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How to buy the best handheld vacuum cleaner

By Matthew Knight

There's a huge difference in cleaning power between the best and worst handheld vacuums. Read on for tips on how to find the best model.

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Handheld vacuum cleaner prices range from around £15 for a small basic one and range all the way up to £250 for fancier models, such as the Dyson DC58 Animal. 

But our independent lab tests have revealed that you don't always get what you pay for and that price isn't always a good indicator of quality. 

Our exclusive list of Best Buy handheld vacuums reveals which models did have what it takes to excel in our cleaning, usability and battery life tests.

Cordless vacuum or handheld vacuum?

Most handheld vacuums are cordless, but there is more than one type of cordless vacuum cleaner available. 

As well as small dustbuster-style handheld vacuums, you'll also see cordless or 'stick' vacuum cleaners in the shops. These cordless stick cleaners look like skinnier versions of a conventional push-along vacuum. They don't have a cord but are pushed around the floor in the same way. As they're battery powered they have a limited running time, so are better for smaller cleaning jobs.

Handheld vacuum cleaners are even smaller and lighter, and have an even shorter battery life. Unlike cordless stick vacuum cleaners they don't claim to replace all of the functions of a conventional corded model, and they are difficult to clean large floor areas with due to their short handles. 

We've tested both types of cordless vacuums - find out which are the best models in our handheld vacuum reviews and cordless vacuum reviews.

Handheld vacuum cleaner features

The cheaper models tend to have a more traditional ‘dust-buster’ design and fewer specialist tools and attachments, but that doesn’t always mean that they suck up less dirt and grime or that they are more difficult to use. Try to find a model that at least has a crevice tool for really tight spaces.

Some handheld vacuums have turbo brushes that can make sucking up pet hair quicker, although this isn't always the case. Upholstery brushes can help with cleaning chairs and curtains, and some models even come with a mini extendable flexi hose.

30 minutesthe longest running handhelds can clean for half an hour

Handheld vacuum battery life

Battery life typically varies from a blink-and-you'll-miss it five minutes, all the way up to a more respectable 30 minutes. You should also consider how long it takes each model of handheld vacuum to fully recharge, as you won't want to be waiting a full day before you can use it again.

Some models have a light indicator to let you know when it's running low, which is a helpful feature to look out for. Some handheld vacuums come with a charging docking station (which can be fixed to the wall for easy storage), while more basic versions simply charge through a plug-in cord. 

Handheld vacuum cleaner weight

The main point of a handheld vacuum cleaner is convenience, so weight and size are of paramount importance. Handheld vacuum cleaners vary in weight, from 0.7kg to 2.3kg - although most are around 1.5kg.

If you can, it's worth holding and lifting the handheld vacuum you're thinking of buying to get a feel for whether it's comfortable to hold and use.

Cleaning and attachments

You can also get handheld vacuum cleaners that clean up wet spills as well as dirt, such as the Hoover Jovis Wet and Dry handheld vacuum cleaner.

Attachments such as soft brushes and crevice tools, as well as bendable hoses, are useful as they make the cleaner even more flexible for different cleaning jobs.

Dust capacity

The amount of dust handheld vacuum cleaners can hold varies, so it's worth looking out for the highest capacity if this is an important consideration for you. The higher the dust capacity, the longer you'll be able to clean for without having to empty your vacuum.

Handheld vacuum cleaners have a smaller dust capacity than other vacuum cleaners - around 0.5 litres compared with up to 5 litres for a conventional vacuum cleaner. 

Handheld vacuum cleaner reviews

We have sent handheld vacuums from all of the major brands to our lab for testing and can tell you if models from Dyson, Hoover, Black & Decker and Vax live up to their claims and whether they're worth spending your money on. 

Before you buy a handheld vacuum, make sure you take a look at our in depth handheld vacuum cleaner reviews.


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