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Handheld vacuums

Handhelds are small battery-powered vacuum cleaners designed as a quick and easy option for tidying up messes. They aren’t suitable for a big clean or getting ingrained dirt out of carpet, but they’re very good at tackling small patches of dirt and grime on hard floors or the surface of carpets.

Here's some advice if you're thinking of buying one plus test results for 3 models.

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The best cordless stick vacs have a detachable power unit, which makes stand-alone handhelds redundant. Our latest appliance reliability survey found the market is dominated by canisters or sticks. Fewer than 1 in 10 vacuums purchased in the past year by our members was a handheld.

That said, handhelds can have a place in your cleaning arsenal to avoid hauling out your canister vacs for small jobs. Handhelds are also much cheaper than stick vacs: you need to spend more than $400 to get a good stick, while our top-scoring handhelds are less than half that.

Choosing the right handheld vacuum

Consider these points before you buy.

  • Docking: A wall-mounted docking station keeps the cleaner readily available yet out of the way - but you need to have wall space that's close to a power outlet. The alternative is to leave it sitting on a flat surface (again with a power outlet nearby).
  • Balance and comfort: Try the cleaner in the store. Choose a model with a weight you can manage easily. Make sure it feels comfortable and that its weight doesn't put too much strain on your wrist. See how easy it is to take out from its docking station - and put back.
  • Filter: This should be easy to remove and clean.
  • Accessories: An upholstery brush and crevice nozzle can be handy for cleaning furniture and car seats. It's even handier if the tools are clipped to the cleaner (rather than the docking station).
  • Switch: An On/Off switch is easier for continuous operation than a trigger that needs to be held down.
  • Fallout flap: This prevents dirt falling back out of the vacuum when you carry it with the nozzle facing downwards, such as when moving between cleaning tasks.
  • Charging time: The shorter the charging time, the sooner you can reuse the cleaner.

Test results

ModelAvg priceOverall scoreCarpet cleaning (/10)Pet-hair removal (/10)Ease of use (/10)Hard floor (/10)Car cleaning (/10)NoiseWeightRunning time
Black and Decker Dustbuster Pivot PV1810-XE1850.941099.39981dBa1.8kg11 minutes
Hoover HandiVac Wet & Dry 14.4V1290.871088.38978dBa1.5kg12 minutes
Black and Decker Dustbuster DV9610-XE1200.81988.37880dBa1.3kg12 minutes

Black and Decker Dustbuster Pivot PV1810-XE

Black and decker dustbuster pivot 18v default product type

This hand-held vacuum is an excellent overall performer and extremely easy to use. But it’s noisy, heavy and has a short running time.

  • Excellent on carpet, hard-floor and car-boot spills.
  • Excellent on pet hair.
  • Extremely easy to use.
  • Has dusting brush.
  • Has adjustable head.
  • Noisy.
  • Heavy.
  • Short running time.

Hoover HandiVac Wet & Dry 14.4V

Hoover wet and dry 14.4v default product type

This hand-held vacuum is a very good overall performer and very easy to use. It’s excellent for cleaning carpet spills and car boots.

  • Excellent on carpet spills.
  • Very good on hard-floor spills and pet hair.
  • Excellent on car-boot spills.
  • Very easy to use.
  • Wet and dry (can pick up liquids).
  • Has dusting brush.
  • Is wall mountable.

No obvious bad points.

Black and Decker Dustbuster DV9610-XE

Black and decker 9v dustbuster default product type

This hand-held vacuum is a very good overall performer and is excellent on carpet spills. It’s very easy to use … but is noisy.

  • Excellent on carpet spills.
  • Good on hard-floor spills.
  • Very good on pet hair and on car-boot spills.
  • Very easy to use.
  • Has dusting brush.
  • Has adjustable head.
  • Noisy.
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