Having children and pets can lead to a lot of mess, whether that be crumbs from snacks in the car, mud brought in from winter walks or food chucked onto the floor from the highchair.
When it comes to these little cleaning jobs more and more people are using cordless vacuums. These small handheld cleaners can quickly suck up little messes around the home and are both portable and easy to use.
In general, a handheld model won't replace your regular vacuum as they have a much smaller capacity and tend to be less powerful. However, for cleaning up spills, crumbs and other little messes in a hurry, they can be very useful.
Due to their small size, storage isn't an issue so you can grab them whenever you need. You can even get some small enough to store in your car's glove compartment if you need an emergency clean during a long trip.
Unlike the regular vacuum market, there isn't as much choice when it comes to handheld vacuums, but there are definitely some that perform better than others.
To help you sort the good from the bad, we put handheld vacuums to the test and asked our Top Tester's Club which handheld vacuums they liked and would recommend to others. We also had some help from our friends over at Chip who also put some handheld vacuums to the test for us.
Best handheld vacuums at a glance
- Best 2-in-1 handheld vacuum: Shark WandVac System 2-in-1 Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner with Anti Hair Wrap, £179.99
- Best handheld vacuum for cars: Brigii 3-in-1 Handheld Vacuum M1, £52.99
- Best handheld vacuum for pets: Shark Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner CH950UKT, £79.99
- Best budget handheld vacuum: Vax Gator 10.8V Handheld Vacuum Cleaner, £40
- Best handheld vacuum for upholstery: 350W Handheld UV Bed Vacuum, £49.99
- Best handheld vacuum for LED lights: VacLife Handheld Vacuum Cleaner (VL189), £48
- Best handheld vacuum for a flexible cord: Black + Decker PD1202L Flexi Cordless Handheld Vacuum, £60
- Best handheld vacuum for dust collection: Philips MiniVac (FC6149), £135.81
- Best handheld vacuum for charging speed: Rowenta Xtouch (AC9736 WO), £162.32
What to consider when buying a handheld vacuum
Size – Overall, handheld vacuums are small, especially compared to a regular vacuum. However, some come as part of a regular cordless vacuum and can end up taking up quite a bit of space. Consider where you're going to store yours. If you want one suitable for keeping in the car then it makes sense to buy one of the smallest ones possible. If you want it to vacuum messes up around the house then you might have the room for a slightly bigger one.
Capacity – The capacity refers to how much dust or dirt the vacuum can collect, and therefore, how long you can clean for without emptying. If you know that you're going to tackle fairly large messes then we would recommend getting a handheld that has a decent size capacity, 0.5l+. If you want a little car one then a small capacity may be just fine.
Weight – Compared to a regular vacuum, handhelds are very lightweight. You need to opt for one that you can easily carry in one hand and ideally reach above your head to get to the difficult areas.
Battery life – Unfortunately, due to their size, handheld vacuums only have around 10-20 minutes runtime on average. This should be appropriate for clearing up little messes. We do advise taking a look at the battery life to see if you think this would work for you, and if you plan on clearing up bigger messes perhaps opting for one with around 15 minutes plus battery life.
Charging time – Even though their battery life is short, these vacuums can take some time to charge. Consider this when choosing the right one for you.. The idea is that after you use it you put it back on charge and it will be there waiting for you, ready to use, when the next mess arises.
Attachments – The attachments that come with these vacuums can be very helpful. If you have pets, look out for a specific pet tool to really get out the embedded pet hair. If you want to clean hard to reach areas then make sure it has a crevice tool (most do). A dust brush is also very useful for fabrics and upholstery.
Our pick of the best handheld vacuums
Here are out top picks of the handheld vacuums which were tested:
1. Shark WandVac System 2-in-1 Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner with Anti Hair Wrap,£179.99
– Best for 2-in-1
Capacity: 0.13L | Weight: 3kg (whole vacuum) | Dimensions: L26cm x W5.7cm x D5.7cm | Battery life: Approx. 16 minutes | Charging time: 2.5 hours | Attachments: Crevice Tool, Multi Surface Tool, Floor Nozzle
This Shark vacuum can be used as a regular cordless vacuum or you can take the top part off and use it as a compact handheld vacuum, making it a good investment if you don't want multiple products taking up space.
It has a strong suction and a fairly long battery life for a handheld vacuum. It only takes 2.5 hours to fully charge, quite a bit quicker than some of the others on this list.
The vacuum comes with a Crevice Tool and a Multi Surface Tool when using the vacuum in non-handheld mode.
