Updated Aug 1, 2022 12:08 PM
Spring cleaning may be right around the corner, and what better way to upgrade your army of cleaning supplies than to add a lightweight, handheld vacuum? Whether you’re the parent of a messy toddler or a pet-owner constantly picking up hair, the best handheld vacuum is perfect for a quick, easy clean.
We all know the frustration you can feel lugging upright vacuums around the house, especially when all you really need to suck up a handful of spilled Cheerios or clear up a couple of dust bunnies. But we also know that, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a robot vacuum can’t handle every type of spill or space. Not to mention the irritation felt when the vacuum cord is simply not long enough to reach the spot you’re trying to clean; cue the hunt for a closer outlet. These compact machines are great for getting to hard-to-reach areas around the home like kitchen cabinets, couch cushions, and stairs. Various attachments make refreshing window sills, door frames, and moldings a piece of cake. They can even be a helpful tool to give your car’s interior an overdue scrub or work wonders in a cluttered garage. While even the best handheld vacuums aren’t made for deep-cleaning, they are perfect for the small messes and dry spills that inevitably occur throughout the week.
- Best overall: BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Pivot Handheld Vacuum
- Best for stairs: Shark WS633 3-in-1 WANDVAC
- Best for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser
- Best for cars: Ryobi ONE+ Wet/Dry Vacuum
- Best corded: Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum
- Best budget: Dirt Devil Scorpion Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
How we chose the best handheld vacuums
In order to bring you the best handheld vacuums, we thought about what kinds of messes we encounter every day and the right way to eliminate them. Cat owners will need a different model than someone with kids who needs to clean the minivan. A large apartment that needs small but frequent cleans will benefit from a cordless model, whereas a home that needs significant capacity at a more affordable price will thrive with a corded vacuum. We then combined personal experience, peer suggestions, critical consensus, and user impressions to narrow down our options. Beyond situational needs, we examined technical specs—including power, weight, filter type, and more—to select our top picks for the best handheld vacuums so you can spend less time worrying about clean-up and more time enjoying your favorite mess-making people, pets, and activities.
What to consider when buying the best handheld vacuums
The best vacuum for you will provide flexibility and reliability when it comes to picking up dirt, hair, and other debris quickly. Many models come with attachments to make cleaning specific areas more manageable, and some are even designed to pick up particular messes—like those left behind by shedding pets. Below are a few of our favorite models and features and key points to consider before purchasing your new appliance.
Would you prefer a cordless or corded handheld vacuum?
Cordless handheld vacuums are a convenient choice for supplementary cleaning that will suit most homes—easy to use on stairs and helpful for quick clean-ups in hard-to-reach areas. They rely on rechargeable batteries to provide power and suction. A full charge will typically last between 15 and 40 minutes, though a lithium-ion battery could last longer. Recharge time is usually between two and five hours but, for lower-end models, this could be as long as 16 hours. As the battery begins to drain, you may notice a depletion in suction power. The best cordless handheld vacuum will also be lighter than their corded contemporaries, allowing them to clean tricky areas quickly. If going cordless sounds like the best option and you want a full-size unit to add to your roster, consider our list of the best cordless vacuums.
A corded handheld vacuum is heavier than other models and needs an electrical outlet to function, but you’ll never need to worry about running out of battery. Corded models typically have a larger capacity for dander, dirt, and dust than cordless models, which will cut down on trips to the trash can. Plus, they usually come at a cheaper price point.
Do you want a handheld vacuum with special features and attachment tools?
A thorough clean relies on more than just suction power. If you need a handheld vacuum for stairs, shelves, cabinets, and other tough areas, look for a vac with special features and attachments. Crevices tools allow you to get between couch cushions, closer to floor moldings, and behind heavy furniture. Longer hoses and extenders are great for reaching all the things that are taller than you: tall bookcases, shelving units, etc. Upholstery attachments let you thoroughly suck up dust and hair from your chairs, couches, and even beds. Finally, convertible vacuums offer the best of both worlds, providing a super lightweight handheld option and a sturdier stick mode to help cover larger areas.
Get a handheld vacuum for pet hair if you’re dealing with shedding animals
If you’re the proud owner of a cute cat or precious puppy, chances are you’re battling pet hair everywhere. Many factors determine the amount of hair your furry friend will lose in one week, but one thing is for sure: you’ll find their hair stuck to the couch, balled up in corners, collected by their water dish, and bunched in countless other places. Handheld vacuums are the perfect tool for expelling unsightly shedding without needing to haul out your upright unit.
