Vax’s flagship model in the cordless stick vacuum cleaner arms race is a lightweight, multipurpose bagless cleaner with pistol-grip body and powered brush in the floorhead. Boasting over 24 minutes run time and offering a host of tools, could this be a lower cost answer to the cordless dominance of the mighty Dyson V6 and Dyson V8 models?
Er, no. In something of a blip in form, Vax’s usual sterling build quality and great performance are seriously lacking. Poor design in key areas, woeful test results and a not inconsiderable £289.99 original asking price make the SlimVac Total Home something of a cordless catastrophe.
The Cordless SlimVac Total Home tops Vax’s new SlimVac range of hand-held cordless cleaners. Its pistol grip handle with trigger, motor housing above and a small 0.6-litre bin in front will be a familiar format for anyone has seen or used a Dyson V6 or V8 cordless. It offers a single power level with a promised 24 minutes run time, and Vax adds a twist to the trigger power switch with a lever that locks it on.
The angular design and slot vents on the cleaner body are reminiscent of a machine gun from any number of video games, and the way the removable battery pack fits like a bullet magazine is uncanny. Try as we might we could not find anywhere to fit a telescopic sight, though. At the very rear is pinch-clip that pulls out the Vax’s one small but washable filter. On top is a switch for the powered brush bar in the floor head.
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The entire base of the bin opens via a rather flimsy looking clip to empty the dirt. A further push button underneath drops the bin from the body, giving you access to an inner mesh filter for easier cleaning. This mesh and a single filter are unlikely to deliver very good dust emissions but as cordless cleaners are still exempt from mandatory EU energy label testing, we can’t put a figure on that.
All the tools will clip straight onto the nozzle for handheld use, so that you can use the tube for floor work and getting to those hard to reach cobwebs. The clip release mechanism is on the body and bottom of the tube rather than each tool, meaning you have to put the machine down to change tools as you need both hands.
Slightly more concerning, with the tube clipped into the body there is a large amount of play at the joint, indicating poor build tolerances. The upshot is that the tube and floorhead wobble relative to the body in use – and we seriously don’t expect that on any cleaner costing nearly three hundred quid.
The main floorhead is a little small but features a powered brush bar with soft bristles and a tilt and side-to-side movement neck. However, neither brush bar nor air channels go anywhere near either outside edges of head, suggesting skirting cleaning will be seriously compromised.
The hard floor tool is a little wider and had edge-to-edge air channels between two fixed blades. A decent size dusting brush is fixed to a short tube with two hinges that can be set anywhere between +/- 90 degrees. It’s a bit funky but given the freedom of movement you have with a cordless we really can’t think of any viable need or use for it.
The tool count is complete with a short and rather chunky crevice tool, with additional flip over brushes, and an usual upholstery tool with wavy rubber blades. A basic wall dock will hold the cleaner and two of the tools. The package is supplied with a wall-wart charger with a standard fly lead that plugs into the handle of the cleaner.
Plugged in, a light on the top of the SlimVac flashes red to indicate charging and goes green when charged. This takes around five hours from completely flat. As these are Lithium batteries, and not as susceptible to memory effect, you can put the cleaner back on charge to top up at any time.
A real bonus for the SlimVac could have been the Vax’s removable battery pack. This would indicate that you can buy spares and charge them while you are cleaning with the other battery. It’s not quite as simple as that. As the charger plugs into the cleaner handle you would also need a separate charger dock for the spare battery.
Neither spare battery or charger-dock are available from Vax at present. Why Vax did not supply a charge dock like the brand’s excellent Air Cordless series is a mystery.
That makes run time rather important and the Vax impressed us with a solid 26 minutes even using the powered brush bar floor head. The bar doesn’t spin particularly quickly or powerfully, so run time is only a little extended when using the non-powered tools.
There is no turbo-boost button or additional power setting, so the suction and run time is pretty much fixed. It is amazing how much ground you can cover in 26 minutes of cleaning!
VAX CORDLESS SLIMVAC TOTAL HOME – CLEANING PERFORMANCE
In the hand, the SlimVac’s weight is much more forward than the Dyson, and that balance wants to pull the business end downwards. If you are reaching up high for cobwebs you need either very strong wrists or to use your other hand to support the tube. Not ideal.
Moreover the angular plastic above the handle digs into the top of your hand. In my case the pointy bits of plastic at the rear rested right on top of the main knuckles of my thumb and index finger. Ouch. Worse still, the lock lever for the trigger is so placed that most of the cleaner’s forward leaning weight is driven through the lever onto the top of your trigger finger.
