Which type of cordless vacuum cleaner is best for you?

Know your handheld cordless vacuum cleaner from your stick or robot. Here's the lowdown...

Which cordless vacuum cleaner? Dyson cordless vacuum vacuuming crumbs on floor near high chair
(Image credit: Dyson)

When it comes to choosing a cordless vacuum cleaner for your home, all that you are certain of is that you are so over trailing wires. But which one is best for you? After all, freedom from the tedious plug socket search may come courtesy of a stick style vacuum, handheld version or even a robot vacuum that gets on with the job without you. 

Our guide will give you the inside track on each type and, whether you decide on a Dyson cordless vacuum, a Bosch cordless vacuum or another brand. Check out our guide to the best vacuum cleaners for an overview of all the best models.

Is a cordless stick vacuum best for you?

Gtech HyLite

(Image credit: Gtech)

Who will a cordless stick vacuum suit?
A cordless stick vacuum is great if you have mobility problems, or just don’t like taking a weight up and down the stairs. It’s also easy to store because it’s slim, making it a good solution in a small home. They aren’t just for bagless vac fans, either. The Gtech cordless vacuum range includes bagged models.

Will it do a good job?
The best cordless stick vacuums – like the Vax Blade 2 Max, the Shark DuoClean or the Dyson cordless V8 – can offer suction to rival both plug-in cylinder and upright vacuums. They have the power to clean better than many robot vacuums, too. Head to head against a handheld, they’ll probably come out victorious in terms of suction. 

A cordless stick could take the place of an upright or cylinder in your home as some are great all-round cleaners, even getting the tricky parts of the stairs. Top cordless sticks will deal with dirt, debris, dust and pet hair. The best models will deal with different floor surfaces well, too.

However, using the maximum power runs down the battery fast, so it’s probably not the vacuum for you if your home is big or annoyingly partial to dirt and dust.

How often will it need emptying?
You’re probably going to be emptying a cordless stick vacuum more frequently than a plug in as the container capacity is frequently smaller. Although, compare it to a handheld or a robot vac and you've got a winner.

How long will it run for before it needs recharging?
The downside of going cordless? Battery life and charging. The length of time between charges for a cordless stick vac can be anything from over an hour to less than 30 minutes. Pay attention to the time a particular model can keep going when it’s on the maximum setting... it could be less than 10 minutes. Charging times vary from circa three to five hours.

How do prices compare?
Think less expensive than robot vacuums but more than a handheld. However, prices do range widely, from around £600 to less than £100. Check out the Argos' cordless vacuum range for budget buys.

What makes them a worthwhile buy?
Cordless stick vacuums will do the jobs a vac with a cord does without the restrictions. You can help you swerve heavy lifting and save some cupboard space.

How does a stick compare to a handheld?
You manoeuvre a stick much like a cylinder or upright vacuum, so it’ll feel like more of a straight swap. A handheld, meanwhile, will see you bending to clean.

How does a stick compare to a robot?
Bottom line? You’ll still be doing the cleaning – even if you are vacuuming up the dirt without playing hunt the socket in every room.

 Is a robot vacuum best for you?

roomba i7+ cleaning floor under table

(Image credit: Roomba)

Who will a robot vacuum suit?
If you have a lot of flooring to keep up with in a big or open-plan layout, a robot could be the time-saving gadget you’ve been dreaming about. 

Will it do a good job?
The best robot vacuums will help keep your home clean on a schedule you set, but they can’t fulfil all the roles of a standard model: they’re not going to do the stairs for you, nor vacuum your sofa. 

They won’t beat a vacuum you plug into a socket when it comes to suction power, nor are they the rival to a good cordless stick. A handheld will probably beat a robot vac for dirt pick up, too. Robots can be as good on carpet as hard floors, but some are really only effective on the latter. Their navigation abilities aren’t always what you’d hope, meaning you may not get an all-round clean. 

Most robots take themselves off to charge when the battery is running low, sparing you another chore.

How often will it need emptying?
Unfortunately robot vacuums can’t empty their own dust container. And, like both cordless sticks and handhelds, they doesn’t have a huge capacity compared to conventional vacs with power cords.

How long will it run for before it needs recharging?
Running times of up to two hours are possible, although they can be less than an hour for some. Maximum suction – where it’s part of the features – can also reduce running time to under an hour. Charging takes three. Although, on the plus side, your robot will probably take care of charging itself!

How do prices compare?
Robot vacuums can definitely be the most costly cordless option. Expect to pay around £800 for the best designs, although you will find models from around £200.

What makes them a worthwhile buy?
It’s hard to compete with the labour-saving credentials of a robot. It’s doing the job for you, after all. They can be smart controlled, too, unlike other types of vac.

How does a robot compare to a stick?
A robot doesn’t do all the jobs a stick does, so you may end up needing more than one vacuum,

How does a robot compare to a handheld?
It’s not going to clean your car, but a robot will get on with the chores while you put your feet up (and out of its way).

Is a handheld vacuum best for you?

handheld cordless vacuum from vax

(Image credit: VAX)

Who will a handheld vacuum suit?
If you want an extra vac to clean up spills, do a quick spot clean, and keep the car pristine without trailing wires, a handheld could be a worthwhile buy.

Will it do a good job?
Over a small area, the best handheld vacuum cleaners will tackle all sorts, compatible with hard flooring, carpet and upholstery. Some come with the attachments you might get on other types of vacuum, making them as versatile. Be aware that some have a limited battery charge, so you’d only be doing the quickest of clean-ups in this case. 

How often will it need emptying?
A handheld certainly doesn’t have a huge capacity and won’t face off against a plug in. However, some have dust space that equals or even improves on that of a cordless stick or a robot. Bear in mind, too, that you probably won’t be attempting to pick up as much.

How long will it run for before it needs recharging?
Although it’s possible to get 20 minutes, running time tends to be around the 15 minute mark with some going for less than 10. Charging does take time: think anywhere from around three hours to 10 and over. 

How do prices compare?
A handheld certainly isn’t going to weigh as heavily on your bank balance as a robot, nor many cordless sticks. You could pay in a range from about £200 to as little as around £40.

What makes them a worthwhile buy?
Grab a handheld and you can clean up in a hurry without the hassle of getting a large vac out of the cupboard.

How does a handheld compare to a stick?
Cordless sticks such as the Vax Blade 2 Max include a handheld, making the design a two in one, so you might want to consider this more flexible option. A stick will generally keep going longer on one charge as well. 

How does a handheld compare to a robot?
A handheld will do some jobs a robot can’t, but vice-versa. Both require another vac handy in the house. 

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Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.