They're compact, light in weight, highly manoeuverable, have suction power that rivals corded models, and can deliver longer runtimes than ever.
Stick vacs have come a long way over the past decade, and the current models offer a viable alternative to the more traditional corded upright or cannister vacs. And of course, one of the obvious advantages of a cordless stick vac is that you don’t have to deal with a power cord.
The main complaints with cordless vacs have had to do with batter power and runtime. However, due to advances in battery technology and electronic circuitry, and the move to brushless motors, many cordless stick vacs are almost as powerful as corded vacs. The majority do a particularly good job of keeping your hard floors and carpets free of dust and debris.
All 5 vacs have these three features in common (except where noted):
Motor type – brushless
Ease of emptying bin – easy
Ease of cleaning filters – easy
LED lights – yes (except Dyson)
Wall mount – yes (except Shark)
Free standing – no (except Black & Decker)
|Black & Decker||Dyson||Hoover||Ryobi||Shark|
|Battery||20v (18v nominal),
|25V, 3.6Ah, 91Wh||20v (18v nominal),
|18V, 4Ah, 72Wh||21.6V, 1.9Ah, 41WH|
|Runtime (approximate)||55 min
|Recharge time (approx.)||3.5 hrs||4.5 hrs||3.5 hrs||2 hrs||2 hrs|
|Roller brush on/off siwtch||yes||no||no||yes||no|
|Roller removal||easy||very easy||easy||somewhat awkward||not removable|
|Roller replacement cost||n/a||doesn’t need to be replaced||$99||n/a||n/a|
|Pre filter||nylon mesh||stainless steel||stainless steel||nylon mesh||stainless steel|
|Main filter||washable, cloth media||2-part lifetime washable||washable lofted or cloth media||washable HEPA||washable HEPA, lofted fabric, foam|
|Filtration||n/a||99.99% to 0.3 microns||99.4% to 0.7 microns||99.97% to 0.3 microns||99.97% to 0.3 microns|
|Dust bin size||0.75L||1.9L||0.3L||0.5L||0.32L|
|Noise level||57/63/70 dB||63/66/74 dB||60/67||57/62/69 dB||60/65 dB|
|Overall weight||6.68 lbs||7.84 lbs||7 lbs||7.2 lbs||6.81 lbs|
|Head weight||3.85 lbs||5.24 lbs||4.58 lbs||4.78 lbs||3.6 lbs|
|Warranty||2 yrs||2 yrs||3 yrs||3 yrs||5 yrs|
crevice attachment with flip out brush,
low profile pet brush, clip-on tool holder
|combination tool, crevice tool, quick-release flexi crevice tool, motorized roller brush, extension hose, clip-on tool holder||dusting brush, crevice tool, upholstery tool, microfiber hard floor brush, motorized pet hair roller brush||crevice tool, dust brush||crevice tool, upholstery tool|
I used each vacuum to clean 950 square feet of flooring (750 feet of low pile carpeting and 200 of hard surface) allowing 2 weeks between cleaning sessions for each vac. The living space is occupied by 2 adults and a cat.
I used each vac to clean around and under furniture and close to walls and tested how easy it was to empty the waste bin, disassemble the head for cleaning and remove the roller for cleaning.
I measured the vac sound levels using a sound meter smartphone app from Abc Apps.
The cordless stick vacs that I looked at deliver an average of 40 minutes of run time on the low power setting – enough time to clean all but the very largest of homes. The low power setting is generally able to handle routine hard surface and carpet cleaning. All these vacs also have a high power mode to deal with tougher cleaning jobs. In the high power mode you can expect to get a lot less runtime – an average of 18 minutes. However, you can buy a 2nd battery so you don’t need to need to stop vacuuming halfway to recharge your batteries (some stick vacs come with 2 batteries).
Stick vacs have a much sleeker appearance and more compact size than their larger siblings. Which means they’re easier to manoeuvre around and under furniture and don’t take up as much storage space.
Some have convenient wall mounting docking and charging stations. And all have a 2-in-1 design that enables them to be used as handheld vacs – great for cleaning mattresses, cushions, stairs, car upholstery and hard to reach places.
The 5 stick vacs I looked are bagless – they use a plastic waste bin. These bins are very easy to empty and to remove for cleaning. For those who suffers form allergies or asthma there are stick vacs that offer HEPA level filtration. You’ll also find that stick vacs are typically less noisy than upright vacuums.
All stick vacs are similar in overall appearance – the motor, battery and dust bin are located atop the wand with the power brush head at the bottom of the wand. The vac head can be removed from the wand and used with various attachments as a handheld vac.
