We bought the 8 best handheld vacuums available in 2019 and compared their performance side-by-side. A handheld vacuum can be a huge help around the house or a huge pain in the butt, depending on whether it actually works well. To spare you the grief of heading in the wrong direction, we put each model through a series of rigorous real-world tests. We rated them on how they deal with all sorts of messes, their battery life, ease of operation, success at dealing with pet hair, and several other challenges.
The Best Handheld Vacuums of 2019
$239.00 at Amazon
$109.00 at Amazon
$64.99 at Amazon
$53.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Unmatched cleaning performance, unrivaled battery life||Great for getting those hard-to-clean areas, good value||Fantastic at picking up pet hair, great value||Excellent battery life, fairly convenient||Exceptional runtime, fairly easy to clean with|
|Cons||Expensive, heavy||Lackluster battery life, two hands to operate, obnoxiously loud||Not the best for tight spaces, can’t clean small gaps or corners||So-so cleaning performance, terribly with pet hair||Abysmal at picking up pet hair, not the best at cleaning|
|Bottom Line||The V7 is the absolute best of the best when it comes to these products||If you want a great all-around handheld vacuum that won’t break the bank, the Flex Vac is a fine choice||If you are shopping for a handheld vac on the tightest of budgets, then the Pet Hair Eraser is a great choice||This middle-of-the-road vacuum failed to impress||We would be hard-pressed to find an area where this vacuum stands out from the rest|
|Rating Categories||Dyson V7 Car+Boat||Flex Vac BDH2020FL||BISSELL Pet Hair...||HoLIFE Portable...||Cleaner KB-9005|
|Dust & Dirt (20%)|
|Tough Messes (20%)|
|Hard To Reach Areas (20%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Pet Hair (10%)|
|Specs||Dyson V7 Car+Boat||Flex Vac BDH2020FL||BISSELL Pet Hair...||HoLIFE Portable...||Cleaner KB-9005|
|Measured weight (no tool)||2.9 lbs||3 lbs||2.6 lbs||2.4 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|Measured weight (heaviest tool)||3.7 lbs||3.1 lbs||3 lbs||2.5 lbs||2.5 lbs|
|Usage type||Dry||Dry||Dry||Dry & wet||Dry & wet|
|Dust capacity||0.5 L||0.5 L||0.73 L||0.6 L||0.6 L|
|Wet capacity||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.1 L||0.1 L|
|Measured runtime||Normal: 33 min 57 sec
High: 6 min 23 sec
|15 min||Without motorized brush: 20 min 42 sec
With motorized brush: 17 min
|26 min 10 sec||25 min 18 sec|
|Charge time||3.5 hours||4 hours||8 hours||3-5 hours||3-5 hours|
|Measured noise (at arms length)||70 dBa||82.5 dBa||71.4 dBa||68 dBa||70.7 dBa|
Best of the Best
Dyson V7 Car+Boat
For the absolute best handheld vacuum you can get, look no further than the Dyson V7. This heavy-hitter combines excellent cleaning performance and impressive battery life in an extremely easy-to-use package. The Dyson handles most messes from fine dust to mini-wheats without issue. It also comes with an assortment of attachments that ease cleaning in confined areas and pick up pet hair.
Not surprisingly, all this performance is pricey. Also, the Dyson is heavier than most competitors. But if you want the absolute best handheld vacuum on the market and are willing to pay for it, the Dyson is the clear choice.
Read Full Review: Dyson V7 Car+Boat
BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac BDH2020FL
If the price tag of the Dyson V7 is over the top, then a good alternative is the BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac. It does a great job handling the usual dust and dirt around the home and also is fairly impressive at handling tougher messes. Unlike the other models we tested, it has an integrated hose that all of the attachments mount to. This makes it much easier to clean in small areas, but it also makes it a bit less convenient to use, as it requires two-handed operation rather than the customary one-handed use.
Also, it's on the heavier side and is somewhat louder than some other models. Regardless, this is a good vacuum for anyone seeking good performance at a less than stratospheric price.
Read Full Review: BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac BDH2020FL
Best on a Tight Budget
BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser
If most of your vacuum cleaner budget is tied up in an upright or canister model and you just want a budget handheld as a backup, then the Pet Hair Eraser by BISSELL is a solid choice. It's notably good with pet hair and tough messes, and also can handle dirt and dust.
Unfortunately, it isn't too good at getting into every little nook and cranny and it also struggles a bit at cleaning under furniture or appliances. It is also on the loud side and is only average when it comes to weight and battery life. Given that, it still does an overall good job at a fraction of the cost of the top products, thereby earning it a Best Buy award.
Read Full Review: BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser
Why You Should Trust Us?
