Ever noticed that you’ve missed a spot when cleaning with a vacuum? The best handheld vacuums allow you to keep your device on hand for a quick clean. A handheld model can come to the rescue when one of the best vacuum cleaners for home (opens in new tab) is not within easy reach. They are a practical choice whether you want to clean your car or your office or nip upstairs for a quick clean. The best handheld vacuum cleaners are designed to clear smaller messes like freshening up car mats and are perfect for touch-ups.
You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need to pay through the nose to benefit from the convenience of one of the best handheld vacuums. Compared to regular models, they’re inexpensive which means you can keep your home sparkling, even on a budget.
Looking for the ultimate convenience? Cordless models give you the freedom to get into every nook and cranny without the hassle of having to plug it in. Alternatively, treat yourself to one of the best robot vacuums (opens in new tab) and let the device do the hard work.
Don’t forget to consider attachments. These accessories allow you to target particular areas for a flawless finish. Banish pet hair with specially designed tools like crevice nozzles. Crevice tools are also brilliant at clearing dust from hard-to-reach spots.
Our guide includes picks from top brands you can rely on like Black & Decker, Dyson, and more. So if you’re looking to spruce up your home, car, or office, read on for our selection of the best handheld vacuums.
Best handheld vacuums
1. Black & Decker Dustbuster: Best handheld vacuum overall
The Black & Decker Dustbuster performed better than every other handheld vacuum in our side-by-side comparison. It has a built-in crevice tool that reaches tight spaces so you can clean efficiently.
This Dustbuster effectively vacuumed up sawdust on hard floors and carpets. When compared with other cordless vacuums, it was one of the best. While no cordless vacuum has quite as much suction power as corded vacuums, it makes up for this with convenience. This device can clean up messes of all kinds in any space in your house or car. It is equally efficient at cleaning up light debris like leaves and heavier debris like kitty litter and dog food on all kinds of surfaces, including carpet, hardwood and automobile flooring. This vacuum didn’t have the tendency that other vacuums we tested had of blowing the debris around as it cleared a path. The exhaust was released out the back of the machine, so it cleaned with fewer passes and less work.
This vacuum had a little trouble picking up ground-in pet hair on carpet, but this was a common issue with many of the vacuums we tested. Despite its cleaning power, it was the quietest vacuum we tested, so you can clean up messes without disturbing people nearby. It’s also a lightweight vacuum that won’t cause excessive fatigue. The battery lasts a respectable 15 minutes with each charge, which was slightly longer than average when compared with the other vacuums. Its charge time of eight hours, in contrast, is longer than average. The Dustbuster has the convenience of integrating its useful crevice and brush tools onto the body of the vacuum so they are always handy and just need to be snapped into place. It comes with an above average two-year warranty.
- Read our Black + Decker Dustbuster CHV1410L vacuum review (opens in new tab)
2. Shark WANDVAC: Best cordless handheld vacuum
The Shark WANDVAC is the ultimate cordless, lightweight handheld vacuum. Its docking station includes space to store the Multi-surface pet tool and Duster crevice tool, and makes an attractive addition to countertops (or wherever else you charge it). It weighs only 1.4 lbs and takes an hour to charge, which is significantly less than some of the vacuums in our guide. The tradeoff for this is a small capacity, 0.08 quarts which can be emptied with the touch of a button, and the runtime is only ten minutes.
The WANDVAC is covered by a two year warranty and users find it powerful enough to pick up dog hair, gravel, and crumbs. The crevice tool is great for getting into hard-to-reach areas such as cup holders or the corners of steps, and its cordless design means you can take it absolutely anywhere.
- Read our Shark WANDVAC handheld vacuum review (opens in new tab)
3. Dirt Devil QuickFlip: Best value handheld vacuum(opens in new tab)
The Dirt Devil QuickFlip is truly tiny and lightweight in a way that almost makes the other handheld vacuums seem oversized and cumbersome. It was not a superstar for suction, but it is ultra-portable, weighing less than any other we tested, and it costs less than $30.
The QuickFlip is battery powered and can be stowed in tight spaces. The 13-mintute runtime isn’t the best, but that should be enough for small tasks. There were plenty of vacuum cleaners with more suction, but this is good for quick pickups.
It's not as useful for bigger jobs, though, even things like stairways. It just doesn't have the battery life, tank capacity and suction power to handle stuff like that. This would be right at home on a short camping trip, though. It works fine for getting the stray crumbs after a meal, too. To test suction power, we used the handhelds to pick up a box of screws. We kept adding screws to the box until the handheld vacuum could no longer pick it up. The more weight the vacuum can pick up, the better the suction. This vacuum did not do great. There was only one other vacuum with less suction in that setting. It was not great on pet hair either. This is a great value buy for small pickups, but it’s not powerful or good for pet hair.
