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For the times when you need to quickly clean up a spill or get rid of a dust bunny, a handheld vacuum is quite, well, handy. Instead of lugging your full-size vacuum out of the closet, a hand vac is lightweight, easily portable, and small enough to clean the crevices between furniture. They’re also ideal for cleaning your car’s interior.
Of course, not all handheld vacuums are created equal. Some are better for pet hair, some have a better selection of attachments, and some weigh practically nothing, making them easy for anyone to use. Below, we rounded up the best handheld vacuums on the market so you can easily find the best one for you.
Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum
Extendable, rotating nozzle
Translucent dust bin
What we love about this handheld vacuum is the fact that the battery can hold a charge for up to 18 months when not being used. So, even if you forget to put it on the charger, it’ll still be ready to go whenever you need it. And if you do want to store it on the charging station, it won’t hurt the battery—it automatically shuts off when it’s fully charged, which helps extend the battery life.
A translucent dust bin that makes it easier to see when it’s time to empty—plus, you can tell just how much dirt and debris the vacuum is sucking up. The slim nozzle which extends and rotates to get to hard-to-reach places, and the general power of the little machine are a few other points in this model’s favor. The bright charging light and the machine's operating volume might be a little disruptive, but if you can look past those factors, it’s solid choice for most households.
Best Budget: Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Bagless Handheld Vacuum
Very powerful suction
Easy to use tools
A number one bestseller in its category, this handheld vacuum is a solid choice, and won't cost much. Whether you don’t want to spend a ton on an additional appliance, or you’re looking for one to the dorms with your first-year college student, look no further. This little red machine gets the job done with a surprising amount of power.
It has an easy-to-empty cup and smart crevice tool. The only drawback with this model is that it is tethered to a cord, which limits its mobility. You won’t be able to vacuum out your car with it, unless you have a serious extension cord. But for most uses, the 16-foot, built-in cord should work just fine. We also like that it weighs less than four pounds (not having a battery cuts down on overall weight) making it light enough for anyone to use.
Best Lightweight: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum
Motorized brush tool
Steeper price point
Not for heavy-duty cleaning
This model from Bissell is a high-quality cordless, handheld vacuum that only weighs 3 pounds! But it’s not a lightweight in terms of cleaning power. It’s strong enough to pick up pet hair and other messes around the house (it’s even great for cleaning out other devices—like the filter on your upright vacuum).
This is also a great option for cleaning carpets and stairs, thanks to the accompanying motorized brush tool. Meanwhile, the upholstery tool helps clean softer surfaces that might attract and hold on to more hair and dust. While it’s not as powerful as its corded counterparts, if you’re looking for a light cordless device that will get the job done, this is your machine.
Best for Pet Hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Corded Handheld Vacuum
Extremely effective at removing pet hair
Nozzle may leak
If you share your home with a furry friend, you’ll definitely want a handheld vacuum. It’s the easiest way to make sure you don’t have a layer of pet hair all over your furniture. This model from Bissell (which is similar to our best lightweight recommendation) has a couple of key features that make it the best at tackling all the fur your pets leave behind.
First, it the specialized rubber nozzle brushes upholstery to attract pet hair and help remove it from the furniture. The nozzle is flexible to conform to the contours of your sofa and stairs so no hair gets left behind. The other nozzle is best for harder surfaces and sucking up crumbs or debris. Second, the filtration system makes sure that any allergens from your pet’s hair are trapped in the vacuum.
The corded model is relatively light at only five pounds and has a 16-foot cord to reach most spaces in your home. This model really is best on furniture, but it can handle most messes on hard wood floors as well.
"One of our favorite design features is the vacuum’s roomy, bagless dust cup. The 0.78-liter cup was large enough to suck up loads of long blonde fur from our Shar-Pei/Golden Retriever mix. Unless you have a couple of Saint Bernards or a whole litter of Maine Coon kittens, you probably won’t need to empty the vacuum between every use."—Karen Tietjen, Product Tester
Best Wet/Dry: Meiyou Cordless Handheld Vacuum
Some dust leakage
If you’re as concerned with wet spills as you are with dry messes, you may want to consider one that can clean up both —and this Meiyou vacuum is a great option. Weighing less than two pounds and featuring a 23-minute battery life, it’s easy to handle and maneuver around entire rooms without having to recharge. The attachable crevice tool comes in handy when cleaning nooks and crannies around the house.
Also included is the brush attachment, which works best on carpets and upholstery. Paired with this model’s impressive suction, this feature makes one of the hardest vacuuming tasks (read: dredging up embedded hair, dirt, and dander) a snap.
For such a powerful little vacuum, the Meiyou is surprisingly easy to clean: The reusable stainless filter can be washed by hand and the dust cap releases with the push of a button, so you can get back to cleaning your home faster.
Best Bagged: MetroVac Professional Hi Performance Handheld Vacuum
Steeper price point
Bagless options offer convenience and ease of use, since they’re easier to empty and cheaper to maintain, but bagged alternatives offer certain advantages, too, especially to those who deal with allergies and want a vacuum that efficiently traps and seals in dust and dander.
