Which handheld vacuums are best?

Full-sized vacuums are great when you want to clean your entire floor, but why go through the hassle of pulling out that large and bulky machine when you only need to vacuum up a few crumbs, a bit of pet hair off your couch or some dust and dirt off your windowsill? In situations like these, a compact handheld vacuum is the right tool for the job.

There are several things to consider when purchasing a handheld vacuum, but the two most important are ease of use and suction power. It is in both of these areas that the Shark WV201 Wandvac excels. Though small and lightweight, it is as powerful as any other handheld vacuum out there. It offers convenient one-touch emptying of the collection bin, too, and comes with a dust-brush attachment.

What to know before you buy a handheld vacuum

Handheld vacuums vs. full-size vacuums

Handheld vacuums and full-size vacuums serve different needs. When it comes to small messes, a handheld model is the obvious winner. You can quickly pull one out of a closet or off a shelf and get right down to cleaning up a mess. Some wireless models are even small enough that you could keep them sitting on their charging dock in some out of the way space in your kitchen. Handheld models are easier to maneuver too, especially when working in tight spaces.

In terms of suction power and for cleaning large areas, full-size vacuums are the way to go. They have larger collection bins, can pick up larger debris and have wider cleaning heads that allow you to cover more floor space quickly. If cordless, they will have a longer battery life than cordless handheld models, but they will also be heavier and more of a hassle to retrieve from a closet or utility room. 

Corded vs. cordless

Corded and cordless handheld vacuums both have their own pros and cons. Cordless models are easy to maneuver without having to worry about a cord getting in the way or limiting your reach. You also won’t have to worry about having an outlet somewhere near the area you’re cleaning, which can be especially helpful when vacuuming out a vehicle. 

When it comes to corded models, there are two main benefits. They often tend to have stronger suction and you don’t have to worry about a battery dying mid-way through cleaning up a mess.

Features to look for in a quality handheld vacuum

Size and weight

Handheld vacuums should be comfortable to hold and maneuver, so the size and weight should factor into your decision-making process. Some models are barely wider than a Coke can and weigh as little as 1.5 pounds. A handheld vacuum like this will be easy to use just about anywhere from underneath vehicle seats to inside a kitchen cabinet. Other models can weigh up to 5 pounds, making them difficult for those with limited arm strength, and have a thick body that could be difficult to fit in some tight spaces.

Collection bin

The size of the collection bin determines how much dust and other small debris you can pick up before needing to stop and empty the container. Bigger bins make for more efficient clean up but also make the overall size of the vacuum larger. You’ll have to determine which aspect is more important for your needs.


Some handheld vacuums feature a power-boost button that increases the suction when you need to tackle bigger messes or heavier debris. This function is often intended to be used in short spurts.

Battery life

If purchasing a cordless model, the battery life should be a consideration. Handheld vacuums often aren’t intended to be used for long periods of time, so it is not unusual to find models that have short battery lives of just five or 10 minutes. Others can last up to 20 minutes.

Cord length

If purchasing a corded model, the length of the cord should play a role in your purchase decision. Some models may have very short cords that will require you to use an extension cable for practically every job. Other models may have cords 15 or 20 feet in length.

Wet/dry capabilities

All handheld vacuums will have dry suction capabilities, but some models are designed for cleaning up liquid messes. These are often pricier, but also more versatile, making them more useful around a home or business. Just make sure to immediately empty and dry the collection bin after using a handheld vacuum for wet messes.


Handheld vacuums may come with any number of accessories that can add to their functionality., most commonly crevice tools and dusting brushes.

How much you can expect to spend on a handheld vacuum

Basic corded handheld vacuums can cost as little as $15. Cordless models start around $40, with some high-powered vacuums from brand names costing up to $150.

Handheld vacuum FAQ

Do handheld vacuums have bags?

A. No, modern handheld vacuums don’t have bags. Instead, they have collection bins that you remove and dump out to empty them.

I have noticed the suction power weakening on my handheld vacuum. Is there anything I can do?

A. Most of the time when the suction power is weakening on a handheld vacuum it is due to a clogged filter or full collection bin. Try cleaning out your filter and emptying the bin to see if this solves the problem. If that doesn’t work, you may need to contact the manufacturer for more troubleshooting steps.

What is the best handheld vacuum to buy?

Top handheld vacuum

Shark WV201 Wandvac

Shark WV201 Wandvac

What you need to know: This compact handheld vacuum boasts impressive suction for its size and is versatile enough to be used just about anywhere.

What you’ll love: It’s extremely lightweight, making it easy to maneuver, and it comes with a dust brush attachment. Also, the upright charging dock is a nice space saver.

What you should consider: The collection bin is very small.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

Top handheld vacuum for the money

Dirt Devil Scorpion

Dirt Devil Scorpion

What you need to know: Affordable and powerful, the Scorpion is a good choice for those on a tight budget who don’t mind a corded model.

What you’ll love: It features an onboard flip-out crevice tool, so you don’t have to worry about ever losing that accessory. The collection bin is larger than on many other handheld models too.

What you should consider: There is no dedicated spot to wrap the cord.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Black+Decker White AdvancedClean+ Dustbuster

Black+Decker White AdvancedClean+ Dustbuster

What you need to know: The AdvancedClean+ offers four times the suction power of its predecessor and a longer runtime, making it a suitable choice for big messes for which other handhelds might not be ideal.

What you’ll love: The simple one-touch collection bin emptying eliminates the needs to get your hands dirty. The vacuum also boasts two speeds for those times you need a little extra suction power.

What you should consider: The dustbin can pop open accidentally from small bumps.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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