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The compact size of stick vacuums certainly makes them convenient. But that’s not their only selling point.
“In the past few years, stick vacuum suction has gotten a lot stronger, especially in battery-powered stick vacuums,” says Frank Rizzi, a senior test lab engineer at Consumer Reports. “If you don’t have wall-to-wall carpet, these machines can do a lot of cleaning.” (If you do have wall-to-wall carpet, read our article on the best upright vacuums.)
Among stick vacuums, cordless models dominate. According to the market research firm Gap Intelligence, more than 100 cordless stick models are currently available at major retailers, compared with fewer than 30 corded stick vacuums.
But cordless vacs aren’t problem-free. In an exclusive CR survey, our members told us that almost half of new battery-powered stick vacuums developed problems within five years. That’s why we analyze the reliability of cordless and corded stick vacuums separately.
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We found that although consumers prefer the convenience of a cordless model, the batteries can develop problems.
No cordless model earns a place on our list of recommended products; that’s because of poor reliability in our member survey or lackluster performance in our lab tests. For a deeper dive, read “The Problem With Cordless Stick Vacuums? The Battery.”
Run times for cordless stick vacuums vary widely. In Consumer Reports’ tests, some stick vacs lose power in as little as 15 minutes and others run for up to an hour. Some brands include an extra battery with their cordless stick vacuums so that you can have one charging while you’re cleaning with the other. (You can also buy an extra battery for some models.)
How We Test Stick Vacuums
Because stick vacuums don’t have the same deep carpet-cleaning capability as full-sized vacuums, CR conducts a carpet surface cleaning test, evaluating how well the appliances pick up sand, rice, and cereal in a certain amount of time.
Full-sized vacuums face a more challenging embedded-dirt test, in which our engineers try to clean up sand that has been ground into pile carpet.
In our bare-floor cleaning test for cordless stick vacuums, we scatter litter on a tiled floor with grout grooves, which increases the difficulty. We also conduct a pet-hair removal test on medium-pile carpet, as well as a clean-emissions test to see whether a vacuum is releasing the dust that it just sucked up.
Here are the best performers of each type, listed alphabetically and not in CR rank order.
Best Corded Stick Vacuums
CR’s take: The basic corded Bissell Pet Hair Eraser lives up to its name by acing CR’s pet-hair tests. But it struggles to contain fine dust particles, earning a Poor rating on our clean-emissions test. A sizable dustbin cuts down on the number of trips you make to the trash can. The 27-foot power cord is a bit shorter than the standard 30 feet but long enough that you probably won’t have to keep changing outlets as you move around the house. At a little more than 9 pounds, this vacuum is on the heavier side for a stick vac.
CR’s take: The Bissell CleanView Pet Slim 28311 certainly lives up to its name. It not only is slim but also aces our pet-hair-removal test, earning an Excellent rating. It’s also top-notch on bare floors and almost as good at cleaning carpet. And it does all this quietly. The cord is 30 feet long, so you have plenty of running room. It didn’t do so well getting the grit out of edges, but its biggest downfall was on the emissions tests, meaning some of what you vacuum up may be released back into the air.
CR’s take: The Shark Apex DuoClean aces all of CR’s cleaning tests, including earning an Excellent rating on our difficult carpet test. The DuoClean powerhead includes a bristle roller and a soft roller, so you can easily move from floor to carpet and back again. And this machine cleans itself by automatically clearing hair from the brush roll. The little vac is easy to maneuver under furniture, and it has LED lights. The dustbin pops in and out with ease and, unlike some other stick vacs, this one stands on its own, making it easier to store. In our member survey, Shark corded sticks earned Excellent ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.
CR’s take: The Shark Rocket Zero-M Ultra-Light ZS352 is no lightweight when it comes to cleaning bare floors and picking up pet hair, earning Excellent ratings on those tests. Its one downfall is it’s only so-so at carpet cleaning. Otherwise it zips along edges collecting debris, operates quietly, and contains all the dust particles it collects. The cord is 29 feet long, so you won’t have to change outlets too often, especially if you’re working in a small space.
CR’s take: The “Ultralight” moniker for the Shark Vertex Ultralight HZ2002 refers to its light weight (2.9 pounds) when used in hand vac mode (without the stick). For comparison, the hand mode of the Shark Vertex Ultra IZ462H weighs 3.7 pounds and the Tineco A10 Dash weighs 2.7 pounds. The Shark aces our tests for carpet, bare floors, and pet hair, and earns a Very Good rating for edges. Although not as versatile as a cordless vacuum, this model has a 30-foot cord that is long enough so that you won’t have to constantly map out your electrical outlets.
Best Cordless Stick Vacuums
CR’s take: The LG A9 Kompressor lands near the top of our list of worthy contenders. It aces our carpet, bare-floors, and pet-hair tests and leaves nothing behind when you vacuum along the edges of a room. It’s not quite as quiet as the three Tinecos below, but it won’t bother you during short bursts of cleanup. It runs for almost a full half-hour on one battery charge. Better yet, it comes with two batteries. Because LG is a relatively new entrant to this category, we don’t yet have enough data to rate LG cordless vacs for reliability.
CR’s take: The cordless lightweight LG CordZero A9 A906SM gets top marks on all CR performance tests, especially when it comes to bare floors. It comes with two brushes—one soft roller for hard surfaces and a brush for carpets. The LG is equipped with two batteries, so you can charge one while vacuuming with the other. The charging stand is self-standing, so there’s no need to hang it on a wall.
CR’s take: The Tineco Pure One S11 cleans impressively in all our major tests and has many features to boot. An LED panel shows how much battery life you have left as well as the suction level, which varies when you switch from bare floors to carpet. A sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly. If you’re so inclined, you can connect to a Tineco app that indicates cleaning performance, such as battery life, on your smartphone. In CR’s tests, it ran for 22 minutes per charge when using both the high and low settings. Tineco is fairly new to the U.S. market, and we don’t have enough data yet for a brand reliability rating.
CR’s take: The feature-packed Tineco Pure One S11 Tango EX costs a bit more than the Tineco Pure One S11, but the performance is similar. This model has all the bells and whistles of its brandmate, including an LED panel that indicates battery life and suction power. It costs a bit more because in addition to the main power brush, it comes with a soft power brush, a nice extra if you have wood floors. It runs for 17 minutes on one charge. You can use Tineco’s app to monitor battery life, but if you don’t want to be bothered with another app on your phone, you can get all the information you need from the LED panel.
CR’s take: An all-around top-notch performer, the high-end Tineco Pure One S12 is also packed with features. And its cleaning ability is impressive; the model earns top marks on all our cleaning tests, including an Excellent rating for pet hair. An LED panel on the top of the handle displays the power level and battery time remaining, and lets you know if you have a clog or tangle. You can adjust the power settings by swiping up or down on the screen, and a dust sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly. It comes with a second battery, runs very quietly, and has clean emissions.
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