The Best Handheld Vacuum (Corded or Cordless) – Top 8 Cleanest
Moving into a new home or apartment usually requires buying the major appliances you’ll need for daily life and maintenance. And a powerful vacuum cleaner is certainly one of the tools you’ll want to have in your home on day one.
A smaller, handheld vacuum doesn’t immediately make it onto most peoples’ list, though. You’re more likely to realize that you need a smaller unit only when you’re wrestling with your shiny new, monstrous Dyson or Hoover, simply trying to clean some spilled cereal or tracked-in dirt.
Please find our detailed analysis, buying guide and test results of all the best handheld vacuums after the summary table.
Also, don’t forget to check out our list of models to avoid – in the section called “Products the Groom+Style Team Did Not Fancy!”
The Utility of Handheld Vacuums
Handheld models are naturally invaluable for small, everyday cleaning jobs, but the versatility of the best handheld vacuums also allows you to easily take care of many medium-sized tasks both in the home and out of the home such as the car. And if you haven’t used a portable vacuum in recent years, you’d be surprised at how advanced the technology has become.
Sure, you can still buy tiny vacuums similar to the Dust Busters that first came out 40 years ago. But there are also models with amazing suction that can rival many upright or canister models, along with flexible hoses and helpful attachments which can get into spaces like car seats, window sills and tight corners that bigger vacuums can’t handle.
The Groom+Style team has rigorously reviewed all of the handheld models on the market and determined the five best currently available. We’ll get to our honor roll after some quick tips on making your decision.
Get the Right Handheld Vacuum for the Jobs You’ll Be Doing
The first choice you’ll face is whether to buy a corded or cordless model.
If you plan on using the unit mostly in one area like a workspace or kitchen, a corded vacuum will provide continuous cleaning power without the need to stop and recharge the battery periodically. You’ll want a long power cord, though, so you’re not constantly moving from outlet to outlet.
Cordless handhelds are extremely convenient when you plan to take them around the house, into the garage and outside to clean out the car. Be aware, though, that most will only run for ten or twenty minutes per charge.
When choosing a cordless handheld vacuum, pay close attention not only to the amount of running time you get with one charge but how long each recharge will take. A lithium-ion battery will last longer and charge faster but may make the vacuum more expensive than one with a NiCad battery.
Also consider the weight of your cordless handheld, since carrying a heavy model from place to place can quickly become a chore.
Handheld Vacuums and Suction Power – Cordless vs. Corded
Comparing the suction power of handheld vacuums can be confusing, especially corded vs. cordless models.
The best measure of suction is either airflow in CFM (cubic feet per minute) or air watts, but many manufacturers don’t offer either of those specifications. Even worse, some describe their suction in amps, volts or watts. Don’t panic, though. There’s a reason that different specs are used, and there’s a way to compare them.
Corded -> Here’s why there’s a discrepancy when CFM or air watts aren’t listed. In that case, the suction of a corded vacuum is usually rated in amps (and sometimes in watts, a common way of avoiding amps if the number is low).
Cordless -> On the other hand, cordless vacuums’ suction is measured in volts.
You can convert one to the other with formulas like amps x 120 = watts.
However, conversion is not an exact way to compare suction. It ignores factors like the efficiency of the motor and the vacuum. It doesn’t draw the important distinction between watts (which doesn’t tell you much about suction) and air watts (which does). Also, a manufacturer’s specification for amps may describe either the current used by the motor or by the entire vacuum. Simply using a conversion formula will usually give you a meaningless comparison.
|Here’s a better way to do it, if you’re juggling different units of measurements. Look to see where each model falls on a scale of “low” to “high.”
– You can expect the suction rating of corded handheld vacuums to range between 2-10 amps. The average (and minimum acceptable) rating is between 4-6 amps, with 6-8 amps considered powerful suction.
– For cordless vacs you’ll see suction ratings between 12-22 volts. The average is between 14-18 volts, with 15 volts the minimum you should accept and 18-20 considered powerful.
So if you are looking at a corded machine that’s rated at 4 amps, it’s on the low end of the corded scale.
A cordless model rated at 18 volts, though, is on the high end of the cordless scale. That tells you that the cordless unit has a lot more suction power than the corded one.
If possible, however, forget amps and volts and look at air watts or CFM. That’s a truly valuable comparison.
Additional Factors to Consider
The power of the unit isn’t the only important factor to consider. The size of the dirt container is equally important because smaller handheld models (most of which have bagless collection cups) must be emptied and cleaned more frequently than standard vacuums.
Another key factor: the accessories that come with the product. Crevice tools and upholstery brushes are common and important, but you may want specialized extras like motorized brushes for carpets or pet-hair attachments which are an enormous help if Fluffy sheds a lot.
Extendable hoses are also great for reaching tight spots or high areas. And you can find wet/dry handheld models if they fit your needs.
Finally, consider the filter. Some vacuums require replacements that are much more expensive than others, and you might want to invest in a model that has a HEPA filter which can remove allergens and dust mites as you vacuum.
Here’s our best handheld vacuum top 8 list. Let’s clean up.
1. Black & Decker CHV1410L Cordless Handheld Vacuum Review
When you’ve been in business for as many years as Black+Decker, your engineers are always searching for ways to improve on prior models. They did their job well when designing the CHV1410L.
It features a slim, rotating nozzle with a built-in crevice tool for tight spaces, which provides 50 percent more reach than any of the company’s previous handhelds. Combined with the “cyclonic action” that Black+Decker is known for, this new model is Groom+Style’s new favorite and #1 on our list of the best handheld vacuums – its long crevice tool and powerful suction means it excels as the best car vacuum cleaner and around the home.
If you’re not familiar with B+D’s cyclonic action, it basically spins collected dirt and dust away from the filter and into the collection bin. Here’s why that’s a big deal: keeping the filter clean is not only a time-saver, but it lets the vacuum maintain powerful suction even as it fills with dirt.
Speaking of dust collection, another feature the review team really likes is the translucent, bagless bin that lets you see when it’s time to empty the bowl, a one-minute task. The washable filters (including pre-filter) are equally as convenient because you don’t have to buy replacements regularly.
The CHV1410L has power to spare, able to pick up everything from fine dirt to cat litter with ease. It’s very lightweight and comfortable to use and runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which will give you 15-20 minutes of runtime on a charge. It’s also equipped with smart-charge technology, which turns the vacuum off after it’s charged; it can hold that charge for as long as 18 months so that it’s always ready when you need it.
|Black+Decker’s CHV1410 model is exactly what every home and car needs for quick clean-ups or spills that get into cracks and crevices. It’s a terrific dust buster.
Facts and figures for the Black+Decker CHV1410L Cordless Handheld Vacuum:
Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH MAX Lithium Flex Handheld Vacuum
Yes, here’s another B+D model, but what can we say? They make great cordless vacs, and this one is their best option at a higher price level.
This one is about as far from the old-school Dust Buster as you can get. It’s a pretty compact cordless unit and is shaped more like a canister vacuum – you have the option of using one hand or extending the hose and using two hands.
However, at 20 volts it’s a lot more powerful, it’s extremely flexible and it comes with a terrific assortment of accessories. Even better, it’s a lot lighter than our Groom+Style reviewers feared at first glance – and much less expensive than the relatively-comparable Dyson model we’ll get to shortly. Once again all these features means this vacuum cleaner is perfect for use in the car and around the house!
The review team liked the BDH2020FLFH most because of its versatility. This handheld comes with a four-foot long flexible hose, a nozzle and brush tool, a crevice tool, a pet hair brush and a pivoting floor head for an attachable stick. The combination allows you to easily clean high, clean low, clean corners, clean Fluffy’s hair and even use the stick to mimic a more traditional vacuum.
You’ll get about 15 minutes of vacuuming time with this Black+Decker model, and a charge of the lithium-ion battery takes about four hours, well within the parameters of the best handheld vacuums on our list. It’s rather noisy, definitely louder than your upright vacuum, but not objectionable for short vacuuming tasks.
Note: there are many variations of this model with different suction power, attachments and of course price – we have linked to a variety of these below (in order from most featured and powerful).
|The BDH2020FLFH will suck up almost anything you need it to (and is great for pet hair), and it’s a terrific value that will extract dirt from even the tightest spaces.
Looking deeper at the Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH MAX Lithium Flex Vacuum:
Dyson V6 Trigger Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Please note that Dyson has released a newer model called the V7 which is available at roughly the same price. It is effectively the same product with a longer battery life.
Check Dyson V7 Trigger Price on Amazon
You don’t need Groom+Style experts to tell you that the Dyson option is the most expensive on our list. You also don’t need us to tell you that it’s top-of-the-line and worth every penny if you are going to give your handheld vacuum a real workout.
The 100-watt V6/V7 Trigger is powered by a Dyson digital motor which provides great suction; what makes this model unique, though, is that it uses the company’s famous two-tier cyclone collection system with a total of 15 cyclones arranged for increased airflow – the key to effective dust collection.
This handheld normally runs for about 20 minutes on a charge (and takes 3½ hours to recharge) but has a “max power” mode for tougher jobs that gives you six minutes of maximum power for tough jobs.
The V6 looks more like a Star Trek weapon (or a stylish hand drill with a small gumball machine in the middle) than a vacuum. You hold it in one hand to operate the trigger, which only activates the lithium-ion battery when you actually need it and is great for saving battery power.
The oddly-shaped tool at the end of the handheld unit functions as both a regular head and a nozzle that can fit into tight squeezes. (A similar model, the Dyson V6/V7 Car and Boat comes with extra attachments and an upholstery tool.)
It may sound unwieldy, but this handheld is ergonomically designed and comfortable to use. The hygienic dust bin is easy to empty, too.
|The Dyson V6/V7 Trigger is a premium product and priced accordingly. It could be more handheld vacuum than you need, but as with all of their products, Dyson doesn’t disappoint.
Details for the Dyson V6 Trigger Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner: