Vacuum with detachable handheld models are expensive and don’t last as long as plug-ins, but they’re amazingly convenient. If that sounds like a fair trade and you decide to go cordless, we’d recommend a Dyson (if you have rugs), because they pick up much more hair, grit, and dust than any other battery-powered vacuum we’ve tested. Consider the base-model Dyson V7 Motorhead first, but you can upgrade for more battery life, cleaning power, and attachments. Let us review the best handheld vacuum and the vacuum cleaner models below.
vacuum with detachable handheld
Dyson V7 Motorhead
Cordless convenience, great on rugs
Dyson sticks are much better at cleaning rugs than any other brand’s cordless vacuums. The base-model Dyson V7 has enough battery life to clean most apartments and some smaller houses on a single charge.$285* from Amazon$300 from Wayfair
*At the time of publishing, the price was $290.
Dyson V8 Absolute
More run time, more tools
The Dyson V8 series has more battery life and a bit more cleaning power than the V7, but they are pretty similar otherwise. This variant comes with special attachments for cleaning bare floors and upholstery.$350 from Dyson$380 from Amazon
We test any cordless vacuum that claims to be a strong cleaner or to have tons of battery life, or that our readers want to know more about—and none of them have performed nearly as well as Dyson cordless vacuums on rugs. We’ve tried all kinds of tests, from controlled tests where we measure out debris, to simply letting our own rugs at home get filthy and seeing what works in real life. Dyson always wins. It’s not particularly close, and the thicker the rug, the greater the advantage Dyson has. Most people find that Dyson cordless vacuums are a pleasure to use, too.
The downsides: Even compared with other cordless vacuums, Dyson sticks are expensive, and repairs are pricey too. Also, these vacuums aren’t especially reliable over time (though they’re not as bad as some reviewers make them out to be). Some people find that the Dyson sticks’ top-heavy design and trigger-style power switch are uncomfortable to use. If you don’t have rugs or don’t care whether your cordless vacuum really keeps them clean, then a Dyson will be overkill. Otherwise, it’s your only great choice.
The V7 series usually runs for about 25 minutes (enough to clean most apartments and some small houses); the V8 is a bit stronger and can go for about 35 minutes. Variants within those series come with different sets of tools and sometimes filters.
Dyson V11 Torque Drive
In a class of its own
The flagship Dyson automatically adjusts suction according to the surface it’s on, and it cleans carpets better than even some plug-ins. The V11 is significantly more expensive than any other cordless vac, but it may make vacuuming actually enjoyable.$550* from Amazon$700 from Wayfair
*At the time of publishing, the price was $670.
To get even more battery life and carpet-cleaning power, you can step up to the Dyson V10 or even V11 series. The flagship Dyson V11 Torque Drive is a wonderful cleaner, with some of the strongest cleaning we’ve seen from any vacuum (including plug-ins), clever features that make the most of an already-generous battery life, and a screen that takes away most guesswork and uncertainty. Some of the quirks that turn people off from cordless vacuums, and Dyson sticks in particular, are still present here. And the V11 is still too new for anyone to know whether it will prove reliable over time, so the high price makes it a risky investment. The Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal is a more-affordable option if you want better cleaning and a longer run time than you’d get with the V7 or V8, though the V10 is not quite as powerful or refined as the V11.
Shark Ion F80 MultiFlex
For Dyson haters
The Shark Ion F80 lets you swap battery packs to extend the run time. It has a regular on/off button that’s easier for those with hand and wrist issues to operate than a trigger, and its dual-roller cleaning head works well on bare floors and short-pile rugs.$320 from Amazon
The Shark Ion F80 MultiFlex seems like it was purpose-built to be the opposite of a Dyson, in all the ways that some people find Dyson sticks frustrating. The Shark design has a removable battery, so you can swap packs to extend the run time (it comes with two packs, which can power the vacuum for up to 80 minutes). The power switch is a regular on/off button instead of a trigger. The Ion F80’s cleaning head has a unique dual-roller design that’s better at picking up big debris (like cereal) from bare floors than most stick vacs, and it’s still pretty good on short-pile rugs. The Ion F80 can also stand up on its own. If you don’t like the Dyson design and you’re not so concerned about carpet-cleaning performance—maybe you don’t have any thick rugs, you already have a strong vacuum, or you don’t care about the few grams of dust that you’ll never see buried between the fibers of your rugs—the Ion F80 could be a good option. But if you want it, you might need to get it soon, because it looks like Shark has discontinued it.
Lower price, for easy jobs
This affordable cordless vacuum offers a decade’s worth of solid reviews, good-enough handling, and enough power to tackle easy jobs on bare floors. It doesn’t double as a handheld vacuum, though.$180* from Walmart$200 from Amazon
*At the time of publishing, the price was $120.
If you don’t want to spend much money on a cordless vacuum, don’t expect it to get your rugs very clean. As long as you’re cool with that, any cheap cordless vacuum works fine when it’s new. But if we had to recommend one budget-friendly cordless vacuum, we’d suggest the Hoover Linx, because we’re confident that it will last longer than most of the discount Dyson knockoffs littering Amazon’s listings these days. The Linx has been available for about a decade, building a respectable track record for durability. The battery life and cleaning performance are solid for the price. Although you can’t use it as a handheld vacuum, as you can our other picks, it can stand up on its own for easy storage, unlike many of its competitors.
Things to Consider When Buying a Vacuum Cleaner
The old vacuum cleaner has “bitten the dust” and you need a replacement. One quick look online is all it takes to realize that choosing a new machine might be more challenging than you thought. It’s easy to get caught up in the “latest and greatest” when perusing vacuums online or in magazines and end up with a machine that is either too much or not enough, or just doesn’t fit your needs.
We’ve put together a few questions for consideration to help focus your search efforts before purchasing that new vacuum cleaner. Maybe you’ve already thought about some of these, so please use the following list to quickly navigate to the concerns most important to you.
What Flooring Types Do I Have?
Probably the most obvious consideration is whether you have mainly carpeting, hard floors, or a fairly even combination of both. Generally speaking, for homes with a lot of carpeting, especially in large areas, an upright vacuum cleaner is a good choice. However, if your personal preference tends toward canister style vacuums, there are quite a few excellent choices available. You will want to be sure that it has a floor nozzle with a motorized brushroll and height adjustment options for various pile carpets.
If you love hardwood or tile flooring with a few rugs here and there, or enjoy low-pile carpeting, a canister style vacuum is a great option. Using a specialized floor brush, these are usually very maneuverable for working quickly around and underneath furniture. Some are equipped with combination floor tools that easily switch to effectively clean scatter rugs. For true canister vacuum lovers, there are machines that feature high quality motorized floor nozzles that can effectively handle deep-pile carpets.
Most people have a combination of both carpeting and hard floors. At this point, style preference will be your guide. However, be sure to check for convenience features such as on/off brushroll control, height adjustment, and suction control. Be sure to note whether the brushroll is air-powered or electrically powered as this affects the effectiveness of deep-pile carpet cleaning.
Do I Need to Control Allergens?
This is a key question to consider since we spend, on average, about 90% of our time indoors where pollutants can be 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. This is especially important to ponder if you or someone in your family has asthma or allergies. A vacuum cleaner that provides HEPA filtration can be an important contributor to improving your indoor air quality. HEPA filters capture particulate matter down to 0.3 microns so that the exhausted air is actually cleaner than what was sucked into the vacuum. There are also machines that include some level of charcoal filtration to help control odors—great for pet owners.
An additional consideration is a vacuum that not only uses HEPA filters but does so in a completely sealed system. This means that there is virtually no leakage of air through the housing or fittings of the machine and all air (along with pollutants) is forced through the filtration system, leaving your indoor air allergen free. See this article for more information about allergies and vacuums.
How Often Do I Vacuum?
Something you may not have thought about, the frequency of your cleaning schedule can be impacted by the ease or difficulty of storing and accessing your vacuum. For those folks who shed their shoes the minute they hit the door, walking on floors that quickly accumulate pet fur, crumbs, and tracked-in dirt or sand, daily vacuuming is standard operating procedure. In that case, a vacuum that is difficult to access and use quickly can make this routine a real chore. Consider a robotic vacuum that can be scheduled to clean while you’re at work or running errands so you return to grit-free floors, really nice if you frequently bring home company.
If your debris tends to concentrate in specific areas, a stick vacuum is a champ at quickly taking care of daily messes whether on hard floors or carpets, as well as effectively handling more extensive weekly cleaning. There are also light-weight uprights and compact canisters with parking features that make them easy to store and use at a moment’s notice.
How Many Levels are in My Home?
In other words, how many stairs do you have to carry your vacuum up and down? There are many maneuverable, light-weight cordless vacuums that have great suction power and long run times that can handle multiple floor types. There are also lightweight vacuums in both upright and canister styles that make transporting them between floors easy.
An additional thought is the type of flooring on each level. While it sounds crazy, sometimes more than one vacuum is a very good idea. If you have a main floor that really benefits from a machine that can handle a variety of floor types, your upper floor may only require a vacuum best for carpets or hard floors. Or, the reverse may be true. In either case, consider purchasing a smaller stick vacuum for the space best suited for it, and save yourself grueling trips up and down stairs with your larger machine.
What Additional Surfaces will I be Cleaning?
If you like vacuuming away all the accumulated dust from furniture, curtains, moldings, and baseboards instead of dusting, you’ll want a vacuum that includes a variety of accessory tools. Most include at least a combination brush and crevice tool, while others have additional floor nozzles, an upholstery tool, and specialized accessories for specific types of cleaning. If you own pets, or have a lot of stairs, consider a vacuum that includes a mini-motorized tool for easy cleaning. Some offer an even wider variety of specialized tools and extension wands which you can purchase separately as you need them.
How Much Noise Can I Stand?
Given the technology, if you will, of vacuums, there is a certain amount of expected sound generated during use. Typically, the larger and more heavy-duty the machine for the job, the louder it is. For homes, and for office spaces where a quieter sound level is desired, there are vacuums that have been designed with insulated motor housings as well as newer low-noise motors for quieter operation. Some can run as lows as 47 dB at maximum power while still delivering 120 CFM. Vacuum manufacturers such as NaceCare, Miele, and Sebo have recently redesigned some of their machines for quieter operation. Check specifications for your selection before buying.
How Much Maintenance is Required?
This is a question that really depends on your definition of “a lot” and how tedious different kinds of maintenance are for you. Bagless vacuums don’t have bags that need to be changed, but dust bins still need to be emptied and washed periodically, especially if your home includes allergy-sufferers. Any vacuum with a HEPA filter will need that filter to be replaced when necessary, depending on individual home environments. The same is true for any other type of filter unless it is specified as a washable filter.
Brushrolls will collect pet fur, hair, threads and other debris and will need to be cleaned to maintain top operating capabilities. Ease of access to it should be a consideration. For quality vacuums that last for years, sometimes accessory tools like dusting brushes may need to be replaced. Check to see if these are available for purchase either at retail or from the manufacturer.
The Main Vacuum Types
There are five primary shapes of vacuum cleaners, each performing a slightly different function, although some combine those forms in order to provide more bang for your buck. Being aware of the expectations you have of your vacuum cleaner can help you more intelligently and decisively pick one of the following.
Handheld vacuums are perfect for getting those painfully hard-to-reach areas that desperately need a cleaning. The most common example for use is in vacuuming cars, since, as the name suggests, this model can be held in only one hand. Its versatility makes it a dream for suctioning up dirt and debris in a variety of tight places, but it would not serve well for general flooring cleaning, which would take a long time to clean with a handheld. This type of vacuum cleaner comes in all sorts of different forms with equally different price tags.
Canister vacuum cleaners are a happy medium between the upright model and the stick model. They are powerful like the upright cleaners, but feature a slender frame, like the stick cleaners. In this case, a separate canister is attached to a long wand which can be used to maintain not only carpeted areas but also bare flooring as well. This style of vacuum cleaner tends to be one of the most expensive options, given its technologically-forward and multi-functional design.
These cleaners are perhaps the most popular and sought-after forms of vacuum cleaners. When you imagine a vacuum cleaner or see one advertised in media, the image you picture is probably that of an upright machine. These models provide the most powerful clean-up for your house, and offer the comforting benefit of usually easy-to-understand functions and accessories, since most people have used an upright vacuum cleaner at least once in their lifetime. Most models provide settings that allow these vacuum cleaners to be used not only on carpeted surfaces but also bare floors.
While perhaps the least powerful of the vacuum models, stick vacuums have a knack for getting into narrow places and doing a tremendous job on hardwood floors, area rugs and light carpeting. This type of vacuum features a long stick-like handle and a slender construction. The slimness of this model makes it a perfect addition to any closet space, as it tucks neatly into most corners after its purpose has been served.
5. Autonomous / Robot
Robot vacuum cleaners have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, mainly due to the fact that they require little effort on your end. These vacuums are able to roam freely around your home, sucking up any small mess in its way. They not only save you time, but they are also able to reach places that larger vacuums wouldn’t be able to, such as under the couch. One main drawback of robot vacuums is that they typically come at a steep price.
Location, Location, Location
Do you have primarily hardwood floors throughout your house? Are these floors covered with area rugs, or are they bare? Is your home filled with wall-to-wall carpeting? These are considerations you must make before taking the leap and purchasing your very own vacuum cleaner.
If you have bare floors, you’re better off with models that provide a number of attachments and which don’t have quite as much heft as some of the others. Using a regular upright vacuum on flooring like hardwood poses a number of problems, which includes scratching your smooth and coveted floors and being counterproductive by scattering debris across their surfaces. Some upright vacuums do provide settings that function better on non-carpeted areas, but for the most part your best bet would be with a model like the canister vacuum, which can also take care of your area rugs if you have any. These vacuums usually come with a bare-floor brush, which makes keeping your floors squeaky clean and scratch-free a piece of cake.
On the other hand, if you have wall-to-wall carpeting, it’s definitely worth considering a model with different advantages than a vacuum cleaner suited for hardwood flooring and tiling. You won’t need to worry about scratching the surface of your carpet, and in fact, you’ll want something powerful that pulls up all the lingering debris from the carpet strands. In this instance, an upright cleaner is a great way to go. There are all sorts of extra conveniences that upright vacuums have recently come out with, including a dirt sensor which makes sure you get that last speck of grime.
Know the layout of your flooring and what sorts of surfaces you’ll be dealing with to ensure your needs will be met with your new vacuum cleaner.
To Bag or Not To Bag
The general consensus is that, whether you have a bagged vacuum or a bagless vacuum, your house will be clean either way (as long as you keep using it). However, there are a few small differences that may make or break your decision to buy one or the other.
If you or any of your family members are sensitive to allergens or have asthma, the bagged vacuum is probably more for you. Dust exposure is minimized when the bag is emptied and most bags are guaranteed to trap all but .03% of the dust and pollen in your carpeting. You do have to replace the bags on a regular basis, although these are typically available at most supermarkets.
If you are environmentally-minded and prefer to not have to deal with replacing bags, the bagless vacuum is more for you. These vacuums usually have a see-through canister which gives you perfect access to seeing how full the vacuum is, which can help you determine when you need to empty it out.