We all want to make life easier, especially when it comes to cleaning. That’s why when window vacuum cleaners first came to market, we welcomed the idea with open arms. If these small, electric squeegees could make cleaning the windows any easier, then they would be an essential purchase for avid cleaners everywhere. But, are window vacuum cleaners really all that useful and convenient? Here, we take a look at their pros and cons, and why ultimately they’re not worth your time.
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What are window vacuum cleaners?
Window vacuum cleaners are a relatively new concept — Kärcher only launched their first model in the US in 2010. These handheld appliances are designed to vacuum up any condensation or cleaning solution as you squeegee a window or worktop. Most are cordless with rechargeable batteries and a removable tank is attached to the body to collect the excess water. The advantage of using one is that it will clean and dry your window at the same time, supposedly leaving a streak-free finish.
Why am I not a fan of window vacuum cleaners?
When I first unboxed a window vacuum for testing, I had high hope for its performance. I live in a hard water area, so I need to wipe out my shower with a manual squeegee daily, followed by towel-drying any remnants. However, unfortunately, the window vacuum sucked, and not in a good way.
When I started to clean my shower glass, I immediately realized I needed to severely slow down. With a squeegee I could quickly swipe back and forth, but with a window vacuum, I had to gradually drag it down the glass, which I soon lost my patience with. When I reached the bottom and moved to the top of the next section, the seal on the window vacuum started to drip over the area I had just dried, which was frustrating.
Looking back over my work, I was not happy with the finish at all. The window vacuum had picked up all of the water, but it had also left a dull, streaky finish which would need buffing. So I had to grab a towel to both dry the seal between swipes and buff where I'd cleaned.
On top of this, the weight of the window vacuum soon started to strain my arm, so I had switch hands repeatedly. I finally finished, but the job took much longer than it usually would and I felt more tired on top of it.
Lastly, I'm not sure why, but I had hoped that being a window vacuum cleaner, it would be able to contribute to cleaning the windows. Sadly this wasn't the case either. When I vacuumed a dirty, wet window, it simply smeared the dirt across it and blocked the seal. So in the end, all it was really good for was drying, but I wasn't even happy with its performance there.
If you're still not convinced, here are some pros and cons of window vacuum cleaners.
Window vacuum cleaner: Pros
- It saves you drying.
Using a window vacuum cleaner does save you from drying by hand as you would after using a squeegee — particularly useful when you’re wiping out the shower. A squeegee leaves lots of drips which you have to go back over with a towel.
- It's more environmentally friendly than paper towels.
If you use paper towels to buff and dry the windows or mirrors, then a window vacuum cleaner will save those too, making it the more environmentally friendly option. This will also work out cheaper as you save the paper towels.
- It's good for dust and debris.
A good window vacuum cleaner can be effective at collecting dust and debris from surfaces. Bear in mind the surfaces will still need to be wet for this to work, as these aren’t like standard vacuum cleaners.
Window vacuum cleaner: Cons
- They are much bulkier in size and heavier than a squeegee.
Because of this, they can strain your arm quickly and aren’t ideal for using over long periods of time. Their shape also means they can’t get into as small a crevice as manual squeegees can.
- They are slower to use than you would expect.
You can’t swipe with a window vacuum cleaner as fast as you would use a squeegee. You need to move very slowly so it has a chance to vacuum up the water droplets.
- It doesn’t always leave a streak-free finish.
If the seal is not pressed flush against the glass or a small piece of debris blocks it, expect streaks. I’ve had this problem before and ended up buffing or cleaning the mirror again using the traditional method.
- The tank fills quickly.
If you’re vacuuming up a spill, the tank can fill much more quickly than you expect. Most only hold about 150ml, so be prepared to keep emptying it if you're picking up a large spill.
- It doesn’t technically ‘clean’ the windows.
A window vacuum cleaner is essentially a squeegee combined with a vacuum. So, if you’ve got a dirty window and you spray some water or cleaning solution onto it, then use the window vacuum, it won’t work. You need to first clean the window before you can vacuum it dry.
- Run time can be low.
Most window vacuum batteries will last around 30 minutes, which isn’t enough time if you’ve got a lot of windows to cover. If this is the case, look for ones which last for an hour or more to save yourself from constantly recharging.
- It can drip just like a squeegee.
While window vacuum cleaners boast that they don’t drip, some still do in my experience, albeit not as much as a squeegee. Unless you keep drying the seal after each strip, this inevitably happens, so you still need to keep a towel on standby.
- It's less environmentally friendly than drying with a bath towel.
As this drying method uses energy, it’s less environmentally friendly vs using a bath towel. While the towel will need to be machine-washed, you can use it several times beforehand and hang to dry between uses.
Should you buy a window vacuum cleaner?
While my personal experience was less than ideal, some still vouch for window vacuum cleaners. Personally, I don’t think they add much to the convenience of drying your windows, but there’s certainly room for improvement in their design. Until then, I'm sticking with my squeegee.