Best Small Vacuums for Small Spaces

Easy-to-store models from CR's tests get the job done

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When you live in a small apartment or house with limited storage space, finding a place to stash a vacuum can be a challenge.

Some uprights are slimmer than others, and given how good stick vacuums have become, you may be able to get by without a full-sized appliance (assuming you don't have miles of carpet).

Robotic vacuums, of course, take up little space but don't have what it takes to serve as your only vacuum.

More on Vacuums

Consumer Reports' recent vacuum tests reveal some smaller models that punch above their weight and can be conveniently stowed out of sight.

“If you live in an apartment with all hard-surface flooring, you could get one of the stick vacuums that are very compact,” says John Galeotafiore, who oversees CR’s testing of products for the home.

“If you have a lot of carpeting, then you're going to need a vacuum that can deep clean, but you could get by with a bagless upright, which tends to be smaller and lighter than a bagged model," he says.

How We Test Small Vacuums

We put upright vacuums through our full battery of vacuum tests, but because we don’t expect stick vacs or handheld models to perform as well as uprights or canisters, we judge them by different criteria.

Instead of using the more difficult embedded-dirt test, in which our test engineers remove ground-in grit from carpet, CR conducts a carpet surface cleaning test. Engineers also evaluate how well a stick vacuum picks up sand, rice, and cereal from bare floors and carpet within a certain time frame.

For robotic vacuums, we test each machine for its ability to pick up debris from bare floors and low-pile carpet in a custom-made set in our labs that approximates an average-sized room.

Our engineers sit and watch each robot perform a full cycle, carefully tracking every minute of its odyssey. After all, if these robots are meant to make your life easier, they shouldn’t be a hassle to set up, maintain, and run.

Here are some of the best compact choices from our vacuum cleaner ratings listed alphabetically and grouped so that you can match them to your own cleaning needs.

Best Small Vacs for Mixed Surfaces

Best Compact Vacs for Bare Floors

Best Robotic Vacuums

Best Handheld Vacuums

How CR Tests Robovacs

Robovacs have become a popular choice for helping to keep a house clean, but how well do they perform? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports experts explain to host Jack Rico how CR tests these handy vacs to find out which one is right for you.


Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.