The hunt for the best RV vacuum cleaner can be a frustrating one. The ability to try a variety of machines could require purchasing several models, or at least locating a vacuum cleaner store that has a wide variety on display for testing purposes.
Between sand from the beach, desert dust, pine needles from the forest, the fur Fido sheds, and the crumbs from your midnight snacks, RVers need a vacuum cleaner that really sucks!
Today’s post offers a guidepost for RVers. If you’re looking for a strong & durable sucker for your rig, we hope this will help.
Let’s get the job done!
- 1) Can You Use a Vacuum In an RV?
- 2) What Is the Best Vacuum for RVs?
- 3) What Features Are Important In an RV Vacuum Cleaner?
What Are the Best RV Vacuum Cleaners?
- 4.1) Upright Corded RV Vacuum Cleaners
- 4.2) Central RV Vacuum Cleaning Systems
- 4.3) Hand-Held Cordless or Corded RV Vacuums
- 5) Do You Use a Vacuum Cleaner In Your RV?
Can You Use a Vacuum In an RV?
This may seem like a silly question at first glance, but it’s actually quite reasonable. The answer depends on power, of course. But most RVs are perfectly capable of running some type of vacuum.
For those without a house battery system, the answer may be a 12-volt vacuum that charges or runs off your engine battery. Those of us who can plug in a corded vacuum cleaner can really clean our carpets well.
But yes – you can use a vacuum of some kind in just about any type of RV.
We want to acknowledge here that not every RVer needs a vacuum cleaner. Many travelers take shorter trips and are perfectly content to keep the rig as clean as possible while traveling and clean ‘er up when they get home.
Other RVers have little or no carpet in their rigs and might prefer a broom.
This post, though, is for those of us who travel full-time or part-time and really feel the need for an onboard vacuum.
What Is the Best Vacuum for RVs?
We’d love to be able to shout out a superb vacuum and declare that it’s the best RV vacuum on the market, period. While we will tell you our favorite vacuum that we use (and love!) on our own RV, it’s not always that simple. We all have different needs.
Some of us are traveling in big rigs, others in smaller RVs or vans. Some of us have more power available than others. For these reasons, we really need to break the choices down so that there are viable options offered for all RVers. This way, whether you’re traveling in motorhomes, travel trailers, or overgrown vans, we’ll have a vacuum cleaner for you.
Because we’ve been living and traveling in a 43′ big rig for nearly 20 years now, we’ll start with what we know best from personal experience, the corded vacuum. Then we’ll move on to central vac systems and hand-held vacuums, both cordless and 12V options.
But first, let’s set the record straight on what we’re all looking for in an RV vacuum.
What Features Are Important In an RV Vacuum Cleaner?
Obviously, the purpose of having a vacuum cleaner is to clean your RV. But let’s take a quick look at some specific features we all desire in an RV vacuum cleaner.
This is, obviously, one of the most important features of any vacuum cleaner. A good vacuum cleaner needs to suck! Good suction power is the most sought-after feature of the best RV vacuum cleaners – or any vacuum cleaner.
A good RV vacuum needs to be able to clean areas that are hard to reach. There are lots of tight spaces in RVs and the ability to reach areas that are tough to get to means having a good swivel head or a compact, hand-held feature.
Size is a big deal in an RV. The weight and size of everything do matter a lot. We also need adequate storage space for appliances like vacuums.
While some of us have a closet or storage bay that will accommodate an upright or stick vacuum, others require a small hand-held vacuum. Size matters!
How you intend to power your vacuum cleaner is a significant part of the equation when you’re shopping for the best RV vacuum for your situation.
If you intend to always be plugged into shore power at campgrounds and RV parks, or if you have sufficient solar or generator power, then you can opt for a corded vacuum cleaner.
If, on the other hand, you often have limited power, you may need to opt for a cordless handheld vacuum cleaner to do the job. And in this case, battery life will factor into your decision as well, because your vacuum’s run time needs to match up with your cleaning needs. (More on that in a bit.) And finally, a 12V option may be best for some.
Not everyone looks for HEPA filtration in an RV vacuum but it’s a great feature to have, particularly in a small environment. HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate air”.
HEPA filters have fibers, (typically fiberglass), with very little space between them. This allows the filter to capture tiny particles and contaminants such as pet dander, pollen, and dust mites.
HEPA filtration is a good feature to have on an RV vacuum.
Motorized Brush vs. Air-Powered Brush
This feature relates to how the vacuum works and the surfaces on which it works best.
Air-powered brushes use low-voltage power to move the air and suction debris through a small tube. So, air-powered brushes use suction to control the brush. This takes some of the suction power away from the cleaning of your RV carpets. These are best for hard floors and short carpets.
When a motor is responsible for spinning the brush, suction is not impacted. Motorized brushes are more commonly found in upright models and are best for higher pile carpets (with longer fibers), like those found in some luxury motorhomes.
What Are the Best RV Vacuum Cleaners?
As previously noted, the best RV vacuum cleaner depends on the type of RV you have and on your style of RVing. But we do own our favorite model and we can’t say enough great things about it. So we’ve listed that one first, as it’s our own personal first choice.
Upright Corded RV Vacuum Cleaners
We’ll begin with upright corded vacuums which are most appropriate for larger motorhomes and travel trailers.
In this category, we absolutely must start with our personal favorite vacuum cleaner. We read about it in The New York Times Wirecutter, (paid access which we subscribe to). Much like Consumer Reports, they test the heck out of scores of products. They’ve ranked our Shark Navigator Lift-Away as their Number One Pick for something like 7 years running. We bought ours on their recommendation, and now wonder what we ever did without it!
We’ve owned and used a Shark NV352 for about a year now, and we LOVE this vacuum cleaner. It’s far and away our favorite vacuum ever.
But remember – we have a 43′ motorhome with our ultimate RV solar panel system and, in case we need it, a powerful generator. We have no trouble at all plugging in a corded upright vacuum and cleaning the entire rig. In fact, we prefer a corded vacuum because it’s one less thing we have to worry about keeping charged. And it’s powerful!
It’s not going to be the right vacuum for every RVer. But if you’re in the market for a corded upright, we highly recommend it.
With that noted, let’s get into what we love about this vacuum. (Bear with us, as this is the vacuum with which we’re most familiar. We’ll try to be a bit more brief with the models that follow.)
First, the pros:
- It REALLY sucks… like an amazing amount. We’re slightly embarrassed (okay, not really) to share this, but when we used it the first time, we did so immediately after vacuuming with our old vacuum. We were HORRIFIED by how much dirt and debris it pulled out of our carpeting, showing just how much our old vacuum had been leaving behind!
- It has a powered beater bar, which really does a great job on carpets.
- It’s reasonably small for an upright, and fits in our closet quite easily.
- It has a very long cord that we can plug into a single outlet near the middle of our RV. It reaches all the way to the front and back without having to move the plug (handy for making quick work of vacuuming).
- It’s reasonably priced, especially for such a high-quality piece of gear.
- It comes with a good assortment of accessories that make it easy to use. These include an upholstery brush (great for cleaning vent fan screens!), a short crevice tool, and a longer crevice tool.
- The lift-away (detachable pod) feature makes it very modular. So, it works great as an upright, but can be carried around like a small, light canister vacuum, too. This is great for stairs and furniture, for example.
- The swivel head makes it very maneuverable and easy to steer, even in tight places.
- Replacement parts are supposedly easy to come by (although we’ve never needed any).
Now let’s take a look at the one and only con we’ve found:
- The hose is fairly short. But this isn’t much of a problem thanks to the lift-away feature.
We’re sharing these details based on our personal experience over the past year of regular use.
The Shark NV352 has “Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology” as well as a HEPA filter. These work to trap dust, allergens, and other contaminants inside the vacuum.
The NV352 has a brush roller shut-off that lets you switch instantly from cleaning a deep carpet to cleaning a bare floor. We have both, and it works beautifully throughout. our entire rig.
The Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away vacuum weighs 14 pounds.
- Lift-Away: Lift Away the detachable pod and easily clean, above-floor areas like stairs and furniture.
- Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology and a HEPA filter trap dust and allergens inside the vacuum.
BISSELL 2999 MultiClean Allergen Pet Vacuum
Those of you who travel with dogs and cats might be partial to this vacuum as it specifically targets pet hair and dander, and even includes special “pet tools” and a floor tool.
The Bissell 2999 has a HEPA sealed filter system and swivel steering. This vacuum gets excellent user reviews for maneuverability, suction, and cleaning up pet hair. It has an extended quick-release wand that provides over 12 feet of reach for cleaning hard-to-reach areas, including ceiling corners and the like.
The Bissell 2999 weighs 15.7 pounds.
- Every Purchase Saves Pets. BISSELL proudly supports BISSELL Pet Foundation and its mission to help save homeless pets.
- Powerful Cleaning Performance. Effectively remove pet hair and other debris across multiple surfaces with powerful suction and the Tangle-Free Brush...
Yes, another Shark product. Shark does vacuums well. The HV302 is a lightweight stick vacuum that, though corded, may be the perfect size for an RV. It has swivel steering and a pet multi-tool and precision duster.
