- Cordless vacuums are convenient, but they shouldn’t sacrifice cleaning power or comfort.
- The Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum picks up all kinds of particles on a variety of surfaces.
- It reaches low and deep under furniture and has a cleaning path light. It’s also reasonably priced.
Compared to a clunky corded vacuum, a sleek cordless stick vacuum is a lot more convenient. Cordless vacuums tend to be lighter and more compact, and they don’t have a long cord to trail behind you or trip you up. While the downside is that they have a limited battery life, we still love cordless vacuums for making the dreaded task of cleaning a bit easier – maybe even enjoyable.
As with any other type of vacuum, the cleaning ability and suction power of a cordless vacuum are top considerations. The best cordless vac for most people should handle all kinds of small particles on a variety of surfaces, from smooth hardwood to thick carpet. Some cordless vacs are better suited to pick up pet hair or excel on hardwood floors, so it’s also important to think about where and when you’d use your vacuum the most, and shop accordingly.
Josh Mutlow, the Design Manager at Dyson, said, “The motor, cleaner head, cyclone, and filtration are the main key technologies that achieve the essential jobs of a vacuum cleaner.”
“Some [other] basic things to consider when you begin your search are the vacuum’s dimensions, weight, canister size, and how long the cordless vacuum can run between charges,” said Chris Doscher, a rep for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Learn more about the differences between corded and cordless vacuums, additional features to consider, and vacuum FAQs.
For our first major rewrite of this guide, we tested seven cordless vacuum models and landed on the top five. We’re planning to test many more down the line. Here’s how we tested the contenders on cleaning ability, ease of use, and battery life.
Here are the best cordless vacuum cleaners in 2021
- Best cordless vacuum overall: Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum
- Best cordless vacuum on a budget: Hoover OnePWR Evolve Pet Cordless Vacuum
- Best cordless vacuum for pet owners: Tineco Pure One X Smart Vacuum
- Best cordless vacuum for hardwood floors: LG CordZero A9 Compressor Stick Vacuum with Power Mop
- Best cordless vacuum for carpet: Hoover OnePWR HEPA+ Vacuum
1. Vacuuming ability: I tested each of the vacuums against five materials (flour, ground coffee, cat litter, whole Cheerios, and dog hair) on three different surfaces (carpet/rug, hardwood, and tile). I scattered half a cup of each material on each surface — resulting in 15 tests for each vacuum — and rated each vacuum on its ability to suck up the material powerfully, cleanly, and thoroughly. If the vacuum came with attachments, I also tested the attachments on appropriate surfaces (e.g. crevice tool on furniture cushions and car seats) and rated their effectiveness.
An example of one of the test results:
|Cat litter test||Carpet||Hardwood||Tile|
|Shark Anti-Allergen Cordless Vacuum||3/5: Powerful and thorough, but could only push forward. Got stuck when I tried to move backwards||5/5; Sucked up all particles completely and quickly, cat litter did not fall back out of cleaning head||5/5; Sucked up all particles completely and quickly, cat litter did not fall back out of cleaning head|
2. Battery life: I used each vacuum until its battery died and compared the actual battery life to the advertised battery life.
3. Comfort and ease of use: I noted the ergonomics of each vacuum: how tiring it is to hold, how easy it is to maneuver, and the effort required to activate the power button. I also noted whether it could fit under low spaces and any additional helpful features like a headlight to illuminate your cleaning path.
4. Disposal method: I evaluated the cleanliness and ease of emptying the dustbin after a cleaning session. How is the bin opened? Do I have to reach inside and touch dirt and dust that didn’t empty out completely?
5. Storage: I noted how the vacuum breaks down into multiple parts and whether it comes with a wall mount or docking station.
6. Warranty and customer service: I registered each vacuum, noted warranty terms, and spoke to customer service reps to evaluate the ease of registration and quality of service.
The best cordless vacuum overall
The Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum is a strong performer all around, picking up particles of most sizes on a variety of surfaces in a smooth and efficient fashion. We also love the light that illuminates your cleaning path and the flexible hose that lets you reach under low spaces better than any other cordless vac.
