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: Dyson V11 Animal ($599.99; bestbuy.com and dyson.com)
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.
A great affordable cordless stick vacuum: Bissell IconPet ($304.92, originally $365.64; amazon.com)
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.
How we tested
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 on setup, different aspects of design like maneuverability and dustbin size and overall performance, considering things like suction power, effectiveness on different floor types and battery life.
- Each vacuum arrived in some degree of disassembly, so we lightly factored the setup process into our ratings. Because this is something you only have to do once, we didn’t weigh it too heavily, but we did consider whether or not any of the models were especially difficult to put together.
- Ease of use/maneuverability: How easy was it to use the vacuum in different areas of the house? Part of the benefit of a stick vacuum over an upright is that they’re more convenient to use. We considered how well the vacuum swiveled and moved, how much it weighed and whether the design allowed it to reach under furniture and into tighter spaces. We also considered if the vacuum glided smoothly over carpets and hard floors or if it got stuck or pulled.
- Dustbin size: The size of the dustbin determines how often you have to stop and empty the vacuum canister. With a lot of pets, smaller dustbins can fill up quickly, so we factored this into our testing.
- Ease of emptying: In addition to the size of the dustbin, we considered how easy (or difficult) it was to empty the canister. Was the process automatic, or did it require us to get our hands a little dirty? The answers helped us narrow down our top picks.
- Suction power: Suction power was one of the most important factors in our ratings. We tested the main brush head and each attachment on pet fur, cat litter, pine needles and the regular daily dirt and debris that inevitably get dragged into the house when you have two humans and five animals living there. We took note of the suction power when the dustbin was empty versus full, and whether a full dustbin negatively impacted the suction power. We also paid attention to battery life and noted whether or not suction power started to diminish as the battery drained.
- Effectiveness on different floor types: We tested each stick vacuum on four types of floors — carpet/rug, tile, vinyl and hardwood — using pet fur, cat litter and pine needles and took note of the performance as well as maneuverability.
- Effectiveness on different pile heights: In addition to testing on different types of floors, we tested each vacuum on high-pile (very plush) carpet, a medium-pile area rug and a low-pile area rug.
- Effectiveness on various surfaces: Since all of the vacuums came with targeted attachments aimed at vacuuming different surfaces, like stairs and upholstery, we tested how well they worked and how convenient they were to use. We vacuumed couches, cat towers, car seats and a mattress.
- Battery life: How much use we could get out of a single charge. One major perk of stick vacuums is that they operate on a battery, so you’re not tethered to the wall by an electrical cord. We timed how long each battery lasted on different power modes in between charges and factored this into our results.
Other cordless vacuums we tested
You can’t really compare the Dyson Omni-Glide directly to the other models we tested. It’s optimized for hard floors, and on those surfaces this vacuum’s performance is unmatched. It has two brush bars that are covered in soft nylon and engineered to pull both larger debris and finer particles, like dust, off hard floors. It effortlessly sucked up clumps of fur, pine needles and random dirt off tile, hardwood and vinyl floors without ever losing suction power or getting tangled.
The cleaner head is omni-directional, meaning it rotates 180 degrees, or any which way you turn it. This makes it the easiest to maneuver out of all the vacuums on the list (and all the vacuums we’ve ever tried). It glides smoothly over hard floors and gets right into corners, thanks to the brush head’s rectangular shape.
The main downside is the size of the dustbin. It has a 0.05-gallon capacity, which translates to just under a cup. This is fine for quick touch-ups, but it filled up fast with five animals running around the house. The good news is that it’s easy to empty. It has what Dyson calls a “point and shoot” mechanism. Basically, you press a button, push down on the handle and the dirt and debris eject into the trash can without you having to get your hands dirty. If there’s a lot of pet fur in the dustbin, you might have to assist the emptying by pulling it out but for the most part, it’s pretty hands-free.
To be clear, because of the special brush rolls, this vacuum will only work on hard floors and does not effectively clean on any type of carpet, but if that’s what you need, get it now.
The Miele Triflex HX1 Cat & Dog performed similarly to the Bissell IconPet, but ultimately fell short for two reasons: It’s considerably more expensive (it is even more expensive than the Dyson V11 Animal) and wasn’t as easy to maneuver under couches and furniture. But it has some interesting design features along with similar suction power and performance that may make it worthwhile if you like the options it offers
There were some standout features, though. The Miele Triflex HX1 Cat & Dog can be set up in three different configurations — power unit on top, power unit on bottom and handheld — a feature that’s exclusive to this model. It also adjusts the roller head and suction power automatically when you transition from carpet to hard floor, so you don’t have to fumble with manual settings. It was the most visually appealing of the bunch and it stands on its own, which seems like a minor detail but comes in really handy during use.
All in all, if you don’t mind shelling out the extra cash, you’ll likely be just as happy with the Miele Triflex HX1 Cat & Dog as you would the Bissell IconPet.
Tineco A11 Tango ($349.99, originally $399.99; amazon.com)
The Tineco A11 Tango has a design that’s almost identical to the Dyson V11 Animal, but it fell short of that model and others in terms of suction power. It was able to pull pet fur, cat litter and pine needles off hard floors and plush carpets, but it required more passes than the top picks. It also has a shorter run time — 40 minutes on a full charge compared to the 60 minutes of the others.
The pros are that it’s extremely lightweight and easy to maneuver — it weighs just 5.3 pounds — and it had the quietest operation of the bunch, even on the highest of its three settings.
The Hoover Onepwr Evolve Pet is a fairly impressive machine that you can nab for a fraction of the price of the other models. While it gives off more of an upright vacuum than a stick vacuum vibe, it is cordless and works well on all types of flooring, though it struggles a little bit on really plush carpet. There are three settings — carpet, hard floor and no brush roll — that you can toggle through manually, and each does a decent job of sucking up all types of debris off various floor types, although high-pile carpet took a few passes.
We think the Hoover Onepwr Pet is a good choice for smaller living areas or homes that only have low-pile rugs or hard floors.