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The Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright review: A Hoover that could help with your allergies

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According to the company history, the Hoover vacuum cleaner brand began in 1907 when Murray Spangler, an asthmatic inventor/night janitor, invented a primitive suction sweeper to help him breathe while he did his work. W.H. Hoover bought the patent soon after and the rest, as they say, was history. Full story here.

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7.8

The Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright

The Good

The <b>Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright</b> was a top performer with fine particles in carpet and features a HEPA filter, making it an excellent option for those with asthma or allergies.

The Bad

It wasn't a showstopper on hard floors. It's also a heavy vacuum cleaner, so it wouldn't be the best option for people looking for a lightweight model.

The Bottom Line

If you have primarily carpets in your home and want a sub-$200 vacuum cleaner that can help with your allergies and get pet hair and fine particles out of your carpets, the Hoover would make a good addition to your cleaning lineup.

It seems that, true to Spangler's original intent, the Hoover vacuum's strong suit is fine particulate carpet debris. In our sand/sawdust tests, the $179 Hoover performed admirably, picking up the most particulate weight on low-pile carpet, coming in a close second on mid-pile, and a respectable third place on hardwood floors. In all of these tests, it outperformed vacuum cleaners costing twice as much or more. It also performed well with pet hair on carpet, collecting 100 percent of the debris.

It isn't the best with hard floors and, if you have predominantly hard flooring in your home, you would be better off spending a little extra on the $309 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean. If, however, you're looking for a sub-$200 vacuum that can handle allergy or asthma-causing dust and debris in your carpets, the Hoover WindTunnel 3 and its dual carbon and HEPA filter will get the job done without stressing your wallet.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design and features
The Hoover WindTunnel 3 Performance Bagless Upright is a heavy, sturdy-feeling vacuum cleaner. It features a 40-foot cord, a generous lead that will give you plenty of slack to vacuum a large room or even two smaller adjacent rooms without needing to switch plugs. The extension hose is 12 feet long, which feels especially generous when compared with the Dirt Devil Dash Upright's 6-foot hose or even the 9-foot extension of the Eureka AS1104A Pet Vacuum.

In addition to the hose extension, the Hoover also comes with a variety of hose tool attachments.

The turbo tool features rubberized blades on a roller and is designed to scrape pet hair from furniture and stairs. I found it to be highly effective. In fact, it was one of the most effective of the turbo tools we've tested. I credit a lot of its success to the use of rubber blades rather than bristles.

Every brand has its own take on the turbo tool. Katie Pilkington/CNET

The pet upholstery tool works equally well and is, perhaps, better suited for more delicate upholstery and furniture surfaces. While the rubberized blades are stationary, they work well at catching hair, which the vacuum's hose then draws into the bin. Moving this tool side to side on a pet-hair-covered chair, I was impressed with its efficiency and performance.

The crevice tool is equally well-designed and features a lip and curved edge that will not only clean crevices but reach deep into the crack where a carpet and baseboard meet. It would also work well with detailing furniture, seats or carpets in your car, or hard-to-reach trouble spots.

On the side of the vacuum, you'll find a dial that allows you to select whether you want to use the vacuum to clean floors or use the tools with the hose for detailing or upholstery. This dial is responsive and, with only two options, virtually foolproof. If you select the tools option, the hose and its nozzle unlock easily from the vacuum body at the touch of a button.

Katie Pilkington/CNET

Like all bagless vacuums we've reviewed, the Hoover uses a dustbin to collect debris. The Hoover's dustbin is larger than others, though it's easy enough to manage. Reinstalling it on the vacuum can be troublesome, because you have to nest the base on the vacuum just so and align the top precisely so the latch will catch. This felt cumbersome to me, but it might not to everyone. Bin design preference seems to be pretty personal. The elements one of our appliance editors liked about one bin were the very things that turned off others.

As with turbo tools, every brand has a different approach to the dustbin. Some differences are subtle, while others are significant. Colin West McDonald/CNET (photos); Katie Pilkington/CNET (collage)

The Hoover lacks the maneuverability-intensive designs of Dyson's ball technology found on the DC40 Origin or the pivoting hardware present on both the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away and Oreck Touch Bagless vacuums. That said, the Hoover maneuvers well enough for a fixed vacuum and I had no trouble using it. In this way, it reminded me of other fixed vacuums like the Eureka or Electrolux, neither of which will pivot and yet still feel quite easy to move around.

