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 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 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 75 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 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 HoLife HM036E is the best handheld vacuum for bare floors that we've tested. This lightweight cordless model is exceptionally good at cleaning bare floors, as it easily clears pet hair and debris like cereal and rice. It feels sturdy and has a simple design that makes it decently easy to maintain. There aren't many recurring costs because only one part, the allergen-trapping HEPA filter, needs regular replacement.
It comes with a few accessories, like a crevice tool to help you reach tight spots and a little brush that makes cleaning out the dirt compartment easier. The battery lasts a little over 20 minutes on a full charge, which is decent, and there's also an indicator light that tells you when it's running low. It also does a good job on high and low-pile carpets, in case you have the occasional rug to clean, and even comes with a liquid nozzle to clean up spills, although we don't currently test that feature.
Unfortunately, the dirt compartment is small and needs to be emptied more often. Also, if it's used to clean up liquids, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned and allowed to dry completely before being used again. However, if you're looking for something that can easily tackle messes on your countertops, the HoLife is one of the best handheld cordless vacuums that we've tested.
If you want a handheld vacuum that's more suitable for cleaning large areas, you may want the Shark Rocket Pet Pro instead. This stick/handheld vacuum can't be used to suck up liquid spills and isn't as portable as the HoLife HM036E, but it delivers a superb performance on bare surfaces like linoleum or hardwood. You can use it in a stick configuration, making it more suitable for cleaning big areas and under low-lying furniture like couches and coffee tables. It also has a more spacious dirt compartment, so you can empty it less often. However, while it incurs fewer recurring costs than the Shark, it's more difficult to maintain and not as well-built.
If you want a handheld vacuum to spot-clean small messes on your floors or counters, go for the HoLife. If you want something that's also suitable for bigger areas, consider the Shark instead.
The best handheld vacuum for carpet that we've tested is the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. This cordless handheld model is a great choice for spot-cleaning, as it does a remarkable job of clearing everything from pet hair to fine debris like baking soda on both low and high-pile carpet.
It's well-built and easy to maintain, with very few parts that require routine servicing. Since its dust cup filter is its only disposable part, recurring costs are pretty low. It's also lightweight and small enough to be used in far-off areas like the inside of your car. It comes with a crevice cleaner, a hard bristle brush, and a turbo brush to deal with everything from stuck-on dirt to messes on furniture upholstery. Its dirt compartment is relatively spacious for a handheld appliance too.
Unfortunately, it provides just over 10 minutes of battery life on a single charge, which means you'll need to work quickly when dealing with larger messes. Short battery life aside, its versatile performance and compact design make it one of the best multi-surface vacuums that we've tested.
The Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet is the best handheld vacuum in the budget category that we've tested. This cordless vacuum has a compact, lightweight design that feels decently sturdy and is reasonably easy to maintain. It comes with a combination extension wand/crevice tool as well as a motorized turbo brush to deal with messes on furniture too.
It does a fantastic job of clearing debris from bare floors, ranging from pet hair to bulky debris like cereal, not to mention smaller debris like rice. It also does an okay job of clearing various kinds of debris, like sand or baking soda, from low and high-pile carpets. It has a relatively spacious dirt compartment for a handheld vacuum, so it shouldn't need to be emptied too often. Depending on power settings and usage patterns, you can also expect roughly anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes of runtime.
Unfortunately, it lacks an allergen-trapping HEPA filter, which could be a little annoying if you have heavily-shedding pets. It also has a couple of recurring costs in the form of its disposable pre-filter and main filter. Otherwise, if you're looking for a versatile handheld vacuum at a budget-friendly price, this is a good option.
If you're looking for a smaller handheld vacuum, consider the BISSELL AeroSlim. It has a much shorter battery life than the Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet and doesn't come with a turbo brush, but it's more portable, courtesy of its smaller, lighter construction. It does a similarly superb job of cleaning up pet hair from a wide variety of surface types but struggles somewhat with bulky material like cereal, which can block the entry to its very small dirt compartment. Fortunately, it feels well-made and incurs almost no recurring costs as long as it's properly taken care of.
Get the Black+Decker if you want a more versatile handheld vacuum, but consider the BISSELL if you prioritize portability above all else.
Mar 19, 2021: Verified that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their category.
Feb 19, 2021: Added the Shark Wandvac System WS620 to Notable Mentions. Checked that we're still recommending the best products and that they're in stock.
Jan 21, 2021: Verified that we're still recommending the best products for our users and that they're in stock.
Dec 18, 2020: Added the Shark Vertex Lightweight Cordless to Notable Mentions.
Dec 07, 2020: Added the Shark ION F80 to Notable Mentions.
Nov 16, 2020: Replaced Dyson V11 Animal with Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ as 'Best Handheld Vacuum For Carpet', replaced Black+Decker dustbuster CHV1410L with Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet as 'Best Budget Handheld Vacuum', and replaced eufy HomeVac H11 with BISSELL AeroSlim as 'More Portable Alternative'.
Oct 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.