This vacuum gets high ratings for cleaning both carpets and bare floors, and it converts easily to a hand-held vacuum.
The Shark HV302 weighs only 8.2 pounds and the stick can easily be used overhead for cleaning ceiling corners and other high places.
It gets rave reviews for great suction.
- SHARK ROCKET PET CORDED STICK VACUUM: Ultra-powerful, corded cleaning on carpets and hard floors.
- PERFECT FOR PETS: Powerful pet hair pickup attachments like the pet-multi tool make cleaning pet hair a breeze.
Central RV Vacuum Cleaning Systems
Central vacuum systems that are sized for RVs work in a similar fashion to central vac systems found in homes. In an RV, they may be mounted in a storage compartment or on a wall. The suction outlets can be mounted on the floor, the wall, or the kick-panel of stairs if you’ve got a 5th wheel.
Once mounted and connected, you just bring out the hose, flip the cover of the vacuum outlet open, and place the end of the hose in the outlet. You’ll connect whatever attachment you want to use, and the suction will be supplied through the outlet.
We mounted a central vacuum cleaning system to the wall of our friends’ RV, and you can see how we did it here:
HP Products 9880 Dirt Devil Central Vacuum System
With hundreds of five-star ratings from Amazon reviewers, this Dirt Devil is consistently a top-rated RV central vacuum system.
This central vac has a HEPA filtration system and comes with multiple accessories designed specifically for RVs. The all-metal vacuum box is sturdy and durable, and the system is backed by a 5-year warranty.
The vacuum box weighs only 14 pounds and requires a space of only 6.25″ x 7″ x 14.5″ for mounting. It requires 120V for operation. The system has overheat protection and an automatic reset. Dirt capacity is one gallon.
Many reviewers call this system a must-have and note the fact that installing it will raise the value of an RV. They typically tout the generous hose length, with one reviewer noting that there’s sufficient hose to run it out the RV door and into his car to vacuum the vehicle!
There’s high, high praise out there from users of the 9880 Dirt Devil.
- Built in for convenience and space-saving purposes
- 7' to 35' expandable length hose
Hand-Held Cordless or Corded RV Vacuums
In this section, we’ll feature some of the higher-rated smaller hand-held vacuums. These can be mounted if desired. All require either the ability to be charged (and thus ready when you need them) or a 12V cord for plugging into a 12V outlet in your RV or van.
Cordless hand-held vacuums are notorious for insufficient suction, so we worked to find a few that have a majority of decent reviews from users.
BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Handheld Vacuum
Another Black & Decker product, this hand-held vacuum has a 20V lithium-ion battery giving you a bit longer to scoop up the crumbs in your RV. It has a pivoting nozzle and a high-performance motor that allows for a fair amount of suction as hand-helds go.
While we don’t own this vacuum ourselves, we can tell you why we’re confident in placing it at the top of this category: It’s the NY Times Wirecuttter’s winning pick as The Best Handheld Vacuum. They said it “has more suction than any other cordless handheld vacuum” they tested, with the exception of a far more expensive (and not currently available) model from Dyson.
It has a three-stage filtration system and, like the previous model, has cyclonic action to spin dust and debris away from the filter. And while the Wirecutter’s testing showed a less-than-ideal no-fade average of 10 minutes run-time per charge, they still picked it as their #1 choice. They said its strong suction makes up for any lack of longer battery life.
It comes with a standing charging base and needs to be plugged into 120V power to charge. It has a little crevice tool and brush that remain onboard the vacuum for handy access.
This little vacuum weighs just three pounds.
- Dustbowl capacity 15 ounces; Lithium technology for strong suction and fade free power
- Exclusive pivoting nozzle means huge power in a compact size
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum
Right near the top of the list of hand-held vacuums is the Pet Hair Eraser from Bissell. With an average of 4.7 stars from over 26,000 Amazon reviewers, if you’re in the market for a cordless hand-held vacuum, this might just be the RV vacuum for you.
This vacuum has a 14V lithium-ion battery that allows it to provide the run-time you need to clean throughout a mid-size or smaller RV (up to 17 minutes).
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser has a large dirt bin and triple-level filtration and comes with a motorized brush tool, an upholstery tool, and a crevice tool.
This vacuum is 16 inches long but only weighs 3 pounds. Four lithium-ion batteries are required to run it and are included with the vacuum. Just remember to keep it charged!
- Buy Bissell, save pets; Bissell will donate 5 dollars for each pet hair eraser Li Ion purchase, upon activation
- Remove more embedded dirt and pet hair with a motorized brush tool and lithium ion battery
BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Cordless Handheld Vacuum
This Black & Decker Dustbuster is a more typical hand-held vacuum and seems to be quite popular with almost 42,000 Amazon reviews, 87% of which are 4- and 5-star reviews.
