It used to be the case that a powerful vacuum cleaner also meant dragging a bulky, unwieldy and corded appliance from outlet to outlet. Fortunately, times have changed. Some of the best modern vacuums are lightweight, cordless and powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. They’re also versatile: Most can handle different types of flooring, from thick carpet to hardwood, and they often come with useful attachments to help with chores around the house. If you have the choice between a big, clunky machine that weighs a ton and an easy-to-maneuver and powerful vacuum that you can carry around with one hand, well, you’re gonna pick the latter every time.
One company in particular saw this trend coming.was the first to pioneer this field with a series of capable — and pricey — Cyclone V series stick vacs. Other companies have since followed suit and now sell cordless vacuums of their own. Some have even shamelessly cloned Dyson products. Others are distinctive new riffs on the cordless vacuum, with innovative features all their own.
We then put them all through a rigorous series of floor-care tests on hard flooring, carpet and other surfaces. The process took over 150 hours to complete. It also consumed many pounds of sand and rice, plus hundreds of handfuls of pet hair. After that, we’ve determined that these products are our picks for the best cordless vacuum for 2021. We update this cordless vac list periodically.
Say hello to Dyson’s latest and greatest stick vac, the $700 Dyson V15. As the company’s flagship cordless vacuum, the V15 has a sky-high price tag to match. It’s by far the most expensive machine in our test group. Like its predecessor the V11, the V15 ripped through our suite of vacuum tests with ruthless competence.
It didn’t just outperform competitors from other brands. The V15 demonstrated more suction power than the Dyson V11, the previous cordless vacuum champion. The V15 also achieved these results on our most difficult trial, sand.
It was able to remove 88.4% of test sand we placed on midpile carpeting. The V11 managed 71.6% on the same test. More impressively, the V15 pulled 95.3% of sand particles we dropped onto low-pile carpeting. That’s a lot better than the 78.4 percent the V11 was able to muster here. The V15 wasn’t phased by pet hair either. No matter if it was vacuuming across hardwood, low-pile, or mid-pile carpeting, the V15 barely left a tuft in its wake.
A few other features help set the V15 Detect apart. One is the vacuum’s “Laser Slim Fluffy” cleaner head. Designed specifically for hard flooring, it shines a green laser out onto the floor ahead as you clean. Its purpose is to highlight dust and other small bits of debris otherwise hard to spot with the naked eye. The system does work and we observed plenty of dirt we’d normally miss. One drawback though is that the laser isn’t visible under strong indoor lighting or sunlight.
Also interesting is a readout on the back of the vacuum. This report lists the ratio of dirt collected by particle size. Other than that, and a battery that’s easier to remove, the D15’s design remains much the same. That’s a good thing since we found both models’ dustbins easy to empty.
Bundled with the vacuum are seven different cleaning attachments. Including the Laser Slim Fluffy, you get a High Torque cleaner head, a Hair screw tool and crevice tool, just to name a few. All this adds up to why the Dyson V15 Detect is currently the best cordless vacuum cleaner around, if spending lots of money is no barrier.
As the second best performer in our current test group, the Tineco A11 Hero represents an outstanding deal. So much so that it has officially bumped the Shark Rocket Pet Pro Cordless out of our top pick for best midrange cordless vacuum. With an average 72.5% sand pick up from mid-pile carpeting, and 82.5% sand removal from low-pile carpet, the Hero performs better. It also costs less than the Shark, a fact that’s hard to overlook.
The A11 Hero tackled pet hair without too much trouble as well. Barely a trace of the material remained after the machine vacuumed mid-pile carpeting and hardwood floors. The Hero left some strands visible when traveling across our low-pile test carpet. Midpile carpeting usually causes vacuums more problems.
The design of the Hero isn’t too shabby either. Its dustbin is almost as easy to empty as the Rocket Pet Pro. The bin’s release valve is tricky to engage compared with Shark’s model. That said, its battery pack is removable. There’s also a handy trigger lock lever to keep the vacuum running without constant finger pressure.
Moosoo isn’t exactly a household name. Nevertheless, the Moosoo M X6 cordless vacuum packs a respectable punch, considering its low price. Despite costing much less than competing cordless vacuum cleaner options, the M X6 was the fourth-best performer in our test group of eight models.
The stick vac picked up 99% (on average) of our test sand from hardwood. On low-pile carpet, that figure sank to 41.3%. The M X6 fared better across thicker midpile carpet though, earning a higher sand pickup average of 52.2%.
Black rice, our large particle test soil, was a breeze for the Moosoo vacuum. It managed pickup averages above 90% on hardwood, low-pile and midpile carpet (95.4, 96.8 and 94%, respectively).
Don’t buy the Moosoo M X6, though, if you’re a pet owner. Cons are that at least some visible dander remained after vacuuming, no matter the test surface. The brush roll tends to wrap strands of hair around itself as well.
If you want cordless vacuuming on a tight budget, however, consider the Moosoo M X6. It just might fit the bill, and for much less cash.
If you’d like to own a Dyson vacuum but you’d rather not spend top dollar, consider the Dyson V8 Absolute hand vac. This step-down cordless model is a few years old, but it still has powerful suction and performs like a champ. On our floor-cleaning tests, the V8 came in a respectable third. In our test group, only the Dyson V11 and Shark Rocket Pet Pro scoured floors better than the V8.
On a hard floor, the vacuum managed to pick up an average of 98% of the sand we dropped. For low-pile carpet, that average fell to 68.3%. The average slipped further across mid-pile carpet, though remained at a respectable 52%.
Pet hair didn’t faze the V8 hand vacuum much either. It pulled hair away from mid-pile and low-pile carpets completely. It did fail to remove a small amount of dander on hardwood. Additionally, some fibers became wrapped around the vacuum’s brush roll. But the washable filter was handy.
And similar to the V11 Torque Drive, the V8 Absolute upright vacuum comes with a generous assortment of add-ons. That includes gadgets for dusting, a crevice tool for reaching into a tight crevice, a soft cleaning head for bare floors, a motorized brush roll for grabbing ground-in dirt and debris, and a docking station for charging the battery. So for those who’d like to own a Dyson-brand stick vac for a little less cash, the V8 Absolute is worth a look.
How we test cordless vacuums
Putting cordless vacuums through their paces isn’t as complicated ascleaner, but it still takes lots of time and careful effort to find the best cordless vacuum. We run each vacuum in a straight line across three different surfaces (hardwood, low-pile carpet, midpile carpet). On all three test beds, the test area is the same length (30.25 inches).
The width of the test bed is proportional to the vacuum’s nozzle width. We measure this width ourselves. We also use nozzle width, plus the flooring type, to calculate the soil density for each test, per International Electrotechnical Commission guidelines. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers.
We use three types of soil. To simulate small particle size, we use a mix of play sand and landscaping sand. To emulate larger dirt particles, we use uncooked black rice. To see how vacuums deal with pet hair, we use our mixture of clippings sourced to us through our local pet groomer.
We perform three runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also test suction power with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per vacuum. We weigh the vacuum’s dust bin both before and after each run.
From there we can calculate the percentage of dirt and debris pickup for every run and the average amount of soil a vacuum manages to remove. Additionally, we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each vacuum, on all three floor types to help us select the best cordless vacuum.
Want more cordless vacuum options? Here’s a list of the other stick vacs we tested besides the models listed above: