DYSON OR KIRBY VACUUM- Which is the best vacuum?

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For years the Kirby vacuum has been king of the vacuums.  As far as cleaning power and durability goes they could not be beat.  But now their is a new kid in town...the Dyson vacuum.  Dysons only been around for a few years but making a big splash and lots of people have been buying them.  But are they as good as all the hype?  Hi my name is Dustin Chaffin, General Manager of Great-Vacs.  We have sold over 10,000 vacuum cleaners online and we know vacuums.   I get tons of emails saying "which is better the Kirby or the Dyson".  I am excited to write this guide and answer this question once and for all.  So lets get right to it.  For our tests we used the high end Dyson DC14 Animal that was about 1 year old.  For our Kirby Test we used a 2004 Kirby Diamond (3 years old). 

This guide was so detailed that it turned out to be very long.  It actually turned out to be over 35,000 letters and ebay only allows 20,000 So I will have to take out a lot of information and just sum it up.  If you would like the detailed test just email me and I can email it to you.  So if you don’t want to go over all the details (there is tons of good information though) scroll to the bottom and read my Conclusion where I sum up all the details.

Test #1 - Best Vacuum not to CLOG
What causes clogs is small suction tubes and corners  Below is a picture of a Dyson tube next to a Kirby tube.
As you can see from the pictures the Kirby suction tube is almost twice the size as the dyson one.  The Dyson one also has a sharp corner in some of its tubing. 

Fact – The very first used Dyson we got traded in was clogged. 
Fact -  If you read other reviews on the internet they say people have had a problem with the Dyson Clogging with long pet hair.
Fact – There is no vacuum that is impossible to clog.  We have sold over 4000 kirbys and from normal vacuuming conditions have never seen a kirby clog. 

Test #2 - Most Airflow and Vacuum power

So this is one of the most important tests after all no matter how cool a vacuum looks, we buy a vacuum to pick up the dirt.  Kirby Motor Size is 7 amps and Dyson is 12 amps.  For this test we are going to use a Airflow Indicator meter tool made by Baird.  This tool is desiged to test power and airflow (see pictures below).

This tool is a tube with a ball attached to a spring.  I has a rating of 0 to 10.  You hook it up to a vacuum and turn on the vacuum to test the vacuum power and airflow.  The higher the suction the further up the scale the the meter will read.  0 is really bad and 10 is amazing suction.  For our first test we will test the power by hooking it up to the hose.  Each hose it tested at the same length away from the vacuum. 

After we tested the Dyson the Power Meter read = a 1 out of 10  (see picture)

After we tested the Kirby the Suction Meter read = a 7 out of 10 (see picture)

Now we are going to test the power hooked up to the vacuum itself.  You are about to learn a new principle here.  It’s a fact that the longer the hose the more suction you loose.  Hooked up to the vacuum on the Dyson the Power Meter read = a 2.8 out of 10 (see picture)
On the Kirby it read = a 10 out of 10 (see picture)

Fact – The motor size in amps does not mean a vacuum is more powerful
Fact – The kirby had over 3 times the power and airflow as the dyson when testing it with the airflow meter.

Test #3 – Most Suction Full of Dirt
The other Dysons promise is that it is Guaranteed not to loose airflow as the vacuum fills us so lets check it out.

Dyson – So we grabbed 3 Dysons.  One was our tester Dyson that was cleaned and had no dirt in it, one was 1/3 full of dirt and one was ¾ full of dirt.

On the Power Meter they all pulled the same = 2.8

Kirby – We grabbed a full Kirby bag and put it inside our kirby.  We tested it with the full bag and the Power Meter read a 10 out of 10 (the meter only goes to 10).  So then with the full bag still in it I hooked up the 9 foot hose to the vacuum and tested it and the meter read = a 5.9  So hooked up to the hose it with a empty bag the kirby had a 7.0 and with a full bag it read a 5.9

Fact – James Dyson is correct the Dyson did not loose power as it filled with dirt.
Fact – As a vacuum bag fills up airflow and power does decrease.
Fact – Even with a full bag the Kirby had over DOUBLE the airflow and power as the Dyson as measured by our Air Flow Meter.
Fact – Dyson claims to be the first vacuum not to loose suction as it fills with dirt.  This is not true.  I can personally think of 5 other vacuum’s that don’t loose suction. 

