Handheld Vacuum Cleaners: The Ultimate Guide

Handheld vacuum cleaners can be handy (see what I did there?) for a number of reasons. How often have you had a small spill in the kitchen and thought left it there for a bit too long, all because you couldn’t be bothered to get out your vacuum cleaner, plug it in, do 30 seconds vacuuming, and then have to put it all away again?

If you are anything like me, this becomes frustrating!

Buying a small hand held vacuum cleaner solves this issue, and they are actually reasonably cheap to purchase. I purchased my first handheld about 15 years ago, which was a bit of a novelty at the time. It’s main use was to clean up after the kids, and around the kitchen when crumbs started to build up. We found it more convenient to get the handheld vacuum out of the cupboard to vacuum the mess than it was to get a wet cloth and wipe the surfaces clean, or get get a brush and brush them off the surface and into the bin (often getting your hand dirty in the process).

The benefits of a handheld vacuum as described in the above examples sound a bit like a lazy homeowner not wanting to get their hands dirty. And that is probably true.

But handhelds are also convenient in a number of other situations:

Handheld Vacuum Cleaners are Great in Vehicles

Until I got a handheld vacuum cleaner I vacuumed my car about once every six months. To get the car close to the house, plug in the extension cord via the garage, and haul the vacuum cleaner out of my home, and down a set of stairs to the car, was too much effort to regularly clean a car that wouldn’t even get that messy in the first place.

Since I have purchased on of the best handheld vacuum cleaners, vacuuming my car is now a monthly job that takes about 15 minutes at most. It is simply so much more convenient, and as a result my car has much less dirt, sand, and food crumbs accumulating around the flooring and seats (yes, I said food crumbs! I eat my toast on the drive into work in the morning. Don’t worry, traffic in my town reaches about 5 mph max!).

Are they good on Furniture?

Sometimes you just want to give your couches a quick vacuum if guests are turning up with short notice. Or if you’re like me and get extremely agitated if you can start to see a bit of a mess collecting in the crevices of your couches, you need to fix it right away. Such a situation rarely calls for getting out the larger vacuum cleaner, and a handheld alternative can be in your hands and vacuuming in about 30 seconds.

You will see in my handheld vacuum cleaner reviews that many have designs that are perfect to get into the crevices between your cushions just perfectly. As I have said before in my vacuum cleaner accessory buying guide, be sure to check for any coins between the seats before vacuuming!

How do Handheld Vacuum Cleaners Perform on Stairs?

Vacuuming stairs can be frustrating. You either have to wrestle your vacuum cleaner up each stair individual while you vacuum a few stairs above it (and pray that it doesn’t tumble to the bottom), or you buy an extra long vacuum hose and hope you can reach all the steps without having to reposition the heavy vacuum cleaner.

An alternative is to buy a handheld vacuum cleaner that can also be effectively used on your stairs. Some of the higher end models will get the job done just as effectively as a full size upright or canister vacuum cleaner, but be much less of a hassle.

Something worth noting is that at least in my home, my cat leaves his fur on my stairs as her belly rubs on them on the way up and down. So if you have a cat or dog, consider finding the best handheld vacuum cleaner you can that has positive reviews for sucking stubborn pet hair off carpet.

What to look for when buying a Handheld Vacuum Cleaner?

What should you consider when buying a handheld vacuum cleaner? Most likely you will consider most of the main things when buying a full size vacuum cleaner. In no particular order, here is the key things to keep an eye out for.


Read our handheld vacuum cleaner reviews to get an idea of the different weights of these devices. Only you will know what is appropriate for you. Take into account your level of fitness, what you plan on vacuuming (eg holding a heavy handheld vacuum cleaner above your head to get the top of furniture can leave you aching), and where you plan to store the vacuum.


You’ll have a reasonable idea of how important battery life is to you. If you are just giving your kitchen a 5 minute vacuum every few days, battery life won’t be as important as someone who plans to use the vacuum daily to pick up after a few messy toddlers.

Cord Length

Many are not aware than some handheld vacuum cleaners have cords, much like other more traditional types of vacuum cleaners. Most cords are in the 15 – 30 foot range. The main benefit is that you obviously don’t have to worry about battery life, so if you plan to do one big vacuum every week or fortnight you can do it in one hit, instead if vacuum/recharge/vacuum/recharge etc

Do however keep in mind that one of the benefits of a battery handheld vacuum cleaner that I wrote about above is how easy it makes cleaning areas outside of your home, such as your vehicle parked on the driveway. With a corded vacuum cleaner you will still need to get the extension cord out if your car must be parked away from a power plug. If you plan to vacuum your car frequently, and don’t have a nearby power plug, consider getting a battery powered handheld vacuum cleaner instead of a corded variant.


Some new handheld vacuum cleaners come with a 2 year warranty. If you are keen to be protected against faulty products, buy from a reputable retailer and a known brand. The best way to know you are getting a well known product is to browse our handheld vacuum cleaner reviews below, where we review all aspects of the best handheld vacuum cleaners available both online and in stores. Read more about vacuum warranties here.


Handheld vacuum cleaners are always going to be closer to your ears than a wheeled floor based vacuum cleaner is going to be (unless you have really long arms, in which case ignore this paragraph!). For this reason, consider the noise reduction features of the handheld vacuum cleaner you are considering purchasing. Most are reasonably quiet, but if you buy a cheaper model, expect a little more noise than a higher quality branded alternative.


Our vacuum cleaner accessory guide is predominantly written for upright and canister style vacuum cleaners. However handheld vacuum cleaners also can be supported with a range of different attachments for different situations. When reviewing which handheld vacuum cleaner to buy, have a read of the extensions that come pre-packaged with the product, and also explore which extensions are available to buy separately. As the owner of an extremely and annoyingly fluffy cat, I was only considering buying a handheld vacuum cleaner that had a pet hair extension available for it. I mentioned above my cat leaves fluff everywhere, particularly on my stairs, and the pet hair extension makes my handheld vacuum cleaner so much more useful and valuable to me.


Many handheld held vacuum cleaners are bagless, meaning that the dust and dirt that you suck up is stored in a plastic container that requires frequent emptying, as opposed to a bag that is removed, disposed of, and then replaced. The main disadvantage of a bagless vacuum cleaner is that emptying the plastic dust canister can agitate people with asthma or allergies. If you have ever emptied a bagless vacuum cleaner into a bag or bin you will be aware that you can’t escape the little dust cloud it creates. For me personally, as someone whose asthma is causing concern recently, I normally end up sneezing and rubbing my watery eyes after emptying a bagless vacuum cleaner.

Read more about Bag and Bagless Cleaners

Dust canister size

Handheld vacuum cleaners are much smaller than their wheeled counterparts. For this reason the dust canister is typically going to be a smaller size. Take this into account when you are reading our handheld vacuum cleaner reviews, as you might find the area you intend to vacuum will fill up the canister frustratingly fast.

In Summary

The best handheld vacuum cleaners will make your life a lot easier. The low quality cheaper models will leave you frustrated as they run out of battery while struggling to do the job you bought it to do. Read our handheld reviews and find the highest rated model you can find within your prices range

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