Further Adventures in Vacuumland

Long-time readers may recall that I bought a vacuum in 2009 and pledged to provide periodic updates on the grounds that the question when buying a new vacuum isn’t whether it will work out of the box, but whether it will continue to work, and how long it will work well. I was really disappointed when I trolled vacuum reviews trying to decide what to buy and almost none of them covered longevity, focusing instead on how well the vacuums performed when they were new. Everyone knows vacuums suck when they are new, unless they are of really low quality. The thing is, will they continue to suck?

I encountered a lot of problems with my vacuum-buying decision. It wasn’t just that I had trouble finding good reviews, it was also that the price points seemed widely disparate. It seemed like I could either spend around $40, or $400, with very little in the midrange, and a lot of the midrange models got rather poor reviews. I ended up with a Dyson, which was a choice I really struggled with, because Dysons are very, very expensive. Not everyone can afford a Dyson, which is a pity, because they are really fine vacuums (more about this in a moment).

I don’t really like reviewing extremely expensive products and saying ‘you should totally buy one of these!’ Because, well, that’s not an option for everyone. I grew up not really wanting to talk about money, and I loathe class signaling with a passion, which makes me feel very conflicted when it comes to talking about things that inevitably involve some class signaling; $500 vacuums are not things that most working class people can afford and I am well aware that people draw conclusions about me on the basis of this purchase, probably erroneous ones. But, really, that said, if you have a lot of money to spend on a vacuum and you are willing to spend it…a Dyson is a pretty good way to go. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll send you one.

Dysons are well engineered by people who seem to think that vacuums should last and perform consistently. I ended up with a DC 17 Animal, part of Dyson’s ‘Animal’ line which, as the name implies, is for people with animals. When I bought it I lived in a 600 square foot house with three indoor cats. Now I’m in a larger house with two cats, so fur is less of an issue, but it is definitely still a problem, and the Dyson helps with managing that (along with tracked-in grass clippings and garden dirt, a problem I didn’t have in my old house because the garden was so small it was hard to really get that dirty while I was working in it).

It is a heavy vacuum, and you do need some strength to push it, although it pulls itself along pretty well on a lot of surfaces. The beater bar is extremely robust, as is the suction, so you need to be careful with throw rugs, long drapes, cats[1. Mr. Bell’s cat vacuuming days are definitely over, that’s for sure. I’d be afraid of seriously injuring him, even with the hose attachment.], etc. It fits in a lot of places and collapses low so you can even get it under the bed, well, depending on how high your bed is.

The hose just pulls out the back, which I love, because I hated having to wrestle with hoses. It makes it a lot easier to zoom up spiderwebs and cat fur clusters and so forth, whereas with the old vacuum, I used to go ‘eh, I’ll get it next time.’ I’m also a big fan of the hose attachments, which are handy for everything from reaching under the fridge to vacuuming the mattress. They’re pretty easy to keep corralled because they all clip on (and stay on) and the bigger ones fit in the closet pretty easily.

18 months after I bought it, I’d say my satisfaction levels are still very high. The Dyson has a five year warranty so I expect to get at least five years of solid use out of it, and I would really like to see it lasting for 10 years or more[2. My landlady has a Eureka that she inherited from her mother, the thing is 20 years old and still going strong. Now that’s a vacuum.]. I try to take reasonably good care of it in terms of regularly cleaning the filters and canister, removing trapped hair from the beater bar (less of a problem with short hair) and so forth, but I tend to be pretty hard on mechanical things and electronics, and it still seems to be going strong despite my abuses.

I’m not sure how useful a Dyson would be for a person living in a small place who doesn’t have animals or major sources of dirt (like, if you ride horses a lot or are a gardener or something, obviously you’re going to be tracking in debris even if you don’t have animals). If you’re a dirty sort of person (and I mean that in a loving way, really), I’d highly recommend the Dyson, because it really is a workhorse. The manufacturer claims that it never loses suction, and so far it seems to be making good on the claim.

One note of caution; Dyson also makes a series of ball vacuums that are lighter, with a lower profile. I’ve heard, although I haven’t extensively field tested one, that they tend to be less robust. They’re still fairly pricey, so I think if you’re trying to weigh the choice between a ball and a full model, go for the full model; you’ll probably be happier with it in the long term.