The industry’s first handheld vacuum cleaner was released more than 80 years ago in 1937 (known as the Royal Prince), so it’s safe to say that they aren’t new to the market. This machine in particular, although innovative, was very heavy and not much different in operation (or size for that matter) to the old-fashioned upright.
These days, however, there are countless models available, some of which are nothing more than paperweights, while others are superbly designed to make your life easier. That’s why it’s so important to learn all you can before making a purchase to ensure the product you buy is one that does the job and stays with you a long time.
Our Recommended Best Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
While there is a wide range of handheld models on the market, we’ve provided five bagless recommendations based on budget and application. Below are our picks in order from most to least expensive.
Dyson V7 Trigger
Design & Accessories – State of the art cordless handheld with two power modes and a wide range of accessories for various cleaning uses. These include a combination tool (regular nozzle and dusting brush), crevice tool, and motorized mini brush. Unfortunately it lacks an extension hose, but still takes the ‘handheld’ to a new level.
Usability & Performance – The V7 Trigger is lightweight and very comfortable to use, whether you’re using it to pick up mud from your entrance hall carpeting, cat hair from your furniture, or using it exclusively to keep your car ‘valet’ clean. Provides powerful cyclonic suction for up to 30 minutes on the standard setting.
Value – Targeted toward users who want to shell out for a handheld they can use for a long time – whether it’s kept in the garage or the kitchen. It’s the most expensive model here, although you might be able to get it at a discounted price for a little under £200.
We rated the Dyson V7 Trigger you can read our entire review here.
Gtech Multi Mk2
Design & Accessories – Modern and stylish cordless handheld designed for a wide range of home and vehicle cleaning uses. Tools include a roller brush, dusting brush, crevice tool, flexible built-in hose and a 36cm hard plastic extension.
Usability & Performance – a powerful handheld vacuum that maintains suction whether you are dusting the home, picking up spills or cleaning upholstery. Ergonomic handle, built-in accessory storage and LED lights to help you see what you are cleaning. Has a run time of up to 20 minutes.
Value – Targeted toward the high end of the market (though still cheaper than the Dyson) at just under £150, the Multi Mk2 can be an invaluable purchase due to its wide range of possible uses.
We rated GTech MK2 the you can read our entire review here.
Black + Decker 18V Dustbuster Flexi
Design & Accessories – Uniquely designed cordless handheld that features a 1.5-meter flexible hose with a flat nozzle for normal spills and a flick-up brush for dusting. Also includes a crevice tool that can replace the standard nozzle.
Usability & Performance – The style of the Flexi means that you need to use two hands (i.e. one for the main unit and another for the hose), although it has a lot of practical applications around the home. It works best for odd spills and dusting and has a run time of up to 15 minutes.
Value – Low to mid-priced at a little less than £100, though it’s a versatile handheld that is capable of helping with a myriad of cleaning chores.
We rated the Black & Decker 18V Dustbuster you can read our entire review here.
Black + Decker 18V Dustbuster Pivot
Design & Accessories – Unlike the Flexi the Pivot is a handheld that you only need one hand to operate. It’s a modern take on an old-fashioned design with a flip-up dusting brush and extendable crevice tool. The patented nozzle also pivots up to 200 degrees which can come in handy when cleaning on top of tall furniture or appliances.
Usability & Performance – The Pivot is simple to use and more compact than the Flexi, although it has a smaller runtime of up to 10 minutes. It’s more practical than your standard handheld and works well on various surfaces (carpets, hard flooring, table tops etc.).
Value – The Pivot is more affordable than the previous two models at under £90, is easy to use and empty, and can be used for various applications. Most who are looking for a simple handheld with built-in tools will be happy with this purchase.
We rated the Black & Decker Dustbuster Flexi you can read our entire review here.
AEG AG71a RapidClean
Design & Accessories – The RapidClean is a bulky, corded handheld that has been specifically designed to clean stairs with its motorized brush but also has a built-in stretchable hose and crevice tool. It also features a flip-down stiff-bristled brush for, especially dirty areas.
Usability & Performance – Although less practical due to the cord, the 6-meter length means you won’t need to change power outlets often. Due to the size and weight, it’s not ideal for tabletop messes, but it is great for those who struggle with keeping their stairs and rugs clean. The included hose makes it more versatile for other household or car cleaning tasks.
Value – A very well received handheld that is affordably priced at less than £45. However, it’s primary market is those who need a handheld to clean their stairs rather than use their main hoover.
We rated the AEG AG71a Rapid Clean you can read our entire review here.
VonHaus 2-in-1 Stick
Design & Accessories – The VonHaus 2-in-1 Stick hoover is retro in styling and can be used both as an upright and a handheld. It’s a corded model with a large 1.3-litre dirt capacity and includes a hose, crevice tool and upholstery brush to be used with the ‘handheld’.
Usability & Performance – Although it lacks a swivel head, the lightweight design makes it an easy-to-use upright which works best on hard flooring. The 2-in-1 functionality (removable telescopic handle) means that it’s a very versatile machine, though it’s limited by the non-motorized brush head and the 6-meter cord.
Value – At less than £30 the VonHaus 2-in-1 offers great value for money, though don’t expect it to be as effective or simple to use than the more expensive models.
We rated the VonHaus 2-in-1 Stick Vacuum you can read our entire review here.
What are Handheld Vacuum Cleaners?
