It's a hassle to get out a large upright vacuum to clean up a small mess. This is where a cheap handheld vacuum comes in, er, handy. If something spills or breaks, you can pull out a handheld vacuum and leave the upright in the closet until the whole house is due for a cleaning.

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Our Top Pick

Black & Decker CHV1410L
Our Picks
Black & Decker CHV1410L

Pros:

  • Wirecutter's budget pick for quick cleanups.
  • Excellent performance on bare floors in testing, and okay on other surfaces.
  • Users enthuse about the vacuum's overall performance in thousands of 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon.
  • Built-in flip-up brush and pull-out crevice tool; rotating nozzle.
  • Washable, translucent, 20.6-ounce dust cup.
  • Rinsable filter.
  • Lightweight, at 2.6 pounds.
  • 16-volt lithium-ion battery; quick 4-hour charge time; indicator light.
  • 2-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Expert testers found the suction insufficient for debris stuck on fabric and carpet.
  • Some gripes about short run time.
  • No wall mount.

Takeaway: A consumer favorite, this Black & Decker handheld vacuum scores for ease of use and effectiveness on small jobs. Users appreciate the weight, integrated tools, power, and quick recharging. They say emptying and cleaning the dust bowl is a snap, and the price-to-quality ratio is high. The run time is long enough for some but frustratingly short for others (the manufacturer doesn't specify). The unit holds a charge for quite a while when off the base.

Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip SD20005RED

Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip SD20005RED Review

Pros:

  • Powerful 7-amp motor provides enough suction to rival full-size vacuums, according to users.
  • Integrated flip-out crevice tool.
  • 2.5-foot hose; dusting brush; shoulder strap.
  • 3-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Narrow 1.5-inch cleaning path.
  • Filter is not washable.

Takeaway: One sweep is all it takes to pick up debris and pet hair with the Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip SD20005RED, reviewers say. Users happily trade the restriction of the 16-foot cord for the durability and reliability of power that's ever-present and never flags, unlike with cordless models. This is one of the strongest handheld vacs with a budget price tag, although it's not perfect. Some reviewers harrumph about one thing or another (e.g., the filter clogs, air blows out the back, the crevice tool seems loose). Still, most users report that this little Dirt Devil defeats every challenge thrown its way.

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1B

Pros:

  • Neatly accomplishes its mission of cleaning up after pets, users report.
  • Comes with 2 nozzles: a flexible and contoured nozzle for pet hair on stairs and upholstery and a hard nozzle for debris.
  • Multi-level filtration.
  • Large, washable 26.4-ounce dirt cup.

Cons:

  • Dry messes may be scattered by exhaust, experts warn, and pet hair on medium-pile carpet proved a challenge in testing.
  • Relatively heavy, at 5 pounds.
  • Filter assembly is not washable.
  • Comparatively short 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: Many users are satisfied with this Bissell Pet Hair Eraser handheld vacuum, citing its ability to denude rugs and even microfiber couches of pet hair. Consumer product experts laud its performance on bare floors and edges. Reviewers say the suction on this little 4-amp corded vacuum is plenty powerful and note how well the rubber nozzle loosens pet hair so the vacuum can suck it up.

Eureka Easy Clean 71B

Pros:

  • Forcefully pulls debris (including pet hair) from carpets, smooth surfaces, and car interiors, according to experts and consumers.
  • Visor over the nozzle flips up for vertical vacuuming.
  • Integrated hose and crevice tool; motorized brush roll.
  • Wide 6-inch cleaning path.
  • 20-foot cord with cord wrap.
  • Translucent dust cup.
  • Washable filter.

Cons:

  • Short hose is limiting, some reviewers say, and weakens suction.
  • Some users complain that the filter is hard to clean, especially if covered with pet hair.
  • Scattered reports about overheating and a short lifespan.
  • Comparatively short 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: The Eureka Easy Clean 71B hits the mark with consumer product experts for value and effectiveness, and users heap praise on its muscle when tackling stairs and spot cleanups. The long cord ensures easy maneuverability and 5.5 amps of power on demand. Many reviewers say they switched to this corded hand vac after frustrating experiences with cordless models that quickly poop out. Some find the 4-pound weight a bit on the heavy side and the handle a bit awkward, but a vast majority are thrilled with this powerful and budget-friendly Eureka handheld vacuum.

Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus BD30025B

Pros:

  • Effective for small jobs in the home, including pet hair and carpeted stairs, reviewers say.
  • Built-in Quick Flip crevice tool for hard-to-reach spaces.
  • 16-volt lithium ion battery; quick 4-hour charge time; status indicator light.
  • Very light, at 2.2 pounds.
  • Comparatively quiet, according to reviews.
  • Rinseable filter designed to last 6 months before replacement.
  • Powered tool for stairs and upholstery.
  • 2-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Scattered grousing in reviews about insufficient power and limited durability (failure to recharge or hold a charge after a while).
  • Relatively short 13-minute run time.
  • Charging may take longer than the 4 hours promised in the specs, reviews suggest.
  • No charging base.
  • Relatively small 0.5-liter (16.9-ounce) dirt cup.

Takeaway: The cordless Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus BD30025B stands out for its compact size and light weight, as well as the integrated crevice tool that flips open to reach tight spaces (no worries about the tool getting lost, several users note). Many reviewers say the 16 volts of power produce enough suction to clean little messes, area rugs, carpeted stairs, and upholstery, although some say it's less effective than expected.

Shark Pet Perfect II SV780

Pros:

  • With 18 volts of power, it quickly sucks up pet hair (and other detritus) from all surfaces, including car interiors, users say in reviews.
  • Large, motorized pet brush; crevice tool; dusting brush.
  • Charging/storage base can be wall-mounted; charging status indicator light.
  • Washable filter.
  • 2-year warranty.

Cons:

  • NiMH battery, an older technology that is preferable to NiCd but needs 16 hours to recharge and periodic replacement.
  • Some reports of limited durability and weak suction.

Takeaway: Designed for pet-related messes, the Shark Pet Perfect II SV780 also proves its worth when confronted with human-made messes, users report. The array of included accessories, in particular the motorized brush, is rare at this price point and much appreciated by pet owners. The biggest knock against this Shark cordless handheld vacuum is the absence of a lithium ion battery, which would be lighter and last much longer than the NiMH battery.

Bissell CleanView Deluxe 47R51

Pros:

  • Reliable and effective, reviewers say, especially on upholstery, corners, and stairs.
  • Large 26.4-ounce, translucent dust cup.
  • 2-foot hose and adapter nozzle; crevice tool; wide-mouth tool.
  • 18-foot power cord.
  • Multi-level filtration.

Cons:

  • Relatively heavy, at 5 pounds.
  • Filter assembly is not washable.
  • Comparatively short 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: The compact Bissell CleanView Deluxe 47R51 meets most users' expectations for small vacuuming tasks. The 18-foot cord makes for easy maneuverability and continuously supplies 4 amps of power. Some users with pets say the flexible, contoured rubber nozzle does a fine job sucking up pet hair from the furniture, but a few caution that the filter clogs quickly. The included attachments are a welcome bonus.

Dirt Devil Ultra M08230RED

Pros:

  • Easy to handle on stairs, upholstery, and floorboards, according to users.
  • Built-in, 2-foot stretch hose and crevice tool.
  • On-board storage for the 16-foot cord.
  • Wide 6-inch cleaning path.
  • Dust bag with proprietary filtration for trapping allergens.
  • 3-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Weak suction, some users say.
  • Relatively heavy, at 4.45 pounds.

Takeaway: The Dirt Devil Ultra M08230RED claims some diehard fans, many of whom would rather use paper bags to contain debris than empty a dust cup (although others say the dust bag is a hassle to change). This Dirt Devil handheld vacuum earns its share of plaudits for cleaning up after pets and small areas inaccessible to full-size vacuum cleaners. Others, however, consider the hose too short and the 4-amp suction inadequate for even minor jobs, let alone pet hair.

Dirt Devil Express V6 Wet/Dry BD10205

Pros:

  • Designed to clean up wet spills as well as dry messes.
  • Okay for very small jobs, reviewers say.
  • Wide 5.5-inch nozzle.
  • Very light, at 1.7 pounds.
  • Flip-out crevice tool.

Cons:

  • 6-volt battery delivers inadequate power, according to reviews. Our top picks start at 16 volts.
  • Old-school NiCd battery runs out of juice quickly and requires 24 hours to charge.
  • Center section of the nozzle intended for solid messes is too narrow, users say.
  • Misses the mark on wet spills, according to reviews.
  • Intake clogs easily.
  • Comparatively short 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: The Dirt Devil V6 Express BD10205 stands out from the pack with its wet/dry design and featherweight poundage. But most users are unimpressed. They bemoan the weak suction, unusual nozzle design, and, most especially, the battery. They write that it loses its charge very quickly -- it can't even handle a small dorm room, says one -- and requires a very lengthy recharge time. The NiCd battery technology also suffers from what's known as "memory effect," meaning it must be completely discharged before it can be fully charged and hit optimal run time. Given the performance failings, this model isn't much of a bargain.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Handheld Vacuum

It's a hassle to get out a large upright vacuum to clean up a small mess. This is where a cheap handheld vacuum comes in, er, handy. If something spills or breaks, you can pull out a handheld vacuum and leave the upright in the closet until the whole house is due for a cleaning.

Prices for handheld vacuums range from about $20 to more than $200, which gets you a top-of-the-line Dyson. We looked at cheap handheld vacuums between $20 and $60, both corded and cordless. Models in this price range have limited features and moderate suction power. Higher-end vacuums give you more suction power, more accessories, and lighter weight for added convenience. They also can clean up both wet and dry spills. The good news for frugal shoppers is that there are cheap handheld vacuums that will meet most users' spot-cleaning needs. Although Dysons are out of our price range, popular brands including Bissell, Dirt Devil, Black & Decker, and Eureka offer inexpensive options.

The biggest decision to make is whether to look at cordless handheld vacs or corded models with a wall plug. Both options have pros and cons.

Cordless Handheld Vacuums.

A cordless model is convenient because you don't have to worry about plugging it in and moving the cord as you go. That being said, cordless handheld vacuums won't just keep going and going; they have to be charged by plugging the charger into a power outlet. Battery life and charge time are the main drawbacks for budget shoppers. Manufacturers don't often specify either one, so we gleaned our information from reviews. Some models reportedly provide 15 minutes of run time on a full charge, while others offer a mere five minutes. Cordless handheld vacuums tend to have a harder time holding a charge the older they get, and few models come with a replaceable battery, so eventually the entire machine must be replaced.

The latest crop of cordless handhelds feature lithium ion batteries. This technology holds the battery at a steady level of performance until the juice runs out; this is often referred to as “fade-free” power. Lithium ion batteries also charge way faster than the larger, heavier NiCd batteries found in older models.

Corded Handheld Vacuums.

Despite the convenience and easy maneuverability of cordless vacuums, for the most part, users give higher ratings to models with cords. Corded handheld vacuums generally have stronger suction than their cordless counterparts. Although you're tethered to an outlet, these models provide unlimited run time, as they are constantly connected to a power source. For these machines, cord length comes into play. If the cord is too short, you have to either use an extension cord or move the cord from outlet to outlet to reach all the spots that an upright can't.

Handheld Vacuum Reviews: What We Considered

Handheld vacuum reviews and testing by Consumer Reports, TopTenReviews, Engadget, and Wirecutter informed our picks, as did user reviews on the websites of manufacturers and retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Walmart, and Target. Consumers generally don't have super-high expectations for handheld vacuums. Most just want a machine that thoroughly cleans up those small messes and reaches spots that many full-size vacuums cannot, like tight corners, cushion crevices, and stairs. Cordless models should hold a charge, and the vacuum should be easy to use and maneuver whether or not it has a cord. Consumers also pay attention to attributes such as the weight, filter, included attachments, and warranty.

Cleaning Performance.

Consumers purchase handheld vacuums to clean areas such as staircases, furniture, area rugs, and car interiors, so they expect low-cost models to perform well on those surfaces. For the most part, users seem happy with the cleaning performance of our top picks. They reportedly work very well on dust bunnies, crumbs, and even pet hair. Reviews mention spilled cat litter or dry cereal and bits of debris brought in from outside that vanish when faced with one of the models we chose.

