Vacuuming is one chore most of us would rather skip — especially if it involves lugging an upright behemoth around the house. If that’s been your go-to machine for tackling messes and keeping your floors clean, you may also be facing that added frustration of dealing with a less-than-efficient vacuum.
In February, Consumer Reports stated that it can no longer recommend “the majority of upright vacuum cleaners we rate due to reliability issues,” noting that “seven of 12 brands of uprights break at such a high rate that they earn unfavorable ratings for predicted reliability.” Yikes.
Unfortunately, your house still has floors and those floors still need to be cleaned, as do your couch, car seat, and other fabric surfaces. With that in mind, consumers who are short on time and space are opting for handheld vacuums to tackle cleaning jobs. Before buying your handheld vacuum, you need to look at your specific cleaning needs. A corded vacuum doesn’t need to be charged but also has limited mobility. A cordless vacuum is much more flexible but does need to be recharged regularly, so a battery indicator that lets you know when to plug it in is an absolute must.
If you’re using a vacuum to suck up crumbs in your car, for example, make sure it’s cordless. If it’s to scoop up pet hair, get one that’s suitable for homes with cats and dogs. If it’s for your kitchen, you’ll need one that can tackle both spilled milk and cereal. If you’re in the market for one you’ll have carried up and down stairs, get a lightweight one. Parents whose kids bury Legos and other junk inside couch cushions will probably want one with an attachment hose to get into the nooks and crannies, so check to see what accessories it comes with. And of course, ensure the vacuum is itself easy to empty and clean out, so you don’t have a dust explosion that necessitates a second round of cleaning.
If you’re shopping for a new vacuum, check out these handheld vacs that are easy to use, reliable, and up for the task of cleaning even the toughest-to-reach spaces.
We love this vacuum's point and dump bin, which lets you empty it without ever touching a speck of debris.
Pros: This is an investment piece, and one you won’t regret buying. The Dyson handheld vacuum does it all. It has up to an hour’s worth of run time, and fully charges in just under four hours. It has a fully-sealed filtration system that traps 99.97 percent of particles, including those as small as 0.3 microns. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s perfect for pet owners and folks with allergies.
Cons: The price. Plus, it weighs about six pounds, so it’s definitely not the lightest vacuum out there. Still, if you have the cash and the upper body strength it’s a great option.
This small vacuum weighs less than a pound and comes with swivel steering and a lay flat handle, meaning it's designed to manuever into tight spaces.
Pros: Instead of a switch, this vacuum cleaner has a foot pedal to make turning it on and off easy. It also has battery life light indicators and can handle both carpets and hard floors.
Cons: This thing doesn’t come with any kind of hose or handheld attachments, so it’s really just a floor vacuum that lasts “up to 30 minutes” (read: not a ton of time) on a single charge.
A pet-centric handheld vacuum that sucks up fur and dander with ease.
Pros: The motorized brush tool agitates deep-rooted dander, dirt, and hair, making it easy for the vacuum unit to get it into the dirt cup. There’s also triple filtraton to keep your air clean, and upholstery and crevice tools for specific cleaning applications.
Cons: A compact unit means a compact battery, and this one only lasts for 17 minutes at most.
From dust and crumbs to pet hair and even liquids, this lightweight gadget is about to become your biggest helpmate. With three attachments, you can use this handheld vacuum to take care of a multitude of messes. The crevice tool gets down and dirty in those hard-to-reach spaces and corners. Put the dusting brush to work picking up hair or dirt from upholstery, while the liquid nozzle sucks up those unexpected spills with ease.
Pros: Thanks to its lithium battery, the Holife hand vacuum runs continuously for 30 minutes after charging for as few as four hours. You can clean a home of just over 1,600 square feet on a single charge. Customers also love that it’s whisper-quiet.
Cons: Some reviewers were disappointed in the suction, particularly when it comes to picking up pet hair and fur. There are better options for cleaning up after your furry friends.
Beloved for its strong suction, this handy vac features a translucent, bagless dirt bowl so you can see when it’s filling up and then empty and wash it easily.
Pros: With its trademark cyclonic action, the vacuum spins dust and debris away from the filter, ensuring that its suction remains strong. It’s lightweight, clocking in at under three pounds, and charges in four hours.
Cons: Several owners said their vacuum’s batteries didn’t deliver as promised. When they tried to get the units replaced, many encountered the same issue all over again. Others wish this vac could be wall-mounted rather than rest on the countertop.
At 1.4 pounds, this tiny dynamo lets you dump the debris it collects with the touch of a button so you’ll never get your hands dirty.
Pros: The vacuum is slim, yet powerful. An LED light indicates not only charging status but also remaining battery life as well. The docking station offers space to store the accompanying tools, which include a duster crevice tool and a multi-surface pet tool, to suck up dog and cat fur.
Cons: Some reviewers said their vac wouldn’t turn on even after hours of charging. Others felt the product was overpriced.
This vacuum cleaner doubles as a powered wet mop for hard floors, making it one of the most versatile floor cleaning devices you can buy. The ONEPWR battery that makes it go is compatible with an entire line of appliances from Hoover.
Pros: There are separate tanks for dirty and clean solution, along with a trigger that lets you spray extra cleaner on particularly tricky stains and spills. It vacuums and washes floors at the same time, a much faster alternative to sweeping and then mopping.
Cons: This is really only for hard floors and area rugs; you’ll need a separate device for carpets and high-pile rugs.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.