If there is one thing I can't stand, it is dust behind computers that our contract cleaners refuse to pick up with their Henry vacs. I'm not paid to clean my classroom but I don't see why I need to put up with dust that cleaners leave behind! At school it seems there are classrooms that private firm cleaners won't touch, because they fear of being sued if they damage equipment that their employer refuses to cover. This happens all the time in technology departments including Expressive Arts where lighting, easels and computers get the brunt of dust and not many teachers have the time to clean up. For this purpose alone I've always had a hand vac on me to take up dirt instantly and without fuss.
Thanks to Dooyoo earnings, I was able to buy a hand vac that replaces my very old and faithful Dirt Devil Handy mains powered hand vacuum way back in September when I bought the Black and Decker as its intended successor. The main failing my quaint little 23 year old Dirt Devil Handy had was that my old hand vac's paper bags were getting harder to find and when not used with a paper bag, reliant on the material dust bag was messy. When it comes to larger than compact hand held vacuums with extra tools I much prefer corded mains power as opposed to cordless for longer sustaining power and the Dust Buster VH900GB by Black and Decker was about the only mains corded hand held vacuum with tools that appealed to me on its low price of £39-99 at John Lewis.
The latest mains powered hand held by Black and Decker features a body design that is similar to their cordless "Pivot," dust busters and from a distance the two compared to each other look very similar even if B&D have resorted to using blue and white as differentiation. One on/off button is all you get but it pushes in and stays in until you need to switch back off. No more holding a finger down on this dust buster! With a permanently sloping neck without many hard edged jutting corners, the VH900GB alone weighs around 2.5kg (1kg more than B&D's own cordless "Pivot" model) so it's not like a lightweight cordless hand held even though it is lighter than my old "metal" Dirt Devil. It is far lighter than using a main size vacuum cleaner though such as 7kg Henry! The VH900GB is a darn sight easier to store too. A long 6 metre power cord comes equipped and conveniently wraps around the rear body of the handle via a pop up flush fitting clip and around the underside of the large dust channel in front of the vacuum. In the box I also received a net bag that contains many different attachments. This is a definite plus for most classrooms, which suffer from a lack of electrical power sockets and storage space. My little Black and Decker fits snugly on the bottom of my locker floor and can be placed upright or on its base without being too bulky.
In the defence of the Black and Decker VH900GB and it's many tools on offer, there's no need to actually use the tools on offer since there's a neat crevice tool already fitted on top of the actual hood of the main dust channel. I used that for the first month alone and found the VH900GB to be very easy to use, helped by its downward forced design of its main suction channel. It's easy to pick off and swap around so that it locks into the main mouth of the VH900GB giving you extra instant reach of around 8cm extra length.
For extra cleaning tasks help yourself to what is available in the tie string net bag; talk about a bag full of goodies! A 2-way pedal brush/floor tool is available for example that mimics the standard floor head design you get with cylinder vacuum cleaners. It works well on stairs even though it is very small or with the two extension pipes fitted makes a good hard floor cleaner supported by two stiff lines of brushes when pushed down. There's a surprising edge cleaning facility available on this little floor head too and I found it a breeze cleaning high top shelves with it. A blower tool adaptor is also included and it is purposeful for inflating all manner of inflatable furniture. This is because you'll receive up to three different attachments used in conjunction designed to fit many inflatable's coupled with the hose. I can't see it's use in the classroom but I have used the blower function with the hose alone to let dust out of computer keyboards that have poor keys susceptible to flying off if sucked up a vacuum! Then there are other tools such as a short brush you can clip onto the crevice tool if you need to clean out awkward areas packed with dust. Or the brush can be used on the hose, or the extension pipes or from the very mouth of the hand held. So many different possible ways here! It is all very well thought out here from a versatile dust pick up perspective and from the 20 attachments available there are up to 35 different cleaning combinations. A short 1-metre hose is also included and it can be used with all of the tools in conjunction with a hose adaptor that fits into the mouth of the VH900GB. All of these tools fit by friction fit, made of thick plastic and slide on and off when required. The only exception is the hose and blower attachments that lock onto the hose although it would have been better to have all the tools like this with locks to ensure greater strength.
