It was the late 1970s when Black & Decker first pioneered the idea of a battery-powered vacuum cleaner that could free people from the tyranny of cables and plug sockets while still getting an effective clean. But that dustbuster style design has long since been superseded by more sophisticated models that promise to pack just as much of a punch as their upright counterparts, now in a lighter and more portable format.
That power punch is an important consideration because it was long thought that a cordless design wouldn’t be able to offer the same powerful suction as uprights—something that’s especially important if you’ve got a fluff-shedding pet to clean up after. And, even if it could, in order to sustain it for long enough to clean an entire house it would require weighty batteries or hefty motors. But innovations in both battery and suction technology mean the best cordless vacuums don’t need a recharge after ten minutes on the job and can—quite literally—suck it all up. Here are our selections.
- Best cordless vacuum for battery life: Bissell Air Ram 1984
- Best lightweight, cordless stick vacuum: Tineco A11 Hero Cordless Lightweight Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
- Best cordless vacuum for pet hair: BISSELL ICONpet Edge Cordless Vacuum
- Best handheld or convertible cordless vacuum: Dyson V7 Motorhead Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner
- Best budget-friendly cordless vacuum: Shark Navigator Freestyle Upright Stick Vacuum
How to find the best cordless vacuum cleaner
There are a few aspects to consider when weighing up what might be the best cordless vacuum cleaner for you. The type and layout of your house might have an impact—especially if you have stairs to clean when the size and weight of the device can come into play. And, if you’ve got pets, you might look for designs specifically created to deal with pet hair. Here’s a rundown of the most important considerations that might inform your purchase.
Consider the battery life and run time
If you’re only pulling out the vacuum cleaner to give one room a quick go-over, then the amount of time the battery will last is probably less of a concern. But if you’ve got a six-bedroom house and want to do a weekly clean on a single charge, it’s worth looking for a model that gets rave reviews from users for its battery life.
Broadly speaking, you should expect to have to charge your cordless vacuum for anything from around three to five hours to get the battery from dead to full. But realistically if you’ve got a vacuum like this, you’ll either leave it permanently on its dock when not in use and it will charge until full, or you’ll just charge overnight.
Some cordless vacuums come with removable batteries so you can buy an extra, keep both fully charged, and switch one out when it dies so you never interrupt your dust-busting.
Generally, a bigger battery may give a longer run time, but it also adds weight to the device (see our lightweight pick below) so most manufacturers try to strike a balance between those two aspects.
In tests, cordless vacuums give between 15 and 45 minutes of action, and that doesn’t always correlate with what it says on the box or in the marketing spiel. That’s not to say that the battery life or run time claimed by the manufacturer can’t be trusted, just that it might refer to optimum conditions—a brand new battery, a complete charge, the lowest suction setting—rather than a real-life scenario. So, for example, if the vacuum has a turbo mode, you won’t get as many minutes out of it.
Best cordless vacuum for battery life: Bissell Air Ram 1984
40 Minutes Of Use
Long-lasting, cord-free cleaning without any frills. Amazon
You’re going to love this Bissell cordless vacuum. A 22-volt lithium-ion battery gives 40 minutes of power in a relatively inexpensive and lightweight package. There are few bells and whistles—it’s pretty much an upright without any tools or attachments, and you have to empty the bin and clean the filter regularly to maintain the suction power.
How lightweight do you need your vacuum cleaner to be?
Whether or not the weight of your cordless vacuum is a concern for you will probably depend on both you and your house. If everything is on one story, without any stairs to climb or clean, and you have no mobility issues, you might not worry about how many pounds your cleaner weighs.
But if you want to take your vacuum outside, or into the garage to clean a car, need to clean a staircase or two, or physical strength isn’t one of your, well, strengths, do make the effort to check out the lbs before you spend your $.
A cordless vacuum can make light work of cleaning every aspect of your house, as long as it’s not too heavy to lift. And that’s where manufacturers have to juggle the fact that heavier batteries will give the longer run time that consumers say that they want, without having to be recharged mid-way through a clean, but they can also weigh the device way down.
Of course, weight isn’t the only consideration. A lightweight vacuum is no use if it’s cumbersome and difficult to maneuver, so ask yourself what you want to use your vacuum for—see our section below if stairs and cars are going to be a large part of your cleaning—and choose accordingly.
Best lightweight, cordless stick vacuum: Tineco A11 Hero Cordless Lightweight Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Super Versatile Cleaner
Lightweight and maneuverable with the option to convert to a hand-held vacuum cleaner as well. Amazon
Weighing in at under 6 pounds, this handheld vacuum cleaner is still a heavyweight when it comes to functionality, with a top-end HEPA filtration system, additional tools, and up to 40 minutes of run time on a single charge of the removable battery.
Do you have pets?
We all love our furry friends—but less appealing is the trail of fluff they leave all over soft furnishings. If you’re a pet owner looking for a new vacuum, it makes sense to purchase one specifically designed to deal with pet hair.
A cordless vacuum is a good solution as not only are they more lightweight than conventional corded uprights, meaning it’s less of a hassle to get them up and running when your sofa is—yet again—covered in hair, but many are also designed to be stored on a docking station, making them even more accessible.
It’s tempting to think that all you need when looking for a pet-friendly vac is super suction, but power alone isn’t the solution. Many of the best vacuum cleaners for pet hair come with special technology that means that hair doesn’t get tangled around the brush roller (this also comes in handy if there are any long-haired humans in your household)—and additional attachments specifically designed for de-fuzzing your furniture.