Although the capacity is quite small, it is easy to empty with single-touch opening.
Home tester Suzanne has this vacuum (pictured above) and said, "The vacuum is very easy to use and can be used in 3 different ways; as a normal vacuum for carpets and floors, as a wand to clean hard to reach areas up high or in gaps and as a handheld small vacuum which is ideal for the stairs or your car as it has excellent suction for a handheld".
More like this
Pros: Can be used as regular cordless vacuum, good suction, fairly good battery life for handheld, quick charging, easy to empty
Cons: Small capacity, large to store, no handheld attachments
Available from: John Lewis
2. Brigii 3-in-1 Handheld Vacuum M1, £52.99
– Best for cars
Capacity: 0.1L | Weight: 0.48kg | Dimensions: L69cm x W28cm x D26cm | Battery life: Approx. 20 minutes | Charging time: Approx. 1 hour | Attachments: Crevice Tool, Dust Brush, Air Pump, Suction Nozzle, Hose
Home tester Emily tested this handheld vacuum and said, "It's a small, durable, portable vacuum that's perfect for 'on the go' messes. I like the versatility and I was really impressed by the accessories included to make it so multi-functional – the keyboard cleaner and hand pump were particularly effective and welcomed. I was also quite impressed with the small, stylish travel bag that holds all the attachments, making it great for storing in the glove compartment".
However, Emily did say that it doesn't have the strongest suction power and whilst it's great for hard to reach, small messes in the car, for substantial messes you will have to go over them a couple of times.
Out of all of the vacuums featured in this list, this one has one of the longest battery life, at 20 minutes and only takes approximately 1 hour to fully charge. It's also quite lightweight and comes with lots of different attachments to make it multi-functional. The dust brush, crevice tool and suction nozzle are great for getting into nooks and crannies and the air pump is a lovely feature.
The vacuum can easily be charged using a Type-C USB charger.
Similar to the Shark vacuum this one also has one-touch opening, although it does have a slightly smaller capacity.
Pros: Great for in the car, small, durable, portable, lots of accessories/attachments, comes with travel bag, good battery life, quick charging, lightweight, one-touch opening
Cons: Small capacity, not the strongest suction power, may not be suitable for big messes
Available from: Amazon
3. Shark Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner CH950UKT, £79.99
– Best for pets
Capacity: 0.45L | Weight: 1.66kg | Dimensions: L32cm x W14cm x D9.5cm | Battery life: Approx. 15 minutes | Charging time: Approx. 4 hours | Attachments: Crevice Tool, Scrubbing Brush, Motorised Pet Tool
If you have pets then you know how difficult it can be to manage the pet hair. This Shark handheld vacuum comes with a motorised pet tool to help remove embedded hair from upholstery.
It also comes with 2 other attachments, a Scrubbing Brush and a Crevice Tool.
The handheld vacuum has a decent size capacity but is one of the heaviest options. The runtime is approximately 15 minutes and takes 4 hours to fully charge.
If you need a heavy duty handheld vacuum then this is a brilliant option for you.
Pros: Pet hair tool, decent capacity, comes with 3 attachments, decent runtime
Cons: Slightly heavier than others
4. Vax Gator 10.8V handheld Vacuum Cleaner, £40
– Best budget buy
Capacity: 0.3L | Weight: 1.3kg | Dimensions: L32cm x W14cm x D9.5cm | Battery life: Approx. 15 minutes | Charging time: Approx. 12 hours | Attachments: Integrated Crevice Tool
If you want a simple handheld vacuum to clean up little messes then this Vax option will do you just fine. It has a decent capacity of 0.3L, is fairly lightweight and has a sufficient run time of up to 15 minutes.
The only downside to this handheld is that it claims to take around 12 hours to fully charge. Although it does not come with any additional attachments, it does have an integrated crevice tool to help you clean hard to reach areas.
Pros: Affordable budget option, decent capacity, lightweight, 15 minute run time, integrated crevice tool
Cons: Takes 12 hours to fully charge, does not come with any additional attachments
5. 350W Handheld UV Bed Vacuum, £49.99
– Best for upholstery
Capacity: 0.3L | Weight: 1.83kg | Dimensions: L28.5cm x W26cm x D19.5cm | Battery life: N/A (corded) | Charging time: N/A | Attachments: Upholstery Tool, Crevice Tool
This handheld vacuum is specially designed to clean mattresses and upholstery. It has a UV light which penetrates surfaces to get rid of any harmful bacteria and a powerful vibration agitator to remove any dust mites.
