Welcome to our review of the Henry Allergy, just one of an ever-growing raft of ugly cute corded – and cordless – vacs from the Numatic stable. Strangely, there’s no mention of the word ‘Numatic’ on the British company’s consumer-specific website but plenty of mentions – not to say a string of model numbers – on its professional range.
One gathers Numatic is keen to keep Henry and his siblings Harry, George, Charles, Hetty and James’s names alive for consumers because, well, it’s kind of cute having an anthropomorphic vacuum cleaner around with a smiley mouth, Pinocchio nose and a name to put to it. Whereas, a builder or professional cleaner (for whom this vacuum cleaner is a mainstay) might feel a bit embarrassed asking a mate to ‘pass over Henry so I can clean up this load of rubble’. Somehow the phrase NVR170 has more of a macho ring to it.
Whatever the reasons (and let’s face it, I’m padding it out a bit here), Henry et al is a joyful and very effective bunch of cleaners built like brick outhouses that last for decades.
To be perfectly frank, this review could be about any model from the Numatic range – they all look the same – but since they sent the Allergy version that’s what I’ll cover in a little more detail.
So why is this grinning ubiquitous floor cleanser so damn popular? I’ll tell you why.
Henry Allergy: price and availability
First up, Henry is very reasonably priced for a device that seems all but impossible to kill. In its native UK Henry Allergy generally costs around £200. In the US, where Henry has something of a cult following, you can find it retailing at around $450. Availability in Australia seems quite limited but we have seen it for $550 or so.
Is Henry Allergy any good?
Yes! Henry may look old fashioned by today’s standards, quite heavy and ugly in a cute kind of way but Numatic has shifted eleven million of these ubiquitous suckers since 1981 and most of them are probably still running. In fact, only last week I chucked our working model on the council dump after over 20 years of unflinching service. I soon lived to regret the decision after I clogged up two Dysons with drill dust. That’s Henry in a nutshell – he just sucks up anything, no matter the size or consistency. After five years of ownership I simply did away with buying any more vacuum bags and simply poured the contents of its huge reservoir-like container straight into the bin.
Henry is tough as nails and that’s no exaggeration. You could lob him down a flight of concrete stairs and he’ll likely remain in one piece while looking up at you with that inane grin of is. This vac is, to all intents and purposes, almost indestructible. And yet it’s capable of vacuuming a carpet – and especially a hard floor – as well as the best the world of household vacuuming has to offer. It’s also cheap as chips to buy.
Henry Allergy review: Design
The Henry Allergy comes in dusty blue but it’s essentially the same tried-and-tested system as the rest of the roster. This Allergy version is composed of an ultra-tough 6-litre plastic tub, an equally robust motor head, a hand winder for its phenomenal 9.5 metres of cable, a simple mesh dust filter, the main dust bag and, buried under its motor housing, an advanced, 3-stage, HEPA filtration system that according to Numatic has been approved by the British Allergy Foundation.
On the rear is a simple docking clip for the three-part metal suction tube and two ports for its two main accessories – a soft bristle duster and crevice nozzle. And that’s pretty much the Henry Allergy in a nutshell – simple but effective.
Henry Allergy review: Performance
As I alluded to above, the standard red Henry will suck up anything it can get up its concertina’d snout. However, given that this model is a more delicate allergy-specific version, it might not be the best one to use to clean out the shed or garage floor. But show it a hard kitchen floor or bedroom carpet and it’ll be happy as a Larry (no relation).
When it came to the hard floor test I had a choice of two main floor brushes. The ‘universal’ brush head comprises a simple surround of stiff bristles that can be retracted for carpet use – this is the head you will use the most if your home has a mixture of hard floor and carpet since it’s easy to simply stamp on the large retractor switch as you change surfaces.
Henry Allergy has just one power setting but you can adjust the suction to some degree by swivelling a valve on the head of the suction tube. But here’s the rub… While the valve helps dial down the suction, there’s still way too much of it when used on a carpet, even with the bristles raised. It’s not terrible but it just takes extra effort to push and pull it across the carpet. Put another way, it doesn’t glide across carpet like a Dyson or a Shark.
On the other hand, if you just have hard floors, then the streamlined hard floor-specific head is the one to grab. In fact, this head is one of the very best hard floor heads I’ve ever used. It’s really flat, like a sleek sports car, but it performs superbly well and feels fabulously smooth to push around. A high-five to Numatic’s R&D department for this radical piece of engineering.
On the downside, all Henrys tend to fall over a lot when being pulled around corners. But, hey, just give it a yank and it’ll carry on following you like a hungry puppy.
Henry Allergy review: filter system
The Henry’s HEPA filter seemed to perform very well on my hairy floor though I must admit I don’t suffer from pet allergies because I guess I’ve become immune after years of living in a barnyard. I did however check some online reviews to be doubly sure and yes, some allergy sufferers are clearly enamoured of its performance to remove dust mites from the areas it cleans.
The HEPA filter is accessed by lifting off the motor unit, turning it over and unscrewing a large red cap. I haven’t been able to locate any spare filters online so can’t tell you how much a replacement costs but I reckon somewhere in the £30 region. The main dust bags are readily available and retail at £9.99 for ten.
Henry Allergy review: Verdict
If you’re in the market for a cheap, dependable and highly effective corded vacuum cleaner that is unflinchingly reliable and tough as a steam train then go forth my friend and embrace the brute strength, longevity and beaming face of Henry.