while okay for touch-up work—are totally inadequate for the task of cleaning the home of an adult human.

Not only do their batteries not last long enough for a whole-house clean, but they also leave behind up to 80 percent of the dirt, dust, and allergens that are buried in the pile of your carpet.

It’s even more alarming when you consider that almost 60 percent of millennials are also pet owners—up 9 percent since 2010. Even if you have hardwood floors and a minimalist aesthetic, that pet hair has got to go somewhere. Likely, on your clothes and in your food, unless you own a proper vacuum.

Consider the Kenmore 21614 canister vac. On sale for around $250, it comes with a powered brush head and a smaller brush for cleaning up animal fur. Our testers found that it wasn’t fancy, but it has every tool necessary to get the job done. Even though it has a long reach and weighs a decent amount, it’s designed to balance well in use and store neatly in even the smallest closets.

I can already anticipate the counterarguments from the Peter Pans of the housecleaning set: “But I don’t make that much of a mess,” they’ll protest. “I use a Swiffer,” or, “My place is so small, I don’t need a vacuum!”

Fine, you can live like a teenager. Just be prepared to watch your peers quite literally leaving you in the dust. While you marinate in squalor, they’ll be grabbing promotions, buying houses, and building families—all because they had the maturity to invest a few hundred dollars in a miraculous machine that should be in the home of every man or woman old enough to rent a car.

Like paying taxes, going to bed early, and getting your cholesterol checked, having a real vacuum in your closet is just part of being a grown-up.

Instead of choosing to live with dust mites, pet dander, and lingering odors as your only companions, you could suck it up and buy a real vacuum. Whether you’re using it to clean a 300-sq.-ft. studio, the apartment you share with six roommates, or your mom’s basement, ownership of a full-size vacuum cleaner isn’t just a way to keep your house clean—it’s also an important step on the road to adulthood.

It’s a step that my friend took. After much convincing, she finally decided that a shiny, new canister vacuum would make a perfect 30th birthday gift to herself. So, she swallowed her pride and welcomed one into her home. I can only predict that a life filled with cleanliness, happiness, and financial success will follow.

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