Best Handheld Vacuums to Tackle Tiny and Major Messes Alike: Cordless, Budget & More

Updated: May 03, 2024

Even small messes demand major cleaning power. Find out what the best hand vacuum options are for your dust-busting needs.

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Vacuuming is part of our regular cleaning routine. Cleaning carpets and rugs every few days keeps them looking fresh and tames pet hair and other allergens.

But how often do you vacuum other surfaces like under your couch cushions or over your heating vents or inside your car? Odds are not so frequently. That’s because lugging out your vacuum, taking it apart and finding the attachments to clean these tighter spots can be a real pain. That’s where a cordless hand vacuum comes in handy (pun intended).

But before you click “add to cart,” find out which cordless vacs are worth the money. If you’re going to do a deep clean of everywhere from your baseboards to your blinds, you want the right tool for the job. Our Test Kitchen did the dirty work for you.

How We Tested Handheld Vacuums

Our Test Kitchen gathered the most popular hand vacuums on the market and put them to the test in real homes. And we mean real—homes with everyday messes, plenty of pets and a lot of hustle and bustle. Each vacuum was used for cleaning carpets, hard surfaces, upholstery, mattresses, cobwebs—you name it.

Over the course of several weeks, our testers got a good feel for these cleaning tools, making notes on the following:

  • Performance: A good hand vac should perform well on all sorts of household surfaces including carpets, upholstery, window treatments and even pet beds.
  • Convenience: Hand vacuums should be convenient to use—more convenient than your full-size vac. A good mini vacuum should be comfortable to hold, easy to maneuver and simple to charge. For this test, we opted for all cordless options. There’s no doubt that being cord-free as you get into every nook and cranny of your home is just more convenient.
  • Battery life: These smaller cleaning devices are meant for quick tasks. This said, no one wants to take a break in the middle of a job to recharge their vacuum. A good hand vac should have enough power to last through basic chores like cleaning under the couch cushions.
  • Price: As always, we want great performance coupled with a price that matches.

Our Test Kitchen-Preferred Handheld Vacuums

After all this testing, our homes are sparkling clean thanks to these top-performing models—our Test Kitchen-Preferred hand vacs.

Best Top-of-the-Line Cordless Handheld Vacuum: Dyson Humdinger

Test Kitchen Preferred Dyson Humdinger Hanheld VacuumVia

For the deepest clean your sofa has ever seen, add the Dyson Humdinger to your shopping cart. This cordless handheld vac performed better than some testers’ full-sized vacuum cleaners—except for those lucky enough to be using Dyson’s powerful stick vac.

Right out of the box, you know this cordless vacuum is different. The grip on this gadget is not unlike a power drill. This makes cleaning surfaces from any angle (even reaching those corners of the ceiling with a few pesky cobwebs) easy. This unique shape also allows you to charge this cordless vac on a nifty wall mount that can easily be tucked away in a closet or out-of-the-way corner.

But let’s talk function! The Dyson Humdinger comes with a basic flat surface tool that works great to clean binds or pick up crumbs. It also has a crevice attachment that gets into tight spaces—like between the seats in your car. But this vacuum really proves itself when you slot in the motorized brush.

This transforms the compact cleaner into a mini vacuum with a brush roll that spins at lightning speed to pick up pet hair, crumbs, dust and things you never even knew were lodged in the corners of the carpet. A few swipes with this attachment on a throw rug that had just been vacuumed the day before, the Humdinger pulled up plenty of dirt and debris (the canister was full in four minutes flat!). It’s one of those gadgets that pick up what other cleaning products leave behind. And if you need any more cleaning power—switch to the MAX setting. You’ll hear the vacuum kick into high gear with even greater suction.

Yes, the Dyson Humdinger is a pricey bit of equipment, but it truly excels. With a unique design, tremendous suction and useful attachments, it’s a fantastic hand vac to have in your cleaning tool kit.

  • Attachments: Motorized brush tool (similar to a traditional vacuum), flat surface tool, crevice tool with removable brush
  • Other features: MAX mode for increased suction, wall-mounted charging station
  • Battery life: About 20 minutes, less on MAX mode
  • Price: $300

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Best for Small Messes: Shark WANDVAC

Test Kitchen Preferred Shark Wandvac Handheld VacuumVia

Want to have a picker-upper that’s always at the ready? That’s the Shark WANDVAC. This cordless vacuum was the smallest in our lineup but still gave a satisfying clean in tight spaces.

Small, lightweight and with a surprising amount of suction, the Shark WANDVAC can go anywhere. Paired with the multi-surface tool, it cleans up crumbs in the cushions fast. Fasten on the crevice tool and you can get all those bits that fell between the counter and the refrigerator. Add on the brush and you can finally give your keyboard the refresh it needs.

When you’re done cleaning those hard-to-reach places, the vac can go right back on the charging station. The compact charger, which holds the vac and all the accessories, takes up about as much space as a roll of paper towels so it can fit just about anywhere in your kitchen or home.

Because of this cordless vacuum’s size, it can’t cover a lot of area (that’s what your normal vacuum cleaner is for) or hold a lot of dirt. Fortunately, the small canister can be emptied and replaced in about three seconds so you can get right back to tidying up.

  • Attachments: Multi-surface pet tool and crevice tool with detachable brush
  • Other features: Small charging station with attachment storage, available in six colors
  • Battery life: About 15 minutes
  • Price: $120

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Browse more picks for the best Shark vacuums.

Best Budget Option: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Hand Vacuum

Test Kitchenpreferred Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Handheld VacuumVia

You can get a great cordless clean at a low price with the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Hand Vacuum. For $80, this vacuum collected plenty of fur, dander and dirt leaving our testers’ houses feeling fresh.

Like the Dyson model, Bissell’s handheld vac came with a motorized brush attachment which helps collect more dust and pet hair than with the vacuum alone. This cordless gadget cleaned up furry upholstery and pet beds easily. This attachment also was great for giving smaller carpeted areas, like steps or just the doormat, a quick cleanup.

Our testers also liked this model’s crevice tool. It cleaned the debris that collects around baseboards and vents easily. This hand vac also comes with an upholstery attachment, but our testers found that the motorized fitting worked better for cleaning the sofa.

This Bissell cordless vacuum had a significantly larger dust canister than other models we tested so you could keep cleaning without having to stop at the trash can. You’ll know when it’s time to empty the bin when it reaches the capacity line on the outside of the container.

Worth noting for you and your furry friends: The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser ran pretty quietly. That means you can clean up after Felix and Fido without scaring them away.

  • Attachments: Motorized brush, upholstery attachment and crevice tool
  • Other features: Large canister capacity
  • Battery life: About 12 minutes
  • Price: $80

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Psst—The Bissell Little Green Machine is our new favorite gadget for deep cleaning.

How to Get the Best Clean with Your Vacuum

Make sure you’re getting the best possible clean with your vac—be it your regular cleaner or a handheld version—by emptying the canister and cleaning the filter regularly. If you’re not cleaning the filter, you’re likely not sucking up as much dirt as you imagine. Plus, that extra dust can cause the motor to burn out, so check the manual for filter care and replacement instructions.

Also, be mindful of things that you shouldn’t be sucking up. Wet messes, fireplace ash and glass are all no-gos when it comes to your vacuum cleaner.

Abide by these basics (and a good cleaning checklist) and your home will be sparklingly clean.

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