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ceanothus
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Member since: 22.09.2009

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    • Creda TCR2 / Tumble Dryer / 7 Readings / 6 Ratings
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      17.03.2014 13:25
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      A good dryer, minor problems can be resolved with a little research.

      I bought this dryer to replace a non condensing model that was making an absolute sauna of my utility room. What a difference!

      It's an extremely effective condenser. I can't say honestly that it doesn't produce some humidity, but given the amount of water it catches,, it does a pretty good job, and there's no hose to locate to outside.

      It's a very simple thing to use. You load the clothes in, shut the door and set the timer. It has a high and low heat option, I rarely use the low heat unless I have something very synthetic to dry. Press start and away it goes. A gentle bump on the door (to open it) stops the machine so you can check if the load is dry, if not just shut the door and hit start again.

      Its reverse action seems to get clothes dry without too much creasing. I'm not best friends with the iron anyway, so as long as I don't overbake them and fold them pretty soon after drying has finished, t-shirts, underwear, jeans and fleeces all come out perfectly ready to wear. I do still iron formal shirts and press trousers, but it is a great time saver overall.

      There are a couple of things to note:

      It catches water in two places. The primary place is in a removable tray at the top left. Empty this every time you use it, very simple to do and you will soon get an orange 'Empty Water' light if you forget.

      It also catches a smaller amount of water inside the condensing unit. Once a month, you need to clean this out. There's a flip down front panel, and inside you find three plastic catches to unlock the condenser part. Withdraw it from the machine and if your family is anything like mine, you will find an assortment of sweet papers, bits of tissue from pockets and (if you're a pet owner) a surprising amount of pet hair. Not nice, but better there than on the clothes! To clean this out, you take it to the sink and pour copious amounts of water through it. It can be difficult to put back in, just take your time and make sure that you have it perfectly level or it won't locate properly all the way back in. You will know if it's in properly, you can't close the catches if not.

      A tip - while the condensing unit is out, take a clean towel or some kitchen paper and reach all the way into the back of the machine. Often, a small pool of water forms there, and it seems to affect the drying ability significantly.

      The only serious problem I've had with this dryer was the 'float' getting stuck. It was just not drying, no matter how long it was on. No water was being collected in the main tank. The 'empty water' light was not on. The condensing unit was clean. I was very cross, as the machine was only about 8 months old!

      Thanks to the wonderful internet, I found the problem and was able to resolve it myself, at no cost. At the back of the machine is a plastic panel (bottom right as you look at the back). Remove that panel carefully (unplug the machine first), and you will find a float chamber. This, I kid you not, relies on a piece of polystyrene being able to move up and down on a spindle. It controls the switching of the heat, the pump or somesuch. If it's stuck in the up position, your dryer will not dry. I found a horrible gunky mess in the float chamber, stopping the action of the float. Cleaned it out, and the problem resolved itself instantly. I've had to do this again since, so it's worth noting.

      I suspect that poor routine maintenance is causing this, so I'm now trying to force myself to clean out the condenser more often than recommended, about once every fortnight. It's a lot easier than cleaning the float chamber out.

      Overall, for the price paid, I am more than happy with this dryer, and would recommend it.

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    • More +
      17.03.2014 12:16
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      An excellent buy if you are informed and do your homework

      Initially, this machine made fantastic coffee straight out of the box. Over time, there seems to be an inherent problem that you should consider before purchase. For those thinking of taking the plunge, let me explain a little about 'bean to cup' machines, and what made me purchase this coffee maker.

      Basic Operation
      A bean to cup machine makes similar quality coffee to that found in high street coffee shops. In my opinion, there's no shortcut to this - no filter or percolating machine will match that taste and richness. This machine has a hopper up at the top left for coffee beans. These funnel down into an inbuilt grinder. You fill a water tank over on the right of machine, enough for several coffees. When you ask the machine for a coffee, it automatically switches on the grinder, grinds the beans freshly for each coffee, puts the grounds into the 'brew unit' (where the magic happens inside the machine!), and then forces water from the tank through the grounds under pressure. Coffee comes out of the twin spouts into your cup or cups (you can place two espresso cups on the machine and catch one spout with each if you wish). Finally, the helpful machine presses the used grounds into a neat little disc, and dumps it into the grounds bin, also inside the machine. The machine will do a reasonable job of making coffee with pre-ground too - you simply tell it that you are making a pre-ground, use the spoon provided to add your ground coffee to the middle hopper and it will get you a decent result, but not the same quality as from beans. I tend to use this only for speciality blends, with the main hopper kept filled with everyday beans.

