Of all the big names in home vacuums, I'd bet Kärcher probably isn't the first one that springs to mind.
When I think Kärcher, I usually think water blasters or perhaps the electric window cleaner I've tried in the past.
It turns out, Kärcher actually has quite an extensive range of vacuums - some very specialised; steam cleaners, ash vacuums, floor polishers and more.
Either I was a total ignoramus or I just haven't had the need to suck up any ash lately.
The point is, I'm a stick vacuum guy and once I discovered Kärcher makes those too, I felt compelled to give one a go.
The Kärcher VC 7 Cordless yourMax is an industrial-looking piece of kit. The main unit especially is quite bulky and angular - which is not to say it's uncomfortable to hold - in fact, there's a nice, thick, grippy palm rest - it just feels more like a power tool than a home appliance.
In keeping with that idea, the 25.2V Li-ion battery is easily swapped out - presumably, there are other compatible Kärcher products - or you might wish to keep a spare one charged if you're planning a particularly long vacuuming session and need to swap batteries halfway through.
That'll depend on how much "Boosting" you do. The VC 7 boasts an automatic dust sensor that varies the suction depending on the surface and how much detritus you're cleaning up. I found this was pretty effective when using the standard vacuum head (or "Active Floor Nozzle) and I didn't need to use the Boost function very often. Without Boost, you'll get nearly an hour's vacuuming in on a full charge which should easily see you through a whole average home.
You can charge the VC 7 by plugging in the AC adapter directly or use the supplied wall bracket instead.
The Boost button is large and easily accessible, on the back of the main unit. Conveniently, you can lock the trigger into the on position to save your finger from getting tired and that main head also has a row of LED lights on the front to help illuminate dark, dusty nooks.
There are, of course, some other useful tools; the traditional crevice nozzle, a cunning 2-in-1 nozzle with removable brush for upholstery and a longer, soft brush ideal for blinds, shelves and other corners. You can keep two of these tools on hand by sliding them into slots at the bottom of the wall bracket.
This is all fantastic except... I can't deny there's a cheap-feeling clunkyness to this device. It's light - which is obviously not necessarily a bad thing - but that lightness feels flimsy somehow. The main tube is especially weightless. I have no idea what it's made out of and to be fair, I haven't so much as scratched it, let alone dented it in the time I've been using it but it just seems too lightweight. Perhaps I'm simply not used to a machine that's been designed to come in well under 3 kgs. Regardless, it was alarming to hear the vacuum head squeaking as it rolled and bumped its way across the carpet.
Despite the squeaking and bumping the head seems effective enough, although it was clogged with long hair in next to no time. That's the problem with the other people in my house; they have hair.
The only way to unclog the ensnared roller is to remove it from the head and cut the hair off - and the only way to do that is to unscrew and detach a little plastic panel at the side. This requires a screwdriver which immediately damages the plastic panel, both when you unscrew it and tighten it back in place. Assuming you haven't lost the little panel while you were dealing with all that gross hair. Ick. Quite a process.
Ironically, on the other hand, Kärcher's solution to the problem of keeping the filter clean is nothing short of genius. When I first unboxed the VC 7 I was confused to discover an attachment that seemed to be completely sealed, with no exposed cleaning head. It wasn't until I consulted the manual (a massive blow to my tech-nerd pride) I discovered what this was for; it's a filter cleaner. You simply pull the filter out of the dust chamber, swap it with the one in the cleaner head, attach it and run the vacuum until it's clean. This is a much better, no dust, no fuss system than other vacuums offer. Some make you run their filter under the tap and then you have to wait a day or two for it to dry out. This process makes much more sense.
And ultimately I have to admit, it's Kärcher's common-sense, no-fuss approach to the whole device that really sets it apart from the rest. Most things are logical and very well thought out - like the filter cleaning head for example. But then the main cleaning head seems far less considered, prone to jamming up with long hair tangles and fiddly to clear when it does.
The big selling points of the VC 7 are its battery life, how easy it is to swap batteries and how quietly it runs. It's perhaps the quietest vacuum I've ever used - check out the video below and you'll hear I don't have to raise my voice at all, even in Boost mode. If these are your vacuum priorities, this is the one for you.
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