This is a seriously uncomfortable cleaner to use and the 26 minutes of cleaning was the absolute maximum I could have done.
The thumb-operated lock lever for the trigger caused more issues, though. The lever is offset to the left so can be easily operated with your thumb… as long as you are holding the cleaner with your right hand. Use your left hand and not only is the lever inaccessible without using your other hand, and if you do the end of the lever will dig painfully into your left index finger. This is a cleaner for right handed use only. Seriously, unbelievable.
Powered up, the SlimVac produces a reasonable suction but makes a fair bit of noise doing it – some 85dB. That is quite intrusive but the noise is relatively low pitched and not too aggravating. Putting your hand over the nozzle gives a good indication of reasonable suction but the volume of the airflow isn’t spectacular. Performance spread over the larger floorheads is unlikely to be stellar.
Our first floor test was the hard floor. A tiled conservatory with riven ceramic tiles and deep grout grooves, sprinkled with a typical breakfast-time spillage of porridge oats. We started off by using the brush bar head as its soft bristles should prove OK for hard floors as well as carpet. Not so.
The hard plastic front edge shunted a lot of the oats in front of the head, dropping them on the backstroke. We tried lifting the head a little on the backstroke but that just allowed the bar to flick bits of oat flake all over the kitchen.
Sadly, the results were no better with the hard floor head. The twin rubber blades simply stop dust, dirt and debris being drawn into the air-flow. The upshot was that almost all the oats were pushed forwards in front of the head, save a few that got trapped under the blade to be dumped on the way back. Epic fail.
Moving to the carpet test, two attempts to clean up our usual mix of carpet freshening and baking powder were enough to tell us that things were not getting any better. The SlimVac simply doesn’t have enough airflow to create decent cleaning power across the width of the floorhead; the brush bar bristles are too soft to beat the carpet and the bar itself turns fairly lethargically.
The thick plastic sides at either end of the bar resulted in the worst edge cleaning test result we have yet seen from any cleaner. A visible line out about an inch from the skirting was hardly touched, let alone the dust in the carpet/skirting groove. Oh dear, this is certainly not Vax’s finest hour.
We thought the howlingly bad ergonomics and woeful floor test results signalled that the SlimVac had reached rock bottom. Yet we came onto the pet hair test and it started digging. While there was some noticeable hair pick up to start with, very quickly nothing was happening. We ran over the 30cm test patch of mixed Labrador and Collie hair a few more times – nothing happened. The bin was empty, the filters were clean and yet there was virtually no suction.
A few stray hairs in the top section of the bin signalled all was not well in the tubes. Sure enough, taking the cleaner apart revealed a big clog of pet hair caught around a rubber non-return flap on the entry to the bin. We cleaned it out and tried the test again. The same thing happened. And again. With even a modicum of pet hair this Vax clogs up immediately and backs a big fur ball up the tube. We never did manage to clean the entire test area.
In terms of manoeuvrability, the Slimvac is quite good on stairs. The two-angle tilt on the main floorhead’s neck gives a good degree of movement when attached directly to the body and cordless cleaners are just the best on stairs. Well, they would be if they deliver decent cleaning results. See the carpet test above for why that wasn’t working.
Switching to the rubber upholstery brush, with its blue wavy edges, actually produced some decent cleaning on stairs. The airflow is spread over a smaller area so suction improves and the hard edge is good for manually agitating the carpet. There is no articulation in the neck so you do have to work to keep the tool flat to the floor, but it is otherwise quite viable for stair cleaning.
It seems Vax has rushed the design of the SlimVac because this cordless cleaner is woefully below the brand’s usual standards. It is awkward bordering on painful to use, delivers appalling cleaning results on both carpets and hard floors, and gets bunged up with pet hair if you so much as mention Winalot. Given the near £300 asking price, I can’t believe the company that brought us the excellent Air Cordless series of cleaners could produce such a cordless catastrophe.
Needless to say, the Dyson V6 and other cordless Dyson's like the V6 Absolute and V8 Absolute are vastly superior. Moreover, the entry-level V6 is a similar price to the Vax these days, so there's little reason to look elsewhere.
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If you're determined not to go Dyson, meanwhile, the Vax Air Cordless Lift is a very good cordless vac that proves Vax can do better than this.
Poor design, poor handling and poor cleaning make the Vax SlimVac an expensive cordless fail.