      The sign of a good machine is the 'crema' it produces - a fantastic creamy froth on top of the coffee, even before adding milk. This machine makes top quality coffee with plenty of crema.

      Steamed milk / froth
      Most of these high end coffee machines have a steaming facility, a way of heating and frothing milk. This machine comes with a milk jug, so the process is even easier. You take off the hot water nozzle and attach the milk jug in its place. There's a clear plastic tube in the jug which goes down into the milk. The machine uses this to draw up milk, froth it with steam and dump it into the cup via the spout, as shown in the picture. The spout is adjustable to suit different sized cups. You can ask the machine for a 'Cappucino', and it will organise the whole process, making coffee and frothing milk at one press of the button.

      If you don't want the coffee bit, and just want the frothed milk, you can press the 'Cappucino' button twice quickly, and it will just froth milk for you, until you ask it to stop. When not required, the milk jug can be kept in the fridge and the hot water nozzle left in place instead. You can use the machine simply to produce hot water only. Crucially, and this is something you should consider, this machine has twin boilers. One produces hot water for coffee, the other for hot water and steam. This costs more, but is very useful. With a single boiler machine you will have a short wait between making coffee and frothing milk, while the machine adjusts to the temperature required. With twin boiler machines, you can do both operations back to back, or have the automatic cappucino facility that this machine offers.

      Controls
      Everything about the machine is controllable. Length of coffee and strength of coffee are both easy to set. You can ask for one cup or two cups. There are three pre sets for length (short, medium or long coffee), and if those don't suit , you can programme a 'My coffee' setting to match your cup size (highly recommended). There are five pre sets for strength. There's a user friendly LCD display and a little menu of options that's very easy to navigate.

      Descaling
      At first setup, De Longhi provide a test strip for you to test the hardness of your water. You programme the machine for the relevant hardness, and a cup counter in the innards somewhere works out when it is time to descale the machine. I like that it takes the water hardness into account, and only tells you to descale when it is actually needed, not on some pre chosen cycle. If you get one of these machines, do not skimp on descaling. Buy the proper De Longhi descaler liquid, and do it as soon as you are told it's required. It's really important for the machine's health, and if you have a problem the techies will be able to see from the machine history if the descaling schedule has not been met. Not doing it can invalidate your warranty.

      Cleaning
      Cleaning is pretty easy. There's a drip tray and a grounds bin to empty at least daily, more often if you drink a lot of coffee. It tells you to empty the grounds bin, but won't remind you to empty the drip tray, and this can leak over your worktop or into the base of the machine if you let it get too full, so I always empty both at the same time. The drip tray fills up pretty fast, as the machine self cleans by pulling fresh hot water through the pipes at each switch on and switch off. Every so often, you have to clean the brew unit by taking it out and immersing in warm water for a while. Most of the used grounds go into the grounds bin, but there are always some stray grounds that land in the innards of the machine, and these have to be brushed out regularly or they will go mouldy. The instruction manual is excellent, and explains all these things really well. Cleaning is really not a big deal, given what this machine does for you. The milk jug can go straight into the dishwasher, top, body and draw tube separated.

      Bean to cup versus pod machines
      I considered this really carefully before purchasing my first De Longhi (this is my second). Pod machines are, comparatively, a fraction of the price, and make coffee that is nearly as good. However, when I looked at running costs, it was obvious that the price of coffee pods would cost way more over the lifetime of the machine. I felt it would restrict my use and enjoyment of the machine, i.e. I would not make good coffee with reckless abandon all day long, and it would become a 'special' treat. By comparison, coffee beans are ridiculously cheap. I get mine from an online catering supplier, and you can get a 6 kilo box of a decent blend for around £60. That runs the machine for at least 2 months, perhaps longer. Beans cost us less than what we used to spend on instant coffee. You have a simple choice - buy a cheaper machine and spend significantly more on consumables, or shell out more up front and enjoy cheap running costs.

