The 9 Best Handheld Vacuums of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Dust bunnies and pet hair are no match for these lightweight yet powerful hand vacs.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

BLACK+DECKER Furbuster Handheld Vacuum for Pets

Real Simple / Rachel Marek

Handheld vacuums stand out for their ability to get into tight spots that your everyday vacuum cleaner can’t. And even if your regular vacuum has useful attachments for cleaning corners and upholstery, lugging it around the house is often a chore in itself. That’s why a lightweight hand vac is perfect for quick cleanups, like removing debris from couches, stairs, and even your car. 

To find the best handheld vacuums, we tested over a dozen models, evaluating them on effectiveness, ease of emptying, battery runtime, portability, and more. We also considered factors such as attachments, dustbin capacity, and noise level. For expert tips on what to look for in a handheld vacuum, we consulted Andrew Brown, appliance repair technician and writer at This Fixed House. 

“Vacuum power is critical and often overlooked,” says Brown. “You can have as many features as you want, but if the vacuum doesn’t have the suction power, you’re going to be disappointed.” 

While wattage measures the power of a vacuum’s motor, Brown says it’s more important to look for air wattage, which measures a vacuum’s suction power. He recommends looking for handheld vacuums with 15 air watts or more for the best cleaning performance.

Best Overall Handheld Vacuum

Shark UltraCyclone Pro Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Shark CH901 UltraCyclone Pro Cordless Handheld Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who want a powerful and convenient handheld vacuum.

Who it isn’t for: People who want a touchless way to empty the dustbin.

Suction power is key for a handheld vacuum, and this Shark model has plenty of it. There’s just one setting, but it proved to be plenty effective in our testing. Even hair that was embedded in the carpet came up nicely, although getting it at the right angle is essential. At just a little over 2 pounds, the Shark UltraCyclone Pro Cordless Handheld Vacuum is one of the most lightweight models on our list. Its noise level is average for a vacuum, so it’s not overpowering. We would equate it to the volume of a stick vacuum, and the suction power is also on par. 

This handheld vac is powerful enough to get stuck on some fabrics, but the included attachments make it easier to get into crevices and corners. We found the battery lasted the entire time, though it didn't take very long at all to clean up. It worked very well on both the hard floor and carpet, and the dustbin was only about a quarter full when we were finished testing. It took a minute for us to figure out how to empty the dustbin, but we found it easy once we got the hang of it. (It’s not a one-handed process, though, and you might have to take some time to remove the debris.) 

Overall, we think this Shark handheld vacuum is very much worth the price for the convenience of picking up dust and dirt quickly. Though lightweight, this pick is a bit larger because of the ample dustbin—but we count that as an advantage, not a disadvantage. 

Price at time of publish: $80 

Weight: 2.2 pounds | Runtime: 12 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.4 liters | Attachments: Crevice tool and scrubbing brush

Best Budget Handheld Vacuum

Sun Joe Auto Joe Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

Sun Joe AJV1000 Cordless 8.4-Volt Handheld Vacuum Cleaner


Who it’s for: People who want a powerful model without overpowering their budget.

Who it isn’t for: People who want a handheld vacuum with a larger dustbin.

In our testing, this budget-friendly handheld vacuum from Sun Joe took on Cheerios with ease, both on hard floors and on the carpet. Hair removal proved to be no problem at all, regardless of the surface, but it struggled to pick up popcorn kernels on the hard floor. It’s not an issue with suction power, however—in fact, this pick might be a bit too strong at times, as evidenced by it getting stuck on the carpet a couple of times. You may have to experiment using this on various surfaces to get the hang of it. 

Emptying the dustbin was easy and intuitive, and we loved that you could store the attachment on the nozzle while charging, too. It's super portable, though it is loud for its size. Keep in mind that the air that comes out of the back could cause a problem with spreading things around at times. 

Still, once we got accustomed to using this handheld vacuum on various surfaces, we found it was quite effective and an excellent value for the money. Even if you’re on the fence about whether you need a handheld vacuum at home, you can’t go wrong with spending this little on such a convenient device.