This MetroVac is one such alternative, featuring powerful suction, solid steel construction, and two attachments that tackle messes in hard-to-reach places and on upholstery (a crevice tool and a dust brush, respectively). Its weight (2.7 pounds) and the fact that it works just as well on carpet as it does on hard wood make it a surprisingly versatile and compact option, as well.
Best High-End: Shark Wandvac Handheld Vacuum
Sleek and lightweight
Easy to empty
Short battery life
The Shark WANDVAC is a worthy investment not only for its sleek, lightweight design but also for its powerful, high-efficiency suction (which comes as a result of its high-speed, brushless motor).
Although the WANDVAC weighs less than one and a half pounds, it can capture small and large debris equally well (and its one-touch release design means you won’t get that dust all over your hands when you clean it out). Since it can run for about 10 minutes at a time on a full charge, the WANDVAC is best suited for quick jobs around the house or cleaning out the car. It comes with a crevice-cleaning tool that’s ideal for sucking dirt and grime from tough spots, a multi-surface pet tool, and charging dock.
Best Attachments: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Flex Cordless Stick Vacuum
Wide variety of sophisticated attachments
Long built-in hose
Looking for a simple hand vacuum that can be transformed into something more? The secret lies within the attachments, and this BLACK+DECKER machine has some of the best around. The compact, cordless unit has a flexible plastic hose built in that extends its reach up to four feet. It also comes with a rubberized brush for picking up pet hair, a flip-up dusting brush, a crevice tool, and even a stick attachment to clean the floor. With all those add-ons, you might just be able to replace your upright vacuum with this model.
When not in use all those attachments have a home in the charging station, making it easy to keep things organized. While the suction isn’t the most powerful compared to other handhelds, it’s a great device if you’re looking for one that can convert into a stick vac.
Best for Sand: Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ Handheld Vacuum
Extremely effective at removing fine debris
Sleek and lightweight
Steeper price point
Cleaning up excess sand is a uniquely annoying chore, but the Shark UltraCyclone is a great hand vacuum to make the task go by quickly. In addition to sand, it handily sucks up pet hair, dirt, and dust, using a self-cleaning brushroll. Even stuck-on, ingrained sand and dirt will lift away, thanks to the attachable scrubbing brush.
At less than three pounds, the UltraCyclone handles easily and can be maneuvered all around the house and throughout your car, as well.
If you’re looking for a powerful and compact handheld vacuum that will work for most households, we recommend the Black+Decker CHV1410L Lithium Cordless Vacuum (view at Walmart). It has a translucent dustbin that makes it easier to see when it’s full and an extendable nozzle. If you’re on the fence about spending that much on a handheld model, though, go with the Dirt Devil SD2005RED Scorpion Quick Flip (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Handheld Vacuum
Because you have to carry handheld vacuums around to use them, it’s important to check how much they weigh. Some lighter options clock in at just a few pounds, making them easy for anyone to handle, but some larger units with hoses and attachments can be bulkier and heavier — not great for kids or those with physical limitations.
A lot of handheld vacuums are cordless, so they run on battery power. Of course, these products don’t have infinite runtime — on average, one charge will provide around 20 minutes of suction. If you plan to use your handheld vacuum for longer than this, you may want to look for a corded model, which isn’t as portable but doesn’t have the same time limitations.
Hose and attachments
If you have a particular use in mind for your handheld vacuum—like cleaning your car or removing pet hair from furniture—you may want to consider a model that comes with a hose, special attachments, or both. A hose will help you get into more cracks and crevices, and pet hair/upholstery attachments will help you get the job done in less time. However, keep in mind that these features often make the vacuum heavier.
How do I clean a handheld vacuum?
You'll first need to empty your handheld vacuum, which will entail either removing and throwing away its dust bag or releasing its dust cup into the trash. From there, you can wipe out remaining dust from the vacuum's interior with a microfiber cloth. Refer to your model's manual to see whether you can disassemble it further and use soap and water to clean it. Some handheld vacuum manufacturers advise against washing their units and, instead, sticking with wiping them down or rinsing them. If you can get your handheld vacuum's parts wet, allow time for them to dry before reassembling.
How often should I clean a handheld vacuum?
It's important to empty your handheld vacuum before it reaches or exceed maximum capacity (allowing it to run with a full bag or cup will inhibit its performance), so keep an eye on its dust levels after big cleanups. You can perform a light maintenance check on your model as frequently as once a month, while you should deeply clean it every six to 12 months, depending on how heavily you use it.
How long do handheld vacuums work?
Generally speaking, your handheld vacuum should last for several years. How much you use it and the scale of the messes you use it on will determine its exact lifespan. When you notice a decline in performance, check to make sure your handheld vacuum's bag or dust cup is empty, its filter is cleaned, and its battery doesn't need replacing. Emptying, cleaning, and maintaining your unit will extend its life.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Sara Coughlin, a freelance writer and The Spruce’s small appliances expert. From canister models to dustbusters, she’s researched what it takes for a vacuum to stand out in a vast and broad market—and what to look for in up-and-coming models.