Best cordless vacuum 2018: easier cleaning for your carpets and hard floors

The pick of the battery-powered suckers do battle to be crowned The Best Cordless Vac

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Let’s cut to the chase, vacuuming can be right pain in the aris. It’s not so much the pushing and pulling bit, it’s the awkward cable you have to keep unplugging from room to room. The same cable that always seems to snag on something out of sight in the hallway – like the skinny, top-heavy plinth on which you ill advisably placed your late grandmother’s priceless vase. Clearly, the best solution to this vexing inconvenience is to get a cordless vac, so you can get the job done quicker and get on with more enjoyable things sooner. 

A win/win situation.

What is the best cordless vacuum?

We called in a bunch of high-quality, cordless vacuum cleaners and put them through their paces in a dusty flat full of dog hair and the remnants of 10 lazy days of Christmas. 

We ended up with two top choices: the Dyson V8 Absolute stick vac is the latest and greatest version of the original and best 'handheld/car vac that is also good for carpets and hard floors'. The Gtech AirRam Mk 2 goes in a very different (and more affordable) direction, being the traditional stand-up vacuum cleaner remade as a battery-powered, fuss-free cordless vac.

How to buy the best cordless vac for you 

Cordless vacs come with one obvious advantage: no cord. Because of the way they've developed since Dyson made them a more premium, versatile product, they also have the advantage, at least in theory, of being good for everything from cleaning out the footwell of your car, to properly vacuuming large expanses of carpet.

Cordless vacs do come with disadvantages that make that a difficult proposition, however. In order to keep the weight low enough to make them useful, the lithium-ion batteries they use can't be all that big and heavy, and so their battery  life is invariably quite short – usually from 20 minutes at full power to 40 or so at the lower power settings that nobody, realistically, ever uses.

Being a new and high-tech arrival on the domestic cleaning scene, they also always tended to be dearer than their mains-powered brethren, despite being less powerful. However, as brands have struggled to take on Dyson at the higher prices it charges, rivals to the Dyson V8 and V6 have reduced in price quite significantly.  

A lot of homes can be given a good enough clean in 20 minutes. For those that can't, we wouldn't recommend a cordless as the only vac in the house. However the beauty of battery vacuums is that they are compact, convenient, and can be used to clean as you go, sucking up everything from minor spills on the floor to dust on a shelf or crumbs on a table – try doing that quickly with a full-size Miele.

If you live in a house with lots of carpets and two or more bedrooms, a cordless vac is still a great supplement to your mains one. If you have a flat with mainly hard floors, you can probably forget about a cylinder or standup. 

All cordless vacs are bagless, which seems like a great feature initially. Then, when you come to empty their invariably small, translucent dust bins, you may initially find yourself cursing the day you ever bought one. With practice, if the vac is sufficiently well designed, this will become less of a problem, but the only one we'd unreservedly recommend in this department is the Dyson V8. It's bin emptying mechanism is sheer poetry in motion.

Finally, most stick vacs come with a range of heads for different surfaces, crevices, pet hair and so on. You can usually also buy cheaper versions of the vacs with just one or two basic heads, but we wouldn't usually recommend them if you're intending to use it as your main or only vacuum cleaner. 

The best cordless vacuum cleaners in order

1. Dyson V8 Absolute

The ultimate cordless vac

Specifications
Power: 21.6v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.6kgs
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Maximum run time: 40 mins
Reasons to buy
+Genuinely works as both handheld and 'proper' vac+Massive suction +Very solid battery life too
Reasons to avoid
-You could buy a cheaper handheld and a cylinder vac for the same price

Dyson has been making cordless vacs for quite some time now, and with 2016's V8, it seems to have finally cracked it. This is a battery-powered vacuum that can work as a pure handheld, compact vac – cleaning your car, taking crumbs off worktops, dust off shelves and, with its longer tube, cobwebs off your ceiling. But it can also genuinely replace a corded vac when it comes to both carpets and hard floors.

Moreover, it's sufficiently attractive – okay, I'm talking only just, rather than 'it's a gorgeous, dust-sucking objet d'art' – to just leave lying around in the kitchen or hallway (or attached to the wall with its well-made mount). So when a spill occurs or you notice a messy bit of floor, you don't have to go and retrieve it from 'the special cupboard'. It is the ultimate 'clean a little, but often' vac.

As ever with cordless vacs there are big caveats for those with large houses or a more 'traditional' attitude to cleaning. The number of extra tools required to make it as versatile as it it can initially leave you scratching your head figuring out which one to use for what (although, in my experience, the 'main' head is just as good as the 'spongey' one for hard floors, and the pet hair sucking one is probably overkill if you don't have allergies or a near pathological aversion to pet hair (remind me, why did you buy that golden retriever, then?) 

Aside from the aforementioned large, powered brushes – one with spinning bristles for carpets and the hardfloor-only one, which is a revolving cylindrical 'sponge' that polishes while it sweeps, while it sucks – there are also titchier hand brushes and nozzles in the Absolute package, including a mini motorised hand tool for sofas and cars.

So yes, you do need to chop and change heads, but whatever is attached to it, the V8 collects a commendable amount of detritus on both hard and carpeted floors. It's a breeze to use in all areas, including under cupboards with just three inches of clearance. 

But the reason I say the V8 is the 'ultimate' cordless vac is that it does finally correct some long-standing flaws with Dyson's handhelds. 

Firstly, emptying the bin. This used to involve digging around it with a chopstick, which just doesn't feel that premium. With the V8, you just pull up a red latch and the entire motor and filter arrangement lifts out, as the bottom hatch opens, emptying everything into the bin, with nothing stuck to the filter. Push the filter and motor back into place and anything stuck to it is squeegeed off by its housing. Then just flip the lid shut.

The other V8 improvement is to the battery. It will now go for 40 minutes as a handheld (with the basic but well designed brush and crevice tools) and 20 or so with the powered floor brushes. That's on the standard power setting. With the turbo setting on, it would seem that the V8 lasts about 10 minutes or so. 

Mine's on charge when I am not using it, and I have never ever run out of battery whilst cleaning. However, if you really want to use it as a straight replacement for something like a Miele or Henry, and your habit is to spend half an hour or more doing your entire place in one go, the V8 may not work for you as you wish.

2. Gtech AirRam Mk 2

Best upright cordless vacuum

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: No
Weight: 3.5kgs
Accessories: No
Battery: Lithium-ion
Run time: 40 mins
Reasons to buy
+Exceptionally easy to use+Efficient pet hair collector+Excellent run time
Reasons to avoid
-Clearly a less versatile device

Taking almost the opposite approach to the Dyson, the AirRam Mk 2 is a traditional upright vac, stripped down to the lightest, simplest form possible, yet still highly effective.

Its 22-volt Lithium Ion battery provides up to 40 minutes of vacuuming – enough charge for a two bedroom house – and although it takes about four hours to charge, that means I don't obliged to leave it habitually plugged in, as I do with the Dyson.

The dirt collection system, like Dyson's is great. All detritus is compressed into a cylindrical capsule positioned just behind the front roller brush. To clean, you just remove the bin, flip it open above a bin and slide an ejector arm across to pop the compressed dirt out of the side.

If you're used to dragging a standard vac around, the AirRam is a revelation. It's so light to manoeuvre – all the weight’s at floor level – and the vertically adjustable handle articulates to the sides for literally 'steering' around corners. It can also go very low to the ground, to get under beds and other furnishings with legs.

Use the AirRam on a hard kitchen floor or a dog-hair strewn carpet and it will collect more dirt and hair than you'd think possible. It's at least as good as the Dyson. And one thing it has that the V8 lacks is a bright LED headlamp, which is extremely useful – it's actually slightly chastening to see just how much dust is on the floor, when it's suddenly illuminated by a bright LED light.

The only surfaces the AirRam struggled with are thin rugs, as the fast-spinning rotary brush is positioned at a low, non adjustable height, it tends to suck them up into its maw. A lot of vacs do that, but the thing about the AirRam is it only has one power setting, so you can't really get around it

That small limitation aside, the AirRam is great. It's quick, effortless and proficient for both quick shufties round the living room and full house jobs, and the small footprint and upright design mean it’s a doddle to store.

Of course the AirRam's massive failing compared to the V8 is that it is just an upright, so you can forget about doing shelves, mantelpieces, behind the TV and up on the ceiling with it. 

However, if you invest in the cordless Gtech Multi handheld at the same time as the AirRam you do get a 50 discount. The Multi is nowhere near as good as the V8, but it's also by no means bad, and the bundle price is considerably less than the price of the V8 on its own. Hmm… decisions, decisions.

3. Gtech Pro

The best Dyson alternative to date

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.4kgs
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Run time: 40 mins
Reasons to buy
+Very good cleaning performance+Powerful headlight+And it's got bags!
Reasons to avoid
-Hang on, why has it got bags?-Rather unwieldy

The big 'selling point' here, at least according to Gtech, is that this is a bagged vacuum cleaner, which is brilliant, whereas most cordless vacs – including, er, all its other ones – are bagless, which is rubbish.

I guess the market will decide.

Whether you like bags in your vacs or not, what's hard to argue with here is the cleaning performance. It is comparable to the V8 for a considerably lower cost, with the same trick of cleaning floors – hard floors very well, carpet surprisingly well – with a larger, powered brush head, then polishing off spills and surfaces as a handheld. The battery life (20 minutes on max power, 40 minutes on standard) compares favourably to the V8 as well.

There are some caveats to that, ie: it is quite breathtakingly ugly, and everyone will just assume you can't afford a Dyson. It also pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of feeling more unwieldy than the V8, despite being lighter than it. This is particularly true when using it as a handheld.