Price at time of publish: $35

Weight: 1.4 pounds | Runtime: 12 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.1 liters | Attachments: Universal USB charger, 2-in-1 brush and crevice tool, HEPA filter

Best Splurge Handheld Vacuum

Black+Decker 20V Max* Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Cordless Hand Vacuum

BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum AdvancedClean+ HHVK515J00FF


Who it’s for: People who don’t mind spending a bit more for excellent suction power.

Who it isn’t for: People who are looking for a handheld vacuum with a lot of attachments.

This Black+Decker handheld vacuum is worthy of a spot on our list for its outstanding suction power. We were impressed with its effectiveness in our testing, although fine crumbs were tough to capture at first—and then we realized we had been testing the vacuum on the low setting! Once we bumped it up to the higher setting, we were really in business. 

We liked how this vacuum worked well no matter which direction you maneuvered it, so you can alter your cleaning technique as needed. The dustbin’s capacity was ample for the testing tasks (we only had to empty it twice during the process), and emptying it was not a problem at all—just hit the button and it’s done. We did have to reach in for one clump, but there was no mess involved. Even the filter comes out easily for cleaning. This handheld vacuum wasn't too loud on high, and the low setting’s noise level wasn’t disruptive at all—you could carry on a conversation if you wanted to. Plus, the battery remained strong throughout testing with no noticeable loss of power. 

You might be disappointed that there aren't other attachments, but we found the extended wand attachment to be just fine. It makes it easy to clean couches and other upholstered furniture without bending down as much, and it makes cleaning nooks and crannies—and car seat cup holders—very easy. Even though it’s the most expensive model on our list, it’s still just over $100. While there are more budget-friendly options on our list, we think it’s money well spent for the impressive suction power.

Price at time of publish: $105

Weight: 2.4 pounds | Runtime: 15 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.75 liters | Attachments: Crevice tool

Best Lightweight Handheld Vacuum

Iris USA Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Iris USA Cordless Handheld Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who want an easy-to-carry handheld vacuum.

Who it isn’t for: People who need a vacuum with a larger dustbin.

Handheld vacuums in general are far more lightweight than their upright and canister counterparts, but if you're looking for something extremely compact, we recommend this one from Iris that weighs just over 1 pound. In our testing, we found that it picks up debris effectively and quickly, even on the carpet. This handheld vac works much better on the high setting, which is what we used for the majority of our testing (and the battery stayed strong). 

However, we noticed that suction power diminished as the dustbin filled up, so we had to empty it a couple of times throughout our tests. It's easy to empty, but you have to hold on to the filter; otherwise, it may accidentally end up in the trash.

Besides being lightweight, the Iris handheld vacuum is compact and easy to fit into small spaces. You’ll likely have to experiment with the suction setting and the angle at which you hold the vacuum nozzle, depending on the surface type and what you’re cleaning, but that’s par for the course with handheld vacuums. We found that it was more difficult to pick up fine crumbs with this model, especially on upholstery, but it’s so lightweight that we didn’t mind having to take numerous passes. 

Price at time of publish: $90 

Weight: 1.1 pounds | Runtime: 15 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.10 liters | Attachments: Brush and crevice tool and multi-surface head

Best Handheld Vacuum With HEPA Filter

Nicebay Handheld Cordless Vacuum

Nicebay Handheld Cordless Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who are concerned about allergens in their homes.

Who it isn’t for: People who want a vacuum with a longer battery life.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can remove around 99.7 percent of dust, bacteria, pollen, mold, and other airborne particles. So for people concerned about trapping allergens, it makes sense to choose a handheld vacuum with a HEPA filter in it, like this model we tested from Nicebay.

It has a three-stage filtration system with a HEPA and stainless steel filter. In addition to its allergen-reducing capabilities, this handheld vacuum performed very well on both carpet and hard floors. We also loved the sleek look of this vacuum, though the dustbin is indeed small and we had to empty it a few times. And it's worth noting that this pick is not as easy to empty as we would have liked, especially when hair gets wrapped up. In our testing, we had to take the whole thing apart down to the filter at one point to clean it. It was less noisy than other models we tested, though, so perhaps it’s a fair trade-off.

The suction power is impressive, too, so it’s worth the additional effort needed for the dustbin. This vacuum takes on small debris (like crumbs) very well, and it’s compact enough for maneuvering into nooks and crannies. We liked the angle of the nozzle, which makes it easy to use on various surfaces. According to the manufacturer, this model has a battery runtime of only 11 minutes on the high setting, though we found it to last a couple minutes longer in our tests.

Price at time of publish: $177 

Weight: 2.68 pounds | Runtime: 11 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: Not listed | Attachments: Crevice nozzle and brush

Best Handheld Vacuum for Carpet

Black+Decker 20V Max* Handheld Vacuum

 BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Handheld Vacuum


Who it’s for: People with both carpet and hard floors at home.

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer removable attachments.

In our testing, everything from Cheerios to popcorn got picked up in a single pass—even on carpets—with this Black+Decker handheld vacuum. Hair was gone in a flash, and while spilled flour did take a couple of extra swipes to clean up, there was no residue left behind.

Unlike with other models, you can rotate the nose of this vacuum to get a better angle. We were impressed with how easy it was to maneuver, even in between couch cushions. We also liked that there’s no need to worry about storing or misplacing attachments—they’re all permanently attached. All you have to do is pull one out, like the narrow nozzle that reaches easily into cupholders. Some might say the attachments make it bulky, but the power of this hand vacuum is what won us over. Even when we accidentally opened the container and dust flew out, it was no problem—we took one pass with the vac and everything was sucked up as if it never even happened.

However, we found that hair got caught in the brush attachment, so that might cause a little bit of a hiccup between uses. The charger was the other tricky part of this Black+Decker handheld vacuum. (It goes in sideways, which is not very intuitive.) We got over both issues, though, as soon as we saw how quickly it sucked up dust and debris.

Price at time of publish: $177 

Weight: 3 pounds | Runtime: 10–15 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.4 liters | Attachments: Built-in crevice tool and brush

Black+Decker 20V Max* Handheld Vacuum

Real Simple / Tamara Staples

Best Handheld Vacuum for Hard Floors

Hoover ONEPWR Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

Hoover ONEPWR Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner


Who it’s for: People who often need to clean up small messes on hardwood or tile floors.

Who it isn’t for: People who want something ultra-lightweight.

Vacuuming a hard floor is typically easier than vacuuming a carpet, but that’s of little consolation when you’re staring at a pile of Cheerios or pet hair on your kitchen floor. That’s why we’re so pleased with this handheld model from Hoover. This little battery-powered hand vacuum kept going and going—we even zoomed in with it as a backup for a few other models during testing.

It sucked up hair in an instant, and it left no residue behind when we attempted to clean up spilled flour, so home bakers and pet owners alike will appreciate its effectiveness. This handheld vacuum also worked well on the carpet—it picked up Cheerios like a pro, though popcorn kernels made it do extra work. It’s not as bulky as other handheld vacs, which definitely helps with maneuverability (like getting underneath couches). However, the battery pack does make it a bit heavy, though considering the effectiveness of this vacuum, we didn’t mind the arm workout. 

We loved the tapered nozzle attachment, which made it even easier to clean in hard-to-reach places. The dustbin is large and easy to empty, and the filter was also a cinch to remove and clean. In fact, everything about this handheld vacuum made cleaning easy and—dare we say it?—fun.  

Price at time of publish: $96

Weight: 3 pounds | Runtime: 14 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 1.2 liters | Attachments: On-board crevice tool

Best Handheld Vacuum for Pet Hair

Black+Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet Cordless Hand Vacuum Cleaner

Black+Decker Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet Cordless Hand Vacuum Cleaner


Who it’s for: Pet owners who want to reclaim their hair-covered furniture.

Who it isn’t for: People who don’t want to stick their hands in the dustbin to remove hair.

We love our pets, but we’d rather avoid having a couch that’s constantly covered in fur. The Furbuster from Black+Decker solves that problem. This portable vacuum for pet hair comes with one attachment that worked well on both hard and soft surfaces in our testing. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it took just one or two passes to pick up hair on the couch—even the fine strands stuck in the fibers. It did take a few passes to pick up kibble on the carpet, but it was all gone in an instant on the hardwood floor.

Once you’ve sucked up all that pet hair, the dustbin is easy to empty—just touch the button to open it. The only problem is you might have to reach in to remove any hair that’s gotten stuck, so it’s not exactly as hands-free as the manufacturer claims. Still, we were pleasantly surprised by the battery’s long runtime. It was able to vacuum several pieces of furniture and two area rugs without dying. 

This handheld vacuum has a motorized attachment, but it also comes with an extra-long crevice tool for getting into tight spots. We appreciate that you can store this tool on board, so this is truly a compact vacuum to keep on hand for cleaning up after your pets. 

Price at time of publish: $129

Weight: 4.2 pounds | Runtime: 20 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.75 liters | Attachments: Crevice tool

Black+Decker Furbuster 16V Max* AdvancedClean+ Cordless Hand Vacuum

Real Simple / Rachel Marek

Best Handheld Vacuum for Cars

Black+Decker BDH2020FL Cordless Gen 2 Flex Vac

Black+Decker Max Flex Handheld Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who want a smaller version of a canister vacuum for quick cleanups.

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer a one-handed model.

If you’re looking for a portable vacuum to clean up car messes, we recommend the Black+Decker 20V Max* Flex Handheld Vacuum. In our testing, we found the hose length fine for getting the vacuum where we needed it in the car. It’s compact enough to move around the car’s interior—not something that’s a given with every car vacuum on the market. It vacuumed up crumbs and debris from the nooks and crannies just as well as it did from the seats and larger surfaces in the car. Not even hair posed a problem for this powerful car vacuum. 

Plus, the suction power remained consistent the entire time it was on. It is a bit loud, but you likely won’t even have it on long enough for it to be an issue—that’s how powerful this vacuum is. And if you’re normally used to a one-piece handheld vacuum, don’t worry: This model is compact and lightweight enough to hold in one hand while working the hose with the other. 

The dustbin is rather large, so if you’ve been avoiding cleaning out your car, you won’t have to worry about stopping to dump it out too often. When the dustbin is full, it’s quite easy to empty. It’s also easy to clean the filter and its holder, though you might need to turn up the water to get in those filter crevices. 

Price at time of publish: $123 

Weight: 3.2 pounds | Runtime: 8 minutes | Dustbin Capacity: 0.5 liters | Attachments: Pet brush

Final Verdict

The Shark UltraCyclone Pro Cordless Handheld Vacuum topped our list because of its powerful suction and compact size that made it easy to maneuver while cleaning. For a more budget-friendly option, we recommend the Sun Joe Auto Joe Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner, which we found to have powerful suction and ideal portability in our testing.

Our Testing Process

To find the best handheld vacuums, we tested a variety of models in our Lab. We started by evaluating the setup process and timing how long it took to get the handheld vacuum ready to use. We then charged each model overnight so we could begin our tests with a full battery. To measure the weight of each handheld vacuum, we attached a luggage scale to the handle or body. We also looked at the noise level by placing a decibel reader 2 feet away while the vacuum was on its highest setting, if applicable. We took note of how loud it seemed, like whether we could watch TV or comfortably hold a conversation while the vacuum was running. 

Then, we evaluated the battery runtime by using a stopwatch to record how long the battery lasted while vacuuming an upholstered chair. (We then charged the vacuums overnight again before the rest of our tests.) Next came our effectiveness tests, where we evaluated how well each handheld vacuum could clean debris (a mixture of Cheerios, raisins, and crushed crackers) and hair off a rug. We timed the cleaning process to see how long it took to clean the rug, and we used a spare vacuum to clean the rug up between each test. 

Because maneuverability and portability are important in a handheld vacuum, we also tested each model by cleaning a car seat and an upholstered chair. We made sure to note if any tools or attachments were needed to get into tight crevices. For handheld vacuums designed to clean up wet messes, we tested their ability to vacuum 1/2 cup of water spilled on the floor. 

Throughout the entire testing process, we took note of how many times we had to empty the dustbin and how easy or complicated it was to remove debris. For models with washable filters, we even removed and cleaned the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Shark Cordless Pro with Clean Sense IQ and PowerFins Plus

Real Simple / Dera Burreson

How to Shop for Handheld Vacuums Like a Pro 

Corded vs. Cordless

The first thing to consider when shopping for a handheld vacuum is whether you want a corded or a cordless model. Corded handheld vacuums provide continuous power while you’re cleaning, but they do keep you tethered to an outlet. If you need more freedom as you clean—and especially if you plan to use one in your car—a cordless model is key. Just be sure to keep it charged and ready to go. (All of the models that made our list are cordless.)


If you opt for a cordless vacuum, then runtime is another important factor to consider. “The storage capacity of the battery and the efficiency of the vacuum design both contribute to the overall runtime,” says Brown. Before purchasing, make sure the vacuum’s runtime is long enough to get through the cleaning task at hand. 

The approximate runtime given by the manufacturer is based on a fully charged battery, and remember that you’ll deplete the battery much faster by using high settings. Based on our testing, we think that a battery life of 10–15 minutes on high is expected for a handheld vacuum. The median runtime of the models we tested was just under 13 minutes. 

Dustbin Capacity

Handheld vacuums generally have much smaller dustbins than full-size models, so you’ll need to empty out the debris more often anyways. But if you’re just using it for quick cleanups, a handheld vacuum with a small dustbin shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. “If you’re the type of person who vacuums regularly, you will never fill the tank in one go, so I recommend prioritizing other features,” adds Brown. 

If you want to empty the dustbin less often, opt for a model with a spacious dustbin—the Hoover ONEPWR Cordless Hand Vacuum has a generous capacity of 1.2 liters.


By nature, handheld vacuums are compact enough to fit into smaller spaces. But many also come with attachments that make cleaning even easier, like pet and upholstery brushes and corner/crevice tools. If these are important to your household, get them, but Brown says a more powerful vac usually beats one with lots of extras. 

Our top pick for carpets, the Black+Decker 20V Max* Handheld Vacuum, has a built-in crevice tool and brush so you don’t have to worry about misplacing the attachments.

More Handheld Vacuums to Consider

Black+Decker Dustbuster 12V MAX* AdvancedClean+ Cordless Hand Vacuum: We found this vacuum to be effective but quite loud, which is why we opted to make room for other Black+Decker models on our list instead. 

Shark Wandvac Power Pet Cordless Hand Vacuum: Though this handheld vacuum was lightweight and powerful in our testing, the location of the exhaust fan caused some debris (especially hair) to be blown around rather than sucked up.

putting crumbs on mock floor for vacuum testing

Real Simple / Tamara Staples

Questions You Might Ask 

Is a handheld vacuum worth buying?

Unless you prefer an old-school dustpan and broom or you really like dragging out your regular upright vac every time you have a small mess to clean up, a handheld vacuum is both convenient and effective. It’s great for cleaning in places where a larger vacuum can’t fit easily, like stairs and upholstery. While some might argue that their regular vacuums have plenty of attachments to take care of any size mess, others—especially parents of small humans and/or pets—will agree that nothing beats a lightweight, easy-to-use hand vac for quick cleanups.

How much should you expect to spend on a hand vacuum?

While a high-quality upright or canister vacuum might cost you several hundred dollars, you can get a great handheld vacuum for well under $100. There are plenty of effective options to choose from no matter what your budget is.

What are the best handheld vacuum brands?

You might have noticed that Black+Decker takes up four out of nine spots on our best handheld vacuums list, and for good reason. Black+Decker is a brand that’s long been synonymous with portable vacuum cleaners, dating back to the 1979 introduction of the original Dustbuster. After decades of innovations and improvements, today’s Dustbusters—and other Black+Decker handheld vacs—are still powerful, compact cleaning products. 

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Barbara Bellesi Zito, a freelance lifestyle writer based in Staten Island, NY. To compile this list of best handheld vacuums, we tested a variety of handheld vacuums and considered factors like performance, features and attachments, dustbin capacity, and battery runtimes. For expert advice on what consumers should know when purchasing the best handheld vacuums, Barbara consulted Andrew Brown, appliance repair technician and writer at This Fixed House. 

What Is Real Simple Selects?

Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles