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A new vacuum might not be the most glamorous product to shop for, but it can have a serious impact on your cleaning routine from the moment you unbox it. Whether you’re looking for something to handle daily messes in the kitchen or tackle constant crumbs in the car, new vacuum cleaners are all about making your life both cleaner and easier, which is where cordless vacuum models can come in.
Dust Busters are the little handheld vacuums that seem to have started the cordless trend, explained Kadi Dulude, owner of Wizard of Homes NYC. “They were mostly used for cleaning up small messes in cars and from furniture, but we would hardly even call them vacuums because they were not very effective,” she said. However, they have evolved over the years, and so has the idea of moving away from outlets and cumbersome cords that you drag and clean around. “Cordless stick vacuums are really trying to disrupt the space with better and mightier models coming out each year.”
Below, we spoke to cleaning experts about the features to look for in a cordless vacuum when investing in a new model. Using their shopping guidance, we also compiled their recommendations for cordless vacuum cleaner options from brands like Dyson, iRobot, Shark and more.
SKIP AHEAD Best cordless vacuums
What exactly is a cordless vacuum?
A cordless vacuum is typically a lighter vacuum that does not need to be plugged in while being used — instead, it depends on a rechargeable battery. “This makes it a convenient choice when in big homes with stairs and large areas to be vacuumed” since you aren’t limited by available outlets or the cord’s length and don’t have to worry about it getting caught or tangled, Dulude explained.
When shopping for a new vacuum, one of the first things you’ll likely notice is the vast array of different styles available. Before you even consider whether you want a cordless or corded vacuum, it’s important to understand the difference between the five main categories:
Canister: This type of vacuum is available in both corded and cordless styles. It has a separate canister that contains the motor and receptacle with a long hose that can be fitted with interchangeable attachments.
Upright: Upright vacuums tend to be more robust, making them great for cleaning large areas. However they tend to be corded and more cumbersome “The upright model might come in handy if you often have messes, dog hair [and] crumbs in your kitchen,” said Kathy Turley, Director of Marketing for Home Clean Heroes.
Stick: Shoppers can think of stick vacuum cleaners as upright vacuums on a diet — many models are cordless.
Handheld: This compact model is similar to a stick vacuum, but smaller and typically cordless, making it ideal for cars and quick spot cleaning.
Robot aka smart vacuums: Robotic vacuums are cordless, hands-free and can run anytime, whether or not you're home. They reset themselves to charge.
Best cordless vacuum cleaners to buy
With so many cordless vacuums flooding the market, it can make shopping for a new model daunting. We compiled some of the most effective cordless options for cleaning homes and cars based on expert recommendations.
Best basic upright cordless vacuum: Shark
In Turley’s experience, this budget-friendly, 7.5-pound option can stand up to a range of cleaning needs with a battery that holds a four-hour charge. “It provides a quick clean for all surfaces with strong suction power and an extended run time,” she said. “The extra-large dust cup has a top and bottom empty design so you don't have to come in contact with the dirt.”
Best cordless handheld vacuum: Black + Decker
Ideal for getting into tight spaces, this powerful cordless handheld vacuum has a 16-volt Lithium-ion battery that the brand says can hold a charge for up to 18 months as well as a removable slim nozzle that can rotate 180 degrees. Turley described this small but powerful model as “The Little Engine That Could” with a one-way flap valve that keeps debris securely inside the vacuum. “The attachment tool is also great for cleaning behind appliances or under places where you can't get with a normal vacuum,” she added.
Best cordless vacuum for pets: Dyson
This cordless stick vacuum has three powerful modes for different flooring types and does an impressive job cleaning up after pets. "It's powerful, lightweight and comes with a pet hair attachment that makes cleaning up after a shedding pet extremely easy," Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics, previously explained. "And because it's so compact, it's also the perfect way to keep your car clean if your furry friend likes to go for rides with you."
Best "smart" cordless vacuum: iRobot
This robotic vacuum is the smartest vacuum available, according to Prouty. This model maps out an entire floor of your home to clean it more efficiently. Owners can also set boundaries from their smartphones to prevent the vacuum from going into specific areas. "It can also empty its canister, return to its base when it knows it needs a charge and can stay current with software updates to add features in the future," he said. The Roomba is compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
For a more affordable option, Turley recommended shoppers also consider the Roomba E5 version. “This Roomba has a three-stage cleaning system you can control from your phone,” she said. “The brushes adjust and flex to stay in constant contact with carpets and hard floors and the filter traps 99 percent of cat or dog dander allergens — which makes it a great option for pet owners, too.”
Best cordless wet dry vacuum: Adoric Life
Working as a combination of a vacuum, water spray and mop, this is one of Dulude’s favorite cordless upright vacuums. It’s a “three-in-one,” she explained, “so it also wet-mops the floors, getting your chores done faster.” Plus, there’s a voice assistant feature that lets you know when it’s time to set the self-clean mode to keep everything fresh, add fresh water or charge it.
Best splurge cordless vacuum: Dyson
This cordless handheld vacuum with anti-tangle pet hair tool is definitely an investment, but it has almost two hours of runtime and twice the suction of most cordless vacuums, explained Turley. “It also comes with a second battery so you can clean the entire house without having to stop and charge,” she said. “The extra-large bin also means no emptying after each room.”
