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Garry Ultra Light Vacuum

*Est. $200 plus $40 shipping
Reviewed
February 2010
Garry Ultra Light Vacuum

Poor performance and high shipping costs make this vac a risky choice

Pros
  • Vacuums pet hair well
  • Low emissions
  • Good on bare floors
  • Tools stored onboard
  • Low profile with built-in lights
Cons
  • Very noisy
  • Poor performance on carpets
  • Poor suction with accessories
  • Heavy
  • High shipping costs for bags and repairs

The Garry Ultra Light is an upright vacuum that's advertised as having 40 percent more suction power than much more expensive vacs (see our report on vacuum cleaners and stick vacuums for better options). Other advantages, compared with other lightweight uprights, include built-in lights and onboard tools for vacuuming upholstery, plus a lifetime warranty and free replacement bags for life. However, we discovered plenty of reasons to pass on this vacuum cleaner.

Video ads show the Garry Ultra Light vacuuming up all kinds of dirt and debris sprinkled onto carpet, including cereal, candy, grass, garden soil and pet hair. Third-party tests, however, show that performance is poor when vacuuming dirt that's been ground in -- more typical of actual cleaning situations. The suction through the accessories is also very poor.

More deceptively, the 9-pound advertised weight turns out not to include the hose, onboard tools, or even the cord when wrapped around the handle. The total actual weight is over 11.5 pounds.

Reviews also note that the "free" bags entail a shipping charge and an automatic subscription, so they aren't exactly free. Even so, the total cost is still reasonable (as long as the company stays in business). The unlimited repair warranty is more problematic; products must be sent back to the manufacturer, requiring owners to pay high shipping costs. Owners report other customer service problems as well; for example, some had difficulty obtaining replacement bags.

In performance tests, the Garry does vacuum pet hair well, and the hypoallergenic bags minimize emissions. The main drawback, in addition to poor performance on carpet, is the apparent fragility of the motor. We found many complaints on HSN.com, Amazon.com and other sites of early breakdowns. The bottom line? If you need to vacuum bare floors, consider a lightweight and less expensive stick vacuum. And for carpets, there are definitely better choices in this price range.

We found the best comparison tests of the Garry Ultra Light vacuum cleaner at ConsumerReports.org. The full report, available only to subscribers, ranks this vacuum in relation to other upright vacuum cleaners. ConsumerReports.org's blog -- available to nonsubscribers -- summarizes test results of the Garry vacuum, and a video clip shows how it was tested. The Carpet and Rug Institute also tests the Garry vacuum, but only on carpet. We found the most owner-written reviews and ratings at AsSeenOnTVChallenge.com and at HSN.com, plus a handful at Amazon.com and a long discussion at AbbysGuide.com.

Our Sources

1. ConsumerReports.org

This blog post reports on objective tests of the Garry ultra light vacuum. Editors are impressed with the vacuum's low emissions and ability to pick up pet hair and clean bare floors. The article also analyzes the long-term economics of the company's offer of free bags and repairs vs. shipping costs, which they deem reasonable. The Gary Ultra Light is compared with over 50 other upright vacuum cleaners in a report available only to subscribers.

Review: The Garry Upright Vacuum is a Lightweight . . . in More Ways than One, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Sept. 15, 2009

2. ConsumerReports.org

In this video clip, editors check the Garry Ultra Light vacuum's weight, finding that to bring it from 11.63 pounds down to the advertised 9 pounds requires removing the tools, hose, and unwrapping the cord.

Review: Garry Vacuum Claim Check, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Oct. 7, 2009

3. KFSN-TV (Fresno)

This TV clip shows how ConsumerReports.org tests upright vacuum cleaners by not only sprinkling a carpet with talcum powder and sand, but also grinding it in before using the vacuum. Consumer Reports editor John Galeotafiore ranks the Garry in relation to about four dozen other light upright vacs, and says, "The Garry Ultralight actually was the worst at carpet cleaning."

Review: ABC Action News: The Quest to Find the Hardest Working and Lightest Vacuum, Christine Park, Oct. 4, 2009

4. Carpet and Rug Institute

Based on tests of cleaning ability on carpet, the Carpet and Rug Institute gives the Garry Ultra Light vacuum its Silver award for residential use. This means that it doesn't harm carpet texture, and removes 50 percent to 54 percent of the soil, and emits less than 100 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) of dust particles.

Review: Garry Ultralight Vacuum, Editors of Carpet and Rug Institute

5. AsSeenonTVChallenge.com

The 10-minute commercial shown on this site looks convincing, but of the approximately 20 people reviewing the Garry Ultra Light vacuum here, all but one criticize it as a poor performer or a scam due to the high return shipping costs.

