For our tests, we vacuumed up materials with the consistency you'd expect when cleaning your car or home. We spread a healthy sprinkling of sawdust on several square feet of carpet, hardwood and around a car seat. We then measured how many passes it took to clean up the entire area. For the car seat test, we made sure to spread sawdust in hard-to-reach areas such as cracks between the cushions and under armrests. Our research found that handheld vacs are often used for households with pets, so we embedded pet hair in the carpet and tested the percentage of pet hair the vacuum was able to suck up. Since many handheld vacs are battery-powered, we tested how long the vacuum ran until the battery died.
The two most important components of the best hand vacuums are vacuuming power and portability – that is, how well it performs vacuuming different surfaces and whether or not you can move it around with ease between different locations. A big factor in a vacuum's portability is the performance of its rechargeable battery. We also looked at extra features such as attachments and online support, though not at the expense of cleaning ability and mobility. Beyond this, we examined unique features like swiveling heads, the ability to clean wet surfaces and the capacity of the dustbin.
Everyone needs a good, full-sized upright or canister vacuum cleaner for big jobs, like weekly whole-house cleaning or for giving your carpet a thorough, deep vacuuming. However, when you have a smaller mess, like a dry spill of flour or rice in the kitchen, or a coating of cat hair on the cushions, it's nice to be able to reach for something small and light -- which is why handheld vacuums are so popular.