Don’t believe in witches, do you? Well, consider this: I have an uncanny ability to control manufacturing and retailing decisions. If I like something, be it food, clothing, household items, tools, whatever, the fact of my liking it will instantly cause it to be taken off the market. Truth!
Case in point: broom-vacs. Recognize the yellow number on the right here?
That’s an old Eureka “Boss” Model 169, a handy-dandy little plug-in vacuum that is the single best gadget ever made for vacuuming tile floors, of which I have 1,860 square feet. This device has both a decent vacuum motor and a rotor brush. It’s death on dust and dog hair. It schleps up fur without blowing it into the air, as a regular-sized vacuum cleaner invariably does. Even when the dog dunes are cornered behind the bedroom door, it grabs the hair rather than sending it airborne.
But it’s getting old: far as I can tell, you no longer can buy a filter for it. More to the point, the cleaning ladies broke its handle, so now it’s wired together with bag ties. These periodically break, dropping the machine on my foot.
Wanna buy a new one? Can’t. Eureka sensed that I wanted it, so they got rid of it.
New broom-vacs are all cordless. Know how long a cordless appliance holds a charge? Me neither, but I figure it’s not long enough to de-dust and de-dog hair 1,860 square feet of hard flooring. Nor am I interested in yet another power vampire. A Roomba has to be kept plugged into the charger at all times. Unplug it, and within a couple of days it loses its charge; recharging takes several hours. Convenient!
So, having loved the Eureka Boss out of existence, I went in search of a broom-vac with a cord. No one carries them. Not Target. Not Costco. Not Best Buy. Not Sears. Not Penny’s. Not Fry’s Electronics… But lo! one day I spotted the teal model above at a WalMart. It’s a Eureka, and it plugs in. Price was only $20, so…why not?
Well, lemme tell you why not: you get what you pay for.
This thing, a Eureka 4-in-1, is a bona fide piece of junk. It has no rotor brush, it has all the pick-up power of a light spring breeze, and it makes such a racket it terrorized the dog out of the house. Its cord is so ludicrously short you can’t even vacuum one room without an extension cord; to do two rooms, you have to link together a chain of cords. In theory, it’s a clever invention: with a little dismantling, it doubles as a hand vacuum, and it even has a plastic attachment for the purpose. Trouble is, it doesn’t vacuum worth a darn in either mode.
Moving on… A couple of days ago, I reconsidered Costco’s offerings. Decided to try a Shark Cordless VX3 Floor Cleaner, since pretty clearly I’m never going to find a decent corded model. This is an interesting little gadget:
Like the Roomba Dirt Dawg, it’s not a vacuum cleaner. It’s a battery-powered broom. It looks very much like one of those old-fashioned carpet sweepers that women of a certain age can remember from childhood. Back in the Cretaceous, my mother had one of these: it worked pretty well (for the times: certainly no worse than the hated Electrolux!) and it was blessedly quiet.
Flip this thing over and you find a pair of floor brushes, one that rotates around a long axle and one that spins along the right-hand side, supposedly to pick up dirt near the floorboards. Instead of operating by friction, as the old sweepers used to do, the Shark is driven by a rechargeable Ni-Cad battery that allegedly lasts 50 minutes, long enough to sweep the whole house. Dirt is swept—not vacuumed—into a spacious container in the machine’s head. A release lever on the handle is supposed to flip this container open so you can shake the dirt out into a trash can without having to touch it or breathe in the dust. Cost is about $50, cheaper than most vacuum cleaners.
After charging the battery the requisite 20 hours (!), I tried it on the floors yesterday. No problem going over every room in the house on one charge—it still seems to have plenty of juice. The “low” setting, intended for hard floors, pulls less power out of the battery but leaves something to be desired. I ran it on “high” for the entire job.
Overall, it worked pretty well. My only gripe is that because it has no vacuum feature, its brushes must run directly over debris and dog hair to pick up. This means that to clean along a wall, you have to turn it so that its right-hand edge, bearing the little spinning brush, runs flush against the wall or floorboard. This can elicit some interesting contortions from the user. Oh, and the dustbin release doesn’t work: you have to manually open the bin’s flap and fish out the dog hair and dirt with your fingers, a messy and annoying task.
Compared to other power cleaning gadgets, it ran quietly. It picked up the dirt and fur effectively, and its charge lasted amply long. To test the job it did, I attached a microfiber rag to a Swiffer head and ran it over all the floors. This is a step I have to use after any vacuuming, whether with the big Panasonic or a lightweight broom-vac. On inspection, the rag was no dirtier than it would have been after cleaning with the Eureka Boss or the Panasonic.
So, overall: I’d really like another Eureka Boss 169. But failing that, the Shark VX3 is good enough for government work. Avoid the Eureka 4-in-1, though.