10 April 2015

REVIEW: Vorwerk Kobold VK150 Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Sucked up and blown away.

We usually only get excited by vacuum cleaners when they can drive themselves about the house and are an amusing thing to place random objects upon as they repeatedly bump off the sofa. But when we heard about German manufacturer Vorwerk's vacuum cleaner, we took serious note. This multi-component cleaning system wasn't delivered by a courier, but rather by a nice gentlemen who demonstrated it to us, revealing just how filthy our house is. It's the Vorwerk Kobold VK150 Upright Vacuum Cleaner.

Straight out of the box, it doesn't look like much. The Kobold VK150 is a slim and light upright cleaner tastefully coloured in calm white and green. It is so skinny in fact, that it almost has the appearance of an elongated hand-held cleaner, yet the many attachments that come with it certainly dispel that theory. There was a whole heap of nozzles, heads and adaptors that beefed up the base model, and that also intrigued us. Sitting comfortably, the demonstration began.

Having recently vacuumed the living room carpet, both with a conventional cleaner and, just hours before, by way of an iRobot Roomba (review of that to follow soon), we were pretty confident the demonstration would yield just a few specks of dust... maybe even a bit of that morning's breakfast. Christ, we were in for a shock. Look at this:

That amount of dirt, dust and grime was pulled up from just two square metres of carpet, after a vacuuming session of no more than half a minute. Yes, we felt pretty embarrassed. But it turns out that that is what most household carpets would produce, especially if they haven't been deep cleaned in several years.

The reason the Kobold VK150 was sucking up all this, and why our (now looked-down upon) vacuum cleaner had missed it, was due to the sensors in the VK150's head knowing the depth of the carpet and actually allowing air to flow throughout. Conventional vacuum cleaners do just what their name suggest - create a vacuum - but once all the air has been sucked out of somewhere, there is no longer any movement of dust or dirt. The Kobold keeps the air flowing and the dirt moving... right up the nozzle into the awaiting bag.

Yes, the Vorwerk machine uses disposable bags. This was a bit strange to hear, as we firmly thought bags in vacuum cleaners went out in the 90s. However, the Vorwerk bags are lined with charcoal and served to trap not only foul odours but also stray dust and allergens that normal Hoovers (there, we said it. We know it's a brand name, but come on...) tend to throw back out into the air.
We then decided to test the Vorwerk machine against our own vacuum cleaner, a Karcher. We vigorously cleaned a small patch of carpet for several minutes, hoping to suck up as much dust and rubbish as possible. The Kobold VK150 was then quickly drawn over the same patch and the contents of the bag inspected. Look, once again... Christ.

Despite having just been "cleaned" by the Karcher, the amount of debris that the Vorwerk pulled up was startling and highlighted just how much crap and dirt is lurking in the average home. But, if you thought we were unsettled by that particular revelation, wait until we took the party up into the bedroom. By swapping out the VK150's head for one designed to tackle mattresses, the machine changes function completely. The new head is actually motorised itself, drawing power from the VK150, to vibrate strongly. Onto the mattress it was plonked, along with the motor sucking away and the head intensely pulsing, and then slowly drawn backwards and forwards over the exposed surface. Yes, another shocker:

This time the dust was a slightly different colour, but that mostly highlighted the stray fibres of the mattress. What you're looking at here, so we were expertly informed by our demonstrator, is several years of dead skin (from the numerous people who have slept on the mattress during that time), dead insects like bed bugs, and also a great deal of their excrement. That's right, bug poo. And you snugly bury your face in it every night. Sweet dreams.

Back downstairs, and with another detachable head change, the Vorwerk Kobold VK150 had become a vacuuming mop. By way of a tiny amount of a special solution introduced to the soft mop surface, this new head both scrubs hard floor surfaces (such as wood flooring, tiles, or lino) while also sucking up loose debris that is dislodged. The clean was pretty remarkable and our kitchen floor was quickly transformed into something you might actually want to tread on while preparing food. No soggy puddles to mop up, no waiting for the floor to dry, just a convenient method that is as easy as hoovering (we did it again) your living room carpet.

Next we were shown how the Kobold VK150 can be transformed into a hand-held vacuum, perfect for awkward jobs like the stairs, curtains, and in the car. As you might have expected a flexible tube is attached to the head connector, along with a choice of nozzles for getting into small spaces. One such accessory that impressed us quite a bit at this stage, was a tiny little plastic attachment which the user places beneath a hole they are drilling in a wall. Not only does the nozzle suck up all the falling masonry and dust, it actually keeps itself stuck to the wall using the same suction that carries away the waste - leaving your hands completely free to get on with the job. Definitely an innovative gizmo, and one that was a lot of fun to watch.

Another of the hand-held attachments is also powered, just like the mattress head. the Polster Boy features counter-rotating brushes in the unit itself, meaning you can actually brush whatever it is you're cleaning, not just rely on the force of the suction to clear the dirt. This would be incredible to deep clean individual stairs with, and pet owners will never again have to dig out that silly sticky roller brush to get animal hairs off the sofa. There was also a telescopic extending pole, and a bristly head, with - of course - adjustable bristles.  

There is so much going on with this thing that we find it difficult to get it all down in words. It is easy to comprehend that Vorwerk have been busily working away since 1883, as it seems they must have spent all that time working on this one machine. Seriously, this is truly is a one-stop-shop of home cleaning, and we were blown away following the demonstration, not just by the effectiveness of the vacuum cleaner itself (which is quite unlike anything we've ever seen), but also be the sheer wealth of attachments and add-ons that are available. It seems the German designers have attacked common chores and problems head on, and come up with a method, or rather an attachment, to deal with it.

Channel 4 presenter Sarah Beeny has said that, other than her laptop, "the Kobold is one gadget I can't live without." And it's easy to see why. Once the demonstration was over and our lovely guest from Vorwerk packed up the machine, we couldn't help but feel sad. Ever since, when a bit of vacuuming is required, we can't help but feel a pang of regret that we don't own one of the VK150s, and feel slightly disgusted at all the dust and grime that we know is there, lurking beneath our carpets, that our Karcher just can't reach.

So this is a remarkable bit of kit... so what's the cost? Well, it ain't cheap, with the full assortment of gizmos we were demonstrated costing around £1500. The base model, which includes just the motor unit itself and the standard vacuuming head, will set you back £749, with the price increasing with each additional unit you add. However, it seems that Vorwerk really want you to be able to afford their machines, as they'll help you to buy one by offering no-interest monthly instalments on the cost of the model you choose. You can also apply to become a Vorwerk seller and demonstrator yourself, and if you manage to encourage just five others to buy, your machine is free.

Either way, this is a fairly exclusive gadget, and not something that you can simply purchase on Amazon. But it is worth it, and we're very sure of that. These machines are built to last, lasting up to 20 years and covered by a five year guarantee. They also seem to be future proof, as our demonstrator pointed out that all the attachments for the high-tech Kobold VK150 would still fit onto his Vorwerk cleaner that he bought in the 1980s.

Find out more about this awesome machine, the company that produces it, and how you could get yours, at www.vorwerk.co.uk

·      To book an in-home demonstration, please call 0330 660 0835 or email info@vorwerk.co.uk (and be sure to mention The Test Pit!).

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