Perhaps the most useful feature you'll find on the Hoover is the height adjustment dial. This dial gives you a range of flooring options, from bare floors to high-pile carpet and adjusts the height of the vacuum nozzle and brushroll accordingly. You'll find similar controls on the Electrolux and Eureka.

Control design factors largely into whether or not a vacuum is enjoyable to use. And, yes, I understand that "enjoyable" is a relative descriptor for vacuuming. Controls like the Hoover's make vacuuming less of a hassle. The lever which reclines the Hoover and the button which turns the brushroll on and off are both within easy reach of your foot. The power button is located on the handle, precisely where you'd want it to be. You can easily recline the vacuum and turn it on in mere seconds in what is a very intuitive sequence of steps. I appreciate this usability and think it's a very thoughtfully rendered element of the Hoover's overall design.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Usability
Given the intuitive nature of the Hoover's controls, it's an exceptionally easy vacuum to use. Turning it on and off, reclining the vacuum body, and adjusting the brushroll all happen with minimal effort.

The height adjustment dial proved more challenging. It was stubborn to turn, though I imagine it would loosen up with use. This may be more problematic for you if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis in your hands. In this case, the Electrolux, on which you adjust the height level switch with your foot, would be a better choice.

Two of the biggest concerns with vacuum usability, in my opinion, rest with dustbin and brush roll cleaning. The Hoover's dustbin is not especially difficult to clean, though it certainly isn't the easiest. Accessing the filter at the top can be tricky the first few times you do it, but soon will become second nature. My chief complaint with the bin is the shape of the bottom door, which is concave, meaning that even when the bin itself is empty, debris will likely still remain in the curvature of this bottom, requiring you to upend it completely to empty. This is not a difficult gesture, but it can feel inconvenient, especially when compared to the flat dustbin bottom of the Bissell.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Cleaning the Hoover's brushroll is not as easy a task as with a Dyson vacuum, but it's significantly easier than cleaning the Dirt Devil's brush. You must take a screwdriver and remove half of the bottom plate of the vacuum cleaner. Unlike the Dirt Devil, however, you do not need to remove the wheels or keep track of as many screws. You also won't need to open the Hoover's brushwell as much thanks to the wide opening that gives you more than enough room to manually clear jams without busting out the screwdriver.

The Hoover's 15-inch wide brushroll and vacuum nozzle also give you extra cleaning coverage and it will easily vacuum 5 inches deep under furniture, provided that your furniture's clearance is at least five-inches high.

Performance
We put each of the vacuums through a series of rigorous tests to assess how they do with debris types you may encounter in your home. Our tests included Fruity Cheerios, a sand and sawdust mixture (to mimic fine particulate debris), pet hair, and human hair, collected from a hair extension kit. We performed every test three times each on three different surface types: low-pile carpet, mid-pile carpet, and hardwood/laminate floors. We also conducted a torture test, scattering nearly three ounces of bobby pins, washers, and nuts on the low-pile carpet.

Given the Hoover's long-standing reputation, I had high expectations. Certainly, I did not expect it to outperform $600-plus vacuum cleaners (though, in some tests, it did), but I did expect it to hold its own among other sub-$200 vacuums.

Cheerios, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood  
Midpile  
Low-pile  
Oreck Touch Bagless
92 
97 
95 
Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright
68 
65 
60 

On low-pile carpet, the Hoover collected 60 percent of the Fruity Cheerios, 95 percent of the sand/sawdust mix, and 100 percent of the pet hair. To put this in perspective, it collected the least amount of Cheerios of any vacuum we've tested so far, tied for first place with eight other vacuums which all picked up 100 percent of the pet hair, and outperformed every other vacuum with the sand/sawdust.

Sawdust/sand, 2.5 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood  
Midpile  
Low-pile  
Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright
98 
87 
95 
Dyson DC50 Animal
98 
68 
77 
Dyson DC40 Origin
90 
68 
77 
Oreck Touch Bagless
97 
61 
67 

On mid-pile carpet, the Hoover picked up 65 percent of the Cheerios, 87 percent of the sand/sawdust blend, and 100 percent of the pet hair. It picked up the second least amount of Cheerios, with only the Dirt Devil performing worse. The Hoover tied, again, with eight other vacuums, all of which picked up 100 percent of the pet hair. The sand/sawdust pickup was decreased and yet the Hoover still was a contender, outperforming all of the vacuums but the Eureka, which collected 91 percent.

