Handy hand and stick vacs

Spring-cleaning can be time-consuming. But one easy way to stay on top of debris on your floors is with a small vacuum, like a stick or hand vac. 

Consumer Reports runs these little helpers through a battery of tests to see which leave the rest in the dust.

CR has found that in the past few years the suction power has gotten a lot stronger in many larger stick vacuums. So they're even better cleaners.

That power is tested on carpets and bare floors, with rice, sand, and cat hair. 

Vacuums that pick up the most score highest.

 They also undergo a clean-emissions test to ensure that they don’t release dust back into the air.

And if you’re tempted by the convenience of a cordless stick vac, CR says you might want to think twice. 

CR has discovered that almost half of battery-powered stick vacs will develop problems within five years, the biggest being that battery life gets worse over time.

Corded stick vacs are generally more reliable, and CR recommends the Shark Apex UpLight Lift-Away DuoClean. 

It gets excellent marks for cleaning all types of floors and has an extendable hose built-in for hard-to-reach areas.

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Slim aced pet hair tests. It has a large bin, and the brush turns off to clean hard floors.

Handheld vacs are great for reaching nooks and crannies, around the house or in your car. CR recommends two. 

The Shark Ion easily picks up debris from carpets and bare floors, and it can reach tight spots, but its small dust bin must be emptied more often.

The Black+Decker DustBuster does an excellent job picking up dirt on bare floors and does a very good job handling edges and pet hair.

CR has these tips for making your vacuum last longer. Avoid sucking up sharp objects that can harm the fan or motor, don’t overfill the bag, and dust bins should be emptied after every use.

And the brush will work better if you clean off tangled hair or string periodically.

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