Best Handheld Vacuums of 2018

Noel Case ·
Writer/Reviewer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We have been reviewing handheld vacuums since 2014 and have spent more than 200 hours researching and testing the best handheld vacuums we could find. We combined extensive online research with testing in our labs to compare features and performance of these devices, to help you make an informed buying decision. The best handheld vacuum we found was the Black & Decker Dustbuster. It is a quiet, lightweight vacuum that performed well in all of our tests. It is designed to reach tight spots around your home and car, and effectively cleans all surfaces and types of debris.    

Best Overall
Black & Decker Dustbuster
The Black & Decker Dustbuster is a quiet, lightweight handheld vacuum with more suction than most cordless vacs and integrated tools that help you get to tight areas around your house and car.
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Best Value
Dirt Devil QuickFlip
The Dirt Devil QuickFlip is a truly compact handheld cleaning machine that offers decent suction at a tiny price.
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Best Pet Hair Vacuum
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is a corded vacuum with plenty of suction power and a head designed for effectively picking up pet hair.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Vacuuming Performance
Portability
Design Features
Price
Pickup - Carpet
Pickup - Hardwood
Pickup - Pet Hair
Car Seat Test
Suction Power (oz)
Noise Level (dB)
Weight (pounds)
Run Time (minutes)
Charge Time (hours)
HEPA Filtration
Mountable Charger
Crevice Tool
Brush Tool
Wide-Mouth Tool
Attachable Hose
Warranty & Support
Phone & Email
Chat
FAQs
$29.99 Amazon
5 4.5 3 5
95
95
80
90
4.7
79
2.4
15
8
2 Years
$53.95 Amazon Marketplace
4.5 5 5 4.5
90
90
75
75
3.6
83
2.9
24
8
2 Years
$34.99 toyboxtech
4.5 4.5 3 5
90
90
75
70
4.1
81
2.2
13
6
3 Years
$37 Sears
5 3.5 3.5 4.5
100
100
95
70
16
93
4.8
N/A
N/A
1 Year
$29.49 Amazon
5 4.5 0.5 5
80
90
100
75
17
85
3.45
N/A
N/A
1 Year
$44.55 Amazon Warehouse
4 4.5 3 4.5
90
75
50
85
8
88.8
3.25
17
6
3 Years
$30.01 Newegg
4.5 3.5 4 4
90
80
80
85
16
94.4
4
17
6
2 Years
$18.71 Walmart - Electric Vac LLC
5 1 4 4.5
95
80
95
90
16
81
4.2
10
16
1 Year
$94 Amazon Marketplace
3.5 5 3.5 3
75
60
30
85
5
92.5
2.7
N/A
N/A
1 Year
$25.51 Wal-Mart
4.5 3.5 3 3
80
70
80
85
N/A
94.9
3.4
6
3
2 Years
Best 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.
Pros
  • This is the quietest handheld vacuum we tested.
  • The exhaust is released out the back so it doesn’t blow the debris it’s cleaning up.
  • The crevice and brush tools are integrated into the body of the vacuum.
Cons
  • It had a tough time vacuuming up ground-in pet hair on carpet.
  • The charge time of eight hours is longer than average.
  • It lacks a wide-mouth tool and an attachable hose.
$32.29Amazon
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Best Value
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.
Pros
  • This one is truly compact and lightweight.
  • The low price is easy on the budget.
  • Being cord-free is great for ultimate portability.
Cons
  • The run time is not very long.
  • Other vacuums have more suction power.
  • The charge time is long, especially considering the short run time.
$42.99Amazon
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Best Pet Hair Vacuum
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.
Pros
  • It performed better than any other vacuum in our pet hair tests.
  • It has a lot of suction and performed well in the suction tests.
  • This is a low-priced vacuum.
Cons
  • This vacuum is corded and has limited portability.
  • It is one of the heaviest vacuums in our reviews.
  • It lacks a crevice tool for cleaning tight spaces.
$28.79Amazon
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Best Accessories
Hoover Air Cordless offers the best attachments, making it more versatile than most. The crevice tool will get you into tight spots between the car seats and couch cushions.
What sets this vacuum apart is the addition of a motorized turbo tool, designed to extract pet hair. The rotating brush helps get at deep down dirt and hair in a way the stationary brush tools can't. The rotating brush is also great for stairs because it covers more ground with the expanded cleaning path. An attachable hose is not included with this Hoover model and that will be one drawback when you want extended reach. This is also not the very best for suction. It was generally good, but other vacuums did better on certain tests.
Pros
  • The included spinning brush extends the cleaning path.
Cons
  • There were vacuum cleaners that did better than this one on certain suction tests.
US$41.95Amazon
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Best for Carpeting
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.
Pros
  • This unit had the strongest suction on carpeting of any we tested.
Cons
  • It is less portable than most.
$51.60Sears
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Why Trust Us

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?

Handheld vacuum cleaners are designed to tackle smaller messes and usually come with a small cost -- less than $100. We tested products ranging from $30 to $175. In this category it is not necessarily worth it to invest more money. Our favorite product was almost the least expensive one. You do not need a ton of suction for most of the small messes you will be targeting with this type of vacuum – cleaning up a bit of breakfast cereal the kids spilled or freshening up car mats. Also, portability is another major factor and there are plenty of smaller units that come at a reasonable price and do a fine job of cleaning.

How We Tested

The two most important components of the best handheld vacuums are performance and portability. Suction power is important, especially if you are trying to pull up stubborn dirt in crevices and corners, or pet hair that tends to stick to upholstery. Portability focuses on how easy it is to carry around a small vacuum while using it. It also looks at convenience factors, such as the battery life and how heavy the machine is.

In addition to the obvious functions of pick-up and maneuverability, we also considered design features that give some handheld vacuum cleaners a leg up on the competition. For example, products such as the Hoover Air Cordless use a HEPA filtration system that enables them to meet air quality standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy and remove 99.97 percent of dust particles and keep them from blowing back into the air during vacuuming.

Vacuuming Performance
We performed many tests to determine how well each hand vacuum picks up a variety of common items, including cereal and wood shavings. We rubbed dog hair into carpeting and went into volunteer pet owner homes to test how well portable vacuums were able to pick up both cat and dog hair from upholstered furniture such as couches and chairs to help us determine which models had better suction.

To further test suction capabilities of small hand vacuum cleaners, we put screws in a flat-topped container and recorded how many screws each unit could hold for five seconds. Those capable of holding more weight received higher marks for suction.

Portability
As part of the portability tests we timed how long the battery lasted when fully charged. This is important if you need to tackle more than one mess or have an unusually big mess, such as dried leaves or cookie crumbs in your car, that may require some extra cleaning time.

We weighed each portable vacuum cleaner to give you a good idea how cumbersome and tiring it may become while using the vacuum. We also considered how long it takes to charge all of the battery-powered units. The ones that charge more quickly scored better. 

Cordless vs. Corded
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. 

Design
Most of the hand vacuums we tested come with attachments for getting into folds in furniture or corners in staircases more easily. The crevice tool is long and narrow so it fits more easily around the base of car seats that are bolted to the car floor and more difficult to vacuum around. The Black & Decker Dustbuster has a crevice tool as part of the main body design rather than as a separate attachment. It also extends to give you a longer spout, adding to the maneuverability of the vacuum.

A wide-mouth tool, such as the one included with the MetroVac Vac N Go, gives you the ability to vacuum a larger area with one pass rather than having to continually repeat smaller passes to get up the same amount of mess.

What is the Most Powerful Handheld Vacuum?

The most powerful handheld vacuum cleaner we tested was the Eureka Easy Clean. It got the only perfect scores on our carpet and hardwood cleaning tests. Among handheld vacuum cleaners, there are lots of factors that matter beyond sheer cleaning power so the Easy Clean did not qualify for the best overall in our ranking. It is a corded model so you are tethered to the wall, which cuts down on portability. The Easy Clean also struggled to rank higher because it is relatively heavy and the suction when using the crevice tool was not as strong as the main cleaning head's suction, making it less useful for car cleaning, a popular use for handheld vacuums. But in terms of pure suction using the full cleaning head, the Eureka Easy Clean was incredibly powerful. It cleared away the sawdust on our test carpeting in only two passes, half of what it took the next best vacuum cleaner.

What Is the Best Handheld Dustbuster?

Made by Black & Decker, the Dustbuster is basically synonymous with handheld vacuum cleaners for lots of folks, like Crockpot is to slow cookers or Kleenex is to tissue. That's not too surprising when you consider its lofty roots. The Dustbuster evolved after Black & Decker was tasked with creating battery-operated hand tools for NASA to collect samples on the moon. There are hundreds of handheld vacuum varieties now and Dustbusters still compare well.  

The best handheld Dustbuster is also our best handheld vacuum overall. In our latest round of testing, the Dustbuster HHVI320 was practically perfect. While battery-powered models are never quite as strong as corded ones, this Dustbuster did a good job of cleaning. Also, not having a cord gives it the advantage of being portable. This is one of the few handheld vacuum cleaners we tested that stores all its tools on its body. That way, you have easy access to the crevice tool for cleaning between car seats and other small jobs. It is one of the best Black & Decker Dustbusters and the best handheld vacuum cleaner overall.

What Is the Best Handheld Vacuum for the Car?

We tested quite a few handheld vacuum cleaners that did a good job cleaning car seats. However, the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II scored the very highest in our car tests. It also outperformed all but one vacuum in our suction tests, including the test where we had it suspend a container of screws, adding weight until it could no longer hold the container. Aside from performing well in the car seat and other suction tests, the vacuum has quite a few other features that make it great for keeping your vehicle tidy. For one, it is cordless. As such, you can really get into every corner, without worry about whether the cord can reach far enough. It also has accessories to help it get into tight spots, including a crevice tool. A hose would make it even more useful for cars, but because it is cordless, its reach extends pretty far as is.

What Is the Best Handheld Vacuum for Stairs?

One of the most common uses for a handheld vacuum is cleaning stairs. Even the best uprights and canisters sometimes make it hard to reach all the way up a stairwell. You can either take the body of the vacuum cleaner with you and try and balance it on individual stairs as you go, or you can hope the hose reaches far enough that you don't have to move the whole vacuum cleaner much. Either way, it is kind of a pain. A good handheld vacuum makes stairs easier. We recommend the Eureka Easy Clean. Since stairs are an inside job, it doesn't matter that you have to plug it in. Also, the cord is long and can easily get you through a set of stairs. Corded models also generally have more suction, and this particular vacuum had the highest carpet cleaning scores of all the handheld vacuums we tested.  

What Is a Good Wattage for a 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 Recommendations 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 – and it recommends a newer version than we reviewed. 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/.  

One Vacuum For All Tasks

The line between different vacuuming categories is blurring as time goes by. The latest cord-free vacuums from Dyson and Shark are a cross between a stick vacuum, upright vacuum and handheld vacuum, all in one unit. We know that's on purpose, at least in the case of Dyson. Josh Mutlow, Senior Design Engineer at Dyson, said his company is hoping people's cleaning habits will evolve to become more frequent, shorter sessions throughout the week with a stick vacuum. Those more frequent, shorter cleaning sessions would replace the traditional weekly ritual of dragging the old upright out of the closet to deeply clean the whole house. Dyson isn't even investing in the upright design anymore, Mutlow said. Their attention is focused on vacuums like the Cyclone v10 Absolute, which also doubles as a handheld vacuum when you remove the extension tube. The latest stick vacuums from Shark also double as hand vacuums for cleaning the stairs or your car.

When a Handheld Vacuum Isn’t Enough

Handheld vacuum cleaners are small and portable, which works for small messes and tricky surfaces such as stairs, furniture and cars. However, we have thoroughly tested vacuums of many sizes and for many uses.

Upright Vacuums – Upright vacuums are traditionally what people imagine when they think about vacuum cleaners. The entire vacuum is encompassed within the body of the unit, making it easy to pass over carpeting, and in many cases on hardwood, too. Upright vacuums can have an easily removable canister or require a bag to hold the dirt and dust. The Eureka Brushroll is our top pick for upright vacuum cleaners.

Canister Vacuums – Canister vacuums are designed to clean your whole house. The attachments make it versatile so you can clean thick carpet, upholstery and drapes. The long hose that connects the vacuum wand to the canister makes it easier to maneuver through each room and around furniture without having to carry and plug in the vacuum as you move around a large area or between rooms. We found the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal canister vacuum easy to use while still being friendly on the household budget.

Shop Vacuums – They are high powered vacuums that can handle wet and dry messes both inside and outside of your home. Leaves, twigs and sawdust all are easy to pick up with these vacuums. While they do have a lot of power behind them, they are not heavy and are actually rather easy to maneuver around objects. Models such as the Vacmaster are more suited for outdoor use rather than for daily, indoor cleaning chores.

Robot Vacuums – Robot vacuums are the latest cleaning craze on the market. These intuitive vacuums can be programmed to move across your floor at certain times and in specified areas so you don’t have to worry about vacuuming as part of your daily cleaning regimen. The best robot vacuums, such as the Eufy RoboVac 11S, come with a remote control so that you can quickly pick up spills in between scheduled cleanings.

Carpet Cleaners – Carpet cleaners look like vacuums and are used in a similar way, but rather than sucking dirt, these machines are used to deep clean carpets using water. As you pass the cleaner over your carpet, part of the machine sprays soapy water over the dirty area while the suction hose pulls the muddied water back up and stores it in a waterproof canister. We found the Hoover Power Scrub to be the best carpet cleaner, with the ability to pick up stains better than the competition during our tests.

Whether you need a handheld vacuum for cleaning your car or spot-cleaning in a busy household, hand vacs are the perfect solution for quick, effective tidying up. They are more portable and generally quieter than traditional vacuums.