Cordless and turns into hand vac quickly. Wealth of accessories included. Lightweight and quiet, but ridiculously powerful and runs up to 40 minutes on a charge.
Very expensive compared to other models out there.
Suction rivals upright vacuums. Accessories for everything from car detailing to cleaning computer keyboards. Converts to hand-vac easily.
Corded and a bit heavier than most others. Smaller dust cup needs to be emptied often.
Lightweight but surprisingly powerful. Battery life is extremely good, especially if you don't use the brush.
Skimpy on accessories.
Lightweight and easy to maneuver. V-shape design works well for vacuuming around objects and picking up small particles. Decent suction on most surfaces, especially hard floors. Affordable.
Clogs occur fairly often, especially in high-traffic areas. Corded. Thick carpet pile will challenge its effectiveness.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Stick vacuums are lightweight, portable devices that rival the cleaning abilities of their upright counterparts. These versatile tools can either serve as a secondary option or be the first string vacuum in your home. However, the staggering assortment of models available can make choosing the best one for your needs somewhat difficult.
You want a stick vacuum because it's readily available to clean anywhere, so going cordless is the better option. You need a powerful battery that can last long enough to get the job done and charges quickly. A wide range of attachments or accessories is highly recommended, and if you need a model that can handle getting a little wet, choose wisely because not all stick vacuums can.
There is an impressive range of options. If you're ready to buy, look for a model that fits your needs. If you'd like more information on other important features so you can make an informed purchase, just keep reading.
The power source directly affects the suction power and portability of the vacuum. In general, the more power, the better the suction.
Corded stick vacuums used to offer the most power and suction. Traditionally, corded models have also been lighter than those with batteries. Recently, better battery design has led to lighter battery models with impressive power, though their runtime may be limited.
Corded models are still lightweight, but a cord does limit when and where they can be used.
Battery powered stick vacuums offer the best portability. This type is the easiest to carry from floor to floor, and to use on stairs, or other hard to reach areas of the home. However, they start to lose suction as the battery runs out of power. (There are some models specifically designed to run at full power until complete battery depletion.) Depending on the type of battery used, battery-powered vacuums may be heavier than a corded model. Keep the following characteristics in mind if purchasing a battery-powered stick vacuum:
Voltage: Vacuums with a voltage of 18V or higher tend to perform better.
Price: Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries are the least expensive. However, they need to be replaced more often. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries both hold a charge better and longer, but are more expensive to purchase.
Battery life: Batteries will eventually lose the ability to hold a charge after two or more years. At that point, you’ll need to decide if it’s worth replacing the battery, compared to buying a new stick vacuum.
Charging/docking station: Some models can be plugged directly into an outlet for charging, while others have a charging or docking station. Wall-mounted docking stations save floor space, and they’re easy to access.
Charge time: Unless you have a backup battery, look for a model that has a quick charge time. Some models may take up to eight hours or more.
Runtime: Models with a 30- to 40-minute runtime offer the greatest use and versatility. For most small messes, a run time of 15 to 20 minutes should be enough.
Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are more environmentally friendly than either nickel-cadmium (NiCd) or lead-acid batteries.
2-in-1 stuck vacuum models often come with separate heads that can be used for additional activities like cleaning upholstery, pet hair, drapes or even clothes.
A stick vacuum with side brushes on the head can get closer to baseboards, and reach into difficult corners to remove dirt and dust. A handy feature to have.
We spent 7 hours researching 23 stick vacuums before picking our top 5. We then purchased our favorite model and tested it in our lab.
Brushless models rely solely on suction for cleaning, which means you’ll need at least 18V to clean effectively. Brushless models are best suited for picking up dust and surface dirt on hardwood floors. Models that include a brush can be used on either carpet or a smooth surface. Keep in mind that stick vacuums don’t usually perform as well on carpet as a traditional vacuum. If you have hardwood floors, be sure the brush can be shut off, so it doesn’t scratch the floor.
