For houses with kids or pets, a handheld vacuum is a near-necessity for crumbs or pet-hair pickup. "This is what you're going to reach for when your kids spill cereal in the morning or you spill coffee grounds," says Allison Bean, editorial director of the home website The Spruce. For smaller houses, studios or condos, a handheld model can even serve as a primary vacuum. What qualities make a good one? Experts say you want a cordless option with strong suction, a dirt collector that can be bagless, and a battery that charges quickly and has long life. Ease of operation earns extra points.
"Just the other day I was reading an article that was saying that people clean on average around one to two hours per day," says Jason Roberts, the expert behind vacuumsguide.com. "Considering this, I believe every household should be equipped with a device that enhances this activity. A great vacuum cleaner makes boring activities such as housecleaning, if not pleasant, at least bearable."
In her few apartments, Bean got by with just a handheld vacuum and a Swiffer. She likes Dyson's handhelds, having owned an older model of the V7 Trigger ($199.99, amazon.com). "It has really superior suction for a handheld vacuum. It holds a charge for about a half-hour. And I am a fan of emptying a bin — it has a little lever that you pull up so you never have to get your hands dirty."
After 15 years of selling vacuums at Walmart, Roberts became an undeniable vacuum authority and now shares this knowledge with a wider audience on his Vacuums Guide site. When it comes to handhelds, he likes those made by Black+Decker. "Most of their products are light — three pounds or so — and sturdy," he says. He suggests getting a product with a battery voltage of 20 or more, and recommends the BDH2000L lithium hand vacuum ($69.99, target..com).
Melissa Maker, author of "Clean My Space" and founder of a Toronto cleaning service, says that "everyone has a use for hand vacuums." She recommends them for small messes, in-between cleans, getting into tight spaces, cleaning upholstery and other jobs. Look for a lightweight vacuum with a variety of attachments, she says, and a quick-changing battery with a long life. Her top choice is the Black+Decker Dustbuster compact lithium hand vacuum, model HNV220BCZ00 ($28.66, walmart.com).
"Dirt Devil makes a great handheld vacuum," says Leslie Reichert, a cleaning expert known as the Green Cleaning Coach. After running a housecleaning business in Massachusetts for nine years, Reichert started going on TV and radio shows to share her knowledge. Of Dirt Devil's line, she likes the Ultra corded bagged handheld vacuum cleaner ($49.99, homedepot.com). "It's great for stairs, pet hair and carpets that are in tight places," she explains. It comes with a cloth bag but can be converted to use paper bags for those who prefer to avoid contact with the dust and debris that can get stirred up when emptying a cloth bag or bagless vacuum.
An innovative new handheld vacuum on the U.S. market is specifically designed to suck up allergens, helping out millions of people who suffer from indoor allergies and asthma, says Paul Banas, publisher of Pregnancy Magazine and GreatDad.com. He uses the Raycop RS2 ($349.99, raycop.com). Banas's son suffers from dust-mite allergies, and he says that he does everything he can to alleviate them. "You have to slowly drag it along the surface" of mattresses and furniture, he says, "but it's fairly light and does feel like it's doing the right job." A rotating brush and two pulsating pads knock debris loose for suctioning and a UV light kills dust mites as it passes over upholstery, fabric and mattresses.