Cordless vacuums give you the freedom to chase down pet hair wherever it hides! They’re more convenient and more maneuverable than full-size models for cleaning high places, corners, cars, and pet enclosures. However, many cordless vacuums can’t actually handle pet hair. They get clogged easily, or lack the suction to yank fur balls from all the places in your home where they can hide.
How do you tell the difference between the lightweights and the heavy hitters?
We’ve done the research to help you out! We’ve looked at dozens of models on the market today, to figure out which models are best for tackling pet hair. We looked at pet-specific models, as well as plain cordless models, from hand vacs to stick models and all the hybrids in between!
We chose our recommendations by reading professional lab test results in consumer publications, and making comparisons of all the important specs and features. We also took the time to read hundreds of reviews from previous buyers who have put these machines to the test in their homes. After all our research, we chose the three models we think are best for tackling pet hair.
Below, you’ll find our in-depth reviews of our three recommendations. We chose them to fit a variety of lifestyles and needs, as well as a wide range of budgets. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find our handy tips on how to shop for the best cordless vacuum for dealing with pet hair.
Before we get started, here’s a quick snapshot of our top recommendations.
Top Cordless Vacuum Reviews
- Black & Decker MAX Lithium Pivot: for handheld cleaning
- Shark Freestyle: for cleaning your floors
- Dyson V8 Absolute: for doing it all
1.Black & Decker MAX Lithium Pivot
This updated edition of the Black & Decker Pivot offers cyclonic suction and fade-free battery life in a very maneuverable and affordable package.
We like it for its unique nozzle design, which fits in all the tricky places pet hair builds up, as well as its high suction power.
The slim, wide nozzle is easy to maneuver into all the nooks and crannies where pet hair hides. We like it for cleaning between cushions, around the edges of rooms, and for cleaning the car.
This model also features Black & Decker’s Pivot design, which allows you to move the nozzle around an axis, so you can angle it to fit into pretty much any space.
This model features cyclonic suction. (Read on how cyclonic suction works) It’s one of the only handhelds besides the expensive Dyson V-series units to have cyclonic suction. This system provides a lot more power than you’ll be used to from your average dustbuster.
Cyclonic suction keeps more fine dirt and dust away from the filters, giving you more consistent suction even as the machine fills up.
There are 3 different filters built into the dust cup assembly. These help keep the motor safe from dust and debris, and are removable to make your cleaning job easier.
The MAX has a larger dust bin capacity than the other Pivot models, and empties with a convenient side door. You can also remove the whole cup to rinse out under your sink.
We particularly like the rubber flap at the end of the nozzle to keep debris from falling back out, no matter what angle the Pivot is turned to.
The attachments are actually built into the nozzle. This makes them more convenient to store, and faster to use. You actually slide the crevice tool out from the main nozzle, and the brush head flips down from the nozzle into action stance.
The lithium ion battery provides suction power that won’t fade as the battery loses charge. It’ll provide full blast right up to the last second! That’s a big advantage over older nickel-cadmium batteries, which die slowly and gradually. Previous buyers said they got about 15-18 minutes of cleaning from each charge.
The charging station doubles as a stand for the machine. The Pivot’s a bit awkwardly shaped, and would take up a lot of shelf space sitting lengthwise. The vertical stand helps you save space while charging the battery at the same time.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
Black & Deckers have pretty mixed reliability records. Some previous buyers had issues with the motors overheating, or burning out. Others had no issues at all. We’d recommend making sure you’re on top of cleaning filters frequently, to make sure it is getting enough air. That seemed to be one major problem for some buyers.
It’s not great for cleaning upholstery. If you have plush fabric in your car, or around the house, the Black & Decker might not be the best choice. While it has a brush, it’s not sturdy enough to really dig into fibers.
Some reviewers weren’t impressed by the suction power. While this model does technically use the same system as the Dysons, it’s not as well-designed or engineered. The Dyson has layered cyclones, while the Black & Decker has just one.
According to previous buyers, the latch on the dust compartment isn’t particularly sturdy.
2. Shark Freestyle
The Shark Freestyle was rated top stick vacuum for pet hair by Consumer Reports! It’s a simple, no frills machine that’s perfect for apartments and smaller houses. The versatile powered brush head works on all types of flooring, and gives you cordless convenience to clean between rooms and on stairs.