Pet hair, 0.2 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood  
Midpile  
Low-pile  
Dyson DC50 Animal
100 
100 
100 
Dyson DC41 Animal Complete
100 
100 
100 
Oreck Touch Bagless
92 
100 
100 
Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright
100 
100 
Dyson DC40 Origin
100 
100 

Hard floors presented challenges for nearly all of the vacuums. This is, in large part, due to the fact that most manufacturers recommend disabling the brushroll to clean hard floors to prevent scratching. The Hoover was no exception. In this test, it collected 69 percent of the Cheerios, 98 percent of the sand/sawdust mix, and a negligible amount of pet hair. It rested comfortably in the middle of the pack in terms of Cheerios pick up and, while I wished it wasn't the case, the Hoover was also in the majority with pet hair, sharing negligible results with seven other vacuums. With sand and sawdust, the Hoover shared a third-place rating with two Dysons, the DC50 Animal and the DC41 Animal Complete.

These hard surface tests are somewhat unrealistic in their real-life applications, both in terms of debris type and volume. After all, most people will use a broom and dustpan to take care of kitchen debris because they are convenient and quick. Many manufacturers make some pretty serious claims about hard surface performance, however, and so we felt that it was necessary to test those claims under the same methodology we used to test carpet performance.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Several of the vacuums struggled with human hair, no matter the surface. If you don't have long-haired inhabitants or pets in your home, this may not be a problem for you. The Hoover struggled on carpet, averaging one-third of the hair winding up in the bin and the rest wrapping itself around the brushroll. The process of untangling this hair was tedious, but not as bad as on other models. On hard floors, the Hoover produced opposite results, with one-third in the brushwell and the rest in the bin.

We graded the torture test on a pass/fail scale. If the vacuum didn't break, it passed. We designed this test to determine ruggedness, rather than to measure how much heavy or troublesome debris a vacuum could collect. In other words, would your vacuum break if you accidentally ran over some spare change or errant bobby pins? We hoped not. In this test, the Hoover surprised me, picking up small washers, a small nut, a large washer, and most of the bobby pins without jamming. Don't consider this a suggestion that this Hoover could double as a shop-vac. Let me be plain -- it shouldn't be used for that purpose. These results, however, did instill great confidence in me about this vacuum's ability to survive a household like mine where, as my husband puts it, there exists a veritable minefield of bobby pins.

The Hoover WindTunnel 3 takes on dirt and dust (pictures)

See all photos

Maintenance and support
The Hoover comes with a five-year limited warranty. This is comparable to other, similar or equally priced models like the Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum. One plus for Hoover is that, unlike competitors, it offers a comprehensive parts page where you can purchase everything from filters to brushroll replacements to new dustbins to individual screws. I really appreciate this feature because it gives you options to repair or extend the life of your machine without needing to visit a repair shop. For example, if your vacuum's performance decreases, you may be able to fix it easily with a new filter and brushroll. If, however, you're less the DIY type, Hoover's website also offers a page to find certified service centers.

An indicator on the top of the bin will turn red if something is wrong with the machine. The manual has a fairly comprehensive list of problems that could cause this to happen. You can solve many of these problems by emptying the bin or cleaning the filter, both of which Hoover recommends you do at prescribed intervals to avoid problems down the road. I appreciate the warning light, though, since as it makes it even easier to maintain the vacuum yourself.

Conclusion
The Hoover isn't the best choice for people looking for help maintaining hard flooring surfaces. Consumers with hard floors should consider spending a little more for the $309 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean, which boasts many of the same features as the Hoover but better hard floor performance.

If, however, you primarily have carpet in your home and want to purchase a sub-$200 vacuum, this Hoover would be an excellent choice. A top performer with pet hair and the top performer with fine particulate on low-pile carpet, the Hoover and its HEPA filter could help manage the allergens and dust that cause your allergies or asthma to flare up. Plus, at $179, the Hoover WindTunnel 3 Performance Bagless Upright will clean your floors without cleaning out your checking account.

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7.8

The Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright

Score Breakdown

Performance 8Features 8Design 7Usability 8