Battery Equivalents and Replacements

Cordless Car Vacuum Cleaners - How to Choose One?

We spend plenty of time in our cars, and having a clean car is, first of all, essential for our health. Also, you never know who will soon sit in your car, so keeping it as clean as possible is vital. People with pets and kids often need a good emergency vacuum cleaner and must be ready to use it at the moment's notice.

That is why having a good and reliable car vacuum cleaner can be very handy in many situations.

Published: December 20, 2023.

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Types of Car Vacuum Cleaners

Car vacuums differ in terms of size, suction, air filtration, and available cleaning tools, but also according to their power source.

Car vacuum cleaners can be powered by an onboard battery (cordless units), by a 12V cigarette lighter adapter, or can be powered using mains (110 V or 220 V) power - this is very important since not all people have cars parked in home garages with mains wall outlets just a few feet away.

Cordless Car Vacuum Cleaners

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Cordless car vacuum can be used regardless of the availability of cars or mains power. Powerful and lightweight lithium-ion batteries power modern cordless units, while cheaper models may also feature nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries.

Some older models even use nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, but IMHO, such units should be avoided due to the environmental impact of the batteries when not being recycled properly.

Also, NiCd batteries suffer from the 'so-called' memory effect, have a rather low number of charging and discharging cycles, have lower capacity than modern NiMH, and especially lithium batteries, etc.

In short, if somebody offers You a cordless vacuum cleaner powered by NiCd batteries, avoid it no matter how cheap it is.

The main disadvantage of cordless units is the limited amount of energy stored in the onboard batteries. A larger and better battery increases the weight and price of a vacuum cleaner but can provide a runtime of 30-40 or even more minutes using normal power/standard suction.

Some units feature so-called burst or boost vacuuming mode when the battery and motor are pushed to the limit for a short time, but the suction is greatly increased. Such boost mode shortens operating time several times, but suction can be compared with the suction of mains-powered units. And yes, such units cost some decent money.

Suction power depends on the vacuum cleaner model and the suction setting and varies from 15-20 Air Watts in entry-level models to 220 Air Watts found in the convertible Dyson V11 Outsize Cordless Vacuum Cleaner (Amazon link, the link opens in the new window).

Very often, home handheld cordless units are carried on longer trips and used as car vacuum cleaners, and vice versa, cordless car vacuums are used as home cordless units.

One of the most important issues with cordless car vacuum cleaners is the safety of the batteries during summer and winter.

If the vacuum cleaner is left in the car during winter, low temperatures can shorten the lifetime of the batteries and decrease their capacity - which is not good.

However, during summer, if the car is left outside, the inner temperature can increase significantly, damaging the batteries even more. And if the cordless car vacuum is left directly exposed to sunlight, its temperature can increase so much that the batteries, although rarely, can burst into flames.

So, if You have a cordless vacuum cleaner that you want to keep in the car year long, check if the manufacturer allows such practice. If not, keep such a vacuum cleaner at home at room temperature and keep it in the car only during trips when the car's AC unit regulates the car's inner temperature.

Thanks to compact dimensions, missing power cords (hence 'cordless' vacuums), and the availability of various cleaning tools, cordless car vacuums are commonly used for vacuuming car interiors, especially awkward and hard-to-reach areas and surfaces.

12V Car Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners powered by 12 volts cigarette lighter adapters are not limited by energy stored in the onboard battery, but their main limit is the circuit breaker current of the cigarette lighter adapter, which is by default 10 Amps, limiting the power of such vacuums to 100-120 watts.

Even so, 100-120 watts motors create suction that is stronger than the suction of the most common cordless car vacuums, at least when the cordless vacuums are used in Normal or Eco suction modes.

Cigarette lighter adapter vacuums draw power from the car battery, and when pushed to the limit, they discharge the car battery on average by 1 Ah (Amp hour) for every 6 (six) minutes of operation.

For example, suppose You vacuum your car for an hour(!). In that case, you will discharge your car battery by 10 Ah – that is not an issue for a fully charged starting and especially dual-purpose car battery of at least 60-70 Ah capacity.

Another disadvantage of 12V car vacuums is the power cord length and cigarette light adapter connection, which can get hot very fast in some cheaper models.

To be able to vacuum the whole car, the power cord must be at least 15-16 feet (~4.6-4.9 m) long. Such a power cord allows the user to vacuum the trunk of the larger SUVs and caravans while using a 12V car port located usually in front of the front seats.

Note: some 12V car vacuums come with 110/220V AC to 12V adapters, allowing such units to be used at home as well. If required, those adapters can be ordered from online shops, just be sure to get a 12V 10+ Amps converter/adapter.