Pros: Versatile, strong suction, cleaning path light, great for under-furniture cleaning, comes with attachments
Cons: Loud and high-pitched noise, thick grip that may be uncomfortable for small hands, weaker on high-pile carpet and rug
This Shark vacuum isn’t perfect and we can’t guarantee it’ll pick up every size particle you throw its way, but it gets pretty close and has the best overall cleaning performance of all our contenders.
On hardwood and tile, it picked up every last bit of flour, cat litter, ground coffee, and dog hair with no problem, and it was the best at sucking up whole Cheerios (most of the other vacuums just pushed these large crumbs around). On a high-pile rug, it had a little difficulty moving back and forth smoothly, so you should only get this vacuum if you have low-pile rugs and carpeting, or if you’re okay with buying a second vacuum for your carpet.
It has a thick grip and somewhat heavy dust bin, making it a bit uncomfortable to use for long cleaning sessions. However, several other features make up for the slight discomfort. There are distinct settings for hardwood and carpet located near the grip and they’re easy to slide between. There’s also a power boost trigger that you can hold down whenever you need some extra suction power.
Rolling the cleaning head around hardwood and tile feels very smooth and soft, instead of clunky and abrasive. The cleaning head also has two useful features: a light that shows you exactly what you’re cleaning and highlights small particles you might’ve otherwise missed, and a green alert button that turns red when a blockage occurs, so you can address the problem right away.
My favorite part of using the vacuum is how low and flat it can get. In other cordless vacuums, the stick can’t be moved or repositioned, meaning you still have to bend down to reach under furniture. The Shark has a great design where you click a button in the middle of the stick and it bends into a flexible hose “elbow,” allowing the entire bottom half of the stick to lay flat and get under beds, couches, chairs, and other tricky spots. Instead of bending my knees or waist, I could just drop my arm and continue cleaning with little disruption.
The best cordless vacuum on a budget
This affordable Hoover vacuum impressed us with its quiet but strong cleaning power. It feels light and easy to maneuver since the dust bin is located at the base of the vacuum, though this design also prevents you from cleaning under low spaces.
Pros: Quiet, cleans well on all surfaces, less tiring to use because dust bin is located at base of vacuum, large dust bin
Cons: Doesn’t come with attachments, dust bin location means you can’t get under low spots, a little heavy
You won’t compromise cleaning ability and price in this budget-friendly vacuum. Though it may not come with bells and whistles like a storage dock and extra attachments and batteries, it picks up most small and fine particles effectively on carpet, hardwood, and tile. Faced with Cheerios, its performance is disappointing and it merely pushes the cereal around, so you’ll be better off sweeping up with a broom. But for all other materials, the vacuum does an easy and thorough job.
The vacuum is on the heavier side compared to others, but it doesn’t feel like it because the dust bin is located near the cleaner head, rather than the handle. This makes vacuuming feel more comfortable and less tiring. It’s also really quiet and smooth as it cleans, and you can barely tell it’s picking small particles up (rest assured, it is).
The dust bin placement does have its drawbacks. It obstructs access to low spaces under furniture, so you’ll need to figure out another way to clean under your bed and couches. In addition, the power and various mode buttons are located on top of the dust bin, so you need to bend down any time you want to turn your vacuum on and off or change modes.
Still, I loved this vacuum for its consistent and reliable cleaning ability, reasonable battery life (that’s actually longer than the Shark’s), and quiet motor. If you don’t want to spend more than $200 or you only need a basic vacuum, this vacuum will meet your needs and exceed your expectations. Along with our other Hoover pick in this guide, it’s part of Hoover’s ONEPWR collection, which was a 2020 Product of the Year winner.
The best cordless vacuum for pet owners
Owners of constantly shedding pets will benefit from the lightweight yet powerful Tineco Pure One X, which picks up fine pet hairs from floors with its standard cleaning head, but also comes with attachments to get hair off of furniture, car seats, and delicate decor.
Pros: Really light, quiet, regular cleaning head and attachments all work well with fine pet hairs
Cons: Small dust bin, feels a little cheap, weaker on high-pile carpet and rug
For the pet hair portion of the test, I spread clumps as well as individual hairs of my friend’s Pekingese dog over various surfaces. All the vacuums I tested actually did a thorough job of picking up these long, fine hairs, but the Tineco stood out for its super lightweight and useful attachments.
As any pet owner knows, you spend a lot of time picking up after your constantly shedding pets, which is why we recommend a vacuum that’s comfortable to carry around and comes with specialized tools for those especially stubborn bits of hair.
The Tineco has the smallest cleaning head and dustbin of our best picks, so you might need to empty it out a few times if you’re cleaning a large house. However, the light weight and easy maneuverability more than make up for it. While you must press down the trigger every time to start the vacuum, there’s a locking mechanism you can use if you don’t want to hold a trigger the whole time.
I knew exactly when I picked up dirt, hair, and other particles because there’s a ring that lights up red when the vacuum is sucking up something and turns blue once the cleaning path is clear again. This vacuum also has a cleaning head light to illuminate your path. It’s generally pretty quiet, but I noticed the wheels squeaked a little from time to time.
The attachments also make cleaning pet hair from every surface other than your floor more manageable. The mini power brush is strong and goes deep into fabric upholstery and mattresses to pick up particles and hair you didn’t even know were there, while the dusting tool lets you pick up errant hair sitting on shelves and blinds. The crevice tool fits into the cracks and crevices of your car, so you can take your pet on car trips without dreading the clean up afterward. It was when I was wriggling around my car seats that I really appreciated the light and compact design of the Tineco. The combo of convenience and suction power made the process so much faster, easier, and more comfortable.
This vacuum is technically a “smart” one — it pairs with an app to provide cleaning performance information and maintenance reports, but I personally didn’t find it useful and the vacuum itself is enough reason to justify the purchase.
The best cordless vacuum for hardwood floors
The LG Cordzero A9 is a vacuum that can turn into a mop, letting you clean your hardwood floors gently but thoroughly with just one appliance. It shines when cleaning super tiny particles like flour.
Pros: Fairly light, adjustable stick, easy-to-use mop feature, comes with extra battery
Cons: Struggles with large particles like Cheerios, disposal method could be more sanitary
This LG cordless vacuum is a sleek and beautiful model that gives you an all-in-one cleaning solution. In addition to the vacuum itself, you get tons of extra accessories like a wall mount, extra battery, and the unique Power Mop nozzle.
It was one of the best performers in our flour test and picked up every last bit of flour on hardwood and tile, even in the cracks. It also did really well on high-pile rug, sucking flour out of the tall, loose loops. The only challenge might be with large particles like Cheerios; you’ll have better luck picking those up with a manual sweep.
For a truly thorough clean of your hardwood floors, the Power Mop nozzle is very useful. The process involves wetting and attaching the soft mop pads (the pack comes with four total), filling the water tank in the nozzle, and choosing the setting for more or less water. Then, when you start the vacuum, it starts to slowly spin the mop pads instead of activating suction. They’re gentle and won’t damage your floors. The attachment also has a built-in light so you can see what you’re mopping.
The vacuum is on the lighter side of all those we tested, and it has a comfortable grip. There’s no trigger, just an on/off button. The stick and cleaning head pivot smoothly, and you can extend or shorten the stick depending on your height and how far you need to reach the vacuum.
While I liked all the cleaning capabilities of the vacuum, the dust bin disposal design could be more sanitary. After clicking open the bottom of the bin, there’s a lever that you push down to release the bin’s contents. The problem is that the contents sometimes don’t come out quickly, and you have to shake the bin quite a bit or reach inside. Other times, they spill out immediately. Either way, it’s not a pleasant experience and we recommend wearing gloves when dealing with the dust bin after your cleaning session.
The best cordless vacuum for carpet
The Hoover HEPA+ vacuum has all the advantages of a trusty bagged vacuum cleaner: large cleaning head, large dust bag capacity, and powerful suction that easily takes on high-pile carpet and rug.
Pros: Powerful, can cover a lot of area, bagged design is more sanitary
Cons: Heavy, can’t reach under low spaces
The Hoover HEPA+ bears the most resemblance to a traditional corded vacuum. The only difference is the cord-free convenience. It’s an all-around powerful performer and cleaned everything from finely ground coffee to grainy cat litter almost perfectly, every single time. And whereas I could tell some of the vacuums struggled on high-pile rug, the Hoover HEPA+ rolled over the rug smoothly and got deep between the rug fibers.