      Issues
      So, great tasting coffee, a very friendly machine, looks good in the kitchen and (if you buy well) is actually cheaper to run than buying decent quality instant. What's not to like? In one word. Heat.
      No bean to cup machine will make boiling coffee. You need to understand that from the off. If you grind fresh beans and pass very hot water through them, you will get a bitter taste, so these machines are not meant to make a drink that's as hot as an instant, made from the kettle. Initially this machine was making coffee at an acceptable temperature (about 85 degrees or so). I've had two of these machines now, and there is a pattern of decreasing temperature over time, to the point where it's unacceptable. De Longhi's customer service is exceptional, the agents are properly trained on the appliances, have surprisingly good technical knowledge and have autonomy to get things done. Really rare. They do seem to have a bit of a blind spot over temperature though, it's difficult to get them to accept that your machine isn't making the coffee hot enough. The real rub is that both my machines (costing £350 and £550 respectively) have been away for boiler replacements within the first two years. That's OK, as De Longhi give you a 2 year warranty, so both repairs have been free of charge. My older machine needed a new boiler again, one year after its first repair and out of warranty this time, so I picked up a repair bill of £90. My newer machine is now back on the downward temperature slide, again, so I feel pretty justified in saying that this is an inherent problem.

      I find it irksome in the extreme that a machine costing this much can't have parts that can be expected to last the lifetime of the machine. You have been warned - if you want to run one of these past the 2 year warranty, you must budget for repair costs.

      Having said all that, would I buy another? Yes, I would. We love our coffee, and I've spent less on these appliances than I would have spent in coffee shops (we work from home these days). I would simply be aware of the maintenance costs before splurging again.

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      • More +
        04.04.2010 12:00
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        A good steam cleaner, but really consider if you need the vacuum element

        I've owned a Polti Vaporetto Lecoaspira 690 for about 6 months now, so I think I'm ready to give you my review. Now, I detest housework (with a passion!) so when I spend my hard earned cash I do expect whatever I buy to make a real difference and cut down the time or effort I need to put in. I shopped around and read plenty of reviews before buying, and still think I got it slightly wrong on this product.

        What is it? Well, it's a sooper dooper steam cleaner plus vacuum in one. Pricy at just over £300. It uses ordinary tap water, heats it to steam temperature under pressure and spits it out through a selection of nozzles and cleaning heads (supplied as standard). It can also power a steam iron, but as I feel the same way about ironing as regular housework, I didn't buy the optional iron attachment. The controls allow you to select either steam cleaning or vacuum cleaning or both at the same time.

        The vacuum uses a 'water filter'. Yes, that's correct, you add water to the collection chamber before vacuuming, and all the dust and debris is dumped into the water filled bin. Absolutely great for asthma sufferers, as no dust particles escape into the air and there are no dusty clogged filters to deal with. Because it's a wet filter, the vacuum can be used for wet or dry cleaning and will pick up minor spills. It's pretty disgusting to empty though!

        Technical spec: works at 4 bar steam pressure. The boiler holds 1.7l but you only fill to 1.3l to allow some expansion room. The vacuum is 1200w power with Polti's 'Eco-Active' filtration system. The build quality is great. The plastics don't feel flimsy, everything fits together very postively and it feels like a quality, solid piece of kit.

        What's good: Love the steam cleaner element of this machine. If you've never cleaned with steam, try it. Steam is a very powerful degreaser and sanitiser, there's no need to add cleaning chemicals or detergents, and stains literally melt away. The detail lance is like a magic eraser, you can see grime and debris dissolving to nothing before your eyes. The floor sized heads are not quite so powerful, they don't concentrate the steam into a jet so won't shift stubborn stains without some scrubbing or rubbing, but they still do an excellent daily mopping job on floors.