Handheld vacuum cleaners come in a range of styles and sizes and are essentially just smaller and portable versions of your typical hoovers. While they will never replace your main vacuum for wall to wall carpet or hard floor cleaning, they are designed to tackle the little jobs. This can include everything from carpeted stairs (never a favourite area of the home to clean), home and vehicle upholstery, random spills (i.e. kitty litter or coffee grounds), dusting and more. You’re truly only limited by your budget, though there are well-reviewed options at various price points depending on your needs.
Why Choose a Handheld Hoover?
If you’ve ever purchased a handheld hoover that made your life easier, this is a redundant question. However, for those who are still looking or are in the market for a replacement, it’s a good one. Simply put, a handheld vacuum cleaner is a portable tool you can add to your cleaning arsenal to ensure your home (or vehicle) is spick and span. It’s designed to do this quickly and efficiently which means less time cleaning and more time living in a hygienic environment. However, your needs will largely dictate how versatile the machine needs to be, and whether it should be corded or cordless. Here are some pointers to keep in mind when looking for a model.
Handheld Features to Consider before Purchasing:
Corded vs Cordless
Most of the handheld vacuum cleaners available for purchase today are cordless models, however, there are still many that come with a cord. The biggest complaint that people had with cordless models was the lack of power, but recent technological developments have made this much less of a deciding factor. What you should really consider before choosing one or the other is whether you will need to use it for a long period of time between charges and whether you mind being tethered by a cord. The corded models will also generally be much cheaper, especially compared to models with a similar power output or suction capabilities, but then you’re paying for the luxury of practicality.
Battery Life and Charging
Almost all cordless appliances now use lithium-ion (as opposed to the earlier nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydrate) batteries which are lightweight, hold a charge for a long time, have no memory effect and are capable of producing large amounts of power. Even so, the runtime can vary wildly depending on the size of the battery (i.e. voltage), the size and efficiency of the motor it will be operating. Some handheld vacuums can only run for 10 minutes while others can run for 20 minutes or more between charges. This may seem more than adequate, but keep in mind that it can typically take up to 4 hours to fully charge a depleted battery (in some cases more).
Always check the specifications, but compare them to customer reviews as the results in the real world usually differ (even if only slightly). Another consideration to make is whether you want a model with an LED indicator to let you know when it’s charged and how much juice is left while you’re cleaning. Lastly, some models have a plug-in wall charger, while others come with a docking station. This usually isn’t a deciding factor as most people like to put their handhelds out of sight when not in use.
Power and Suction Capabilities
It can be difficult to ascertain the suction capabilities of a handheld vacuum cleaner from the power specifications – a comparatively higher voltage battery usually means a hoover can run for longer but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more powerful. For this you’ll look at the air wattage, or if the data is available the air flow which gives some indication as to the hoover’s suction capabilities. We provided specifics on how these are measured in our cordless vacuum buying guide. However, the truth is that customer or unbiased reviews become priceless when comparing models as they can provide a real indication as to what a handheld’s capabilities are.
Most handhelds are very light in weight, usually ranging from around 1.5kg to 3kg in weight. Some may be lighter while others can be heavier. Keep in mind that while the specified weight often appears insignificant, after cleaning the house for 20 minutes you may feel more fatigued than you think. If you have arthritis in your hands or other limitations then consider going for as light a model as you can find – within reason as it still needs to perform the task you want it to. Also, consider how ergonomically designed the hoover is and how the included attachments (if applicable) will affect the weight and balance.
Dirt Capacity and Filtration
Unlike the original Royal Prince, the majority of handheld vacuum cleaners are now bagless. They aren’t designed for floor cleaning so the dirt capacities won’t be impressive, hovering around the 0.4-litre mark. Rather than focusing on the capacity too much, rather consider how easy it is to clean the handheld and whether you’ll be exposed to the dust and allergens in the process. If you are purchasing a 2-in-1 model (i.e. an upright that can also be used as a handheld) then you’ll find the dirt capacity will be much larger. The Dyson V8 is a popular top of the line 2-in-1 model which you can read about here.
In regards to filtration try to find a product with HEPA or micron filtration to ensure it picks up the finest particles and traps them, ensuring allergens aren’t expelled back into the air. Most handhelds have washable filters (either by machine or with running water), although some may need to be replaced. Filters can still become less effective and/or eventually reduce the suction capabilities of a hoover so check for the availabilities of spares before making a purchase.
Some handheld vacuum cleaners don’t include any attachments and are only designed for picking up small messes (i.e. kitty litter or crumbs), while others have a plethora of tools for a wide range of uses. When searching for a model, decide on what you intend to use the hoover for. Below are some common attachments or features that may or may not be available.
- Extension Hose – While some units are standalone models, others have an incorporated flexible extension hose to help you reach difficult areas. Other models may also have a hard plastic extension tool to let you better reach higher areas. The Gtech Multi Mk2, for instance, has both.
- Crevice Tool – A crevice tool is one of the most popular attachments on hoovers as they can help you to clean tight spaces (i.e. between cushions and floorboards, corners etc.).
- Upholstery Brush – An upholstery brush can sometimes be similar to a dusting brush with soft or hard bristles, although some are specifically designed for car or home upholstery.
- Dusting Brush – If you plan on using your handheld to clean dust from counter tops, mirrors, paintings, pictures, around ornaments and so on, you’ll want one with a dusting brush. This ensures you pick up the dust rather than just moving it around as you would with a regular duster.
- Roller Brush – Although not a common feature on handheld vacuum cleaners, some models now include a roller brush (motorized or air driven) for better stair and upholstery cleaning. If you have a lot of pet hair to pick up this is one feature you should consider. Other models like the AEG RapidClean also include a flip down stubborn brush to better help you pick up embedded hair and dirt/food.