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The Best Handheld Vacuum Cleaners

A good handheld vacuum can help you power through hard-to-reach messes—but only if you buy the right model.


Published Oct. 31, 2022.

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

The best handheld vacuums prioritize portability and convenience without sacrificing suction power or efficiency. They’re ideal for tackling small to moderate messes and getting into hard-to-access areas. Our winner, the Black + Decker 20V MAX Cordless Pivot Vac, has a unique pivoting nozzle that allows you to easily navigate under furniture or below car seats. Its impressive suction tackled every mess we tested it on, and we were especially impressed with its ability to pick up pet hair. We also liked the Black + Decker DUSTBUSTER Hand Vacuum, which is lighter than our winner and only marginally less effective. It excelled in suction tests and sports a narrow nozzle that is especially adept at reaching into tight corners. 

What You Need to Know

Handheld vacuums are relatively compact, lightweight, and portable. Most models don’t need to be plugged in while you use them, giving you the freedom to move around the house or out to your car. They charge using docking stations or power cables. They all come with one or more attachments, including narrow crevice tools for cleaning tight corners or between sofa cushions and brushes meant to dislodge and scrape up pet hair. The best models made cleaning our homes, cars, and office easier, and we found a few factors that set them apart. 

What to Look For

  • Powerful Suction: Our favorite models were impressively powerful and efficient, usually taking less than 30 seconds to completely clear a 1.5 foot–square section of carpet of 100 grams of dirt, uncooked rice, pet hair, and onion peels. 
  • Spacious, Easy-to-Empty Collection Bins: We preferred large collection bins that allowed us to vacuum up big messes in one fell swoop. We also liked bins that were easy to open and empty. It was faster and less messy to press a single button or pull a small latch and pour, rather than fully detaching a bin and removing a filter. 
  • Moderately Sized Models with Customizable Nozzle Lengths: We preferred streamlined, relatively narrow models that were no longer than 17 inches without attachments. This allowed for easy maneuvering in tight confines. Our favorite models had crevice attachments that increased the length of the machines by 4 to 5 inches, allowing us to reach up into window corners or down into lower cabinets.
  • Large, Cup-Shaped Filters: The best vacuums had large, cup-shaped cloth filters that were at least 3 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep. With more surface area for air to pass through, they clogged less frequently than smaller filters.
  • Mounted Attachments: We preferred models with attachments that were either built into the vacuums’ nozzles and slid out or flipped up for...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.
*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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Reviews you can trust

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.

Chase Brightwell

Chase is an associate editor for ATK Reviews. He's an epidemiologist-turned-equipment tester and biscuit enthusiast.