Buyer’s Guide: Handheld Vacuums
To find the best mini-vac for you, figure out what features you need and then check out our choices for compact cleaning machines that won’t break the bank.
You can’t beat a handheld vacuum when you need to quickly clean up common messes like broken glass, pet hair, and cookie crumbs. Though lightweight and compact, today’s devices are powerful enough to perform many of the functions of an upright, canister, or robot model at a fraction of the cost. There are various factors to consider prior to purchasing one, however, so we’ve outlined them here and given our top picks for the best handheld vacuum to make shopping a cinch.
Weigh these key features to find the best handheld vacuum.
• Corded versus cordless: Vacuums that plug into an electrical socket limit mobility (though an extension cord can help you go the distance if you wish to use the machine on stairs, for instance). You can rely on a corded model to have consistent suction power throughout a long vacuuming session. Cordless handhelds, which rely on a rechargeable battery, could die in the middle of a clean-up—but they’re much more easily toted from the house to the car to the patio.
• Battery runtime, voltage, and charging: If opting for the convenience of cordless, know that quality models tend to have a minimum runtime of 10 minutes and require no more than four to six hours to fully charge. Look for one with a Lithium-ion battery, which will conserve its charge most efficiently. Cordless vacuums with battery voltage of 18 volts or higher offer more suction power and longer runtimes than lower voltage units. Some models feature battery level indicators so you can keep tabs on when the battery needs charging.
• Weight: Handheld vacuums should be lightweight enough to easily lift and handle but hefty enough to hold a decent amount of mess. For optimal portability and minimal strain on the wrist, look for a model that’s under five pounds.
• Dirt receptacle: Handheld vacuums collect dirt in either dirt canisters or bags. Canister models are more popular because they tend to be easier to empty and clean—just snap and dump. The larger dirt canister, the bulkier vacuum, but you’ll need to empty it less often. A clear canister lets you see at a glance when it requires emptying.
• Accessories: Specialized accessories can make your unit more useful, depending on your needs. You’ll find attachments designed to pick up pet hair, safely glide on uncarpeted surfaces, or clean into the nooks and crannies of upholstery. There are also flexible hose attachment to extend your reach into dark or inaccessible areas.
• Price: Handheld vacuums start at about $20 for a basic corded model and $50 for a cordless, and top out at around $200. In general, you’ll pay a higher price for more powerful suction, longer runtime, and high-tech accessories. Don’t forget to factor in the price of filter replacements. Filters prevent dust in the vacuum from becoming airborne and must be changed regularly.
OUR TOP PICKS
Looking for the best handheld vacuum for your needs? We’ve rounded up top-rated and best-selling models on the market today, based on reviews by actual users and ratings by leading consumer testing sites. You can’t go wrong with this trio of smart choices!
CORDED: Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum ($39.88)
The Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum’s dual-powered motor affords impressive suction power and its stretch hose extends to 23 feet, letting you clean those hard-to-reach spaces in upholstery and under car seats. Unlike conventional corded models that can miss dirt trapped in carpeted stairs, this unit boasts a built-in riser visor for a deeper clean. The affordable handheld backed by a one-year limited warranty earned four stars from Amazon reviewers, who praised its power, compact 4.8-pound construction, and its 20-foot cord, which conveniently wraps around the unit for quick storage. Available at Amazon.
CORDLESS: Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum ($84.99)
Backed by a two-year limited warranty, the Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum delivers 24 air watts of suction power for a runtime of 16 minutes thanks to its 20-volt Lithium-ion rechargeable battery and high-performance motor. The lightweight, 3.2-pound unit, rated as Sweethome‘s number one pick for “Best Handheld Vacuum,” comes with a dusting brush, crevice tool, and pet brush to easily siphon stubborn particles from surfaces and corners. Available at Target.
SPECIALIZED USE: Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vacuum ($49.99)
The TruePet motorized pet brush on the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vacuum, Consumer Reports‘ top handheld pick for vacuums for pet hair, lets animal lovers banish stubborn cat or dog hair from all surfaces. Weighing in at 4.25 pounds, the cordless handheld with a one-year limited warranty is equally tough on dirt thanks to a dusting brush, crevice tool, and a high-speed, twister-like airstream that lifts debris on contact. Available at Amazon.