Best affordable cordless vacuum: Dirt Devil
A versatile, multi-floor model that won’t bust budgets, this cordless vacuum weighs just five pounds and has an easy-empty dirt cup as well as a 16V Lithium battery. “This option is affordable, lightweight, powerful — and extremely versatile,” said Turley. “It has a removable hand vac for cleaning small spaces and only takes about thirty minutes to fully charge.”
Best compact cordless vacuum: Dyson
According to Dulude, Dyson is the go-to when it comes to cordless vacuums. At just shy of 4.2 pounds, this sleek new model allows users to easily maneuver in tight spaces with four 360-degree castors and the ability to lie flat while getting under low furniture. It easily transforms into a slim handheld vacuum with one click and has an easy-empty bin, washable filter and wall dock. “Dyson is the leader in cordless vacuums, they come out with a better and stronger version each year,” she added.
Best affordable cordless vacuum for pet hair: Black + Decker
This handheld cordless vacuum has anti-tangle rubber bristles that easily pick up pet hairs in Turley’s experience, as well as two speeds with a powerboost mode, a one-touch empty feature, a washable filter and a 20-volt Lithium-ion battery. “I'm a mama to two fur babies so trust me, I know dog hair,” she said. “It also has an extra long crevice tool attachment, which can come in handy for nabbing that hair under the sofa or in crevices in your car.”
Best heavy-duty cordless vacuum: Dyson
Three words sum up this cordless stick vacuum, according to Prouty: powerful, lightweight and long-lasting. "It has a run time of up to 60 minutes on a single charge and the time remaining is displayed on an LCD screen at the top," he previously explained. "It also comes with tools for cleaning almost any surface found in most homes.
Best cordless vacuum for everyday use: Shark
With up to 40 minutes of runtime, the ability to convert into a handvac and LED lights to illuminate dirt under furniture, this 3.34-pound cordless vacuum can tackle dirt across multiple surfaces. “This option has a self-cleaning brushroll and I love that it removes both long hair and pet hair with ease,” said Turley. “It also allows you to bend the wand to make vacuuming under furniture and in corners a breeze.”
Pros and cons of a cordless vacuum
Although cordless models aren’t typically the most powerful vacuum cleaners available, they do have some major perks. According to the experts we consulted, these include:
- Convenience. You don’t have to deal with finding an outlet to use a cordless vacuum, nor do you have to wind up the cord when putting this vacuum away.
- Weight. Without a long cord weighing them down, cordless vacuums tend to weigh less and have a smaller footprint, making them easier to store. “This also makes most of them a good choice for quick, daily maintenance,” added Dulude.
- Portability. Since you aren’t dependent on an outlet for your power source, you can take these vacuums anywhere, from a car or boat to your garage.
- Noise levels. Many cordless vacuums are often quieter than their corded counterparts, according to Turley. If noise levels are important to you, she recommended checking reviews and the manufacturer details.
Dulude warned that there are also potential downsides to a cordless vacuum that informed shoppers should be aware of. She explained that they are not ideal for those doing heavy-duty cleaning since battery-operated vacuums tend to be less powerful than corded vacuums — the power that they do have only lasts as long as the battery life. “Cordless vacuums need battery power to function and once the battery starts dying, the suction also goes down,” she explained. “If you want to do a great job at vacuuming then you need a great suction power from beginning to end.”
Turley said that the intensity of the suction you need depends on the type of floors you have, so make sure to give consideration to where you’ll be using the cordless model. “If it's on hardwoods, you likely won't need something as powerful as what is needed on your carpets,” she said.
Lastly, although cordless vacuums tend to be more compact and easier to store, Turley pointed out that you need to consider where you plan on storing your cordless vacuum and if it can be charged in that space. Corded vacuums depend on outlets during the cleaning process, while cordless models typically need to be near an outlet when not in use so they can charge.
How to shop for a new cordless vacuum
When you’re in the market for a new cordless vacuum, there are a few essential factors to consider before making your final decision.
- The battery. Above all else, the most important thing about a cordless vacuum is its battery life, according to Dulude. “Check how long the runtime is on a full charge,” she said. “And ideally, it comes with a backup battery so that you can keep working while the other battery is charging.”
- Size and weight. Although it may not seem like it has a huge impact, a vacuum’s weight matters. “You want it to be as light and small as possible without giving up actual functionality of the vacuum,” Dulude said.
- The dustbin. Not only does the size of the dustbin matter — it will impact how often you need to stop and empty it — but Dulude also emphasized checking to see if it’s easy to empty when the dustbin does fill up.
- The warranty. You want to make sure that your cordless vacuum comes with a warranty — specifically, one that lasts more than a year. “I've worked with several cordless vacuums and have [had] them break quickly with no hope to get it replaced,” Dulude said.
- The feel. Turley is a “big proponent” of actually holding the vacuum before purchase (when possible) and seeing how it feels as you maneuver in different positions. “Especially with a cordless model, you want to ensure it fits comfortably in your hand, it isn't too heavy and that the battery will hold its charge for as long as needed,” she added.