This Dustbuster comes with a crevice tool, push-in brush, and a high-capacity bagless dirt bowl. Reviewers seem to agree that the suction is great for a small machine like this, though run-time is anywhere from 10-15 minutes depending on how steadily you’re running it.
Users state that this battery needs to be plugged in for 3-6 hours and then can be unplugged until its battery life has been depleted from use. The internal battery is lithium-ion.
This little vacuum with cyclonic action weighs only 2.11 pounds and has a limited 2-year warranty.
- MULTI-SURFACE USE – Removes hair, dirt, and debris from carpets, car interiors, furniture, and high-traffic areas.
- LIGHTWEIGHT AND PORTABLE – Easy to carry and maneuver, even in tight spaces.
QYHY Portable 12V Car Vacuum Cleaner
Our final hand-held vacuum on the list of best RV vacuums is this little 12V corded hand-held unit that was designed for use in the vehicle detailing profession.
It has an LED light that illuminates when the vacuum is in use. The vacuum can be used as a wet or dry vac. It has a high-power motor with reportedly strong suction, and comes with a brush nozzle, an extended hose, and a slot pipette for corners and slots. It also has a washable HEPA filter.
The 12V power cord is 16.4 feet (yes, FEET) in length! This unit weighs only 1.9 pounds but still packs a punch.
- Strong suction and lightweight. car vacuum cleaner adopts 100w/12v high-power motor with a strong suction power of up to 8000pa, the noise is...
- Fully-equipped multifunctional accessories. this portable car vacuum cleaner is equipped with a brush nozzle, an extended hose, a slot pipette, a...
Do You Use a Vacuum Cleaner In Your RV?
Feel free to drop us a comment letting us know whether or not you carry a vacuum in your RV. If you’ve got one you really love (as much as we love ours), be sure to share the details!
Geek Out with Us Every Week
Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. So, whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!
Sunday 24th of July 2022
The problem with a cordless is you need to find a location with power to mount it. I prefer a corded which I can stow anywhere. I have a handheld 120v Bissell pet hair eraser. Serious OOMPH!
Sunday 24th of July 2022
We're with you, TJL. We've got enough other things that need charging... we've never wanted to have our vacuum be one of them. Though with the battery life on some of the new ones, you may be able to get away with just charging it now and again, as opposed to every time it's returned to a cradle.
Sunday 24th of July 2022
We have had a Dirt Devil Power Stick Lite 110 volt upright vac for 1 year, using it in our 40 Class A DP. It does a great job of cleaning the entire length of our full-time home including carpet and tile using the motor powered brush. It also comes apart for use as a hand-held corded vac. I doubt that it has a HEPA filter (but I haven't noticed it spewing dust out of the backside). It is very light weight and reasonably quiet (for a vacuum cleaner anyway). I use it for vacuuming everything except getting the lint out of our Splendide dryer which requires the DirtDevil built in house vac with my custom built flexible hose adapter to reach places where lint gets past the lint filter!
Sunday 24th of July 2022
Great to hear about your experience, Larry. Thanks for sharing!
Sunday 24th of July 2022
You might want to proofread your description on the QYHY vac where you seem to limit it to a 20 minute run time despite the fact that it is powered by 12 volts supplied by the vehicle's battery. And stating that its use is limited to only men and women might be unnecessarily restrictive nowadays.
Sunday 24th of July 2022
Hi Larry! Thanks for catching that typo about the run time. We’ve corrected the post. As far as the reference to men and women, that is being fed directly from Amazon, and we agree it’s weird!
Sunday 24th of July 2022
Well, I'm VERY surprised on this one, as it's definitely not what I would have thought, by going by the numerous forum and Facebook posts I've read the last couple years on this topic, as the winner is the same nearly every time! The answer is always the same 'Dyson' of which we have the V10 stick version, which is very light, has great suction, has accessories for the smallest of places, and the beater bar works great, for the few these days that still have carpet! Dyson of course has a higher/newer version, but we've found our current 3 year old V10 is working as good today, as the day we bought it! Initially, we bought it for our 36' Tiffin DP motorhome, but now our built in system in our house has been pushed to the side for the last 3 years as well, as the Dyson has taken over all our cleaning purposes, and comes out like a champ!
Friday 19th of August 2022
Sunday 24th of July 2022
Hi Dale! Thanks so much for mentioning Dyson. Great to hear that you’re so happy with it. The reason we didn’t include it is because it’s so incredibly expensive, and has been written about a lot. We decided to feature some more affordable options, including our own, which in case we didn’t mention, we absolutely love!