We’ve seen electric mops, powered polishers and even robot floor scrubbers, but Karcher’s innovative FC5 is the first hard-floor cleaner to our test bench that washes, scrubs, polishes and vacuums as it goes. With twin forward-rotating fleece rollers and powerful suction behind, the FC5 is a do-it-all hard-floor cleaner for the dirtiest of homes.
It cleans hard floors with gusto, removing loose debris and even the worst dried-on stains from riven textured tiles, and buffs sealed laminates to perfection. It’s quite a beast to use, as you must overcome its own forward-drive momentum and the waste tank needs regular emptying. Yet for seriously tough hard-floor cleaning with a great finish, the FC5 is hard to beat.
Karcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner – Design and Features
Big, very yellow and seriously robust, the FC5 from Karcher is almost completely assembled in the box. Simply clip on the handle, place the machine upright in its dock and you’re ready to go.
It promises to vacuum and wet-clean a variety of hard floors from riven tiles to laminates, and polished ceramics to vinyl. It can be used with clean water or any propriety hard-floor cleaning solution made for machine cleaners. Karcher offers a range of solutions that cover stone floors, sealed wood such as laminates, waxed wood such as parquet, and a general multi-purpose solution.
The floor becomes only moist whilst cleaning, rather than soaking like a mop, so any hard floor that can resist a light surface wipe of water is suitable.
Two forward-rotating rollers extend right out to the edge of the floorhead and are covered in a microfibre fleece material. This picks up fluid from the clean water tank and rotates at 500rpm, collecting dust, dirt and debris while moistening and scrubbing the floor. At the rear of the rollers, a squeegee and vacuum slot draws dirt and dirty water out of the roller’s fleece surface and into the waste tank.
Unlike pad-type hard-floor cleaners, the action doubles as a vacuum cleaner so there’s no need to vacuum the floor before traditional wet-cleaning. The rotating rollers directly agitate and scrub the floor to shift the toughest stains and the rear squeegee and vacuum keeps the rollers themselves relatively clean in use. At the end of a long session, both rollers simply twist off and are machine washable.
Like most Karcher products we’ve tested, the FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner could easily pass as an appliance for commercial cleaning duties. Everything feels solid and well made, with even the power switch offering very positive on/off operation. The clean and waste water tanks clip on and off positively, and have chunky rubber water seals.
On the subject of water tanks, the FC5’s clean water tank is a reasonable 400ml in capacity. Conversely, the waste water tank is a considerably more compact 200ml before you hit its MAX level. While that does pretty much balance out in use – about 50% of the water is recovered, dirty) – it does mean you have to empty the waste every time you refill the clean tank.
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The wide floorhead has a side-to-side action that allows you to steer, but there’s no up and down tilt articulation. The machine is designed to be run at around a 60-degree angle from the ground. Yet that angle is likely to get rather shallower if you’re on the short side (with the handle lower to the ground), or tend to reach way forward when cleaning. There’s some latitude in the angle before the rear squeegee contacts the ground, though.
The roller power and suction motor amount to approximately 460W and the FC5 has a usefully lengthy 7-metre mains cable. It comes supplied with a waterproof dock that collects any drip-water and can be used to prime the rollers from dry. A small measuring cup is supplied for that very purpose. We were disappointed that Karcher doesn’t supply any cleaning fluid with the FC5 – not even small, one-use samples.
Karcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner – Performance
Getting the bad out of the way, using the FC5 requires a firm hand and a fair bit of strength. The reason is two-fold.
The trade-off of Karcher’s esteemed semi-professional build quality is that the FC5 is neither compact nor lightweight. At 4.3kg naked and around 5kg with the cable and some water in the tanks, it might not sound that heavy – but it’s tall and that puts a fair bit of its weight in your hand.
The head allows you to steer easily, but since there’s no tilting mechanism, you do need to keep the handle fairly high or the rear squeegee assembly hits the ground. Drop the handle down and the squeegee will either catch raised areas such as tile-edges – admittedly, badly laid by me – or lift the rollers off the ground completely.
The upshot was that I had to hold my hand higher than was ideally comfortable to get the right angle for the floorhead. And all for the want of a tilt mechanism.