Corded 110/220V AC Car Vacuum Cleaners

Mains-powered vacuums can operate only when there is mains power available, but they have the strongest suction, often the best cleaning attachments for car detailing, and can do their job properly on various surfaces.

Common upright vacuums are not very well suited for the job, but upright vacuums with hoses are excellent – using the main cleaning nozzle/head, one can vacuum car mats much better than with other vacuums (12V or cordless) while using a flexible cleaning hose and various attachments, one can thoroughly clean the whole car, including car seats, all possible crevices, gaps and edges, air outlets, trunk, etc.

Similarly, canister vacuums can be used as excellent car vacuum cleaners if the mains power is present and if the vacuum features suitable cleaning attachments intended for detailed cleaning of various surfaces found not only in cars but also at homes.

Carpet washers/shampooers can be used for deep and thorough cleaning of car mats (if the mats are intended for such cleaning) while the mats are out of the car, but after the cleaning, the car mats must be dried first, and only then put back into the car.

Carpet spot cleaners/washers are intended for deep cleaning carpeted stairs, upholstery, smaller carpets, and area rugs and can be used to clean car seats and mats.

Also, cordless carpet spot cleaners can be very useful for cleaning stubborn pets and kids' stains and dirt - just be sure to use them according to the instructions, especially when using detergents and cleaning formulas.

Note: car's mats and upholstery are made using really durable materials, but before cleaning with various cleaning solutions, check the car's manual and what can actually be used to clean your car's mats and upholstery.

Dry Vacuum vs. Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaners?

Dry vacuums are optimized for dry debris; when moist or wet debris is cleaned, they can get damaged.

Wet and dry vacuums can clean wet debris, and some models can even vacuum liquids directly. Note that even such vacuums have limits regarding the amounts of liquid they can remove before they require emptying of the dirt bin, or they can get damaged, too.

Most wet-and-dry small car vacuums (cordless or 12 V cigarette light adapter vacuums), when cleaning liquids, must be used at a certain angle to prevent liquids from reaching the air filter and motor. But they can clean water, mud, coffee, juice, sodas, etc.

Unless the vacuum is labeled as a 'wet-and-dry vacuum' by its manufacturer, the vacuum cleaner should be used only for vacuuming dry dirt.

Car Vacuum Cleaner Attachments

While compact and lightweight vacuum cleaners can directly access and clean most car surfaces, in order to clean the car interior in greater detail, one needs several cleaning attachments, including:

  • Flexible Cleaning Hose increases the reach of the user and allows the user to clean awkward and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Crevice Tool is a long and narrow cleaning tool intended for vacuuming edges, gaps, crevices (hence the name), corners, and similar areas. Some crevice tools come with a flexible center section, allowing the tool to bend and clean areas that are not accessible by rigid crevice tools.
  • Dusting Brush features rows of gentle bristles that agitate the surface dust and other similar dirt, which is then vacuumed by the strong suction.
  • Pet Turbo Tool features a small brushroll that is powered by an air turbine. As the brushroll spins, it pulls out deeply embedded hair, lint, fibers, and other similar dirt, which is then vacuumed into the unit by strong suction. Pet Turbo Tool is one of the favorite cleaning tools of many pet owners, not just for vacuuming cars but also for vacuuming pet beds, sofas, stairs, and similar surfaces.
  • Upholstery Tool is intended for deep vacuuming sensitive car seats and mats that can't be vacuumed by the Pet Turbo Tool. Upholstery Tool is not as thorough as Pet Turbo Tool, but since it lacks moving parts, it is very gentle to the cleaned surfaces and much easier to maintain.

Most manufacturers offer their vacuums with a set of cleaning tools suitable for vacuuming homes and cars, but they also offer special car cleaning kits intended for detailed car cleaning.

If You have a vacuum cleaner that doesn't feature such cleaning tools, there are many car cleaning kits with standardized attachments that can fit your vacuum cleaner - one just has to find a compatible car cleaning kit.

Most Popular Car Vacuums

Most popular car vacuums are cordless vacuums, either designed for car-only use or home cordless vacuums that users may carry on longer trips and use for quick cleanups. While cordless units have their pros, they also have many cons...

12V car vacuums are also a very popular type of vacuums - after all, they can be left in the car with no worry about internal batteries during summer or winter and with no need for periodical recharging.

Shark CH951 UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus Cordless Handheld Vacuum

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Shark CH951 UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus is a very popular handheld cordless vacuum cleaner with three different cleaning tools, suitable for vacuuming various stubborn messes from surfaces that can also be found in cars.

