/ Home & Energy

Does your vacuum cleaner suck too much?

vacuum cleaner

A vacuum cleaner that excels at picking up pet hair from carpets and fine dust from hard floors is all well and good, but not when the suction is so powerful it’s impossible to move when it’s switched on.

In the past few months, we’ve tested vacuum cleaners with push forces exceeding 80 newtons.

Put another way, it takes as much force to push some models a single stroke as it does to lift an Olympic-standard shot put or eight bags of sugar.

While improving your physique might be a desirable consequence of vacuuming for some, we think this level of heavy lifting is more suitable for the gym.

Why is this happening?

As far as we can tell, this strange phenomenon is an unwanted consequence of the vacuum cleaner energy label.

Introduced in September 2014, it restricted the motor size of vacuum cleaners to 1600 watts to save energy, and introduced ratings for how well each cleaner sucked up fine dust from carpet and hard floors.

This led to manufacturers racing to optimise their machines for sucking up fine dust in order to get a higher score on their energy labels.

Some manufacturers appear to have done this at the expense of the end user, who might be surprised to get their new machine home only to find it’s almost physically impossible to use when switched on.

What has Which? done about it?

The push and pull force of each model is now integral to how we test vacuum cleaners at Which?.

If a machine’s push force exceeds 45 newtons, we adjust the power setting until it’s acceptably easy to move around. This is then the setting we use to conduct our cleaning tests.

We now also publish the push force of each vacuum cleaner on its most powerful setting, so Which? members can decide themselves whether they want to buy a machine that may be difficult to push around.

Do you have a vacuum cleaner that you have to take a running start at to get it moving over your floors? Can you think of any other products that have become more difficult to use in recent years?

Patrick Taylor says:
18 January 2017

The EU regulations and unintended consequences were apparent when they allowed washing machine manufacturers to use notional temperatures for washes – ie a 60C carried out at 47C or 27C.

We also have the difference in regulations in wood stoves in how the EU and the UK rate them. I believe Which? were going to speak to DEFRA about these problems going back three years though I have never seen anything about it subsequently.

This article is interesting as it outlines another unintended consequences. I have to say that neither of my hoovers has a strength reduction dial. I am not clear how this is going to pan out.


I am supportive of good design and minimising power use, so I very much support limiting the power consumption of domestic vacuum cleaners to 1600W. Some fan heaters use only 1000W.

I still have an Electrolux cylinder vacuum that I bought in 1980 and used for many years. Nowadays it lives in the garage and is mainly used to clean the car. It is rated at 650W. The main reason that I replaced it was because I’m an asthmatic and modern cloth bags are better at retaining dust than simple paper bags. I use my current Miele cleaner at lower power and increase the power to compensate for decrease in suction as the bag fills.

It is encouraging to see that Which? has adapted the testing procedure to suit current needs.


And thats why Dyson Ball vacuums have “bombed ” in comparison to older models . The older models ran better put up with more abuse and designing that narrow “neck ” on them was just asking for trouble . Having visited 10,s of 1000,s of homes working for BT I watched women use a vacuum they dont daintily push it round a room and thats why the old models were built with protection bands round the front and didnt shatter when bumped heavily against a couch or door . I still have my old style Dyson , wouldn’t part with it , repair it myself, been offered 1.5 year old ball models for £50 at car-boot sales always turn then down even asked the women -why are you selling it – wont repeat what some said even blokes in the business of repairing them say they aren’t as good as the old models . I also have a British designed/manufactured hand held vacuum – excellent ! 3 years old now its a Gtech and the young British designer should have got a gold medal for its design still no complaints other than it needs the filter given a tap to remove dust and it doesn’t hold a lot of waste but it does the job and it does recharge quickly . I notice Dyson has now “gone big ” in his hand-held products and I think that hand held devices are the “way to go ” as long as they can suck out as much as a normal vacuum can.


I have never owned a Dyson cleaner but remember that Which? did not give any of their upright or ‘cylinder’ models Best Buy’ status until Dyson introduced a five year guarantee because at the time Dyson was rated poorly for reliability by users.

It never fails to amaze me how roughly people handle their vacuum cleaners.


