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Are you looking for the best handheld vacuum to help with cleaning tasks around your home? It’s important to pick a model with a battery that won’t give out after just a few minutes – and a vacuum with enough power behind it to actually suck up that cereal, pet hair, or spilled dirt without letting it back out a few seconds later. We took a look at some of the very best models on the market, and here’s what we found. And when you are through with this guide, you can find other quality carpet cleaner alternatives on our best vacuum cleaner page.
Our choice for the best all-around handheld vacuum is the Black+Decker and Vac CHV1410L ($42.99), a vast improvement on previous models that has plenty of power but is also incredibly easy to use, with a charge cycle that only takes a couple of hours (B+D say it’s 5x faster than the average handheld) and suction that doesn’t decrease over time…plus super-simple attachments. But let’s take a closer look!
While suction power and capabilities are important for all vacuum cleaners, powerful suction is particularly important for handheld models, because too many handhelds tend to have weak suction and sealing that make them ineffectual for many cleaning tasks like removing dirt and grime with handheld steam vacuums. So we ask questions like, “How well does the handheld keep dust inside the vacuum cleaner? Does it just blow out again? What about larger objects like pet food? Can the model pick dirt up without it falling back out again?”.
Suction is also measured by a number of varying specifications that can help rate direct power. For handhelds, the spec is usually “air watts” which isn’t really a physical measurement, but a combination of two other measurements: water lift and airflow CFM (cubic feet per minute). For example, our Dyson model has a 100 air watt rating, making it ideal as a shop vac or a tool for cleaning larger messes. Our top pick has 15 air watts, making it more suitable for average household cleaning and dusting activities.
Since most of these units tend to be battery-powered handheld vacuum models, we also look at battery performance. On normal suction modes, we like to see around 20 minutes of good vacuuming time, and if that drops down toward the 15 or even 10-minute mark, we generally dismiss the model. However, we also consider how long the vacuum cleaner takes to recharge – most require a few hours in the charging dock – and how much “fade” the unit has, or how suction power decreases alongside the battery level while you clean.
Other factors we considered to find the best-rated handheld vacuum include the dumping and cleaning processes – no one likes a vacuum cleaner that’s hard to empty and cleanout. That is why we like easy canisters that unlock and dump in seconds without scattering dust and debris everywhere. We also pay close attention to the nozzle types and how well they work on objects around the house. Nozzles shouldn’t be too big or too small for average tasks!
New handheld vacuum models provide far more power and versatility than older models. Around 20 years ago, an affordable handheld was fine for dust and a little dirt, but couldn’t really handle real messes caused by pets or children. Today’s models come with a lot more power (actually, many different vacuums now have power upgrades) and much better handling of debris, making them very effective when it comes to spot cleaning in case of accidents or more, like a solid vacuum for pet hair. The batteries last longer, too!
If you don’t have a wireless vac yet, then consider the advantages. No cords to trip over, lightweight vacuum models that you can use to vacuum multiple surfaces, and freedom of movement all around your home versus corded models! This makes handheld vacs ideal in a number of circumstances: If you have plenty of upholstery and tricky corners or stairs, these models can reach where other vacuums cannot. That same quality makes them ideal for cleaning cars or garage areas, which are challenging for even a cordless stick vacuum to clean. They are also great at spot cleaning after accidents! But if you want to clean up your kitchen, find a great alternative on our best kitchen vacuums page.
Read More: Deebot D45 Robotic Floor Vacuum Review
Award: Editor’s Choice/Best Cordless Handheld Vacuum
Nozzle: Interchangeable, Slim | Dust Trapping: Single Filter, Cyclonic | Attachments: Yes | Weight: 3.8 pounds
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: An affordable model that can do a little bit of everything.
Picking the top model for the best handheld vacuum wasn’t an easy choice. Should we go for pure power? Should we pick a leading pet vacuum that’s best at hard tasks like picking up pet hair? What about when pet hair will get stuck in a vacuum roller, what then? But ultimately we decided to go with the model with great ease of use, affordability, and a middle-of-the-road approach that makes it suitable for all kinds of tasks. The nozzle is wide enough to clean upholstery with ease but slim and long enough to dig into dirty areas. The 18.2 air watts proved to be enough power to get the job done (and pull up larger bits), and the lithium-ion battery charges quickly – which means less waiting on your end.
The bowl and filters are removable with a basic snap-on/off mechanism that’s one of the easiest we found. The vacuum cleaner is also cyclonic, which means it spins the air stream around the canister to funnel out the dust as effectively as possible without gumming up filters too quickly. This is a feature necessary for many of the highly-rated computer vacuums, too. The attachments include a great flip-up brush that you can use for cars or vehicles and then switch for vacuuming mats or floors. This also makes the model one of the best handheld vacuums for stairs if you have a lot of carpet throughout your house.