The physical dimensions of the Shark CH951 cordless vacuum are (L x W x H) 20.8 x 3.8 x 4.3 inches (~52.3 x 9.6 x 10.9 cm), and it weighs only 2.8 pounds (~1.26 kg) - thanks to compact dimensions and ultralight design, Shark CH951 can be used to easily reach awkward places commonly found at both homes and cars.

The unit is rated at 80 Watts, ensuring good suction. The onboard battery can be fully recharged in 5-6 hours and is large enough for 10 minutes of constant operation.

Shark CH951 is intended for dry dirt only, and the list of its cleaning tools includes:

  • Wide Mouth Suction Nozzle (default cleaning tool),
  • Crevice Tool - used for cleaning narrow and tight spaces, crevices (hence the name), edges, corners, etc.
  • Scrubbing Brush - used to remove stubborn messes and piles of dirt.
  • Self-cleaning Pet Power Brush - an excellent tool for removing deeply embedded dirt, including pet hair, lint, fibers, etc.

As such, Shark CH951 is one of the most versatile cordless handheld vacuums on the market and is excellent for quick car cleanups.

For more reviews and recommendations, feel free to check the Shark CH951 UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus Amazon link (the link opens in the new window).

VacLife VL189 Car Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

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VacLife VL189 is an ultralight cordless vacuum cleaner that may be used not only in the car but also at home, during camping, in RVs, for regular cleaning of small areas, but also in emergencies - just grab the vacuum and let it clean.

The physical dimensions of the unit are ‎ 14.8 x 5.2 x 4.37 inches (~37.6 x 13.2 x 11.1 cm), and it weighs only 1.46 pounds (~0.66 kg) - the unit is very compact and lightweight and can be used by elderly and even kids, under supervision of adults, of course.

VacLife VL189 is rated at 100W - it has relatively good suction of 4.5kPa and features two cleaning tools:

  • small brush,
  • crevice tool.

Note: most cleaning tasks are performed using a standard "wide mouth" nozzle.

When the battery is fully charged, the unit can operate for up to 15-20 minutes, and when the battery is discharged, it takes 3-3.5 hours to charge it again fully.

Since the battery is a lithium battery, it doesn't have a memory effect and can be recharged even when not fully discharged.

To help vacuum in low light conditions, a car, for example, Vaclife VL189, comes with a strong LED light just in front of the On/Off button - in an emergency, it can even be used as a small LED flashlight.

Vaclife VL189 comes with a spare air filter. Since air filters are washable, one can use them interchangeably - while one filter is in the unit, another one is being washed and air-dried.

All in all, Vaclife VL189 comes at an affordable price and features excellent reviews from numerous users.

For more reviews and recommendations, feel free to check the VacLife VL189 Car Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Amazon link (the link opens in the new window).

Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

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Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner cleans surfaces by combining the effect of the cleaning solution, brush scrubbing effect, and strong suction.

After cleaning, surfaces are a little bit wet and must be left to dry out, which shouldn't be a problem for car seats and mats - just open the doors and windows and make some drafts.

Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Cleaner is powered by a 2.0Ah battery, ensuring enough energy for 12-13 minutes of operation - if that is not enough, 3.0Ah and 4.0Ah batteries are also available.

To help the user reach and clean all the surfaces, Hoover BH12010 also features a flexible cleaning hose - the unit is rather compact with the physical dimensions of (L x W x H) 13 x 10 x 15 inches (~33 x 25.4 x 38.1 cm) and weight of slightly less than 7 pounds (~3.2 kg) with empty tanks, but with the cleaning hose, it can reach surfaces that would be impossible to reach with just a unit.

hoover bh12010 features

Thanks to the two-tank design (9 ounces dirt liquids tank, 8 ounces clean water tank), Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Cleaner can also be used as a small wet/dry vacuum, although it is not its intended use.

To help the user clean really tough messes, Hoover offers various cleaning detergents/formulas, so choose them according to your own needs and requirements.

For more reviews and recommendations, feel free to check the Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner Amazon link (the link opens in the new window).

Long Story Short: Personally, if you have pets and small kids, having a good cordless handheld vacuum can be of great help – you can keep it in the car or take it with you (kitchen emergency vacuum?) when traveling with pets and kids and you can use it within seconds.

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An upright vacuum cleaner with a cleaning hose or canister vacuum can be used for periodic thorough car vacuuming, while a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter vacuum will do its job well, especially when not having the option of cleaning your car with the mains powered vacuum.

Carpet washers can be used for detailed and thorough car interior cleaning (mats, upholstery), but that leaves surfaces slightly damp, requiring some drying time - but the surfaces are left cleaned and refreshed.

Or, you can take your car to the car cleaners and tell them to clean, vacuum, and even disinfect your car while you sit and relax. :)