Best cordless vacuum cleaner 2018: easier cleaners for your car, shelves, hard floors and carpets

The pick of the cordless vacuum cleaners do battery-powered battle

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With home living spaces getting smaller, carpets getting less deep pile and tech cordless tech improved beyond all recognition in recent years, the best cordless vacuum cleaners are now easily as effective as traditional vacs, and much more versatile.

Even the best cordless vacuums used to be a bit crap, just a few years ago. You had your Dysons, which weren't bad, but felt overpriced, and then you had a chasing pack of wannabe products. They were for cleaning up little spills, and using on shelves, surfaces and in your car, but cordless vacuum cleaners couldn't really do floors.

That all changed with the arrival of the Dyson V8, which was the first cordless that could really take on a corded vac for floor cleaning. Since then, plenty of other brands have raised their game, and the result is a huge boom in sales of cordless vacuum cleaners. 

Some of these are likely to come up in the best Boxing Day deals, by the way.

What is the best cordless vacuum?

Our top choices come from Vax and Dyson (twice).

The Dyson Cyclone V10 is the brand's latest and most powerful cordless vacuum, but I'm not entirely convinced it's their best. It's obviously been designed and marketed as a corded vac replacement, able to clean carpets and hard floors to a high standard. And it does… but so did the older Dyson V8 and that, being more compact, works better when it come to handheld use.

It feels more manoeuvrable than the V10, and hence better able to switch between a dust-busting, spill-clearing, shelf-cleaning handheld, and a full-on corded vac replacement for your floor. Arguably, the V10's greater suction, larger bin and lower price make it a better choice, on paper, for carpet owners, but I'm not sure that in real-world use there's much to choose between them.

Bosch's BCS122GB Unlimited is the very best of the new breed of Dyson rivals and is arguably better than the V8 in certain respects. However it's also even more expensive than Dyson's vac and its dusting brush – an all-important part of a cordless, for us – is not very well designed.

However, when it comes to VFM, there is a new cordless champ in town and it's the Vax Blade 2 Max. This matches the Dysons when it comes to floor cleaning. It's not as good as the V8 for handheld use, but it does a job in that department. Add battery life that's as good or better than the Dysons, and a bloody great LED headlight, then take into account that Vax's model is significantly cheaper, and you have a winning cordless package.

How to buy the best cordless vac for you 

The best cordless vacuums come with one obvious advantage: no cord. This makes them so much easier to push around than their corded brethren and they're also light enough to clean everywhere from the ceiling to the skirting board, as well as sucking up kitchen spills from worktops, dust from shelves (high and low), and so on.

Because of the way they've developed since Dyson made them a more premium, versatile product, they're good for everything from traditional uses, such as cleaning out the footwell of your car, to properly vacuuming large expanses of carpet.

Cordless vacs do come with disadvantages. 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 no more than 20 minutes at full power, up to 40 or so at the lower power settings (that nobody uses). Dyson has addressed this by gradually improving its batteries over the years, but now some other brands are taking a rather simpler approach to the problem and including two batteries.

A lot of homes' floors can be given a good enough clean in 20 minutes, especially if you're using your handheld daily to maintain a dust-free domicile. Your other option, of course, is to buy a corded vac for the weekly/monthly/annual Big Vacuuming and use the handheld for smaller tasks.

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. 

Nearly all cordless vacs are bagless, which seems like a great feature initially. Then, when you come to empty their often small, usually 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. Its 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, as the old saying goes, more heads are better than some. 

The best cordless vacuum cleaners in order

Best vacuum cleaner: Vax Blade 2

1. Vax Blade 2 Max

Best affordable cordless vacuum cleaner

Specifications
Power: 40v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 3.1kg
Maximum run time: About 15-40 mins depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Excellent floor cleaning+Cheaper than a Dyson+Easy to empty bin+Solid battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not as good for handheld use as a Dyson-Emits horrendous racket

This new cordless Blade from Vax is generally about £40-£50 cheaper than a Dyson V8 and over £100 cheaper than a V10. That's a handy saving when you consider that it comes to cleaning floors, it seems at least as good. 

It's a similar story with battery life, which again seems at least as good as the V10. It's hard to declare a precise battery life for cordless vacs because of the varying real-world ways they get used, but the Blade 2 generally seems to last longer than the Dyson in both Max Power and standard modes.

On both hard and carpeted floors, in my view, the Blade 2 outperforms any Dyson. Its spinning brush bar is highly effective, apart from a few occasions when it sprays stuff around rather than diverting it down the Vax's suction tube, and suction is very good even if you turn it off. Perhaps the Blade 2 Max's real pièce de résistance is its headlight, which activates alongside the brush bar and really helps with cleaning in dimly lit areas. The bin mechanism isn't as ingenious as Dyson's but it's easy enough to empty.