Ease of Use.

Handheld vacuums are designed for quick, easy cleanups, and reviewers praise the machines in this category for being compact and easy to use. Most frustration is the result of a poor battery or inadequate suction. Most models sold today are bagless, which means emptying a dust cup into the garbage and rinsing it out. For consumers who prefer to keep all the dust and gunk contained in a bag, we did find one good option, the Dirt Devil Ultra M0823RED.

Weight.

Part of the convenience of handheld vacuums is they are easier to pull out than a heavy upright or canister model. A handheld vacuum is designed for one-handed use, so the lighter it is, the better. Many pricey models pride themselves on being feather-light, but plenty of options in our price range are also fairly lightweight, starting at just over 2 pounds.

Filters.

Like an upright or canister vacuum, a handheld vacuum uses a filter to collect dust and dirt particles. While most inexpensive models use standard filters, a few budget models use high-efficiency particulate air filters. HEPA filters are said to be slightly superior because they pick up 99.9% of harmful particles, compared with 99% for other allergen filtration systems. Remember to clean the filter often; a clogged filter impairs a vacuum’s performance. Some can be rinsed or hand washed and others just shaken over a garbage pail. Also be sure to read the owner’s manual for guidance on replacing the filter.

Attachments.

While upright vacuums come with a slew of attachments, cheap handheld vacuums are relatively Spartan. That said, most models we researched come with at least some attachments, such as an upholstery or dusting brush and a crevice tool for hard-to-reach areas. Some handheld vacuums are specifically designed to pick up pet hair or come with special attachments just for that purpose.

Warranty.

Handheld vacuum cleaners tend not to last as long as other types of vacuums, and cordless models seem to have the shortest longevity. We looked for models that come with at least a one-year warranty.

Features Comparison

Sort by:
Review Score:
Product Title
Type
Power
Weight
Filter
Tools/Attachments
Warranty
Product Title
Type
Power
Weight
Filter
Tools/Attachments
Warranty

Black & Decker CHV1410L

$55
Cordless
16V lithium ion
2.6 lbs.
Washable
Rotating nozzle, flip-up brush, crevice tool
2 years

Dirt Devil Scorpion...

$27
Corded (16-foot cord)
7 amps
3.75 lbs.
Replaceable
Flip-out crevice tool, dusting brush, 2.5-foot hose
3 years

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser...

$30
Corded (16-foot cord)
4 amps
5 lbs.
Multi-level
Hard and flexible contour nozzles
1 year

Eureka Easy Clean 71B

$45
Corded (20-foot cord)
5.5 amps
4 lbs.
Washable
Flip-up visor, motorized brush roll, integrated hose and crevice tool
1 year

Dirt Devil Quick Flip...

$40
Cordless
16V lithium ion
2.2 lbs.
Rinseable
Flip-out crevice tool, powered stair and upholstery tool
2 years

Shark Pet Perfect II SV780

$48
Cordless
18V NiMH
Not specified (4-5 lbs.)
Washable
Motorized brush, crevice tool, dusting brush
2 years

Bissell CleanView Deluxe...

$42
Corded (18-foot cord)
4 amps
5 lbs.
Multi-level
Crevice tool, wide-mouth tool, flexible rubber contour nozzle, 2-foot...
1 year

Dirt Devil Ultra M08230RED

$33
Corded (16-foot cord)
4 amps
4.45 lbs.
Microfresh bags
Motorized brush roll, crevice tool, 2-foot hose
3 years

Dirt Devil Express V6...

$25
Cordless
6V NiCd
1.7 lbs.
Replaceable
Flip-out crevice tool
1 year

Black & Decker Pivot Vac...

$65
Cordless
20V lithium ion
3 lbs.
3-stage, washable
Pivoting nozzle, integrated flip-out brush and pull-out crevice tool
2 years

Black & Decker BDH2020FL

$109
Cordless
20V
3.2 lbs.
Multi-stage, washable
Pet hair brush, crevice tool, 2-in-1 nozzle/flip-up brush, 4-foot hose
2 years

Ryobi One+ Evercharge P714K

$69
Cordless
18V lithium ion
2.2 lbs.
Dual-filter, washable
None
3 years