What is a stick vacuum?

Published on June 8th, 2020

When cleaning your home with an upright vacuum cleaner, do you sometimes wish there was something a little more lightweight and maneuverable to get the job done with less sweat? Or when trying to remove pet hair from your furniture with an old dustbuster, do you dream of something more powerful and versatile?

The answer to these cleaning problems is a stick vacuum, the most versatile and easy-to-use vacuum cleaner on the market.

But wait, what exactly is a stick vacuum?

Stick Vacuums 101

A stick vacuum is a lightweight vacuum cleaner with a streamlined body that looks like – you guessed it – a stick. It is something halfway between a traditional bulky upright vacuum and a lightweight cordless handheld vacuum. [1.][2.]

Most stick vacuums have a small handheld body that includes the motor and filtration system. You can use it as a handheld vacuum by attaching the tools to the body, or as a vacuum cleaner for floors and carpets by connecting the wand and floor cleaning head.

Other stick vacuums have a narrow body with a handle on the top, a floor cleaning head on the bottom, and a detachable handheld vacuum attached to the body of the vacuum.

Different brands and models have slight alterations to these configurations, but most stick vacuums are pretty similar when it comes to their build.

A few years ago, stick vacuums were just slimmer versions of upright vacuums – with less power. Many consumers still steer clear of stick vacuums because they had bad experiences with these inefficient appliances a while back.

stick type vacuum

But not anymore. In just a few years, stick vacuums have made huge advancements in technology, usability, and power.  Dyson was the first to introduce high-power cordless stick vacuums with many attachments and a design which easily converts to a handheld vacuum. And because the design made the vacuum such a fantastic addition to the cleaning gear in any home, many other manufacturers (such as Shark and Bissell) were quick to follow. [3.] [4.][5.][6.]

Today, you can find many popular brands that have their own similar design and stick vacuums are quickly growing in popularity. But why have stick vacuums become so popular?

Why are stick vacuums practical?

What makes stick vacuums so practical and convenient is that they combine the best features of handheld vacuums and upright vacuum to something that has excellent cleaning performance while also being lightweight and easy to use.

It essentially combines the maneuverability of a small handheld vacuum with the cleaning power of an upright vacuum.

You can basically use stick vacuums on almost any surface. The cleaning head with a brush roll will easily clean floors and carpets, and you can detach the wand for all the above-floor cleaning and dusting. With the attachments, the vacuum adapts to all kinds of surfaces, and this appliance is the perfect allrounder that helps you keep every inch of your home clean and dust-free.

Because of the compact design, stick vacuums are easy to store, but also easy to keep within arms reach. Many stick vacuums come with a charger that can be wall-mounted to keep the vacuum at hand and juiced up. You can store the vacuum near high-traffic areas such as the kitchen or hallway, and it will always be ready when you need it.

what is a stick vacuum

Stick vacuums are also lightweight and easily maneuvered, which means that vacuuming is more effortless when compared to using a large upright vacuum. Because it is easily carried and steered between furniture, a stick vacuum can go anywhere in your home, picking up dust from under and between furniture and appliances.

Since stick vacuums are incredibly easy to use, they are the perfect choice for households with kids or pets. Instead of having to bring out the big upright vacuum and plugging it in, a stick vacuum is ready for a quick cleanup within seconds. You just pop it out of the charger and put it back in after you're done.

Stick vacuums also outperform traditional handheld vacuums with better cleaning heads and stronger suction. In homes where you need to deal with everyday messes as they occur, a stick vacuum is an ideal choice.

Read more: Best rated stick vacuums for pet homes

The Important Features

Stick vacuums have a few key features, which affect their usability. To find a perfect stick vacuum, you need to have a look at these key points:

Corded or cordless

Most stick vacuums nowadays are cordless. You can find corded models as well, but many manufacturers are fading out lightweight corded vacuums because they are not as practical as the ones that can be charged and used without having to plug them in. [7.]

Some people still prefer corded vacuums, and we have to admit that it's great that you never have to worry about the battery running out. On the other hand, with a cordless vacuum, you never have to worry about finding a power outlet or whether the cord is long enough.


With most stick vacuums being cordless, it brings up the question of runtime. This is something that many consumers are skeptical about since just some years ago, the battery life on stick vacuums was pretty short. However, in the last few years, there have been massive advancements and stick vacuums can now run for up to an hour or more with one battery.

When choosing a stick vacuum, the runtime is one of the key features. Manufacturers often state the maximum runtime, which means how long the vacuum can run on the lowest setting with no tools attached. Turning up the suction power, using attachments or vacuuming challenging surfaces like high-pile carpets, will decrease the runtime.

If you have a large home, you might want to look at stick vacuums with detachable and interchangeable batteries. This feature allows you to change to a second battery when the first one runs out, lengthening the runtime according to your needs.

