Today’s cordless stick vacuums are a far cry from their bagged, corded ancestors. They’re compact, lightweight and impressively powerful — powerful enough to tackle most jobs around apartments or smaller homes, even challenging tasks like vacuuming up pet hair.
For the past two months, we put seven cordless stick vacuums highly rated by professional reviewers and everyday users to the test. We assessed performance, suction power, ease of use and battery life. And since finding the best vacuum for pet hair is always on our minds, we gave our five pets — two dogs and three cats — full reign of the house and then got to work, sucking up pet fur, cat litter and pine needles, along with all the dirt and debris that’s left behind on a daily basis. We found three great stick vacuums for any kind of floor, and for jobs large and small.
Best cordless stick vacuum for pet hair and deep carpet
With impressive power and the ability to tackle cleaning tasks on surfaces ranging from high-pile carpet to hard floors, the Dyson V11 Animal is the most capable cordless stick vacuum we tested.
A great affordable cordless stick vacuum
A great performer on multiple surfaces, the Bissell IconPet does a solid job on multiple surfaces. It’s not as powerful or simple to empty as the Dyson, but a smaller power unit and dustbin make it easier to use in a handheld configuration.
Best cordless stick vacuum for smaller jobs and smaller spaces
Lightweight, maneuverable and with the easiest to use convertible handheld attachment of all the vacuums we tested, the Shark Wandvac is great for smaller homes or quick cleanups.
If you’ve ever used a Dyson vacuum (or anything that Dyson makes, really), you’re probably not surprised to see that the Dyson V11 Animal came out on top. This stick vacuum is an absolute powerhouse that made easy work of everything we threw at it. It performed equally well on high- and low-pile area rugs and carpets, and all types of hard floors — vinyl, tile and hardwood. The swivel head and lightweight body — it weighs in at 6.68 pounds — also made it easy to move around the room.
The swivel head was especially impressive on carpets and area rugs. No animal fur, dirt or dust escaped the V11 Animal. It sucked up so much debris from our living room rug that we were as embarrassed as we were impressed by the results.
The V11 Animal has three modes — Boost, Auto and Eco — that you can easily cycle through with the touch of the button located on the LED screen. The vacuum defaults to Auto, which was plenty powerful for most of our needs, but the Boost mode was helpful for pulling dirt and heavier debris, like cat litter, out of plush carpet.
The screen has a battery monitor that gives you a rough estimate of how much battery life is left. In theory, the Dyson V11 will give you 60 minutes of continuous runtime on a full charge, but in reality, the usage drops down to 30 to 45 minutes when you’re using it on Auto or Boost, the latter of which sucks up the most juice. The 0.2-gallon (or 0.76-liter) dustbin was one of the most generously sized in our testing pool, and though it made the V11 Animal one of the bulkier cordless sticks we tested, we’ll gladly take a little bit of bulk to have to empty it fewer times.
Aside from the main high-torque cleaning head, the Dyson V11 comes with four additional attachments — a combination tool, dirt brush, crevice tool and mini motorized tool — none of which are especially revolutionary, but they served their specific purposes well. You can swap out the main brush head for each attachment, or remove the wand portion altogether and use the V11 Animal as a handheld. It’s a bit bulky and heavy in this application, but we found it convenient for vacuuming couches, cat towers and the car.
There were only two minor things we didn’t love about the Dyson V11 Animal. The first is that the power button operates on a trigger mechanism, meaning you have to continuously hold it down as you vacuum. We would have preferred to just switch it on and go but, on the plus side, the trigger mechanism makes it easy to shut it off quickly. The second — common to most of the cordless sticks we tested — is that it doesn’t stand on its own. If you’re using it around the house as part of your weekly chores and don’t return it to its dock right after using it, you have to lean it carefully against a wall or lay it down on the floor.
The Bissell IconPet got the job done on all types of floors and effectively sucked up everything from pet hair to pine needles from carpeted surfaces and smooth vinyl flooring with ease. It had slightly less suction power overall than the Dyson V11 Animal, so we found ourselves kicking it up into high gear more often, but it’s a capable cleaning tool on any surface.
On the highest setting, it formed a seal on carpets and rugs that helped pull up all types of debris, from lighter-weight pet fur that sat on top of the rugs and upholstery to heavier cat litter that we sprinkled into the plusher carpets.
The design is similar to the Dyson, with the power unit situated on the top of the machine. Like the Dyson, it has three power modes that you can toggle through with the touch of a button on the handle. The swivel head is a bit clunky, but it was easy enough to maneuver, and it lies down flat and easily reached under our coffee table and couches. It weighs in at around 7 pounds.
The Bissell IconPet comes with two attachments — a dusting brush combination tool with an LED light and a motorized brush roll tool that’s specifically designed to pull pet fur out of upholstery. As with the Dyson, you can attach the tools directly to the power unit and use the vacuum as a handheld. Since the dustbin is almost 50% smaller, it was a lot less bulky and convenient to use in this configuration.
However, the dustbin was also part of the reason the Bissell IconPet earned the runner-up spot. It’s smaller than the Dyson V11’s and filled considerably faster, which meant more pauses to empty it. It also wasn’t as convenient. You have to manually remove it from the vacuum and manually pull out the filter to empty it, which makes the overall process a bit messier, too.
Best cordless stick vacuum for smaller jobs and smaller spaces: Shark Wandvac Cordless Stick Vacuum ($199.99, originally $259.99; amazon.com) While the Shark Wandvac Cordless Stick Vacuum requires a little more effort, this vacuum made easy work of cleaning up debris from every type of floor, save for on high-pile carpet, where it required multiple passes. It has a smaller dustbin than our other recommendations, so it isn’t suited to large homes or big cleanups, but its hidden feature — it incorporates Shark’s highly regarded Shark Handheld Wandvac as its power unit — makes it a contender for anyone who wants a multipurpose cleaning tool for smaller spaces.
The Wandvac only has one power mode, but that was enough for most of our needs. It doesn’t have the power of the Dyson and Bissell models we tested, and occasionally, we needed to do a few passes on extra dirty spots, but, overall, we were impressed at how well this vacuum picked up fur and pulled pine needles out of carpet.
At 2.1 pounds, it’s the most portable and lightweight on the list, so it was easy to bring from floor to floor and to maneuver around the room and under furniture. It operates on an effortless swivel and lies down flat to reach under couches, the bed and other furniture.
To access the hidden Shark Handheld Wandvac, you just pull down on two release levers — there’s no reconfiguration of attachments required as is the case with the Dyson, Bissell and other competitors. Before trying this vacuum, we already owned a Shark Wandvac Handheld and it has been one of our favorite household cleaning tools. It’s small and maneuverable, and lets you get into tight spaces where the competition is too bulky to go.
The Wandvac Cordless Stick comes with a freestanding charging base which adds another layer to convenience. Unlike the Dyson and Bissell models, you don’t have to install the docking station on the wall, so you can easily move the vacuum from room to room without the need to reinstall the charging station.
One annoyance is that the dustbin release button is located directly below the power button. While the mechanisms are different — the power button is a push button and the dustbin operates on a toggle switch — we felt the close placement was a design flaw, and it’s way too easy to accidentally open the dustbin instead of turning the vacuum on or off. And since the dustbin can open while it’s attached to the vacuum and in use, we ended up with debris all over the floor a few times.
Overall, if you’re looking for a less-expensive lightweight stick vacuum for quick cleanups and could use a great handheld for tight spaces, the Shark Wandvac is a solid choice.
After scouring online user and professional reviews and product specifications, we chose seven stick vacuums to test. Each of the seven models are marketed toward users with pets. We decided to go this route because these vacuums are typically more powerful than other models, and they’re versatile too — they all come with upholstery tools that you can use even if you’re not plagued by pet fur everywhere.
We rated each vacuum
Is a Dyson really worth it? We tested cordless stick vacuums to find the best
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