For big cleanup jobs, you need to haul out your regular vacuum. But for spilled cereal and other small cleanup jobs around the house, a hand or stick vac may be all you need.
Consumer reports checked out hand vacs and stick vacs for use on everyday messes.
A hand vac is a good choice for upholstery, hard-to-reach spots, and, of course, your car.
Stick vacs don't require bending and can clean beneath furniture where a hand vac may not fit.
To test, Consumer Reports used a mixture of sand, rice, and cereal to challenge 21 machines.
In a second test, measured amounts of cat fur were pressed into the carpet to size up pet-hair removal. Some vacuums stood out from the rest, but not always in a good way.
A Dirt Devil stick vac scored lowest of all the small vacuums.
"This model has a small opening and no brush, so it takes more passes to clean up dirt or pet hair. And it didn't do a good job on carpets, bare floors, or along edges," said Consumer Reports' John McAloon.
A far more impressive cleaner was the top-rated Hoover Flair. The $60 stick vac easily pivots around furniture, and the cord has an easy-release holder.
As for hand vacs, the $80 Shark Perfect Pet II did equally well with cleanup. This cordless vac's powered brush and large opening helped it devour dirt on carpets and bare floors. And it inhaled pet hair.