When you think about upgrading the gizmos in your house, a new vacuum cleaner probably isn't very high on your list of things to buy. Vacuums are stuck between the TV, which you might upgrade every several years or so, but above the likes of the fridge and washing machine. It's the kind of thing you only really replace when yours breaks, is what I'm saying, even if what you have is a cheap piece of garbage that only does a semi-adequate job.
So the prospect of ditching the vacuum you have and buying an expensive replacement might not be that appealing - especially if you spend all that money on a model that sucks (in the bad way). Even if you do, it's quite easy to pick up the first Dyson you see and be done with it. They're well known for a reason, right? Well, maybe. There are certainly plenty of options out there, including Shark who has a wide range of vacuums to keep your house tidy. Amongst them is the new DuoClean Cordless Vacuum that can give the new Dyson V10 a run for its money.
The DuoClean isn't just a simple switch-and-vac, there are a bunch of different features depending on what you're doing. I say a bunch, I mean four. If you're using the floor attachment you can toggle between carpets and hard flooring, but as soon as you remove that attachment those options disappear. There are also two different power settings that lets you change the level of suction. Those aren't attachment dependent, so even if you're using the vacuum in handheld mode you can take advantage of the boost and get up some particularly difficult patches of whatever. Maybe you spilled a bunch of paprika down the side of the fridge, I don't know.
In terms of the actual cleaning, it does a hell of a good job. In the past year or so that I've been living in my current flat I've been using the cheap glorified dustbuster I bought in Tesco that hasn't been treated very well. So it does a crap job, and it's a huge pain to get everywhere cleaned. The DuoClean was absolutely effortless, and in just a few minutes the carpets looked cleaner than they were when I moved in.
It pulled a lot out of the carpet that I didn't realise was there, including the hair that keeps drifting off my head whenever it damn well feels like. That's particularly of note because most of it got stuck inside the brush, which is worth bearing in mind if you or your pet have long hairs that never stay in one place.
The DuoClean is also much, much quieter than my existing vacuum, which sounds like a banshee orgy. I wouldn't call it silent, or even quiet, especially since the motorised tools can produce many decibels, but it's going to be handy in the summer when I need to dispose of invading spiders later at night.
Interestingly the motorised brushes in the floor attachment tend to pull the vac forwards when you're using it. It feels rather strange at first, but it's not a huge deal. It's not like trying to keep hold of a galloping horse or something, and you can quickly get used to it. The brushes also activate automatically when you tilt the rest of the vacuum backwards, and they disengage when it's completely upright, which I felt is a nice touch.
The floor attachment also comes with two LED headlights that illuminate the area you're cleaning - just in case you want to vacuum in the dark or see what you're doing in shadowy areas of the house. It does make quite a lot of difference, even in the middle of the day, since you always see what you're looking at regardless of what the room's general illumination is like. They also engage automatically, which is nice, though the option to turn them off might get you a tiny bit more life out of the battery.
As with any vacuum cleaner, the DuoClean comes with a number of accessories, through the ones you get will depend on which model you buy—and consequently how much you pay. The one I was sent was the top-tier extra expensive IF250UKT model with two batteries and almost all the accessories. That meant it came with a motorised brush for pulling up pet hair, a crevice tool (no jokes please, that's what it's called), an upholstery tool, a dusting brush, and a second longer dusting brush specifically eliminating allergens. Also available separately, from the Shark website, are a flexible hose, a wand for cleaning under household appliances, and a detail kit for cars.
Most of those are pretty standard tools that you'd get with a decent vacuum cleaner. The pet hair tool is a nice addition, though, and is not, as I first thought, designed to be used on pets. Which is good, because I'm damn sure 99 per cent of all animals would freak out if you went near them with it. Sadly not having a pet, I didn't get to test it properly, but having lived with a black lab for many years I know how irritating it can be to vacuum up the shed hair.
The tool itself has quite a small opening, so it's certainly not for the general carpet areas where the regular floor attachment should be able to do a more than acceptable job. Instead it's for things like steps and furniture which might require the moving brushes to help dig up any hair that's embedded itself into the carpet. That is a bitch to do with standard attachments, so every little bit helps.
One of the things I liked about the DuoClean was the fact you can swap out the battery whenever you need to, which means you don't necessarily have to stop vacuuming simply because your battery died and will take another three hours to recharge. The standard model comes with a single battery, but others come with two and a dedicated battery charging cradle (which costs £100 on its own). The swappable battery packs also mean there's quite a bit of flexibility in how you recharge them. You can either use the dock, or plug the battery in directly. Alternatively you can leave the battery inside the vacuum and plug it in directly, though that's mostly just plugging in the battery without a bunch of extra steps.
The battery life itself is actually quite good. Shark says each pack will last about 22 minutes, which felt about right as I was using it. Obviously there are a bunch of different settings and accessories that will increase how fast you burn through your available power, but it's still reasonable. You don't need to worry about losing power out of nowhere, though, because the battery itself has a set of LED blue LEDs to show you how much juice is left. Alternatively they can also show you whether they've finished recharging or not.
I managed to do all the exposed floors in my one-bed flat on a single charge, and most of that time on maximum power. So while my flat isn't the biggest abode in the world, nor was it the most intensive clean, I got quite a lot done. Most of that was with the floor attachment too, so it had all the lights and spinning brushes working overtime to give my flat cleaning my existing cheap-and-crappy vacuum couldn't provide.
As you might expect from a vacuum of this sort of price, versatility is key and like the similar designs that are already on the market you can take it apart and use the different attachments to clean however you need. Want to plug the floor attachment directly into the vacuum housing without the long rigid hose int the middle? No problem. Want to use the hose to extend the reach of one of the attachments? Absolutely. Want to forgo all the attachments and just use handheld vacuum like a dustbuster? Sure, but you might want to stick something on the intake pipe to concentrate the suction a bit more.
There's also a flexible section right in the middle that offers a bit more flexibility. Shark calls it 'flexology' and essentially what that means is that the bottom half of the vacuum can bend by almost 180 degrees, so you can get right underneath the furniture to clean while still standing up. That flexible hose also means the vacuum can fold up for storage, but I'll get to that later.
The main downside here is that the DuoClean doesn't have a particularly good capacity. Depending on how severe the floors in question are, it can fill up quite quickly - faster than the battery depletes at any rate. It's not the end of the world, but emptying the tank is one of those things nobody really wants to do and having to do it more often it a bit of a pain.
The other problem is that the vacuum cleaner itself is completely off balance. Because all the important bits are in the handheld section that lives at the very top it will fall over backwards as soon as you let it go. That means if you do have to leave it unattended, either in storage or because you have to do something mid-clean, it has to either be folded in half or propped up against the wall securely. It's a small gripe, and it's obviously not a problem unique to this specific model, but it is a bit awkward to deal with.
The DuoClean is a great vacuum cleaner, there's absolutely no doubt about it, and if you want something that's able to get a powerful clean into a short space of time this is definitely worth looking into. Unfortunately you do have to contend with the price, seeing as the cheapest model is £199 and the one I reviewed is currently £370 over on Amazon (£200 and £280 from Shark's website). The cheap model, the IF200UK, only comes with a single battery and fewer accessories, while the IF250UKT comes with two batteries, a charging cradle, and more attachments.
If I were in the market for a new vacuum, I might be able to justify spending £200, and possibly the extra minimum £100 to get the extra battery upgrade if I felt I needed it at a later date. It's a lot of money, but considering my experience with a £35 vacuum cleaner that is almost completely useless then the extra cleaning power alone is probably worth the extra money.
I'm not so sure about spending £370 from the get go, but seeing as how the IF200 and IF250 models are fundamentally the same you can always buy cheap and pick up any missing accessories later on. The differences are arbitrary, and there are four models in total: the IF200UK, IF200UKT, IF250UK, and IF250UKT. Both IF200 models have a single battery, while the IF250 models have two, and both UKT models come with the motorised pet brush. All four are different colours too.
It might end up costing you more in the long run, but it might be more justifiable to spread the cost out. FYI, only the floor and pet attachments have proprietary connections, so there's nothing stopping you from getting the other attachments elsewhere or from your old vacuum - provided of course that they actually fit.
- Great cleaning power, does exactly as much you would expect from a premium-priced vacuum compared to a cheap brandless machine from the supermarket
- Lots of versatility, everything comes apart and reattaches in a different configuration so you can clean however you like.
- Expensive, with prices ranging from £199 to £380 depending on where you buy, which model you buy, and what accessories/attachments you choose.
- Tank has low capacity
- Battery life is reasonable, around 22 minutes, though batteries can be replaced to keep you going for longer
- Quieter than expected, but not too quiet. Don't go using this at 3am
- Flexible components make it easier to reach those awkward areas
- Long hair can get trapped in the motorised brush very easily.
- LED headlights illuminate the immediate area
- Totally off balance, so needs to be folded up for storage - lest it fall over.
- Lots of accessories and attachments to choose from, including a motorised brush specifically for stubborn pet hair.