That aside, this is another online-only bargain blockbuster from Gtech with perhaps its crowning glory (unless your a bagged vac fundamentalist, of course) is its array of LEDs, which throw an awesomely wide and bright headlight in the path of the Pro as it cleans the filth from your floors.

4. Vax Blade 32V Pro TBT3V1P1

Another solid Dyson surrogate for those on a budget

Specifications
Power: 32v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 3kgs
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Run time: 45 mins
Reasons to buy
+Easy to manoeuvre+Good run time+Generally pretty competent
Reasons to avoid
-A bit uncomfortable and heavy-You need to keep it on the higher suction settings, really

A lot of more recent stick vacs look like a Dyson one that has been made by someone with almost no aesthetic design acumen at all, and Vax’s challenger epitomises that. 

However, for way less outlay, and with results that aren't a million miles worse, you may be able to out up with that.

The Vax Blade 32V Pro TBT3V1P1 deals with pet hair really well and makes a decent fist of both carpets and hard floors. Decent as opposed to awesome.

When used as a handheld for minor spills, the hand unit feels quite heavy and a little too angular in the hand, and I'd like a more rounded design in the handle since it doesn’t really sit comfortably, especially when used with a fully extended arm. 

Rather than having different tools for hard and carpeted floors, Dyson uses one large tool, with powered rotary brushes that are activated with a button. This works pretty well.

Everything else about this scrappy Dyson challenger is pretty tipper, from the Star Wars-like charge indicator and little wheels on the rotary tool to the super boost button that really lets rip on the suction front. Is it as good as the Dyson in any way? No. Is it worth the (lower) asking price? Yes, certainly.

One final thing – you probably want the 32v version of this and not the underpowered 24v one, if you want to clean whole homes, especially carpeted ones, rather than just smaller patches and spills.

4. Dyson V6 Animal

The Dyson that costs you less

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.2kgs
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Run time: 20 mins
Reasons to buy
+Similar to the V8 but cheaper+Great for dusting and spills
Reasons to avoid
-Less adept at cleaning whole floors

The V6, which comes in various forms, looks very similar to the V8 and costs somewhat less. Here's what you need to know.

• It's less of a complete replacement for a corded vac than the V8, especially if you have lots of carpet. But it will do a job.

• For handheld dusting/spill-cleaning/stair/car duties it's almost exactly as good.

• The battery life is never more than 20 minutes and can be somewhat less than 10 on the higher power setting, with the floor brush tool, so it's best to keep it on charge in its wall mount or just shoved away somewhere.

• Emptying it invariably involves opening the hatch on the bottom of the bin, letting some crud fall out and then using a chopstick or similar to prise the rest out. This does not feel high-end.

• MIne's still going strong (okay, it doesn't get used much nowadays, but it's still going) after nigh on 5 years.

5. Hoover FD22BR Freedom

Best cordless vac under £120

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: No
Weight: 2.2kgs
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Run time: 25 mins
Reasons to buy
+Great VFM+Extra tools make it versatile
Reasons to avoid
-Less powerful, as you'd expect

This is an even closer clone of the V8 than the Vax, but then Hoover invented vacuum cleaning, so who am I to judge?

For the price, this Hoover is a great deal, with a well designed brush for getting up close and personal, a larger floor brush for, you know, floors, and a crevice tool for whatever you are meant to use a crevice tool for. Crevices, I suppose.

Given its price and weight (it's the lightest vac on test), you might expect the FD22BR Freedom to be not terribly powerful but… you would be exactly right. However for routine maintenance of hard floors, clearing up spills and doing the stairs and car, it's well worth its minimal cost. The 25-minute battery life is more than adequate when you use it in that way.

6. Bosch Zoo'o ProAnimal BCH6PETGB

Decent cordless vac for pet hair

Specifications
Power: 25.2v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.9kgs
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Run time: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Great pet hair sucker+Unusually quiet+It stands up on its own!
Reasons to avoid
-Ungainly and underpowered hose add-on

This upright-style model stands up on its own and comes with one large rotating head for tackling carpets, laminated floors and even tiled and oak flooring with crevices, plus an easy-fit ProAnimal brush roll for lifting all the hair your Golden Retriever so thoughtfully shed all over the shop.

You get three power levels – the lowest setting disengages the revolving brush and runs for around 60 minutes. However, this setting is so weak it’s only good for hard floors and around your delicate TV components. We’d stick with the medium setting for most scenarios and occasional turbo blasts when the going gets tough.

This model comes with an accessory hose for sofas and stairs, but it’s not especially convenient to use since the main unit is quite unwieldy. It does, however, come with a much shorter control handle for use with the hose – plus a shoulder strap – which makes it a little less cumbersome. It also comes with a bunch of extra nozzles and a spare washable filter. The dust container, meanwhile, is probably twice the capacity of the Gech, Dyson and Vax, so you can expect to make fewer trips back to the bin, but it is more of a pain to empty as a result.

This vac has one killer feature: it's a lot quieter than others in the roundup, even in turbo mode. It's another thing that makes it great for use around pets.