The main drawback of the Vax Blade 2 compared to Dysons (the V8 in particular) is that it's much less fun to use as a handheld, when cleaning surfaces other than your flooring.

Also, the Blade 2 is clearly not as chic as a Dyson. It's not hideous, though, and I dare say most people probably aren't that bothered what their vac looks like anyway. It does make a much more horrible racket, though.

That aside, the Blade 2 comes highly recommended.

2. Dyson V8 Absolute

The ultimate 'old style' cordless vac, as good on tables and in cars as it is on floors

Specifications
Power: 21.6v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.6kgs
Maximum run time: About 10-40 mins depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Genuinely works as both handheld and 'proper' vac+Solid battery life+Compact and stylish 
Reasons to avoid
-The V10 has even more POWER

Dyson has been making cordless vacs for quite some time now, but 2016's V8 was where it finally really cracked it. Since then the V10 has come along, and wants to be the cordless vacuum that really kills corded vacs, but the V8 is still a better option, IMO.

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.

3. Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute

Updated cordless vac can do everything a corded one can, and a whole lot more

Specifications
Power: 28AW-125AW
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.68kg
Maximum run time: About 20-60 mins depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Sucks like a high quality corded vac+Doubles niftily as a handheld+More powerful, longer battery and bigger bin than the V8
Reasons to avoid
-Bulk and weight make it less versatile and fun to use than the V8

The Cyclone V10 is a slightly odd device in that it successfully addresses many key issues that users have had with previous Dyson cordless vacs, yet ends up being only just better than its predecessor.

Should you buy a Dyson Cyclone V10? If you have loadsa carpets, and want a cordless… definitely, yes. It's noticeably more powerful and has a better carpet-cleaning head than the V8, which was itself head and shoulders above all the other battery-powered vacs. 

The bin is much bigger, in order to hold all the extra fluff and gunk yanked out of your rugs and carpets by the stronger motor. It's grown by 'up to 40%' (I'm not sure why the 'up to' bit is in there) says Dyson. It's also still easy to open and empty into the trash, without dispensing the dust back onto your floor.

My slight issue with the V10 is that its added bulk and weight makes it a bit more of a chore to use than the V8, and cleaning is not noticeably better on hard floors and other non-furry surfaces. 

The increased size makes it more problematic to keep the Cyclone V10 to hand in your kitchen, a little more difficult to manoeuvre when dealing with spills and dusting shelves and surfaces, and less comfortable when doing floors.

On the other hand, with three power settings instead of two, and an improved battery, you don't need to charge the V10 as often – though please note that the quoted 1 hour is only when you use the lowest power setting and a non-mechanised head. 

The Dyson Cyclone V10 is also generally cheaper than the V8, which is hard to argue with as a selling point.

Bosch BCS122GB Unlimited

4. Bosch BCS122GB Unlimited

Superb Dyson clone with two batteries

Specifications
Power: 18v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 3.5kg
Maximum run time: About 15-25 mins per battery depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Two batteries make running out of juice unlikely+Excellent cleaning performance+Awesome 'big crevice' tool
Reasons to avoid
-Actually manages to be more pricey than a Dyson-Crappy dusting brush

• Buy Bosch BCS122GB Unlimited from Amazon

Previous Bosch cordless vacs have been a bit iffy in terms of heft and looks. To be brutally frank, they were fatty boom booms. Not so the BCS122GB Unlimited, which is, if I may again speak frankly, a Dyson clone. But a very, very good one.

There are three absolutely fantastic things about the BCS122GB Unlimited and only one egregiously crap one. Firstly, although its battery life is fairly pitiful, Bosch gets around this by the ingenious means of… including a second battery. 

As they charge fully in about an hour, these 18v cells should keep you vacuuming indefinitely, so long as you're judicious about charging one while using the other. Interestingly (or not, perhaps), they are also the exact same batteries and charger used in all Bosch's 18v power tool range, so you could use the same cell to drill a hole in a wall, and then suck up the debris.

The other selling points are that cleaning performance on carpet and hard floor is excellent, and well up to Dyson standard in real-life, day-to-day use (I try not to get too bogged down in seeing which vac can suck up one square metre of rice crispies or flour the best.) It's even pretty passable without the turbo mode engaged.

