The Best Editor-Tested Handheld Vacuums You Can Buy Right Now

updated Sep 28, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Woman using Shark handheld vacuum to vacuum up coffee grounds on counter. Seal in upper left corner says "Apartment Therapy The Best List 2023 Handheld Vacuums"
Credit: Shark

In adulthood, you’ll find that having a long-term partner is nice, but a long-lasting handheld vacuum? Essential. Much like with love, everyone’s qualifications for a handheld vacuum are different. Maybe you need one that’s lightweight and doesn’t require you to shell out half your paycheck. Maybe you have a pet to clean up after, or you need a vacuum to pick up the everyday dirt and dust you like to pretend doesn’t exist in your home. Either way, you need to couple up.

Vacuums are a staple in any home, but if you haven’t considered a handheld vacuum yet or are in the market for a great one, you’re in for a treat. Allow us to introduce you to the best ones we put to the test. These portable vacuums are perfect for smaller messes or precise deep cleaning in hard-to-reach areas like tight corners and between sofa cushions. Have a pet? Handheld vacuums are heroes when it comes to targeting hair, dander, and dust bunnies.

Even if your home is pet-free, there are many benefits to adding a handheld vacuum to your cleaning arsenal. They’re easier to grab for quicker cleanup, for starters. Additionally, many come in convenient cordless options that can be used for tidying up cars, closets, and other tricky spaces that even full-sized vacuum attachments can’t reach. We’ve rounded up our top editor-tested handheld vacuums so you can up your cleaning game, stat.

The Best Handheld Vacuums

What to Consider When Buying a Handheld Vacuum

In short, there’s a lot. But we’ve narrowed it all down to two functions: suction power and whether or not the handheld vacuum is cordless. Keep in mind your preferred use experience, where you’ll mostly be using it (if you can’t narrow this down, go for cordless), and what you tend to need to clean up. Dusty messes benefit from an interior filter, preferably washable, while larger debris will need higher suction power. Read on for more information on how to pick the best handheld vacuum for your needs.

Suction power

Suction power is one of the most important factors to pay attention to when it comes to the efficacy of mini or handheld vacuums. Size shouldn’t matter if the vacuum’s suction power is strong enough. There are a couple of units of measure that you may see when it comes to a vacuum’s suction power:

  • CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute): CFM “represents the power of the airflow” from the surface being cleaned to the vacuum cleaner’s bag or bin. Typically, the average vacuum’s CFM falls somewhere within the 50 to 100 range.
  • AW (Air Watts): AW represents “the amount of watts used by the machine to carry a unit of air through an opening (usually the vacuum’s nozzle).” AW are different from regular watts in that a watt measures motor energy consumption and an air watt measures a vacuum’s suction efficiency based on energy consumption. So, two different vacuums can actually have the same number of watts but differ vastly when it comes to their individual AW, or suction efficiency.
  • Pa (Pascal Pressure Unit): Also seen as “kPa” (Kilopascal Unit, which is 1/1000 of a Pa unit), Pa is a unit of measure for suction pressure that also follows the guideline of “the higher, the better”: Typically, an average high-performing vacuum cleaner operates on 10-20 kPa (or 10,000-20,000 Pa).


Cordless: The most popular type of vacuum today, cordless models are effortless to use and tote around thanks to their portability. They have exceptional ease of use and tend to be designed with convenience in mind. But like any other cordless electronic, their power and functionality can dwindle unexpectedly if the vacuum’s battery is low.

Corded: The predictable nature of corded vacuums makes them one of the most reliable types on the market. Because the suction isn’t dependent on how much power they’re able to hold after a charge, they’re often some of the highest performers when it comes to vacuums. That said, corded models usually have limited mobility and require unplugging and replugging in order to thoroughly vacuum larger spaces.

What We Look for in a Handheld Vacuum

We tested a variety of handheld and mini vacuums against different types and levels of small messes, judging them on the following criteria:

  • Suction power: How powerful is the suction? How much of what size debris does it pick up? Does it require several passes? What does it clean up effortlessly vs. effortfully?
  • Design: What messes is it meant to vacuum? Is its nozzle shape and size conducive to a quick, deep clean? Is it attractive or one you’d want to store away when not in use? Does its shape fit into crevices and small spaces?
  • Utility: What space size and type is it best for? Is it corded or cordless? Does it store easily? How easy is it to handle and use? How long is its run time?

The Best Handheld Vacuums

Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER 20v Max

There’s nothing so convenient as a handheld vacuum. Senior commerce editor Alicia loves the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX vacuum particularly because her dusty, 1970s-constructed Brooklyn apartment was no match to its power. “I was shocked at how powerful the suction on this vacuum is,” she says. “I just hovered it over my dusty floorboard heater and the dust disappeared. I didn’t even need to make direct contact with the surface. It honestly seems more powerful than my stick vacuum.”

Alicia adds that this little guy is super compact and light, which makes it really easy to store, regardless of the size of your space. “I can easily store it in one of my kitchen cabinets and hide it out of sight,” she says. “It comes with a small charging station that is 4″-5″ long and wide, so it’s also easy to stash away.”

Read our full review of the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Handheld Vacuum.


