Updated March 2014
It's not always convenient to haul out a full-sized vacuum when it comes to small cleaning tasks. Handheld vacuums are useful gadgets for small spills and quick cleanup jobs, as well as cleaning areas like stairs. We evaluated thousands of owner-written reviews and expert tests to identify the best corded and cordless hand vacuums that combine both usability and functionality in one.
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Black & Decker Pivot Vac 18V Cordless Pivoting Hand Vac PHV1810
Black & Decker Pivot Vac 18V Cordless Pivoting Hand Vac PHV1810

Best cordless handheld vacuum

The Black & Decker Pivot Vac 18V Cordless Pivoting Hand Vac PHV1810 has powerful suction with a versatile design. Its slim nozzle offers a range of motion for cleaning otherwise impossible-to-reach areas such as under car seats and in small openings. It runs for 10 to 20 minutes on a single charge and isn't restricted by a power cord.
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Eureka Easy Clean Hand Vac 71B
Eureka Easy Clean Hand Vac 71B

Best corded handheld vacuum

The Eureka Easy Clean Hand Vac 71B is perfect for tasks that take longer than a few minutes. The corded vac is incredibly durable and exceptional for pet-hair pickup. With a riser visor that lifts over the motorized brushroll, it transitions instantly for cleaning vertical surfaces.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Handheld Vacuums Runners Up:

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Corded Hand Vacuum 33A1-B Est. $30

6 picks including: Amazon.com, Good Housekeeping…

Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vac SV780 Est. $60

4 picks including: Amazon.com, Good Housekeeping…

Expert reviews focus on cordless handheld vacs

Handheld vacuums (which are available in cordless or corded models) can be handy for cleaning small messes and in tight corners. Cordless hand vacs are particularly convenient for cleaning the interior of cars, but short run times don't make them practical for sprucing up larger areas. Our report on stick vacuums, which are primarily used for cleaning hard floors or low-pile area rugs, includes information on models with a removable hand vac. Homes with extensive carpeting will still need an upright vacuum or canister vacuum, which are covered in separate reports.

We found the most comprehensive review of hand vacs on ConsumerReports.org. Here, editors compare 12 small handheld vacuums; a few stick vacuums are also included in the review. Tests are conducted on both carpet and hard floors. After evaluating ease of use, run time, recharge time, emissions, noise level and ability to clean along edges and pick up pet hair, editors recommend four models. They also caution consumers against buying two models that "threw particles of picked-up sand and glass out of their exhaust ports, posing a risk to testers' faces and eyes."

Australia's Choice magazine and New Zealand's Consumer magazine also offer recent handheld-vacuum reviews. Choice magazine editors compare 10 vacuums on their ability to suck up cornflakes and flour from a hard surface, and potting mix, sand and pet hair from carpet. Most of the models are either not sold in the U.S. or are discontinued. Consumer magazine tests seven models at Choice magazine's lab, possibly at the same time as the Choice test. Again, some models are discontinued or not sold in the United States. Editors evaluate performance and ease of use, and then outline each product's pros and cons.

The U.K. publication Which? magazine provides a detailed review of eight handheld vacuums. Editors outline the pros and cons rather than recommending models, and five of the vacuums originally reviewed are either discontinued or not sold in the U.S. Particularly useful, however, are reviews and videos highlighting newer models that have equivalent versions sold in the U.S.

In an older review, editors of Popular Mechanics compare three handheld vacuums; two of them are now discontinued. We found the video format of this review to be very informative as it shows each vacuum sucking up 32 ounces of flour and 12 ounces of wet kitty litter. A review from The Wall Street Journal includes a less formal test of five hand vacs (three of which are now discontinued) by scattering a "holiday dirt mix" of wrapping paper bits, potato chip crumbs and other debris onto carpet, tile and a car interior.

Numerous handheld vacs are also sold at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com, and owners have written insightful reviews about models they have purchased. Additionally, some owner-written reviews can be found at Viewpoints.com.

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