I am a person with a vacuum philosophy: The best vacuum is the one you’ll use.
There are plenty of other criteria, of course, for determining the merits of one vacuum over another — suction, power, versatility, price — but the most souped-up, affordable vacuum in the world is useless if you don’t, well, use it.
When I was asked to review the Airsign canister vacuum, I immediately said yes. The timing was perfect: My trusty old Dyson stick vacuum was losing its juice, so it was time to consider plans to replace it. And, while writing articles about cleaning hard-to-reach places and unexpected uses for vacuum cleaners, I found myself wanting more than what a stick model, beloved though it is, can offer me.
The Airsign has a great deal to offer, and it is a good vacuum. It is an especially good vacuum for its price of $275.
The Airsign has a 1,200-watt motor and a HEPA-14 charcoal filter and comes with a multi-surface floorhead attachment, a telescoping wand, a brush tool and a crevice tool. Sustainability is a selling point: It touts not only biodegradable bags, but a charcoal filter that “is almost entirely paper-based,” and a recycled plastic content of 20%.
At first glance, the Airsign is massively attractive. Its design is intended to be a big part of its appeal — advertisements position the Airsign as the canister vacuum for the Brooklyn set — and it is no coincidence that the vacuum, which measures 15.5 inches by 10 inches by 8.5 inches, could easily be mistaken for your Away luggage in a dark closet.
In addition to its sleek matte black design, its setup was so easy and intuitive as to not require instructions (instructions are provided). It is also incredibly lightweight at just 10.8 pounds.
Don’t let its slim figure and good looks fool you — the Airsign is powerful. Even on its lowest setting, for both floor and carpet, the Airsign had a lot of suction power. My vacuuming needs are fairly straightforward: New York City dirt and grime, crumbs and grains of rice, my long Rapunzel hair. The Airsign handled these with ease, though the rotator brush looked like it was wearing a wig after three weeks of hair pickup. In the bathroom, it sucked up some pieces of loose grout and an entire tile. My hardwood flooring practically gleamed after vacuuming.
It was also, thanks largely to its design, easy to use. The slim vacuum head made getting under the lips of cabinetry and into slim spaces under furniture a breeze. Switching between attachments was simple, and the attachment holder that clips to the vacuum’s handle is a clever design feature. The on-off switch and cord retraction levers can be operated with a firm tap of the foot.
When it came to deep cleaning, however, the Airsign was just OK. As I used the machine to dust furniture, electronics, baseboards, light fixtures and radiators, I found I wanted more attachments, especially attachments that didn’t require the wand, which is stiff and unyielding, and that could connect directly to the flexible hose. The upholstery brush was a winner for its stated purpose, but when it came to using it as a dusting attachment on hard furniture and electronics, it was awkward and horrible. The crevice tool was all but useless.
With continued use, other problems emerged. A strong “new vacuum” smell persisted. The lever to toggle between carpet and floor settings requires extreme pressure to operate, and the plastic feels as if it will break under the force required to flip from one setting to another. The handle is inconveniently placed. The hose and wand attachment were everywhere, clattering to the ground loudly, smacking me on my back when I bent down to yank the cord from the base. The matte black exterior quickly became dappled with fingerprints.
The Airsign occupies an unusual place in the market in that, technically speaking, its closest competitor is the Miele canister vac. (Miele is typically considered the category leader among canister vacuums, and is our pick for best canister vacuum of 2022.) However, the Airsign is clearly being positioned as a competitor to the Dyson stick vacuums, which Domino Magazine calls “the current millennial favorite” in its review of the Airsign and which the Airsign’s site itself provides a comparison to. In other words, Airsign is looking to take Dyson’s place as the cool person’s vacuum brand.
When I tried out the new bagless Miele Boost CX1 and the brand’s classic Compact C1 Pure Suction PowerLine to get a sense of how they compare to the Airsign, I was reminded immediately why I have not used a Miele, or any other canister vacuum, in many years: Canister vacuums are generally unwieldy and inconvenient to use — especially if you’re a stick vac devotee. Very specifically, I hate what I think of as the “walking a stubborn dog” effect of dragging a hunk of plastic on a leash behind you while you clean.
However, one reviewer’s dislike of the canister vac does not mean the entire category is without merit. Canister vacuums offer a combination of versatility, maneuverability and power that cordless and corded upright vacuums cannot. They are especially good machines for larger homes because of their power, as well as for above-the-floor cleaning jobs.
After using the Mieles, I felt more bullish on the Airsign — not only was the Airsign’s performance better in my view, its weight and design had greatly reduced the “walking a stubborn dog” effect other canister vacs suffer from.
However, as the Airsign sat in my home, I came to resent it, and this is where the natural comparison to the Dyson must be made. When the area rug under my kitchen table needed a once-over, I realized I did not want to use the vacuum that required me to pick it up, yank out the cord, plug it in, wrestle with a tube, unplug it, retract the cord, wrestle again with the tube, etc. When my weekly chore day arrived, I resented the extra set-up work the Airsign asked of me; I also resented the space it took up. Essentially, I wanted my Dyson.
If you are in the market for a canister vacuum specifically, the Airsign is a very good option indeed. Its weight, as well as the way the weight is distributed, solves one of the major problems to befall the format. For those looking for the power of a corded vacuum, the Airsign also delivers: In informal testing, its suction performed incredibly well on hardwood, tile and low-pile carpeting.
However, for quick cleans in a small space, the Airsign was a chore to use. Its clunkiness and size still presented many of the problems other canister vacuums present. Lightening the load of typical canister vacuums wasn’t enough to make this vacuum a game-changer for the Dyson-loving set, it turns out.
For all the Airsign’s good qualities, and there are indeed some very good qualities, I was happy to see this vacuum go. After three weeks with it, it was clear it was not a vacuum I wanted to use. And therefore, as a vacuum, it is useless to me.