Review: The Garry Vacuum is the Latest Vacuum to Enter the Crowded 'As Seen On TV' Vacuum Market, Contributors to AsSeenonTVChallenge.com

6. HSN.com

More than two dozen owners review the Garry Ultra Light Vacuum that comes with a steam mop, giving it very mixed ratings. Satisfied users praise its light weight, easy maneuverability and good suction. Complaints include noise, breakdowns, rug damage, difficulty in buying bags and poor customer service. None of the owners seem happy with the steam mop.

Review: Garry Ultra Light Vacuum with Steam Mop, Contributors to HSN.com

7. Amazon.com

Amazon.com no longer sells the Garry Ultra Light vacuum, and only three owners review it. All three give it the lowest possible rating, complaining about noise, fragility, poor performance on carpet, and the cost of shipping it back for repair.

Review: Garry Ultralight Vacuum, Contributors to Amazon.com

8. Abby'sGuide.com

This long discussion of the Garry Ultra Light vacuum includes nearly 100 mostly skeptical comments. Many contributors agree that ultralight vacuums use such small motors that it's unrealistic to expect good suction through accessories. Only one comment appears to be from an actual owner, who complains about both poor results and poor customer service.

Review: Garry Ultra Light Upright Vacuum, Contributors to Abbys Guide.com

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Shark Navigator Lift-Away

*Est. $200
Reviewed
August 2011
Shark Navigator Lift-Away

Great suction power in a smaller, lightweight package

Pros
  • Very good suction
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Works well on pet hair
  • Includes detachable canister vac
Cons
  • Short cord and hose
  • Dirt cup fills quickly
  • Has a tendency to tip over

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away is advertised as the affordable alternative to a Dyson vacuum cleaner. It offers many of the same claims as Dyson: bagless cleanup, no loss of suction, swivel steering and anti-allergen technology. But where a Dyson can cost up to $500, you can get a Shark Navigator Lift-Away for about $200. This vacuum also features a detachable canister, allowing you to more easily use it on stairs or in cars.

Reviews for the Shark Navigator Lift-Away are overwhelmingly positive. Owners find that it delivers on every claim it makes, and pet owners are especially happy with how easily it picks up hair and fur. They frequently comment on how much smaller and more lightweight the Shark Navigator Lift-Away is compared to other vacuums, but how that doesn't seem to detract from its suction power. Of the small handful of less than glowing reviews, the most common complaints are that the power cord and attachment hose aren't long enough, and some find that the dirt cup is too small and has to be emptied frequently. Many also complain that the vacuum has a tendency to tip over.

Owners posting reviews to Walmart.com find the Shark Navigator Lift-Away effective and easy, but a few warn that it's not ideal for cleaning throw rugs, since the suction pulls up lighter rugs. Amazon.com reviewers also have many positive comments about the vacuum's ease of use, with some commenting on how quiet it is for such a powerful cleaner. Similarly, reviews on QVC.com and BedBathAndBeyond.com are extremely positive, and a few former Dyson owners even say that the Shark Navigator Lift-Away is the better option of the two.

Where To Buy
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum (NV352)

 
Buy new: $159.99   29 Used & new from $138.71

In Stock. Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

 
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Our Sources

1. Walmart.com

More than 200 customers share their thoughts about the Shark Navigator Lift-Away here, and over 95 percent give it a positive review. Most find that it has great suction and is an ideal solution for those with pets to clean up after. A few reviewers warn that the vacuum isn't ideal for throw rugs, as it's difficult to roll onto it from regular flooring and the suction is a bit too much for flimsy rugs. Many cite its smaller size as being a great asset, as it makes fitting into hard-to-reach spaces easier. A small percentage of negative reviews say that the attachments are a bit awkward to use, the power cord is too short and the dirt cup needs emptying too often.

Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Bagless Upright Vacuum, Contributors to Walmart.com

2. Amazon.com

Of the more than 120 reviews at Amazon.com, only six give the Shark Navigator Lift-Away less than a 3-star rating. Most users are impressed with how lightweight and easily maneuverable the vacuum is, but without sacrificing any suction power. Several reviewers also comment on how much quieter it is when compared to other vacuums. The most common complaints are that the power cord and attachment hose aren't long enough, and a small handful of users find the dirt cup a bit tricky to empty.

Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum, Contributors to Amazon.com

3. BedBathAndBeyond.com

Over 90 percent of the more than 50 reviewers posting reviews to BedBathAndBeyond.com would recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. Some of the frequently repeated accolades are that the vacuum is lightweight, has great suction and is especially adept at picking up pet hair from floors and furniture. A few customers who previously owned Dyson vacuums find the Shark Navigator Lift-Away to be comparable, and some even say it's better than their Dyson due to its lighter weight. The few negative reviewers find that the dirt cup is too small, causing it to frequently need emptying, and that the attachment hose is too short, making vacuuming tall surfaces and ceilings difficult. Another common issue is the vacuum's tendency to tip over easily.

Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum, Contributors to BedBathAndBeyond.com

4. QVC.com

Over 90 percent of more than 150 reviewers recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. Most users find the vacuum lightweight and easy to maneuver, making vacuuming stairs a much easier chore to tackle. Pet owners are especially happy with the vacuum, saying that it easily sucks up animal hair from any surface. Some find that the suction power can be a bit too much on certain surfaces and advise to adjust the vacuum settings depending on what you are cleaning. A few unhappy customers complain of the attachment hose and power cord being too short.

Review: Shark Navigator Lift Away Upright Vacuum with Accessories, Contributors to QVC.com

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Smart Mop

*Est. $20
Reviewed
July 2011
Smart Mop

Absorbent, but difficult to clean and durability is questionable

Pros
  • Very absorbent
  • Works on a variety of spills
  • Doesn't leak
Cons
  • Complaints about broken handles
  • Hard to remove/replace mop head
  • Mop head frays in washer and dryer
Where to Buy
 

The Smart Mop -- basically a ShamWow towel on the end of a stick -- employs bright orange strips of highly absorbent material to soak up big spills without drips and leaks. You wring out the mop afterward by twisting the handle and can (theoretically, at least) remove the mop head, run it through the washing machine and dryer, then screw it back on.

The Smart Mop receives mixed reviews. It seems the mop works in picking up the mess, but it's not easy to use and owners complain about its durability. This product has been the subject of two "Does it Work?" TV news segments. A reviewer at Cape Girardeau, Mo., station KFVS says the Smart Mop works well on various spills but is difficult to clean, isn't too durable and, after washing, leaves bits of fuzz in the washer. Philadelphia TV reporter Michelle Buckman also says the Smart Mop works as advertised, but neither the consumer reporter nor her volunteer tester attempt to clean the product afterward.

At HonestInfomercialReviews.com, one Smart Mop owner says the mop head is difficult to remove and replace -- a complaint echoed by a very disappointed owner posting on Target.com. Wired magazine's reviewer is the least impressed of all, calling the Smart Mop a "gray-market ShamWow." We also found numerous references to breaking handles, often on the very first use; one woman says she saw a live demonstration (at a home show) where this happened.

Where To Buy
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum (NV352)

 
Buy new: $159.99   29 Used & new from $138.71

In Stock. Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

 

Our Sources

1. KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)

In this news segment, reporter Lauren Keith and a volunteer tester try out the Smart Mop on various spills, including soda, water, and a mixture of brown sugar, ketchup and mustard. The product performs as advertised; it cleans the messes and doesn't leak or drip. Keith does note that it's difficult to clean and find replacement mop heads. She adds in a postscript: "It left little bits of orange fabric fuzz all over my washer.É It doesn't appear to be all that durable."

Review: Smart Mop: Does it Work?, Lauren Keith, Oct. 28, 2009

2. WXTF (Philadelphia)

A reporter for this television station asks a woman to try out the Smart Mop on a spilled can of soda, and a messy pile of ketchup and flour. The mop works both times (though more than one pass is required), and the elderly tester seems to have no trouble wringing it out. The Smart Mop is declared a "deal."

Review: Deal or Dud: Smart Mop, Michelle Buckman

3. Wired

Reviewer Rick Broida isn't impressed with the Smart Mop, which he describes as a "gray-market ShamWow." He says it isn't very absorbent and requires a lot of effort to wring out after use. Worst of all, he says, "After a few minutes of mopping, the plastic screw-plug at the bottom end of the contraption came loose." The Smart Mop gets a score of 3 out of 10 which, according to Wired's rating system means "serious flaws; proceed with caution."

Review: So-Called Smart Mop Is Actually a Dumb Idea, Rick Broida, April 15, 2010

4. Target.com

Of the six or so customers posting here, half say the Smart Mop is a piece of junk. One owner says the handle broke on the first use, another after a month, and a third complains that it's difficult to remove the mop head for cleaning. The others say they love the Smart Mop and that it works as advertised.

