Best Handheld Vacuum

Updated: Feb 21, 2024 7:00 PM
best handheld vacuum featured image that shows the top three best vacuum cleaner models

Are you looking for the best handheld vacuum to help with cleaning tasks around your home? It’s important to pick a model with a battery that won’t give out after just a few minutes – and a vacuum with enough power behind it to actually suck up that cereal, pet hair, or spilled dirt without letting it back out a few seconds later. We took a look at some of the very best models on the market, and here’s what we found. And when you are through with this guide, you can find other quality carpet cleaner alternatives on our best vacuum cleaner page.

Our choice for the best all-around handheld vacuum is the Black+Decker and Vac CHV1410L ($42.99), a vast improvement on previous models that has plenty of power but is also incredibly easy to use, with a charge cycle that only takes a couple of hours (B+D say it’s 5x faster than the average handheld) and suction that doesn’t decrease over time…plus super-simple attachments. But let’s take a closer look!

Best Handheld Vacuum

Black+Decker Hand Vac CHV1410LBissell Pet Hair EraserDyson V6
Rank#1 – Editor’s Choice/Best Cordless Handheld Vacuum#2 – Best Handheld Vacuum for Pet Hair#3 – Best Handheld Vacuum for Car
Amazon Rating4andhalf-starsfour-stars4andhalf-stars
NozzleInterchangeable, SlimInterchangeable, Motorized footInterchangeable, Slim/Motorized cleaning heads
Dust TrappingSingle Filter, CyclonicDual filtration2-Tier Cyclonic/Carbon fiber filaments
Air Watts15.2Unknown100
Weight3.8 pounds4.5 pounds4.5 pounds
Buy NowBuy NowBuy Now

How We Choose the Best Handheld Vacuum

While suction power and capabilities are important for all vacuum cleaners, powerful suction is particularly important for handheld models, because too many handhelds tend to have weak suction and sealing that make them ineffectual for many cleaning tasks like removing dirt and grime with handheld steam vacuums. So we ask questions like, “How well does the handheld keep dust inside the vacuum cleaner? Does it just blow out again? What about larger objects like pet food? Can the model pick dirt up without it falling back out again?”.

Suction is also measured by a number of varying specifications that can help rate direct power. For handhelds, the spec is usually “air watts” which isn’t really a physical measurement, but a combination of two other measurements: water lift and airflow CFM (cubic feet per minute). For example, our Dyson model has a 100 air watt rating, making it ideal as a shop vac or a tool for cleaning larger messes. Our top pick has 15 air watts, making it more suitable for average household cleaning and dusting activities.

Since most of these units tend to be battery-powered handheld vacuum models, we also look at battery performance. On normal suction modes, we like to see around 20 minutes of good vacuuming time, and if that drops down toward the 15 or even 10-minute mark, we generally dismiss the model. However, we also consider how long the vacuum cleaner takes to recharge – most require a few hours in the charging dock – and how much “fade” the unit has, or how suction power decreases alongside the battery level while you clean.

Other factors we considered to find the best-rated handheld vacuum include the dumping and cleaning processes – no one likes a vacuum cleaner that’s hard to empty and cleanout. That is why we like easy canisters that unlock and dump in seconds without scattering dust and debris everywhere. We also pay close attention to the nozzle types and how well they work on objects around the house. Nozzles shouldn’t be too big or too small for average tasks!

Why You Should Buy a New Handheld Vacuum

New handheld vacuum models provide far more power and versatility than older models. Around 20 years ago, an affordable handheld was fine for dust and a little dirt, but couldn’t really handle real messes caused by pets or children. Today’s models come with a lot more power (actually, many different vacuums now have power upgrades) and much better handling of debris, making them very effective when it comes to spot cleaning in case of accidents or more, like a solid vacuum for pet hair. The batteries last longer, too!

If you don’t have a wireless vac yet, then consider the advantages. No cords to trip over, lightweight vacuum models that you can use to vacuum multiple surfaces, and freedom of movement all around your home versus corded models! This makes handheld vacs ideal in a number of circumstances: If you have plenty of upholstery and tricky corners or stairs, these models can reach where other vacuums cannot. That same quality makes them ideal for cleaning cars or garage areas, which are challenging for even a cordless stick vacuum to clean. They are also great at spot cleaning after accidents!

Also check out our Shark Cordless Vertex Pro Powered Lift-Away review for another great handheld vacuum.

 #1  Black+Decker Hand Vac CHV1410L Handheld Vacuums

Award: Editor’s Choice/Best Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Nozzle: Interchangeable, Slim | Dust Trapping: Single Filter, Cyclonic | Attachments: Yes | Weight: 3.8 pounds

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: An affordable model that can do a little bit of everything.

