The Black+Decker Flex Vac BDH2020FL is a solid, all-around vacuum that does an excellent job getting into all of those difficult-to-clean places. No matter the type of mess in your home or car, this vacuum can likely handle it. On top of that, it is excellent at cleaning up after your furry friends, collecting pet hair with ease. However, the Flex Vac usually requires two hands to operate, is quite loud, and has a lackluster battery life, making it a bit more of a hassle to use than some of the other products in our lineup of handheld vacuums. Despite these relatively minor drawbacks, it's still a great vacuum, and we highly recommend it to anyone who wants well-rounded performance.Editor's Note: We updated this gear review on January 11, 2022, with additional information on what we would buy and if there are any other handheld vacuums we would consider.
Black+Decker Flex Vac BDH2020FL Review
Pros: Great for getting those hard-to-clean areas, good value
Cons: Lackluster battery life, takes two hands to operate, loud
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In our quest to find the best handheld vacuum out there, we compared the specs of multiple products on the market, then bought the most-promising contenders to pit head-to-head. We evaluated and scored six separate test metrics, which together make a product's overall performance score. In the end, the Black+Decker Flex Vac BDH2020FL had admirable results, and we discuss them below.
Dust & Dirt
Our first test metric dealt with the type of messes most commonly encountered: dust and dirt. We scored each vacuum on how long it took to properly clean fine particles off a statically charged plastic photo screen and accumulated mud and dirt from a hard surface. We also scored how well each contender cleaned the dust off a small area and a corner. The Flex Vac did pretty well in all of these challenges.
The Flex Vac fared well in our dusting test, cleaning a sheet of flour in about 21 seconds with its medium-stiffness bristle brush attachment.
Unfortunately, this vacuum didn't do as well with caked-on dirt and mud, taking around 20 seconds to clean it all up in our test, one of the longer times compared to the group, though not by much.
However, the Flex Vac fully redeemed itself in other areas, easily cleaning the top of a baseboard and a window sill with its bristle brush attachment, even getting into tight corners.
Our next metric looked at how well each of these products cleans up trickier messes from more challenging surfaces, like carpet or upholstery fabric.
Our first challenge for this group was testing out how well each vacuum cleaned up flour from a low-pile, automotive-style carpet section. We used the nozzle of the nozzle/brush combo for this test, with the Flex Vac performing about average. It left a decent amount of flour behind, but we eventually got it pretty clean with multiple passes.
Next, we crushed oats and spread them out on an upholstered cushion and the same car carpet section. Using the same tool, the Flex Vac did a bit better on the cushion, getting the vast majority of the oats and only leaving a bit of dust behind. However, it would occasionally suck down to the fabric, flinging some oats to the side. It didn't fling any oats to the side on the carpet section, but there were still plenty of leftover oat fragments lodged in the carpet fibers that the Flex Vac couldn't entirely extract.
The Flex Vac finished out the last cleaning test of this metric with a strong showing, sucking up all of the Mini-Wheats cereal we placed before it without any clogging.
Lastly, we measured the airspeed each vacuum generated with an anemometer. The Flex Vac was above average in this test, with the anemometer reading 1427 feet per minute (fpm) of airflow in our testing apparatus. This reading wasn't the highest in our group (hello Black+Decker HHVI315JO42 with an 1889 fpm!), but it's above average.
Moving on, we looked at how effective each of these products is at cleaning deep within cracks, crevices, and other difficult-to-access areas, such as under kitchen appliances. The Flex Vac did a phenomenal job in this metric.
The Flex Vac got off to a great start in our first test, easily cleaning out the small gap in the track of a window. We filled this space with crushed oats, and this vacuum sucked them all out without any signs of struggle using its crevice tool. The Flex continued its excellent performance in our crevice tests, easily reaching 36" into a 3" gap, effectively cleaning the entire way. Essentially, if you can fit your hand in the gap, you can fit this vacuum.
The Flex Vac finished this testing metric with a strong showing when we cut the size of the gap down to 1.25". It was only able to reach about 7.5" when using the crevice tool, but this is the furthest any of the products we have tested.
Unfortunately, the Flex Vac performance took a dip in our battery life metric. The overall runtime of this vacuum is quite mediocre, especially when compared to the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser, which has a slightly longer run time. Still, the Flex Vac is better than some contenders.
This vacuum only has a single cleaning mode, and you can expect it to last for about 15 minutes on a full charge. It takes about 4 hours to recharge completely, making it challenging to clean larger areas with this product. Therefore, a premium vacuum cleaner might be a more suitable device if you're consistently vacuuming larger spaces.
Our convenience metric encompasses how easy it is to empty the collection bin, store the various attachments, the weight of each vacuum, as well as how loud they are.
The Flex Vac weighs 3 lbs without any tools and is far from the lightest handheld vacuum in our lineup, such as the Bissell AeroSlim, which weighs 1.2 lbs. With that said, all the tools are relatively light and don't add much weight from there.
The Flex Vac also lost some points for being one of the noisiest handheld vacuums we tested. It's too loud to carry on a conversation over, and it would likely disturb someone working on a computer or watching TV in the same room. However, we appreciate that emptying the collection bin is super easy, and the container is good-sized at 0.5 liters.
The Flex Vac includes three tools but doesn't offer a convenient way to store them on the main unit, but it does have a spot for them on the charging base. The main unit has a charging dock to set the vacuum on to recharge, which is more convenient than plugging it in each time.
We love furry friends, but, let's face it, hair can quickly accumulate on surfaces. Therefore, our remaining test metric evaluated how well each vacuum cleaned up pet hair. Using donated pet hair from a local pet grooming salon, we spread the fluff out on carpet and cushions to see how much each vacuum successfully collected, and then we scored their performance. Compared to others, the Flex Vac did quite well.
This vacuum lacks a powered bristle brush attachment but does have a dedicated pet hair tool with stiff rubber bristles. While we were initially a little skeptical, this tool proved its worth, with the Flex Vac collecting close to 95% of the hair from both test surfaces without too much work.
Should You Buy the Black+Decker Flex Vac BDH2020FL?
In a nutshell, yes. The Flex Vac is an award-winning option that offers the best balance of performance. It's not the most expensive option in our lineup, but it does require dishing out some money. If you seek a handheld vacuum to supplement your floor and surface cleaning needs, we recommend it to anyone who doesn't want to make too many sacrifices regarding performance.
What Other Handheld Vacuums Should You Consider?
The Black+Decker HHVI320JR02 is an attractive option if you're on a tight budget. Although its overall performance is inferior to the Flex Vac, it's a decent and wallet-friendly option that can manage tough messes but not pet hair. Therefore, if you're regularly cleaning up after your furry friends, we suggest going with the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser. It's less money than the Flex Vac and is designed to tackle pet hair, giving it a slight advantage.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise
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