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10 Reasons You May Only Need a Handheld Vacuum

Chances are, the last time you vacuumed you probably used an upright, canister, or stick vacuum. These were most likely also the types of vacuums that sat in your mom's—and even your grandma's—utility closet. But maybe it's time to give up the traditional vacuum and opt instead for a small handheld model. Handheld vacuums aren’t exactly new—they’ve been picking up cat hair and cookie crumbs since the early 1980s—but their power and speed has improved over time, making them just as effective as a conventional upright, if not more so. Whether you’re adding to your cleaning arsenal or thinking about replacing a tired old vacuum, here are 10 reasons why a handheld may be the only vacuum you need to own.

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Cleaning Big Messes Is Faster and Easier

Big messes are inevitable, especially if you have rambunctious pets or kids in the household. Handheld vacuums with powerful suction—for instance, the Black + Decker Dustbuster, which features cyclonic action that keeps the filter clear—are perfect for scattered kitty litter, spilled cereal, or any other common household messes. Available at Target; $55.

You Have Wood Floors

Upright vacuums are a necessity in houses with wall-to-wall carpeting because they can grab the dirt and hair that you can’t spot easily. With wood floors, however, you can see every speck of dirt or debris that’s lying around, so you can swipe it up quickly with a handheld vacuum—without having to drag a canister or lug around a heavy upright vacuum.

Related: Buyer’s Guide: Handheld Vacuums

Great for Small Living Spaces

When you live in a small apartment, storage is at a premium, particularly if you’re in an older apartment with limited closets. A handheld vacuum is perfect for small spaces because it doesn’t take up a lot of storage room. You can stash it underneath a bed or inside a cabinet—until the cat tips over a flowerpot and you need suction, pronto.

Handheld Vacuums Are Easy to Maneuver

Handheld vacuums are relatively light, and many are completely cordless, which means you can easily travel from room to room on your quest for the next dust bunny. In comparison, upright vacuums can be heavy and awkward to maneuver, and as you move around the house, you often have to stop vacuuming so you can switch the plug to another outlet.

Handhelds Make Quick Work of Pet Hair

The attachments on upright vacuums can be handy for vacuuming the stairs or sweeping off the baseboards, but they have trouble with the thing that plagues some homeowners the most: pet hair. Pet hair that’s become embedded in the couch can be tough to vacuum up, but it’s no match for handhelds like the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II, which has a motorized pet brush that reliably lifts up pet hair from nearly any surface. Available on Amazon; $80.

Related: How To: Remove Pet Hair from Absolutely Everything

You Can Cart Them Anywhere

One of the most obvious benefits of handheld vacuums is their portability. You can use them to pick up messes both inside and outside the house. Whether you’re cleaning the interior of your car or getting rid of spiderwebs along the upper reaches of the ceiling, a handheld vacuum can reach spots where an upright can’t easily go.

Handheld Vacuums Are Easier to Empty

When you’re vacuuming up messes all the time, the vacuum bag is bound to fill up and require emptying. With uprights, canisters, and stick vacuums, you often have to wrestle with a bag, or figure out how to empty the bin neatly. But with handhelds like the Black + Decker 20V Max Lithium Pilot Vac, you just open the lid on the side and empty the dirt over the trash can, which makes cleanup simpler and tidier. Available on Amazon; $80.

You Have Many Hard-to-Vacuum Spots in Your Home

Stairs, crevices, and awkward nooks in your home are difficult to keep clean because they are tough to reach with a traditional upright vacuum. A handheld vacuum, however, is smaller and comes with versatile tools that can really get into those tight spots. The Bissell CleanView Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum, for example, features a crevice tool, a wide-mouth tool, and flexible hose that can fit into a variety of nooks and crannies. Available at; $50.

Related: 7 Ways You’re Vacuuming Wrong

Handheld Vacuums Are Extremely Powerful

It can be frustrating having to go over the same spot repeatedly with an upright vacuum because the suction isn’t powerful enough to get all the pet hair off your couch or suck up all the Cheerios under the table. But handheld vacuums like the Dyson V7 Trigger provide powerful suction, enough to pick up particles as tiny as 0.5 microns as well as larger items like kibble, cookie crumbs, or soil. Available at; $200.

Handheld Vacuums Are Highly Affordable

There’s no way around it: Upright, canister, and stick vacuums can be very pricey, especially if you want a reliable brand. Handheld vacuums, which range from about $40 to $200, can give you more bang for your buck, while uprights can run upwards of $600 for the best quality, more powerful models.

Related: Editors’ Picks: Today’s Top 7 Vacuum Cleaners