        What's not so good: Not really the machine's fault, but I find the vacuum is pretty useless in this context. I bought this machine thinking that the vacuum bit would help in the process of steam cleaning. It doesn't. Well, it can, but the process is so tedious that in practice you don't bother. It's actually far more effective to have a huge supply of clean cloths, blast with steam and wipe away the dirt with a clean cloth. In theory, you would blast with steam and simultaneously vacuum the dirty water away, but in real life you buy a whole load of cheap cotton cloths, use plenty of them and throw them in the washing machine.

        In short, I've found that if I want to steam clean, I steam clean. If I want to vacuum, I vacuum. The machine does a good job of both tasks. However I already have a good wet and dry vacuum cleaner, and with hindsight I would not have paid the premium to get the vacuum function on this machine. If you don't already have a wet & dry vacuum, or are looking to replace your vacuum cleaner, it's not a bad bet.

        What's in the box: Along with the cleaner, I got a floor sized cleaning head, a medium cleaning head and a detail lance. The large and medium heads have a nifty feature that allows you to slide in a selection of rubber squeegee blades, smooth plastic blades and bristle inserts. It's not fiddly to change them, and by using them you can adapt the cleaning head for steaming everything from hard floors to vacuuming furniture.
        The lance is superb. It acts like a normal detail vacuum nozzle, but has an additional outlet for steam. The steam outlet can have a small brush screwed on, so that you can get steam delivered direct to the small brush and scrub directly with the lance. This works like a charm on grout between tiles, cooker racks, around taps etc. I have not seen our tiled floor so clean since the day it was laid. You get 3 small brushes in the box as standard, replacements are available to order but they are pretty long lasting. There is also a microfibre cover for the medium head, a filler nozzle and a bottle brush thingy for cleaning out the vacuum bin. There's also a very amusing DVD showing you how to clean every bit of your gorgeous palazzo while looking like you just stepped out of Vogue magazine (snigger!)

        Controls: Variable steam control. Never use it, blast everything and get it done quickly is my watchword. Permanently set to maximum.
        Steam boiler on - push button to heat up the steam. Light goes out when it's ready to work.
        Vacuum on: push button to turn on the vacuum cleaner, can be used in conjunction with the steamer or alone.

        Most useful for:
        Floor mopping. Throw a clean cloth down on the floor and steam directly through it. With the squeegee blades on the large cleaning head, you can grab and push the cloth around. When cloth is dirty, throw down another one and continue. I will get through around 6 cloths on a large kitchen floor, if in doubt that you are cleaning just look at the muck on the cloths and realise all that was on your floor. Uck! Does a wonderful job, the floor is dry within 5 minutes and really, really clean.

        Windows, glass, mirrors etc. I blast with steam and use a cloth to polish to dry. Not only do they come up clean without smears or streaks, they also seem to stay clean for longer.

        Tiles. Fantastic. Blast with steam for a surface clean, every so often give the grout a really good scrub with the detail lance and brush. And marvel.

        Kitchen cupboards, doors, woodwork, worktops. Watch out for painted or waxed surfaces, not all will take kindly to it. Never scrub painted surfaces with the bristly thing while steaming, it will take the paint straight off as it is being softened and heated.

        Sinks, waste pipes, taps. Great for cleaning yukky bits of the overflow, blasting around the base of taps, blasting steam down the waste pipes etc. Don't go too heavy initially on porcelain or glass, steam it lightly first to warm it up and then let loose with full on power.

        Also great for alloy wheels on the car, general freshen up of painted walls, curtains and soft furnishings. Don't imagine it will deep clean your fabric sofa or carpets though, it is just not a patch on a good shampooer. It will do a decent job of giving these things a surface clean, steam them and wipe with a clean cloth and you will see surface grime coming away.

        Things to look out for: Remember to empty out the water filter after every use. Forget and turn it on 2 days later and it smells worse than the drains. Disgusting. I didn't tell you this, but it smells really nice if you put a squirt of your favourite but not too expensive perfume in the vacuum water when you fill it up. Polti will sell you a fragrance to add to the water, but I use Samsara in mine, lol!! Never ever use fragrance in the boiler water.

        Steam is very powerful, and can't be used directly on light switches, electrical controls or LCD panels. You should get a folded cloth, steam directly onto the cloth and then use it to wipe them. Works well.

