When someone says Karcher, you think big yellow jet washer. That isn't all the company makes, however, and we decided to take a look at the A 2234, one of its vacuum cleaners. It is pitched as a "rugged multi-purpose vacuum", designed to go places you wouldn't take your Dyson.
As you'd expect, the A 2234 is big, yellow and comes with a range of accessories. It is a wheeled body which makes up the works sitting on top of the 18-litre rigid plastic container on the bottom. There are wheels on the bottom of the container so it can be easily pulled across the floor using the attached hose.
With the working parts sitting on the top it is a little top heavy, so take care pulling it across an uneven floor. On more than one occasion we tugged it over to us, the wheels caught on the floor and it toppled over. It didn't seem to care, but it is worth watching out for this.
There are several accessories in the box, including your regular hose attachment and floor tool, but the best part is the flexible hose to attached to the back of power tools. If you have an electric sander or saw with an exhaust port you can attach this to the back of your tool to suck up the dust and debris as you work and save on some cleaning up later.
The body of the A 2234 offers a few connection points to store your ancillaries, but we found with the rough deployment of this vacuum, they tended to fall off, so are best kept somewhere more convenient.
Internally you'll find a particle filter and a vacuum bag. The A 2234 can be used without a bag if you want to suck up wet mess. If it is dry and dusty material you are collecting, a bag is recommended, both to protect the filter and to aid easy disposal.
In terms of controls there aren't many. There is a power switch offering two positions and a 13A socket on the rear for plugging in tools. There is also an auto-start setting, so that if you have a power tool attached, it will automatically start sucking when you start using the tool. It is convenient and means you don't have to be starting and stopping both appliances. A rubber connector can be cut to size to suit your power tool, into which the flexi-hose connects.
In use and the Karcher A 2234 is a valuable tool around any large DIY project. We put it to work around rubble, wet cement and plaster and general building debris. There is plenty of suck on offer, picking up mess with ease. It will gobble up small bits of brickwork, but we found that it would sometimes become congested just inside the body. Removing the hose would reveal the blockage which was then easily removed. That said, it will pick up things that your average domestic cleaner won't like at all, like nails, screws and small rubble parts.
The great thing, though, is having a vacuum which will handle wet and dry. Remove the bag and it will happily pick up surface water, or you can stick it over the end of a draining pipe whilst you work on a fix or wait for the last of the water to drain out.
When it comes to surfaces, the A 2234 doesn’t particularly like carpet. It isn't designed to be a domestic vacuum and that's obvious - there is no beater bar to really get your carpets clean. Hard floors it copes well with, especially when there is a mountain of debris to clear up after a DIY job. You'll still be sweeping the large stuff up and shovelling it into a bucket, but it will deal with the remainder swiftly.
The A 2234 also has a blow function, with a sliding adjuster to vary the rate. This will let you clear out organic waste you don't necessarily want to suck up, like leaves.
The Karcher A 2234 isn't just a vacuum, it’s a tool. It is aimed at trade or DIY jobs and if you are facing a big job, like a house restoration, and regular work where you are going to be cleaning up after yourself, then it is a worthy investment. For the occasional DIYer, it is probably an unnecessary luxury. The size makes it a big lump to store, but it earns its place in the back of your van or in your workshop. Nonchalantly picking up drops of wet plaster is a breeze with the A 2234 and there is little to complain about. It is top heavy and will fall over, but we can certainly live with that.