/ 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?


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.

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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!!!

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

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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.

I have to say following years of buying the W? recommended uprights we have never found a Dyson to work satisfactorily. Part of it is poor design, and relates to a curly tube which has a propensity for coming off at the slightest provocation. But we had problems with both the previous Dysons and, frankly, would never buy a Dyson again. Our latest purchase is a Sebo (arriving today) so we’re giving that a try but W? doesn’t seem to review those.

Some years ago we were put off Dyson when a small retailer showed us the heap of Dysons out the back waiting for collection claiming they just kept replacing them.

I have a Sebo X4 upright as I am dangerous with something that has to be dragged around and it is very much like the old Hoover upright except it it is not covered in cellotape where the chassis cracked. I am very happy with it and would replace it with another if I had to.

The only weak spot is where the hose goes into the wand. There is a lever to press for removal but hubby has a bad habit of just pulling it out. grrr

There are also a few extra attachments you can get which are handy.

I am sure you and your new Sebo will be very happy together Ian. 😍

🙂 I’m really glad to hear I’m not the only one who despairs of Dysons, Alfa. Anyway, SWMBO is giving it a thorough workout as I type…

I’m afraid I’m put off Dyson by the high prices charged and by the huge profits and wealth generated. I am happy to pay good money for a good product, but not to fund excessive profits. I’ve seen nothing that suggests their hair dryers, room heaters for example justify the prices. I have no experience of their vacuum cleaners except to see large discounts offered. However, i am prepared to be corrected.

I have never been interested in Dyson products since I saw their early cleaners. There was too much use of flimsy plastic for my liking. I do wish more people would learn how to spot potential weaknesses in display models. Maybe I’m eccentric in studying the visible build quality of household products when staying with family and friends.

Dyson cleaners have cult status and even with the discounts they remain expensive. It seems that they have helped the industry not to go the same way as the white goods industry, where most sales are cheap products made to a price.

We once had a Dyson vacuum cleaner, bought when they were a fairly new type of machine. We didn’t like the performance, the noise it made, and the general ungainliness of the appliance. It wasn’t exactly dust-free to empty either. We bought a Miele in 2004 and it is still performing very well. The Dyson was relegated to the back of the garage but about five years ago we had a bit of a clear-out and put a load of furniture and effects into a local auction sale. The Dyson was the star performer reaching a price of over £100 – which I think was roughly what I paid for it ten years previously. So I am grateful for Dyson’s cult status among domestic equipment, but I would no longer recommend them as an investment.

How’s the new Sebo Ian?

A very strange coincidence………..
I got an email today from support at Sebo.co.uk entitled “SEBO UK – Don’t Get Sucked In”. (Title seems rather appropriate !!!)

It was addressed to Support (instead of me) from Support and just happens to have a Which? Best Buy logo on it.

The only 2 links to hover over are sebo or mimecast websites.

I did buy a couple of attachments from them over 6 months ago, but have not been on their website or heard anything from them since and none of the emails mentioned Which? then.

Weird or what…. methinks the what ….. or at least Which? ??????????

It does what it says on the tin – or the adverts, anyway, Alfa. But I’m now applying my prodigiously-lacking DIY skills to the reincarnation of the Dyson. That way we could soon have two adequate tall vacuum cleaners (why do they call them that, I wonder? How does one clean a vacuum…) and given the layout of our mountain retreat that could be very useful.

How does one clean a vacuum? With the other one of course 🙃🙂🙃

I assume that was the original use of a vacuum cleaner.

The idea of emptying a vacuum might be be an odd concept for a physicist.

I have had two upright Dysons and no problem with either of them. We bought the ball one as the ease of navigation around the furniture is worthwhile. We also appreciate seeing the results of our hoovering.

We have inherited a Miele and a Panasonic, been given a Gtech upright and a Gtech stair cleaning device – which is very worth having. The upright I am not fussed. We now have an Irobot Roomba 980 which does great work as having no carpets it has the energy to do a whole floor of tile and then report back where it has been. In theory there is 80sq metres at ground level but obviously furniture reduces this.

It is not a Which? best buy or a Que Choisir Bon Achete. Consumer Reports rates it reasonably highly as a Recommended and just shy of a Best Buy.

For those who wonder about vacuum testing here is Consumentenbond at work consumentenbond.nl/stofzuiger/hoe-wij-testen
They are publishing on robot cleaners later this year.

I don’t expect that we will see many problems with robot cleaners having too much suction, but with improvement in battery technology, you never know.

Unintended consequences abound in my home atm:

washing machine – my new one [supposedly energy saving] does not rinse properly. I have to run an extra short wash and rinse cycle after each wash to remove the ‘fragrance’ etc of the washing liquid.

dishwasher – my new one [also supposedly energy-saving] does not dry properly unless additional drying time is selected which brings it back to the same dryness as my old dishwasher and probably the same energy use.

airing cupboard – the new energy saving cover on the hot water cylinder means the airing cupboard no longer airs anything as it is so cold in there. I have received suggestions such as putting in an oil-filled radiator – what?

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Doodlebug – please name the products by name – it helps us avoid them.

Secondly the farce of some eco-regulations might be revealed.

I’m glad you said ‘some’ eco-regulations, Patrick. I’m glad that there is now a power limit for domestic vacuum cleaners because some were using so much power they could double up as fan heaters.

I live in France and have just bought a Moulinex Compact Power Cyclonic vacuum cleaner. Got it home and you cannot attachment head across the carpet it sucks so hard!! I made sure it was in the position for carpet and not flooring. My husband had a go and promptly told me it must be a ‘puller’ not a ‘pusher’!!! I cannot write my reply to that on here! I have had to resort to using the attachment head that I had on my old Dyson which does work pretty well. This must surely mean that the design of the attachment must have something to do with the problem?

Some vacuum cleaners have a small sliding shutter on the tube or on the cleaning head which can be opened to reduce the vacuum force. Our Miele cylinder vacuum cleaner has this feature although its main purpose is to allow the user to rapidly stop the suction in the event of the machine picking up a cable or the fringe of a rug. Opening the shutter a small amount will reduce the suction enough to prevent sucking up the carpet while not significantly impairing the cleaning performance. The length of the carpet pile also affects the suction – shorter piles are more prone to lifting the carpet off the floor but longer or denser piles cause the cleaning head to get stuck. Shag piles are a no-no for various reasons. My mother thought patterned carpets were harder to clean.

I’m familiar with the sliding shutter, John, but think it would be better for the vacuum cleaner to operate at reduced power and pressing a button on the handle temporarily increases power for dealing with stubborn dirt. This feature has been used in some designs.

Our Miele vacuum cleaner has a range of power settings. I thought most did nowadays – I am out of touch, as the Miele has been going since 2010 without complaint. Our Henry machine – which is used for heavier cleaning – also has a boost switch to increase the suction.

The power control on the Miele and other ‘cylinder’ cleaners is on the machine rather than to hand, as is the power boost on the Henry (Numatic) cleaner. It would be more convenient to have a control or power boost switch to hand and the latter has been used by at least one manufacturer. Many power tools have a trigger switch with a speed control because that is more convenient than a separate switch or changing gear.

I haven’t found it a problem using the power switch on the machine body – when doing carpets I just set it to the best setting and do the whole house without having to change it. Perhaps we are lucky – the whole house is fitted with the same carpet so there is no variation in pile length or density. I use the sliding shutter or the control on the turbo-head when cleaning any rugs on top of the carpet. All the hard floors get washed or steam-cleaned so the vacuum cleaner is not used in those areas.

Totally agree with you- it’s a design fault – designed maybe by a man !!!

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Valerie says:
25 January 2018

So, can someone recommend a cylinder vacuum cleaner that pushes and pulls easily. …I am just about to return my second purchase as too strong suction to push!!!

Hi Valerie, you might benefit from our guide on choosing the best cylinder vacuum cleaner 🙂 https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/vacuum-cleaners/article/choosing-the-best-cylinder-vacuum-cleaner

Purchased a Vax from the Range now in dispute with them as they refuse to refund saying it’s user error when the problem is too much suction ! I’m not prepared to let this go ! The cleaner is not fit for purchase does anyone know legal rights?

This Which? guide would be a good starting point, Maggie –

Excessively powerful suction is quite a common problem with vacuum cleaners and this has been mentioned in Which? reports. Fortunately common sense has prevailed and there is now a maximum motor power for (domestic) vacuum cleaners.

It might be worth having a word with the manufacturer, Maggie. Although your legal rights lie with the retailer, manufacturers can sometimes be very helpful.

Some years ago, I bought a vacuum cleaner that had far too much suck.

I took it back to Currys and got them to try it.

They agreed with me and I got a refund.

The Range would have a lot of mats wouldn’t they?

It would not be difficult for vacuum cleaners to be designed with a power control on the handle, so that the suction could be increased when necessary. I think I first saw this in the 1960s and it worked well. The simple bodge solution is to have a control on the handle to let air in, reducing the suction.

Our Miele machines both have variable power controls on the body, an inlet slide on the handle to let more air in [for example if the cleaner sucks in the fringe on a rug], and a foot-operated treadle on the suction head to vary the suction for hard floors or carpets. Some deep-pile carpets and rugs or thin mats can be cleaned successfully using the hard floor setting and it is easy to switch modes as you go.

I’ve got the same, John. The control on the cleaning head lowers brushes, which are essential for hard floors but have other uses. Rather than having a slide to decrease suction I would prefer a trigger to increase the motor power when greater suction was needed. I have used this sort of cleaner but not owned one. It’s a more intelligent solution that is quieter, more controllable and saves power.

I forgot to mention that there is also a slide on the cleaning head to admit more air to reduce the suction power for deeper pile carpets.

I don’t think our vacuum cleaners have ever been used above the half-power settings but I have decided to clean the extractor fans in the bathrooms today and will gently ramp up the power to try to get the last bits of fluff out, hopefully without damaging the fans. Since I have to do it with the lights on I shall first isolate the fans.

Thanks John I have this ready for my next email to the Range !!!

Thanks for your reply -Vax wanted me to liaise with the Range however I have now asked the Range as the retailer to return the product to Vax !! Watch this space !!!

Big mistake buying from the Range !!! And having read their reviews !!

I had fun with Currys recently, Maggie. In turn, three members of staff said that I must deal with the manufacturer but I insisted that my rights regarding a faulty product were against the retailer. I had to do this three times before I was grudgingly allowed to leave the product for repair. It’s not enjoyable pursuing consumer rights but it can be satisfying.

We will look forward to the next instalment. 🙂

Will keep you posted !

Can you tell us which model you have, Maggie? It might be that others have had the same problem. Maybe you have already been down that route.

We’ve a (very durable) Miele vacuum cleaner. The air slides, choice of tool and variable motor power switch take care of the appropriate suction for the job in hand. I do not need the EU to dictate how powerful the motor should be, since it is in use for a relatively short time and uses very little electricity. If they are so concerned about energy use, why do they not limit the power output of car engines? That could be far more effective (although I am not promoting it 🙂 )

I have even been inside some homes where hardly any electricity is used at all for vacuum cleaning, so it can be done.

Further to my previous conversation ! I’ve written further emails to the range re cleaner not being fit for purpose due to suction and emailed Vax directly neither company want to know -have I got the energy to take it further !!

I have recently had new carpet fitted through my house and I can no longer use my Dyson ball vacuum cleaner, its so hard to push even when I adjust the setting, can anyone recommend a vacuum cleaner for long pile carpet please.

Irritated says:
28 April 2018

I think that it’s not the suction power of the machines, which seems pretty normal, but instead it’s the way the sole-plates of uprights and cylinder heads are designed.

Mum has a Hoover ‘Purepower’ upright, now aged about 2 years old. When brand new, it stuck fast to the carpets – especially the rubber-backed kitchen carpet. She couldn’t move it. I ended up ripping off the two ridiculous ‘rubber blades’ fore and aft of the agitator brushroll, which are supposed to concentrate suction. In reality, all they do is act as a brake, causing the user to exert great force to move the machine over the carpet.

Similarly, my Sebo cylinder stuck fast to carpet and vinyl flooring. Examining its supplied Kombi nozzle, I realised that Sebo allows the user the option to adjust it. There are two small grey ‘inserts’ – one at either side of the width of the head. The default is that these inserts act to concentrate suction on the carpet. The user can flip these out, invert them, then reinsert them. Now, there are suction channels right to the skirting board, on both sides, just like the older, sensible machines. These channels prevent the machine sticking to vinyl, and now allow decent edge cleaning.

Irritated says:
28 April 2018

I should add, that since removing the rubber blades from the Hoover upright, the machine now glides easily over the carpets like older machines did.

We splashed out on a Dyson cylinder multi floor vacuum earlier this year. Disappointingly, the suction is so hard that even on the reduced suction it is too hard to use. It actually squeaks as it is dragged over the vinyl floor. I spoke with Dyson who actually said there was no problem and I just had to live with it. For such an expensive purchase we are left with a vacuum we can barely use. Their solution was to shell out 50 quid for a different head design. We feel ripped off, is there anything we can do?

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Katie T says:
30 July 2018

I purchase a Dyson DC40 in November 2016, from the start there have been issues with the suction. At times it glides easily other times it’s extremely difficult to push, this is without changing the plate settings at the front of the hoover.
The hoover left roll marks over the carpets but were only noticeable in some lights. However 6 weeks ago the hoover left a permenant roller brush mark in the middle of the carpet.
I contacted Dyson explained the issue, they offered to send alternative model and collect mine. I spoke to them about the damage they said that an area manager would come and assess the device and damage.
Subsequently they contacted me and said that since the testing of the front plate they could not find any manufacturing fault but would exchange my hoover.
In the meantime I’m still left with large unsightly mark on the carpet. I have not accepted this offer of exchange from them as I just want to know my rights.
Please if anyone can offer any advice it would be much appreciated.
Thank you

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