VANCOUVER -- Spring cleaning can be time-consuming, but one easy way to stay on top of it is with a small vacuum, like a stick or hand vac. Consumer Reports did a battery of tests to see which one leaves the rest in the dust.

Melissa Morris Iona has two children under the age of four. These days, her stick vacuum is a go-to appliance.

“We actually keep the vacuum out all the time now,” she says. “With a one-year-old, we’re vacuuming all the time.”

Small vacuums, like stick or hand vacs, are handy for quick pick-ups and supplement the deeper cleaning of a regular vacuum, Sue Booth says. She’s an engineer with Consumer Reports.

“We found that in the past few years the suction power has gotten a lot stronger in many larger stick vacuums,” she says. “So they’re even better cleaners.”

Consumer Reports tested a number of vacuums on carpets and bare floors, with rice, sand and cat hair. The vacuums that picked up the most scored highest. Testers also conducted a clean emissions test to ensure that they wouldn't release dust back into the air in your home.

If you’re tempted by the convenience of a cordless stick vac, Booth says think again.

“We discovered that almost half of battery-powered stick vacs will develop problems within five years; the biggest being that battery life gets worse over time,” she says. “Corded stick vacs are generally more reliable.”

Consumer Reports recommends the Shark APEX UpLight Lift-Away DuoClean. It received excellent marks for cleaning all types of floors, and has an extendable hose built-in for hard-to-reach spots.

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Slim aced pet hair tests. It has a large bin, and the brush turns off to clean hard floors.

Handheld vacuums are great for reaching nooks and crannies around both your house and your car. Tests found the Black and Decker Dustbuster does an excellent job picking up dirt on bare floors, and does a very good job handling edges and pet hair.

With files from Consumer Reports