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The compact size of stick vacuums makes them convenient, but that's not their only selling point. “In the past few years, stick vacuum suction has gotten a lot stronger, especially in battery-powered stick vacuums,” says Frank Rizzi, a senior test-lab engineer at Consumer Reports. “If you don’t have wall-to-wall carpet, these machines can do a lot of cleaning.”
(If you do have wall-to-wall carpet, that can be our little secret, but you'll want to read our article on Best Upright Vacuums instead.)
Among stick vacuums, cordless models dominate. According to the market research firm Gap Intelligence, more than 100 different cordless stick vacuums are currently on sale at major retailers compared with fewer than 30 corded stick vacuums.
But cordless vacs aren't problem-free. In an exclusive CR survey, our members told us that almost half of new battery-powered stick vacuums will develop problems within five years. That's why this year we analyzed the reliability of cordless and corded stick vacuums separately.
We found that although consumers prefer the convenience of a cordless model, the batteries can develop problems. No cordless model earns a place on our list of CR recommended products due to poor reliability or lackluster performance in our lab tests. For a deeper dive, read "The Problem With Cordless Stick Vacuums? The Battery."
Runtimes for cordless stick vacuums vary widely. In Consumer Reports’ tests, some stick vacs lose power in as little as 15 minutes and others run for up to an hour. Some manufacturers provide an extra battery with their cordless stick vacuum so that you can have one charging while you’re cleaning with the other. (You can also buy an extra battery separately for some models.)
How We Test Stick Vacuums
Because stick vacuums don't have the same deep-carpet cleaning capability as full-sized vacuums, CR conducts a carpet surface cleaning test, evaluating how well the appliances pick up sand, rice, and cereal in a certain amount of time.
Full-sized vacuums face a more challenging embedded-dirt test, in which our engineers try to clean up sand that's been ground into pile carpet.
In our bare-floor cleaning test for cordless stick vacuums, we scatter litter on a tiled floor with grout grooves, which increases the difficulty. We also conduct a pet-hair removal test on medium-pile carpet, as well as a clean emissions test to see whether a vacuum is releasing the dust that was just sucked up.
Here are the five best performers of each type, listed alphabetically (not in CR rank order).
Best Corded Stick Vacuums
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Slim 2897 (Walmart)
CR’s take: The basic corded Bissell Pet Hair Eraser lives up to its name by acing CR's pet-hair tests. But it struggles to contain fine dust particles, earning a Poor rating on our clean-emissions test. A sizable dirt bin cuts down on the number of trips you make to the trash can. The 27-foot-long power cord is a bit shorter than the standard 30 feet but long enough so that you don't have to keep changing outlets as you move around the house. At a little more than 9 pounds, this vacuum is on the heavier side for a stick vac.
Dirt Devil Power Stick SD12530
CR's take: The well-priced, slim Dirt Devil Power Stick is no slouch when it comes to cleaning carpet and bare floors, and picking up pet hair—earning top marks for all three tasks. The corded model gracefully glides along edges, picking up dust as it goes. It operates quietly, but its emissions aren't as dust-free as some of the other stick vacuums we've tested.
Shark Apex DuoClean Corded ZS362
CR's take: The Shark Apex DuoClean aces all of CR's cleaning tests, including earning an Excellent rating on our difficult carpet test. The DuoClean power head includes a bristle roller and a soft roller so that you can easily move from floor to carpet and back again. And this cleaning machine cleans itself by automatically clearing hair from the brush roll. The little vac is easy to maneuver under furniture, and an LED lights the way. The dustbin pops in and out with ease and, unlike some other stick vacs, this one stands on its own, making it easier to store.
Shark Apex UpLight Lift-Away DuoClean LZ601
CR's take: The corded Shark Apex UpLight Lift-Away is a winner. It aces all our key cleaning tests—carpet, bare floors, and pet hair—and operates quietly and cleanly. It also cleans along the edges of walls without leaving any debris behind. This vacuum is self-standing, making it easy to store, and has a self-cleaning brush roll so that you can avoid messy hair entanglements. It comes with several attachments that you can store onboard. This Shark is quieter than its brandmate above, and its emissions are cleaner, so it's a better choice if someone in your home has allergies.
Shark SharkFlex DuoClean Ultra-Light Corded HV391
CR's take: The corded SharkFlex DuoClean Ultra-Light Corded is up there with other top-performing Shark stick vacuums. It does a superb job at cleaning carpet and bare floors, and picking up pet hair. It zips along edges leaving nothing behind, and emissions are clean, meaning everything you vacuum up is contained in the bin. It’s a bit noisier than some of the Sharks in our ratings but still earns a Very Good rating on the noise test, so it's not that bothersome. Our testers found this vacuum easy to maneuver and flexible enough to easily move under and around furniture.
Best Cordless Stick Vacuums
Dyson V11 Outsize
CR's take: The powerful Dyson V11 Outsize aces all of CR's performance tests but at almost 8 pounds, it’s a bit heavier than many stick vacuums. Testers especially like the LED screen that shows how much cleaning time you have left. An auto mode changes the vac’s suction according to floor type. Other pluses: a wider powerhead for more coverage, a big dirt bin, and two replaceable batteries. In CR's tests, one battery runs for about 72 minutes per charge on low and 8 minutes on high.
Samsung Jet Light VS70 VS15T7031R4/AA
CR’s take: Samsung stick vacs are a new addition to our ratings, and the Jet Light VS70 VS15T7031R4/AA is impressive. In fact, it aces all our tests from cleaning carpet to getting floors sparkling clean, including the edges. And if you have a dog or cat, it gets rid of all the accumulated pet hair. It runs for 22 minutes on one battery charge and features a digital display that allows you to check the power level and battery life. At less than 6 pounds, it’s easy to maneuver. And for the money you'd spend on the Dyson V11, you could almost buy one for every room of the house.
Tineco Pure One S11
CR's take: The Tineco Pure One S11 cleans impressively in all our major tests and has many features to boot. An LED panel shows how much battery life you have left as well as the suction level, which varies when you switch from bare floors to carpet. A sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly. If you're so inclined, you can connect to a Tineco app that indicates cleaning performance, such as battery life, on your smartphone. In CR tests, it runs for about 30 minutes per charge on low and 10 minutes on high. Tineco is fairly new to the U.S. market, and we don't have enough data yet for a brand reliability rating.
Tineco Pure One S11 Tango EX
CR's take: The feature-packed Tineco Pure One S11 Tango EX costs a bit more than the Tineco Pure One S11, but the performance is similar. This model has all the bells and whistles of its brandmate, including an LED panel that indicates battery life and suction power. It runs for 30 minutes on one charge but comes with a second battery—which accounts for the added expense—so you can clean for twice as long. You can use Tineco’s app to monitor battery life, but if you don't want to be bothered with another app on your phone, you can get all the information you need from the LED panel.
Tineco Pure One S12
CR's take: An all-around top-notch performer, the high-end Tineco Pure One S12 is also packed with features, and its cleaning ability is impressive, earning top marks on all our cleaning tests, including an Excellent rating for pet hair. An LED panel on the top of the handle displays the power level and battery time remaining, and lets you know if you have a clog or tangle. You can adjust the power settings by swiping up or down on the screen, and a dust sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly. It runs very quietly, and emissions are clean.
How to Make Appliances Last
Want to keep your household appliances in tip-top shape? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Eric Hagerman explains the most important thing you can do to keep these machines working properly.