So we’ve been looking for the best hardwood vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors for a while, not just because this is a vacuum cleaner review, but also because my wife and I own a cleaning company where the majority of the houses we clean have hardwood floors.
Let’s start with some history. Part of the problem is that when vacuum cleaners were first invented, they were not designed for hard floors at all but were meant for carpets only. Vacuum cleaner manufacturers assumed that people would just sweep hard floors with a broom like they always had and over the years things haven’t changed all that much despite the fact that wall-to-wall carpeting is becoming less common and more and more people have hardwood floors. Don’t get me wrong, vacuums are much better with hardwood floors today, but the few that are at least decent are the exception to the rule.
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Most upright vacuums have a lot of trouble with hard floors and even the uprights that have enough power to generate significant airflow, which is very important with hardwood floor performance have trouble with what is sometimes called snowplowing, which is where they push larger debris around on hard floors instead of picking it up. Occasionally, some vacuums will have a height adjustment, but in most cases this just causes them to be too high to suck up the debris with the available airflow.
In addition, with most cheap uprights, you can’t turn off the brush roll, which means that no matter what height level you have it on, the spinning brushes spit debris out of the back of the unit which ends up defeating the purpose of vacuuming in the first place. We’ll come back to uprights later because very recent inventions have finally solved this problem so uprights and cordless vacuums will end up being the heroes of this story.
With canister vacuums, it’s all about the design of the suction powered hard floor cleaner head attachment that that specific company offers. But there are significant problems here as well. For example, I recently bought just about every type of hard floor tool on the market with the intention of making an article featuring the one that did the best. I was actually very excited about this because if there was such a mythical best hardwood canister vacuum cleaner head, it could turn any vacuum cleaner in the world into a great hard floor cleaner as long as you can find the right converter for your specific vacuum.
In addition, I wanted to find a great hard floor tool because vacuuming hard floors like this saves time like a lot of time because you just have so much more maneuverability than with a bulky upright vacuum. But every single floor had I tried was at the end of the day unworkable for a few reasons.
For example, I did not find a single hard floor tool that did not snowplow even medium-sized debris, meaning that you spend a good deal of time having to pick up the tool from the floor in order to place it over the debris to suck it up. This is due to the castle cut brushes or plastic gates having far too low of a profile for anything larger than fine debris in most cases. In addition, about half the hard floor tools out there use some type of brushes on the bottom, which is incredibly frustrating if there’s any pet hair involved because most of the time, instead of sucking up the pet hair, it just gets caught in the brushes, which very quickly blocks the castle openings further reducing the already lackluster performance of these brushes.
We honestly was so dumbfounded that there wasn’t a solution to this problem for canister vacuums that I started to design my own, first with rough prototypes in order to prove the concept and eventually I designed a 3D printed one with the idea of getting this big of gates as possible while not affecting airflow and without using brushes. To make a long story short, I’m still working on this and it’s nowhere near ready, and to be quite honest, even if I did figure it out, it would cost so much to develop that it’s nothing more than a pipe dream.
Let’s finally get to the good news. The soft roller is a very recent invention, we think invented by Dyson, but we’re having trouble confirming that, which is starting to show up on a lot of vacuum cleaners, especially cordless vacuums. But Shark, which in 2016 patented integrating the soft roller with their standard brush roll in their DuoClean line, uses it with upright vacuums as well as their cordless line.
To make a long story short, soft roller heads pick up just about everything they touch on hard floors. In fact, they’re only limited by the size of the intake holes on the vacuum. But it’s not just about large debris. Ironically, they’re also better than anything before them with super fine debris, like dust on hardwood floors. They basically pick up anything and everything.
So which of these soft roller units are the best?
Well, that depends. As we mentioned at the present time, you’re mostly seeing soft rollers in cordless vacuums, like the Dyson V8 and the V10 or the Shark IONFlex. But lots of companies are joining in the fun, including the ROIDMI F8 Storm, which I’ll be reviewing in a few days.
But if you wanted an upright with the software technology, I think the only way you can get it right now is by getting a Shark DuoClean vacuum. And Shark has pretty much converted all their vacuums to DuoClean with a variety of price points. I’ve owned just about all of them with our favorite being the mid-level NV803 speed for its lightweight construction, but I also use the top-of-the-line Shark APEX pretty much daily with our cleaning business.
We tend to lean toward the Shark over the Dyson soft roller systems for a few reasons: the first being that, because the Sharks are corded vacuums, they have a lot more power than any cordless vacuum can achieve and that’s always a good thing in my book. And finally, with the Dyson, you have to change out the soft roller head for the motor driven head if you come to a patch of carpet because the soft roller on the Dyson is simply not capable of being run on carpet. Whereas with the Shark DuoClean, you just keep vacuuming while flipping a switch on the handle as it performs great on carpet as well. It never ceases to amaze me what these soft roller vacuums can pick up, and believe me, I have put them to the test.