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The Best Cordless Stick Vacuum

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Power cords got you wound up? If you want a cordless vacuum that can clean your entire home, the Dyson V7 Motorhead is probably your best bet. It’s as powerful as cordless vacuums get, with the best handling, quietest operation, and easiest to empty dustbin for the price. We’ve done more than 125 hours of research and testing on cordless vacuums over the past three years, and this was an easy choice to make.

Our pick

Dyson V7 Motorhead

The best cordless vacuum

One of the most powerful cordless vacuum cleaners, and the most pleasant to use, with smooth handling, tolerable noise, and a no-touch dustbin. Great for cleaning up all kinds of debris (including pet hair) from bare floors and most carpets. $300 from Amazon $250 from Walmart  

We found in our testing that the V7 Motorhead is particularly good at getting dust and hair out of carpets, compared with most other cordless models. It works well on bare floors, too. The battery can last 28 minutes with the cleaning head attached, which is plenty for most apartments or townhouses, and even a lot of single-family houses if you work fast. It can also convert into a handheld vacuum, and comes with two snap-on tools.

On the downside, the V7 is a very expensive vacuum. But if you want a cordless vacuum that can clean your whole home as thoroughly as a good plug-in model, this is how much it costs. Our runner-up is the only model that comes close to matching the cleaning performance, but we think paying the extra amount for the V7 is worth doing because this model is easier to use.

Runner-up

Shark IonFlex DuoClean Cordless Ultra-Light

A heavier and louder cordless vacuum, better on hard floors

Better at getting crumbs off bare floors and pet hair off furniture. But it’s heavier and louder, has a shorter battery life, and just isn’t quite as pleasant to use. $290* from Amazon $300 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $255.

The Shark IonFlex DuoClean Cordless Ultra-Light isn’t our main pick because it’s noticeably heavier and louder than the Dyson V7 Motorhead. It’s not quite as strong of a carpet cleaner, either, and the battery lasts for only 20 minutes. But it’s better at cleaning upholstery and picking up big crumbs off bare floors, and has a longer warranty. The battery pack is also removable and charges in a separate dock, which could help the IonFlex DuoClean have a longer life span than the V7. If those upsides seem more important to you, grab this Shark instead of the Dyson.

Budget pick

Hoover BH50020PC Linx Signature Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner

Good performance, great price

For quick pickups or good-enough apartment cleaning, the Hoover Linx is the sturdiest cordless vac for the money. $125* from Amazon $125 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $143.

If you just need something affordable and convenient for tidying up a small space, the Hoover Linx (BH50020) is a tried-and-true option. It’s one of the most effective cleaners among budget-priced cordless vacs, and it has a respectable 16-minute run time. The foam filter is reusable, clogs and tangles are easy to clear, and the machine doesn’t need much general maintenance. Like its competitors at this price, it’s effective only at cleaning bare floors and maybe sweeping up some surface-level crumbs and hair from short rugs. The Linx has been available since 2009 and has thousands of owner reviews, so we know that most people should expect good performance from it over a couple of years. (This model used to be known as the Hoover Platinum Collection Linx; to the best of our knowledge, the new vacuum is exactly the same.)

Upgrade pick

Dyson V8 Absolute

The very best and most expensive cordless vacuum cleaner

The very best cordless vacuum cleaner, with more attachments, a longer battery life, and slightly stronger suction than our main pick. But wow is it expensive. $445 from Amazon $450 from Walmart  

The Dyson V8 Absolute is the best cordless vacuum overall. It’s essentially the same vacuum as the V7, with a little more suction, six minutes of extra battery life, and some tools that help it clean upholstery and bare floors better—useful but mostly marginal advantages over our main pick, for a whole lot more money. It is a great machine, though the price is way steep.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Dyson V7 Motorhead

The best cordless vacuum

One of the most powerful cordless vacuum cleaners, and the most pleasant to use, with smooth handling, tolerable noise, and a no-touch dustbin. Great for cleaning up all kinds of debris (including pet hair) from bare floors and most carpets.

Buying Options

$300 from Amazon $250 from Walmart

Runner-up

Shark IonFlex DuoClean Cordless Ultra-Light

A heavier and louder cordless vacuum, better on hard floors

Better at getting crumbs off bare floors and pet hair off furniture. But it’s heavier and louder, has a shorter battery life, and just isn’t quite as pleasant to use.

Buying Options

$290* from Amazon $300 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $255.

Budget pick

Hoover BH50020PC Linx Signature Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner

Good performance, great price

For quick pickups or good-enough apartment cleaning, the Hoover Linx is the sturdiest cordless vac for the money.

Buying Options

$125* from Amazon $125 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $143.

Upgrade pick

Dyson V8 Absolute

The very best and most expensive cordless vacuum cleaner

The very best cordless vacuum cleaner, with more attachments, a longer battery life, and slightly stronger suction than our main pick. But wow is it expensive.

Buying Options

$445 from Amazon $450 from Walmart

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who should get this
  • How we picked
  • How we tested
  • Our pick: Dyson V7 Motorhead
  • Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • Long-term test notes
  • Runner-up: Shark IonFlex DuoClean Cordless Ultra-Light
  • Budget pick: Hoover Linx (BH50020)
  • Upgrade pick: Dyson V8 Absolute
  • What about the Dyson Cyclone V10?
  • The competition
  • What to look forward to

Why you should trust us

Liam McCabe, who wrote the first few versions of this guide, has covered vacuums for Wirecutter for more than four years, logging hundreds of hours of vacuum research and testing. He’s personally tested dozens of vacuums of all types (cordless, robots, handhelds, and traditional plug-ins) in several homes with varied floor plans. And he has at least passing knowledge of hundreds more vacuums. He wrote this guide from 2014 through 2016 (at one point, he had more than 19 vacuums in his condo for testing), and has edited it since 2017. And for what it’s worth, he’s mostly lived in spaces where cordless vacuums are easier to use than plug-ins.

At one point, we had more than 19 vacuums in one condo for testing.

Michelle Ma is a former retail reporter who has interviewed dozens of manufacturers about how their products are made, sold, and used. For this update, she looked into 32 new models and logged over 20 hours testing nine models total, both at home and at our test site. She also lives in an apartment with a tight floor plan, where a cordless vacuum makes more sense than a plug-in model.

Although we do our own testing, we also think it’s important to hear what other people have to say. We’ve interviewed a bunch of vacuum experts over the years, including:

  • Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, which publishes vacuum repair manuals
  • Caroline Blazovsky, founder of My Healthy Home and indoor air quality specialist who sits on the Indoor Air Quality Association’s public education committee
  • Greg Truex, senior director at J.D. Power who handles home appliance studies
  • David VanAmburg, managing director at the American Customer Satisfaction Index
  • Justin Haver, vice president at GoVacuum.com and 20-year veteran of the vacuum industry
  • Denis Spindler, owner of Mr. Sweeper Sew & Vac in Waltham, Massachusetts, since 1984 (and an employee there since 1977)
  • Brian Driscoll, a vacuum service technician and shop manager known as the Vacuum King of Reddit from his series of popular AMAs
  • Jeffrey May, indoor air-quality consultant and author of My House Is Killing Me!: The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma
  • Brian Oliver, brand manager (at the time) of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  • Rob Green, reliability manager (at the time) at Dyson
  • Anthony Del Gaudio, a product manager (at the time) for Miele
  • Josh Mutlow, senior design engineer at Dyson
  • Christopher Shook, director of engineering at Stanley Black & Decker
  • Zara Jones, product manager of handheld vacuums at Stanley Black & Decker
  • Keith Barry, editor in chief of Reviewed Home
  • Rich Brown, executive editor of appliance reviews at CNET

We’ve also made a point to listen to as many of our readers as we can through comments on our guides, emails, Twitter exchanges, and message board posts.

And we also read other vacuum reviews, including customer reviews (we’ve easily scanned more than 1,000) as well as those from other editorial sources like CNET, Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and Reviewed.com.

Who should get this

Photo: Michael Hession

If you’re willing to pay more for the convenience of a cordless vacuum, go for it. The best cordless vacuums now have enough cleaning power to match good plug-in vacuums, and enough battery life to clean small to midsize homes in a single session (up to roughly 2,000 square feet for our main pick).

Obviously, the best part about owning a cordless vacuum is that you have no cable to unwrap and rewrap during every cleaning session or to catch on corners and doorways. If you’ve ever skipped vacuuming because you’re feeling too lazy to unwrap the cord (guilty as charged) or your cramped floor plan makes cord-wrangling feel like a major chore, a cordless vacuum can be a life-changer. They’re also typically thin and light, which makes them easy to handle and to stash away between uses. Apartment dwellers usually gain the most by going cordless.

But cordless vacuums have some disadvantages compared with good plug-in models. They always cost much more than models with comparable cleaning ability. For example, our main pick costs more than twice as much as our favorite plug-in model. Cordless vacuums also have much shorter life spans on average, as well as shorter warranty periods most of the time. That’s partly because the batteries in cordless vacs are likely to wear out after a few years. Their batteries don’t last long enough to clean big houses. Even the longest-lasting models won’t quite be able to clean a typical new-construction house (about 2,600 square feet) in a single session. They also all need at least three hours to recharge, so once the battery dies, you’ll need to walk away from cleaning for a while. And compared with the very-best plug-in models, cordless vacuums can’t clean as deeply or filter dust as effectively.

If you’ve ever skipped vacuuming because you’re feeling too lazy to unwrap the cord, a cordless vacuum can be a life-changer.

If you need more help choosing the right type of vacuum for your home, we have a quick guide for that!

How we picked

Our picks (left to right): Dyson V8 Absolute, our upgrade pick; Shark IonFlex DuoClean, our runner-up; Dirt Devil Reach Max Multi, our budget pick; Dyson V7 Motorhead, our main pick. Photo: Michael Hession

We started by making a list of all the cordless vacuums we could find. Since 2014, when we began to cover this category, we’ve tracked 115 models (though many are now discontinued). Here are the factors we prioritized:

Crucial, bare-minimum features:

We didn’t seriously consider any models that didn’t meet these baselines.

  • A 20-volt battery or greater: More voltage does not necessarily mean more cleaning power, but 20 volts is a good baseline for decent suction. Weaker batteries struggle with larger debris, like the road salt or chunks of food we sometimes cleaned up while testing.
  • A lithium or lithium-ion battery: Most cordless vacuums now use this battery type, but some old stragglers out there still use NiCD or NiMH batteries. Those types take much longer to recharge than lithium-based cells, and NiCD-based models are particularly awful because they start to lose suction about halfway through their running time.
  • At least 20 minutes of running time: That’s about the cutoff for 1,000 square feet of cleaning. Because we were looking for a cordless vacuum that could replace a plug-in, we wanted to find something that could work in more types of homes than just small apartments, even if it couldn’t quite handle the average American house.
  • Can convert to a handheld vacuum: Most of the time you’ll be cleaning your floors, but it’s handy to have a two-in-one design so that you can clean windowsills, shelves, curtains, ceilings, upholstery, and tight spaces around furniture and appliances.
  • Bristled brush roll: This is crucial if you want your vacuum to really work on carpets.

Important, useful features:

These traits set the best models apart from the good ones.

  • Cleaning power: Some cordless vacuums are much better than others at getting ground-in hair and dust out of carpets and cracks between floorboards. Although battery voltage and a good brush roll can tell you a little bit about this, the best way to get at this is through testing. A good cordless vac should suck up noticeable debris from bare floors and short- or medium-pile carpets in a couple of passes, as well as some of the less-noticeable fine dust and hair that accumulates deeper in carpets over time.
  • Comfort and handling: People with wrist pain, or who live in tight spaces, often turn to a cordless vacuum for the ease of handling it provides over a traditional upright. So we looked for models that didn’t feel heavy and clunky and that could steer around corners and into tight spaces with ease. A swiveling joint really helped with handling, though most models have one these days. An easy-to-empty dustbin, intuitive controls, and easy-to-remove filters also factored into our decisions.
  • More battery life: Although 20 minutes was our baseline, the more the merrier.
  • Noise: The typical upright vacuum comes in at around 70 decibels (dBC), so we’re looking for something around that or lower. Aside from general loudness, we also looked for vacs that operated at lower frequencies, which sound less annoying.
  • Strong customer ratings: We’ve found that an average customer rating of four out of five stars is an accurate cutoff for user satisfaction. Any lower is a sign of a design flaw or quality-control problem.

Less-important features:

These are factors that may seem important, but are actually so similar from model to model that they’re not worth fussing over.

  • Warranty: Warranties are typically around two years for most cordless vacuums, though we did favor brands with better reputations for responsive customer service. We also heard from the folks at J.D. Power that only 5.8 percent of people actually use their warranties, so it’s low on the list of priorities for most people.
  • Reusable filters and swiveling joints: Both are pretty much a given on any cordless vacuum these days.

We found that the sweet spot for cordless vacuums with all the right specs (on paper at least) can be anywhere from $180 to $350.

Cheaper vacuums under $180 lack some important features and won’t come close to replacing a good plug-in vacuum. However, some work fine to tidy smaller spaces—not a bad choice for a cozy apartment with light or no carpeting, or as a secondary vacuum for your kitchen. Spend less than $80, and they’re all bad.

Spending more than $350 can yield some marginal upsides, like a somewhat longer battery life, or extra attachments that improve cleaning performance in some scenarios. You can get one of these if you want, though it’s a lot of money to pay for modest improvements.

After winnowing the possibilities based on specs, we decided to call in nine vacuums for testing:

  • Eufy HomeVac Duo
  • Deik EV660
  • Dirt Devil Reach Max Multi Cordless (BD22522)
  • VonHaus 2-in-1 Cordless
  • Hoover React BH53200
  • Shark IONFlex DuoClean Cordless Ultra-Light
  • Dyson V6 Cord-free
  • Dyson V7 Motorhead
  • Dyson V8 Absolute

For previous versions of this guide, we also tested the Hoover Linx, Hoover Air Cordless Lift, Hoover Cruise, Black+Decker Smartech HSVJ520JMBF27, and Eufy HomeVac Lightweight, which are all still available. We didn’t think that they were the best picks last year, so we didn’t retest them this year.

How we tested

  • We tested large-particle pickup too, with the floor-cleaning heads as well as in handheld mode. Photo: Michael Hession
  • We tested our finalists at home, as well as at our office. Photo: Michael Hession
  • Our flour-pickup test separated the best vacuums from the ones that were just okay. Photo: Michael Hession
  • We tested large-particle pickup too, with the floor-cleaning heads as well as in handheld mode. Photo: Michael Hession
  • We tested our finalists at home, as well as at our office. Photo: Michael Hession

1 of 3  

We tested at home and at our test center, measuring cleaning performance, handling, battery life, noise, and ease of maintenance.

The most important feature of a vacuum is obviously suction strength. To test for that, we sprinkled half a cup of flour over a patch of a knitted, low-pile rug and gave each vacuum three minutes to suck out as much flour as it could. We then used a kitchen scale to measure how much flour was picked up in the dustbin. (To keep things standardized, we cleaned the rug with a powerful Miele plug-in model between each test).

One of the biggest complaints we hear about vacuums is that they can’t handle pet hair, which is notorious for burrowing its way into upholstery and not letting go. To compare how these vacs do against our furry friends, we rubbed the hair of a Maine Coon cat into the cushion of a velvet couch. We then attached the most suitable brush head onto the handheld portion of vacuum, set it to the highest suction mode, and timed how long it took each of our contenders to pick up all the hair. We ran each vacuum through a standardized slalom course. And yes, we stuck a GoPro to one of them to make this GIF. Video: Michael Hession

For handling, we ran each model through a timed slalom course, simulating a real-life apartment with a tight floor layout. Racing a vacuum through an obstacle course isn’t exactly how you would use one of these, naturally, but it clued us in on a few frustrations and flaws that might annoy owners, like how vacuums can bunch up area rugs or struggle to get around corners.

Most cordless vacuums have about as much battery life as their manufacturers say they do, we’ve found. But we double-checked using a stopwatch anyway, because sometimes the vacuums meet their advertised run time only under certain conditions, like with the brush roller turned off, or with certain tools attached.

To measure noise levels, we used the SPLnFFT app on an iPhone 6 with an external microphone attached to a smartphone to test for noise levels. This app measures both volume (in decibels) and frequency (in hertz).

To test for ease of maintenance, we tried to clog and tangle each machine with tough debris like shredded copy paper, balls of cat hair, sawdust, and socks. And if we succeeded in jamming them up, we figured out how to unclog them. The fewer tools and the less time needed, the better.

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