The large cleaner head and bag make the vacuum heavy and unable to clean under low spaces. Plus, it’s loud. But since the bag is so big, it’ll take a long time before you have to replace it, and you can just throw it away directly without interacting with all the dust and other bits. Hoover also throws in an extra bag for you.
The vacuum’s power switch and two mode buttons (carpet and hardwood) are located at the large and ergonomic handle. The vacuum will also stop running if you bring it back to the upright standing position. Like a few of our other top picks, the cleaning head has a built-in light to show your cleaning path.
Unfortunately, this vacuum doesn’t come with attachments, so you’ll need to supplement it with a handheld vacuum for your other needs. As a main vacuum for a large house with lots of ground to cover, it’s a reliable choice.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why
Dyson V11 Torque Drive: This Dyson model is powerful, reasonably priced, and has a long battery life (around 60 minutes on Eco mode). As a newer Dyson vac, it has a special LCD screen that lets you know exactly how much battery you have left on each mode (Eco, Normal, Boost). Because you must hold down a trigger to start the vacuum, it can be tiring on your hands.
What we don’t recommend and why
Dyson V11 Outsize: For most households, this large and heavy vacuum is probably overkill. Though it has a great battery life (around 72 minutes on Eco mode), it’s uncomfortable to hold and use for that long. In our testing, the cleaning ability and suction power did not outperform the other contenders. It was also difficult to move back and forth on a high-pile rug.
What we’re testing next
Eufy HomeVac S11 Go: We love Eufy’s robot vacuums and we’re interested in seeing how its cordless vacs compare. It has a lightweight body, powerful suction, and 40-minute run time, and it’s reasonably priced for everything you get (a wall mount and attachments are also included).
Roborock H6: This vacuum is efficient, quiet, and easily maneuverable, though some reviewers say it doesn’t do well on tile so we’re looking to test that directly. It has a five-stage HEPA filter purification system and a 90-minute advertised battery life.
What to consider when buying a cordless vacuum
How a cordless vacuum compares to a corded vacuum
|Cordless vacuum||Corded vacuum|
|Power source||Rechargeable battery||Electrical outlet|
|Weight||Lighter; 3-8 pounds on average||Heavier; 8-15 pounds on average|
|Size||More slim and compact; width of 10 inches on average||Larger; width of 14 inches on average|
|Noise||Usually more quiet||Louder|
|Price||Usually more expensive; $200-$300 on average||More affordable; $75-$150 on average|
Features to look for in a cordless vacuum
Weight/distribution of weight: A cordless vacuum will feel heavier or lighter, and less comfortable or more comfortable, depending on where the bulk of the weight is. To allow for better flexibility and access, brands often place the dust bin near the top and handle of the vacuum. This can make it tiring to use a cordless vacuum over a long period of time. If the bin is placed at the bottom, near the cleaning head, the weight will be less of a burden, but that placement may get in the way of your cleaning.
Size: Keep the size of your living space in mind as you shop for a cordless vac. If you live by yourself in a studio, for example, you can look for vacs with smaller cleaning heads and dust bins. Also pay attention to the length of the vacuum and whether it will be comfortable for your height. Some vacuums have adjustable sticks.
Battery: Read product info carefully to see whether the advertised battery life refers to that of one battery or multiple batteries. Generally, we’ve found that advertised battery life is longer than actual battery life. Follow manufacturer directions on how to care for and dispose of batteries.
Docking/storage: Cordless vacuums are typically composed of two to three parts that you put together yourself (not including separate attachments). This design also makes it easy to store your vacuum in a compact space. Some vacuums may come with a wall dock or mount, so you can hang your vacuum on the wall.
Inclusion of other cleaning tools: Consider whether you might need additional attachments, such as a crevice tool or dusting brush. These may come with your vacuum, or can be available for separate purchase.
Warranty: Look for a one year warranty (at minimum) on both parts and labor of your entire vacuum. Beyond that, the manufacturer may offer additional warranties on specific parts like the motor. Once you receive your vacuum, register it online to speed up the warranty process later.
If you’re comfortable shopping for a vacuum in the store, “there’s no substitute for trying it out and seeing for yourself how it operates. Ask the retailer if you can turn on the vacuum and try it out before you make a choice,” said Doscher.
