Dirt Devil Lift & Go review: Clumsy vac proves the devil is in the details

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.2
  • Performance: 4.5
  • Features: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Usability: 4.0
Review Date:

The Good The Dirt Devil Lift & Go converts to a canister vacuum and includes a Swiffer-like Swipes pad that you can use as an attachment. It's sturdy and most pieces click into place with ease.

The Bad This is a bad vacuum cleaner with poor performance and lots of design flaws.

The Bottom Line Contrary to its appearance as a real bargain, usability issues and subpar cleaning performance mar this Dirt Devil.

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Most upright vacuums start around $200. So for $120, Dirt Devil's Lift & Go vacuum looks like a bargain. It converts from a standard upright to a canister. And among other accessories, it packs a convenient hose and Swiffer-like Swipe pads for dusting and cleaning hardwood floors. Unfortunately, the illusion that this machine is high-end fades quickly when you try to use it.

Many usability issues add up to a tedious vacuuming experience. I understand the budget vac mentality, but for $120, all you're getting with this Dirt Devil is headaches and more work. Currently, you can snag the Bissell Powerglide Pet for $135 on Amazon. The Hoover WindTunnel has dropped to $130, or you can wait for a deal on the $200 Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away. Both the Bissell and Shark also convert to a canister models, and any of these would serve you significantly better than the Dirt Devil Lift & Go.

Design and features

The Lift & Go impressed me at first glance. The standard Dirt Devil red shows well on the glossy exterior. The pictures on the directions and snap-in-place pieces meant I finished the assembly within minutes. It offers a generous 30 feet of cord, plenty to reach multiple rooms without needing to unplug and replug.

Both the included combination tool for crevices and dusting, and the Air-Powered Turbo Tool for getting ground-in pet hair and dirt out of upholstery attach to the vac for easy storage. You'll also find a machine-washable Swipes pad with a custom-fit attachment for dusting and vacuuming hardwood floors at the same time. Altogether, this full-size upright vacuum with its removable canister packs a lot into a light 13-pound frame. You can purchase the Dirt Devil Lift & Go for $120 on Dirt Devil's website. You can also find it at Walmart. Currently, the Lift & Go is only available in the US and Canada.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Push a lever near the handle, and you can pull out a sizable wand attached to the vacuum's hose. Disappointingly, the hose stretches only 6 feet. The 9-foot hose of the Eureka Airspeed SuctionSeal Pet and the Hoover WindTunnel's 12-foot one both make it seem tiny. Still, it's easy to access and maneuver. Snap it right back into the base when you're done.

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The Vac + Dust tool combines a cleaning pad with suction. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Alternatively, push any one of the attachments on the end of the wand and you're ready to complete a variety of cleaning tasks. The vac+dust tool offers one of the more unique solutions for hardwood floor cleaning available. The Swipes pad uses a cloth as well as soft, red bristles for collecting dust. The whole machine-washable top pulls easily over the flat, sturdy vac attachment designed to give it structure and suction. Push this all on the hose handle and you can clean your hardwood floors as the front of the attachment sucks up dirt and the back wipes up smaller bits of dust.

The canister vac is as easy to remove as the hose, and the dust bin and filters can be quickly emptied and snapped back in place when necessary. The directions provide helpful pictures for all of this as well, including maintenance and cleaning instructions for all of the filters. Unfortunately, cleaning the brush roll isn't as simple: it doesn't detach. In the not-unlikely circumstance that it be entangled in hair or blocked by dirt, you'll need to flip the machine over and manually extract the blockage from the vacuum head itself.

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You won't be able to remove the brushroll for cleaning. Colin West McDonald/CNET

With the first tangles I encountered, the idea that this was a high-end vacuum started to unravel. The Air-Powered Turbo Tool hasn't been improved since the oft-jammed version that came with the Dirt Devil Dash. Oddly, the cleaning attachments themselves are the only pieces that don't snap into place, meaning if you don't push them firmly enough onto the handle, they may fall off as you direct them into dirty spots.

The main vacuum doesn't maneuver any better. Dirt Devil seems to have missed the lesson on modern vacuum handling. Sure, Dyson has its patented rollerball, but almost everybody else has some sort of swivel or ball-joint built between the base and the vacuum's head to allow for easy turns. The Lift & Go offers nothing of the sort. Again, it's a light vacuum, but you'll still need to give it a bit of a shove to get it to properly round a corner.

On top of its short hose, the attachments that jam and fall off, a brush that can't be removed, and a lack of maneuverability, Dirt Devil boasts of Direct Path technology that allows edge-to-edge carpet cleaning with its products. Edge-to-edge refers to the vacuum's ability to clean right up to the wall with the normal vacuum head. It wasn't deficient in this regard, but I didn't notice any significant technological leaps either.

Usability

The more you use the Lift & Go, the more frustrated you'll become. The cord and the hose sit right next to each other at the back of the machine. When both are in use, they tangle frequently. Even when putting the vac away, the position of the hose makes it tough to wind the cord, and once wound, the cord makes it tough to securely click the hose in place.

The cord also interferes with the canister, catching when you detach it, then bunching up to make it more difficult to snap the canister back in its place. And when you're holding the canister, you won't be able to reach the power button with the same hand.

The position of the cord and power button seem like minor details, and indeed, each time you run into the inconveniences they cause, you'll be delayed only momentarily. But over the course of cleaning your entire house, and certainly over the life of the vacuum, those moments will really add up.

What isn't minor is the lack of standard options to help you manage the brushroll. I mentioned that you can't detach it for the sake of cleaning it. You also can't turn it off or adjust its height. The Lift & Go rolls at the same height over hardwood floors and mid-pile carpet.

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