Best handheld vacuum: 7 top hand vacs for quick clean-ups at home and in your car

For small messes and tight corners, the best handheld vacuum is a household essential

Included in this guide:

best handheld vacuum
(Image credit: Shark)

Owning the very best handheld vacuum is essential for quickly cleaning up after pets, for small spills, and for general day-to-day upkeep. Today's top hand vacs are lightweight, powerful, and thoughtfully designed. Most have cut the cord, and store compactly for even more convenience. 

They do not replace the best vacuums– you still need a full-sized vac for deep cleaning and keeping up with your floor routine – but for digging up crumbs between car seats, easy stair cleaning, or refreshing various upholstered pieces, a handheld vac is very handy.  Their small size (and hopefully lightweight build) makes it easier to clean without your arm getting tired. 

We've researched and compared the best handheld vacuums. All you need to do now is choose the right one for your needs. A handheld for pet owners? We found it! What about a sleek and powerful design that you'll surely want close by and within easy reach? You might just want to carry it everywhere with you. 

All about multi-tasking? Consider upgrading to one of the best cordless vacuums, which also convert for handheld cleaning. Our tried, tested, and trusted list is the best place to start (and finish) your research.

Best handheld vacuums 2021

Best handheld vacuum: black + decker handheld vacuum

(Image credit: Black + Decker)

1. Black + Decker 20V MAX* Lithium Pivot Vac

Best handheld vacuum, overall

Best for: everything
Cordless: Yes
Weights: 3 lb
Battery life: 15 Mins
Charge time: 4 hours
Capacity: 15 oz.
Reasons to buy
+Pivoting design for greater flexibility+Built-in attachments+Stores compact and upright
Reasons to avoid
-Limited attachments -Short battery life 

Of course, you want the best of the best, and when it comes to handheld vacuums, Black + Decker has made a name for itself for delivering powerful, compact vacuums. Even better: you don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a quality device.

Design and technical features
The 20-volt lithium-ion design is one of the most powerful you will see on a handheld vacuum when it comes to suction power. The core design feature utilizes a pivoting nozzle that pivots up to 200 degrees to clean at whatever angle is comfortable for you, and a wide mouth for greater pick-up. The Pivot also incorporates the crevice tool and dust brush into the design, meaning fewer (and in this case) no extra attachments to look after or worry about losing. And storing to charge is so nice and compact, it sits neatly upright. 

Final thoughts
Black + Decker 20V MAX* Lithium Pivot Vac emphasizes its design and power, and it's apparent. However, if you're looking for extended cleaning sessions, you may need to move on to our heavy-duty cleaning pick, because the battery life is still pretty short. We also really like the convenience of the built-in attachments, but there is no pet tool for a hair pick-up that is common with most vacuums.  

Best handheld vacuum: Shark rocket handheld

(Image credit: Shark)

2. Shark Rocket Ultra-Light with TruePet Mini Motorized Brush and 15-foot Power Cord Hand Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for heavy-duty clean ups

Best for: not having to remember to charge your vacuum
Cordless: No
Weight: 4 lb.
Cord Length: 15 feet
Capacity: 1.2 qt.
Reasons to buy
+Corded for long lasting cleaning sessions +Large bin+Great for pets
Reasons to avoid
-On the heavier side

While a cordless vacuum can be freeing, most cordless options are not built for heavy-duty or extended cleaning. Sometimes, sticking to a traditional corded model means minimal downtime so you can get through your entire cleaning session. In fact, the Shark Rocket Ultra-Light offers the power of a full-size vacuum with the lightweight nature of a handheld... and has pet tools to boot. 

Design and technical features
With a 15-foot cord and a roomy 1.2-quart dust bin, the lightweight Shark Rocket can essentially get you through cleaning marathons. It's versatile too with numerous attachments including a True Pet Motorized Brush for handheld deep cleaning, crevice tool, dusting brush, and an extendable hose.  

Final thoughts
As a full-size handheld, the Shark Rocket falls on the heavier end of our picks. One reviewer even suggested adding a shoulder strap to the design, which we could get on board with. Overall, it's a solidly built machine, with the right amount of suction power to boot.

