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

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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.

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5.2

Dirt Devil Lift & Go

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.

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.

Bedeviled by the Lift & Go (pictures)

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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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You won't want to use the regular vacuum on hardwood floors. Colin West McDonald/CNET

In fact, since you can't turn off the brushroll, the normal vacuum head shouldn't be used on hardwood at all. I thought of the vac + dust tool as a fun, optional extra, but it's really not so optional at all. You need it for any hard surfaces, as the brushroll will fling dirt across your floor without it. The Swipes pad won't attach to the vacuum for storage either, meaning you'll need to search for it whenever you're ready to move off the carpet.

The Dirt Devil Lift & Go looks like it has a lot of features to make cleaning as easy as possible, but sadly, it's missing some obvious basics. Combine that with poor design choices and the fact that you can't even clean every surface without dealing with the hassle of attachments, and this machine actually makes vacuuming more of a chore.

Performance

The sleek design and low cost become much less appealing after struggling to use it, but it's the poor performance that sinks Dirt Devil's Lift & Go completely. For the price, you'll be getting a budget vacuum that forces you to use another vacuum to actually get your floors clean.

We test all vacuums on their ability to pick up hair, large particles, and small particles across low-pile, mid-pile, and hardwood floors. We use 0.2 ounce of pet hair, 1 ounce of fruity Cheerios, and 2.5 ounces of sand, respectively. We judge first on how much the vacuum actually gets off the floor, but if it can't get everything, we also look closely at the leftovers. Does it tangle or mat the hair? Does it push around or fling the large particles? Does it leak or spread the sand?

Pet hair, 0.2 oz. (percentage picked up)

Hoover Linx 100 100 100Dyson DC59 Motorhead 100 100 100Oreck Touch Bagless 100 100 92Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 100 100 75Dirt Devil Lift & Go 90 87 100Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum 100 100 0Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 100 100 0Dirt Devil Dash 92 92 0
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

The pet hair test typically separates the studs from the duds. A well-designed vacuum has enough suction to grab hair, and hopefully has a brushroll with clever spinning or spacing to avoid tangles. No such luck with the Dirt Devil. It fell firmly in the dud category with this test by not only missing large clumps of hair, but matting the strands it missed further into the carpet and getting the hairs it did manage to pick up tangled in its difficult-to-clean brushroll.

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This was after the vacuum test. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Shark and Bissell fall below it on the chart, but they did so because they completely failed this test on hardwood surfaces. They aced the carpet tests, and since you'll need to grab a separate attachment to clean hardwood floors with Dirt Devil anyway, you might as well take the better results with Bissell and Shark on carpet, and grab a broom to get your pet's hair off of your other floors.

Fruity Cheerios, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)

Hoover Linx 100 100 100Oreck Touch 97 95 92Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum 100 98 83Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 88 90 93Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 88 97 73Dirt Devil Lift & Go 87 73 52Dyson DC59 Motorhead 66 66 55Dirt Devil Dash 55 63 15
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Moving to large particles, the Dirt Devil had even more trouble. The vacuum head of the Lift & Go sits low on the carpet in an attempt to create more suction. Since it lacks height adjustment, this aim fades quickly as the same height typically won't create a seal for suction on both low- and mid-pile carpet. Additionally, this low height prevented the vacuum from rolling over the top of the Cheerios, so it ended up pushing them around as much as it picked them up.

It did slightly better on mid-pile than low, since it was raised over the Cheerios by the surface a little more. However, this still wasn't enough to outdo any other full-size upright.

On hardwood, the vac itself flung Cheerios farther than any other vacuum we've tested, creating much more of a mess than when I started. To be fair, I tried the vac plus dust tool on the hardwood floor as recommended, and it performed significantly better on Cheerios. With the attachment in place, the Lift & Go managed to get 97 percent of the Cheerios off of the hardwood surface, a great result and a vast improvement over the 52 percent it grabbed on its own.

This led me to testing the vac+dust tool with every other particle type. Sadly, Cheerios was the only test where it made the slightest difference.

The final challenge, fine particles, stood to be the one with the most to gain from the Lift & Go's low brushroll. Additionally, given that this is a budget vacuum, if it could do well on this test, perhaps that would be enough to warrant a purchase. Sure, you'd have to use other tools for large particles and hair, but for the money you'd save, if it could take care of the hard-to-see dirt, it stands to reason you could help it out with the rest.

Sand, 2.5 oz. (percentage picked up)

Oreck Touch 83 91 99Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum 81 83 100Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 71 82 99Dyson DC59 Motorhead 66 81 100Dirt Devil Lift & Go 63 76 85Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 59 64 97Hoover Linx 34 48 99Dirt Devil Dash 33 19 77
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

On the plus side, the sand results weren't terrible. In fact, they were better than lots of stick vacuums. Still, on the challenge that most reflects a vacuum's ability to give your carpets a deep clean, the Dirt Devil Lift & Go performed worse than most other full-size uprights we've tested, including the other budget models. With its low-sitting, non-adjustable brushroll, perhaps Dirt Devil cut corners to keep the price down while aiming to get it back to that high-end status with fine particle performance. Unfortunately, it didn't help.

Conclusion

The Dirt Devil Lift & Go looks and feels like a steal. As an upright that converts to a canister with a unique dust-busting floor tool, the $120 price tag seems like you're getting a versatile machine for relatively little money. You will be able to perform many tasks with this vacuum; you just won't be able to do any of them well. Even its design will turn against you when you find it lacks some basics and tangles some others, making cleaning your house with the Lift & Go much more difficult than it should be.

Given the number of budget options available that perform significantly better than this machine, I can't recommend the Dirt Devil Lift & Go to anyone. The Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away , the Bissell PowerGlide Pet , and the Hoover WindTunnel are all similarly priced machines that function at a much higher level.

Thus, paying for this vac is more akin to getting robbed than it is a steal. Again, I understand the frame of mind of the budget vacuum shopper. You're not often concerned about cleanliness, but you have guests coming over and you want to be able to convince yourself you've vacuumed. The Dirt Devil Lift & Go succeeds in that regard. For $120, you'll be able to say you've vacuumed. If you actually want to clean your floors, look elsewhere.

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5.2

Dirt Devil Lift & Go

Score Breakdown

Performance 4.5Features 7Design 6Usability 4