While it’s hard to beat the deep clean of a powerful vacuum, those traditional upright or canister vacuums can be cumbersome to haul out for smaller messes or everyday cleaning. Enter: the handheld vacuum. Much easier to use on things like pet hair-covered couches or a crumb-filled car seat, they tackle small messes before they get bigger.
But in the years since Black + Decker released the Dustbuster — a true friend to clean-freaks and busy parents everywhere — more than four decades ago, handheld vacuums have changed and gotten even better. Today’s models boast more powerful motors and longer battery run times. Many have also been developed to tackle specific tasks, like hard-to-reach nooks or pet hair.
Like any vacuum model, handheld vacuum prices vary, from well under $50 up to several hundred dollars. But you don’t need to spend big to get a good vacuum. Basic jobs are usually fine with a budget model, and you can expect to spend in the $75-90 range for a more powerful motor for pet hair and heavier-duty messes. Not sure what handheld vacuum model is best for you? Read on to see our top picks.
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1. Shark WV201 Handheld Vacuum
It doesn’t look like a handheld vacuum you’re used to, but Shark’s stick vacuum offers some definite advantages. An easy-to-store charging base also has a small footprint: it can be tucked into kitchen counters or laundry rooms where it’s easy to access. The powerful suction lets you clean up messes with the flick of a wrist. Two attachments, which store at the base, allow you to clean even more effectively. A crevice tool is great for cars and other hard-to-reach areas, and a brush head is good for rugs and upholstery. Best of all, it’s under 2 pounds, making it even easier to reach for.
2. Bissell Pet Hair Eraser
You don’t have to be a pet owner to appreciate this handheld vacuum — but if you are one, pay attention. Much of what makes it great for owners of furry friends makes it great for any house dealing with a bigger-than-average daily mess. The motorized brush head makes it as close to a real vacuum as a handheld can go, helping lift away pet hair and more. A crevice head and upholstery head can also be used. Plus, this pet hair-inspired model can run up to 30 minutes on one charge.
3. Black + Decker Dustbuster
Dustbuster is the handheld vacuum that started it all. While there are more powerful options on the market, it remains a strong contender because it’s a great value-driven option — and it’s powerful enough to handle crumbs, spills and even broken glass. If you also just want something for frequent, smaller messes (tracked cat litter, we’re looking at you) you don’t need to invest in a more expensive model. It also comes with two attachments: a crevice tool and brush head.
4. Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum
The convenience of cordless comes with a drawback: what if you forget to charge it? Or run out of battery midway through a job? If your phone is frequently at 1% battery, you may want to consider getting a corded model. While you’ll have to find an outlet before using it, of course, you’ll never run out of battery again. You may even find it’s preferable for occasional use: you can simply pack it away and store it and not worry about leaving it plugged in, or charging it before storage. This Bissell model also has a hose attachment for higher, hard-to-reach areas, as well as a crevice and brush tool.
5. tineco a10 hero cordless vacuum cleaner
One reason that handheld vacuums often are purchased is for their convenience: no one wants to haul out a full-sized vacuum for a small mess. But Tineco’s A10 vacuum makes it nearly effortless to convert between a hand-held and stick model. When stored in its charging base, the motor and battery are locked in with all attachments stored behind it. Need to clean all your rugs? Attack it to the stick and brush heads and go. Just have a small mess? Click in the handheld attachments and you’re all set. No need to store two vacuums. The only downside is its price: if you already have a beloved full-size vacuum, you may be fine with a less expensive handheld model.