Handheld vacuums are a great option if you're looking to clean small spills around the home. They're lightweight and portable, and due to their small size, they're handy when tackling more difficult or uneven terrain, like inside your car or on your stairs. Some stick or canister vacuums also have a handheld configuration, making them even more versatile if you need to clean larger areas. Unfortunately, handheld vacuums tend to have small dirt compartments. If they're cordless, they may also have a shorter continuous battery life than non-handheld vacuums.
We've tested over 130 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best portable vacuums with a handheld design to buy. These picks are selected based on their performance on different surfaces and their feature set, battery life, and price. For more options, see our lists of the best lightweight vacuums, the best vacuums for stairs, the best car vacuums, the best Dyson vacuums, and the best cordless vacuums.
The best handheld vacuum we've tested is the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. This compact vacuum delivers excellent performance on bare surfaces like countertops and shelves, and it's powerful enough to draw out debris from rugs and carpets. Its lightweight construction makes it easy to bring wherever you need it in your home, and while it's on the larger side for a handheld vacuum, it's still small enough to stow away in most cupboards and closets. Its dirt compartment is also fairly large for a vacuum of this type, so it won't need emptying at the end of every single spot-cleaning job. In terms of attachments, it comes with a crevice tool, a hard-bristle brush, as well as a miniature turbo brush with a self-cleaning brushroll, but it isn't very effective in removing pet hair from upholstery.
Unfortunately, this vacuum can only run for about 10 minutes of runtime on a single charge, so you'll need to work fast when cleaning larger messes. There's no way of adjusting its suction power, which would help conserve battery life when sucking up very lightweight debris. It also does a terrible job of sealing in particles like pet dander or fine dust, so it isn't the best option if you suffer from allergies.
The best cordless handheld vacuum at a mid-range price point that we've tested is the Black+Decker dustbuster Hand Vacuum. It's bulkier and feels more fragile than the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+, but it has a few advantages aside from its cheaper price tag. Its dustbin is even bigger and won't need emptying as often. It also uses cheaper filters, resulting in lower costs of ownership. It excels when clearing away debris on hard surfaces like countertops or hardwood floors and does a good job of dealing with debris in cracks and crevices, thanks to a built-in crevice tool, but it does have a harder time with debris embedded in carpet fibers.
The selection of attachments is very limited, with only the aforementioned slide-out crevice tool and a flip-out hard-bristle brush; there's no straight-suction upholstery tool or miniature turbo brush to make cleaning fabric furniture easier. It can only run for a little over 10 minutes on a single charge, which isn't very long, even by the standards of other handheld models, and takes over three hours to recharge. Even worse, its battery isn't designed for replacement, so you can't swap in a new pack if the current unit's performance degrades over time.
The best cordless handheld vacuum at a budget-friendly price that we've tested is the BISSELL AeroSlim. It can't compete with the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ in debris pickup, and due to its highly compact size, its dustbin is smaller than that of the Black+Decker dustbuster Hand Vacuum, so you'll need to empty it regularly. However, this also makes it easier to carry around or stow away when not in use than either of those pricier models. While bulky debris can clog its narrow suction inlet, it does a fantastic job of sucking up pet hair as well as small, lightweight solid debris. It can run for about 15 minutes on a single charge, which is fairly normal for a vacuum of this size and intended use.
While there's no wide-aperture upholstery nozzle or miniature turbo brush tool for cleaning larger fabric surfaces, this vacuum comes with a crevice tool that you can use to extend your reach in tight spots. It also comes with a slide-on soft-bristle brush for cleaning dust off delicate surfaces.
If you suffer from allergies and want a vacuum that's effective in sealing in allergens, check out the Shark WANDVAC. It's pricier than the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ and doesn't perform as well on bare floors or carpeting, but it does a much better job sealing in fine particles, like dust or pet dander, even with the standard filter, which isn't even HEPA rated. If you want to increase its filtration performance by an even greater degree, several third-party manufacturers sell compatible HEPA-rated filters. It's also very small, making it easier to stow away when not in use.
While there's no miniature turbo brush for cleaning carpeted or fabric surfaces, it's still pretty effective in dealing with messes on furniture when used with its straight-suction upholstery attachment. Unfortunately, like the BISSELL AeroSlim, its dirt compartment is tiny. Worse yet, the Shark's battery performance is noticeably worse than the cheaper BISSELL, as it can only run for about 10 minutes on a charge. However, the BISSELL's bulky debris-pickup performance falls short of the Shark.
Feb 02, 2023: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for users.
Jan 05, 2023: Replaced Wyze Handheld Vacuum with BISSELL AeroSlim as 'Best Budget Handheld Vacuum' due to current availability. Added Wyze Handheld Vacuum to Notable Mentions.
Dec 09, 2022: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for user needs.
Nov 11, 2022: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best option for user needs.
Oct 14, 2022: Removed less relevant product recommendation categories. Removed less relevant Notable Mentions picks. Added iRobot H1 and BISSELL AeroSlim to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best portable vacuums to buy. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our handheld vacuum reviews. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no vacuum is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.