However, the real culprit of my aching shoulders from a whole day’s full-contact floor scrubbing was the rotating rollers. The rollers very effectively drive the machine forward, more so over textured surfaces such as stone floor. Yet the effort required to pull the machine backwards is significantly higher as you have to fight the roller’s rotation.
On laminate and other smooth surfaces, it’s much less an issue – but after buffing 20sqm of deeply riven tiles in the conservatory, I needed a lie down and a sports massage. The results are well worth the effort, though.
The laminate floor in our hallway is under a constant barrage of dogs coming in from walks, muddy Wellington boots and a constant stream of couriers. It gets plenty of muck ground-in and usually requires vacuuming first then attacking with a mop and some serious elbow grease.
Not so with the Karcher FC5, especially when using a multi-purpose floor-cleaning solution in the clean tank. On the first pass we could see that all of the dust and vacuumable debris was picked up and the surface became moist. On the backstroke and subsequent forward strokes the rollers really worked their magic, shifting some tough marks with consummate ease. The waste water tank began filling with brown liquid and the floor was never more than surface damp. A perfect result.
Half an hour later on a warm day and the floor was clean and dry, with no signs of the smears or streaks we’ve seen with some hard-floor cleaners – particularly steam floor cleaners. The rollers did a good job of getting close to the skirting, leaving only a very fine bead of dust right up close to the room edge.
Given that the depth of fleece on the rollers is fairly shallow, the action clearly isn’t going to get deep into any cracks or deep grooves. If you have rounded-edge travertine tiles with deep and wide grouting, for example, I suspect the grouting will get passed over. We didn’t have a problem on our typically shallow-grouted tiles.
The 400ml water container did empty at a fairly rapid rate. You won’t get much more than 30 minutes or so of cleaning before it needs a refill and the waste tank needs emptying. They’re sized that these chores need doing at the same time, but we’d have much preferred a waste tank that could have handled a few refills of the clean tank first.
That said, emptying isn’t onerous. The tank unclips with ease, you pull off the filter section and tip out the dirty liquid. You might need to give it a rinse to move sticky debris such as pet hairs. Reassembly is the opposite action and super-slick.
Slightly nervously, I approached some inconspicuous parquet flooring. Inconspicuous also meant out of sight and very dirty – so a good test. The FC5 really is very good at only moistening the surface, rather than really wetting it, and as such worked well on the waxed and sealed parquet – despite plenty of cracks appearing between blocks over the years. Again, results were great, showing a buffed, streak-free finish and no major water pools that could have affected the timber.
On smooth floors such a the laminate and parquet, it’s much easier to move. Jackie didn’t have any major issue with manoeuvrability here, apart from noting that it did feel quite weighty in the hand. Things get a whole lot tougher on heavily riven stone tiles, where the rollers really drive the machine forwards and resist pulling back.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the FC5 is quite hard work on heavily textured surfaces, and the long handle doesn’t help keeping the correct angle to the ground. Yet we were once again impressed with the results. Muddy boot stains, a dried red wine spillage, and even dried on Labrador drool (yeah, dogs.. love ‘em) were all effectively cleaned and polished away. Even on the very dark grey tile surface, which readily shows marks and smears, the clean was spotless and streak-free.
We emptied the tanks and gave them a rinse. Cleaning the rollers is simply by running the machine in a pool of fresh water in the docking stand, but that didn’t prove particularly effective after our all-day session. Better would be to simply twist them off and throw them in the washing machine with the next load.
Should I buy the Karcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner?
As long as you’re not expecting a lightweight fairy wand for hard-floor cleaning, Karcher’s FC5 is extremely effective on a variety of hard-floor surfaces and is built to last.
On heavily textured surfaces you will have to fight against the forward motion of the rollers, and the tall handle makes it feel heavy in the hand. However, the result is a perfect, streak- and smear-free finish every time.
Add machine-washable rollers and easy to fill/empty tanks to its great cleaning performance, and the Karcher FC5 is a formidable hard-floor cleaning machine.
A serious, all-round hard-floor cleaner that requires a bit of physical effort – but it rewards with great cleaning results.