Test #4 - Cleaning and Vacuums up better

This is the most important test.  Which vacuum actually vacuums the most dirt.  What I did here was I went and got a large piece of brand new carpet (so our results would not be tainted)

I then took a piece of tape and marked off the carpet.  On the left side of the tape is where we are going to vacuum with the Dyson and on the right side of the tape we are going to vacuum with the Kirby.  Then I took 2 cups and went outside and filled them up with normal dirt and sand.  Just like would be tracked into your house.  I then measured the 2 cups (see picture) so they had the exact amount of dirt in them – 1 pound and .2 of one ounce in each cup.  What I was planning on doing was I weighed the dirt that is now in the carpet and I am going to weigh the dirt that comes out of the carpet.  Now the kirby is not bagless so we have to use a tester with filter pads to show the dirt that is picked up.  I am afraid this test was a little harder on the kirby because every time I changed the pads (lots of times) dust would escape from the tester.  To be fair after I put the kirby tester on the kirby I tested the power again with the hose.  With the tester on it read a 6.5 on the airflow meter, it had read a 7 when the bag was on (bag has more surface area for air to push through).    Before I started the test I decided that the vacuum that pulled the most dirt I would go and vacuum another 50 strokes in the vacuum’s area that pulled the least dirt.

Dyson Results -  We put the dirt down and vacuumed 50 strokes on each side.  We put 1 lb of dirt down and was able to pick up  6.5 oz's of dirt from the Dyson vacuum (see picture) or 40  % of the dirt was picked up.

Kirby Results - We put the dirt down and vacuumed 50 strokes on its side.  We put 1 lb of dirt down and (after subtracting the dirt meter filter pads wieght) was able to pick up 12.1   oz's of dirt from the kirby or 75 % of the dirt was picked up.
(see picture)
Then since the Dysons had the least amount of dirt was picked up and it was the looser we vacuumed in the Dysons area with the Kirby.  The picture below is how much dirt and sand that we pulled out.  I was able to pull out 44 pads of dirt that the Dyson left behind.  In fact I was still pulling out dirt when I ran out of pads.  (see picture).  I wish you could have seen this in person.  I had no idea that the kirby would pick up that much extra dirt behind the Dyson.  Picture below is how many dirt pads were vacuumed up by the Kirby that the Dyson left behind.

Fact – Sand ruins carpet.  If its not picked up by the vacuum it gets down deep and cuts your carpet fibers and creates “trails” as the carpet fibers get vacuumed up and there is less carpet fibers and the carpet starts laying down.

Test #5 – Durability

The Kirby is made of a light weight metal and is one of the most durable vacuums made.  In fact “Kirby home care systems are rated #1 in reliability by a popular consumer products magazine.”  We have noticed a average life span of 25 years for the kirby vacuum. 

The Dyson vacuum is made from a low grade plastic.  Just because a vacuum is made from plastic does not necessarily mean that it is not durable.  A perfect example of this is the Aerus Vacuum (used to be Electrolux). 

Fact – When packing the Kirby Vacuum we wrap it in ½ of bubble with no breakage.
Fact – When packing the Dyson vacuum to avoid breakage we have to pack it in 2 inches of bubble.  Because of this fact we have to use a extra large box to hold the Dyson and all the extra bubble they require and it costs more to ship than a Kirby. 

Test #6 - Weight & Ease of Vacuuming. 

For the first test on this one I got out our shipping scales and weighed each vacuum.  The Kirby weighed  23 lbs and 14 oz. and the Dyson weighed 18 lbs 10 oz.’s.  The second test was ease of vacuuming.  Both seemed easy to vacuum with but the Kirby seemed better because of its self propelled transmission.  With Ease of Vacuuming we also have to consider how easy it is to use your tools.  Now the Dyson has on board tools (very nice) and the Kirby does not.  So you have to have your kirby tools somewhere else (most likely your closet

So for this test I timed myself.  Going from vacuum mode to putting on the duster tool (in this example) how long does it take?

The Dyson took 19 seconds

The Kirby took me 25 seconds to go from vacuuming, shut off the vacuum, casually stroll to my pretend closet grab the hose and duster tool go to the vacuum, take off the power nozzle and put on the hose and duster tool.

Test #7 - Tools and Accessories

Depending on the Dyson Model the Dyson comes with 5 tools (3 of which are on board)and the Zorb Accessory. 

The Kirby standard tools include 14 tools, the caddy and the hose.
The Kirby also has several additional accessories that you can use on it.

1.    The Kirby carpet shampoo system. 
2.    Floor Care system
3.    Turbo Accessory System. 
4.    Zipp Brush. 

Test #8 – Filtration

The Kirby vacuum can filter as small as .1 of a micron.  To be considered a HEPA filter you have to filter at least .3 of one micron. 

The Dyson was rated at  .1 of 1 micron.

So as far as published Filtration it is a tie between the two vacuums.

The bad news is that on the Dyson vacuum I counted 7 different seals.    7 seals is a lot of places for air and dirt to blow out. 

Test #9 - Marketing & Cool Factor

The Kirby is not sold in stores or retail.  In fact you cant get a new one except from a authorized Kirby dealer.  There are some dealers who take the risk of trying to sell some new ones on ebay.  But Kirby is usually pretty proactive about finding out who is doing that and shutting them down.  So aside from that if you want to buy a new Kirby with the Kirby warranty you will have to buy from a Kirby Salesman direct.  He will come to your home and demonstrate the vacuum for you.  Usually they will charge from 1300 to 1700 for a new one (from what I have seen). 

In other words the Kirby is an awesome product but because of how its marketed its really limited to a lot of people.

The Dyson on the other hand is everywhere.  It is in most independent vacuum shops, it is most big box stores, it is on the internet and it is even on ebay.  So just about everyone has access to buy a Dyson vacuum.  With the Dyson where it is for sale most of the time it cant be demonstrated so James Dyson had to make it visually appealing to get the extra money out of it.  He must have known most people would buy them at a super store or on the internet and only have looks to go on their purchasing decision.

Dyson and Marketing.  Lets review some of there marketing strategies.

1.    Guaranteed not to clog. 
2.    “The first vacuum cleaner that doesn’t loose suction
3.    100 times the force of Gravity

So Dyson has done a AWESOME job at marketing.  They continue to add models and different Dysons (like the canister Dyson or the light weight Dyson) and make improvements to there image and there product.


A nice buffed out Kirby that looks all chrome is very nice and is very cool
The Dyson has this new bagless system like no other vacuum.  It looks very modern and very new age.

Test #10 – Suction & Vacuum Seal
Aside from the test vacuuming up the dirt I think this was the most important test.  I kept it to the very last because I had to order in some special equipment for this test.

For this I used a suction plate and then I attached a set of scales that measures resistance (see picture).  This test actually measures Suction.  Remember we already tested airflow so the other test to see how good a vacuum tests is Suction.  This will determine if the vacuum actually seals down on the carpet and gets the deep down dirt or if the vacuum is essentially a “good sweeper” with a some suction.

So the suction plate represents your carpet.  So what I did was to put it on the Dyson and Kirby vacuum (shut off the brushroll so it does not knock off the plate) and then when it seals to the powerhead I am going to put the pull scales on the suction plate and see at how many lbs of pulling before the suction plate comes off.  The higher the # of lbs to pull off the suction plate the more suction the vacuum has and the better the Deep Cleaner it is.  This tension scale is harder to pull than you think I pulled on it as hard as I could and could only get it up to about 35 lbs.