It has 350W super suction for optimal deep cleaning. Unlike the other handheld vacuums featured on this list, this one is corded so has unlimited runtime. However, you don't need to worry about the cord restricting you as it has a 4-meter cable.
Capacity wise, it has a 0.3 litre dust box and HEPA filter so should be sufficient to vacuum all your upholstery.
Pros: Deep cleans mattresses and other upholstery, UV light, unlimited runtime, decent capacity
Cons: Not cordless, only designed for upholstery and mattresses
6. VacLife Handheld Vacuum Cleaner (VL189), £48
– Best for LED lights
Capacity: 0.5L | Weight: 0.8kg | Dimensions: L42cm x W12cm x D14cm | Battery life: Approx. 20 minutes | Charging time: 3-4 hours | Attachments: Dust Brush Tool, Crevice Tool
It can be difficult to see dust in dark areas and you may end up missing it. An LED light on your handheld vacuum makes detecting dust so much easier.
This handheld vacuum is one of the best on this list for runtime, lasting up to 20 minutes. It also only takes 3 to 4 hours to fully charge. It's very lightweight too, weighing just 0.8kg and has a substantial capacity of 0.5 litres.
The nifty vacuum comes with a Crevice Tool for hard to reach areas and a Dust Brush Tool for fabrics and upholstery.
Pros: LED light to detect dust, 20 minute runtime, lightweight, decent capacity, comes with attachments
Available from: VacLife
7. Black + Decker PD1202L Flexi Cordless Handheld Vacuum, £60
– Best for a flexible cord
Capacity: 0.56L | Weight: 1.37kg | Dimensions: L30cm x W25cm x D16cm | Battery life: Approx. 10 minutes | Charging time: 4 hours | Attachments: 2-in-1 Nozzle, Flip Out Upholstery Brush
This handheld vacuum has a brilliant 1.5m flexible hose to reach under and behind furniture. It has a good capacity and comes with 2 attachments, a 2-in-1 Nozzle and a Flip Out Upholstery Brush.
The runtime is only 10 minutes, slightly less than others on the list and it takes approximately 4 hours to fully charge.
Pros: Has a long flexible hose, decent capacity, comes with attachments
Cons: Only 10 minute runtime
8. Philips MiniVac (FC6149), £135.81
- Best handheld vacuum for dust collection
Capacity: 0.5L | Weight: 1.87kg | Dimensions: L46.8cm x W16cm x D16 cm | Battery life: Approx 12 minutes | Charging time: 8 hours | Attachments: Wall bracket, crevice nozzle, furniture nozzle, flexible suction tube.
This handheld vacuum caters to various cleaning needs and is great for small jobs around the house. It has a large 0.5-liter dust container which impressed testers with its ability to pick up a large amount of dust and dirt around the home.
The vacuum's weight, exceeding 1 kg, may pose a challenge for extended use, turning vacuuming into a bit of an arm workout if used for too long. While the noise level is acceptable, and the vacuum works well to clean mess, the time it takes to charge the vacuum is a major drawback.
Despite this, the Philips MiniVac stands out for its comprehensive array of features and has great attachments and suction capabilities, making it a suitable choice for smaller cleaning tasks.
Pros: Extensive equipment, very large dust container volume, vacuums properly, 12V connection.
Cons: Heavy, very long charging time, continues to draw power when the battery is full.
Available from: Amazon
9. Rowenta Xtouch (AC9736 WO), £162.32
- Best for charging speed
Capacity: 0.2L | Weight: 0.85kg | Dimensions: L22.5cm x W12.3cm x D47.2cm | Battery life: Approx 10 minutes | Charging time: 2.15 hours | Attachments: Charging station, a crevice nozzle and a furniture nozzle.
The Rowenta Xtouch handheld vacuum is fantastic at dust collection, especially when used on carpets. It only has one suction option but this doesn't mean it compromises on power and our testers found it very good at cleaning all types of mess.
It is impressively quiet when in use and really steals the show when it comes to its battery. It has ten minutes of life after each charge and can be charged within 2.15 hours, one of the quickest out of all handheld vacuums, particularly impressive when considering its size.
This vacuum is only let down as it lacks essential accessories like an upholstery nozzle and lighting for the nozzles. With a relatively high price point, you might want to consider this before buying.
Pros: Very good dust collection, battery charges quickly, easy handling, very quiet.
Cons: Few extras.
Available at: Amazon
How did we choose our 10 of the Best?
When testing and selecting the best handheld vacuums we considered weight, size, capacity, battery life, charge time, effectiveness, versatility and value.
Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead, it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don't just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.
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