This vacuum causes user to long for a good broom

Now it gathers dust sitting in a corner

As Seen on TV

Your Money

March 07, 2004|By Matthew Kauffman

Some people devote their days to conquering the world's highest mountains.

Others commit their lives to an endless journey of spiritual awareness.

Me, I'm on a lifelong quest for a decent handheld cordless vacuum cleaner.

And compared with finding a hand vac that is versatile, powerful and easy to use, scrambling up Mount Everest is a walk in the park.

Shortly after college, I tried a bargain-basement offering from Conair. What a joke.

Later, I moved up to a pricier Dustbuster. Where's the power? Where's the love? And the car vacs? Don't get me started.

It's been one disappointment after another. Still, ever the optimist, I tore open the box to the Euro-Pro Shark 12-volt cordless wet/dry hand vacuum, a large, stylish device that - on TV, anyway - seems to gobble up every mess that gets in its way.

Let's cut to the chase: Sadly, my quest continues.

The Shark, part of a family of vacuums sold through direct-response television, looks great on paper. At about $50, it's reasonably priced; it offers the convenience of picking up wet and dry spills; and it comes with a variety of attachments common to full-size vacs.

The unit is a little nose-heavy, making it feel slightly awkward in the hand. And it can be difficult to get the vac seated just right on the charging stand. But those are minor nits. Where the Shark loses big points is on the one attribute that really matters: power.

I was never satisfied with the Shark's cleaning prowess. I thought maybe there was a clog. But no. I tried washing the filter, which itself is a pain. It requires 24 hours of drying before reuse. But no matter what I tried, the suction just can't compete with a corded vacuum.

On television shopping shows, demonstrators gasp with delight as the Shark does its thing. But I've rewatched those TV pitches, and with the sound off, they're not nearly so impressive.

The Shark is always shown swallowing up a narrow line of debris while the host slowly wiggles the vac from side to side. In one demonstration, the Shark is put to work sucking up what appears to be a line of Fruity Pebbles. Yes, the cereal gets cleaned up. But watch carefully: The simple task takes so painfully long that it looks as if the host is inviting each pebble to jump aboard.

The problem is that the Shark lacks the power to cut anything but a narrow path through dust and dirt, making it a slow, frustrating chore to clean larger surfaces. The Shark does have decent power when using the crevice tool, which concentrates the airflow and therefore increases the suction. But the opening is so small that it's useful only for digging dirt out of corners and making the occasional sweep under the refrigerator.

The Shark's wet capabilities also failed to impress. The Shark is touted as perfect for spilled milk and tipped bowls of chicken noodle soup.

The Shark will, indeed, pick up liquids, but its capacity is quite limited, and sucking up anything but water makes a mess of the dust cup. Use the Shark to clean up a fallen plate of pasta, and you'll spend more time cleaning the Shark than you would have spent on the spill with a sponge and paper towels. Try to mop up your wet basement, and you'll spend more time emptying the dust cup than sucking up water.

And by all means, empty the dust cup when it gets wet.

Recently, I tried the Shark on several piles of sawdust that shook loose when I was moving a table saw. It was slow going, but the Shark finally got up the mess. But the sawdust apparently held a fair amount of moisture because two weeks later we discovered the dust cap playing host to a healthy colony of mold.

I wish I had just used a broom.

The Shark does perform one task fairly well: cleaning spills on upholstery. Many upholstery stains are best removed by applying a wet cleanser and then dabbing or, preferably, suctioning the liquid. For that limited purpose, the Shark's wet/dry capabilities are welcome, and its small capacity is not a problem.

But that one plus isn't enough to rescue this product. So now, the Shark sits in a corner, gathering dust - and not in a good way.

And my search continues.

Matthew Kauffman is a columnist for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail him at yourmoney@tribune.com. For a detailed review of the Shark and other products, log onto www.ctnow.com/ontv. As Seen on TV

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