Stick vacuums are convenient for quick jobs
Stick vacuums are lightweight, smaller versions of the traditional upright vacuum. They are extremely handy to keep around for quick pick up jobs, like spilled flour, dust bunnies, pet hair, or the crumbs that seem to follow small children everywhere.
In the past, stick vacuums were considered appropriate only for cleaning hardwood floors and very low-pile carpet. However, some of today's stick vacuums are more powerful than ever, and some people will be able to use them as their main vacuum. They're not the best choice, though, for deep-pile carpet or for extended cleaning jobs (most cordless stick vacs have a limited run time, whereas corded stick vacuums limit your range). If you need a vacuum for heavier, longer tasks, upright vacuum cleaners and canister vacuum cleaners, both of which we cover in separate reports, are better choices.
Regardless of your home size or floor type, a stick vacuum can be a great time-saver compared to hauling out the bigger vacuum, and they can't be beat for spot messes. Stick vacuums are also more convenient than a broom and dustpan because you don't have to bend over during use; they also pick up smaller particles and do a more thorough job because of their suction action. Stick vacs don't use bags, they capture debris in a dirt cup which makes disposal simple, though sometimes messy. Stick vacuums are also better suited than upright vacuums for sweeping under furniture; plus, because of their light weight, they're easy to lift and carry. Some stick vacs come with a swivel head that makes cleaning around obstacles an easy task. Included attachments can help with cleaning hard-to-reach areas.
Many stick vacuums come with an integrated, detachable handheld vacuum. These 2-in-1 models share a single dirt collection container and are as compact and lightweight as stick vacuums that don't convert. If you need to clean both floors and other surfaces, this type of stick vacuum can be a cost-effective solution. If you want a simple vacuum just for clean ups on something other than floors (upholstery, for example), you might be interested in our separate report on handheld vacuums, where we recommend the best choices.
Stick vacuums can be cordless or corded
Cordless stick vacuums are better suited for quick cleaning tasks because they can only run for about 15 to 30 minutes per charge, and recharging takes several hours. However, the lack of a cord makes them very convenient to use; you don't have to plug and unplug it and deal with the range limits of a power cord. Many reviewers say cordless vacuums are faster to use than corded vacuums and the run time is plenty long for most tasks. That said, cordless stick vacs rely solely on battery power and when the battery dies, you can't continue with a cleanup until the battery recharges. Some models use replaceable batteries and you can extend your cleaning time by swapping out a depleted battery for a fully charged one. However, spare batteries are sometimes expensive and buying one will add to the overall cost of ownership.
Corded stick vacuums don't have any limitations on power, but they do tether you to a cord that might not be long enough to clean a whole room without unplugging it and plugging it back in elsewhere. Some smaller, cheaper vacuums have very short cords; larger, more expensive vacuums usually have longer cords. Corded stick vacuums tend to get better reviews overall for durability; some models in this report are still going strong after 5 or 10 years, according to owners.
How we chose the best stick vacuums
Stick vacuums are quite popular and, as a result, there are a good number of professional tests and expert reviews and roundups available. Most helpful were testing sites like ConsumerReports.org, Reviewed.com and TheSweethome.com. Good Housekeeping and Real Simple also have useful roundups, but their testing methods are less well explained and they name just a few models. Also extremely helpful are the thousands of owner reviews we analyzed at retail sites, such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com and BestBuy.com, to name just a few. These user reviews give the best overview for how each stick vacuum operates in real-world, long-term use. In evaluating these reviews, we consider performance on different flooring surfaces, pet-hair pickup, features and attachments, and ease of use and durability to help you find the best stick vacuum for your cleaning needs.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Cordless Stick Vacuums | Best Corded Stick Vacuums | Buying Guide | Our Sources