        Real bugbears: Even at this price, the machine doesn't have a separate water chamber. Big, big mistake. When the water in the steamer runs out, you have to wait until the boiler has cooled down before you can take the cap off to refill, a bit like a car radiator cap. It takes at least 5 minutes. Best strategy - put the kettle on. Have a 5 minute tea break, cap will then be ready and use the just boiled kettle to fill the boiler up. It gets you back up and running more quickly than waiting for the machine to heat the water. I still think it's a poor feature on a machine of this price.
        Also, while I'm being critical, there's no water measure in the boiler. so you can't tell if you have loads left, or if it's about to run out of steam just near the end of the job. Should have been a simple thing to incorporate in the design, but is lacking.

        Overall, I wouldn't give this machine up. However, I would buy a great steamer, with continuous refill facility and sacrifice the vacuum cleaner if I had my choice again. Still a great machine, but I should have spent less and got more steam features for the money. Hope this helps someone.

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        • Navman F15 / GPS Sat Nav / 10 Readings / 9 Ratings
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          22.09.2009 12:17
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          Good little system for the price

          My first experience of SatNav for a very long time, and I was pleasantly surprised. I briefly tried this technology many years ago when it was very new, very cutting edge and as useful as a chocolate fireguard, so I didn't rush to get one.

          The Navman was a complete impulse buy. I bought it as Ebay's Deal of the Day, at so a stunning price it made me decide to join the SatNav age and stop being such an old codger.

          The Navman worked straight out of the box. It's only small, fits in the palm of your hand, and has a nice clear colour screen. It's also very intuitive. I'm not one for reading the manual (that's what husbands are for!), I just dive straight in and start pressing buttons, and I found it easy to use straight away. The touchscreen is responsive and it's easy to understand what information to give it.

          As luck would have it, I needed to make a long journey within the first week, so I could give the NavMan a good tryout. Fitting in the car was a doddle, the suction cup actually works on the windscreen really well, and it's easy to clip the unit into the holder and release it to remove from the vehicle.

          I gave the Navman the postcode of my destination, sat back and let it get on with it. Even a dolt like me could understand the directions. The voice commands were helpful, well timed and made sense. It was slightly annoying that I spent the entire journey without the radio on, I was too busy listening to the machine to be bothered with music!

          I found the 'speed camera' warnings pointless and annoying. Apparently I can pay to keep the locations updated, but as it 'dings' a warning every time you pass a point that has a speed camera, might have a speed camera, has ever had a speed camera at some point in the past, or might have a speed camera in the future I don't think I'll bother. Going round the 'traffic management' section of the M25 it sounded more like winning the jackpot on the pub slot machine than driving. Ding, Ding, Ding, yes I get the picture! It's easier to just behave and drive properly.

          The Navman estimated my ETA to within 5 minutes. The person I was going to meet was amazed that I managed to find his house (tucked away in deepest countryside) without getting lost, and even accurately told him what time to switch the kettle on. I was like a little homing pigeon :-)

          Since then, I don't venture out in the car without my Navman. OK, I sometimes disagree with the directions while close to home and choose not to take the suggested route. 'She' accepts my rebelliousness without complaint and quickly recalculates the route. The journey stats are useful, I like being able to see the current time, ETA, miles left to travel and average speed in one neat column down the right of the screen. I've not managed to break it or seriously argue with it so far, so I would say it was a very good buy.

          A small niggle is that it's too easy to 'reset'. There's a slider switch to go from On-Off-Reset, and I can't count the times that I've taken it out of the car, meant to switch to 'Off' and mistakenly gone through to 'reset' instead. Not a show stopper but could have been designed with a separate 'reset' button.

          I can't compare it with other, more expensive SatNavs sorry as I've no experience of them, but if you are looking for an entry level SatNav for around the £50-£70 mark, you could do a lot worse than this one.

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        • iRobot Roomba 530 / Vacuum Cleaner / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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          22.09.2009 11:12
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          The absolute best £200 I've spent this year. Every home should have one.