It’s no secret that pet hair has a superhero-like grip on various surfaces, especially carpets and couches or other upholstered furniture. Sometimes simple suction power isn’t going to cut it when it comes to pulling up those pesky strands. Instead, look for a handheld vacuum cleaner that comes with attachments like a motorized brush to lift the hair off the surface before sucking it into the dust bin.
Do you need a small handheld vacuum to help clean your car?
Keeping your car clean can be a real pain in the butt. It’s hard to maneuver around seats, steering wheels, and gear shifts, not to mention all the tiny cracks and crevices that hoard crumbs and other detritus. An upright vacuum just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to fishing around cup holders and underneath floor mats. A small handheld vacuum is the best way to get your car clean without shelling out for interior detailing. Their size and portability make it easier to get to the tricky corners and uncomfortable angles inside your vehicle. Plus, attachments like crevice tools or long hoses can get you an even deeper clean. If you’re hoping to do a full sweep, look for a model that lasts more than 10 minutes on a single charge; that way, you won’t run out of battery right before you hit the back row. Imagine being able to suck up all the food particles hiding in the nooks and crannies of your child’s car seat or being able to easily vacuum the trunk after your dog hops in post-hike, bringing with him a host of leaves, pebbles, and dirt.
Are you working with a tight budget?
Shopping for the best handheld vacuum on a budget can be tricky, but luckily there are plenty of options out there if you know what to look for. Cheap cordless vacuums can be hard to come by and usually have a significantly shorter battery life or unimpressive suction. If you want a quality lightweight handheld vacuum that won’t break the bank, we suggest trying out a corded model first. While this may seem inconvenient, many corded models are long enough to clean large areas and flexible enough to clean cars, as long as there is an available outlet in your garage. You won’t have to worry about a weak battery running out halfway through a cleaning session, and you won’t have any inconsistencies when it comes to suction. You can also consider our list of the best cheap vacuums in case you need something a little more heavy-duty than a handheld.
The best handheld vacuums: Reviews & Recommendations
A handheld vacuum doesn’t seem like the kind of device where you need to swat the details, but it turns out there’s a lot of nuance tA handheld vacuum doesn’t seem like the kind of device where you need to swat the details, but it turns out there’s a lot of nuance to making a great one. Between power, capacity, and attachments, not to mention cord length and/or battery life, it makes sense to take a good, hard look and pick the right one for the job. Our picks for the best handheld vacuums have different strengths and weaknesses but will be a perfect fit for the right person.
Best cordless: Black+Decker 20V Max Flex Handheld Vacuum
Why it made the cut: This cordless model from Black + Decker has amazing suction, a versatile nozzle for hard-to-reach places, and is suitable for just about any surface—it can even grab pet hair without any additional tools.
- Battery Life: Up to 17 minutes
- Dirt bin size: 15 oz.
- Weight: 3 lbs.
- Powerful suction
- Rotating nozzle
- Completely washable filter
- Easy storage
- Battery life isn’t great
The Black + Decker Pivot Vaccum is often compared to the pricey and elusive Dyson Humdinger, but it provides premium quality cleaning at less than one-third of the cost. This lithium-ion-powered handheld vac has two cleaning speeds, including a PowerBoost mode to help banish tough spills. Aside from some of the strongest suction power in its class, the 200-degree pivoting nozzle is the star of the show. Easily suck up dirt from hard-to-reach places, including underneath furniture, crevices in the car, and overhead shelving. This vac also comes with a crevice tool that helps you refresh all the inconspicuous areas in your home, like under the couch or on top of the fridge, plus a brush for tough messes. An extra-large 75-milliliter dustbin can contain the entirety of your mess, even when you’re dealing with sizable particles like small rocks or food scraps. Both the filter and dirt receptacle are removable and washable, a huge convenience for anyone struggling to maintain their vacuum over time. The dirt bowl has a side door for hands-free disposal, eliminating getting your hands dirty after tackling the main mess. While it’s true that the battery life is a little lacking, you won’t need more than a minute or two to suck up a hefty amount of dust and dirt. Keep in mind that even the most powerful handheld model isn’t meant to supplement a full-size vacuum completely but instead be used to tackle small, hard-to-reach detritus quickly. And while 15-20 minutes of battery life doesn’t sound like a ton (a battery life indicator lets you know when it’s running low), needing to recharge is well worth it for super-power level suction.