Our TechGearLab handheld vacuum team consists of Austin Palmer and David Wise. They are both veteran tech reviewers, having tested and reviewed more than 400 different products during the past few years. Austin has spent more than 1,000 hours checking out upright vacuums, stick vacuums, and robot vacuums. In addition to professionally reviewing tech products for the last three years, David lives in a house with two long-hair cats, two long-hair dogs, and shag carpet straight from the '60s, making it the perfect place to torture test these vacuums. In addition to our own extensive background and experience with vacuums, we have also consulted professional house cleaners and a large pool of friends and family members about our test plans and selections, loaning out the products to confirm our results. At TechGearLab we buy all the products that we test, never accepting free samples from manufacturers, thereby ensuring the most accurate and unbiased reviews.
Related: How We Tested Handheld Vacuums
Analysis and Test Results
In total, we did over 20 different tests, grouping them into six weighted rating metrics, with our full results discussed below.
Related: Buying Advice for Handheld Vacuums
While our Editors' Choice award winner, the Dyson V7 is undeniably a fantastic product with unmatched cleaning power, it also might suck up all your spare cash. If that is giving you sticker shock, then the BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac BDH2020FL should be the next product you consider. It cleans almost as well as the Dyson V7, though it can be a bit more cumbersome to use. It costs quite a bit less than the Dyson, making it a much better value and earning it a Best Buy award. For an even tighter budget, the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser is the one for you, having also earned a Best Buy award. This is the least expensive product that we tested that is really worth getting — anything less expensive is quite deficient when it comes to overall performance.
Dust and Dirt
The first thing we looked at when evaluating these products is how well they cleaned up common dirt and dust, then how well each one cleaned small ledges, edges, and corners. To test the dusting abilities, we statically charged a photo screen, sprinkled flour over it and timed how long it took each vacuum to clean it. For dirt, we spread out mud on a hard surface, then let it dry and tasked each vacuum with cleaning it. Altogether, these assessments are responsible for 20% of the total score.
Easily outperforming the rest of the pack, the Dyson V7 claimed the top spot in this metric, earning a 9 out of 10 for its superb performance. This handheld vacuum did exceptionally well in our dusting test, cleaning all of the fine particles off the statically charged sheet in about 13 seconds. It did even better with dirt/dried mud, only taking around four seconds to completely clean up the entire mess.
The brush attachment for the Dyson is quite long, with particularly long bristles that are on the softer side, making it very effective at cleaning small areas, like the corner of a window sill or along the top lip of a baseboard.
Following the Dyson's stellar performance, a pair of BLACK+DECKER models, the Flex Vac and the HHVI315JO42 tied for the runner-up position, each earning a 7 out of 10. These both did quite well in our dusting test, each took about 21 seconds to clean up all of the dust — just a bit longer than the Dyson V7. The HHVI315JO42 also did very well when it came to cleaning up dirt, only taking a second longer than the Dyson.
Unfortunately, the Flex Vac didn't do that well when it came to dirt, taking about five times as long as the Dyson to clean up the same amount of mess. However, the Flex Vac did a lot better than the HHVI315JO42 when it came to cleaning smaller areas.
Next, the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser, the HoLife, and the Homasy all received a 6 out of 10 for their decent dirt and dust cleaning abilities. The BISSELL doesn't have an excellent brush for dusting, only an upholstery attachment without bristles and a motorized bristle brush that is a bit much for dusting. Surprisingly, it did quite well in our dusting test with the upholstery attachment, only taking a second longer than the Flex Vac or the HHVI315JO42. It also did very well at cleaning up dirt and dried on mud, matching the performance of the Dyson and the HHVI315JO42. However, its upholstery attachment is a bit of a pain to use in smaller cracks and corners.
Both the HoLife and the Homasy are virtually identical handheld vacuums, both doing very well in the dirt cleaning test and rather poorly when it came to dusting — their stiff bristles are far from the best for this application. However, their brush attachments do work fairly well for cleaning out the corners of places like a window sill, but not as well at thinner ledges.
The Shark ION W1 and the BLACK+DECKER HHVI320JR02 both finished at the back of the pack, each earning a 5 out of 10 for their mediocre cleaning abilities on dust and dirt. The Shark is a tiny handheld vacuum that took significantly longer to complete our cleaning tasks, but at least it is reasonably effective at cleaning small spaces and corners.
The BLACK+DECKER HHVI320JR02 did even worse in the dusting test, failing to collect all of the flour after 45 seconds of cleaning and even leaving some scrapes and scuff marks behind. It also didn't impress when it came to small space but did do fairly well at cleaning up the caked on dirt, only taking about eight seconds longer than the V7 or the Pet Hair Eraser.
Next, we considered the performance of each vacuum when it came to tougher messes to clean, such as different types of debris on couch cushions and automotive carpet, as well as larger particles. Additionally, we also compared each vacuum's effective airflow using an anemometer in a sealed chamber. In total, these four tests constitute 20% of the total score for each vacuum.
The Dyson V7 again nabbed the top spot, earning another 9 out of 10 for its stellar results. Starting off, we spread some flour out on a section of automotive carpet, then scored each vacuum on how well it cleaned and how many passes it took. We used the most appropriate tool supplied with each vacuum, which was the motorized brush for the Dyson.
It did exceptionally cleaning up the flour, getting the carpet quite clean after a few passes. It also did very well at collecting crushed oat from both a cushion and the carpet, getting close to 99% of the mess without any issue and without flinging any particles aside.
It also sucked up mini-wheats in our large particle test without any cause for concern and did fairly well in our anemometer wind speed test — though it didn't put up the highest score of the group, outmatched by the BLACK+DECKER HHVI315JO42.
Following the V7, the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser came next, meriting an 8 out of 10. This vacuum matched the performance of the V7 when it came to flour — even slightly exceeding it when it came to flour collected per pass.
It also matched the performance of the V7 in our oat tests, but couldn't quite compare when it came to collecting mini-wheats. Additionally, it also measured slightly lower in the anemometer test.
Next, the BLACK+DECKER HHVI320JR02 earned a 7 out of 10. It did much worse than the V7 or the Pet Hair Eraser when it came to collecting flour, but matched the performance of these top two products in our mini-wheat collection test and fell just a tiny bit short when collecting oats from both the cushion and carpets. It also matched the V7 in the anemometer assessment, outperforming the BISSELL.
The bulk of the vacuums all came next, with the Flex Vac, the BLACK+DECKER HHVI315JO42, the HoLife, and the Homasy all earned a 6 out of 10. The HoLife and the Homasy both did an excellent job in the flour test, getting most of the flour up from the carpet, but couldn't quite match the top products.
This pair also does very well at sucking up the mini-wheats — as long as there isn't an attachment on — but both struggled a bit with the oats, leaving a bit behind in the harder to clean areas of the cushion and in the fibers of the carpet. They also did about average in the wind speed test.
The Flex Vac sucked up the mini-wheats without any issue at all, but did a rather lackluster job at collecting the flour and oats, doing about the same as the HoLife and the Homasy with the oats and a bit worse with the flour. However, it did outperform both of those products in the sealed chamber anemometer test.
The BLACK+DECKER HHVI315JO42 did a terrible job in the flour test — worse than any other product — but did do a little better than the Flex Vac when it came to cleaning up crushed oats. It also did a great job with the mini-wheats and put up one of the highest wind speeds in the anemometer test.
The Shark ION W1 again finished at the back of the group, earning a 4 out of 10 for its below average performance. It surprisingly did quite well with the flour and mini-wheats, though it couldn't compare to the V7. Unfortunately, it failed somewhat miserably at cleaning oats from the cushions and had the lowest measured air flow, dropping it to the back of the pack.
Our next metric challenged each vacuum on how well it could clean in cramped and confined space. We ranked and scored each one on how well it could clean debris out of a sliding window track and on how far it could effectively clean under a low piece of furniture and under an appliance. These assessments again are responsible for 20% of the overall score for each vacuum.
While it should be no surprise at this point that the Dyson V7 again claimed the top spot, this time it was joined by the BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac, with both vacuums earning a 9 out of 10. The Flex Vac actually did slightly better than the V7 at cleaning debris out of the window track, having a slightly skinnier crevice attachment.
To see how well they would do at cleaning under furniture, we used a shelving unit with a three-inch gap between the base shelf and the floor, then measured how far each one could effectively clean. Both of these vacuums can reach as far as you can when using the crevice tool and hose attachment — almost three feet in our tests!
Next, we made that test even harder by adding a piece of cardboard that cut the size of the gap to 1.25" — a gap that you might find between your car seat and the center console or under an appliance — then repeated the test. Both the Flex Vac and the V7 again did the best out of the group, cleaning up to eight inches away from the opening.
Next, the Shark ION W1 caused a bit of an upset, earning a 7 out of 10. It matched the top products when it came to cleaning out the window track and reached up to 13 inches in the larger opening, but only made it four inches when we halved the size of the gap.
The BLACK+DECKER HHVI320JR02 came next, earning a 6 out of 10. It left a bit more mess behind in the window track than the Shark or the Dyson. It couldn't quite reach as far as the Shark in the wider opening but did slightly exceed it in the thinner gap. However, it couldn't come close to comparing to the reach of the vacuums that have a hose attachment, like the V7 or the Flex Vac.
A trio of vacuums all came next, with the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser, the HoLife, and the Homasy all earning a 5 out of 10 for their results. The BISSELL did very well cleaning the sliding window track, but only has a mediocre reach for deeper slots — basically the length of the crevice tool.
The Homasy and the HoLife performed very similarly to the BISSELL, though they both reached slightly further in the thicker slot and slightly less in the thinner slot.
Finishing out the back of the group, the BLACK+DECKER HHVI315JO42 merited a 4 out of 10. This vacuum did clean out the shallow window track very well but had almost no way to effectively clean further the three inches in the thin slot and six inches in the wider slot — the least reach of the group.
As all of these products are cordless, so battery life is important. We started each vacuum with a full battery, then ran them until they died. Most of these products only have a single cleaning mode, but a few have both high power and low power mode. For these products, we based our score on a 70/30 split between low power and high power mode. This test constitutes 15% of the final score for each one.
The V7, the HoLife, and the Homasy all tied for the top spot, earning an 8 out of 10. The Dyson has two cleaning modes so we used our adjusted calculation, lasting for 26 minutes before quitting — almost identical to the HoLife. The Homasy followed, cleaning for a little over 25 minutes.
The BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser came next, earning a 6 out of 10 for its 20 minutes and 42 seconds of runtime. However, we did note that the maximum runtime dropped by about three minutes when using a motorized tool. Other vacuums with a motorized brush accessory — like the Dyson V7 — will also suffer a drop in runtime when using that tool.
The BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac and the HHVI320JR02 both received a 4 out of 10 for their results, with the Flex Vac lasting for 15 minutes on the dot and the BLACK+DECKER HHVI320JR02 making it an additional 24 seconds before calling it quits.
This pair was followed by the BLACK+DECKER HHVI315JO42, which earned a 3 out of 10 for its 12 minute and 20-second runtime and the Shark ION W1, which earned a 2 for its slightly short of 10-minute runtime.
This accounted for 15% of the total score. We compared the weight and ergonomics of each model, the size of the collection bin and the ease of emptying it. Also, if the tools and attachments are integrated into the main module or if there is a convenient way to store and manage them, as well as the noise level of each mobile vacuum.
The Dyson V7 again held off the rest of the pack, earning the highest score of the group — a 7 out of 10. This handheld had a moderately sized 0.5 L collection bin that is exceptionally easy to empty.
It is also one of the quieter vacuums, but it is a bit on the heavy side and we haven't really found a good way to manage the plethora of attachments that it comes with, as there is no integrated storage on the main vacuum module or separate storage rack included.
Next, the majority of the vacuums all earned a 6 out of 10, including the Pet Hair Eraser, the HoLife, the Homasy, the BLACK+DECKER HHVI320JR02, and the HHVI315JO42. These are all about average in weight, weighing between two and three pounds.
The HoLife, the Homasy, and the Pet Hair Eraser are all very quiet — only a tiny bit louder than the V7. The BLACK+DECKER models are significantly louder, ranking as some of the loudest of the group aside from the Flex Vac.
None of these five have any sort of tool storage or integrated tools, with the exception of the HHVI320JR02, which has an integrated flip brush and an extendable crevice tool, ensuring that you can't lose them.
These all have comparably sized collection bins, with the HHVI320JR02 having the easiest to empty bin, followed by the HHVI315JO42 and the Pet Hair Eraser.
Both the HoLife and the Homasy are a bit harder to empty and clean, taking a bit more time than the other products.
For our final metric, accountable for the leftover 10% of the score, we ranked and scored the pet hair pickup abilities of each product. We placed pet hair on both a couch cushion and on the low-pile automotive carpet, then awarded points on how much was successfully picked up, again utilizing the most effective attachment for each vacuum.
Finishing off an almost perfect showing, the Dyson V7 claimed the top spot, again tying with the Pet Hair Eraser. Both of these vacuums earned a 9 out of 10, making it clear that a motorized brush attachment is the answer if you want to pick up pet hair. Both vacuums cleaned up at least 99% of the hair from both surfaces in less than a minute.
This pair's top-notch performance was followed by the BLACK+DECKER Flex Vac, which merited an 8 out of 10. While this vacuum doesn't have a motorized brush, it has a pet hair specific attachment with hard rubber bristles that actually works quite well, though it did leave a small amount of hair behind and took a bit longer than the BISSELL or the Dyson.
The Shark ION came next, earning a 6 out of 10 for doing fairly well with the cushion, but only doing a mediocre job of cleaning the carpet.
None of the remaining vacuums did very well and aren't really a good option if you hope to use your new handheld vac to clean up after your furry friends. The BLACK+DECKER HHVI315JO42 earned a 4 out of 10 and the HHVI320JR02 merited a 3. Both of these vacuums actually cleaned up 70-90% of the hair from both surfaces, but most of it got tangled up in the brush and failed to make it to the collection bin.
Finally, both the HoLife and the Homasy earned a 2 out of 10 for their abysmal performance, with all of the hair becoming tangled in the brush and none making it into the bin — we would strongly caution against using either of these to clean up pet hair.
Hopefully, you now have a clear idea of which handheld vacuums would be the best fit for your needs and budget.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer