Spring cleaning can be time-consuming, but one easy way to stay on top of debris on your floors is with a small vacuum, like a stick or hand vac.
Consumer Reports ran these little helpers through a battery of tests to see which left the rest in the dust. In the past few years the suction power has gotten a lot stronger in many larger stick vacuums. so they're even better cleaners.
That power was tested on carpets and bare floors, with rice, sand and cat hair. Vacuums that picked up the most scored highest. They also underwent a clean-emissions test to ensure that they don’t release dust back into the air.
If you’re tempted by the convenience of a cordless stick vac, CR said you might want to think twice. CR has discovered that almost half of battery-powered stick vacs will develop problems within five years, the biggest being diminished battery life over time.
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Corded stick vacs were generally more reliable. CR recommends the Shark Apex UpLight Lift-Away DuoClean. It got excellent marks for cleaning all types of floors and has an extendable hose built-in for hard-to-reach areas.
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Slim aced pet hair tests. It has a large bin, and the brush turns off to clean hard floors.
Handheld vacs are great for reaching nooks and crannies, around the house or in your car. CR recommends two: The Shark Ion easily picked up debris from carpets and bare floors, and it was able to reach into tight spots. Its small dust bin had to be emptied more often, though. The Black+Decker DustBuster did an excellent job picking up dirt on bare floors and a very good job handling edges and pet hair.
CR has these tips for making your vacuum last longer: Avoid sucking up sharp objects that can harm the fan or motor, don’t overfill the bag, and empty dust bins after every use. Also: The brush works better if you clean off tangled hair or string periodically.
Check out CR's top pics for handheld vacuums here and for stick vacuums here.