► Least expensive
► Lightest in weight
► Bright LED floor lights
► Roller off switch
The Black & Decker Powerseries Extreme Pet is the least expensive of the models. It’s also the lightest in overall weight, and the only one that is free-standing. The motor is inline with the wand, the dust bin sits atop the motor, and the handle is at the back of the motor. I found this arrangement comfortable, not placing a lot of stress on my wrist.
The power selector and roller on/off buttons are easily accessibly with your thumb. Like the Ryobi you can turn the roller off when vacuuming hard floors – which makes the vac run somewhat quieter. In low power mode the Black & Decker is reasonably quiet (63 decibels). The noise level averages around 70 decibels in high power mode.
The Black & Decker is equipped with a 20 volt (18 volt nominal), 2Ah battery that delivers 40 watt-hours of power. And of course, you can use this battery on any other Black & Decker cordless tool you may have.
Battery life is good – 55 minutes on low power (with the roller off). I got almost 15 minutes of runtime on high power, ample time to clean my 950 square foot test area. The Black & Decker did a great job on both carpets and hard flooring. I found the vac well balanced, easy to manoeuvre around furniture, and I was overly impressed at how clean the roller was after cleaning the floor – much better than vacs that have a conventional bristle roller.
If you’re looking for an economical stick vac and don’t need a HEPA filter, then this Black & Decker just might fit the bill.
► 18 cyclones generate tremendous force, making this the most powerful stick vac on the market
► Can sense floor type and adjust power (only on Auto mode using the high torque XL brush head)
► Swappable batteries deliver the longest runtime
► Largest dust bin
► HEPA level filtration (99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns)
Anyone would expect a heck of a lot from an upright vac that cost over $1,000. And the Dyson V11 Outsize doesn’t disappoint. At just under 8 pounds it’s the heaviest of the 5 vacs – about half a pound heavier than the Ryobi and roughly one pound heavier than the other models. The motor and dust bin are inline with the wand and the handle and battery are located just below the motor. This arrangement might account for the fact that the Dyson doesn’t feel overly top heavy in use and is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre.
The Dyson is probably the most technologically advanced stick vac on the market. There are 18 cyclone tubes built into the head that generate a huge amount of suction that flings dust into the waste bin without clogging the prefilter or main filter. It also boasts the best filtration system of any stick vac – a sophisticated six-layer filtration system that traps 99.99% of dust particles as small as 0.3 microns. To get a better idea of how Dyson cyclone technology works click here (while it’s for a Dyson V10, the technology is the same for the V11).
The Dyson has what they refer to as ‘Dynamic Load Sensor’ technology. In Auto mode and when using the high torque brush head, the vac moderates suction power depending on the floor type. This is accomplished by means of sensors built into the motor, battery and head. It ensures the vac delivers optimal cleaning while conserving battery life.
Unlike any other vac the Dyson also has a sophisticated LED screen that displays the user-selectable power mode (Eco, Auto, Boost), the remaining battery runtime (in minutes), and if any debris gets blocked in the vac where to look for the blockage. It also lets you know when it’s time to clean the filter.
The Dyson comes with two 25 volt, 3.6Ah batteries. Each delivers an impressive 91 watt-hours of power. With 2 batteries you can get about 120 minutes of cleaning (in Eco mode), about 80 minutes in Auto mode, and around 24 minutes in Boost mode. I found the Eco mode did a good job on hard flooring, less so on carpets. The Auto mode picked up everything on either type of flooring and I think that most people will want to use this mode regularly. The Boost mode is best reserved for spot cleaning as it consumes battery power very quickly and at around 71 decibels is quite loud. I’d use it judiciously.
All that power makes the Dyson a tad noisier than other vacs. In Eco mode it averaged 63 decibels, in Auto mode it averaged 66 decibels, rising to 74 decibels in Boost mode.
Like all Dyson vacs, the V11 Outsize doesn’t have an on/off switch. This means you need to hold down the trigger the entire time you’re cleaning. I found this to be a minor annoyance. However, this might be an issue for those who have compromised hand strength (due to a physical disability or arthritis for example).
The Dyson is the best choice if you have allergies, asthma, or any kind of autoimmune disorder, or for anyone who has a large floor area to clean.
► Dual cyclonic DustVault technology captures 99.4% of dust down to 0.7 microns
► Dual motorized brush heads and a motorized pet head tool
► 3rd lightest head
► Excellent suction on carpet mode
► Side mounted dust bin is easy to empty
The Hoover ONEPWR Blade + is the only vac that comes with 3 motorized heads – a multi-floor bristle brush, a microfiber brush (for use only on hard floors) and a bristle pet hair brush.
At 7 pounds it’s the second lightest vac. With the motor and waste bin mounted slightly above the wand and the handle inline with the motor, I found the Hoover to be reasonably well balanced.
Hoover’s dual cyclonic ‘DustVault’ filtration system captures 99.4% of dust of fine particles down to 0.7 microns with no apparent loss of suction, making it almost as effective as the Dyson, Ryobi and Shark at dust control.
It comes with an 18 volt, 4Ah battery that delivers a respectable 72 watt-hours of power. The battery will work with any other cordless Hoover appliances you have.
There are 2 power modes – Eco (low power) and Carpet (high power). On Carpet mode I got about 14 minutes of runtime, but nearly the full 45 minutes on Eco mode. For 90 percent of cleaning Eco mode works well – only for larger and heavier debris did I need to switch to Carpet mode. The vac defaults to Carpet mode when you press the power-on button – I would much prefer that it defaulted to the Eco mode, which I feel users will use most of time.
The Hoover was one of the quieter vacs, coming in at 60 decibels in Eco mode and 67 decibels in Carpet mode.
I was impressed with the cleaning power of the Hoover in Eco mode, particularly when using the microfiber brush head. For those with a large amount of hard surface flooring (particularly hardwood flooring) it’s a distinct advantage.
► Low decibel noise level in low power mode
► Washable HEPA filter
► 3rd largest dust bin
► V-groove roller design helps reduce hair tangling on the roller
► Uses a standard ONE+ battery compatible with all Ryobi cordless tools
At just over 7 pounds the Ryobi ONE+ EverCharge is the 2nd heaviest vac – just over half a pound lighter than the Dyson, but only marginally heavier than the Hoover. The motor and dust bin hang below the wand, and having the battery mounted on the end of the head unit and the handle located above the wand makes the Ryobi feel somewhat ‘end heavy’.
Like the Hoover, the Ryobi comes with an 18 volt, 4Ah battery that delivers 72 watt-hours of power. The ONE+ battery is compatible with all of Ryobi’s cordless tools (an astounding 225 products).
The vac is rated at 45 minutes of runtime on low power. It did a good job of picking up most of the debris on the carpet and hard floor in low power mode. For heavily soiled carpeting you’d likely want to use the high power (for which I got 18 minutes of continuous runtime). The v-groove design of the roller makes it more effective at reducing the amount of hair that typically gets tangled up on a roller than the design used by Hoover.
At around 62 decibels in low power mode the Ryobi is a fairly quiet vac – an important consideration if you live in a small space or are noise-sensitive. In high power mode the noise level rose to an average 69 decibels.
The Ryobi is a great choice if you’re looking for a HEPA vac that cleans well and has an efficient roller design that limits hair tangle, or for anyone who already has one or more Ryobi cordless tools – as all ONE+ batteries are completely interchangeable across all Ryobi cordless tools.
► The 2nd lightest vac
► Washable HEPA filter
►Low noise level
► Anti-Allergin Complete Seal keeps dust from escaping the vac
► 5-year warranty
At 6.8 pounds the Shark is the 2nd lightest vac. The motor, dust bin and handle are positioned below the wand. I found this arrangement made the Shark very comfortable to use without placing undue stree on my wrist or arm.
The Shark comes with a 21.6 volt, 1.9Ah battery that delivers 41 watt-hours of power, the lowest among the 5 vacs. In the bare floor (low power) setting Shark lists a 40 minute runtime. I got closer to 30 minutes. In the carpet setting (high power) you can expect to get about 20 minutes. There is a trigger just above the motor that you can pull to get an additional boost of power. Running the vac in either the bare floor or carpet setting with the boost mode continuously pressed will give you about half the runtime.
The Shark is one of the quietest vacs. In the bare floor setting it averaged 60 decibels while in the carpet setting the noise level peaked at about 65 decibels.
Like the Dyson and Ryobi, the Shark uses a HEPA filter that traps at 99.97% of dust particles down to 0.3 microns. It also features an Anti-Allergin Complete Seal that prevents dust and debris from getting back into the air in your home. It does have an exceedingly small dust bin (0.32L) and it was barely able to hold all the dust and hair from my 950 square foot test area.
The Shark will be of interest to those who have a small amount of flooring to clean and want a quiet, lightweight vac with a HEPA filter and the security of a generous 5-year warranty.