BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Home

What is the best handheld vacuum?

Best handheld vacuums on the market

Vacuums may shoulder the entire-household cleaning burden, but they aren’t ideal for targeted or precision cleaning. Handheld vacuums, on the other hand, masterfully handle smaller messes.

Handheld vacuums are ideal for cleaning stairs, upholstery and drapes. They lift dry, superficial messes of crumbs, dirt and pet hair, just to name a few. Given their compact designs, many handheld vacuums can be used to clean vehicles, too. 

Are you wondering which handheld vacuum you should buy? Here are a few shopping tips to point you in the right direction.

What do I need to know before I buy a handheld vacuum?

Handheld vacuums vs. vacuum cleaners

Many vacuum cleaners are equipped with extension hoses and attachments. While they’re powerful and convenient, some consumers feel they aren’t suitable for cleaning certain types of messes.

Some consumers opt for two-in-one vacuums that have breakaway handheld vacuums. They offer the best of both worlds, but some consumers admit these handheld vacuums fall short of expectations in terms of suction power.

On the other hand, handheld vacuums are suitable for small messes given their powerful, reliable suction. They also have well-designed attachments for upholstery or corners, which may perform better than attachments from regular vacuum cleaners. 

What type of mess can I clean with a handheld vacuum?

Most handheld vacuums are designed to clean up crumbs, dust, dirt, pet hair, paper scraps or craft messes. 

Generally speaking, handheld vacuums are designed to pick up most dry messes and spills with ease. Unfortunately, they’re not designed to pick up sticky or liquid messes because they will damage internal components. 

Are there specialty handheld vacuums?

If you’re looking to clean a specific type of mess, there are a few specialty handheld vacuums that may suit you. 

  • Car handheld vacuums, for example, have contoured attachment heads that reach between and beneath car seats. They work well on both leather and cloth seats as well as floor and trunk mats.
  • Trade professionals and home improvement DIYers often buy heavy-duty handheld vacuums to clean job site messes like sawdust, drywall dust or wood shavings.
  • There are a couple wet/dry handheld vacuums on the market that can handle small liquid spills. However, some consumers feel they’re unreliable or under-powered. 

Prices of handheld vacuums

Basic handheld vacuums for light cleaning cost $30 or less. More powerful handheld vacuums with a few attachments are priced $40-$60. The most powerful handheld vacuums with advanced settings or filtration systems run between $70-$125. 

Popular features to compare in handheld vacuums

Charge and run times

It’s crucial to compare charge and run times in cordless handheld vacuums because they may inhibit or impact the device’s overall convenience.

Charge time refers to how long it takes for a battery to reach a full charge. Some models charge in as little as an hour, whereas others may require up to four hours of charging.

Run time refers to how long the handheld vacuum can operate on a full charge. If the handheld vacuum has more than one power setting, run time decreases when you use its highest setting.


Handheld vacuums may have attachments for specialized cleanings, such as hoses, brushes or crevice tools. Some models, like Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus, come with special attachments that lift pet hair.

If you’re leaning toward a handheld vacuum with attachments, examine whether or not the device has on-board storage options.

A few handheld vacuums have attachments that snap into place on the device or the charging station, like Hoover ONEPWR Cordless Handheld Vacuum. For others, you may need to store attachments in a separate case or bag. 


Handheld vacuums are equipped with filters that trap allergens, dust mites or pollen. According to Healthline, filters may contribute to better air quality in your home by trapping these particles before they end up in your air or heat vents. 

Bissell CleanView Deluxe Hand Vacuum, for example, is equipped with a HEPA filter that traps over 99.9% of common allergens. The vacuum is popular for cleaning high-traffic areas like furniture or carpeted stairs — areas where allergens often settle between fibers. 

Dust bin

Given their size, it comes as no surprise that handheld vacuums require frequent emptying. Only some handheld vacuums will alert you when it’s time for emptying, so you’ll need to check the dust bin yourself.

Fortunately, many models have easy-to-remove dust bins to make emptying easy. There are still a few handheld vacuums on the market that use bags, but for cost and convenience reasons, they’re less popular than bagless models. 

Best handheld vacuums

Best handheld vacuums for everyday cleaning

For everyday cleaning, we recommend Oreck Super Deluxe Handheld Vacuum. This heavy-duty corded model is popular for cleaning messes on hard surfaces and floors. It has a shoulder strap for easy portability.

As far as cordless models go, we like Black + Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean+. It has a high-capacity dust bin, an extended reach crevice tool and a comfortable grip. 

Best handheld vacuums for pet hair

The motorized brush head of Bissell Pet Hair Eraser lifts pet hair and dander from upholstery and drapes. It has a tri-level filtration system to achieve a deeper cleaning that cuts vacuuming time in half.

Another popular handheld vacuum for pet owners is Black + Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ for Pets. Its specialized nozzle features anti-tangle rubber bristles, making it a solid choice for households with long-haired cats and dogs. 

Best compact handheld vacuums

Dirt Devil Scorpion is an affordable space-savvy handheld vacuum that is also lightweight. Consumers agree it’s a reliable option for cleaning carpeted and hardwood stairs. 


The trim design of Shark WANDVAC remains a favorite for its charging dock’s small footprint. The tapered nozzle is ideal for hard-to-reach areas, including between cushions or under low-clearance furniture.

Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: