How to choose the best handheld vacuum, no matter your mess (2024)

When you’re trying to clean up pesky pet hair or snack crumbs on the couch, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to break out your larger vacuum. Although larger and more robust models certainly have their place in your arsenal of house-cleaning supplies, when it comes to quick spot cleaning or harder-to-reach places, a powerful handheld vacuum can be a much easier option.

The portability of this style of vacuum can also be great when it comes to cleaning your car. However, according to Kathy Turley, director of marketing at Home Clean Heroes, “handheld vacuums are meant to complement your heavier-duty models, like a canister or upright, but not be used instead of.”

SKIP AHEAD | How to shop for a handheld vacuum | Things to note about handheld vacuums

Below, we spoke to cleaning experts about the features to look for in a handheld vacuum, such as weight, number of attachments, power and runtime. With the help of our experts’ guidance, we compiled top-performing, highly rated handheld vacuums for cleaning homes and cars. All of the selections below have at least a 4-star average rating from at least 500 reviews on Amazon.

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Best handheld vacuums to buy in 2024

Black+Decker AdvancedClean Handheld Vacuum

One of the things Turley loves about this Amazon’s number one bestseller is its crevice tool, which pulls out to provide an extra-long reach to get into high spaces. It also comes with a removable slim nozzle that can rotate 180 degrees to give you optimum control. Both attachments are “great for cleaning behind appliances or under places where you can’t get with a normal vacuum,” said Turley, adding that the included extension tool avoids you having to bend over. With a 16-volt lithium-ion battery that the brand says can hold a charge for up to 18 months and weighing in at just 2.6 pounds, Turley described this small but powerful model as “The Little Engine That Could.” Its one-way flap valve keeps debris securely inside the vacuum.

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum

What we like

  • Lightweight
  • Cordless
  • Motorized brush tool

Something to note

  • Moderate suction power

This handheld vacuum is a must for pet owners, especially if you have a cat or dog that sheds a lot. The vacuum’s main attribute is how well it tackles stuck-on pet hair, which is sometimes tough to get out of furniture and upholstery. The item comes with upholstery and crevice tools to get rid of debris and hair from small spaces and a motorized brush tool, which removes particles that cling to fabric surfaces. Plus, the vacuum’s triple filter system helps maintain its performance and ability to pick up debris more efficiently, according to the brand.

Dyson Humdinger Handheld Vacuum

What we like

  • 25-minute run time
  • Lightweight

Something to note

  • Pricey

The Dyson Humdinger comes recommended by Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics, who likes its size and large debris capacity. “It’s great for cleaning hard to reach areas like inside a car or in tight corners in your home,” he says. “It also has two selectable speeds to help with more stubborn debris, and a battery life of up to 25 minutes.” In addition to the hair tool and charger, the appliance comes with a crevice tool and a worktop tool attachment for tables and kitchen surfaces.

Shark Wandvac WV200 Series Handheld Vacuum

What we like

  • Lightweight
  • Cordless
  • Good suction power

Something to note

  • Moderate capacity

Weighing just 1.4 pounds, it comes with a charging base and two attachments: a multi-surface pet tool that can clean pet hair, delicate fabrics and furniture, and a duster crevice tool to reach tight spaces, according to the brand. It also has an LED indicator to let you know how much battery life is remaining. The vacuum also has a one-touch emptying debris bin to help avoid getting your hands dirty, according to the brand. The appliance has a 4.3-star average rating from over 17,000 reviews on Amazon.

Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Handheld Vacuum

The Quick Flip handheld vacuum from Dirt Devil is an affordable option that’s also quite compact, so it’s easy to use in small spaces and take with you on trips. In fact, the vacuum is great for cleaning spaces in your car. You can reach dust and crumbs that accumulate under seats, between cushions and areas around doors. The model comes with a dusting brush, crevice tool and hose, and the dirty cup is easy to detach and empty so you won’t spend time wondering if you put it on correctly. The appliance has a 4.4-star average rating from over 13,000 reviews on Amazon.

Black+Decker Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum

What we like

  • Wall mount
  • Decent capacity
  • Bagless

Something to note

  • Battery life is fine

This 2.11-pound handheld vacuum cleaner has a dustbin capacity of 0.25 gallons, a 10.8-volt lithium ion battery and a wall mount for charging. It also comes with a brush attachment, crevice tool and two-year limited warranty. The dirt bowl is clear so you can easily see when you need to slide it out for a quick empty. It’s also washable, as is the filter. The appliance has a 4.5-star average rating from over 51,000 reviews on Amazon.

Shark Cyclone Handheld Vacuum

What we like

  • Good for pets
  • Cordless

Something to note

  • Battery life is fine

This lightweight handheld vacuum from Shark is also a great option for removing stuck-on pet hair from couches, carpets and other household surfaces. This vacuum has a large dust cup, which means it holds plenty of debris as you clean, so you won’t have to empty it too often. Additionally, the model has a washable filter that you can remove and clean easily every few weeks. The appliance has a 4.3-star average rating from over 14,000 reviews on Amazon.

Black+Decker Furbuster Pet Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Black+Decker Furbuster Pet Cordless Handheld Vacuum$99.99

What we like

  • Good for pets
  • Cordless
  • Large dustbin capacity

Something to note

  • Suction power is fine

As a dog mom, Turley is a fan of this 0.2-gallon-capacity handheld vacuum for its two nozzles that are specifically designed to attract stray hairs, along with its anti-tangle rubber bristles that easily pick up pet hairs, she said. It weighs just 2.6 pounds and has two speeds, along with a Powerboost button that increases performance for tough messes, according to the brand. It also has a one-touch empty feature, a washable filter and a 20-volt lithium-ion battery. “Its extra-long crevice tool attachment comes in handy for nabbing that hair under the sofa or in crevices in your car,” said Turley.

Dustbuster QuickClean Handheld Vacuum

What we like

  • Affordable
  • Washable filter
  • Lightweight

Something to note

  • Battery life is fine

For small dry spills and other little messes, this Black+Decker handheld cordless vacuum includes a built-in crevice tool and brush for upholstered furniture. The 1.4-pound vacuum also comes with a wall mount base and charger, which can be useful if you don’t have much space to spare in a closet or kitchen. Its dustbin has a capacity of 0.7 pounds and it comes with a lithium-ion battery and a washable filter. The appliance has a 4.3-star average rating from over 33,000 reviews on Amazon.

How to shop for a handheld vacuum

When you’re in the market for a new handheld vacuum, there are multiple factors you should consider. The first is thinking about what your needs are and the benefits of a handheld vacuum.

  • Vacuum size: “A handheld vacuum cleaner is a smaller version of the normal household vacuum,” says Rachel Decker, co-owner of Queen Vacuum and Homecare. “It’s generally so small and light that it can comfortably be held in one hand, making it ‘handy’ for use in awkward places like stairs, small spaces like the car or dusty-crummy corners.” They also typically take up little space and are faster and more convenient for quick tidying between your weekly deep-cleaning vacuuming routine.
  • Corded or cordless: When shopping, you might notice that handheld vacuums come in two options: corded or cordless, meaning they either have to be plugged into an outlet during use or rely on a battery for power. “I prefer cordless because it offers more flexibility in the sense that you don’t have to unwind a cord and plug it in before using,” said Turley. “However, corded handhelds have unlimited runtime — as opposed to cordless [versions] that need to be charged.”

Since most handheld vacuums are designed to handle only smaller messes, Turley said that most people would benefit from owning both a handheld vacuum and a full-sized one. “A ‘real,’ ‘big’ vacuum is a must — a requirement — for every home, regardless of size, in order to clean fully, properly and regularly,” she explained.



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Benefits of handheld vacuums

Although handheld vacuums aren’t ideal for deep cleaning every inch of your house, they do have some perks. According to the experts we consulted, these include:

  • Lightweight. Handheld vacuums can make cleaning dangerous staircases or high-up places a bit safer, according to Decker.
  • Small size. This comes in handy when it comes to getting into crevices and storing the vacuum between uses.
  • Portable. “They easily fit inside your car and a well-equipped one can eradicate rogue french fries, beach sand and dog hair,” said Decker.

Many come with helpful attachments. “Powerful handvacs that come with an extension wand and floor-cleaning nozzle eliminate the need to bend down,” Decker explained. “With just a dusting brush on the end, you can tackle cobwebs and dust on your ceiling fans and moldings.”

Frequently Asked Questions

This depends on what you plan to use the handheld vacuum for. As Turley mentioned above, a corded handheld vacuum doesn’t rely as much on charging to run for a very long time. A cordless vacuum, however, has to be charged and uses battery life to maintain a decent runtime. Since you typically use a handheld vacuum for a few minutes or even seconds at a time, 20 minutes is a good starting point for runtime.

“More power generally equals more suction,” Decker explained, so look to see the amperage if corded or volts if battery-operated. Also, take into account what debris you’ll be vacuuming the most — particles like pet hair can stick to carpet and upholstery firmly. This means it’s even more important to look for a handheld vacuum with strong suction power.

Depending on the brand, the warranty on a handheld vacuum is usually one or two years long, with some limitations. Make sure you’re familiar with the terms of the warranty before you start using the vacuum. This way, if something does happen to the device, you’ll be prepared to have it fixed or replaced without problem.

Once you’ve figured out what your needs are, you can start comparing brands. With so many handheld vacuums on the market today Decker suggests figuring out your needs first.

Things to note about handheld vacuums

“This category serves as a fantastic, convenient supplement to your cleaning routine, making quick work of crumbs and fur before it tracks-trough and gets ground-in to your flooring,” she said. “Handvacs are best for quick pickups of food crumbs after dinner (versus traveling through the long, complicated ‘bowels’ of your big vacuum, where it may also sit and rot after too long a time).”

“99 percent of the time,” these vacuums are bagless as well as cordless and rely on a rechargeable battery, according to Decker. “This means that even the best of them are not super powerful and will still require a lot of maintenance to empty and clean them out (often with every use),” she said.

Also, because of their smaller size, handheld vacuums’ dust bins have a lower capacity and typically don’t hold a ton of dirt. “They’re also generally of poorer quality, are more fragile, prone to catastrophic electrical problems and do not last as long as a corded, bagged or full-sized vacuum,” she said. “Arguably, they are also very expensive for what they are — often rivaling or exceeding the cost of a regular vacuum. But that’s the price for convenience.”

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Kathy Turley, director of marketing at Home Clean Heroes, a professional home-cleaning service with franchises across the country
  • Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics, retailer of electronics, appliances and home goods
  • Rachel Decker, certified vacuum technician and co-owner of retailer Queen Vacuum and Homecare
Why trust NBC Select?

Lauren Levy is a freelance writer for NBC Select.

Cory Fernandez is a commerce editor at NBC Select, where he covers food, cleaning, wellness and lifestyle content. He updated this story.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Lauren Levy

LaurenLevyis a contributor with work published on The Knot, PopSugar, CafeMom,, Bridal Guide and

Cory Fernandez

Cory Fernandez is a commerce editor for Select on NBC News.

How to choose the best handheld vacuum, no matter your mess (2024)
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