Stick vacuums use a bagless canister. The canister should be easy to remove and empty. One-handed disposal features, like quick one-button release, add even more convenience.
Filters should be easy to access, remove, clean, and replace. For homes with pets or allergy sufferers, look for a model with a HEPA filter that removes most allergens.
Some stick vacuums include a handheld vacuum that can be separated from the main body. A handheld vacuum works well on stairs, behind furniture, and in vehicles. There are models that also include an extension hose for the handheld vacuum, so it can be used to clean drapes.
There are stick vacuums that weigh as little as 4.5 pounds, and many that have an ergonomic design for easier use. Stick vacuums provide a good option for those who have limited mobility or medical conditions that weaken joints, such as arthritis. A swivel head offers easier maneuverability around tough corners and under furniture.
An on/off switch is easier to use than a trigger that requires constant pressure. This is especially true for those with arthritis or other mobility issues.
A few stick vacuums can also clean small amounts of wet material. The dry bin and wet bin will need to be cleaned separately, and all parts should be adequately dried to prevent mold.
At the bare minimum, look for a vacuum with a crevice tool to use between cushions and at the crease of stairs. Other tools that may be included are a dusting brush, pet hair brush, extension tube, or a squeegee tool. Keep in mind how accessories and tools are stored, as built-in storage is the most convenient but may add weight.
Pet owners may want a vacuum specifically designed for pet hair and dander. You could also go for a generic model that also comes with a separate pet hair head or tool.
Fifteen-foot cords are standard on stick vacuums, while some models come with a twenty-foot cord, offering a longer reach and lesser need to search for an outlet.
It is advisable to unplug or turn off the vacuum before emptying the canister or cleaning the filter, so as to avoid any chance of electrical shock or short.
If you need to replace the battery in your vacuum, be sure to dispose of the old battery in an appropriate manner. Check your city laws to see how and where you can do so.
In this price range, you’ll find basic, corded models with a small head, including at least one tool. Many at this price point are lightweight and portable. They tend to have less suction power, and they may lack the durability of more expensive models.
$40 to $100
At this price, you can find many high-quality, battery-powered and corded models. Many Li-ion vacuums can be found in this range with excellent suction, great cleaning power, and included accessories. There are also many 2-in-1 models with good versatility at this price point.
$100 to $200
In this range, you’ll find well-designed stick vacuums, some with up to 22V for impressive suction. Swivel heads, motorized brush heads with multiple speed options, and 2-in-1 capabilities are common and should be expected of a vacuum at this price.
$200 and higher
Expect battery-powered stick vacuums with high brush speeds that can last for up to 20 minutes of continuous use. The battery power should last even longer at normal speed. Automatic floor sensing technology, fade free power, and extensive toolkits are available.
Q. I have arthritis in my fingers and hands. What should I look for in a stick vacuum?
A. Most stick vacuums are already lightweight, but the lightest models will be around four or five pounds. Ergonomic handle design helps prevent fatigue and pain in the hands and wrists. An on/off switch that can be reached with one hand while holding the handle is another nice feature that reduces fatigue. Avoid trigger switch designs that require you to apply constant pressure when running the vacuum.
Q. What features works best on stairs? Drapes? Under furniture?
A. 2-in-1 models with a removable handheld vacuum work well on stairs and in vehicles. Another option is a stick vacuum with a small head that can vacuum stairs with one swipe. You’ll most likely want a vacuum with a crevice tool that can reach into the corners of stairs. For drapes, extension tubes with a brush tool work best. A swivel head that folds close to the ground works well to reach under furniture.
Q. How much run time can I expect out of a battery-powered stick vacuum?
A. It depends on the type of battery used. In general, you can expect at least 15 minutes of constant use from NiCd batteries, and 40 minutes or more with some Li-ion or NiMH batteries. Vacuums with power boost or brushes will use battery power faster than those that only use suction. As the battery gets older, it will begin to lose power faster, and it may not hold a full charge.
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