Best for stairs: Shark WS633 3-in-1 WANDVAC System
Why it made the cut: This handheld model doubles as a stick vacuum and features a 3-in-1 system that comes with everything you need to clean stairs, furniture, floors, and more.
- Battery Life: Up to 25 minutes
- Dirt bin size: 15 oz.
- Weight: Stick Mode: 5.8 lbs. Hand vac: approx 2 lbs.
- Battery life
- Filter is not washable
This 3-in-1 set from Shark really has it all when it comes to lightweight, thorough vacuuming. Available in six colors, this Wandvac starts out as a cordless stick vacuum with flexible silicon Powerfins on the highspeed motor suitable for use on carpets, hardwood floors, and tile. With the quick touch of a button, this stick vacuum converts to a convenient handheld vacuum for quick cleanup. Weighing under 2.1 pounds, your wrist won’t get tired of carrying this model around, even as it fills with dirt and dust. Attach the wand extender to clean hard-to-reach areas, including cabinets, shelving, or underneath low-profile furniture. You can even trigger Boost Mode, which produces extra bursts of suction so you can pick up larger debris. Twenty-five minutes of battery life is better than most models and the one-touch dirt cup is easy to empty over your trashcan. This vacuum also comes with an attachable pet multitool, a mini motorized hand tool, and a side-by-side charging dock. If you’re looking for the best small handheld vacuum perfect for those tricky spots, the Shark can prove itself the best for stairs and other tight spaces.
Best for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser
Why it made the cut: The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is our favorite tool for getting rid of clingy pet hairs; the motorized brush makes picking up what Muffin left behind a breeze.
- Battery Life: Up to 17 minutes
- Dirt bin size: Approximately 23 oz.
- Weight: 3 lbs.
- Large dirt bin
- Motorized brush tool
- Upholstery tool
- The crevice tool is just okay
This powerful machine weighs a little over 4 pounds and expertly removes dirt from your home using a motorized brush tool designed to release pet hair’s stronghold on, let’s face it, everything you own. A miracle worker for any surface, but this brush is particularly useful for high-pile rugs and furniture; the bristles gently yet powerful pull hair up and off surfaces before sucking them up. The Pet Hair Eraser also comes with a flat upholstery tool that suctions right onto the surface and maintains a steady fabric grip. The crevice tool is, of course, useful for hard-to-reach areas. With a lithium-ion battery, you’ll get 17 minutes of consecutive use before it needs to recharge. Triple filtration keeps suction power strong and the easy empty dirt cup is simple to use. The dirt cup capacity is an impressive 0.7 liters, which is fairly large for a small, handheld vacuum; you shouldn’t have any problem eliminating stubborn hair from multiple rooms at a time before you have to dump the bin into the garbage.
Best for cars: Ryobi ONE+ Wet/Dry Vacuum
Why it made the cut: The Ryobi ONE+ is a handheld vacuum that will deliver a professional quality clean for your car, equipped with both wet and dry capabilities.
- Battery Life: N/A
- Dirt bin size: 384 oz. / 3 gallons
- Weight: 10.66 lbs.
- Wet/dry capabilities for a full clean
- Professional clean
- 30-40 minute run time
- Battery and charger sold separately
There are other, smaller handheld vacuums like the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus, which, though designed for pet pick-up, do a fantastic job with just about any surface, including cars. However, we want to find something specifically designed to help you thoroughly clean your vehicle; enter the Ryobi ONE+. This super powerful suction machine is essentially a handheld shop vac with a 3-gallon dry debris capacity, a transparent 6-foot extendable hose, and a washable filter. It also comes with a crevice tool and utility nozzle for your car’s hard-to-clean nooks and crannies. Best of all, this vac is a dual wet/dry vacuum which means it can suck up spills or moisture after cleaning your car’s fabric interiors. Though you’ll need to purchase a separate battery and charger, you’ll be able to clean for 30-40 minutes straight once acquired.
Best corded: Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum
Why it made the cut: This lightweight, corded handheld vacuum has an 18-foot cord and HEPA filtration, so you don’t have to worry about snags or sneezes while vacuuming.
