If you hate lifting your vacuum up the stairs and loathe lugging it around the house, we've tested a few models that weigh less than 15 pounds, but are as powerful as models that tip the scales at almost twice as much.
That's largely thanks to advances in motor technology. Modern vacuums can fit an astonishing amount of power in a tiny space, and powerful batteries make cords a thing of the past. In fact, after years of testing popular vacuum cleaners, our data shows that a modern vacuum's size has very little to do with how well it cleans.
Yes, there are drawbacks. Vacuums that are both lightweight and powerful tend to cost more than heavier models—and that's especially true for cordless units. But if you don't mind paying a little extra to save your back, check out the best lightweight vacuums you can buy. Our favorite is the Dyson V15 Detect(available at Amazon) because of its powerful suction and a built-in laser that illuminates even the finest bits of dust on your floors and furniture.
These are the best lightweight vacuums we tested ranked, in order:
Dyson V15 Detect
Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed NV682
Dyson V8 Absolute
Oreck Elevate Conquer UK30300
Dyson Small Ball
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The Dyson V15 Detect is the latest in a storied lineup of lightweight cordless vacuums. This time around, we found two huge upgrades: a dust-illuminating laser and a more powerful battery. Many companies often add gadgets and attachments to their vacuums to compensate for a lack of performance. However, after testing the V15 in our labs, we think that these new bits of technology enhance the cleaning experience.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should talk about cleaning performance. During our dirt pickup test, the V15 suctioned up about an average of 92% of the detritus we left out on our testing carpet. It also has a very long battery life—15 minutes on its max setting. That means the V15 cleans better per charge than other vacuums we've tested.
What also gives it an edge is its unique laser and sensor. During testing, we found that the laser, which can be turned on and off, illuminates dirt under furniture and on floors much better than standard LED headlights. The V15 also has a sensor in it that gives you a readout of the particle sizes that the vacuum is picking up.
People who have used a Dyson cordless before will find the same smooth glide, sensitive trigger, and light-weight design. If you’re considering getting a Dyson, know that the V15 is the best of what the company has to offer, but getting the best comes at a steep price. However, the Dyson V15’s test results mean we can’t deny it the top spot.
If you've ever fallen asleep with the TV on, you've probably woken up to a Shark informercial. But our tests show that the Shark Rotator Lift-Away Speed NV682 actually works about as well as the advertisements promise. It only weighs around 14.8 pounds, including on-board attachments and cord. It also has the added bonus of being able to transform from an upright to a totable canister vacuum at the touch of a button.
Of all the vacuums on this list, this Shark offers the most value. It's not the most powerful or lightest on this list, and we had some concerns about durability and build quality, but it works as promised and offers plenty of extras.
Hi, I’m Jon Chan, the senior lab technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it’s likely I oversee it’s testing in our labs. That includes everything from detergents to wet/dry vacuums. When it comes to vacuum cleaners, I like models that provide excellent cleaning performance and value.
Even though vacuum cleaners aren’t the big metal boxes that we usually test in our appliance lab—such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, or ranges—we still test them in such a way so that we can have both reproducible performance data and information that will be useful to our readers. We assess on the performance, features, and usability of each vacuum cleaner.
A good vacuum cleaner should be able to remove both fine dirt/dust and larger debris from your floor surfaces. We push each vacuum cleaner to its limit by making it clean up four types of messes: our homemade “dirt” that is made from sieved sand and baby powder, pet hair, rice grains, and raw macaroni.
To get a feel for how each vacuum would perform on a different type of floor surface, we test these vacuums out on two swaths of carpet (high pile carpet and low pile carpet) and on a linoleum floor surface.
We also think it’s important to see how a vacuum cleaner will do in circumstances that are more difficult than a bare floor. For edge cleaning, we place a 2” x 4” piece of wood along the edge of our test carpet area, sprinkle baby powder on the carpet, and run the vacuum cleaner with one side of the vacuum head pressed against the 2” x 4”. Ideally, the vacuum should pick up all of the baby powder without leaving a strip of white dust next to the 2” x 4”.
Additionally, we also test how easy it is for the vacuum cleaner to clean dirt or dust bunnies that have collected under furniture. Using a wooden dowel suspended at different heights, we push the vacuum forward until the top of the vacuum hits the dowel to determine how far a given vacuum can extend under a piece of furniture.