And I thought protection bands were to protect the furniture from the likes of me!!!

bishbut says:
19 January 2017

Today it seems to be get rid of even the tiniest bit of dirt from everywhere , keep everything deep deep clean The tiniest bit of dirt must not be allowed anywhere at all My mother always said a little bit of dirt hurt no one in fact it did you good by building up immunity to the many bugs that now seem to be commonplace I have followed her advice and never suffered from the things the “experts”say you will if everything is not kept perfectly clean and germ free At 77 how have I survived without any stomach upsets at all for so long “Experts” in what

J Martin says:
20 January 2017

We purchased a Hetty vacuum cleaner on the advice of our cleaning lady for her to use at our home.
Unfortunately we could not push the thing as it was too powerful for us to use, too much suction. We gave it away after a month to a lady who was much stronger than us and she struggles with it. A load of rubbish and a waste of our pension money.


This one’s for Ian. Apologies to Bon Scott.

It was one of those days
When you’re cleaning all day
And everything needs to be done
You can waste any time
Cos’ you don’t have much time
There’s nothing don’t need to be done
It isn’t the first, it isn’t the last
You know the rooms need to get done
But you aren’t satisfied, deep down inside
You know it just can’t be done
Your machine sucks, it sucks too much
Your machine sucks, it sucks too much
Too much for the kitchen
Too much for the rugs
This machine’s not going to tackle any bugs
Cos it sucks too much
A touch too much


Nice metre 🙂


In his introduction, Matt Knight asks if we can think of any other products that have become more difficult to use in recent years?

Central heating controls come to mind. For years I used a Drayton Digistat (maybe Digistat 2) to control my central heating. It was remarkably simple to use, with timed temperature settings for morning, daytime, evening and night and very easy to over-ride if I was in all day and needed the heating on. In my new home I have a Digistat +3, which is far more complicated and more difficult to use. I often leave it on manual and vary the temperature as needed.

A couple of years ago I fitted a simple central heating programmer for a couple in their late 80s, who are family members. The existing programmer was not only complicated but the text on the LCD screen was difficult for them to read.

Claire Cross says:
20 January 2017

I own a Dyson Animal. It is the worst cleaner I have ever experienced. I only use it downstairs on ny hall carpet sitting room carpet dining room wool rug and kitchen terra tiles
Cleaner will not move on hall carpet…
Actually sucks it off the ground. Fine on the sitting room carpet
Practically sucks thefringing from
off large rug in dining room
Skids over kitchen tiles
Had the engineer here twice
He says use head A for aHall
Change to a different. head B for sitting room
Turn off rotating system on dining rug
change head again for kitchen
To empty the cylinder each time because dust forms one ball and I cannot get it cleared of dust
He showed me how to get the dust out and in the process broke side of cylinder
Fair enough he sent me a replacement but I obviously cannot use his method otpf clearing it as I would crack the replacement
This is the most unsatisfactory performance from an costly cleaner
No after sales backup and I could not take it back as the store closed down
I am a very senior citizen and am not fit for all this changing off heads
No one was interested in my complaints


Claire-I take it it is a handheld Dyson Animal V6 ? or the ball version mains plug in version and not earlier upright versions ? If so you have every right to complain it gets torn to shreds on US websites with battery faults/bad suction / parts falling off it /and so on . The company seems to have gone downhill in manufacturing quality ,check out just one US website- Consumer affairs where the company get one and a half stars out of five and Dyson does not participate in Consumer Affairs Accreditation – Top 332 complaints about Dyson : https://www.consumeraffairs.com/homeowners/dyson.html this is a safe website

Patrick Taylor says:
22 May 2017

Consumer Affairs is not a charity and is nothing to do with Consumer Reports the 1930’s original consumer body.

I get emails daily during the week from Consumer Affairs and I am also a member of Consumer Reports. The full size Dyson Animal gets a good review from Consumer Reports earning a 69% .

Whilst I appreciate Consumer Affairs I realsie it is a commercial operation and Dyson not being a member of the Consumer Affairs Accreditation program I view as a decision on the use of its money.

” The suit, which is seeking $10.5 million in alleged lost revenues for the year, states:

In reality, ConsumerAffairs utilizes its computer resources in order to puff the reputation of those companies who pay for its services and to deliberately degrade the good will and reputation of those who do not.

NordicTrack has a one-star rating on ConsumerAffairs, despite the fact that ConsumerReports.org, which is funded by subscription fees paid by consumers not companies, has given the company’s fitness products high scores, the lawsuit noted.”

This is the kind of information that perhaps Which? should provide as a service as obviously Duncan was unaware of the difference. AFAIR Which? does have an arrangement where businesses can have advance notice that they will be in an article.