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 70 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 the convenience of a handheld vacuum but also have a lot of hardwood floors to clean, consider the Shark Rocket Pet Pro. This stick/handheld model isn't as well-built as the HoLife and can't be used to clean up liquids, but it has a similarly incredible performance on bare floors. Since you can use it in a stick configuration, it can be used over bigger areas and can be maneuvered much more easily under low furniture. It even has a brushroll and an upholstery tool, which can be helpful if you want to clean couches or rugs. It also has a bigger dirt compartment, and its battery can last over 40 minutes if you use the lowest power setting. However, it's heavier than the Holife and not as easy to store since it doesn't come with a rack or station.
Go for the HoLife if you want a lighter handheld to clean your countertops or spot-clean spills. If you'll also be using it to clean bigger areas like your kitchen floor, the Shark is a good alternative.
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 best handheld vacuum we've tested in the budget category is the Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet. This cordless model is lightweight and very portable. It has a decent overall performance on carpets, and also easily clears pet hair from bare floors.
If you use the lowest power setting, its battery provides nearly half an hour of continuous cleaning time, which is longer than many handheld vacuums. There's also a more powerful 'Boost Mode', which can help with tackling stubborn messes. It comes with a few tools and brushes, including a crevice tool for getting into narrow spaces and a turbo brush you can use to dislodge dirt from fabric-covered furniture.
Unfortunately, it incurs some recurring costs since its filters need to be replaced on a regular basis. In addition, while it has a decent build quality overall, some parts feel flimsy. Otherwise, if you're looking for an affordable handheld vacuum, it's a solid, versatile option.
If you want a smaller handheld vacuum at a budget-friendly price, consider the BISSELL AeroSlim instead. This cordless model doesn't perform as well as the Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet on any surface type, but it's much lighter and small enough to be stored in a spacious drawer or bag. It has decent overall performance on carpets and easily clears pet hair from bare floors as well as carpets. Also, thanks to its washable filters, it incurs virtually no recurring costs. Unfortunately, it fails to suck up bulky debris like cereal, which tends to get stuck at the entry of the vacuum. It also has a short battery life of about 13 minutes, so you need to work fast if you have a big mess on your hands.
If you want something with more versatile performance and longer battery life, go for the Black+Decker. If you're mostly looking for a handheld vacuum to clean up pet hair or just want something very portable, you may prefer the BISSELL.
01/21/2021: Verified that we're still recommending the best products for our users and that they're in stock.
12/18/2020: Added the Shark Vertex Lightweight Cordless to Notable Mentions.
12/07/2020: Added the Shark ION F80 to Notable Mentions.
11/16/2020: 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'.
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.