Well, that wasn't very good...
February 1, 2009 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Those pretentious Dyson vacuum cleaner commercials have me thinking about the potential inferiority of my trusty steed...

I just sprinkled some hot chocolate powder onto a standard rug and brushed it in and my vacuum failed miserably at picking it up with the floor agitator even when I set the agitator lower a notch and it was definitely grinding into the carpet. I then switched over to the hose and picked the stuff up easily, and the suction on the hose didn't even seem that formidable. Is a floor vacuum supposed to be able to pick up stuff like that relatively easily with the agitator?
Is it true what the Dyson commercial is telling me about normal vacuum cleaners losing suction over time? What causes this besides the bag becoming more full?
Does my vacuum cleaner blow, and if so, what should I be looking for in the sucky variety?
posted by who else to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I love my dyson. BUt now that they have a canister vac, I would get that instead. Don't get the ball one. It handles like trying to drive a noodle. But they really do suck. I have the D-07 all-floors and my mom has the DC-14 Animal. And no, they don't lose suction like the bags and canisters do.

That said, consumer reports says Dyson's are over-rated.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:10 PM on February 1, 2009

From Consumer Reports:

"Upright vacuums are still best overall for deep-cleaning carpets and are lower priced and easier to store than canisters. For most consumers, Consumer Reports found that the Kenmore (Sears) Progressive 35922, $350, which is quiet and excellent on carpets, the Kenmore (Sears) Progressive 36932, $350, which is a bagless option, and the Eureka Boss Smart Vac 4870, $150, which is inexpensive and impressive on bare floors, are the best choices. All three of these models are designated CR Best Buys.

"Canisters are a great option for consumers who are in the market for a vacuum that cleans bare floors, stairs, drapes, and upholstery. Canisters are more stable on stairs and flexible around and under furniture than uprights. Consumer Reports found that the CR Best Buy Kenmore Progressive 27514, $300, offers fine pet-hair performance and the CR Best Buy Hoover WindTunnel Bagless S3765-040, $250, offers higher airflow for tools."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:14 PM on February 1, 2009

Consumer Reports ranked the Hoover WindTunnel Anniversary Edition U6485-900 and the Kenmore Progressive 35922 upright vacs way above the Dyson Animal. But really, if your vacuum gets it clean enough for you, then it works the way it's supposed to.
posted by electroboy at 6:15 PM on February 1, 2009

I have a Bissell that we bought on sale for $75 at Wal-mart, and it does just as good a job as a friend's Dyson. We've done side by side tests on the surfaces in my house -- berber carpet, an oriental area rug, and the laminate wood and vinyl flooring. It probably helps that I regularly clean the filters, have disassembled it down to the motor to clean it out (which helped to an amazing degree - dust had built up on the fan vanes), and generally keep it as clean as possible on the inside. Mine is the standard clear bagless upright; I think it's the original ClearView.

I have two dogs and live in a rural area that ha a lot of dirt / dust / pollen blowing in the air, so the vacuum sees constant use. I'm also allergic to everything under the sun, so I'm constantly cleaning, vacuuming, and dusting with a damp cloth to keep the airborne dust down to a minimum.
posted by SpecialK at 6:19 PM on February 1, 2009

I found that the Dysons are easier to take better care of than other vacuums I have owned. I have a DC-17 that I got for 250$ on woot.com

I'd wait until woot has one up and you'll get your awesome Dyson for 200$ less than everyone else.
posted by zephyr_words at 6:35 PM on February 1, 2009

I have determined that the Dyson is a miracle of modern marketing.
Trust CP and get a Hoover or a Kenmore.
posted by Seamus at 6:46 PM on February 1, 2009