- Read our Dirt Devil QuickFlip BD30025B review (opens in new tab)
4. Dyson V7 Trigger: Best handheld vacuum for cars
For cleaning the inside of your car, the Dyson V7 Trigger handheld vacuum is a great choice. This handheld vacuum is expensive, but it is designed to last up to 30 minutes (on its lower power setting) which will give you more than enough time to tackle every corner of your car. The cordless design of this handheld vacuum is especially useful, because it allows you to get into hard-to-reach areas without depending on an extension cable.
For extra tough areas, the Dyson V7 Trigger has a MAX boosted mode which is super powerful. The battery on this mode will last up to six minutes, which is less than the battery life of most handheld vacuums. You shouldn’t expect to use the MAX power mode at all times though, so it shouldn’t be an issue. When the V7 Trigger runs out of battery, it takes three hours to charge. That’s a lot, so don’t count on it for big cleaning tasks.
- Read our Dyson V7 Trigger handheld vacuum review (opens in new tab)
5. Bissell Pet Hair Eraser: Best handheld vacuum for pet hair
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser lives up to its name and is one of the best vacuums for pet owners. It is a very affordable, simple vacuum with two attachments.
There is a pet hair attachment, which does exactly what it says, and the flathead attachment for cleaning up everything else. Like other corded vacuums, the Bissell has plenty of suction power, but it still got mixed results in our tests. It excelled in our suction test, easily picking up a box filled with 17 ounces of screws with its flathead attachment. It was the only vacuum to get a perfect score in our pet hair removal test, completely sucking up ground-in pet hair in our test carpets. The only problem with this test was some of the hair got wrapped around the pet hair attachment and made cleaning the vacuum after the test difficult.
This vacuum was less successful in our other tests. Its power and design sometimes worked against it, for instance, when vacuuming up sawdust on carpet and hard floors. The side exhaust would blow the debris around, so we had to vacuum twice. Still, its suction power helped it get rid of the debris in repeat passes. It also wasn’t a top performer in our car seat tests. The lack of a crevice tool hurt it in this test because it had a hard time negotiating the crevices on the seat. Cleaning tight spots is also a problem with this vacuum.
- Read our Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1B review (opens in new tab)
6. Eureka Easy Clean: Best handheld vacuum for stairs
The Eureka Easy Clean has very strong suction. It scored higher than all other vacuums on our carpet cleaning tests.
Since portability and versatility also weigh heavily for this type of vacuum cleaner, the Easy Clean was eclipsed by some of the competition. It did struggle some to remove pet hair. It showed some weakness on car upholstery, too. The strong suction with the cleaning head didn’t seem to translate to the hose so cleaning the car seat was more of a chore. It also is heavier than most, and the cord means you are somewhat limited for portability. This will be an absolute champion if you are buying it to clean your carpeted stairwells, though, or any other job on carpets, really. It has a wider cleaning head than most we tried, and the suction was strong enough to clean different kinds of messes efficiently.
- Read our Eureka Easy Clean 71B review (opens in new tab)
How to find the right handheld vacuum for you
Since we started reviewing handheld vacuums in 2014, we have spent more than 200 hours testing and researching. First, we identified the best handheld vacuums on the market through extensive research, both online and consulting with professionals. We continued our online research, comparing product pages for specific features of all the vacuums in our lineup. In our labs we put the vacuums through their paces and tested them on different surfaces, including carpets, hard floors and car seats, to see which vacuum performed best overall and which excelled at specific tasks. Our findings are presented in our side-by-side comparison chart and our reviews.
We found some great products as we tested, but some of the final decision comes down to your specific situation and the reason you are buying a handheld vacuum cleaner.
Erin Reed, Associate Director of Marketing for Stick and Hand Vacuums at BISSELL, said the key to finding the right handheld vacuum cleaner is organizing your priorities.
"You'll want to focus your decision criteria on both the length of time you need to clean, considering the run-time and battery power, and the accessories you'll need for what you're cleaning," said Reed.
Full-sized vacuum cleaners have their place, but a handheld unit can be great for stairs, cars, furniture and other small tasks. "They're great for in-between cleans or specific tasks," said Reed.
Reed explained there have been some advancements in terms of battery technologies that make handheld vacuum cleaners last longer and recharge faster so you can get back to cleaning when you have a longer job.
How much does a handheld vacuum cost?
You don’t have to compromise on cleanliness if you’re on a budget. You can expect to find a decent model for under $100. Our review includes a range from $30 to $175. With handheld vacuum cleaners, you don’t necessarily need to spend big for results. Our top pick was almost the least expensive one. As handheld vacuum cleaners are designed for smaller messes, you don’t need the same level of suction as a regular vac. There are plenty of models to choose from to get the job done at an affordable price.
How we tested
You can rest assured that our guide factors in the main considerations when choosing one of the best handheld vacuums. Portability is your number one priority. You’ll want one that’s easy to carry around to make cleaning a breeze. As handheld vacuums are all about convenience, we checked factors like battery life and weight as part of our review.
We know that performance is important to you too. You’ll need high suction power to tackle stubborn spots and ingrained pet hair. In addition to features like maneuverability, we looked at the design features that set the best handheld vacuums apart. You’ll find some products use a HEPA filtration system in line with air quality standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy. These nifty filtration systems eliminate 99.97% of dust particles and prevent them from blowing into the air while vacuuming. Vacuums with this technology offer a thorough clean and are a good choice for those with allergies.
We designed a rigorous series of performances tests to give you peace of mind that you'll be purchasing one of the best handheld vacuums. We put the vacuums through their paces with various common items such as wood shavings and cereal. We even went to the extent of rubbing dog hair into carpets to check their suction power. If you’re worried about how the vacuum will fare in a real-life setting, you will be reassured that we asked volunteer pet owners to try them in their homes. They checked whether the suction could handle cat and dog hair on upholstered furniture like couches and chairs.
On top of that, we designed another suction test to separate the best handheld vacuum cleaners. We placed screws in a flat-top container and observed how many each unit could hold for five seconds. Top marks for suction were awarded to the vacuums with the power to hold more weight.
Worried that your vacuum might be cumbersome? You can rest assured that we weighed each model to gauge how portable it is. We recognize that convenience is important in a handheld vacuum, so we timed how long the battery lasted when fully charged. If you need the vacuum to tackle a larger mess, like dried leaves or cookie crumbs in your car, you’ll be glad of the extra cleaning time. We also looked at how long it took to charge all of the battery-powered units. We gave higher scores to the ones that charged quickly.
We considered design features that help you achieve a spotless finish. You’ll be pleased to know the majority of the vacuums come with attachments to tackle hard-to-reach areas like folds in furniture and corners in staircases. A crevice tool is your friend when cleaning around the base of car seats. Its long and narrow design allows it to reach every nook and cranny. The Black & Decker Dustbuster incorporates a crevice tool as part of the main body rather than a separate accessory. The crevice tool on this model extends to give you a longer spout, allowing you to maneuver in the tightest spots.
Looking to cover larger areas? You’ll want a wide-mouth tool, like the one included with the MetroVac Vac N Go (opens in new tab). This wide design can save time as you avoid passing back and forth over the same area to clear any mess.
Cordless vs corded handheld vacuums
While cordless models are more portable, they are also generally less powerful. One of the main reasons for buying a handheld vacuum is to get to the messes you can't easily reach with your full-size vacuum cleaner. But having less suction once you get to those messes is also a major drawback. David Stern, part-owner of Metrovac, highly recommends a corded model because of the increased suction.
"If you've got electricity your best bet is to go with one of our 110-volt units," said Stern. Indeed, the unit with the best score in our suction tests is one that plugs into the wall. It is also the heaviest model we tested, though. The extra weight and being tethered to a wall limits portability.
The best way to decide between a corded and a cordless handheld vacuum is to determine what you need more: portability or power.
What is a good wattage for a handheld vacuum cleaner?
It is difficult to quantify suction power in a vacuum. The numbers on the box are not really any help. Wattage is good to know in terms of energy conservation because it lets you know how much electricity the vacuum cleaner will be consuming. Higher wattage does not mean more suction, though. Amps can seem like a good indicator but they really just represent the power it takes to push the voltage. More amperage can lead to higher rotations per minute but that does not necessarily lead to cleaning power on a machine that is poorly constructed. More amps also generates more heat, which can wear down a motor.
Air wattage is one number that can give you an idea at least. The air wattage (AW) is the wattage it takes to move a unit of air through the vacuum cleaner's nozzle or cleaning head. The AW can be pretty hard to find, though.
Manufacturers will sometimes list motor wattage but not air wattage. Suction claims can also give you an idea because they are generally based on air wattage. We use hands-on testing to update our vacuum cleaner comparisons regularly so check our reviews to find the products with the best cleaning power.
Cleaning for those with allergies
Handheld vacuum cleaners are generally used for quick pick-ups, so you might not feel like they warrant a ton of research. A little research can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy home, though, especially for those with asthma and allergies. Any time you are vacuuming or cleaning, you can stir up dust.
"If you don't have a quality vacuum it can actually put dust and allergens back into the air," said AAFA Director of Marketing Michele Ann Cassalia. Her organization tests machines to see which ones are the best at containing dust, and that includes handheld vacuum cleaners. The AAFA recommends just one of the handheld vacuum cleaners we tested – the Dyson Trigger. We weren't overly impressed by its suction in our testing, and the relatively high price is off-putting, but it is definitely worth a look if you have allergies or asthma. For more information, go to www.asthmaandallergyfriendly.com/USA/.