  • 6.15″ x 6.2″ x 11.9″; 3 lbs.
  • Cordless
  • 10-minute run time
  • Features 3-stage filtration system, 200-degree pivoting nozzle
  • Includes crevice tool and brush tool
  • 2-year limited warranty

Who It’s Best For: Someone with a small living space and lots of hard-to-reach spaces. 

Good to Know: It has an expandable crevice tool, which is great for cleaning crumbs out of couch cushions or other tricky spots.

If you’re looking for a handheld vacuum that is a little kinder to your wallet, the IonVac Lightweight Handheld Cordless Vacuum might be the way to go. AT email and acquisition manager Hollis says it’s also a good option for small apartment living and for reaching all those tricky spaces. The IonVac does have its flaws, though. “I really liked this handheld vacuum, but like most handheld vacuums I’ve tried, I wish it was a bit stronger,” Hollis says.

She adds that this little handheld has a “a cuter design than most” and holds a charge for a long time, which is a plus. “Overall, I’d give this a lukewarm-to-good recommendation,” she says. “I’m sure it’s not the best model out there, but for the price and ease of use, it’s a good choice.”


  • 13″ x 3″ x 3″; 2 lbs.
  • Cordless
  • 20-minute run time
  • Features HEPA filter
  • Includes crevice tool
  • 1-year limited warranty

Who It’s Best For: Someone looking for an affordable but effective handheld vacuum.

Good to Know: The brush attachment gave Hollis some trouble, and she ended up not using it.

The worst thing about vacuuming is having to haul around a heavy piece of machinery; no one wants to drag 20 pounds up the stairs behind them every time they have to suck some dirt off the floor. The Scorpion+ is a great lightweight option for heavy cleaning. “I love this vacuum cleaner, and the suction and movability are great with the 15-foot cord,” says executive lifestyle director Charli. Speaking of stairs, this vacuum is a great tool to use on yours; with the motorized pivoting stair and upholstery tool and QuickFlip Crevice Tool.

Read our full review of the Dirt Devil Scorpion+ Handheld Vacuum.


  • 20″ x 10″ x 9″; 3 lbs.
  • Corded
  • Features easy-empty dirt cup
  • Includes stair and upholstery tool
  • 2-year limited warranty; 1-year motor warranty

Who It’s Best For: Those who want an easy-to-lift option; those who don’t want to be limited by the battery charge of a cordless handheld vacuum.

Good to Know: According to Charli, this vacuum starts to feel warm after using it for over 10 minutes, but it hasn’t impacted the quality of the device.

Commerce SEO editor Sarah is the first person to admit that cleaning is one of her favorite activities. So, it’s easy to say her standards are high when it comes to the vacuum she uses to clean her studio apartment, and this eufy hand vac meets her expectations. “When I first unboxed the device, I was truly taken aback by how lightweight and stylish it was, with its matte finish and slim design — so, yes, I was definitely immediately sold on its look, but its power was still up for debate,” she says. “Upon first use, however, I knew this vacuum was special, picking up everything from dust to crumbs with extreme ease.”

Sarah adds that the eufy model really proved itself when cleaning the couch: “With the included crevice tool, I was able to get deep between the cushions and the lining of my sofa, removing a lot of dust and debris that had been there for I don’t want to know how long.” Plus, it comes in three chic colors: black, white, and (if you want it to stand out as an accent piece) mint.

Read our full review of the eufy by Anker HomeVac H11 Pure Cordless Handheld Vacuum.


  • 13.19″ x 2.91″ x 2.91″; 1.2 lbs.
  • Cordless
  • 13-minute run time
  • Features washable, high-efficiency filter
  • Includes 2-in-1 multi-use crevice tool
  • 2-year warranty

Who It’s Best For: Someone who wants a small vacuum that packs a powerful punch.

Good to Know: The crevice tool can be transformed into a brush tool for all the places dirt, hair, and fur like to stick: blankets, couches, and computer keyboards.

The plight of pet parents: You love to cuddle them, and they love to shed their fur all over every surface where cuddling happens. AT cleaning and organizing editor Stephanie says this BISSELL handheld vacuum is the go-to for anyone with pets. She says it’s lightweight and easy to use, which is a plus right out of the gate. The controls are simple and have a release button to remove the dust bin and clean the filter. “My dog sheds a lot of fur, and it gets everywhere… I love using [the BISSELL] on my couch, which becomes messy regularly. I like using the motorized brush to suck up all that pet hair and debris.”

Stephanie adds that she can use the crevice tool to get into the couch cushions and never feels tired when using it because it’s so light.  She “can often just use one hand to control it while moving items around with the other hand. I simply empty the dustbin, clean the filter and the brush, then pop everything back into place.” Your dog or cat obviously wants you to spend the majority of your free time hanging out with them, not cleaning up after them, so the easier it is, the happier, they’ll be.


  • 4.5″ x 16″ x 6.75″; 3 lbs.
  • Cordless
  • 15-minute run time
  • Features motorized brush
  • Includes crevice tool and upholstery tool
  • 1-year limited warranty

Who It’s Best For: Those who want a vacuum for quick cleanups after their pet; those looking for a handheld vacuum for stairs

Good to Know: This vacuum has a 5-hour charge time for full power.