- Battery Life: N/A
- Dirt bin size: Approximately 26 oz.
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Large dirt bin
- HEPA filtration
- Vent could be better designed
This handheld vacuum has a generous 18-foot cord to help you clean larger areas or tricky spots that aren’t right next to an outlet, and a rubber nozzle helps remove debris from upholstery in your home and car with an easy reach. It also comes with a crevice and wide-mouth tool, so you can suck up stubborn crumbs or destroy large dust collections in a matter of seconds. It’s bagless, so when you’re done cleaning, all you need to do is empty the vacuum directly into the trash. And, you won’t need to take multiple trips to empty the vacuum thanks to its large 26-ounce dirt bin. The filter is washable for easy clean-up and features HEPA filtration to rid your home of odors and airborne microbes. Some reviewers note that the vent could be better designed—the vents blow down, which can scatter debris.
Best budget: Dirt Devil Scorpion Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Why it made the cut: A handheld vacuum with impressive suction, 2.5-foot hose attachment, and constant power for under $40.
- Battery Life: N/A
- Dirt bin size: Approximately 15 oz.
- Weight: 3 lbs.
- Hose is helpful
- 16-foot power cord
- Struggles with few outlets in big spaces
This powerful handheld vacuum weighs under 4 pounds and comes with a 16-foot power cord so you can get to tricky areas without a struggle. It features a built-in crevice tool that flips down to get in between couch cushions and car seats. A removable, rinseable filter provides long-lasting performance, and a large dustbin ensures you won’t have to pause your pick-up before it’s complete. The detachable 2.5-foot hose is helpful for cleaning up high-volume messes like sawdust, sand, and more. If you like the sound of all of this but the tether to an outlet is a dealbreaker for you, check out the Dirt Devil Quick Flip Cordless; though it’s more expensive than its corded contemporary, the Dirt Devil Cordless still offers affordable vacuuming.
Q: Is a handheld vacuum the same as a dustbuster?
Yes, a handheld vacuum is often called a dustbuster. The phrase “dustbuster” is a quippy way to label these powerful little appliances, known for quickly picking up dust and debris along with other spills. If you see a handheld vacuum referred to as a dustbuster (or vice versa), know that they mean the same thing.
Q: What is the best way to store a cordless handheld vacuum?
While there are many ways to store a cordless handheld vacuum, we recommend looking for a wall-mounted model if you’re tight on space. A wall-mounted charger keeps your appliance off the floor and out of the way. They make it easy to stash inside a linen closet or crowded pantry without the risk of tripping over or stepping on the power cord. Many handheld models are compatible with separately purchased wall mounts, so make sure you search for additional product accessories.
Q: How long do handheld vacuums last?
On average, handheld vacuums last between two and three years, though there are a few things you can do to extend one’s lifetime. Make sure you purchase your vac from a reputable brand, regularly clean the filters and replace as needed, empty the bin before it’s completely stuffed, and untangle any dust or hair that gets tangled in the attachments. Also, make sure to reserve your handheld vacuum for light spills and other minimal messes; you don’t want to damage the structure trying to deep clean your floor or carpet.
Q: How much do handheld vacuums cost?
Handheld vacuums cost anywhere from $15 to $200, with a few high-end models costing at much as $300. While you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount on a dustbuster, think about saving up for a mid-range model if you don’t want to head back to the store after just a couple of cleans. This will also ensure you can take care of mild messes successfully; there is nothing more disappointing than unpacking a brand new vacuum only to discover it struggles to suck up dirt and debris.
Q: Does higher wattage mean more suction?
No, higher wattage does not mean more suction power. Wattage is a measurement that describes how much power a unit needs to operate. For example, a 2000w canister vacuum uses 1 kilowatt, or 1000 watts, of electricity every hour. Instead of looking at wattage for information about suction power, examine the model’s airflow specs (measured in cubic feet per minute of CFM). Typically, the higher the airflow, the better the suction.
Final thoughts on the best handheld vacuums
A household essential, handheld vacs are perfect for quick pick-ups and hard-to-reach areas, like furniture, shelving, and cars. Plus, they’re the perfect way to combat your pet’s constant shedding. The best handheld vacuums will be easy to maneuver, lightweight, and designed with your most common messes in mind. Once you’re equipped with a convenient mini-vacuum, you’ll be surprised you ever went without.