New vacuums don’t come along all that often, but the latest offering from Shark is somewhat of a do-it-all hero for the dust-oppressed.
There are basically two good reasons to consider the Shark DuoClean - it’s completely cordless, and the main body of the standard-looking upright unit unclips to give you a handheld machine, ideal for cleaning the car, stairs, or other harder to reach spots about your home estate.
Dyson and others may produce vacuums that perform a similar dual role, but nobody else has done it quite like this. And while Dyson's approach may be rather more elegant, there's no doubting the effectiveness of this ugly brute of a vacuum cleaner…
Size, weight, build
From a short distance away the Shark DuoClean looks like a conventional upright vacuum cleaner. Convenient for slotting into a cupboard for storage, this slimline silhouette is only marred by a small shopping bag (included) which contains the various vacuum nozzles. These are mercifully small, in fairness, and include a flattened spreader for carpets, a brush type attachment and a flattened conical pointy one for spiders.
The total package weighs in at a reasonable 5.7kg, stands a comfortable 108cm high, and comes with a battery charge dock and nozzle assortment. Price is worth getting in early - it’s currently on sale for £249.99, which is £100 off the RRP. Check out our guide to the best Boxing Day deals too.
A pleasant surprise is the battery life – a claimed 50 minutes from a full charge – as is the cup-style charging dock, which has neatly positioned suckers on the base so it doesn’t tip over with the heavy Lithium Ion battery in situ. An LED indicator on top of the battery tells you when it is fully juiced again (3.5 hours from flat), and when slotted into the main unit also displays the remaining charge.
It’s also possible to charge the battery on the machine itself, via a potentially fiddly rear port. The battery pack, about the size of a small water bottle, has a pleasing flip-up ring pull handle, and slots into the main body like a spaceship fuel rod, which is definitely worth extra points.
The handle hosts a cluster of buttons that fall easily to the thumb: an idiot-proof power button, boost, and carpet or hard floor settings. The latter is particularly useful if you have a home with mixed floor surfaces, as you can toggle between the two in seconds on the move. This simple concept is one of the best things about the Shark DuoClean, cutting down the time it takes to get the job done.
Shark’s much-vaunted ‘DuoClean’ system is on display here, as the name suggests, with the two rollers (soft at the front, hard at the back) switching duties - and speeds - seamlessly. A particularly neat touch is the set of LED headlights, which not only add a retro Scalextric air, but are surprisingly useful in those darker corners. An anonymous green LED above the rollers indicates that all is well; it’ll glow red if there is a roller-related blockage.
The other key technology here is ‘Powered Lift-Away’, which in practice is slightly incomplete. The theory is that the main body of the vacuum (dust collector and battery) lifts away from the brush-head base, giving you a portable handheld vacuum for those tricky non-floor bits.
The body clips off easily, with a clearly labelled button atop the machine, and the main handle detaches with a pleasing trigger loop that falls to the index finger - so far so good. However, you’ll be needing the shopping bag of attachments to make progress from here, which does lead to a bit of a juggling act, as well as the need to either carry the bag around your home, or go off and find it.
There is also the option to detach the handle along with central pole for extra reach, making chandelier cleaning a breeze, darling. Meanwhile, once you’ve filled the obligatory semi-opaque dust collector, emptying it out is simplicity itself. One button removes the caddy from the cleaner, another spring-loaded clip swings the bottom entirely down and around, something rival cleaners have struggled to perfect until recently.
Overall effectiveness, look and feel
It’s not the most beautiful device to look at, but it successfully cleans floors, vacuums sofas, stairs and seats alike, and the battery holds up long enough to clean anything short of a mansion. Part of the visual detraction is a clear labelling of each button, as well as useful maintenance tips in strategic locations, which while highly practical do contribute to a busy overall impression. On the flipside, you might actually remember to clean the filters on this one.
The Shark DuoClean will inevitably be compared with Dyson offerings, and as a ‘do everything’ vacuum the Shark holds up well. The build quality feels robust enough to take quite a beating, and there are a host of genuinely well-designed elements (such as a sharp kink in the bottom of the vacuum hose, which traps larger items conveniently near the end of the hose) that mean this ugly duckling is a swan-in-waiting, at least where home cleaning is concerned.
Shark DuoClean Liftaway: Verdict
As usual with Shark, if we're talking cleaning prowess this vacuum cleaner delivers. And if we're talking fairly hardcore ugliness and design quirkiness, well, it delivers on that too.
The problem with the 'Liftaway' element of the Shark DuoClean Liftaway is that you have a handheld device that by definition requires you to have something in each hand, joined together by a hose. Whereas literally all other 'handheld' vacs in the history of the genre have been liftable in one hand.
If you don't mind that, it's a very good upright vacuum cleaner and a highly distinctive handheld one, with all the usual benefits of being cordless and bagless. God DAMN, it is ugly though.