The 10 Best Hand Vacuums

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This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in March of 2015. While full-sized vacuums can be effective at cleaning larger spaces, they also take up more space in storage and may not be suited for more nuanced tasks. With a hand vacuum, jobs like cleaning the backseat of your car or getting cat hair off your sofa can be easier to navigate. While models vary in power, size, and capabilities, the following picks all offer value in different ways. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Shark WV201

2. Black & Decker Dustbuster

3. Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

Editor's Notes

November 25, 2020:

Handheld vacuums can be powerful and convenient cleaning tools. Distinctions between brands and models, however, make considering features key to picking the right option for you.

Many of the items you'll find listed here are new or updated versions of models that have previously provided significant value. The Shark WV201, for instance, offers more significant power and a longer battery life than the Shark Ion W1, which is why the two were swapped.

In other cases, new companies have found ways to improve upon the value provided by some of the most recognizable brand names. For instance, while several Black & Decker models are still included here, the Orfeld 4-in-1 not only serves the same purpose as the Black & Decker Flex, but includes more versatile accessories and provides considerably more power, which is how it made its way onto the list.

As you consider the available choices, it's worth noting that there are a number of both corded and cordless options. While the Black & Decker dustbuster boasts 10 hours of performance, the majority of the battery-powered selections can only provide around 30 minutes of performance. Corded options like the Dirt Devil Scorpion do eliminate the concern about having to recharge mid-task, even if the cord limits mobility. How you intend to use your hand vacuum will determine which kind of model is best for you.

Price may also be a factor, but it has to be weighed relative to your expectations. For example, the Dirt Devil Scorpion and Black & Decker 2ah are considerably less expensive than the Orfeld 4-in-1 or Shark WV201, but the price differential reflects both variances in power and durability.

It's worth noting that any hand vacuum you choose will perform best for spot cleaning. If you're looking for an option that will help maintain the cleanliness of your home, a robot vacuum may be a more suitable selection.

April 26, 2019:

Handheld vacuums are a great alternative to whipping out full-size cleaning tools for pet hair, crumbs, and other minor messes. Finding the right model for your needs means analyzing the included features. In particular, pay attention to voltage, debris-holding capacity, and attachments. If you're going to use your handheld vacuum primarily on furniture or carpet, choose one with a brush that will be able to dislodge hair and dust from fibers. If your concern is hard-to-reach areas, make sure that the product you choose comes with attachments that are designed for fitting into tight spaces.

The HoLife USAS8 was removed due to repeated complaints about a lack of suction power. The Bissell Multi was replaced with the updated Bissell Auto, which is designed specifically for cleaning upholstery. To give shoppers a super-lightweight and highly storable option, the Shark Ion W1 was added to the list (and awarded the second spot).

Special Honors

DEWALT Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum As convenient as a hand vacuum might be, they won't be up to the challenge of fixing bigger messes or ones including liquids. In such cases, shop vacuums such as those offered by DEWALT can come in handy, offering significant suction and storage of debris while still providing mobility.

4. Vaclife Cordless

5. Dirt Devil Scorpion

6. Orfeld 4-in-1

7. Hoover ONEPWR

8. Black & Decker 2ah

9. Dyson V7

10. Shark CH951

Who You Calling Buster?

A vacuum works much in the same way as the action of drinking a beverage through a straw.

A vacuum works much in the same way as the action of drinking a beverage through a straw. An internal fan sucks in air, which reduces the internal air and atmospheric pressure, resulting in air being pushed up into the cavity. The dirt and dust travels with the air to become tossed around and trapped within the bag, or receptacle. The keyword here being "trapped". Even after you've emptied the debris into the garbage, you may notice the film of dust remaining within canister. So, what happens afterwards? This is where the vacuum filter comes it.

Imagine your new vacuum and how pristine its filter is. After one use, you may notice that filter has quickly become brown, and if there's a rotary brush on the base, there may be hair wrapped around the bristles. This is a good thing, and also a bad thing. The good is that the vacuum is doing its job, but, much how driving a brand new car hot off the lot suddenly depreciates its value, so too does this happen with your vacuum's ability to suck.

The more dirty the vacuum becomes, and the more dust the filter traps, the less it is likely to properly regulate air flow. In turn, this weakens the suction power, which is plague number one most vacuums face. The easiest way to maintain the filter is by cleaning it regularly, though not all hand held vacs have cleanable filters, let alone removable ones. Think of it this way: you change your car's oil regularly, to ensure the engine is working optimally. So too should the same concept be applied to vacuums, hand held or otherwise. Manufacturer defects aside, these devices should last you for years down the road, and will, if properly maintained.

Can't You Just Tell Me What To Buy?

The evolution of vacuums has not gone unnoticed. Year after year, it seems, they become smaller, more powerful, and more simple to use. And year after year, new versions and models are being added to the consumer's options, almost making it too difficult to pinpoint the perfect vac. Finding that suitable match boils down to the vacuum's components, and personal preference.

However, the filters get dirty more quickly, and the fuller the dirt cup, the less effective your handheld vacuum will be.

The first obvious consideration to take into account, is the size of the chore at hand. If living in a small apartment with no pets, and no carpet, you probably won't need a model that offers endless attachments, gadgets, and fancy marketing. On the other end of the spectrum, a family living in a two story house would be wise to invest in a high end model, that can tackle a variety of tasks, such as attachments to scope into hard to reach areas, or ones specifically made for cleaning stairs, etc.

Ultimately, even a wide open floor plan comes with a certain number of nooks and crannies. Consider what material you'll be cleaning as you weigh the use of each attachment. On the other hand, if you have a specific use for your hand vacuum, you might not need all the endless attachments taking up space in your closets.

As you probably have noticed, vacuums in general are offered bagless, or with a bag. While bagged vacuums have lagged behind bagless vacuums in sales, they have great uses. For asthma or allergy sufferers, there's no better option. Most bags are made with HEPA material so very few particles leave the vacuum once filtered. Disposing of the bag, however, can be a real chore - though most companies have worked to improve the process. Bagless vacuums create less waste, as there's no bag to dispose of; you also never have to remember to pick up bags before you can clean. However, the filters get dirty more quickly, and the fuller the dirt cup, the less effective your handheld vacuum will be.

How Allergies Paved The Way For Innovation

Believe it or not, the first idea for the vacuum cleaner arose from an allergy problem. James Murray Spangler, allergen suffer, in 1906, created an electric vacuum using an electric fan motor, a soap box, a broom handle, and a pillowcase. Two years following, he patented his rotary-brush design, and sold it to a now recognizable name, W.H. Hoover.

. And since that time, hand held vacs have come a long way.

The hand held variety wouldn't debut until more than seventy years later, after Carroll Gantz designed a prototype for Black and Decker in 1979. To call it a revolution would be an understatement; in the first year of production, one million DustBusters were sold - four times that of any upright vacuum on the market that year. It was such a big deal that the Smithsonian Institution added one to their collection in 1995. . And since that time, hand held vacs have come a long way. Though initially they were well received, in actuality, their suction was poor, and their running time was limited.

Today, suction power is main selling point and feature, as less time spent doing chores is always the main desire, and that technology is better than it ever has been. Even better, consumers have viable options between corded models, and cordless varieties, which gives all of us a better chance at finding the one that works best with our home environment.

Lauren Nelson
Last updated by Lauren Nelson

Lauren is a writer, voice actress, and podcaster living in Chicago. As a nationally ranked competitive debater and performer at Western Kentucky University, she studied Corporate and Organizational Communication before successfully taking those skills to the world of marketing and public relations for over a decade, building brand stories in finance, real estate, technology, and more. She continues to tell stories today across a variety of professional and creative mediums while trying to keep up with her tweenage daughter and squeezing in the occasional hike.

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