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Soapbox: flawed vacuum cleaner testing should be re-examined

* Justin-Binks.jpgJustin Binks, managing director, Sebo UK, writes...

EU labelling requirements for vacuum cleaners have already been much debated - but, in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, it is worth nothing that vacuum cleaner manufacturers self-test and self-validate so it is all too easy for results to be fudged and skewed to present products in an advantageous light.

Added to this, the tests themselves are unrepresentative of real world cleaning scenarios so magnify the confusion in the market place. Quite simply, the whole process is somewhat unbelievable and pointless.

Although the conditions are supposed to be the same in every manufacturer's testing station, there are inevitable variations. Pick-up can differ between carpet samples by up to 10%. There are also margins for error that a manufacturer can factor in so a plus or minus of 3% is quite feasible. If the manufacturer always opts to add this percentage of error in their favour, they can potentially lift their product up a band in terms of percentage pick up. So far, despite many companies claiming results that cannot be true, no one has been prosecuted.

There ought to be an officially sanctioned laboratory that does all the tests, but, before thinking about this scenario, it is the tests themselves that should be examined. In particular, the tests for pick-up are flawed as they do not represent the 'real world' situations found either in homes or commercial premises.

Both the hard floor and carpet pick-up tests require that a special type of sand be used. This is not something that is normally collected by vacuum cleaners. Generally, 80% of what is picked up is fluff, hair and fibre.

Equally unrepresentative is the so called 'crevice' test used for hard floors. This results in the vacuum cleaner head being designed to 'seal' down against the floor and does not take account of the need to clean the floor's surface. Consequently, dirt is simply pushed along in front of the head without being sucked up. Users also end up being frustrated because the machine is hard to use since the head 'sticks' to the floor.

Ironically, the EU label was introduced to inform consumers on the energy consumption, performance, noise, dust re-emission and other essential characteristics of their vacuum cleaners. Instead, it has driven manufacturers to make vacuum cleaners that do not meet the needs of users in terms of ease of use or performance, while, at the same time, the data provided, fails to tell consumers how the machine is going to perform in practice.

At the very least, there should be some form of independent testing of manufacturers' claims. Where these claims cannot be substantiated, there must be rigorous enforcement and prosecution of companies that are providing inaccurate or misleading data.

T: 01494 465533
W: www.sebo.co.uk

3rd December 2015

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