          I'm the very proud owner of a Roomba 530, and I have to tell you it's just fabulous! I was very sceptical, but I am totally converted and would recommend this little gadget to anyone.

          Firstly, the Roomba is only small. About the size of a large dinner plate and only 4" high. It comes with a little docking station, to recharge the internal battery, and a lighthouse (more about that later). It's quite a heavy little thing, seems well built and looks extremely cute.
          Everyone I know has a 'pet name' for their Roomba, it is very tempting to give yours a personality and think of it like a member of the family (!), but I'll try to stick to the point ......

          It's quite simple. I already own some of the most technically advanced, expensive and well engineered vacuum cleaners available on the market today. But they all have the same problem - someone needs to stand behind them and push! The Roomba has quite transformed our household. You take it to the place you want cleaned, set it down on the floor, press the 'clean' button and off it goes. It beetles around the entire room, intelligently learning about the dimensions as it goes. The owner's manual claims it will cover the whole area about 4 times in the course of cleaning, and I can believe it.

          It basically runs around on its little wheels, using a combination of brushes and vacuum to pick up dust, hair and small debris. It can circle, change direction and reverse. It has a main set of brushes underneath the body. An additional edge cleaning brush sweeps debris underneath the machine ready to be picked up by the main brushes. It carries a small slide-out waste collection bin that needs to be emptied after each clean.

          It's extremely intelligent, with an array of sensors to guide it. There's a spring loaded bumper all round the front so it will gently touch against furniture without damage. As it approaches an obstruction, you can see it slowing down. Once it has nudged up against the object it will beetle off happily in another direction.

          It also has a very clever 'cliff sensor' - as soon as it can't 'see' floor underneath the sensor, it will stop and reverse. So, it doesn't throw itself over doorsteps or fall down the stairs. Now I was very nervous when first testing this feature, but truly Roomba will not fall downstairs and I've completely relaxed :-)

          It comes complete with a 'lighthouse' - a little pod about the size of a PC speaker that is battery powered. Switch on the lighthouse and it emits a signal that Roomba won't cross through. So for example if you want Roomba to stay in a certain room, place the lighthouse in the doorway of the room to confine Roomba there.

          The Roomba has a selection of voice messages, beeps and lights to communicate with you. If there's anything wrong, it will beep and 'tell' you what it needs, for example 'please clean Roomba's brushes' . It also makes happy noises when it has completed its cleaning task and when it has docked successfully. It makes sad 'uh-oh' beeps when something is wrong! Bless.

          When Roomba has finished its cleaning task, the 'dock' light will flash and it will try to find its way back to the docking station. When it has locked onto the docking station signal it will line itself up, sit on its charging station and play a happy little noise.

          As you can probably tell, I'm totally charmed by Roomba, but quite honestly it's not a gimmick. While it's not the most powerful vacuum in the world, it cleans every day, gently and without effort. I believe it keeps the carpets cleaner than being battered by a full size vacuum two or three times a week, because the dust is being lifted every day. It copes with carpets, tiles and laminate equally easily and will happily clean rugs without mangling the edges.

          Bad points: There's nothing really awful about owning a Roomba. It will not cope with extremely messy carpets or large pieces of debris. You also need to clean the brushes regularly (the brush cleaner provided with the Roomba is fab) and empty the collection bin after each cycle. The only consumables are the filter and replacement brushes, there's no bag to change.
          Battery life could be better - if you have a large house or complicated room layouts, forget the spiel about leaving it to vacuum the whole house while you go out to work, it just won't happen. In a small flat, it would cope fine. It's a bit noisy while it's working, personally it doesn't bother me but I tend to put it to work in an empty room while I'm off doing something elsewhere. If you own a Roomba, you will soon get used to any areas where it gets stuck (e.g. we have one radiator that it can go under but not get out of, and it often shuts itself in the bathroom !!)

          Good points: Too numerous to mention! Apart from the obvious advantage of doing the cleaning for you, it's also extremely amusing to watch, your guests will all want to kidnap it and take it home with them, and you have a clean house with very little effort. It also cleans right to the edges and can go underneath sofas, beds and numerous places that the vacuum cleaner can't.