The Freestyle has a powered brush head for cleaning carpets. The roller brush has thick bristles for working into carpet fibers and loosening persistent clumps of hair. You can choose between two speed settings for carpets or hard flooring. Powered brush heads are a rarity among stick models, especially at this price! Previous buyers said it’s very effective on their carpets.
The neck joint on the floor head swivels for better maneuverability. This helps the Freestyle fit around furniture and into corners. The floor head is also low-profile, and is easy to fit under coffee tables and other furniture.
The dust chamber is bigger than other stick vacuums. That’s key for any vacuum that’s going to be dealing with pet hair. Thanks to the suction power, fur can build up in no time!
The charging base doubles as a stand. The Freestyle charges in about 4 hours, and provides about 15-20 minutes of cleaning time, depending on the settings you’re using.
It’s very inexpensive, for a cordless model with a motorized brush head. Overall, previous buyers were surprised at the quality of the Freestyle, given the low price tag. One said that it has the best battery life compared to other vacuums she’s owned.
Some reviewers found it fairly loud. That’s not surprising, given that it’s built from lightweight plastic.
It’s limited to cleaning floors. The Freestyle doesn’t come with any attachments or other cleaning modes.
It’s also not great for edges, since there’s no crevice tool. These limitations mean it’s not ideal for larger houses with tricky areas like stair cases and more furniture.
The batteries on this model are nickel cadmium, not lithium ion. They will fade as they die, and generally won’t last more than 2 years of continual use. Replacements can cost around $50.
3. Dyson V8 Absolute
The V8 Absolute is a stick/hand vacuum hybrid from Dyson that’s ideally designed for tackling pet hair. We like it for its cyclonic suction, as well as its dual powered brush heads. We think the V8 is a great choice for larger apartments and houses, as well as vacuuming all the tricky spots that you can’t reach with average vacuums. It’s the only cordless model we’ve come across today that we recommend as a primary vacuum!
It’s extremely powerful. Dyson has integrated their cyclonic suction technology into the drive system of this stick vacuum. It has layered cyclones for constant, powerful suction. Previous buyers were very impressed with the power of the V8.
This system also helps preserve suction and filter life in the vacuum itself. The cyclones draw fine dirt and dust particles, as well as pet hair, away from the central motor unit, so they don’t impede air flow. This means you’ll have more suction power, and need to clean the filters less frequently.
The carpet head is fully powered. That’s a huge plus for us, since the carpet heads on some full-size Dyson canisters are only air-powered.
Plus, the V8 Absolute uses a direct drive system which eliminates the need for a belt. As you’ll know, belts are the most finicky, unreliable part of a carpet head. The direct drive system also gives the V8 Absolute 75% more power than the older V6 or other belt systems.
One buyer even said that it works great on carpets and ceramic tile floors.
The roller bar is also easy to clean, which is a big plus for pet owners. You can slide the roller out to untangle it by way of a side door.
There’s a smaller, powered brush attachment for cleaning upholstery, carpeted stairs, and pet enclosures. We love this for cleaning cat climbing furniture, dog beds, and other hair situations around the house. The V8 also comes with a standard dusting brush and crevice tool.
It charges quickly, in just 3.5 hours. The V8 Absolute includes a wall-mounted docking system for charging and storage.
This latest Dyson model gets up to 40 minutes of suction, which is twice the capacity of previous generations!
It’s light, and ergonomically designed. The center of gravity is in the middle of the motor unit, and the whole thing weighs just 5 pounds.
MAX cleaning mode only lasts for 8 minutes or so. The V8 also loses power more quickly when you’re cleaning with one of the powered attachments. The limited cleaning time makes the V8 less ideal for people who want to vacuum a whole house at once, if you’re in a particularly large home with lots of carpeting.
It’s less ergonomic as a stick vacuum than a handheld. That’s because the motor unit is at the top of the vacuum, and the whole thing ends up being a bit top-heavy.
You have to hold the trigger the whole time you vacuum. This is designed to save battery life, but it can be annoying for people with arthritic fingers.