The best time to buy a cordless vacuum
Cordless vacuums tend to be more expensive than corded ones. The good news is that most brands discount their cordless vacuums around Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday/Cyber Weekend. We typically see discounts of $50 to $200 off Dyson, Hoover, and Shark cordless vacuums. If you’re able to wait, your patience will pay off in big savings.
Cordless vacuum FAQs
How often should you clean and change your vacuum filter?
The guidance varies model by model and there are different kinds of filters (cartridge, disk, foam, cloth), so you should check your product manual. Generally, you should wash and dry it when you notice a smell or if you observe a decline in vacuum performance. Some vacuums will also alert you when you need to change the filter. A clean filter is important for effective cleaning; a dirty filter restricts airflow and decreases suction power.
Which cordless vacuums are allergy- or asthma-friendly?
Look for cordless vacuums with HEPA filters, which are recommended for allergy and asthma sufferers. Without a HEPA filter, these small particles are likely to be released back into the air after being sucked up. All the vacuums we recommend are equipped with HEPA filters.
What does a HEPA filter do?
A true HEPA filter traps and removes at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, dirt, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. According to the EPA, 0.3 microns is the most penetrating particle size, so this specification refers to the worst case. If the particle is larger or smaller than 0.3 microns, it will be trapped with even higher efficiency.
Why is my vacuum’s battery life decreasing?
If your vacuum’s rechargeable battery is made from nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) or nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH), then it can experience “memory effect.” Memory effect happens if you charge the battery when there’s still some power left. Your battery starts holding less charge over time because it “remembers” how full it was the last time you charged it and won’t charge past that point the next time. Even though the original power of the battery is the same, the maximum battery voltage has decreased. To prevent memory effect, you should drain your nickel-based battery completely before charging it. Lithium-ion batteries do not experience this effect.
What’s the difference between amps, watts, and volts? Which one matters most for cordless vacuums?
Amps, watts, and volts are related to each other. Amperage is the electrical current (or volume of electrons), wattage is the rate of power flow (or how much power the motor is using), and voltage is speed at which electrons pass a specific point within a closed circuit (or the amount of power needed to support an electrical current). Watts = volts x amps.
A high wattage means the vacuum will use a lot of energy, and thus more battery. Since the type of motor can also affect vacuum power, high wattage doesn’t automatically equate to a powerful vacuum. Instead, you should focus on suction. “The motor is at the heart of driving the performance of a vacuum cleaner. The motor takes electrical power from the power source and converts it into mechanical power, or suction. So, the more powerful your motor is, the more air you’re able to pull through the machine,” said Mutlow.
We’ve decided to leave quantitative specs like wattage and voltage out of our reviews because they’re not useful as standalone numbers. Instead, we focused on suction and evaluated that based on how well the vacuums sucked up different kinds of particles.
HEPA: Stands for high efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter traps and removes at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, dirt, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns and can be found in air purifiers and vacuums.
Whole machine filtration: The entire machine is sealed to prevent unfiltered particles from escaping. All air passes through the filter before it is expelled.
Dustbin: Where all the dust, dirt, and hair are stored as you vacuum. The dustbin should be emptied out into the trash after you’re done cleaning.
Brush roll: A cylinder with bristles located in the cleaning head that rotates and helps release dirt from carpets and rugs. The bristles of a brush roll may leave scratches on hardwood and tile, so you should turn off the brush roll if possible. Replace your brush roll when the bristles wear out (like on your toothbrush).
Crevice tool: A long, flat attachment with an angled tip. It’s good for getting into tight corners including baseboards and stairs and between couch cushions.
Dust brush tool: A small attachment with soft bristles. It’s good for blinds, windowsills, and delicate objects.
Upholstery tool: A wide, flat attachment that allows for strong suction. It’s good for furniture with fabric upholstery like mattresses, chairs, and couches.
Lithium ion battery: A type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium ions and can store high amounts of energy and deliver higher voltage than nickel-based batteries. It doesn’t display memory effect, but it is less stable than nickel-based batteries and has a tendency to overheat.
Nickel battery: A type of rechargeable battery that comes in either nickel-cadmium (Ni-Ca) or nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) form. It can store high amounts of energy, is more difficult to damage than Li-ion batteries, and suffers from memory effect.
Check out our other guides to great vacuum cleaners
For cleaning the rest of your floors, check out these guides