Handheld vacuums can go where bigger vacuums can’t. They make it easy to ferret out crumbs from between couch cushions, or dirt from under car seats. We’ve looked at 165 different hand vacuums over more than 100 hours of research and testing since 2013, and we think the Black+Decker 20V Max Lithium Pivot BDH2000PL is the best hand vacuum for most people.
Not your typical handheld vac, the WORX model has a unique compact, boxy shape; a removable battery that fits into other WORX tools; and a top handle. Its crevice and brush tools store right on it, and a built-in flexible hose reaches four feet.
A top performer in our cleaning tests, this model easily picked up all the debris and pet hair we put down, even without using the max power setting. The hose makes it easy to reach into tight spaces, and it ran for 23 minutes at standard power on one charge. Although it’s a little heavier than other handheld vacuums, you don’t need to hold it up to use it.
Ideal for quick pick-ups on hard surfaces, the compact and lightweight Aeroslim with its combo crevice tool and soft brush accessory is great for taking care of crumbs on your laptop, in your car, or in between the sofa cushions. The storage stand with its built-in cap holds the vacuum upright, and holds the accessory tool too, so it’s always where you need it. It has a washable filter, and charges via a USB port.
The nubby rubber nozzle of thiswell-priced little (less than 4-pound) vacuum was made for those annoying pet hairs. It flexes and contours around chair arms and stair treads to get every last piece. For dry spills on bare floors (like kitty litter), remove the rubber tip and extend the wide, built-in crevice tool for quick pick-up. Even though it’s not cordless, the power cord is 16-feet long for great reach.
Don’t let the Eufy’s slim shape fool you. About the size of a wine bottle (but lightweight, at just over one pound), this sleek handheld vacuum is full-featured. It includes a crevice/brush tool, a washable filter and a cap that lets it stand upright for storage or charging – standing on a bookshelf, you’d never know it was a vacuum.
Small but mighty, the Eufy rivaled bigger models for cleaning ability. A soft grip makes it comfortable to hold. It runs quietly for up to 13 minutes, and lights alert you when the battery needs charging.
With Black+Decker’s motorized mini brush attachment, there’s nowhere pet hair can hide. An extra-long pullout crevice tool and the extra-large bottom-emptying dust bin make cleaning up after pets even easier.
No surprise, the Black+Decker aced our pet-hair-pickup test and did well with other messes too – even without using the boost power setting – although some sand scattered on hard flooring. The filter is washable, and we like that the vacuum stands upright on end for charging or storage. Using the standard setting, it ran for 32 minutes on a charge.
With its automatic humidity control, it is able to adjust to changes in weather and temperature automatically. It also has a bypass damper the allows you to conserve water, energy, and correspondingly costs, in the long run.
Because you have to carry handheld vacuums around to use them, it’s important to check how much they weigh. Some lighter options clock in at just a few pounds, making them easy for anyone to handle, but some larger units with hoses and attachments can be bulkier and heavier — not great for kids or those with physical limitations.
A lot of handheld vacuums are cordless, so they run on battery power. Of course, these products don’t have infinite runtime — on average, one charge will provide around 20 minutes of suction. If you plan to use your handheld vacuum for longer than this, you may want to look for a corded model, which isn’t as portable but doesn’t have the same time limitations.
If you have a particular use in mind for your handheld vacuum—like cleaning your car or removing pet hair from furniture—you may want to consider a model that comes with a hose, special attachments, or both. A hose will help you get into more cracks and crevices, and pet hair/upholstery attachments will help you get the job done in less time. However, keep in mind that these features often make the vacuum heavier.
You’ll first need to empty your handheld vacuum, which will entail either removing and throwing away its dust bag or releasing its dust cup into the trash. From there, you can wipe out remaining dust from the vacuum’s interior with a microfiber cloth. Refer to your model’s manual to see whether you can disassemble it further and use soap and water to clean it. Some handheld vacuum manufacturers advise against washing their units and, instead, sticking with wiping them down or rinsing them. If you can get your handheld vacuum’s parts wet, allow time for them to dry before reassembling.
It’s important to empty your handheld vacuum before it reaches or exceed maximum capacity (allowing it to run with a full bag or cup will inhibit its performance), so keep an eye on its dust levels after big cleanups. You can perform a light maintenance check on your model as frequently as once a month, while you should deeply clean it every six to 12 months, depending on how heavily you use it.
Generally speaking, your handheld vacuum should last for several years. How much you use it and the scale of the messes you use it on will determine its exact lifespan. When you notice a decline in performance, check to make sure your handheld vacuum’s bag or dust cup is empty, its filter is cleaned, and its battery doesn’t need replacing. Emptying, cleaning, and maintaining your unit will extend its life.
This article was written by Sara Coughlin, a freelance writer and The Spruce’s small appliances expert. From canister models to dustbusters, she’s researched what it takes for a vacuum to stand out in a vast and broad market—and what to look for in up-and-coming models.