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Handheld vacuum cleaner reviews

We've tested ten handheld vacs ranging in price from $59 up to $349.
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We review ten handheld vacuum cleaners, including three wet and dry models, priced between $59 and $349.

Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which handheld vacs:

On this page, you'll find:
When it comes to vacuum cleaners, power is no guarantee of performance for floor models - it's the overall design of the cleaner that makes the difference. But for handheld models (as for most cordless appliances), the more juice in the battery, the better the performance is likely to be. New designs, and technology such as lithium-ion batteries, have led to improved dirt pick-up and running times.

As with most battery-operated appliances, handheld vacs generally lose power as their battery charge runs down, though the tested models generally still have enough useful power across their stated running time.

There are some tasks for which they’re ideal, such as cleaning the inside of a car or small household messes so you don't have to drag out the large vacuum. Our test puts handheld vacs through all sorts of cleaning tasks you might commonly encounter around the house and car.

For more information on vacuum cleaners of all types, see Vacuum cleaners.

Brands and models tested

  • Black & Decker Dustbuster DV9610-XE
  • Black & Decker Dustbuster Flexi PD1800EL
  • Black & Decker Dustbuster Pivot PV1810-XE
  • Dyson DC34 Animal
  • Electrolux Rapido Cyclonic ZB4112
  • Electrolux Rapido ZB4106
  • Hoover HandiVac Wet & Dry 14.4V HH5010WD
  • Hoover HandiVac Wet & Dry 9.6V HH5011WD
  • Kambrook Captiv Wet and Dry MiniVac KHV200
  • Vax Power Plus Pet Gator VPPHV18

Plus results for 10 previously tested models.

How we test

The vacuums are fully charged before each test. 

Hard floor We assess how well the vac picks up various types of matter, from large pieces (cornflakes) to fine powder (flour). Our tester, Peter Horvath, spreads one cup of cornflakes on a hard surface and assesses how well the cleaner picks them up. The test is repeated with one cup of sugar and again with one cup of flour.
Carpet He spreads one cup of potting mix on carpet and assesses how well the cleaner picked it up. The test is repeated with one cup of sand.
Sand/gravel A mixture of 200g of sand and 100g of small gravel is spread on a car’s floor and in its boot, then vacuumed.
Pet hair is embedded into a section of carpet and then vacuumed.
Ease of use Peter assesses each cleaner for ease of emptying the receptacle and cleaning the filters, and vacuuming along edges and in corners; effectiveness of the fallout flap; and effectiveness of the filters (by checking whether any sand is blown out through the exhaust while cleaning).
Wet spills Peter assesses how well each wet and dry model sucks up 100mL of water from a hard surface.

Peter also measures each cleaner's noise and its running time on a full charge.

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