Picking the top model for the best handheld vacuum wasn’t an easy choice. Should we go for pure power? Should we pick the best vacuum for pet hair? What about how to remove hair from a vacuum roller, what then? But ultimately we decided to go with the model with great ease of use, affordability, and a middle-of-the-road approach that makes it suitable for all kinds of tasks. The nozzle is wide enough to clean upholstery with ease but slim and long enough to dig into dirty areas. The 18.2 air watts proved to be enough power to get the job done (and pull up larger bits), and the lithium-ion battery charges quickly – which means less waiting on your end.

The bowl and filters are removable with a basic snap-on/off mechanism that’s one of the easiest we found. The vacuum cleaner is also cyclonic, which means it spins the air stream around the canister to funnel out the dust as effectively as possible without gumming up filters too quickly. This is a feature necessary for many of the highly-rated computer vacuums, too. The attachments include a great flip-up brush that you can use for cars or vehicles and then switch for vacuuming mats or floors. This also makes the model one of the best handheld vacuums for stairs if you have a lot of carpet throughout your house.

The one weird issue we noted was the charging method – this hand vac comes with a little “dish” that you need to lock the vac into for recharging, instead of a wall mount. It’s a weird decision that takes a lot more room and trouble than necessary, and we’re not sure why it’s designed this way – but you’ll have to overlook it for the many other benefits of this model. You can compare it to the best vacuum cleaner and decide for yourself.

 #2  Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Handheld Vacuums

Award: Best Handheld Vacuum for Pet Hair

Nozzle: Interchangeable, Motorized foot | Dust Trapping: Dual filtration | Attachments: Yes | Weight: 4.5 pounds

Also check out our Bissell Aeroslim review for another great handheld vacuum.

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Great attachments and filtration help this vac to stand out.

Annoyed by pet hair and similar tangles or messes, especially on your furniture or in your car? This model is made just for you. It comes with a little motorized accessory with felt lining that quickly grabs and removes pet hair on just a couple passes, which is great to see from this model alongside other top handheld vacuums for pet hair. This also makes the model one of the best handheld vacuums for stairs if you have a lot of carpet throughout your house.

We’re also fans of that dual-action filtration system, which takes a little work to keep clean but is excellent if you also want to remove pet dander or allergens while vacuuming. Oh, and if that big brush isn’t really what you are looking for, the vac does come with other attachments for additional tasks. Aside from the flip-up brush, this cordless hand vacuum also comes with a crevice tool and has a washable filter. Smart Charge Technology also protects this hand vacuum so it maintains a long run time each time you use it.

 #3  Dyson V6 Handheld Vacuum

Award: Best Handheld Vacuum for Car

Nozzle: Interchangeable, Slim/Motorized cleaning heads | Dust Trapping: 2-Tier Cyclonic/Carbon fiber filaments | Attachments: Yes | Weight: 4.5 pounds

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: One of the most powerful handheld vacuums around.

No, this doesn’t look like a handheld – because this V6 is actually a convertible model that comes with both handheld and upright modes. You can simply pop off the top for handheld cleaning, and reattach the brush roll if you want to tackle floor-based messes. The handheld mode, with around 20 minutes of battery life, is incredibly powerful and perfect for giving your car a once-over (including a variety of brush/motorized attachments). Plus, the motorized cleaning head with carbon fiber filaments for dusting is suitable for cleaning both carpets and hard flooring when necessary. Not only can this vacuum cleaner do a little of everything, but it’s also light, flexible, and – with trigger-based controls – very easy to use.

However, there are a couple factors that kept this Dyson from being the best handheld vacuum overall, most important of which was the price: paying around $280 for a handheld is more than a lot of buyers are looking for. Most average homes won’t really be able to find a use for this amount of power, but if you plan on using the Dyson for larger projects in your shop or for regular car detailing, then this is the perfect choice for you!

Also check out our Dyson Omni-Glide review for another great handheld vacuum.

What to Look for When Buying the Best Handheld Vacuum

Adjustable Nozzle/Attachments

  • The best rated handheld vacuum models tend to have nozzles that are perfect for their respective tasks, from picking up certain debris like food and kitty litter to getting into tight spots. All of our models have several attachments that you can switch between. The Bissell comes with a motorized foot brush tool that can easily pick up pet hair.
  • The Dyson has skinnier tools that can rip dust out of corners or cushions. The B+D model goes for a middle-of-the-road approach but also has brush attachments for tougher jobs. These nozzle options are important if you want to get your money’s worth.

Large Enough Components

  • Is that nozzle large enough to successfully pick up the messes you need to clean? Is the canister suitable for the kind of debris you want to clean up? Are the attachments too small to clean as much surface area as you have in mind? A handheld vacuum cleaner is supposed to be small and typically can’t have a extendable hose or enormous dust canister like a full-size vacuum, but it shouldn’t be too small for taking care of your messes. It’s good to find a balance between efficient but also versatile in order to get into those tight spaces.

Different Battery Modes

  • One of our favorite features is an ability like our Dyson pick has, which offers extra “turbo” power for a few minutes at a time when you need to tackle the absolute worst of the worst messes. Turbo modes like this, as well as ECO modes that save on battery power, give you valuable customization options…as long as you remember to use them.

Easy-to-Clean Canister

  • We talked about judging canisters above, but we want to underline this: some canisters just aren’t easy to open. You don’t want to scatter dust everywhere whenever you try to dump out debris.
  • You also don’t want to take out a bunch of components whenever you need to clean or replace your filter, so look for top-rated canister vacuums that are generally easy to break open and snap back together again in a minute or less.


  • Filtration may not be necessary on a handheld vac, but it sure is nice – and it helps guarantee better dust control, which is important for handheld cleaning projects. If you want to clean up a lot of dusty corners, look for a model that has at least one or two filters. If you’re more interested in cleaning up larger debris only, it won’t be as necessary. High-efficiency filters (like HEPA models) are rarely seen on handhelds because their use is limited, so if you want HEPA filtration for allergens you may want to look at an upright vacuum.
  • An upright vacuum provides more suction power in general, so if you need to prioritize efficiency and have a larger space to clean, then an upright might be the better choice. If you need to clean smaller areas like a car or your desk space, then consider a handheld model.

A Good Fit

  • When we talk about fit, we’re referencing specifically how it fits in your hand.
  • Even among the models we’ve chosen, there’s a lot of difference between handles and controls; from trigger-like arrangements to swooping handles. Look for something that fits your hand and isn’t uncomfortable to angle into deep corners. It can be hard to judge based on photos alone, but for furniture, we’re fans of the Dyson approach, while for floors we like the Black+Decker handle style for ease of use and overall comfort.

Read More: Best vacuum cleaner for carpets

Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t buy for the nozzle while ignoring the power. We’re talking about looking at the outer design of a model and saying, “That looks perfect for what I need,” without taking a look at the suction capabilities and power of the model. The best nozzle in the world won’t do you much good unless you can also suck up the specific types of debris you plan to clean. Remember to take a look at internal specs as well as external options too.

Also, remember to note the weight. It’s easy to assume that all handhelds are lightweight, but the truth is that 1) Handhelds have a lot of different weight classes, and 2) Handheld weight is very important, possibly even more important than the weight of full-sized models. You’re the one who needs to hold, push, and maneuver the handheld for your cleaning project, and if your wrist gets tired you’ll be wishing you had chosen a lighter model instead.

Finally, think about durability. Handheld vacuums are not the most durable devices in the world, so instead of just buying the cheapest you can find, look for those that last a long time and have good warranties. Sometimes the best way to save money is to find a more expensive vacuum upfront that will last for years, instead of needing to be replaced every couple of months at a discount.

Feature/AspectBest Handheld VacuumTraditional Vacuums
AttachmentsSpecialized for various tasksStandard, less diverse
Size and PortabilityCompact, efficient designLarger, bulkier
Battery and Power ModesTurbo and ECO modes for flexibilityContinuous power, corded
Canister UsabilityEasy-to-clean, quick accessVaries, some less user-friendly
Filtration and ErgonomicsSelective filtration, ergonomic handlesOften HEPA filters, bulkier designs
Weight and DurabilityLightweight, importance of durabilityHeavier, durability varies
Handheld Vacuums VS Traditional Vacuums

What Else You Should Think About

When looking for the best handheld vacuum, more information is always a valuable resource to have. If you want to learn more about specs like air watts and how they describe the power of a vacuum cleaner, you can learn how the equation is created and what it means with a little research. Likewise, some of the models we picked boasted about things like advanced lithium-ion batteries. Not sure what that means or if you should care? Read up on these rechargeable batteries to learn more.

We also encourage you to look at other cordless models on the market. There are very slim, cordless uprights that can be converted to handhelds and are more suitable for larger messages and more power – something like the Dyson DC35 may be a better fit for what you have in mind if you aren’t sure. We also have a list of the best Dyson vacs that may help you compare handheld vacuum models with other options too!

Tyler Lacoma Avatar

Learn More About Vacuum Cleaners