Vacuum Recommendations

A few days ago I asked a question on The Boat Galley’s Facebook page about what onboard vacuum cleaners people really liked. I was asking both on my own behalf — we’d had several on Que Tal and not liked any and I know I need one for Barefoot Gal — and also on behalf of Donna, a reader who had emailed me with the same question.

I specifically asked for one that was:

  • powerful
  • lightweight
  • small
  • able to get replacement filters and
  • lasted more than a year

I got so many responses that I decided to make them into a post — and please add more recommendations in the comments. If you wish to read all the comments in full, you can do so here but you must  be logged in to Facebook.

Because some vacuums had several recommendations, I’ve grouped them together by maker or model. Some are corded — requiring an appropriately sized inverter as none of the recommended ones are DC — and some cordless. However, those also require an inverter to charge them. Only one 12 volt vacuum was recommended.

I’ve put the ones with the most recommendations at the top; that doesn’t mean that others aren’t good, just that not as many people discussed them. Prices range from around $25 to several hundred.

Amazon links go to the particular model being discussed. Many are sold in local stores, but including links so you can see more.

Shop Vac Micro Wet/Dry (sold in many stores and on Amazon) — 6 recommendations; 1 dislike

  • I also have an older version of this Shop Vac in the 1 gallon size. It is really handy because I can bring the hose from my big shop vac at home and have twice the reach. That lets me get into some pretty tight places.
  • We use this little shop vac too … and probably more to pump out the bilge than sweep up dirt and dust.
  • We currently have a mini-shop vac from Home Depot and its a back breaker to use the attachments in tight quarters.
  • . . . have been happy with small shop vacs
  • We use the small shop vac. It has come in handy for both wet and dry clean ups.
  • I can attest to the stow-ability and usability of the ShopVac Micro. It is the best vac we’ve had aboard.
  • We use a 1 gal shop vac and it has been working great for 4 yrs so far , plus since its wet/dry it comes on handy on the boat for pumping out water too

Dyson Hand Held (best price on Amazon) — 5 recommendations for various Dysons

  • It is the best!!!
  • Any Dyson hand held or stick – rechargeable. We love ours. Better than anything we’ve ever tried. Pricey, but perfect.
  • Dyson Animal Handheld all the way! We have their products at home and on the boat, and have never regret the expense.
  • Trust me…the dyson is worth every cent…it is a small compact one…when I think of the name i will post!
  • I have a Dyson handheld and use it a fair bit – powerful but not exactly quiet.
  • Dyson is a hella good vac.
  • UPDATE: We bought a Dyson about 6 months ago after two Ryobis died. So far, we absolutely love it!

Ryobi 18 volt Cordless Hand Vac (sold at Home Depot and on Amazon) — 4 people recommended

UPDATE 12/7/15: NOT RECOMMENDED. The first one of these that I bought was great. Two subsequent ones failed in less than six months. Read more here.

  • Uses the same battery packs as my cordless tools (2 comments to this effect)
  • I almost gave up [on a vacuum, the batteries didn’t last or the suction was so weak], until I used my husband’s Ryobi ZRP712 ONE Plus 18V Cordless Hand Vac. It is the hardest working little vacuum with incredible battery life. I highly recommend it.
  • I have a Ryobi, rechargable battery operated. You clean the filter.

NOTE: Battery and charger are not included — assumes you have other Ryobi tools with batteries and charger. While it’s designed for you to clean the filter, you can buy a replacement on Amazon when it gets too gunky.

Shark Lift Around (available on Amazon) — 2 recommendations

  • Small, powerful, 25 ft cord,fair sized dirt cup. We have lived aboard for almost a year and have a dog on board and this vacuum has all the accessories I need plus a power head! We have been completely happy with it, especially the price!! Less than $70!! [CKS note: could not find it for $70 online . . .]
  • Have had a Shark a/c plug in for 7 or 8 yrs on our boat and it works amazing. No bags. [Note this may be a slightly different model]

Shop Vac All-Around EZ (available on Amazon) – 1 recommendation

  • It comes with all the attachments and even has an adjustment on the floor head to drop bristles for rugs. It work for both wet and dry…inexpensive (I think it was around 40$) at Home Hardware and on our 53 the cord is long enough if I plug in the galley to do the whole boat. Very happy with it as it’s light and small enough to store and picks up dirt very well.

Shop Vac Hang Mini (available on Amazon) – 1 recommendation; 1 “okay”

  •  Our Shop-Vac Hang Mini is great when more [than a hand broom] is needed. ACE Hardware has parts throughout the Eastern Caribbean (our full-time cruising grounds). For the short time it is on, I can put up with the noise.
  •  ShopVac HangOn has done a fair job.

Shop Vac Bucket Head (available on Amazon) — 1 recommendation

  •  It met our multi tasker requirement. It fits on a standard 3 or 5 gallon bucket, it’s wet or dry, has a floor attachment as an option, has the ability to blow up the dinghy with the exhaust port. The bucket is our wash down bucket and is about to be turned into a look bucket.

NOTE: Bucket not included.

Shark Hand Held — 1 reconnedation and 1 NO

  • My husband gave me the Shark hand held…..very powerful , works great on our boat !
  • [CKS: We have a Shark Cordless Hand Held and the battery life has been horrible despite taking care to always fully dischange before recharging . . . would NOT recommend]

ArmourAll 12 volt Car Vac (available on Amazon) — 1 recommendation

  • We love our 12 volt car vac by ArmorAll. Has 20 ft cord. Has brush attachment with crevice flip out feature. Very powerful. Cost $25.

Eureka Rapid Clean (on Amazon— 1 recommendation

  • I bought this Eureka RapidClean in November of 2013, after going through several other vacs that never worked the way I wanted them to. I love this thing! I ordered extra (washable) filters and a mini attachment set at the same time. This little guy stores well, vacuums great, and the cord is long enough that I can plug it in in the saloon, and reach the entire (57′) boat.

Eureka Easy Clean (on Amazon— 1 recommendation

  • Eureka easy clean is awesome for the boat. no bs, inexpensive.

Bissell Featherweight Stick (on Amazon— 1 recommendation

  • Converts from stick to hand held
  • Had another recommendation for a Bissell Lightweight purchased at Big Lots

2-in-1 Electrolux Ergorapido (available at Costco and Amazon) — 1 recommendation

  • Love it! It’s a stick and handheld unit in one. No bags needed. Rechargeable. Works great on rugs an wood floor.

Hoover LiNX Stick Vacuum — 1 recommendation

  • We’ve used this for three years aboard. Works great on hard surfaces and the indoor/outdoor rugs we use inside. It’s fantastic.

Volta (Australian brand) — 1 recommendation

  •  I have a small Volta. Been on the boat 8 years still going strong. Fits under the steps to our cabin. Only place on the boat it can go….and a small rechargable dustbuster for little bits.

DeWalt 18 Volt Cordless (on Amazon— 1 recommendation

  • No remarks made, just a recommendation

Oreck —  1 recommendation

  • I have this cute little Oreck backpack vacumn….it’s the best!

Dirt Devil Scorpion Bagless (on Amazon—  1 recommendation

  • For galley and floors I have used the Dirt Devil Scorpion bag less vac.I have used it for five years and it and replacement filters are on Amazon.

A couple of people also recommended vacuums that they’ve had for 20+ years, but as these are no longer available, I didn’t list them here.

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • John Ahern
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Dyson, Dyson, Dyson……The best, but expensive

  • Roy Murty Robertson
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Dyson 🙂

  • Belinda Wolfe
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    For my boat I bought a Hoover Nano – Walmart $60. Does a great job, handle collapses for storage, bagless. It may be too big for some boats but I have a locker it will fit in and enough carpet to justify it. But I had a small Dyson ball at my home $400 – does a great job, handle collapses for storage, bagless. We love cruising so much we sold the home so the Dyson is now on the boat and the Hoover is in storage. But (please, don’t tell my husband) the Hoover does as good of job as the Dyson. HOWEVER the ball is better for getting around in a small area.

  • Chris
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Over the years, we found that vacuuming the boat (40 foot sail) was more like detailing a car than vacuuming a house. We asked the car detailers what they liked. The winner was the Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum. After using it for three months, we got rid of our home-style previous vacuum. This has a looong cord we can plug in once. It runs well on the inverter — low draw and no overheating. The rotating brush really cuts down on how often we have to shake out the throw rugs. With the rugs up we’ve found damp Swifters work better than the vacuum. We still have the 1 gal Scorpion aboard for cleaning up after projects. We use carpet cleaning powder to keep each from smelling if we can’t wash the filters immediately.

  • Laura Adams
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Just got a dyson! The purple animal canister. We got the smallest one and absolutely love it.

  • Mark Sierakowski
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    There is a 12 volt charger available for the Dyson chord less range. Althoe the vacume cleaners use 22 volt batteries, Dyson sell a cigarette plug charger. It must be a step up transformer. I’ve not used one, but it sounds useful.

  • Krista JG
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Yep! Dyson!

  • Rick Norby
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum, 71B has been a great vacuum on our 34 foot sailboat. Well designed, easy to use, must clean filter every other use however.

  • Jane Overbeck
    Posted at 13 May 2014 Reply

    Makita 18v compact lithium-ion cordless vacuum. Used every other day on a year-long Loop cruise to pick up much dog hair, and it worked beautifully, start to finish! On our mid-size sailboat (34′), we needed a rechargeable solution that didn’t take much space. The Makita fit the bill for us. The power tools on the boat are also Makita rechargeable so that we can interchange batteries. It was the top rated boat vacuum in Practical Sailor.

  • Ron Newton
    Posted at 14 May 2014 Reply

    Dyson DC-24, smaller size but works great I use it almost every day.

  • Susie H
    Posted at 19 May 2014 Reply

    Another vote for the Dyson hand held

  • williamjobs
    Posted at 28 May 2014 Reply

    I was bought Dyson DC25 Animal at last one month ago. I have been using daily in my home because I have two small dogs. I must say that its designed for homes with pets. It can be used on all floor types- carpet, wood, laminate, tile. DC25 Animal also features Ball technology, which allows you to smoothly steer the vacuum with a turn of the wrist.

  • Bruce (s/v Migration)
    Posted at 24 September 2014 Reply

    On Migration, we’ve been using a Eureka Mighty Mite and we love it. I’m on my second one — but that’s over twenty years. And a LOT of abuse. We are nearing the end of 1.5 years on the hard doing a major refit and this vacuum gets knocked around so much it’s unbelievable. But it keeps on going. You have to have room for it as it’s not a little hand vacuum, but it has great power and we will definitely be buying another one when this one finally gives up. We bought the reusable cloth bag so we don’t have to stock paper bags.

  • tami
    Posted at 18 February 2015 Reply

    I’d initially recommended the little Shop-Vac, but I’ve recently received a 12V Black and Decker vac for automobiles. We don’t keep the boat plugged in, and don’t have inverter nor generator, so I’m moving to 12v for everything.

    It’s got a really nifty pivoting nozzle, it’s very compact, easier to use in the boat than the SV was. Stores very neatly. Not as powerful as the SV, but as 12V vacs go, is one of the most powerful Jay (this is my first) has seen.

    Haven’t had it long, but if it holds up, the B&D is my new fave

    • Tami
      Posted at 10 November 2016 Reply

      Finally getting around to an update:

      The vac kept throwing the breaker. Then we noticed that the vac pulled 5 amps and the breaker was…5 amps. So in went a 10 amp breaker, and back in biz.

      Working to full time liveaboard so we’ll see how it holds up

  • Sami Bolton
    Posted at 12 May 2015 Reply

    I will add a note on this same thread. A few years ago I bought a floor steamer and love it for any floor ( it has a carpet floater ) but is awesome on any hard floor surface. It comes with three washable pads that Velcro to the unit. I use it all the time on both boat and land home flooring. BUT, what I really love is the hand held steam cleaner that came with it. It looks like a watering can sort of and puts out a steady stream of pressurized steam. It will melt whatever hard to reach gunk you aim it at………like around heads ( you know where they are attached with bolts or have exterior funky plumbing that is impossible to clean around ) I just put a paper towel down and it soaks up the melted gunk. Faucet handles, knobs, stoves, microwaves……..CORNERS were years of stuff builds up, melt away without scraping. It came with all sorts of attachments including a squeegee. Here is the problem…..I bought the set at the Tulsa State Fair and as of yet, have not seen this brand anywhere in a store or online. The brand is Smart Living. There are other products LIKE these out there and if I ever see this one offered online, I will follow up. We are buying a new boat soon, and these will be the first things moved on! Thanks for this thread Carolyn. It will help me with my vac purchase. We had a mini shop vac on the first live aboard s/v we had with three shedding pets and it was awesome. I had cords, so the info on cordless really helps. If anyone wants a picture just ask.

  • Sami Bolton
    Posted at 12 May 2015 Reply

    update: I just saw both products finally being offered online so google them! It looks like good old Amazon carries both.

  • Beth Tyler
    Posted at 12 May 2015 Reply

    Having had central vacuum on the Pearson True North Yachts … HAD to install it on the Monk36!! For dog hair … nothing beats central vac!!! InterVac flush mount is easy to install & takes up so little space. We mounted in the companionway to Master that backed to under the sink in Master head (space I wasn’t using anyway). only $249 and worth every penny

  • Patti Holma
    Posted at 12 May 2015 Reply

    Makita 18v lithium battery works great! Has attachments for various types of jobs- have had it 4 yrs running now – works on pet hair too!

  • Terry Michel
    Posted at 24 January 2016 Reply

    Any recommendations for a vacuum situation for a dog on board shedding situation…to vacuum the dog?

  • Beth Browne
    Posted at 18 May 2016 Reply

    After a careful reading of this article, I got the ArmorAll vacuum from Walmart and I have to say it was worth every penny of the $20 I spent for it. I just love it. DH hates the noise and would rather sweep, but even he admitted it was nice to get under the rim of the floorboards and let me tell you, they were gross. We had a roach problem last year and I’m committed to keeping the boat as clean as I can to prevent another infestation. This vacuum really helps! Thanks Carolyn for a great blog!!

  • Wayne
    Posted at 01 August 2016 Reply

    We have the DEWALT DC515K 1/2-Gallon 18-Volt NiCd Cordless Wet/Dry Vac and LOVE it. We also have some other DeWalt power tools so the batteries can be used for more than one tool. It is the longest lasting vac we have own and has good suction. Some folks complain that it is loud but heck, it is a vacuum who cares. It is not like it is on for an hour.

Post A Comment