What gets my goat about floor care products? I'll tell you! For all that countries such as China have made it easier for brands to "build cheap yet price high," vacuum cleaners even the best selling vacuum cleaner brand by trade lately (which turns out to be Vax and not Dyson) have a new lightweight stick vacuum cleaner with a brush roll on/off function out on the market that is cordless, able to clean hard floors as well as carpets and has an hour to two hour running time. Sounds good doesn't it? If it weighs a quarter of the weight that a large vacuum cleaner weighs, it could effectively replace the dust pan and brush! The jinx of the new Vax Linx though is the price. Brand new it costs in the region of £200 (unless you've been a lucky buyer who got one free from Vax to write a nice review about it), which the UK price alone is a rip off given that it's based on the two year old U.S Hoover Platinum stick vac that is substantially cheaper to buy. This isn't really old news. Small stick vacuums have always been a slow seller in the UK and as such British consumers have had the hard end of the stick from suction only floor heads that take more than 3 sweeps on average to pick up stubborn hair or poorly driven motorized brush rolls that slowly die out thanks to the low cordless battery that run out of puff. Then there's the joy of emptying a dust cup and if fitted, the associated filter that needs to be cleaned thoroughly to avoid cut off suction. Too much time taking things apart and going over carpet twenty times before hair is picked up isn't my idea of efficiency, let alone waiting for a cordless vacuum cleaner to recharge itself.
Well, fear not my little dust bunnies, help is at hand from German brand Leifheit and their fairly old "but revamped" Rotaro S mechanical carpet sweeper! Yes I'm aware its not a vacuum cleaner per se as it doesn't have a cordless battery or mains powered high suction motor on board and the power it gets is from the buyer's own dexterity who pushes and pulls it across floors. As a German brand however I've been burnt before by Leifheit with their newer and lighter "Supra Regulas," sweeper that I gingerly nicknamed "Supra Crapus," judged by its rubber-bristles that snagged on carpets. However, I was prepared to let the new Leifheit Rotaro S burn up recent John Lewis vouchers after I had tried an older twenty year old Rotaro model in action at a friend's house. I was mighty impressed with its cleaning efficiency as it has proper hair-like brushes compared to the rubber rubbish of the more modern looking Supra Crapus and of course being fairly old with monthly maintenance has kept the Leifheit ticking over like clock work. The current Leifheit Rotaro S mechanical sweeper is also, sadly twice the price of the latter Leifheit at £49-50 let alone any other mechanical dust sweeper on the market. For that price you could buy a vacuum cleaner but then that wouldn't be the point to save on energy, the environment or for realistic buyers saves the hassle more like, of wheeling out your bigger vacuum cleaner. After all, the Rotaro S sweeper for example weighs 4.5 lbs or roughly 2kg, which is far lighter than most vacuums these days and it can be used in an instant simply by grabbing and pushing! I know my mum already likes it by the colour and the fact that it can clean hard floors instead of having her to bend over with the dust pan and brush. As such whilst I have my Ewbank Sprite/Handy for the pet hair and carpets, she now has a sweeper of her own to deal with both types of flooring texture.
Firstly though let's talk about assembly. It will take you seconds to do and it all involves screwing the pipes together. There is a user instruction single sheet supplied but it points more to cleaning the bristles rather than assembly, so logically, all you simply do is connect three solid brown matt painted metal pipes by screwing them all together to form the long spine before it is screwed in at the bottom to the main metal frame that acts as the sweeper's main neck bridge. What a relief that they don't bend when the sweeper is in use unlike the Supra Regulas and has a similar indestructible feel to the Ewbank Sprite/Handy that has slightly thinner poles. If you are shorter than 6ft you can always just use two of the pipes instead of three.
Quality is well marked on this sweeper not just down to its silver and black paint job but from the way the sweeper feels in general. A black plastic looped handle screwed in at the top makes the Rotaro S fairly compact to store away or hung on a door thanks to a hanging hole added at the top. The dust pan has a flush fit plastic lock release lift out handle but there are two dust pans incorporated into a combined design to form a tray rather than separate bins and the lift-out design is made of black metal, which inspires longevity and feels well made. Unlike the Ewbank Sprite/Handy, you won't face the danger of getting your fingers trapped either because the dust pans don't push outwards. Instead, to empty the dust pans you unlock the handle that then unlocks the main dust tray upwards and then slide the bin at an angle downwards either left or right to slide the collected dust into an open refuse bin. The Rotaro S is available either in light pastel green and silver stainless steel, or black and silver stainless steel, which currently sells from John Lewis.
The whole essence of this German built carpet sweeper is in its name close to the word "rotary," which points to its front rotating brushes, one at each corner at the front of the sweeper that spins on carpets or hard floors via a toothed drive built into its central wheels at the front of the sweeper whilst the back rollers emulate a more traditional carpet sweeper design. Both sets of wheels are rubber coated to protect the sweeper on hard floors and the Rotaro S has copied the traditional upright vacuum cleaner design further by offering a height adjustment facility through a variable rotary control (that perhaps also lends itself to the model's name) on top of the sweeper which allows you to adjust the height of the bristles and front rotating brushes to any height of carpet or hard floor to be cleaned. This is what gives the Rotary S an excellent performance aspect to pick up and gliding. On carpets the sweeper isn't as lightweight a revelation like Ewbank's Handy sweeper but thanks to extra springs and double the amount of brushes, there is a fairly lightweightness to the Leifheit Rotaro S that feels better than its more modern and cheaper priced "Supra Regulas," mechanical sweeper. When it is adjusted to the correct height of the carpet pile, the gliding aspect is light to medium when taken slowly across carpets, picking up dirt as its design intends. But this is now in the hands of Nar, so how does it really pick up?
Well, the good news is that paper bits and general light dust takes a single sweep for the Rotaro S to do its work on thick carpets but a downside for stubborn fluff can take more than one sweep to ensure it gets picked up. On thinner carpets these kinds of dust all seem to be better accommodated though. Where pet hair is concerned the Leifheit Rotaro S instantly picks it up in one sweep without chucking it back out but in order for this sweeper to perform well it has to be used on level floors for the best performance. On lots of pet hair, I was expecting the Rotary S to suffer but Leifheit have improved this model with the front rotating brushes (coloured in light beige) having better spaced out bristles that collect pet hair in and move it inside the dust bin quite efficiently and quickly. On carpets depending on the height adjustment, dust and dirt pick up is generally excellent and the Rotaro S only needs one or two sweeps at the very most taking into consideration that the main brush roller underneath also moves in a contra-rotating direction unlike Ewbank's single brush roller. Those frontal brushes are fab for edge cleaning though and since they're viewable as a user you're naturally more aware of their function. Noise wise though, the sweeper makes the usual noise of brush rollers but there's a little squeaking involved from the plastic metal dust pan cartridge and the springs which I found a little disappointing from an otherwise well made sweeper. It is however far quieter than most mains powered & cordless vacuums.
The biggest delight however is on laminate and hard floors in general. Both my mum and I hate cleaning laminate and I hate seeing "tumbleweed" dust balls fly past. This is where the Rotaro S's front brushes come into their own again and with no static material build up thanks to natural brush textures the Rotaro S is a lighter delight to use on hard flooring. The low design of the floor head with the brushes peeking out from the sides also helps the Rotaro S to clean skirting boards and awkward corners efficiently as the corner bristles whisk up dust that tends to get kicked to the sides of the kitchen floor. Again though, if you don't adjust the sweeper by twisting the height adjustment dial accordingly, you won't get the best this sweeper can give and as the user sheet points out, adjusting the brushes so low to a floor won't help the sweeper clean closer - it makes the brushes suffer from more wear and tear and a heavier ploughing action makes itself apparent. The sweeper's handle can also additionally go down to an almost 180° angle, making the Rotaro S extend its cleaning ability under low furniture.
It's not off the hook just yet though! There are unfortunately a couple of downsides from using. For a start the handle at the top is made of poor thin plastic, feels too spindly and lacks a grip which feels really uncomfortable if you're going from room to room rather than use the sweeper for short dust pick ups. Secondly, when all three poles are screwed together they have a total size of about 114cm and in use the sweeper's handle doesn't seem high enough for my 6ft height, so some stooping may be involved when the Rotaro S is used. Also, the size of the floor head is 27 cm by 29cm length and has a squarish shape that fits well in most homes. However it isn't as compact as the Ewbank Sprite/Handy and as such the Leifheit Rotaro S could prove tricky to use in caravans because it can be too bulky.
Whilst emptying the Rotaro S is easy and from first use on hard floors I was very surprised at the huge amount of dust the Rotaro S had collected, the neck bridge that holds the handle in place doesn't get in the way when the dust pan needs to be emptied. This is quite ingenious and thoughtful since the rectangular frame is large enough for most hands to get through to access the dust tray in the first place. I rather like the robustness of this sweeper and further maintenance in general though because both the corner brushes, one part of the double bin's walls and central rollers can be unlocked and taken out for infinite user cleaning. The Rotaro S name tag seen clearly by black writing on its stainless steel body comes with a single plastic comb that can be clipped to the bottom spine and neck bridge of the sweeper. Although largely flimsy by its plastic quality, the comb is great at taking out any hairs that wrap themselves around both rollers and it is a fairly great idea as it clip locks to the metal frame and doesn't fall off when the sweeper is in use. Having such a simple way of removing the brushes can only better this sweeper by constant maintenance if pet hair or stubborn dirt is coerced by this sweeper's ability, a unique selling point for maintenance that the cheaper Ewbank Sprite/Handy sweeper lacks.
Another unique selling point about the Leifheit Rotaro S is that it has a 3 year guarantee but in some ways this isn't entirely surprising based on its general cleaning ability and ease of use where maintenance is concerned. Okay so it doesn't have a comfortable handle but I'm more swayed by the fact that it cleans carpets and hard floors with equal cleaning ability built into a hard wearing body that is also fairly easy to maintain. What a pity then that it doesn't come with 10 years guarantee like they do in the U.S! The biggest downside however, is the UK price but if you want short bursts of cleaning without having to fish out your larger vacuum cleaner or just for light dust pick up, the Leifheit Rotaro S is well worth looking out for, particularly as it cleans hard floors just as well as carpets and other floor coverings - something it seems other traditional sweepers suffer from. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2010