Best handheld vacuum: Black & Decker Flexi Handheld Vacuum, dark silver

3. Black + Decker 20-Volt Max Lithium Ion Cordless Handheld Flex Vac

Best handheld vacuum for versatility

Best for: tough to reach areas in your home or car
Cordless: Yes
Weights: 5.3 lb
Battery life: 15 Mins
Charge time: 9 hours
Capacity: 17 oz.
Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-remove and washable bowl +Pet-hair brush+Easy to hold+Powerful suction
Reasons to avoid

In quite a small footprint, the Black + Decker 20-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Cordless Handheld Flex Vac packs a number of features into a circular design that is easy to carry, versatile to use, and offers strong suction power. 

Design and technical features
The Flex vac features the same powerful 20V suction power as our top pick, but with
a major body-style change. The addition of a built-in 4-foot flexible hose makes it easy to access tight spaces, as well as up high and down low. It also comes with handy accessories including a 2-in-1 nozzle/flip-up brush, a pet-hair brush, and a crevice tool for increased versatility wherever you need a little boost of suction power. Plus, three-stage filtration ensures that dust and debris won't escape once suctioned up. 

Final thoughts
Durable, powerful, and going to get the tough jobs done. We only wish the battery life was longer. 

Best handheld vacuum: best handheld vacuum

(Image credit: Shark)

4. Shark WANDVAC Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for quick pick ups

Best for: Design lovers
Cordless: Y
Weight: 1.4 lbs
Battery life: 10 mins
Charge time: 2.5 hours
Capacity: 2.6oz
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Lightweight+Pet and crevice tools+Relatively short charge time
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life

We were originally drawn to the sleek design of the Shark WANDVAC, but we've found ourselves even more impressed with the power and versatility packed in this 1.4lb. mini handheld for catching quick messes in the kitchen, car, or wherever you may need a quick burst of cleaning power. 

Design and technical features
The slim build boasts a high-speed, brushless motor for superior suction. It also comes with a variety of attachments including a crevice-cleaning tool and multi-surface tool for cleaning upholstery and pet hair. The .08 dust cup empties with the push of a button straight into the garbage. It's even available in a range of fashion colors like rose gold or cove blue. 

Final Thoughts
While, it does have relatively short battery life at 10 minutes, and just one setting, The Shark WANDVAC is a great little hand vac to keep on hand for quick clean-ups. It's attractive enough to create minimal visual distraction in its charging dock on your counter, or slim enough to be tucked away into a cabinet when not in use. 

Best handheld vacuum: best handheld pet hair vacuum

(Image credit: Bissell)

5. BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Hand Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for pet hair

Best for: Pets
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 3lb.
Battery life: 17 mins
Charge time: 6 hours
Capacity: .7L
Reasons to buy
+Super easy to use+Pet-hair and upholstery tool included

We love our pets, but if you find yourself constantly following a trail of fluff that was once on your fur baby's body, and now clinging to your floors and furniture like static, you'll want to whisk around the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Hand Vacuum. It's lightweight and powerful, and built especially for pet owners, though humans with long locks can certainly benefit from it too. 

Design and Technical Features
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser has a 14.4- Volt battery that provides up to 17 minutes of charge and a Triple-Level Filtration. It's super easy to handle — just grab it when you need to do some quick cleaning in focused areas. The best part, though, is the detachable motorized brush that helps remove embedded pet hair from surfaces like upholstery and area rugs. This Bissell handheld vac is suitable for use on stairs, hair floors, and deep-pile carpets. It also works well on kitchen work surfaces and car seats, so there's really no surface it can't cover. For extra versatility, it also includes an Upholstery Tool and a Crevice Tool. 

Final thoughts
If you're in need of a quick zip of power to suction up spills, dust, or hair, but don't quite want to pull out the full-size vacuum, the Bissell is sure to impress. 

Dyson humdinger handheld

(Image credit: Dyson)

6. Dyson Humdinger Cord-Free Hand Vac

Best handheld vacuum to splurge on

Best for: Power
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 2.1 lb
Battery life: 20 minutes
Charge time: 3.5 hours
Capacity: 0.05 gallons
Reasons to buy
+Whole machine filtration+Two suction modes+Very powerful +Lightweight+On/Off button
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive for a handheld-Small dust bin

Get your favorite Dyson-powered clean for smaller-scale cleans with the new Dyson Humdinger Cord-Free. It's a premium level handheld, packed with power, accessories, and 20 minutes of run time. 

Design and technical features
The Dyson Humdinger follows a lot of features of its Dyson stick vacuum counterparts, just in a more compact way. At 2.1lb, it has a small, narrow diesgn and a .05 gallon dust bin, but offers the most in power that we've seen in a handheld. For instance, the Humdinger rates in at 36 volts, and the only models that seem to follow close behind are the 20V Black + Decker models.  It also features Dyson's first-rate five-layer whole-machine filtration to capture dust and seal in particles and hygienic no-touch bin opening. 

For accessories, it rounds out with a mini-motorized brush bar, a combination crevice tool with a nozzle and brush in one tool, a worktop tool, and a docking station.

Final thoughts
If you're after a powerful handheld and love the name before Dyson, we think you'll be happy. Users love its adjustable suction power and ability to cull out pet hair but remember that all of Dyson's cordless stick vacuums convert to handhelds as well, so you might be better off opting for a full-size unit with even more versatility and battery life. 

Best handheld vacuum: thisworx car vacuum

(Image credit: ThisWorx)

7. ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner

Best handheld vacuum for the car

Best for: car cleaning and detailing
Cordless: No
Weight: 2.6 lb.
Cord Length: 16 feet
Capacity: Unknown
Reasons to buy
+Uses a 12V car adapter for use+Includes a storage container+LED light to see dark areas+HEPA filtration
Reasons to avoid
-Corded-Only usable with a car adapter

If you want to give your car a good detailing without a second thought to whether your vacuum is charged, the ThisWorx will tackle dirt and sand that gets tracked into the floorboards, snacks that get left in between cushions, and any dust that accumulates on the dashboard. 

Design and technical features
The ThisWorx portable car vacuum cleaner features a 16-foot cord that should offer bumper-to-bumper access. The small, yet mighty handheld offers 110W of suction power, a washable HEPA filter, a LED light to see dark spots, and one of the largest suite of attachments we've seen including a flathead hose for hard to reach areas, extension tube for crevices, and a brush head to dig out dirt on carpets and upholstery. Plus, it can suction up liquids, sealing its fate as a workhorse.  Even better, when not in use, it conveniently stores in a carrying case that you can stash in your trunk. 

Final thoughts
This car vac seems to have it all, as long as you're comfortable keeping the cord. Our only major downside is it can only be used in the car since it works with the 12V car socket, so if you want to use it elsewhere because you love its suction power, well, you will have to pull your car alongside it.

black + decker pivot vac

(Image credit: Black + Decker)

How to choose a handheld vacuum?

When selecting your next handheld vacuum, consider these factors

Since it's something you'll be carrying around, it's important for your handheld vacuum to be lightweight. Anything under five pounds should feel comfortable to hold, but you can also find models that are less than 2 pounds. 

Don't expect the suction strength of a full-sized vacuum, but anything that is at least 12-Volts will offer adequate suction power. Our top picks feature up to 20-volts of power to help you get your surfaces clean, faster. 

Battery or Corded
Battery-powered cordless models are dominating the landscape at the moment. It's easy to see why. They're convenient and can be taken almost anywhere. Most we've seen have batteries that last between 15 and 20 minutes. If you're looking for longer cleaning sessions or not having to recharge as frequently, you'll want to choose a corded model or try a cordless vacuum with a handheld component, with stronger battery life.

Dust Cup Size
The lighter the vacuum, the smaller the dust bin. A standard dust bin size for a handheld seems to be about 10-20oz, and on smaller, micro models, they can be as small as 3oz. Designs with see-through containers will let you keep track of how much debris has accumulated and should be easy to empty over a trash can.

Where you're going to use it
Handheld vacuums are small in nature, but it's important you consider where you want to store them, or the area you're looking to use it most. Will it just be used in your car? Perhaps looks for something with a car adapter to charge.   Looking to take it on the go or short on storage space? A micro handheld vacuum might be a good idea to have, without being heavy or bulky. 

Jaclyn Turner

Jaclyn is an eCommerce editor at Future Home Interest, and scouts out the best of the best for buying guides to help you fill your home with housewares you will love. She joined the team in January 2021. She has previously worked with Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn, The Spruce, The Spruce Eats, and MyDomaine.  When Jaclyn's not working, she loves browsing real estate listings, unwinding with a chilled glass of Rosé, and entertaining her Cavapoo puppy, Reese.