Types of Handheld Vacuums
Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
Because they're not tethered to a cord, cordless handheld vacuums are very versatile. The best hand vacs use Lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion) batteries. With a Li-ion battery, full power is maintained until the battery runs out of juice. However, they can take four or more hours to charge, and then have a runtime of about 12 to 20 minutes. This makes them best for quick touchups, rather than extensive cleaning jobs.
Corded Hand Vacuums
These typically have power cords between 12 and 25 feet long. Corded models aren't limited on run time, they vacuum for as long as you need them to. For some cleaning tasks like stairs or an automobile, you may need an extension cord, though. We saw more complaints about a corded vacuum seeming heavy, even if it weighs less than comparable cordless vacuums, which leads us to conclude that there is a fatigue factor in using even a relatively lightweight handheld vacuum for a long period of time.
vacuums are ideal for quick cleanup jobs
Everyone needs a good, full-sized upright or canister vacuum cleaner for
big jobs, like weekly whole-house cleaning or for giving your carpet a
thorough, deep vacuuming. However, when you have a smaller mess, like a dry
spill of flour or rice in the kitchen, or a coating of cat hair on the
cushions, it's nice to be able to reach for something small and light -- which
is why handheld vacuums are so popular.
These small gadgets are good not just for spot-cleaning, but also for
accessing places that can be a challenging reach for the larger accessories on
full-sized vacuums, or for dealing with areas where hauling a large vacuum is
cumbersome, like vacuuming stairs. Portable vacuums are also great for cleaning
cars or boats, and for using in RV's. The best handheld vacuums will have
either a nozzle that acts as a crevice tool for getting into small spaces, or
onboard accessories that include a crevice tool. Many have hoses and
specialized brushes for dusting. The best also can rotate or angle to clean
hard-to-reach items like ceiling fans.
Of course, a handheld vacuum won't be suitable for
all cleaning jobs. Most people need a good upright vacuum, which we cover in
our separate report on vacuum cleaners, for whole-house cleaning and
digging deep to pull dirt and debris out of pile carpet. Canister vacuums use slender wands that can reach farther into tight spaces, like under beds,
while stick vacuums are great to have around for maintaining a hardwood
or tile floor on a day-to-day basis, or for cleaning up spot messes without
having to stoop. If you need something a bit more heavy-duty, see our wet dry vac report for a top portable option.
Finding The Best Handheld Vacuums
"Small Vacuum Ratings and Reliability"
"The Best Handheld Vacuum"
"The Best Handheld Vacuums of 2017"
Portable vacuum cleaners get
somewhat less coverage than other types of vacuums, but we found a few reviews that
include testing at sites like ConsumerReports.org, TheSweethome.com and
TopTenReviews.com. While there aren't a lot of handheld vacuums included in
these roundups, that's because, in general, there are fewer hand vacs than
other types, and, these days, many full-sized stick or upright vacuums have the
option to detach a part of the vacuum to convert to a handheld.
Still, handheld vacuums have
their place -- and their fans -- and it was these fans we turned to help us
narrow down our choices after reviewing the professional tests. Owners are very
passionate about their vacuums, and we spotted thousands, sometimes tens of
thousands, of reviews for the vacuums we chose. These user reviews give the
best overview for how each handheld vacuum operates in real-world, long-term
use. In evaluating these reviews, we consider performance on different flooring
surfaces, pet-hair removal, features and attachments, and ease of use and
durability to help you find the best portable vacuum for your cleaning needs.