Don’t buy a cordless handheld vacuum cleaner to replace your main corded one. Even the best and priciest handheld models will disappoint when you want to vacuum large areas such as an entire room’s carpeting.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t need a handheld vacuum cleaner. Most people who have bought one have soon discovered they can’t live without one. Because where these smaller cordless models lack in terms of sheer power and run time they make up for in portability, convenience and unmatched versatility.

A large conventional model will not be of much help when you need to spot clean surfaces nor will it bend and flex to reach hidden nooks and crannies. You also cannot carry it in your car to keep the upholstery, footwells and other areas clean.

All these are things you can do with a cordless handheld vacuum cleaner. But it matters a lot the kind of handheld vacuum you buy. Factors like power, battery runtime and ease of use are very important. So we have put together a comprehensive buying guide on everything you need to know about handheld vacuum cleaners.

Cordless Handheld Vacuums – Our Top 5 Picks

We start with our own recommendations of the 5 best handheld vacuum cleaners you can buy today. We compared different factors to determine the brands that provide the best value at the best prices.

1. Dyson DC58 Animal Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

The Dyson DC58 Animal is one of the most powerful handheld vacs you can buy.

A 350W motor spins over 110,000 times a minute to create a powerful suction force.

With just a press of a button you can increase suction even further to the level of some traditional vacuum cleaners. The boost mode is great for pet hairs and stubborn dirt.

In normal mode, the battery lasts 20 minutes while in boost mode it provides a quick 6-minute power burst. Read our full review of the Dyson DC58 Animal.

What we like about it:

  • Several accessories available including a motorised tool and a combination tool.
  • Power boost for deeper cleaning.
  • Significantly longer run time compared to most other handheld vacuum cleaners.
  • Easy to use.

2. BLACK+DECKER 18 V Lithium-Ion Flexi Vacuum

If you are looking for something a bit more mid-range but still high performance try the BLACK+DECKER 18 V Lithium-Ion Flexi Vacuum cleaner.

For maximum flexibility it comes with a 1.5m hose that you can bend to reach any hidden out-of-the-way spots.

You can also clip the hose to make it rigid and use it as you would a normal handheld vacuum cleaner.

The Lithium-Ion battery provides a 15-minute run time. Read our full review of BLACK+DECKER Flexi Vacuum Cleaner.

What we like about it:

  • Flexible.
  • Accessories included.
  • Easy to use with hands-off dirt bin.
  • Powerful suction.

3. BLACK+DECKER 18 V Lithium-Ion Compact Pivot Vacuum

The Black and Decker Compact Pivot vacuum expands on the flexibility of the Flexi with a rotating nozzle that can pivot to a maximum of 200 degrees.

This allows you to squeeze the vacuum between tight spaces and around awkward corners.

Unlike most models, this handheld vacuum cleaner comes with integrated accessories.

So you can easily change between the soft brush (for upholstery, pet hair and delicate surfaces) and the crevice tool (for between cushions and other narrow spaces) without having to add or remove any tool.

It has a 10-minute runtime. Read our full review of Black and Decker Compact Pivot Vacuum.

What we like about it:

  • Flexible nozzle for easier cleaning.
  • Easy to use with hands-off dirt bin.
  • Integrated accessories.
  • Powerful suction.

4. Gtech Multi K9 Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

The Gtech Multi K9 Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner is a premium alternative to the Dyson DC58 Animal.

The Gtech Multi K9 focuses its design on durability, flexibility and power.

For durability it uses aluminium components to provide years of service without much wear and tear.

For versatility, it comes bundled with several attachments including a crevice tool, brush and flexible hose. Read our full review of The Gtech Multi K9.

What we like about it:

  • Versatile functionality.
  • Powerful suction.
  • Long run time (20 minutes).
  • Contains refillable scent tabs to leave your home or car smelling fresh.
  • Contains lights to illuminate the spot you are cleaning.

5. AEG AG71a RapidClean Stair and Car Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

It may be marketed as a car vacuum cleaner but the RapidClean can be used on different surfaces including your sofas, kitchen counter, small rugs and stairs.

The unit comes with two accessories: a stretch hose for longer reach and a crevice tool for cleaning tight spaces.

Without the accessories, the RapidClean vacuum cleaner uses a tough brush visor to agitate dirt and make it easier for the suction to pick. Read our full review of AEG AG71a RapidClean.

What we like about it:

  • Compact and lightweight for easy portability.
  • Easy to use.
  • Accessories included.
  • It’s corded, so you can vacuum for as long as you want without worrying about a dead battery.

Handheld Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide

Most people hesitate to buy handheld vacuum cleaners assuming that have too little suction to provide effective cleaning. As we mentioned in the beginning, a handheld vacuum cleaner is not a replacement for your main one but it has a crucial role to play in keeping your home (and car) clean and healthy.

It provides flexibility and portability that you cannot get from a conventional corded vacuum cleaner.

As you shop for a handheld vacuum cleaner, you will come across numerous models with different specs and numbers. Since they all claim to be the best, it can be confusing to choose the right one for your needs. Furthermore, prices are not always a dependable indicator of quality and performance.

To make the right choice, it’s important to consider a number of factors such as power, your cleaning needs and versatility. Let’s discuss each of these considerations in more detail.

