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The best handheld vacuums for every type of job

From spot cleaning to tackling pet hair and major messes, these options from Bissell, Black+Decker, Shark, Dyson and more are all tops in performance.
Size, weight, power and runtime are all major factors to consider when buying a handheld vacuum. Experts weigh in on the best handheld vacuums in 2022.
Size, weight, power and runtime are all major factors to consider when buying a handheld vacuum. Experts weigh in on the best handheld vacuums in 2022.Kara Birnbaum / NBC; Dyson; Amazon

When you’re trying to clean up pesky pet hair or snack crumbs on the couch, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to break out your larger vacuum. Although larger and more robust models certainly have their place in your arsenal of house-cleaning supplies, when it comes to quick spot cleaning or harder-to-reach places, a powerful handheld vacuum can be a much easier option.

The portability of this style of vacuum can also be great when it comes to cleaning your car. However, according to Kathy Turley, director of marketing at Home Clean Heroes, “handheld vacuums are meant to complement your heavier-duty models, like a canister or upright, but not be used instead of.”

SKIP AHEAD What is a handheld vacuum? | How to shop for a handheld vacuum | When to use a handheld vacuum | Pros and cons of a handheld vacuum

Below, we spoke to cleaning experts about the features to look for in a handheld vacuum, such as weight, number of attachments, power and runtime. Based on their shopping guidance, we also compiled some highly-rated handheld vacuum options from brands like Shark, Bissell, Black+Decker, Hoover, Dyson and more.

Top-rated handheld vacuums to buy in 2022

Many handheld vacuums on the market today are not the traditional "Dustbuster" version from years ago, explained Turley, which means there’s a greater range in options available. This can make the search feel daunting, but with the help of our expert guidance, we compiled some of the most top-performing, highly rated handheld vacuums for cleaning homes and cars. From most budget-friendly, most compact and best for pet hair to most splurge-worthy, Bissell, Hoover, Shark, Dyson and Black+Decker models all made our expert-approved list – and all come highly rated on Amazon.

Top overall handheld vacuum: Black+Decker

Black+Decker Handheld Vacuum CHV1410L

  • 4.5-star average rating among 81,150 Amazon reviews

One of the things Turley loves about this Amazon’s number one bestseller is its crevice tool, which pulls out to provide an extra-long reach to get into high spaces. It also comes with a removable slim nozzle that can rotate 180 degrees to give you optimum control. Both attachments are “great for cleaning behind appliances or under places where you can't get with a normal vacuum,” said Turley, adding that the included extension tool avoids you having to bend over. With a 16-volt lithium-ion battery that the brand says can hold a charge for up to 18 months and weighing in at just 2.6 pounds, Turley described this small but powerful model as “The Little Engine That Could.” Its one-way flap valve keeps debris securely inside the vacuum.

Top-rated compact handheld vacuums: Hoover and Shark

Hoover ONEPWR Cordless Handheld Vacuum

  • 4.4-star average rating among 1,457 Amazon reviews

A bit heavier than the Shark, at three pounds, the compact Hoover ONEPWR is a favorite among Consumer Reports engineers for its ability to remove pet hair and “get grit along the edges of walls.” The vacuum is also ideal for spot-cleaning messes on hardwood, upholstery and carpeting. Its built-in crevice tool is designed to suck up dirt in hard-to-reach places, says the brand. Runtime is 14 minutes, and it recharges fully in 3.5 hours. This powerful cordless model comes with a 20-volt lithium-ion battery, a charging dock and a rinsable filter.

Shark WANDVAC WV200 Series Handheld Vacuum

  • 4.5-star average rating among 12,562 Amazon reviews

We couldn’t overlook the ultra-lightweight Shark WANDVAC WV201, though, as another winner for the “best compact handheld” spot. Weighing just 1.4 pounds, it comes with a charging base and two attachments: a multi-surface pet tool that can clean pet hair, delicate fabrics and furniture, and a duster crevice tool to reach tight spaces, according to the brand. It also has an LED indicator to let you know how much battery life is remaining. The WV200 model is the same base vacuum, sold without the dual onboard accessory storage. The vacuum also has a one-touch emptying debris bin to help avoid getting your hands dirty, according to Shark.

Top-rated budget-friendly handheld vacuum: Black+Decker

Black+Decker Handheld Vacuum HHVI315JO42

  • 4.5-star average rating among 45,947 Amazon reviews

This 2.11-pound handheld vacuum cleaner has a dustbin capacity of 0.25 gallons, a 10.8-volt lithium ion battery and a wall mount for charging. It also comes with a brush attachment, crevice tool and two-year limited warranty. The dirt bowl is clear so you can easily see when you need to slide it out for a quick empty. It’s also washable, as is the filter.

Top-rated cordless handheld vacuum for pet hair: Black+Decker

Black+Decker Furbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet Cordless Handheld Vacuum

  • 4.4-star average rating among 6,960 Amazon reviews

As a dog mom to two fur babies, Turley is a fan of this 0.2-gallon-capacity handheld vacuum for its two nozzles that are specifically designed to attract stray hairs, along with its anti-tangle rubber bristles that easily pick up pet hairs, she said. It weighs just 2.6 pounds and has two speeds, along with a Powerboost button that increases performance for tough messes, according to the brand. It also has a one-touch empty feature, a washable filter and a 20-volt lithium-ion battery. “Its extra-long crevice tool attachment comes in handy for nabbing that hair under the sofa or in crevices in your car,” said Turley.

Top-rated corded handheld vacuum for pet hair: Bissell

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Handheld Vacuum

  • 4.4-star average rating among 19,515 Amazon reviews

For those who don’t want to rely on recharging, this corded 0 .2-gallon-capacity handheld vacuum is another Turley favorite. It has two nozzles that are specifically designed to attract stray hairs. “It has a rubber nozzle, which can be removed when needed, which is great for picking up dog hair,” she explained. “The rubber nozzle bends and contours around chairs, stairs and more to ensure that no stray hairs are left behind.” However, she noted that it is corded with a 16-foot range, which can be a drawback.

Top-rated basic handheld vacuum: Black+Decker

Dustbuster QuickClean Handheld Vacuum HNVC215B10

  • 4.4-star average rating among 22,916 Amazon reviews

For small dry spills and other little messes, this Black+Decker handheld cordless vacuum includes a built-in crevice tool and brush for upholstered furniture. The 1.4-pound vacuum also comes with a wall mount base and charger, which can be useful if you don’t have much space to spare in a closet or kitchen. Its dustbin has a capacity of 0.7 pounds, or 11 ounces, and it comes with a lithium-ion battery and a washable filter.

Top-rated splurge handheld vacuum: Dyson

Dyson V7 Trigger Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

  • 4.4-star average rating among 2,119 Amazon reviews

This 0.15-gallon-capacity handheld vacuum is designed to go anywhere, Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics, said. “From furniture to your car to your boat, it can clean a variety of areas,” he explained. “It's compact, lightweight and has a powerful motor. Plus it comes with a 12-volt car charger for charging on the go.”

What exactly is a handheld vacuum?

Vacuum cleaners are available in various shapes and sizes because each is designed for a specific purpose, explained Rachel Decker, co-owner of Queen Vacuum and Homecare. “A handheld vacuum cleaner is a smaller version of the normal household vacuum,” she said. “It’s generally so small and light that it can comfortably be held in one hand, making it ‘handy’ for use in awkward places like stairs, small spaces like the car, or dusty-crummy corners.” They also typically take up little space and are faster and more convenient for quick tidying between your weekly deep-cleaning vacuuming routine.

When shopping, you might notice that handheld vacuums come in two options: corded or cordless, meaning they either have to be plugged into an outlet during use or rely on a battery for power. “I prefer cordless because it offers more flexibility in the sense that you don't have to unwind a cord and plug it in before using,” said Turley. “However, corded handhelds have unlimited runtime — as opposed to cordless [versions] that need to be charged.”

Since most handheld vacuums are designed to handle only smaller messes, Turley said that most people would benefit from owning both a handheld vacuum and a full-sized one. “A ‘real,’ ‘big’ vacuum is a must – a requirement – for every home, regardless of size, in order to clean fully, properly and regularly,” she explained.