Response by poster: I've ordered some new filters for my vacuum and perhaps I will be able to return some of my vacuum's former sucking glory, but the question remains, should I be able to roll my vacuum cleaner over some hot chocolate mix and pick it up, or not really? Of course the main thing that I want my vacuum to be able to pick up is more microscopic than chocolate powder, but I figure if it isn't picking that up it isn't a good sign.
I did an experiment once where I vacuumed my basement and emptied the canister and cleaned out the filter and then vacuumed again and I kept doing that and every time I would come up with a similar amount of dust except the dust would get more and more like fluffy light snow rather than sand and 'pure' looking. Weird.
posted by who else at 6:51 PM on February 1, 2009

This Hoover Widepath Tempo vacuum is absolutely amazing. I've had mine for about 6 months and I love love love it. Seventy bucks!
posted by selfmedicating at 6:53 PM on February 1, 2009

We bought a Dyson

I actually enjoy vacuuming

They are the shit
posted by mattoxic at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Way over rated.
posted by JayRwv at 7:05 PM on February 1, 2009

It's not just the "suckage" with the dyson, it is the total ease of emptying the thing. Push a button over a trash can, it's empty. It's great.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:07 PM on February 1, 2009

We have the Dyson DC14, which is the best vacuum cleaner we've owned. Our prior Hoover Windtunnel repeatedly broke, and before that, our faithful Kenmore cannister (which was difficult to shlep) simply wore out after years of use.

Best thing about the Dyson is its easy-to-remove dustbin. You'll never go back to bags. The vacuum's suction is excellent, and it is extremely sturdy and reliable.

Our only frustration with the Dyson is its telescope-reach wand-tool, which is difficult to retract into its compacted position after it has been extended. One has to wrestle and jiggle it to snap it back into place.

If I had to buy another vacuum in the future, though, I'd certainly stick with Dyson.
posted by terranova at 7:12 PM on February 1, 2009

I started with a hand-me-down Kirby that was made in 1965 or so. The thing weighed at least 30 lbs, and it had a non-detachable cloth bag. To empty it, I had to lift the entire vacuum over the garbage bin and empty it from the bottom, smacking the cloth bag around, hoping that everything in there would come out. It would easily eat my current Dyson alive.

However, of all the vaccuums I've owned since my beloved Kirby went down, the Dyson is the easiest. It's easy to take apart and clean, which is great because I have long hair that I constantly shed. It's lightweight, has great suction, etc. I have no idea which model I have (it's yellow) so this may not be true of current models, but the only thing I hate about it is that I have to unwind the cord to use the hose attachment, which is irritating when I just want to suck up some spilled rice or something.

It still pales in comparison to my Kirby, though.
posted by dogmom at 7:16 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, there is the animal called a Shop Vac. I'm just saying.

Also, I feel way better and less freakishly alone after hearing about home home vacuum science fun.

Also, on the Shop Vac - wet and dry.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:20 PM on February 1, 2009

I love my Dyson. I killed two other expensive vacuums with pet hair before I finally dropped around $400 on a factory-refurb Dyson five or six years ago; got the purple "Animal" model.

It works great, and on the one or two times it's gotten stuff in it that shouldnt be in a vacuum, it comes apart like a darned Transformer in pieces (without tools) and I can easily fix it.
posted by mrbill at 7:51 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

We've had a Dyson for about 5 years now. It works great and as confirmed by others, is easy to empty and clean. When it dies I'll get another Dyson.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:02 PM on February 1, 2009

I have a Dyson, and wouldn't buy one again. It still has suction and it's great when I pull the hose out and use the attachments, but if I use it upright, it won't pick anything up at all... it's like the head doesn't create a seal with the floor enough to pick anything up.

Following this thread on Fatwallet, I'm thinking of picking up a Hoover Whisper to replace it.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:09 PM on February 1, 2009

I think if I had to summarize the above I would say this: Yes, when they're at their best, other vacuums will work as well as Dyson. However, to keep them at their best you have to be nursemaid to your vacuum. Empty them often, clean the filters, etc, and with most vacuums doing these things is a total pain. The Dyson works at it's best pretty much all the time and if you do want to do anything with it (empty it, find your lost earring, or remove some giant thing you vacuumed up) it's super easy.

On the canister vs. upright, I find the canisters easier to use because I'm short. The thing with the dysons (and most uprights, I'm guessing) is that there's a handle for carrying on top and the idea is that you grab onto that and carry it. Ok, fair enough if you're average height, you can grab the handle and leave your arm hanging down as you walk and carry it. If you're short, that doesn't work. If you leave your arm hanging down, the vacuum is still on the floor. You have to lift your arm from the elbow/shoulder while keeping your hand in the handle-holding position to lift it off the ground, and that's an uncomfortable position for carrying heavy things. I have the same problem with the bigger shopping bags one gets from department stores/staples/electronics stores, etc. But it's not a problem with canisters!

Oh, and I got mine for $210 on eBay, refurb. I picked it up locally from the warehouse so no shipping costs.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:10 PM on February 1, 2009

MegoSteve: Are you tilting the upright part back so its angle from the floor (at the front) is greater than 90 degrees? If you leave it upright (90 degrees) it assumes you're using the hose and the floor/carpet portion is turned off.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:12 PM on February 1, 2009

Yes, I am.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:18 PM on February 1, 2009

My experience with the Dyson is that it's the AK-47 of the vacuum world. Sure, other vacuums might be better at some things. But the Dyson is good at all of them, and you can drag it through the jungle and it'll be just as good on Day 1000 as it was on Day 1.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:55 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To answer your question: I just poured some hot chocolate powder (1/s packed of Swiss Miss milk chocolate) on my light tan carpet and vacuumed over it with my 2 year old Dyson Animal. It visibly picked it all up , though if I stick my nose down in the carpet it does have a very vague chocolate smell. If you want I'll do it again and take video.

I like my Dyson a lot and think it's well worth it. But not because it cleans so well (though it does) but because I like to use it. I vacuum just for fun now, probably 4x as often as I used to. The end result is my house is cleaner and allergens are down significantly so I'm healthier.
posted by Ookseer at 8:57 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mr. WanKenobi repairs vacuums for an Electrolux franchise (though he doesn't just repair Electroluxes, but all brands). His feeling seems to be that other vacuums, particularly cheap uprights (Dirt Devils) suck, but so do Dysons. I'll get in touch with him so he can comment on this thread as to exactly why.

And, while obviously he's generally partial to Electrolux brand vacuums, I have to say I agree with him: my current vac is a 30 year old Electrolux that his store was going to gut for parts, and it works great. No problem with losing suction there. If there's an Electrolux franchise near you that sells refurbed old canisters, I'd definitely look into them. These things are metal and often bulky, but are total workhorses that have been proven to last decades.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:05 PM on February 1, 2009

I work for a cleaning service, and all of the vacuums that we use are the ~$50 Wal*Mart Bissells that SpecialK recommended above. We've tried several vacuums and prefer the Bissells; we beat the heck out of those things and they keep on suckin'. I recommend them to everyone.

We occasionally clean for clients that own Dysons and ask us to use them instead, and there's no noticeable difference in raw cleaning ability. The Dysons are nice to use for other reasons, though; they glide well, don't rattle, and take less effort to operate. If I could afford one, I'd get one.

The Bissells will eventually lose suction if not maintained; there are several fliters that get clogged up. It's not that big of a deal to clean them, though... they're all easily accessible, and it's a matter of popping them out, rinsing, and popping them back in, with the exception of a foam ring that needs to dry first. I'm not familiar with your Dirt Devil, but it may have some clogged-up filter action going on.
posted by Gianna at 9:21 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

when we got a dyson at work the only differance i noticed was that it weighs a ton. it did the same job and broke down just as fast as every other vacuum we ever had.
posted by swbarrett at 10:52 PM on February 1, 2009

I've got one of those $50 Bissells, and actually I just bought a new one. I tried cleaning the filter on my old one and part of it fell off, resulting in a vacuum that would just blow dust around and not really clean anything. It lasted a couple years but I don't need to vacuum that often.

The price of a new Dyson would keep me in Bissells for decades, so I'm not really sure why I would want to drop that kind of dough.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 PM on February 1, 2009

Our Dyson with a HEPA filter makes it possible for me to live in a very small flat with a cat, even though I'm allergic. They're worth every penny IMHO.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:30 AM on February 2, 2009

I thought about a Dyson when my ancient Electrolux finally gave up the ghost a couple months ago, but I got one of these Black & Decker vacuums instead. Love it.
posted by emelenjr at 1:17 AM on February 2, 2009

Cut and paste of my post from late 2006:

Choice confirms that, despite a range of problems relating to performance and repairs, Dyson owners are most likely to recommend the brand to others. Dyson upright cleaners consistently perform at or near the bottom of Choice's scores for dirt removal from carpet, scratching hard floors, cleaning edges and corners, ease of use and noise. One Dyson upright's powerhead actually reduced dirt removal by 7%. Continuous suction doesn't mean much at the end of the day.

Choice (and I) recommend Miele vacuum cleaners.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:59 AM on February 2, 2009

FWIW, this Bissell has gained a reputation of a "Dyson killer". Not sure how they actually compare, but I love ours. If you look around you can find factory refurbs for ~$160 (Big Lots occasionally has them).
posted by jluce50 at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2009

To be honest, when you purchase vacuum cleaners, you get what you pay for. If you spend very little money you will get a machine that will have a shorter life than a more expensive machine, and probably doesn't work as well to boot. If you buy an Electrolux (Aerus Electrolux, which is the real Electrolux company. The red ones in stores are frauds made by Eureka.) you will spend more money but you will get a vacuum cleaner that will last ten years even if you constantly vacuum and abuse it. My mother owns one from 1982 that is still going strong. In addition to their ability to take a beating, Electrolux vacuums are built in a way that allows them to be maintained and repaired, whereas most other vacuums are made to be replaced with a new one when they break. There are also Electrolux franchises all over the country, so if you have a problem with your vacuum there is a system to assist you with your problem. If you have a problem with your Kenmore or Red "Eureka" Electrolux, good luck getting assistance!

Bagless vacuums tend to be very dirty and leak a lot of dust and particles back into your environment. If your aim is to remove particles from the environment in your house, you're better off with a bag-using vacuum - the bag is usually designed to function as an extra filter.

If your vacuum isn't picking up the hot chocolate powder, it's either not functioning properly or the brush is too worn to be effective. It could also just not be a very good vacuum to begin with.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2009

I don't know about hot chocolate, but I was able to pick up ground coffee from my (cheap, low-pile) carpet with my Kenmore Progressive 27514 (the Consumer Reports pick, which was the loss-leader at Sears this past Black Friday).

If the hot chocolate is really smeared into your carpet, I doubt any dry vacuum will get it off without first treating with a carpet cleaner like Resolve. Chocolate is not like breadcrumbs, it will actually adhere to the carpet fibers.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:51 PM on February 2, 2009

I have the Kenmore that was top-rated by CR. It's often discounted well below the $350 list price, and it's ranked well above the Dyson Animal (which is $400 and never goes on sale).

But like Apple laptops or BMWs, people seem to love their Dysons far beyond what rational thought would justify. I know several women who will take a detour to the vacuum section of the department store specifically to look at Dyson vacuum cleaners. It may not be a miracle of vacuum cleaner engineering, but it certainly is a miracle of industrial design.
posted by miyabo at 1:54 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: a few comments removed - can we keep this on topic and not just a referendum on how much you love the suckage of your vacuum?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2009

Dysons are extremely heavy and cumbersome - I hate ours (it was given to us). Avoid, unless you are super brawny and do not have carpeted stairs.
posted by 8k at 9:08 AM on February 14, 2009

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