The Hoover H-Free HF18RH superb-value cordless cleaner with solid performance, useful tools and super-lightweight manoeuvrability.
- Solid cleaning results
- Good run time
- Lightweight and manoeuvrable
- Useful headlights
- Easy to empty
- Excellent value
- Poor edge cleaning
- Fiddly trigger
- Slow charging
- Review Price: £139.99
- Ultra lightweight cordless cleaner
- 0.8l bagless bin
- 18v 2.5Ah removable battery
- Up to 25mins run time
- Tilt & pivot floorhead
- Switchable brush bar
- LED headlighting
- 2-in-1 crevice/dusting tool
- 2-in-1 upholstery/brush tool
- Wall dock
What is the Hoover H-Free HF18RH?
Hoover’s latest hoover (see what we did there…) is a fully featured cordless model, competitively priced at well under £150. The Hoover H-Free HF18RH promises stick and handheld versatility, a full complement of tools and a solid 25 minutes run-time.
This lightweight and manoeuvrable cleaner is a steal, offering decent cleaning performance, plenty of suction, a good-sized bin and a genuine 19 minutes of high-power cleaning per charge. The build quality isn’t in the same league as top-flight cordless cleaners, edge cleaning is so-so and the trigger is fiddly. But at a third of the price of big brand name rivals, we can forgive it all that.
Related: best cordless vacuum
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – Design and features
The last Hoover cordless model we tested wasn’t up to much. The company rushed out the Hoover Freedom FD22G by buying a design ‘off the shelf’’ and badging it Hoover. The H-Free HF18RH is a different kettle of cleaning potential altogether. The design has been well thought through, there are plenty of must-have features and it comes with plenty of tools.
At its heart is an incredibly light, 18-volt hand-held bagless cleaner with a removable battery pack. Despite its low weight, it is quite a large unit, with a very good-sized bagless bin. This can be emptied in situ by releasing the bottom door, or twisted off to remove from the cleaner altogether.
The Hoover also boasts multi-stage filtration. A mesh gauze in the bin deals with larger particles while a washable, cloth post-motor filter traps fine dust. The rear filter access is a rather flimsy-feeling pinch clip, but it held up well to the usual Stevenson household abuse.
The unique locking trigger has been ported over from previous Hoover designs but much improved along the way. As standard, this operates as a typical sprung trigger – pull for on, release for off – but you do need to pull it right in to engage. Let the pressure off, even a little bit, and the machine stops.
A lever on the left side can be pulled backwards, which locks the cleaner in the on position. Push the lever forward and the machine clicks off. It works effectively and doesn’t push into your knuckle like the previous design. Yet it does take a little getting used to and is all but impossible to operate if you hold the cleaner with your left hand.
The H-Free has two power settings, which are normal and a high-power mode labelled carpet. Unusually, the cleaner defaults to the highest power setting rather than the lower power or remembering the last used setting. That is a bit of a pain when dusting and you want low power, as every time you switch off to move the ornaments, you need to press the carpet switch to reduce the power when you start up again. Still, the correct power is only a button-press away.
With the battery but no tools attached the H-Free weighs in at a featherweight 1.4kg. The low-slung battery position makes it wand-like pointable. Clipping on the tube and main floorhead adds less than 1kg to the total weight, making the H-Free one of the lightest cordless cleaners we have ever tested.
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – Accessories
Promising the cleaning chops of a corded upright vacuum cleaner, Hoover’s hilariously titled HLab Flat&Drive floorhead certainly packs in the features. It has a fully articulating tilt-and-pivot neck, low profile for under-sofa cleaning and a trio of LED headlights to spot fluff in the darkest recesses.
Its rotating brush bar offers two rows of medium-stiffness bristles and is popped out easily for cleaning and detangling. Behind the brush is a felt strip to help sweep debris. This can be swapped out for rubber blades that sit fore and aft of the bush bar for, in theory, more intense hard floor cleaning duties. On the downside, the head runs on four very small wheels that might make manoeuvrability in deep carpet a little trickier than ideal.
A blue light illuminates on the head on the higher power setting when the brush bar is running. This goes red if the brush bar gets jammed in rug tassels, for example.
The Hlab Flat&Drive floorhead can be attached directly to the cleaner for getting up close and personal with your carpet cleaning or using the good length aluminium tube. The fittings both ends are rather sticky, and the cleaner/hose interface really took a good tug to part on our sample, although it did begin to loosen up over time. The retaining clips look rather lightweight and fragile but again stood up to a few weeks at the test ranch without issue.
Detail tools include a 2-in-1 crevice tool and dusting brush, and a 2-in-1 upholstery and brush tool. The dusting brush slides down over the crevice tool with ease and locks into place. Removing the brush from the upholstery tool is much more of a game. It’s quite stiff and you need to pull it off at just the right angle, so takes a bit of getting used to.
The equipment roster includes a wall hanging dock, complete with screws, and a wall-wart style charger with fly lead.
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – Charging and run-time
The H-Free’s battery is nicely light for its useful 2500mAh capacity. As the charge socket is on the battery itself, it can be charged while mounted in the cleaner body or loose. An LED on the battery shows red for charging and turns blue for ready to roll… eventually.
The charger output is a very low 0.5Ah so with the best will in the world, it is going to take a minimum of five hours to charge the 2.5Ah battery from completely depleted. In reality that is over five and a half hours, so there isn’t any danger of picking up where you left off the same day unless you purchase a spare battery. Looking at Hoover’s website, however, a spare is not available and the only compatible ‘spare parts’ are apparently perfume granules and coffee machine descaler. Go figure.
The charger can be left plugged into the battery. There is plenty of advice on Hoover’s website about improving run-time and battery longevity by keeping it plugged in for at least 16 hours.
Given that the machine defaults to the higher power mode most of the time, you won’t get those 25 minutes of cleaning unless you lower the power. This is achieved by, slightly confusingly, pressing the ‘carpet’ button. On this lower power, using only the detail tools, the H-Free ran between 23:40 and just about 25 minutes in our tests.
By running the powered floorhead and increasing power we expected dramatically decreased run time, but that wasn’t the case. Even in this mode the H-Free ran for a very useful 19 minutes. That is a fabulous result given its decent cleaning abilities in this mode.
As you clean, the battery indicator light shows solid blue for normal running and flashing blue for when you are down to the last couple of minutes of run time. The LED is under your hand though, so chances are that the first you will know about a flat battery is the silence and lack of cleaning.
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – How noisy is it?
The H-Free’s powerful motor and fairly basic filtration don’t make it particularly quiet compared to the very best cordless cleaners on the market. It has a bold, purposeful sound and that is further bumped up by the noise of the motorised brush bar.
On the highest power mode, it tipped our sound pressure meters at around 80dB. One of our back-up SPL apps suggested that was the same volume as an alarm clock. It is about the same as traffic on a busy street, so don’t expect pets or small children to be cat-napping in the room while you clean.
Backing down the power to the lower setting reduces the sound output by around 3dB, to 76-77dB. That is about the same as a good mains-powered cleaner. Clearly, hushed and stealthy cleaning is not the H-Free’s USP but thankfully it’s no jet-engine either.
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – How does it clean carpets and hard floors?
The first-base ‘hand over the nozzle’ test reveals the H-Free as a bit of a dark horse of power considering its 18V system and affordable price ticket. Even on the lower power setting, there is fair suction and plenty of all-important air flow (which for the technically minded is due to the single large cyclone and large diameter bin).
Bump up the power to the highest setting and there is plenty of suck, lots of air rushing into the nozzle and good potential for solid cleaning results. Rolling over open carpet, with the floorhead on full power and brush bar running, it is amazingly easy to push and pull around and equally easy to navigate around and even clean under obstacles.
Despite the tiny wheels, there is very little suck-down thanks to the brush keeping the head from embedding into the pile. Debris pick-up on open floor is pretty good too, with plenty of surface debris scooped up in a single pass. It’s no deep-clean vacuum, but for everyday carpet cleaning, it is more than up to the task.
Interestingly, Hoover recommends that for a deeper clean you can attach the two rubber blades to the floorhead. This channels the air into the carpet effectively for higher dirt-lifting gumption. The trade-off is that there is significantly more stick-down and the cleaner is harder to move around. You pays your money (in this case, not too much of it) and takes your choice.
Using the felt strip though, our red carpet test proved revealing. Covered with a mix of talc, baking powder and carpet freshener granules, the H-Free did a great job out on open carpet in just a single pass.
The drawback was that the edge-cleaning wasn’t that great, with plenty of the test powder remaining in the dip at the edge of the carpet. A second run over the area further improved the deep cleaning of the heavier granules from the pile, but did little more for the edge result. A nip around the room perimeter with the detail tool would be the best bet here.
You might think using the rubber blades on a hard floor would be a great idea, but it isn’t. With both blades installed, dust, dirt and debris is simply swept in front of the head as you push forward and swept away as you pull back. The blades would work over deeply grooved surfaces like bare floorboards, but they just don’t work on tiles, lino or laminate. Back to the felt strip then.
The low power mode transpired to be pretty asthmatic when the air flow was spread out across the entire floorhead. Keep the H-Free in high power (‘carpet’) mode and its hard-floor cleaning abilities are solid.
Even with just the felt bar attached there is a little bit of sweepback present if you cover new ground on the back-stroke, but keep things in line and the results do not disappoint. A single sweep picked up most of our spilled oats test and the back pass got the rest.
The two dual-purpose detail tools are a simple push-fit onto the tube or cleaner. Oddly, they only go on a little way before binding, leaving an odd ‘ridge’ between tool and tube. It doesn’t affect performance but does suggest the industrial designer was having a tea-break at the point he got to the tool-fit interface.
Thankfully the tools work effectively enough and do a good job of concentrating the H-Free’s suck into serious dusting power. The crevice tool is just about small enough to fit into crevices and the bristles on both brushes are well gauged for the task required.
A few weeks on test and the H-Free performed admirably throughout. The detail and dusting tools are good, the air-flow is ample on high power and it’s a neat cleaner for getting to those high up cobwebs without needing shoulders like an Olympic swimmer. In fact, the H-Free’s greatest assets are its light weight and outstanding manoeuvrability. It makes vacuum cleaning easy and reaches the parts many other cleaners just can’t get to.
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – How does it cope with pet hair?
With a new long-haired Border Collie puppy in the house adding to the long-standing Labrador moult, we had plenty of variety for testing out the Hoover’s pet-cleaning abilities. Using the main floorhead out on open hard floor, results were suitably efficient, but that is hardly a litmus test of pet cleaning abilities.
On our living room rug, where both dogs flop of an evening (after puppy-wrestling / chewing the sofa / general canine misbehaviour), there was plenty of fine, soft and longer coarser hair present. On high power with the brush running, the H-Free made impressively short work of the hair. Given a couple of runs over the same area, and it was looking properly spick and span. A great result.
Jackie bemoaned that there wasn’t a powered mini-tool for the pet beds but in practice, the upholstery tool worked well. On the lower power setting, it didn’t suck in loose material too badly and was very easy to use on the taut fabric of the sofa. She ended up keeping the H-Free beside the sofa and giving the cushions a quick whizz over every night to get rid of the dog hair. (Yeah, we promised we wouldn’t let pets on the sofa too…)
While the lack of a small powered tool does limit the H-Free’s ultimate pet-busting abilities, it is a good hair-pulling performer on open carpets and hard floors.
Hoover H-Free HF18RH – How easy is it to use on stairs?
Lightweight, cord-free and good suction power are key ingredients of a great stair-cleaning vacuum but the H-Free does want for a tool to make the most of those talents.
While you can attach the main floorhead directly to the body, it’s just a bit too deep and cumbersome to be truly easy to use on steps. That is made worse Chez Stevenson due to the angled steps that form two major turns on the way up.
The upholstery tool turned out to be the only really suitable device. While that was OK for general cleaning duties, pet hair entwined into the pile weren’t overly bothered by the Hoover. It took a fair bit of back-and-forth action to pull some of those free.
Hoover makes another H-Free version, the HF18CPT ‘Pet’, that comes supplied with a small turbo brush. If you have pets or steps or both, the extra tenner for that model (£149.99) would be well worth the investment.
Why buy the Hoover H-Free HF18RH?
Hoover’s H-Free is a triumph of performance at the price, being effective, lightweight, easy to use and packing a decent run-time. It cleans hard floors and open carpets with gusto, works well for pulling up pet hairs and isn’t too shoddy chasing cobwebs or cleaning stairs either. Build quality is a bit plasticky, the trigger takes some getting used to, edge cleaning is poor and the charger is mind-bogglingly slow. Yet all those are all minor caveats considering the price is around a third of the class-leaders in this sector. For just a tenner more you can have the ‘Pet’ version with a mini turbo tool too!
Score in detail
Cleaning performance 8
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