From the rear of the cleaner, the blower section door can be pulled away for the blower attachment to be installed. It is also where the main motor filter sits and can be picked out and washed for optimum cleanliness. A secondary filter underneath by the main dust bin that protects the dust bin was a surprise as it is HEPA fitted and like all of the removable filters, can be washed - but must be fully dried before installing back in. Effectively this means this hand held alone can cope with picking up pet hair or heavy odour laded dirt.
The main design element of the B&D means that for the most part despite it's long 6 metre power cord, this machine doesn't half get hot the moment it is turned on! This is where the downsides start to happen. The handle is not heat insulated and eventually although not roasting, your hand will be subjected to heat if the VH900GB is used for more than a minute. It isn't sore but the heat is disconcerting and the only way around this is to use the extension hose with the VH900GB left on a floor. But, if you do this the air from the HEPA filter will be cut and can over heat the motor! Although it is only really supposed to be used for short cleaning tasks, I found the VH900GB to be a much more compact and faster machine than taking out the school Henry. The smaller hand held design here really gets behind computers and cupboards with comparative ease helped by the massive looped handle allowing me to change hand posture every so often. What does come across immediately though is a slight downside of having a heavy hand held with two plastic extension pipes and a floor tool on the other end pointing towards the floor; although they haven't broken yet, applying too much pressure when cleaning carpets could effectively feel like the VH900GB could be liable to break the pipes in half. It doesn't feel so brittle when used on hard floor or smooth surfaces though. When used with so many attachments at one time the hand held unit at the top and hose makes a lot of bulk so its better to minimise your use as per need.
I was quite shocked at the power on board as pick up is generally strong until the bin really needs to be emptied. For a start there's a 900-watt motor and whilst it has a whine it isn't as noisy as I expected it to be. Certainly it's not the kind of vacuum I'd use at 4am incase I do wake up the neighbours. The bin capacity is a mere 500 millilitres, and as such when you look to the side you'll see dust whirling around the light blue acrylic coloured cyclonic chamber and wonder why it just sits there at the top. It doesn't take long of the VH900GB to fill up as a result of its small bin. Black and Decker have been wise here to fit a permanently attached wire metal mesh-filter that never needs cleaning. John Lewis however have managed to faff up their stats as they say that there's a filter cleaning handle on the model which, when turned wipes the filter clean. This is only available on the cordless Black and Decker models only though. When it comes to needing to be emptied, a latch at the side unlocks and the lid opens to reveal the dust that should be instantly dropped into a bin. There are then two parts of the dust bin revealed; the top part that retains the dust has a half fan shape where a plastic sprung fitted wing will push dust out towards the open bin (or whatever you collect dust in) whilst the other side is half shut. No cleaning of the actual mesh filter is needed which is a wonderful and effective idea because the mechanics of the design always pushes the suction air towards the main dust door. If only full size bagless cyclonic vacuums had this! This is one design element I appreciated over B&D's older VHM model that has a filter that needs dust to be picked off.
The final downside is the quality plastics used in the attachments. Every tool in the net bag is made of light blue plastic and virtually made of thin plastic save for the floor tool that feels a bit more substantial. Long-term use of the smaller cleaning tools suggests breakages and already some of mine have scratches. On the upside the flush fitting crevice tool on top of the actual VH900GB hand held cleaner feels a lot better made and suggests more use because of its natural build and accessibility.
All in all Black and Decker have made a superb hand held vacuum cleaner, bagless and reasonably easy to use. It's not without it's weaknesses however due to cheap feeling smaller cleaning attachments and that handle that gets too hot after a couple of minutes' use. It could also be a bit lighter to hold for maximised and prolonged use. But for a clean, safe and healthy classroom, or even if you just need something very compact, the Black and Decker VH900GB could well be the best teacher's pet yet. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2010
Short name: Black Decker VH900GB