Suction power and brush roll

Just like runtime, the suction power of stick vacuums has developed quickly in the last few years. [3.] Lightweight vacuums used to have a weak suction. Therefore they weren't considered something that could replace a powerful upright vacuum. But modern stick vacuums are actually incredibly powerful, and they easily pick up even heavier dirt like sand and small gravel.

Stick vacuums also use brush rolls to enhance their cleaning results, which is why the suction is not the only thing affecting the cleaning power if each model. The design of the cleaning head and brush roll bar is significant when it comes to performance. 

Dyson Cyclone V10 Soft Roller Cleaning Head
Dyson Cyclone V10 Combination tool, Crevice tool, Mini Soft Dusting Brush, Mini-motorized Tool

Bagged or bagless

Most stick vacuums are bagless with a dirt container that collects the dirt. It is not common to find stick vacuums with dust bags, but there are a few models on the market if you prefer a bagged vacuum.

The dirt cups in the bagless vacuums can differ significantly. Some manufacturers like Dyson offer a hygienic ejection system that is hands-free and easy to use. Other stick vacuums have a more simple cup that is emptied by dumping the contents out into the trash.

In addition to the emptying system, you should take a look at the size of the dirt cup. Bigger dirt cups can fit more dust, hair, and debris inside them, which means fewer trips to the trash can when vacuuming. Ideally, the container is washable to keep the vacuum clean and hygienic.


Having a handheld vacuum and a lightweight vacuum for vacuuming floors and carpets combined together already makes stick vacuums very versatile. To add adaptability, they often come with a set of tools that suit different surfaces and areas.

  • A crevice tool will help you reach those tight spaces, and
  • a motorized brush roll tool is what you need to wipe out pet hair.
  • Another useful tool is the dusting brush. With this attachment, you can use the handheld vacuum instead of a duster to dust above-floor surfaces. 

The vacuum quickly sucks in all the dust without wafting it into the air. Another example of how versatile a stick vacuum can be!

Who should get a stick vacuum?

Stick vacuums can be a practical solution in any home.

Because they are easy to use and cordless, they can be used for quick cleanups in high-traffic areas even if you want to stick to a powerful upright vacuum for more thorough cleaning.

This is especially true if you have carpeting or many thick area rugs. You may want to keep your upright vacuum for when the carpets need deeper cleaning, but a stick vacuum can be a great choice for upkeep vacuuming.

If you only have a few low-pile carpets, you could even ditch the bulky upright and just use the stick vacuum. It is much easier to use and will do a great job at keeping your floors clean.

For smaller homes, a cordless vacuum with adequate runtime is a good choice. If you have a large home, you may want to choose a stick vacuum with interchangeable batteries to ensure the battery doesn't run out before you're finished.

A stick vacuum can also be the ideal choice for families with pets or kids. To keep your home clean, you need to focus on daily upkeep vacuuming, and a lightweight cordless vacuum is perfect for that.

Summing up

A stick vacuum is a lightweight vacuum with incredible versatility. Because of its compact design, it is easily maneuvered and stored, making it a clever and convenient appliance for any home.

Quickly growing in popularity due to its superb features, a stick vacuum is something that can be recommended for everyone. No other type of vacuum adapts to different surfaces and areas as easily.

A stick vacuum is one of those appliances that you're not sure about getting, but once you try it at home, you can't imagine not having one.

If you're still not convinced, read why we think stick vacuums are definitely worth it!

  1. Consumer.org. Stick vacuum cleaners.
  2. Which? How to buy the best vacuum cleaner Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/vacuum-cleaners/article/how-to-choose-the-best-vacuum-cleaner
  3. Viegand Maagøe A/S; Van Holsteijn en Kemna B.V. June 2019. Review study on Vacuum cleaners - final report. Read more: https://drive.google.com/file/d/111eW10ZEnBUPmwjUJOZf2AxwJxEo5opq/view
  4. Dyson. (n.d.). Read more: www.dyson.com
  5. Sark: (n.d.). Read more: www.sharkninja.com
  6. Bissell.(n.d.). Read more: www.bissell.com
  7. Which? Corded vs. Cordless Vacuum Cleaners. Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cordless-vacuum-cleaners/article/corded-vs-cordless-vacuum-cleaners
Matt Clayton

Matt Clayton

Chief Editor & Founder of PetHairPatrol

Matt is the founder of PetHairPatrol.com and has years of experience helping pet owners keep their homes clean. He's been featured in publications like Reader's Digest, Money, and BestLifeOnline. When this neat freak is not searching for better ways to get rid of pet hair, dander, and other messes pets leave behind, he's usually enjoying outdoors with his two (hairy) Goldens: Ben and Jerry. Read more.

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