          Long term reliability? Don't know, but to be honest I'm not remotely concerned. It has a full 12 month guarantee. If at the end of 12 months it disintegrates into a pile of springs and microchips, I would rush out and buy another straight away. Why? Because based on a purchase cost of just over £200, £4 per week for a clean house feels like great value for money for someone who doesn't like vacuuming :-)

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          • More +
            22.09.2009 09:37
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            It's only a carpet cleaner, But it's the best carpet cleaner I've ever bought.

            What can I say about this machine, other than WOW! After having tried most other carpet cleaning methods over the years (Vax, Kirby, Dry Shampoo and everything in between!), the Rug Doctor is the one. So good that I bought one of my very own.

            OK, so I bought it after a sleepless night watching the dreaded 'infomercial' ... but I'm not a gullible consumer, and one year on I don't regret it one bit. So, after a year's experience with the Mighty Pro, what can I tell you about it?

            To start with, it's really sturdy. Well built, well designed, with quality components. The main body of the machine is pretty heavy, especially when you've filled the lower chamber with water and cleaning fluid. It's not a problem though, it's on decent sized wheels, moves about fairly easily and the handle is adjustable to suit you. Water and cleaner is delivered by a powerful pump system; unlike some other machines it doesn't rely on vacuum suction or feeble little pumps to get a dribble of water through.

            The real bonus is the excellent hand nozzle. It has a trigger spray and fair kicks clean water out under pump pressure. Unlike any Vax I've ever used, it delivers plenty of cleaner to the nozzle, at any angle you need, onto any surface you like. I use the hand nozzle to clean tiles on the kitchen floor every so often, it's a really deep clean and leaves the floor virtually dry. Change two pipes to quickly swap between cleaning with the main brushes and the hand nozzle, don't forget to flick the switch from carpet cleaning to hand tool use and you're away.

            It does a fantastic job of cleaning carpets, upholstery, car interiors and rugs. I loathe housework in general, but I do have a thing for clean floors. We have a large, very hairy dog (who I simply love to bits but he really is a messy beast!) plus 4 cats, so keeping clean floors is no picnic. With the Rug Doctor, I find the results so pleasing that I don't mind spending a couple of hours cleaning a carpet. Whether you're thinking of renting or buying a machine, here are my top tips:

            Vacuum really well first, especially if you have pets. The amount of pet hair and grit that will come up with the dirty water is just disgraceful, even if your carpet looks clean and hair free before you start!

            If you're doing a whole room, zip all around the edges first with the hand tool. Clean a nice wide border around all the edges before starting with the main cleaning. While you're at it, use the hand tool to pre spray solution onto any difficult patches you spot, so they have a little extra time to loosen up.

            If you have rugs, use the hand tool around the edge of the rugs, leaving the middle of the rug for cleaning with the main machine. The machine isn't great at dealing with the edges of rugs and will either chew them or leak a load of water when running over the edges, so I clean about an 8" border with the hand nozzle first.

            Once you've done all the fiddly bits, whip the hand tool off and swap back to main carpet cleaning. You walk this machine backwards, not quickly but there's no need to go at snail's pace either. The machine does a fairly broad sweep. If the carpet is really dirty it does need a large overlap on each sweep as I find the machine doesn't clean perfectly edge to edge, but at least you will see exactly where you've already been. If you start to see foam coming out at the edges, you're probably going too slowly.

            Word of warning - this machine will use gallons of water and cleaner! About half the workload is emptying dirty water and refilling the tank, so make sure you have plenty of hot water available. The dirty water tank will be disgusting (even if you're like Hyacinth Bucket but a bit more houseproud!!). I'm still appalled at the amount of grit, pet hair and general nastiness that comes out of our carpets even with regular cleaning, but imagine leaving all that at the bottom of the carpet pile - uck!

            I've truly not had a moment's trouble with this machine since I bought it. While it wasn't cheap to buy I think it was good value for money. I reckon I would spend at least a quarter of the cost annually on renting machines or paying to have the upholstery and the cars valeted, so it only has to run for 4 years and we're quits. Actually I suspect it will outlast me and my carpets :-)

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