How to shop for a new handheld vacuum

When you’re in the market for a new handheld vacuum, there are several factors you should consider. The first is thinking about what your needs are. Decker recommends asking yourself these questions before hitting the internet or heading out to the store.

  • What is the primary surface I need to clean and the primary substance I’m trying to remove?
  • What tools/attachments does it come with?
  • What is its size, weight and shape?
  • How much runtime do I need with each typical use?
  • How is the power triggered or engaged? Does the trigger need to be held the entire time or is there a stay-on power switch for longer uses?
  • How much potential suction power does it have? “More power generally equals more suction,” Decker explained, so look to see the amperage if corded or volts if battery-operated.
  • How is the dirt filtered? Is it a disposable bag or bagless dirt cup? And can the filter be washed?
  • What life expectancy am I aiming for?
  • How long is the warranty?

Once you’ve figured out what your needs are, you can start comparing brands. With so many handheld vacuums on the market today – corded and cordless and all running the gamut when it comes to dustbin size, suction power, battery life and more – Decker suggests figuring out your needs first.

When to use a handheld vacuum

Although other models are better when it comes to deep-cleaning your floors, Decker explained that there are other challenges when it comes to cleaning your home where handhelds, also known as handvacs, win. These include:

  • Getting into tight or awkward spaces
  • When there are physical size or weight-lifting limitations
  • If there are time constraints
  • When there is “super-yucky/smelly stuff” that you might not want to put through and keep in your big vacuum

“Thus, for all the ‘in-between’ cleaning to keep your space tidier day to day (or to tackle random difficult tasks), [handheld vacuums] make a fantastic, convenient supplement to your cleaning arsenal,” she said.

Pros and cons of a handheld vacuum

Although handheld vacuums aren’t ideal for deep cleaning every inch of your house, they do have some perks. According to the experts we consulted, these include:

  • Lightweight. Handheld vacuums can make cleaning dangerous staircases or high-up places a bit safer, according to Decker.
  • Small size. This comes in handy when it comes to getting into crevices and storing the vacuum between uses.
  • Portable. “They easily fit inside your car and a well-equipped one can eradicate rogue french fries, beach sand and dog hair,” said Decker.
  • Can be handy to clean up fast messes. “In its most basic handheld form, performing any close-up work like stairs, the furry couch or glitter on your craft table becomes a breeze,” Decker said.
  • Many come with helpful attachments. “Powerful handvacs that come with an extension wand and floor-cleaning nozzle eliminate the need to bend down,” Decker explained. “With just a dusting brush on the end, you can tackle cobwebs and dust on your ceiling fans and moldings.”

However, Decker noted the importance of recognizing that no handvac on the market today can outperform or replace a “regular” corded, full-size vacuum for true deep cleaning.

“This category serves as a fantastic, convenient supplement to your cleaning routine, making quick work of crumbs and fur before it tracks-trough and gets ground-in to your flooring,” she said. “Handvacs are best for quick pickups of food crumbs after dinner (versus traveling through the long, complicated ‘bowels’ of your big vacuum, where it may also sit and rot after too long a time).”

However, some of these pros are also cons — “99 percent of the time,” these vacuums are bagless as well as cordless and rely on a rechargeable battery, according to Decker. “This means that even the best of them are not super powerful and will still require a lot of maintenance to empty and clean them out (often with every use),” she said.

Also, because of their smaller size, handheld vacuums’ dust bins have a lower capacity and typically don’t hold a ton of dirt. “They’re also generally of poorer quality, are more fragile, prone to catastrophic electrical problems and do not last as long as a corded, bagged or full-sized vacuum,” she said. “Arguably, they are also very expensive for what they are — often rivaling or exceeding the cost of a regular vacuum. But that’s the price for convenience.”

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Kathy Turley, director of marketing at Home Clean Heroes, a professional home-cleaning service with franchises across the country

  • Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics, retailer of electronics, appliances and home goods

  • Rachel Decker, certified vacuum technician and co-owner of retailer Queen Vacuum and Homecare

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