We get down-to-earth with the dirt and tests Dyson's DC11 Allergy compact vacuum. Will a machine small enough to fit into a 60cm kitchen cupboard eat up all the dirt in my house? If you thought vacuum cleaners were on a par with sanitary towels as a conversation stopper, think again. Since Dyson launched its bagless cleaner in the 1980s, online forums have buzzed with arguments about whether bagless cylinders clean better than upright bagged. There is plenty to talk about with Dyson's latest machine.
If you are short of space, then the DC11 Allergy is just the thing. It packs away into half the storage space of many other cylinder vacuums. In place of long and cumbersome appendages, it has a telescopic wand that extends to three times its length when in use. When collapsed, the wand clips onto the top of the machine and doubles as a handle so you can carry it easily. The hose clips neatly around the body. We managed to fit the DC11 into a standard, 60cm kitchen base cupboard. Dyson's designers have assumed that people who are short of storage space must live in small houses. The dirt capacity on the bins is a very small 1.8 litres. This compares with 4.0 litres on Dyson's DC07. If your house is very big and dirty, then the DC11 is not the best cleaner for you to buy unless you are prepared to make frequent trips to empty the dustbins as you vacuum around your mansion.
As with all Dysons, the DC11 does a great job of removing dirt from all around the house, and, since it is an allergy model, it removes dirt from the air as well. Dyson claims that the air that comes out of its machine is 15,000 times cleaner than the air that goes in. To prove it, the machine has a Seal of Approval from the British Allergy Foundation. This is good news for the 18 million adults who will develop allergies at some time in their lives. Vacuum cleaners can blow out, or blow away, the dust they are supposed to be removing. The DC11 Allergy overcomes this in two ways. Firstly, it is fitted with a HEPA filter. HEPA means high-efficiency particle arrest. Even very fine dust is prevented from escaping out of the machine. The filter does not need replacing but has to be washed every six months. Secondly, controls on the vacuum head switch the rotating brush on and off. On carpet, the brush can be turned on so it agitates the surface and picks up a lot more dirt. On hard floors, turning the brush off stops dust being blown away before the head has a chance to suck it up.
We tested the DC11 on both carpet and hard floors. Our findings matched those of the Good Housekeeping Institute which rated this machine better than any other cylinder vacuum it tested. It did an excellent job although we had to use one of the accessory tools to clean right up to where the carpet meets the wall. A trigger on the handle reduces suction, which we used to vacuum curtains and for cleaning around the edges of rugs and furniture. We sucked up lots of coins and bottle tops but none went beyond the head and all were easy to dislodge. The wheels on the head worked better than trolley wheels when it came to guiding it where we wanted it to go. The wheels also took some of the muscle out of vacuuming. The machine is not designed to sit on stairs as most cylinders are but with a 300cm long hose and wand, we could vacuum most of our flight of stairs with the machine sitting at the bottom.
If living space is tight, this cleaner is ideal. It's also good news for allergy sufferers. Of all the bagless vacuums I've tried, the Dyson is the easiest to empty. One button opens a trap door on the bottom of the bins and the contents fall directly into your dustbin. This is key because the small capacity on this cleaner means you will have to empty it regularly (a fact now parodied on the TV adverts). Cylinder cleaners are generally more expensive than uprights but an online price war has brought the price of the DC11 Allergy down from £289.00 to £227.00.