1. Suction Power

This is the most important aspect of any vacuum cleaner. It is an indication of how much power the vacuum cleaner deploys to lift up debris and dirt. The higher the suction power the more powerful a vacuum cleaner is and the more energy it consumes.

Different manufacturers indicate suction power in various units. But the most common and accurate unit is Air Watts (AW). This is the amount of power a vacuum cleaner uses to pull a unit of air through an opening.

Another common measurement of suction power is Airflow, usually denoted as CFM (cubic feet per minute). It measures the suction power of the vacuum cleaner’s motor while also taking into account resistance from components such as filters. The higher the CFM the more powerful the vacuum cleaner is.

AW is the unit you are going to find in most brands. A good handheld vacuum cleaner should be rated between 20 to 50 AW. The most powerful handheld vacuum cleaners can go up to 80 AW. The Dyson DC58 Animal for instance comes with a boost mode that increases suction power to 100 AW.

2. Features and Accessories

The effectiveness and performance of a handheld vacuum cleaner relies a lot on the tools it comes with. These accessories allow you to clean different areas with ease. Here are the most important features and accessories to look for.

  • Crevice tool – A handheld vacuum cleaner should have, at the very minimum, a crevice tool. It comes in really handy when you need to clean hard-to-reach spaces such as between cushions and behind appliances. Don’t buy a vacuum cleaner without one of these. It may come separate from the main unit or integrated into it.
  • Soft brush – another must-have accessory. A brush is important when you need to clean pet hair from upholstery and when you are dealing with delicate objects such as lamps and picture frames. As with a crevice tool it may come separate or as a permanent part of the vacuum cleaner.
  • Extendable hose – not all brands have this but we consider it important. A hose provides a longer reach for areas like walls, around corners and under the bed. If you can get a handheld vacuum cleaner with an extendable hose, that’s great. A good example is the BLACK+DECKER 18 V Lithium-Ion Flexi Vacuum cleaner.
  • Turbo/boost mode – some handheld vacuum cleaners such as the Dyson DC58 have a mode that increases suction power for a short period of time. It comes in handy when you need to pick stubborn dirt and things like pet hair. This feature is found mostly in premium models so be prepared to spend more if you want it.

Other features such as the integrated lights in the Gtech Multi K9 are nice but we don’t consider them essential.

3. Run Time and Type of Battery

With all their versatility, portability and reach, handheld vacuum cleaners have their share of disadvantages. The biggest one is that they cannot run for long. Since most are cordless – there are a few corded models – they have to rely on a battery for power.

A vacuum cleaner uses a lot of power to create suction powerful enough to pick up bits and debris from your upholstery. So even the best battery that can fit in the limited space of a handheld vacuum is not going to last long.

Most models are equipped with lithium-ion batteries that provide between 10 and 30 minutes of run time. The typical runtime however is usually 10-15 minutes. Some more powerful models such as the Dyson DC58 and the Gtech Multi K9 can run for 20 minutes before they need a recharge.

Generally, don’t go for any model that offers less than 10 minutes of battery power. We also recommend choosing a vacuum cleaner with a lithium-ion battery. It lasts longer, it charges faster and is fade-free (does not discharge when not in use).

4. Ease of Use Including Weight and Size

A good handheld vacuum cleaner should be a breeze to use. Ease of use is especially important if the vacuum comes with several accessories that need to be interchanged depending on what type of cleaning you need.

Check customer feedback to see what customers have to say about their experience. Did they struggle when attaching accessories? Did they find it easy to recharge the battery?

Another thing: look at the manufacturer specifications for details on weight and size. A good handheld vacuum cleaner should be light and compact such that you can clean without getting tired quickly.

The lightest models weigh around 0.7kg while the heaviest can go as high as 2.3kg. If you want a high performance premium vacuum cleaner, you’ll have to contend with a little bit more weight (around 2kg or more).

If you want a lighter model that still cleans well, you can find one weighing around 1.5kg. And if you want a highly portable model to carry in your car or to the office look for one weighing around 1kg.

5. Bin Capacity

Don’t forget to check the bin. This is the component where all the suctioned dust and debris are collected. The most important factor here is capacity.

While conventional vacuum cleaners can have bins measuring up to 5 litres in capacity, handheld models measure around 0.5 litres. Look for a model with a minimum bin capacity of 0.4 litres.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the advantages of handheld vacuum cleaners over traditional ones?

Handheld vacuum cleaners are much more flexible and versatile than traditional corded models. They can reach into tighter spaces such as between cushions, behind appliances and under furniture. They also have a longer reach because they are not limited by the length of the power cord. You can reach the full height of your walls with no problem.

Finally, handheld vacuum cleaners are easier to carry around because of their smaller size and weight. You can buy one for use in your car, boat or RV.

Q: How are handheld vacuum cleaners charged?

It depends on the specific model. Most models come with a power cord that you simply plug into the mains for charging. Newer models have a charging dock/station which is then connected to the mains. When you are done vacuuming, you simply set the unit on the charging station and it recharges automatically.

Charging time for most vacuum cleaners is four hours.

Q: Where can I use a handheld vacuum cleaner?

Handheld vacuum cleaners are meant for use on small surfaces such as tables, kitchen counter, sofas, bed, car seats and stairs. Because of limited suction power and battery life, they are not ideal for larger areas such as the flooring. That’s why we said the handheld vacuum cleaner is not a replacement for you main one but rather a complement.