Review: Smart Mop, Contributors to Target.com

5. HonestInfomercialReviews.com

An anonymous reviewer says she has owned a Smart Mop for years, and she objectively points out the pros and cons of the product. She says the mop head is extremely difficult to remove and replace, and that it doesn't work as well over time. She adds that she witnessed a live demonstration at the Calgary Home Show in which the handle snapped right off.

Review: Smart Mop Review -- Is it Worth Buying?, "Theresa", Feb. 16, 2010

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Soap Magic

*Est. $20
Reviewed
October 2010
Soap Magic

Works pretty well if liquid isn't too thick or thin, but beware of drips.

Pros
  • Touch-free
  • Batteries included
  • Works with most liquid soaps, sanitizers
Cons
  • Needs priming
  • Doesn't work with all liquids
  • Can drip or dispense wrong amount
  • Quality-control problems
Where to Buy
 

Soap Magic is an automatic dispenser that uses an infrared sensor to dispense liquid soap when you place your hand beneath it. It has a built-in light and an optional chime that sounds when it's been pressed, and it runs on four AAA batteries, which are included. There are two versions: the free-standing Soap Magic and the Soap Magic Ultra, a wall-mountable soap dispenser that's equipped with a drip tray. The ad suggests these dispensers can be used for dish detergent, hand soap, antibacterial cleaners, workshop hand cleaners, shampoo and conditioner. However, several reviewers note a discrepancy in the product's instructions, which say that Soap Magic is not recommended for thick soaps (including those that contain granules), runny soaps, foaming soaps or lotions.

Soap Magic earns very mixed reviews: Some reviewers say it works well, while others complain that it drips or dispenses liquid unevenly. We found helpful reviews conducted by several news stations throughout the country. At KPLC (Lake Charles, La.), reporter Jeff Jumper tests Soap Magic with a variety of soaps. Performance depends largely on the liquid's viscosity -- it can't be too thin or too thick -- but it works well with most soaps and hand sanitizers.

Some owners reviewing Soap Magic at Amazon.com report quality-control or durability problems, as well as inconsistent amounts being dispensed. The latter is also a problem noted by reporter Daphne Munro at KNXV-TV  (Phoenix), who used Soap Magic for a week. Munro also reports problems with the sensor, saying she had to move her hand around for a while before the soap came out.

On the contrary, Soap Magic is well received in tests conducted by KLRT (Little Rock, Ark.) and WXIA-TV (Atlanta, Ga.). Both reviewers praise Soap Magic as easy to assemble and convenient to use. A volunteer tester for WVEC (Hampton Roads, Va.) is very impressed with Soap Magic Ultra after trying it out in her kitchen.

Where To Buy
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum (NV352)

 
Buy new: $159.99   29 Used & new from $138.71

In Stock. Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

 

Our Sources

1. KPLC (Lake Charles, La.)

In this video review, reporter Jeff Jumper tests the regular Soap Magic dispenser with four liquids: two hand soaps, a hand sanitizer and two dish detergents. If the liquid is too thin or thick, it doesn't work well, he says, but it works fine with a liquid of medium viscosity. He found it worked fine with hand soaps and hand sanitizers, but he says the dish soap was "unusually thin" and Soap Magic "would pump dish liquid and spurt air intermittently." Drawbacks include some dripping and uneven dispensing. It's easy to add liquid, but you have to pump out the remaining liquid if you want to change soaps.

Review: Soap Magic, Jeff Jumper, 2010

2. Amazon.com

About a dozen owners give Soap Magic mostly negative reviews, rating it lower than some other automatic soap dispensers sold here. One owner notes that if you don't use Soap Magic for half an hour or so, gravity pulls the soap down out of the spout so it takes three or four hand waves to get it to work. Others report problems with the amount dispensed or with premature breakdown.

Review: Idea Village Soap Magic -- White, Contributors to Amazon.com

3. KNXV (Phoenix, Ariz.)

After trying the Soap Magic dispenser for a week, reporter Daphne Munro is largely disappointed. She says the sensor doesn't work very well; she had to wave her hands around for a while before the soap came out. When it finally did release, there was barely enough soap to wash her hands. Munro gives the Soap Magic a thumbs-down, saying "it's not worth the cash."

Review: We Put the Soap Magic Soap Dispenser to the Test, Daphne Munro, Oct. 14, 2010

4. KLRT (Little Rock, Ark.)

Reporter Jeremy Baker tries out Soap Magic and says it works fine for the most part. He's particularly impressed with the easy setup, but he does note one flaw. Despite this issue, he stills deems Soap Magic a deal.

Review: Deal or Dud: Soap Magic, Jeremy Baker, May 6, 2010

5. WXIA (Atlanta, Ga.)

Jyl Andrews, a preschool teacher and "self-described germaphobe" tests Soap Magic for WXIA's news program. She says it's easy to use and works well.

Review: Try It Review: Soap Magic Hands-Free Dispenser, Karyn Greer, March 18, 2010

6. WVEC (Hampton Roads, Va.)

Viewer Kelsey Clayton tests the Soap Magic Ultra for this brief video review. She concludes that it works very well and is very useful in the kitchen, especially for washing hands when working with raw meat or eggs.

Review: Does It Work -- Soap Magic Ultra, Sandra Parker, March 2, 2010

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Swivel Sweeper

*Est. $40
Reviewed
June 2010
Swivel Sweeper

Fine for small jobs, but dirt tray can be a hassle

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Performs well on tile and hardwood floors
Cons
  • Small, hard-to-reach dirt tray
  • Dirt tray needs to be emptied frequently
  • Some complaints about battery life
  • Not as effective on carpets
Where to Buy
 

The Swivel Sweeper is a small, 2-pound, battery-charged floor sweeper, the head of which rotates 360 degrees to reach awkward spots. It's not meant to replace a vacuum cleaner; rather, it is touted as a convenient gadget for quick cleaning jobs.

Overall, reviewers are satisfied with the Swivel Sweeper's performance. In some TV news reviews, local residents give the Swivel Sweeper a try, and most of the time the gizmo performs admirably, especially on hardwood floors, tiles and stairs. The big drawback is the Swivel Sweeper's small, hard-to-reach dirt tray, which needs to be emptied frequently. An amusing clip on WTXF (Philadelphia) shows the tester stopping numerous times to empty the bin. Tests show that the Swivel Sweeper doesn't work as well on carpeting. One user advises against using the sweeper on shag-style carpets after it became entangled in the strands of her Oriental rug. Hundreds of user comments on Amazon.com (which generally favor the product) note that it's loud and often doesn't hold a charge very well.

Many users complain that the Swivel Sweeper isn't as good as a real vacuum, but to be fair, that's a claim that not even the manufacturer makes. Overall, owners say this unit does a good job in small, contained areas where there's not an overwhelming amount of dirt or dust.

Where To Buy
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum (NV352)

 
Buy new: $159.99   29 Used & new from $138.71

In Stock. Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

 

Our Sources

1. Reader's Digest

The Swivel Sweeper is included in a roundup of infomercial products evaluated by editorial staffers. They agree that the sweeper is compact and easy to push, saying it "picked up everything." Reader's Digest is one of the few sources not to complain about the Swivel Sweeper's small dirt tray.

Review: As Seen on TV: But Wait! There's More, Jody L. Rohlena

2. WTVD (Raleigh-Durham, N.C.)

Reporter Diane Wilson asks a local mother of two to try out the Swivel Sweeper. She likes the overall design, but complains about the small, hard-to-reach dirt tray, as well as noise and a battery that ran out after 45 minutes. Even so, the mom says, "it works I think remarkably well given how compact and light weight it is."

Review: Testing the Swivel Sweeper, Diane Wilson, Feb. 7, 2007

3. KFVS (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)

Reporter Lauren Keith asks a local viewer to try out the product. She says it works well on ceramic tile, hardwood floor and stairs, but can't replace a regular vacuum. The Swivel became tangled on the strands of her Oriental rug, and she warns not to use it on shag-style carpeting. The viewer's biggest complaint is the small, hard-to-reach dirt tray, which can spill easily if it's not emptied properly.

Review: Does it Work Wednesday: Swivel Sweeper, Lauren Keith

4. WTXF (Philadelphia)

In this video clip, a reporter asks a homeowner to try out the Swivel Sweeper. The unit works well on hardwood floors and tiles, with a big drawback: The small dirt tray has to constantly be emptied. Results on a thick carpet aren't nearly as impressive, and the reporter says the Swivel Sweeper is a "dud."

Review: Deal or Dud: Swivel Sweeper, July 10, 2008

5. WSTM (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Yet another local news station puts the Swivel Sweeper to the test, with the help of a local cafe owner. The owner likes how the sweeper picks up crackers and coffee grounds, but complains about the small dirt tray. Overall, though, the product receives two thumbs-up.

Review: The Swivel Sweeper Sweeps Up, Oct. 31, 2007

6. Amazon.com

About 400 users have posted comments here about the Swivel Sweeper, giving it an average rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. Those who like the product say it works well on tile and hardwood floors. Many users note that you have to recharge the unit by the book. Some complain about poor construction, breaking parts and weak suction.

Review: Cordless Swivel Sweeper, Contributors to Amazon.com

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