Best cordless vacuum for pet hair: BISSELL ICONpet Edge Cordless Vacuum
Specialized Pet Tools
With multiple fur-busting technologies, this 7-pound vac is designed with pet owners in mind. Amazon
A patented tangle-free brush roll means hair doesn’t snag in the roller when vacuuming, while the LED lighted crevice tool and motorized turbo brush tool ensure that you can clean up wherever your pet has been. And, with an easy-empty dirt tank, this is the easiest, best cordless vacuum for folks whose house sometimes feels like a zoo.
Do you want to use it in the car, or on the stairs?
We’ve already established that cordless vacuums tend to be lighter than the more traditional corded, upright models, and the fact that they’re cordless means that you can easily use them in a garage or on a driveway without needing to have access to a power socket. But if you’re planning on using your vacuum in the car or on the stairs, then you want maneuverability as well as a featherlight, cordless construction. And that means you have two options. You either buy yourself a separate hand-held vacuum cleaner, or you look for a convertible version.
And most of the time, a convertible is going to give you as much—if not more—power, and take up less space and less cash than having two separate cleaners.
The way that convertible versions (also known as 2-in-1 vacuum cleaners) work is by giving you the ability to detach the main body of the cleaner—the bit that contains the motor and the tank—from various other sections, usually the handle and/or the hose. Once detached, it can be used as a handheld, often with additional heads or attachments.
As well as the obvious benefits of having a lighter and less cumbersome tool that you can easily clean stairs and vehicles with, you may also find that using your cleaner as a handheld gives you more suction as the shorter the distance the air has to travel, the more powerful your suction is likely to be.
Best handheld or convertible cordless vacuum: Dyson V7 Motorhead Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner
Hygienic Bin Emptying
Lightweight, low-profile, entry-level Dyson for those on a budget. Amazon
Designed for all floor surfaces, this cordless vacuum weighs under 6 pounds and easily transforms into a handheld. It comes with a crevice tool and small brush but, because it’s their entry-level vac, you get fewer accessories, suction power, and battery life than some of Dyson’s pricer models.
How much money can you spend?
So do you get what you pay for when it comes to cordless vacuums? Yes and no. Let’s be honest, if you’re looking at models within a brand, the more you spend, the more features you get and the better those features are likely to be. So Dyson’s V7 Motorhead model, which is their current entry-level cordless vacuum, has a run time of up to 30 minutes and comes with two extra tools. Meanwhile, their top of the range model, which is more than twice the price, will give up to 60 minutes of run time on a single charge, comes with five additional tools, a bigger tank, an LCD digital display and significantly higher suction power.
But that’s not to say that you can’t get a decent cordless cleaner if you’re on a budget. There are a number of brands out there offering devices around the $100 mark, although it’s worth bearing in mind that you’re getting a fairly basic design for that price. It will usually be a classic upright, without the ability to transform to a handheld, and with very few additional tools or features. That’s fine if you’re not looking to get into awkward crevices, or hoping to clean your car, but if those aspects are important, you might want to consider upping your budget to get a cleaner with a few more bells and whistles.
Best budget-friendly cordless vacuum: Shark Navigator Freestyle Upright Stick Vacuum
Accurate Swivel Steering
Basic and inexpensive model from a trusted manufacturer. Amazon
Two speeds—one for hard floors and one for carpeted areas—plus a large tank and a motorized brush to lift embedded pet hair make this cordless upright vacuum cleaner a solid budget choice. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t convert to a handheld, and has no hand wand or extra tools.
Best cordless vacuum cleaner brands to know
Whether they’re heritage American brands that have always been in the business of cleaning floors, or tech-focused Euro geeks, there are a few brands that come up time and again when you’re talking best cordless vacuum cleaners. Here’s a bit of background…
In 1978, a British man named James Dyson got annoyed with the fact that he had to keep unclogging the bag in his vacuum cleaner. He spent the following five years trying more than 5,000 different versions before he came up with the first-ever bagless vacuum cleaner. Not content with just cleaning floors, the multi-national company now uses its knowledge of airflow to sell fans and air purifiers and have recently ambitiously embarked on selling haircare tools as well.
Before Shark became SharkNinja, it was a Europe-based brand that sold sewing machines. Now it’s the floor cleaning arm of this huge company—the Ninja side of things focuses on kitchen appliances. Back in 2013, the company made a concerted decision to try to displace then-market leader Dyson. Within the year, thanks to huge investment in marketing on TV shopping channels, their $800,000 revenue more than doubled and they knocked Dyson off their perch.
We’ve got broken plates to thank for this company, as, in 1876 a couple who sold glassware developed a carpet sweeper to keep the floor of their store tidy. Soon their sweeping machine was outselling their cups and saucers and Bissell became a byword for floor cleaners—by royal appointment too! Queen Victoria insisted that the rooms in her palaces were Bisselled regularly. A carpet cleaner was launched in the mid-50s and in the 1990s their first vacuum cleaner hit the market. A privately-held company, CEO Mark Bissell is the fifth generation of the family to run the business since it began.
The final word on cordless vacuums
There’s no doubt that getting rid of wires and power sockets makes life a lot easier, and these days, the best cordless vacuum cleaners have suction power that easily compares to their plugin-powered counterparts. However, it’s worth thinking about how you are going to use your cleaner before purchasing—because if car-cleaning, or tidying up after pets is a consideration, that needs to be factored in. And, while spending more does get you more, there are some great budget options around, making the cordless vac a realistic possibility for almost any household.