With these performance tests, we can determine how well a vacuum cleaner will perform when it comes to cleaning all of the surfaces, nooks, and crannies in your home.
Features and Usability
If you’ve ever used a vacuum cleaner, though, you know that the overall experience of vacuuming is more than just how much dirt it removes. When we score these vacuum cleaners, we also consider the vacuum’s noise level, attachments, cord length, weight, dirt capacity, warranty, mobility, battery life (if it’s a cordless or hand vacuum), and overall user experience. If a vacuum can both clean up a lot of dirt/debris and make the cleaning process easy and hassle-free, it will make its way towards the top of our ranking system.
Other Lightweight Vacuums We Reviewed
Dyson V8 Absolute
The Dyson V8 Absolute is aptly named, since it is absolutely the best lightweight vacuum. At just 5.6 pounds, the V8 offers the highest amount of suction for the least amount of weight. In fact, it's the only cordless vacuum we think can truly replace a corded model for most household cleaning.
During testing, we found that this cordless vacuum had 40 minutes of battery, which is more than enough power to deal with day-to-day messes. In our labs, the V8 picked up 88% of the dirt we put down for our tests. That's not just better than any other cordless vacuum we've tested—it also beats plenty of heavy, corded models.
The V8 does have some downsides. While it has a ton of attachments—including a powered brush head that's designed for hardwood floors, a motorized mini brush for cleaning upholstery, a soft brush for hardwood, a combination upholstery/bare floor tool, a crevice tool, and a soft dusting brush for computers and delicate items—they all have to be stored separately. If you've got limited space, they might be a pain to keep track of and swap.
The V8 is also quite expensive, retailing for around $600. However, if you want an ultra-lightweight vacuum that you can take out to clean your car, then come inside to get tracked-in dirt off the stairs and the dog hair off your drapes, this is the one to get.
To get the real skinny on lightweight vacuums you need to ask professional cleaners, who tend to use vacuums that are very similar to the Oreck Elevate Conquer. At just 11 pounds, this is the lightest full-sized vacuum we have ever tested.
In terms of dirt pickup, the Elevate does well enough for its size to earn a place on this list. It cleaned as well as other vacuums on short-pile carpet, but struggled when we switched to deep-pile carpet.
Still, we think it's a great choice for anyone with mobility issues. When the motor is engaged, the Conquer glides across the floors, pulling itself forward under the power of its own brushes. The Oreck brand also has the advantage of offering a seven-year warranty that's backed by service locations all across country. The only downside from all that weight cutting is that the Conquer has no attachments. If you want a crevice tool or dusting brush, you'll need to buy a separate handheld unit.
The Dyson Small Ball is one of the best apartment-friendly vacuums on the market. Not only is it a featherweight at 12 pounds, but it also collapses until it's only 32 inches tall, taking about half the storage space as other vacuums.
In our testing labs, the Small Ball picked up around 43% of the testing dirt on normal carpet. Pound for pound, that's pretty good. Not only did the Small Ball have good suction, it also had good steering—which makes its weight easy to push around. That's thanks to the ball in its name—basically a universal joint that can moves with your wrist, letting the Small Ball turn on a dime.
A space-saving design, above average dirt pickup, and a five-year warranty are the major selling points of the Dyson Small Ball.
We weren’t sure what to make of the Dyson Omni-Glide when we first unpacked it in our labs. The design of the body suggests that it’s a hand vacuum, but it can also clean the floor like a regular cordless vacuum. This Dyson is somewhere in between and does an equally good job at cleaning floors as it does countertops.
Even with its heaviest attachments on, the Omni-Glide tips the scales at just around four pounds. This means you don’t break a sweat lugging it up the stairs or cleaning your car. You might even be able to do it in one charge. Our lab tests show that the Omni-Glide can run for about nine minutes on its max setting and about 18 minutes on regular.
After spending a few days cleaning with this Dyson, we think that it’s perfect for small apartments. The titular Omni-Glide brush head is just eight inches wide with a swivel joint that’s limber enough to twist around chair and table legs. It’s powerful as well as flexible. During testing, it picked up 70% of the dirt we laid out for it, which is higher than the average of 57% across all brands we’ve tested. However, the Omni-Glide is below average when it comes to Dyson cordless vacuums. They average around 85% in our dirt pick-up tests.
The Omni-Glide is pretty expensive, but since it cleans floors and furniture well in equal measure it’s like getting two vacuums for the price of one.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.