The one weird issue we noted was the charging method – this hand vac comes with a little “dish” that you need to lock the vac into for recharging, instead of a wall mount. It’s a weird decision that takes a lot more room and trouble than necessary, and we’re not sure why it’s designed this way – but you’ll have to overlook it for the many other benefits of this model. You can compare it to the best vacuum cleaner and decide for yourself.
Award: Best Handheld Vacuum for Pet Hair
Nozzle: Interchangeable, Motorized foot | Dust Trapping: Dual filtration | Attachments: Yes | Weight: 4.5 pounds | Read Full Review: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Hand Handheld Cordless Vacuum
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Great attachments and filtration help this vac to stand out.
Annoyed by pet hair and similar tangles or messes, especially on your furniture or in your car? This model is made just for you. It comes with a little motorized accessory with felt lining that quickly grabs and removes pet hair on just a couple passes, which is great to see from this model alongside other top handheld vacuums for pet hair. This also makes the model one of the best handheld vacuums for stairs if you have a lot of carpet throughout your house.
We’re also fans of that dual-action filtration system, which takes a little work to keep clean but is excellent if you also want to remove pet dander or allergens while vacuuming. Oh, and if that big brush isn’t really what you are looking for, the vac does come with other attachments for additional tasks. Aside from the flip-up brush, this cordless hand vacuum also comes with a crevice tool and has a washable filter. Smart Charge Technology also protects this hand vacuum so it maintains a long run time each time you use it.
Award: Best Handheld Vacuum for Car
Nozzle: Interchangeable, Slim/Motorized cleaning heads | Dust Trapping: 2-Tier Cyclonic/Carbon fiber filaments | Attachments: Yes | Weight: 4.5 pounds
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: One of the most powerful handheld vacuums around.
No, this doesn’t look like a handheld – because this V6 is actually a convertible model that comes with both handheld and upright modes. You can simply pop off the top for handheld cleaning, and reattach the brush roll if you want to tackle floor-based messes. The handheld mode, with around 20 minutes of battery life, is incredibly powerful and perfect for giving your car a once-over (including a variety of brush/motorized attachments). Plus, the motorized cleaning head with carbon fiber filaments for dusting is suitable for cleaning both carpets and hard flooring when necessary. Not only can this vacuum cleaner do a little of everything, but it’s also light, flexible, and – with trigger-based controls – very easy to use.
However, there are a couple factors that kept this Dyson from being the best handheld vacuum overall, most important of which was the price: paying around $280 for a handheld is more than a lot of buyers are looking for. Most average homes won’t really be able to find a use for this amount of power, but if you plan on using the Dyson for larger projects in your shop or for regular car detailing, then this is the perfect choice for you!
Read More: Dyson DC35 Multi-Floor Vacuum Review
Large Enough Components
Different Battery Modes
A Good Fit
Read More: Best vacuum cleaner for carpets
Don’t buy for the nozzle while ignoring the power. We’re talking about looking at the outer design of a model and saying, “That looks perfect for what I need,” without taking a look at the suction capabilities and power of the model. The best nozzle in the world won’t do you much good unless you can also suck up the specific types of debris you plan to clean. Remember to take a look at internal specs as well as external options too.
Also, remember to note the weight. It’s easy to assume that all handhelds are lightweight, but the truth is that 1) Handhelds have a lot of different weight classes, and 2) Handheld weight is very important, possibly even more important than the weight of full-sized models. You’re the one who needs to hold, push, and maneuver the handheld for your cleaning project, and if your wrist gets tired you’ll be wishing you had chosen a lighter model instead.
Finally, think about durability. Handheld vacuums are not the most durable devices in the world, so instead of just buying the cheapest you can find, look for those that last a long time and have good warranties. Sometimes the best way to save money is to find a more expensive vacuum upfront that will last for years, instead of needing to be replaced every couple of months at a discount.
When looking for the best handheld vacuum, more information is always a valuable resource to have. If you want to learn more about specs like air watts and how they describe the power of a vacuum cleaner, you can learn how the equation is created and what it means with a little research. Likewise, some of the models we picked boasted about things like advanced lithium-ion batteries. Not sure what that means or if you should care? Read up on these rechargeable batteries to learn more.
We also encourage you to look at other cordless models on the market. There are very slim, cordless uprights that can be converted to handhelds and are more suitable for larger messages and more power – something like the Dyson DC35 may be a better fit for what you have in mind if you aren’t sure. We also have a list of the best Dyson vacs that may help you compare handheld vacuum models with other options too!