Best Handheld Vacuums of 2019

A handheld vacuum enables you to eliminate small messes quickly and easily. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best handheld vacuum for your cleaning needs.

Dust Busters: Your Guide to the Best Handheld Vacuums

Messes happen. And when they do, it's often easier to reach for a handheld vacuum than to bring out the full-size version. When crumbs hit the floor or Fido's hair balls up on the backseat of your car, you just want to make quick work of the cleanup. Handheld vacuums are ideal for small cleaning jobs.

Choosing the right handheld vacuum, however, can be complicated. Do you need a cordless handheld vacuum, extra accessories, a HEPA filter? How do you find the right handheld vacuum for you? That's where we come in.

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If you're ready to buy a handheld vacuum, check out our three favorites above. All are good choices. If you'd like to know more about handheld vacuums, including how to choose the right hand vac for you, you've come to the right place.

Use your handheld vacuum with an upholstery attachment to keep quilts, comforters, bed skirts, and other difficult-to-wash bedding dust-free.

Speed Cleaning: Why You Need a Handheld Vacuum

A handheld vacuum isn't going to take the place of your full-size vacuum. But owning both a handheld vacuum and a regular vacuum cleaner isn't redundant; each has its own particular strengths.

Handheld vacuums are ideal for cleaning areas difficult to access with a regular vacuum, such as the interior of your car, stairs, the insides of closets and other tight spaces, or narrow areas such as windowsills and shelves.

Handheld vacuums also shine when it comes to small cleanup jobs, such as spills or pet-hair pickup. Sure, you could break out the regular vacuum for those tasks, but it's faster and easier to tackle little messes with a hand vac.


Empty the Dirt Container Regularly for Best Performance

Don't let your handheld vacuum's dirt container get much beyond two-thirds full before emptying it. An overly full container cuts down on suction power.

Before You Buy: What to Look for in a Handheld Vacuum

One of the most important decisions to make when choosing a handheld vacuum is whether you want a hand vac with a cord or without.

  • Corded Handheld Vacuums: Corded handheld vacuums generally have more oomph than their cord-free counterparts, and runtime isn't an issue. With a corded handheld vacuum, you can vacuum for as long as you need.
  • Cordless Handheld Vacuums: Cordless handheld vacuums typically have a little less power. But for many people, the benefit of being able to use a handheld vacuum anywhere is worth the trade-off. The average runtime for a cordless handheld vacuum is around 15 minutes, however. After that, a cordless handheld vacuum will need to be recharged.

Almost all handheld vacuums are bagless, but there are a few models on the market that use bags to collect dirt.

  • Bagged Handheld Vacuums: If you suffer from severe allergies or asthma, a bagged handheld vacuum is easier to empty without exposing yourself to allergens. You'll have to purchase new bags separately, however, which is an added expense.
  • Bagless Handheld Vacuums: A bagless handheld vacuum collects dirt in a small plastic container, which detaches for emptying. This means you don't need to buy or change bags, but it does mean that you'll be exposed to dust while emptying the container.

Since you'll be holding the vacuum in your hand, a handheld vacuum shouldn't be too heavy. Most owners find that a handheld vacuum that weighs less than five pounds is best.

Cord Length
The longer the power cord, the better when it comes to a handheld vacuum. Look for a handheld vacuum with a cord that's at least 15 feet, although 20 feet is better.

While a handheld vacuum isn't going to have the muscle of a full-size appliance, it should still have enough power to get the job done. Fifteen or more volts for a cordless handheld vacuum and at least five amps in a corded handheld vac's motor are good guidelines.

A hose makes it easy to vacuum tight spaces, but not all handheld vacuums have one. Handheld vacuums that do are generally more expensive, heavier, and bulkier than those without a hose.

A handheld vacuum's filters keep dust from returning to the room or building up inside the device. A good handheld vacuum has a multi-stage filter or a HEPA filter to capture as much dust as possible. If the filter is washable, it should be easy to access.

Dirt Container
If your handheld vacuum is bagless, the dirt container should be large enough so that you don't have to empty it midway through your vacuuming session. It's easy to see how full the container is if it's made of clear plastic.

Battery Indicator
It's frustrating when your cordless vacuum runs out of power halfway through your chores. A battery indicator makes it easy to see how much power you have left.

You can buy an excellent handheld vacuum for under $50. High-end handheld vacuums with all the extras can cost up to $100.

Replace or wash your handheld vacuum's filters on a regular basis, and inspect them every few months. Dirty filters reduce suction power.

Perfect Match: How to Find the Right Handheld Vacuum for You

Do you have pets? If so, a handheld vacuum with a motorized brush, which is especially good for picking up pet hair, is your best option.

Do you want to use a handheld vacuum for dusting all around the house? Choose a handheld vacuum with a nice package of accessories, such as a crevice tool, dusting brush, and upholstery brush.

Will you use the handheld vacuum frequently? Some cordless handheld vacuums take a full day to recharge, so if you plan on using your hand vac daily, look for one with a quick recharge cycle.

Where will you store your handheld vacuum? Cordless handheld vacuums come with charging docks that need to be within reach of an electrical outlet. Some charging docks have wall mounts, while others are designed to sit on a shelf.

Do you want a handheld vacuum for cleaning your car's interior? If so, you'll probably want the longer runtime and stronger power of a corded handheld vacuum. If you prefer a handheld vacuum without a cord, look for a cordless hand vac with a long runtime — preferably 20 minutes or more.

Do you want to be able to clean up liquid spills? Some handheld vacuums can handle liquids. This is an especially useful feature if you have young kids or messy pets.


Vacuum Windowsills to Eliminate Allergens

Handheld vacuums are perfect for cleaning windowsills, which are hot spots for allergens. Vacuum windowsills once a week if allergies or asthma are problems in your household.

Handheld Vacuum FAQ

Q. Why isn't my handheld vacuum picking up dirt?
A. If your handheld vacuum loses suction, first check that the dirt container isn't too full. Check for clogs in the hose or vacuum nozzle, and then inspect the filters, cleaning or changing them if necessary. Most often, one of these three issues is the problem.

Q. Is it worth paying more for a handheld vacuum with a HEPA filter?
A. If you or anyone in your home suffers from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory problems, a HEPA filter will help by catching even the tiniest particles that cause respiratory flare-ups.

Q. Can I use my handheld vacuum to clean my carpets?
A. While a handheld vacuum can certainly be used to clean a small area of carpet or pick up pet hair, dust, or spills, a handheld vacuum isn't designed to vacuum a whole carpet, which is better left to a full-size vacuum.

Don't try to suck up metal or plastic items, such as coins, toys, or paper clips, with your handheld vacuum. Doing so will likely lead to a clog or a damaged motor.
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