This is a seriously expensive vac. It costs as much or more than most full-size vacuums. So, we only recommend it if you’re absolutely sold on cordless convenience. The V8 is absolutely ideal for stairs and being able to clean quickly, but you’ll pay a premium by any measure!
Which Cordless Vacuum is Best for Your Home?
We highly recommend the Black & Decker to people who are looking for a cordless, handheld vacuum to supplement their full-size household vacuum.
It’s a good choice for vacuuming your car, and tackling smaller tasks and hard-to-reach areas around your house. However, it isn’t as effective as other vacuums on upholstery or carpets.
The Shark is our least expensive option for people who want a cordless vacuum for their floors.
It’s best for people with smaller homes or apartments, and a variety of floor types. While it only cleans floors, it cleans them very well. It’s one of the least expensive vacuums on the market with a powered brush head, and has the dust bin capacity to handle wall-to-wall carpets full of pet hair. Just don’t expect it to clean above floor level.
While its battery life limits your overall cleaning time on carpets, the Dyson V8 has the power and versatility to clean whole houses from top to bottom.
It can compete with any full-size vacuum, with its powered brush heads and cyclonic suction. Its powered brush head and handheld versatility combine the best aspects of the Black & Decker and the Shark in one package. We highly recommend it to people who want a cordless vacuum for their whole house, but don’t expect to clean the whole house in one swoop.
How to Shop for the Best Cordless Vacuum for Pet Hair
Look for superior batteries:
You’ll want a cordless vacuum with at least 15 minutes of battery life. We prefer lithium ion batteries, because they offer fade-free power and better longevity. However, nickel cadmium batteries tend to be more affordable. They’re common on older models and budget vacuums.
Don’t be put off by seeing 30-40 minutes as the top battery life on cordless vacuums. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but you’ll be surprised at how far you get on each charge.
We actually found in our research that the vast majority of people clean sporadically, rather than in one fell swoop each week. If you have pets, that almost certainly describes you!
Pet hair builds up quickly, and gets pretty visible after a couple days. Most pet owners are constantly doing little projects to keep everything under control, rather than grabbing all the pet hair after a week or so.
If you are one of those people who likes to take one afternoon and clean the whole house, you probably don’t want to be looking at a cordless vacuum.
Look for better suction:
Many cordless vacuums have weak suction. We like cordless vacuums that integrate the same suction systems as full-size vacuums, like cyclonic suction, or no-loss suction that has an unfiltered intake feed.
These vacuums provide the power you need to suck up furballs and contain dander. The other advantage to high suction power is that clumps of fur get compressed more tightly once they’re in the dust chamber. This allows you to vacuum longer without emptying the compartment.
Decide whether you want your new cordless vacuum to be a primary vacuum, or a supplementary vacuum:
If you’re planning on supplementing a larger household vacuum with a cordless second vacuum, you’ll probably want to look at handheld models. Chances are, your full-size vacuum has the power and equipment to handle your flooring.
What you’re really looking for is something to handle all the tricky spots where the attachment hose won’t reach. Cordless handheld vacuums are also great for when you don’t want to go through the hassle of hauling out a big, bulky vacuum just for some spot cleaning.
If you’re looking to get a cordless model for your primary vacuum, you’ll want to make sure it has a full-size brush head.
If you have carpets, you’ll definitely want a motorized floor head, and plenty of suction to back it up. You’ll also want to make sure your new vacuum has a larger dust bin.
Think about durability:
Overall, cordless vacuums are less durable than full-size models. They tend to be fairly lightweight, and are made from nearly all plastic parts. This means they’re not as sturdy as their larger counterparts.
Cordless models also have a more temperamental power supply. Batteries and chargers are usually the source of problems on a cordless vacuum.
With all of this in mind, we recommend looking for at least a year of warranty coverage on your new vacuum. You’ll also want to look into the costs of replacement batteries, so you’re prepared if yours dies after the warranty period. These replacements can vary in price, and in some cases, it might be worth buying a new vacuum entirely.
Since cordless models tend to be less reliable than your average full-size vacuum, we’d recommend opting for the protection plans you can add on from online retailers. They’ll give you 1-2 additional years of coverage for around $10-$20. This can be a bargain if a replacement battery dies in the second year, and costs $50 to replace!
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