Test­bench: vac­uum clean­ers

Mod­ern com­pact vacs are ex­pen­sive to buy, but jus­ti­fi­ably so if they are good enough for your home and your car­a­van. James Stan­bury tests 10 to see which man­age both

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

James Stan­bury re­views a clutch of por­ta­ble clean­ers ideal for tak­ing on tour

What you need is a vac­uum cleaner that is pow­er­ful enough for your house, but com­pact enough for tour­ing

NO­BODY GOES ON hol­i­day to spend their time vac­u­um­ing. But the days of a car­a­van’s floor be­ing a 4ft x 3ft piece of lino – kept in trim by a brush and a mop – are long gone. To­day, large car­a­vans are a mix­ture of sump­tu­ous car­pets, up­hol­stery and hard floor­ing. Step out of the door and you’ll likely find your­self in a large awning – which may well have a camp­ing car­pet style floor, too. For­tu­nately, vac­u­ums have also moved on. Af­ter launch­ing their bag­less cy­clone ma­chines, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Dyson rev­o­lu­tionised the asth­matic hand­held mod­els that used to be avail­able. Less pre­dictable, though, was how adding an extension tube to these hand­helds, and a clip-on full-spec floor head for the end of said tube, would sound the death knell for tra­di­tional mains up­right and cylin­der vac­uum clean­ers. But that’s where we’re at – with Dyson and sim­i­lar ‘stick vac­u­ums’ from other brands. The good news is that these mod­els are ab­so­lutely bril­liant for tour­ing. As well as be­ing com­pact and light, they’re as well suited to clean­ing large ar­eas – car­pet or hard sur­face – as the oc­ca­sional spill of cof­fee beans or break­fast ce­real. So al­though these mod­els are rather pricey, es­pe­cially in cord­less guise, they are in ef­fect, two mod­els in one – a vac­uum cleaner that’s pow­er­ful enough for your house, but also com­pact enough to come away tour­ing with you.

High per­for­mance

But per­for­mance varies mas­sively, which is where we started our tests. We kicked off with a large of­f­cut of car­pet that we di­vided into strips – one per vac. On each strip, we worked 200g of a sand and flour mix­ture deep into the pile, and mea­sured how much of the grime each vac man­aged to pull out in a sin­gle pass. To test per­for­mance on hard sur­faces, we pit­ted each model against the ul­ti­mate foe – small plas­tic beads on lam­i­nate floor. Be­ing bouncy, tiny and rel­a­tively heavy for their size, the beads are much more likely to be driven away from the vac head than sucked up by it, mean­ing only mod­els with the best brush ar­range­ment and suc­tion will get de­cent points. Our fi­nal sur­face test was a camp­ing car­pet. Be­ing light­weight and not fixed to the ground, these can be ex­tremely tricky to vac­uum, as the vac head of­ten sim­ply sucks them in or picks them up. But a good tour­ing vac must be able to deal with them. With cord­less mod­els, we ranked each model in or­der of clean­ing abil­ity be­tween charges. As well as tim­ing the max­i­mum run du­ra­tion at full power and con­sid­er­ing if more than one bat­tery is sup­plied (in ef­fect dou­bling the run time), we fac­tored run time against the car­pet test results to com­pare like with like – mod­els that suck up more grime are faster to use and con­se­quently, don’t need to be on as long. We also ap­praised the ac­ces­sories, whether they could all be used in hand­held and extension mode, and whether es­sen­tial tools – such as the main floor and up­hol­stery tool – use ro­tat­ing brushes. These im­prove per­for­mance by ag­i­tat­ing the dirt be­fore pick­ing it up, and leave the sur­face look­ing bet­ter. Fi­nally, we con­sid­ered each model’s ease-of-use fac­tors, such as size and weight, whether it can be safely stored up­right, num­ber of power lev­els, ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and bin ca­pac­ity – the big­ger, the bet­ter.

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