The Dyson vacuum had 1.5 lbs of pressure on it before it came off. 
The Kirby vacuum had 12 lbs of pressure on it and it was very hard to pull off by hand.


1. Winner of the Test #1 Best Vacuum not to Clog -  KIRBY VACUUM

The Kirby vacuum had almost twice the size of suction piping (see pictures in test #1).  The Dyson tubing at its smallest point measures right at 1 3/8 inches,  the Kirby tubing at its smallest point measured 2 1/4 inches nearly a inch larger.

2. The winner Test #2  The most Airflow and Vacuum Power is = KIRBY VACUUM

The Kirby had over 3 times the power and airflow as the Dyson when testing it with the airflow meter.

3.  Winner of Test #3 – Most Power full of dirt = KIRBY VACUUM
Full of dirt on the dirt meter the Dyson pulled a 2.8 and the Kirby pulled a 5.9 with a bag full of dirt.  The Kirby did loose power full of dirt (pulled a 7 with a empty bag) but was still almost twice as powerful full of dirt.  The Dyson pulled a 2.8 empty and a 2.8 full so Dyson was right it did not loose any power as it filled with dirt.

4.  Winner of Test #4 – Best Cleaner = KIRBY VACUUM

In our dirt test Kirby dominated.  It pulled up almost double of the dirt that the Dyson did.  The Dyson pulled up 40% of its dirt in this test and the Kirby pulled up 75% of its dirt in the same test.

5.  Winner of Test #5 – Reliability = KIRBY VACUUM

The Dyson made of plastic and the Kirby made of metal.  We have personally seen a 25 year average lifespan with a Kirby.  We have to pack the Dysons with much more bubble than Kirbys when shipping to avoid breakage.  According to “ a leading consumer products magazine” the Kirby ranked #1 in reliability and with the least amount of repairs needed.  The ranked it based upon 134,000 reader responses and ranked it based upon a point system.  The lower the points the more reliable.  The Kirby was #1 with only 4 points while the average vacuum they tested got a 10.25  So the Kirby was not only #1 but much more reliable than the average vacuum tested.

6.  Winner of Test #6 - Weight & Ease of Vacuuming = DYSON VACUUM

The Dyson was a little over 5 lbs lighter than the Kirby when we weighted them on our shipping scales.  Ease of vacuum the Kirby was better but with on board tools and lower carrying weight the Dyson won this contest.  When we tested how long it took to use the tools it took the Dyson 19 seconds and the Kirby 25 seconds when we tested it. 

7.  Winner of Test #7 – Tools and Accessories = KIRBY VACUUM

The Kirby won this contest because it had about 3 times the tools and accessories as the Dyson.

8.  Winner of Test #8 – Filtration = KIRBY VACUUM

Test #8 was very close.  They actually said they had the same filtration .1 of a micron.  However the concern we had with the Dyson is it had 7 different seals (they were not very tight seals) that air and dirt could possibly leak out.  Kirby had 2 seals but were very tight.  When “a leading Consumer Products Magazine” tested emissions (filtration) they ranked them the same rating.

9.  Test # 9 Marketing and Cool Factor = DYSON VACUUM

The Dyson dominated this test.  IMHO Dyson is genius when it comes to marketing.  I personally feel that Dyson did not create the best vacuum but they created a vacuum that would lead us to believe it was the best vacuum.  Visually it seems to do a very good job and looks very cool. 

10.  Winner of Test #10 – Suction and Vacuum Seal = KIRBY VACUUM

The Kirby dominated the Suction test.  The Dyson only had 1.5 lbs of pull before the seal was broken and the Kirby had 12 lbs of pull before the seal was broken.  The air coming into the vacuum on the Dyson appeared to come from on top of the carpet.  Where on the Kirby the air coming to the vacuum appeared to be coming from under the carpet.  Also the Dyson had great suction on one side of the power nozzle and no suction on the other side while the Kirby had suction all the way across. 


I have tried keeping my thoughts to a minimum in all the tests we did.  Here is where I get a chance to give my thoughts.  Out of 10 tests the Dyson won 2 and the Kirby won 8.  The Dyson won the most user friendly and best marketing and Kirby basically won all the performance tests. 

In Dysons defense they are only a few years old (unlike the Kirby who has had decades to make the perfect vacuum) and hopefully will make improvements. 

As it stands right now the Kirby and Dyson are not even in the same playing field.  In these tests we performed the Kirby handled the Dyson and just blew it away.  In the performance tests it seemed to do 2 to 3 times better.  Of course for new vacuums the Kirby asks 2 to 3 times the price as well. 

I have to say I was a little disappointed with this test.  Before I started this guide I really thought it was going to be close.  I had seen and heard so many good things.  I was fully expecting the Dyson to do a lot better than it did.  Remember how above I said “I personally feel that Dyson did not create the best vacuum but they created a vacuum that would lead us to believe it was the best vacuum.” 

Sorry Dyson lovers…..The King of Vacuums is the THE KIRBY

A LEADING CONSUMER MAGAZINE tested over 65 Vacuums.  Between our two vacuums of our test it had the following information.

What was different about this edition vs. previous editions was they did a Pet-Hair Test.  What was Ironic was “the DC14 was one of seven uprights (out of 40 uprights) in this report to score only fair or poor at removing hair from carpets”  According to their scores on Pet Hair the Dyson DC 14’s scored a FAIR, the Dyson DC15’s scored a POOR and the Dyson DC07’s scored a FAIR.
On the Pet Hair Test the Kirby scored a VERY GOOD on Pet Hair.

The Kirby Vacuum ranked #1 in the "Brand Repair Test" and had the fewest repairs of any vacuum tested.  However because of its weight they gave it a POOR score in "handling" and dropped its ranking to #9 out of 65 vacuums.  It scored 3 EXCELLENT's in The Carpet Vacuum test, The Bare Floor test, and The Emissions test (filtration).  It also scored 2 VERY GOODS in the Tool Airflow tests and the Pet Hair Test.  In fact of all the 65 vacuums tested there was only 1 vacuum that rated better with 4 EXCELLENT's and one VERY GOOD (vs. the Kirbys 3 EXCELLENT's and 2 VERY GOOD's).

The Dyson DC14 ranked #16, the DC15 the Ball ranked #17 and the DCO7 ranked #24.   It had two Excellent Rating in The Bare Floor test and The Emissions test.  It had no VERY GOOD ratings as the rest of the ratings where GOOD and FAIR.

My Thoughts - Even though they did not do as many tests as me or test the deep cleaning as much as me I could probably have saved a week of my time by reading this article first (I read it after I was all done with my tests).   I usually dont put much faith in their reports because they should be testing these models used not new and some of the vacuums they say are good perform totally different used, but this article was  interesting.  The data they pulled was very similar to what I found.  The Kirby is the most dependable and least likely to break.  As far as all the performance tests the Kirby was quite a bit better.  As far as User Friendly (lighter, on board tools) the Dyson was better.  They tied when it came to filtration.   Of course the main reason we vacuum is to get the dirt out of the floor and out of our house.  The Dyson is easier to use but when it comes to vacuuming power the Kirby is better by far.

I spent a lot of time on this guide and tried to be very fair and thorough.  If you found this guide beneficial would you take the time to vote on it?

As ebays largest high end vacuum sellers we know vacuums.  If you are still confused by the exact vacuum that is best for your needs drop us an email.   So drop us an email and tell us things like how much carpet you have, stairs, allergies, kids, pets, bad back etc and we can make a suggestion for the perfect vacuum for you.

Thank You,

Dustin Chaffin
Great-Vacs Manager

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