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Best Cordless Handheld Vacuums

By: Kelly Burgess on May 04, 2017

Cordless handheld vacuums are convenient, versatile tools

Portable cordless vacuums are ideal if you need a small, easy-to-maneuver vacuum for quick-pickup tasks around the house or for poking into small spaces that the larger accessories on full-sized vacuum cleaners can't access. However, the downside to cordless hand vacs is their relatively short runtime -- you're lucky if you get a full 10 to 15 minutes before recharging is necessary, reviewers say. If you need more time for cleaning, you may want to consider a corded handheld vacuum instead, and those are covered elsewhere in this report.

When it comes to a basic, highly affordable handheld vacuum for dealing with spot messes, it's hard to beat the Black & Decker CHV1410L (Est. $70). It's named the best budget choice after testing at TheSweethome.com, where Liam McCabe points out that it's not quite as versatile as their top pick, but is plenty powerful for normal use and is a great price for a hand vac with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. This type of battery is preferable because it holds full suction until the charge fully runs down, as opposed to weakening as the battery discharges.

Owners love it too, and say they appreciate its traditional Dust Buster design, which was originated by Black & Decker. Tens of thousands of happy users make it one of the highest-rated vacuums at Amazon.com. Most agree that it's powerful enough even to pick up chunky items, like cheerios or spilled rice, but quite a few praise its performance on pet hair as well. However, that's generally pet hair on smooth surfaces, like floors; it does not get as good of reviews for removing pet hair from upholstery. In general, it seems that most users find that this Dust Buster runs for about 15 minutes per charge and takes about 4 hours to fully charge.

The CHV1410L includes two accessories, a crevice tool and a small brush, and one thing users adore is that both store on-board so they're always at hand, and can't be lost or misplaced. The only real complaints we saw about this hand vac are pretty minor quibbles. A few say it's loud, although very few in general comment on its noise, and some would like it if a wall-mount was either included or optional. Still, we saw very few disappointed users, and quite a few say they bought one for their home, and were so pleased with it that they bought another for their office or RV.

A slightly less-pricey, but otherwise almost identical vacuum, the Black & Decker HHVI320JR02 Dustbuster (Est. $40) might be a better choice if your vacuuming needs are more basic. It's the top-rated vacuum at TopTenReviews.com, earning that site's Gold Award. In testing, it performed equally well on hardwood floors and carpet. It was the quietest vacuum in the test too.

User satisfaction is slightly lower with this Dustbuster than with the CHV1410L. We spotted few more durability complaints, but many pragmatic owners note that, "you get what you pay for." And this is a low-priced vacuum. It's also less powerful, 10.8 volts to the CHV1410L's 16 volts. It also takes longer to charge -- 8 hours, and runs for about 15 minutes on a charge.

If you need a hand vac that's more than just a basic vacuum, you'll want to check out the Black & Decker Platinum BDH2020FLFH (Est. $100). It gets excellent reviews for its versatility and its performance in pet hair pick up. The BDH2020FLFH uses a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. Experts and users say it lasts a solid 16 minutes on a charge and maintains full power for that 16 minutes -- long enough for bigger cleaning tasks. The Black & Decker Platinum has a long, 4-foot hose that extends its reach to get into even high spots, and comes with a great assortment of accessories, including a pet hair brush, stick vac floor head, 2-in-1 nozzle/brush, and extended crevice tool. The smaller tools store onboard, the stick vac attachment does not.

Owners say the Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH is extremely easy to use and is small enough to stow away on a shelf or in a cupboard, although many note that storing the separate stick vac attachment can pose a challenge. They also praise the comfortable-to-hold curved handle, which is a different design than most straight-handled portable vacuums.

The pet hair tool is pretty basic, just a rubberized head, but as McCabe points out, it does its job well on upholstery. He, and a few owners, long for a motorized pet hair brush, but most hand vacs simply don't have enough juice to power one of those for long. Still, pet owners are quite satisfied with this small vacuum's performance in picking up pet hair on even plush surfaces.

Another handheld vacuum that's designed with pet owners in mind is the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect SV780 (Est. $55). It's the top pick at ConsumerReports.org, earning scores of Excellent for bare floors and edges, Very Good for carpet and pet hair, and Good for noise. Elsewhere, however, feedback is more mixed. At TopTenReviews.com it comes it at number eight out of 10, with tester Angie Parkinson unimpressed with its long charge time (16 hours for a full charge) and short run time (10 minutes). Still, she says it does do an amazing job on pet hair.

User ratings for the Shark are equally "meh," with an unremarkable 3.9-stars at Amazon.com, where it gets a lot of durability complaints. Those who don't have issues with the battery not charging, or the vacuum just not working after a short period absolutely love it. The attachments, which include a motorized pet brush, dusting brush and crevice tool, are said to be terrific for cleaning messes off upholstery.

Another very highly-rated portable vacuum, but one that comes at a comparatively stratospheric price compared to the others in this report, is the Dyson V6 Car+Boat (Est. $240). It's the upgrade pick at TheSweethome.com, where McCabe says it can "blast through trickier jobs like upholstery and pet-hair pickup." That performance is due to the combination of the Dyson's powerful motor and the included accessories that can handle any type of situation -- an extension hose, crevice tool, combination tool, two brushes and a motorized mini tool.

The Dyson V6 Car+Boat also gets mostly rave reviews from owners for its powerful suction, but some are disappointed with its 20-minute runtime. For the price, many feel it should be longer. However, that's the longest runtime of any cordless vacuum in this report, and about the best you can expect from that size of a Li-ion battery. Still, most love it for cleaning their cars -- especially those with small children or who haul a lot of plant materials in their trunks. The Dyson also offers one of the easiest dust-bin emptying processes of any hand vac, simply hold the unit over a trash can and push a button to release the dirt and debris. It doesn't use a filter, instead relying on root cyclone technology to spin dust and hair and push it deep into the dirt canister so it doesn't escape back into the air.

If you think you'd like something even more versatile than a dedicated hand vacuum, check out our separate report on stick vacuums; many of them are able to convert from a full-sized stick vac to a handheld.

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