Handheld vacuums are a great option if you're looking to clean small spills around the home. They're lightweight, portable, and due to their small size, they're especially handy when tackling more difficult or uneven terrain such as 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 occasionally 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 40 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best handheld vacuums to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their performance on different types of surfaces but also on their feature set, battery life, and price. For more buying recommendations, take a look at our list for the best lightweight vacuums, the best vacuums for stairs, and the best cordless vacuums.
The best handheld vacuum for bare floors that we've tested is the HoLife HM036E. This well-built cordless model does an outstanding job of picking up pet hair as well as debris such as cereal and rice on bare floors. While we don't currently test this feature, it also comes with a liquid nozzle attachment to clean wet messes.
It comes with a couple of tools and brushes, like a hard bristle brush and a small cleaning brush to help you clean the dirt compartment. It has a decently long battery life as it can last over 20 minutes on a single charge, and it has a power indicator light to let you know when its battery is running low. Although it has a few parts that need regular maintenance, the HEPA filter is its only recurring cost, which is pretty decent. If you have a couple of carpets around the house, it also does an overall good job on this surface type.
Unfortunately, it needs thorough maintenance right after using it to clear wet spills, and the motor has to be clean and dry before using it again. Its dirt compartment is also pretty small, so you need to empty it quite regularly. Still, if you're using it to spot clean in the kitchen or on other bare surfaces, it's one of the best handheld cordless vacuums that we've tested.
If you're looking for a vacuum that can tackle countertop spills one moment and easily clean your kitchen floors the next, check out the Shark Rocket Pet Pro. While it's heavier than the HoLife HM036E and it doesn't have a liquid nozzle, it's a hybrid stick/handheld model that can be used to spot clean, as well as tackle messes in larger areas. It has a fantastic performance on bare floors too, and you should have no problem cleaning countertops or linoleum. Its battery life also lasts longer when used in its least powerful mode. However, it requires a bit more regular maintenance, and due to its stick body, it can also be a bit more difficult to store.
Consider the HoLife if you're looking for a lightweight, portable vacuum to clear the occasional small mess. However, if you're looking for a more versatile one for small as well as large messes, and you don't mind having to reconfigure it each time, go for the Shark.
The Dyson V11 Animal is the best handheld vacuum for carpet that we've tested. This hybrid stick/handheld can easily be reconfigured into a handheld by detaching its wand. Although it has a mostly plasticky build quality, it doesn't feel too heavy in hand, making it easy to take it with you from one place to another.
It has a great overall performance on carpet. On shaggy, high-pile carpet, it's able to pick up most pet hair as well as a significant amount of finer debris like baking soda. It's also able to tackle bigger debris like sand as the brushroll can agitate the textile. If you're cleaning your car, it also does a very good job picking up pet hair, sand, and baking soda. It comes with a variety of tools and brushes to help you clean too. All of its parts clip together, and so even though it requires regular maintenance, it's fairly easy to access each part. It has virtually no recurring costs either, so long as you take care of its parts.
Unfortunately, although it's easy to assemble this vacuum, reconfiguring it into a handheld mode can be a little frustrating if you want to tackle a small spill. If you need a bit more power by using its 'Boost' mode, its battery lasts under 10 minutes. Luckily, if you're using its less powerful 'Eco' mode, you can vacuum for over 70 minutes in one go. If you're looking for a handheld that you can also use for cleaning larger amounts of carpet, this is one of the best handheld cordless vacuums we've tested.
The Black+Decker dustbuster CHV1410L is the best budget handheld vacuum that we've tested. If you're shopping on a budget, this cordless model is lightweight and easy to store. It's also easy to assemble, which is great if you need to spot clean or tackle small messes around the home.
It's best suited for bare floors like kitchen countertops where it can pick up pet hair as well as cereal and rice. While its performance on carpet is less impressive, it still does a fair overall job on low and high-pile carpet. It comes with a combination crevice tool to help you get into hard-to-reach places and a hard bristle brush for tackling stubborn dirt. There aren't very many parts that need maintenance either, and its cloth filter is the only recurring cost, which is pretty manageable.
Unfortunately, its battery life lasts around 10 minutes, and it can take almost four hours for it to fully charge up again. Like many other handhelds, it also has a somewhat small dirt compartment, so you may need to empty more frequently. That said, if you're on a budget, this cordless handheld vacuum is well-built and is a suitable choice for spot cleaning or clearing the occasional mess.
If you're looking for a handheld vacuum that's a bit lighter to use, try the eufy HomeVac H11. While it's not as effective on bare floors as the Black+Decker dustbuster CHV1410L, it's even more portable, which is well-suited for users who don't want to use heavier vacuums. Its battery lasts around 13 minutes and takes less time to recharge than the Black+Decker. Although its performance on all surface types falls a bit short, it's decently easy to maintain and has minimal recurring costs. It also comes with a combination soft bristle brush and extension wand for cleaning hard-to-reach places.
Consider the Black+Decker if you're looking for a handheld with a well-rounded performance on all surface types. However, if you need something a bit more lightweight, check out the eufy.
10/26/2020: Added the BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033 to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best handheld vacuums. 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.