Oh, and the long crevice tool. This looks absolutely ridiculous, turning the vac into a sort of robot anteater, but it is fantastically useful for cleaning skirting boards, footwells, down the back of the washing machine and so on. But seriously, just look at it.

Now THAT is a crevice tool

The only real debit, if you ignore the rather premium price and slightly excessive weight, is the duster tool. Dyson has perfected this over the years and it's essential for cleaning dust, crumbs and, I dare say, one square metre of rice crispies off of surfaces in a hurry. The Bosch one is rubbish.

That aside, a near perfect cordless vacuum cleaner, and one that will run and run.

Philips Speed Pro Max

5. Philips Speed Pro Max

Superb Dyson clone with a headlight

Specifications
Power: 25v
Power boost: Yes, three power settings
Weight: 2.73kg
Maximum run time: About 20-65 mins depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning performance+Awesome 'big crevice' tool
Reasons to avoid
-Actually manages to be more pricey than a Dyson-No dusting brush

• Buy Philips Speed Pro Max from Amazon

This is what I was alluding to in the intro about the chasing pack catching up with Dyson in the best cordless vacuum cleaner stakes. There is very little to tell between the Dysons at the top and the Dyson rivals from Bosch (above), Shark (below) and this one from Philips.

Once again, cleaning performance is excellent here. However, while the weight is spot on, on paper, the slightly odd design makes it more usable as a push-along floor cleaner than a traditional handheld – it's going after the V10 more than the V8, basically. It's even got a headlight on the excellent floor-cleaning brush, to show you just how gross your hard floors are, even in low light.

I feel like this one falls just short of the Bosch due to the presence of only one battery (albeit a far more powerful one than the pair that Bosch provides). Also, while the handheld 'duster' brush provided by Bosch is a bit rubbish, at least there is one – Philips has painstakingly copied Dyson's approach to vacuum building, yet mystifyingly failed to include such a brush. 

Shark DuoClean Cordless

6. Shark DuoClean Cordless

Splendid Dyson clone with a headlight AND two batteries AND a bendy tube to clean under your bed!

Specifications
Power: 25v
Power boost: Yes, three power settings
Weight: 4kg
Maximum run time: About 20 mins per battery depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning performance+Fantastic under-furniture cleaning 
Reasons to avoid
-Emits piercing whine-Small bin, even by cordless standards-Odd balance, and quite weighty-Has been struck with ugly stick

Especially given it's a bit cheaper, this is another superb option for those seeking a Dyson-esque cleaning experience without buying an actual Dyson.

I love the way that all Shark vacs have the look of having been put together by a nutty professor, in their shed. They always have unique design features that range from pointless but fun to genuinely useful and none more so than the DuoClean Cordless, which as well as 'DuoClean' – which just means the excellent floor cleaning brush can switch between hard floor and carpet modes and do an equally good job on both – this also boasts 'Flexology'. Okay, get a load of this.

Woah

• Buy Shark DuoClean Cordless from Shark

Have you ever seen anything like that? Remarkably, Flexology is both easy to activate and end – you just push a button to turn the straight suction tube into a bent one, then flip it back up to resume normal service – and actually works. The volume of dust removed from under my wardrobe, the first time I tried it, was truly terrifying to behold.

You also get a pair of powerful batteries for up to 44 minutes of near-seamless cleaning. They do seem to take a good few hours to fully charge, so you can't necessarily rotate them quite as easily as the Bosch, but 44 minutes is fine. There are a plethora of very competent cleaning heads, too. Oh, and there's a headlight, and very handy it is. 

Overall cleaning performance is pretty much up to par with the Dyson, Philips or Bosch. The only reservations I have here are that is this Shark is both considerably uglier, harder to lift and more prone to sliding over when left leaning against a wall than its more premium foes. The small bin also fills up extremely fast, although you could say that is testament to how good is at cleaning. Unlike some of Shark's corded vacs, it's at least easy enough to empty, thankfully.

Gtech AirRam Mk 2

7. Gtech AirRam Mk 2

Best upright cordless vacuum

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: No
Weight: 3.5kgs
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 a totally different approach to Dyson and co, 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.

Gtech Pro

8. Gtech Pro

Yet another great Dyson alternative to date – and with a bag, no less

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.4kgs
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 am not quite sold on this point, but I dare say 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.

9. Dyson V6 Animal

The older Dyson that costs you a fair bit less

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.2kgs
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.

10. Hoover FD22BR Freedom

Dirt cheap cordless vac for cleaning up dirt (cheaply)

Specifications
Power: 22v
Power boost: No
Weight: 2.2kgs
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 Dyson range than the other Dyson clones here, 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, and 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.