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Published Nov. 23, 2021

Spring cleaning may be right around the corner, and what better way to upgrade your army of cleaning supplies than to add a lightweight, handheld vacuum? Whether you’re the parent of a messy toddler or a pet-owner constantly picking up hair, the best handheld vacuum is perfect for a quick, easy clean. 

We all know the pain that comes with lugging heavy upright vacuums around the house, especially when you only need to suck up a handful of spilled Cheerios or clear up a couple of dust bunnies. Not to mention the irritation felt when the vacuum cord is simply not long enough to reach the spot you’re trying to clean; cue the hunt for a closer outlet. These compact machines are great for getting to hard-to-reach areas around the home like kitchen cabinets, couch cushions, and stairs. Various attachments make refreshing window sills, door frames, and moldings a piece of cake. They can even be a helpful tool to give your car’s interior an overdue scrub or work wonders in a cluttered garage. While even the best handheld vacuums aren’t made for deep-cleaning, they are perfect for the small messes and dry spills that inevitably occur throughout the week. 

What to consider when shopping for the best handheld vacuum

The best handheld vacuum for you will provide flexibility and reliability when it comes to picking up dirt, hair, and other debris quickly. Many models come with attachments to make cleaning specific areas more manageable, and some are even designed to pick up particular messes, like those left behind by shedding pets. Below are a few of our favorite models and features, as well as key points to consider before purchasing your new appliance.

Would you prefer a cordless or corded handheld vacuum? 

As with most portable electronics, there are both corded handheld vacuums, which need to be plugged into an outlet, and cordless models, which rely on rechargeable batteries for power. While a cordless option may seem like an automatic upgrade, it’s worth taking a second to think about what you need for your home.

Cordless handheld vacuums are a convenient choice for supplementary cleaning that will suit most homes (or vehicles). They rely on rechargeable batteries to provide power and suction. A full charge will typically last between 15 and 40 minutes, though a lithium-ion battery could last longer. Recharge time is usually between two and five hours, but for lower-end models, this could be as long as 16 hours. As the battery begins to drain, you may notice a depletion in suction power, but this shouldn’t be a problem for dry spills and dust. The best cordless handheld vacuum will also be lighter than their corded contemporaries, providing more flexibility for quickly cleaning tricky areas.  

Corded handheld vacuums tend to be heavier than other models and need power from an electrical outlet to function, but you’ll never need to worry about them running out of battery mid-cleaning. Corded models typically have a larger storage capacity, cutting down on trips to the trash can. They’re also usually cheaper. If you’re frequently cleaning the same area and you know an outlet is easily within reach, a wireless handheld vacuum may not be necessary.

The best handheld vacuums: Here are our recommendations

A handheld vacuum doesn’t seem like the kind of device where you need to swat the details, but it turns out there’s a lot of nuance to making a great one. Between power, capacity, and attachments, not to mention cord length and/or battery life, it makes sense to take a good, hard look and pick the right one for the job. Our handheld vacuum picks have different strengths and weaknesses, but will be a perfect fit for the right person.

Best cordless handheld vacuum: Black+Decker 20V Max Flex Handheld Vacuum 


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This lithium-ion-powered handheld vac has two cleaning speeds, including a PowerBoost mode to help banish tough spills. An extra-large 75-milliliter dustbin can contain the entirety of your mess, even when you’re dealing with sizable particles like small rocks or food scraps. A battery life indicator lets you know when it’s running low, and a long crevice tool helps you refresh all the inconspicuous areas in your home, like under the couch or on top of the fridge. 

Best corded handheld vacuum: Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum 


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This handheld vacuum has a generous 18-foot cord to help you clean larger areas or tricky spots that aren’t right next to an outlet, and a rubber nozzle helps remove debris from upholstery in your home and car. It also comes with a crevice and wide-mouth tool, so you can suck up stubborn crumbs or destroy large dust collections in a matter of seconds. It’s bagless, so when you’re done cleaning, all you need to do is empty the vacuum directly into the trash. 

Get a handheld vacuum for pet hair if you’re dealing with shedding animals

If you’re the proud owner of a cute cat or precious puppy, chances are you’re battling pet hair everywhere. Many factors determine the amount of hair your furry friend will lose in one week, but one thing is for sure; you’ll find their hair stuck to the couch, balled up in corners, collecting by their water dish, and countless other places. Handheld vacs are the perfect tool for expelling unsightly shedding without needing to haul out your upright unit. 

It’s no secret that pet hair has a superhero-like grip on various surfaces, especially carpets and couches or other upholstered furniture. Sometimes simple suction power isn’t going to cut it when it comes to pulling up those pesky strands. Instead, look for a handheld vacuum cleaner that comes with attachments like a motorized brush to lift the hair off the surface before sucking it into the dust bin.   

Best handheld vacuum for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 


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This powerful Bissell vacuum weighs a little over four pounds and expertly removes dirt and pet hair from your home using a motorized brush tool. It also comes with a crevice tool for hard-to-reach areas and an upholstery tool for a gentle clean on soft surfaces. With a lithium-ion battery, you’ll get 17 minutes of consecutive use before it needs to recharge. 

Do you need a small handheld vacuum to help clean your car? 

Keeping your car clean can be a real pain in the butt. It’s hard to maneuver around seats, steering wheels, and gear shifts, not to mention all the tiny cracks and crevices that hoard crumbs and other detritus. An upright vacuum just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to fishing around cup holders and underneath floor mats. A small handheld vacuum is the best way to get your car clean without shelling out for interior detailing. Their size and portability make it easier to get to the tricky corners and uncomfortable angles inside your vehicle. Plus, attachments like crevice tools or long hoses can get you an even deeper clean. If you’re hoping to do a full sweep, look for a model that lasts more than ten minutes on a single charge; that way, you won’t run out of battery right before you hit the back row. Imagine being able to suck up all the food particles hiding in the nooks and crannies of your child’s car seat or being able to easily vacuum the trunk after your dog hops in post-hike, bringing with him a host of leaves, pebbles, and dirt.

Best small handheld vacuum for car: Bissell AutoMate 


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The Bissell Automate was designed with your car in mind. It comes with a motorized brush to help pull up hair or anything sticky, a flexible crevice tool to get in between underneath and up around your car seats, and a longer LED attachment, so you can see the mess disappear before your eyes. This unit has a 14-volt lithium-ion battery, triple-level filtration, and a 0.7-liter dirt bin. It weighs 3.1 pounds and can run for up to thirty minutes. 

Do you need an all-in-one vacuum to tackle liquid spills and cut down on cleaning supplies? 

Messes are inevitable and come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. While a regular hand vac is more than equipped to handle dry spills and dirt, only a combination wet-dry handheld vacuum can also suck up liquid spills. Rather than reach for an endless stream of paper towels, a wet-dry model can save you time while also being more environmentally friendly. They can also pull liquids out of fabric, including upholstery, carpet, curtains, and more, so you won’t need to panic when you spill on the new couch. With the touch of a button, you’ll be able to switch between wet and dry modes so you can even tackle spill combos in one go (we all know the pain of splashing a freshly poured glass of red all over the kitchen floor). Just remember that a wet-dry model will be heavier than models that can only dry and they may also need a little more maintenance. But if you’re keen on having an all-in-one model to save you time and space, we can’t think of a better option. 

Best wet-dry handheld vacuum: Homasy Handheld Vacuum 


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The Homasy handheld vacuum can be fully charged in two to three hours and comes with three attachments for a variety of spills. Use the big suction mouth for larger dry spills, the brush tool for pet hair, and the rubber jar attachment to pick up and hold up to 100 milliliters of liquid. Additionally, this vacuum comes with two non-woven HEPA filters designed to avoid clogs, contain dust, and last for many cleans to come. 

Looking for a lightweight model for quick clean-ups? 

Every hand vac will be lighter than an upright model, but even handhelds can still cause a little bit of stress, especially when trying to reach high areas. If you’re looking for a model to help you collect dirt and dust from the top shelves, curtain rods, or window sills, go with the lightest unit available. You’ll be able to get the job done without straining your arms or getting too tired and giving up before the last bit of dirt has disappeared. We suggest something under two pounds to make cleaning hard-to-reach areas effortless. A lightweight vacuum is also great for really quick clean-ups; we’re talking minor spills that take just seconds to suck up so you can save your energy for deeper cleans. 

Best lightweight handheld vacuum: Shark WV201 WANDVAC Handheld Vacuum 


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This lightweight handheld vacuum from Shark weighs just 1.4 pounds for ultimate maneuverability. The dust cup can hold 0.8 quarts which can be easily emptied with the touch of a button, so you won’t come into context with any of the debris you suck up. The charging dock is equally compact, so you won’t have to worry about any eyesores lying around the house. This vacuum takes roughly two-and-a-half hours to charge and can run for almost ten minutes at a time. 

Picking the best handheld vacuum on a budget: What you can get for under $35

Shopping for the best handheld vacuum on a budget can be tricky, but luckily there are plenty of options out there if you know what to look for. Cheap cordless vacuums can be hard to come by and usually have a significantly shorter battery life or unimpressive suction. If you want a quality lightweight handheld vacuum that won’t break the bank, we suggest trying out a corded model first. While this may seem inconvenient, many corded models are long enough to clean large areas and flexible enough to clean cars, as long as there is an available outlet in your garage. You won’t have to worry about a weak battery running out halfway through a cleaning session, and you won’t have any inconsistencies when it comes to suction. 

Best budget handheld vacuum: Dirt Devil Scorpion Handheld Vacuum Cleaner


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This powerful handheld vacuum weighs under four pounds and comes with a 15-foot power cord so you can get to tricky areas without a struggle. It features a built-in crevice tool that flips down to get in between couch cushions and car seats. A removable, rinseable filter provides long-lasting performance, and a large dustbin ensures you won’t have to pause your pick-up before it’s complete. 


Q: Is a handheld vacuum the same as a dustbuster?

Yes, a handheld vacuum is often called a dustbuster. The phrase dustbuster is a quippy way to label these powerful little appliances, known for quickly picking up dust and debris along with other spills. If you see a handheld vacuum referred to as a dustbuster (or vice versa), know that they mean the same thing. 

Q: What is the best way to store a cordless handheld vacuum? 

While there are many ways to store a cordless handheld vacuum, we recommend looking for a wall-mounted model if you’re tight on space. A wall-mounted charger keeps your appliance off the floor and out of the way. They make it easy to stash inside a linen closet or crowded pantry without the risk of tripping over or stepping on the power cord. Many handheld models are compatible with separately purchased wall mounts, so make sure you search for additional product accessories. 

Q: How long do handheld vacuums last? 

On average, handheld vacuums last between two and three years, though there are a few things you can do to extend one’s lifetime. Make sure you purchase your vac from a reputable brand, regularly clean the filters and replace as needed, empty the bin before it’s completely stuffed, and untangle any dust or hair that gets tangled in the attachments. Also, make sure to reserve it for light spills and other minimal messes; you don’t want to damage the structure trying to deep clean your floor or carpet. 

A final word on shopping for the best handheld vacuum

A household essential, handheld vacs are perfect for quick pick-ups and hard-to-reach areas, like furniture, shelving, and cars. Plus, they’re the perfect way to combat your pet’s constant shedding. The best handheld vacuums will be easy to maneuver, lightweight, and designed with your most common messes in mind. Once you’re equipped with a convenient mini-vacuum, you’ll be surprised you ever went without.