Advantages Small lightweight Stick Vac compacts to Hand vac, excellent on hard flooring, has small tools.
Disadvantages Poor Build, noisy, some poor quality issues, hard to move on carpets, silly 2nd hand prices.
|Value for money|
|How much did you pay?||£79-99 in 2006/7.|
|Special features?||Small compact and lightweight but poorly built.|
When Hoover announced that they would release a budget upright vacuum which carried the “Junior,” name in 2005, fans of the old model which had sold for well over 40 years grew excited, less so when they actually saw the actual model on Hoover’s website in 2006. Like many people I grew up with Hoover branded products. We had a Hoover hairdryer that lasted for a good 10 years, a 1960's Hoover fridge that went on for about 30 years and despite the "Electron," and "Eco Logic" washers we endured with repairs towards the ends of their lives, actually did a good job even though they were probably the noisiest washing machines (no, I remember the Twin Tub when I was little - that was really noisy!) I grew up with. To us Hoover was a good and reliable brand and my gran had a succession of Junior vacuum cleaners, even though the old metal/plastic Juniors that you can still, unbelievably buy at private dealers nowadays at £70 to £90 lack filtration and probably serve up nightmares for some people who were forever fighting with the soft bag and poor wonky handles, most of the original design Hoover Juniors end up on EBay or Gumtree. They do their job well when maintained even if they do lack filtration and cleaning tools.
In 2006/7 Hoover priced the new Junior stick vac at quite an expensive cost price of £69-99 to £89-99. Nowadays the stick vacuum is no longer on sale in the UK even if Hoover keep churning them out in other European countries. On EBAY the model usually sells for around £45 to £60 but don't feel obliged to pay the higher price because it simply isn't worth it.
From flat pack, the ST226F model is ever so easy to assemble even though it is worlds away from the old "Junior" upright vacuums and Hoover were savvy enough to rename a stick vacuum that they had sold in other European countries like France or Germany under the name of "Athyss." The new Junior is a lightweight stick vacuum with a very modern look, matt burgundy red paint and unbelievably at that time in 2006 when I bought mine, looked quite modern. I believe it still looks modern today, especially when there aren't many mains powered stick vacuums on the market that could help out buyers in limited space and double up as a shoulder vacuum thanks to its design. Forget the shoulder design these days though as buyers now have far more versatile options like stretch hoses and long tubes. The UK have always been slow to the idea of stick vacuums because they always have small dust capacities and are usually so basic, it doesn't make sense to buy one unless you have a caravan.
It is pity that Hoover never went to the bother of colouring the button in a different colour as the power on button is a bigger silver button located a few inches further down. The bin door for example has another similar silver button but this is a push up push down activator which releases the main door bin (at the bottom) and reveals the bag chamber which is miniscule. Forget that the button is there in lieu of the power button and you may find yourself in a spot of bother as I did, of trying to clean in the upright position with a handle you’ve just released instead of pushing the on button!
The bag itself can take up to 1.5 litres of dirt which indicates just how small this machine is and the bag looks like it could probably cloak a British Airways sized travel bottle of wine – but the cloth bag is at best washable but lacks the high filtration layered aspects of the paper bags – which are difficult to buy now forcing buyers to go online to Hoover or other sellers. Price for a pack of 5 paper bags would cost you £5-99 on average. The bags are extremely small and take up a lot of dirt but Hoover should enclose two permanent washable bags so that one can be used whilst the other one is drying off from being washed after use.
When the handle is raised and locks itself into position, I found the new Junior comes across as extremely lightweight and easily manoeuvrable no doubt thanks to the fact that the standard universal 2 way floor brush floor head which comes as standard can move from left to right very easily which minimises bending. However the weight of the stick vac may be light weight at 3.5kg to carry but the gliding factor is extremely compromised by the sheer weight drop of the motor against the floor head at the bottom and with the stiff brushes down on hard flooring from the suction only floor head the Junior cleans brilliantly but on carpet and multi fabric surfaces, the Junior comes across as too bottom heavy and gliding principles are compromised when the brushes are retracted. This is simply due to the fact that the floorhead is a cheap design and hasn’t been thought out well. There's a groove at the front that allows the Junior to stand up independently but this seldom happens, bringing the Junior crashing to the floor because of the weight ratio.
Whilst the handle is curved and feels okay to hold onto, it also feels too lightweight to stay in the upright position despite the locked mechanism – in use it feels as if the handle will eventually crack as it is moved across deep carpet pile – a downside to its design here of being made to swing down on a plastic hinge.
As a hand vac, the experience is bulky and time consuming. For a start you get three tools supplied with the Junior – tools such as a short crevice tool and a flat upholstery tool – both of which have been derived from other Hoover tools used on past machines. However the quality of these grey tools leave a lot to the imagination to the fact that the flat upholstery tool has no lint pickers against the original ones and they have to be mounted on a cheap clip which slides and locks into place on the handle. The third “tool” is a long plastic extension tube which someway sustains the length of the vacuum in use.
When the Junior is made to compact itself up, an ingenious handle in the middle of the hinge rises so that the owner can then pick the Junior up by using the handle as well as using it as a guider to point the machine into areas which need cleaning – where the larger floorhead can’t travel to. However there is again, another problem with this.
If the additional tool kit is bought you would receive a proper upholstery brush and an extendable ribbed hose which fixes at the bottom dirt channel. With an additional shoulder strap which locks onto the Junior, it can then be carried more easily rather than held at the hinge handle which reveals the whole weight of the cleaner and adds more stress to the fact that you have to keep sliding or lifting the cleaner to get to the areas such as corners or above the floor cleaning – where you have to lift the whole machine to clean hard to access areas. Forget lifting the Junior into the air with the extension pipe and tools added either – the weight and bulk is just too much to consider the proper versatility of a lightweight hand vac should convey here.
The 1200 watts power is extremely good at supplying suction but it is a noisy motor and the speed of suction cannot be raised or lowered. Against the old Junior which has no filtration (perhaps saved somewhat by the paper bag and soft bag of the old machine) there are filters located on the Junior to minimise smells. HEPA filters are also available for the new Junior but again the consumer would have to pay for these direct from Hoover.
The Junior does have good filtration however and I found the filters were similar in design to my old Telios cylinder if not on size but also on capability. They minimise obvious odours like normal traffic dust. If the stick vacuum is made to clean up after pets, you may find a teaspoon or two of baking powder will keep back the smell in the bag. The filters can't cope with strong odours like pepper or spices - so the machine struggles on this aspect if you use it solely for kitchen hard floor clean up jobs, only for the vacuum to fill your home with the stale smell of dust coupled with the spices. Handy for cinnamon I guess, but not when other dust has collected in the bag at the same time over a period of time!
For the price of a larger upright Hoover have overpriced the Junior here. It is simply not worth £80 for all that is has the apparent versatility of being able to convert from an upright to a hand vac in a matter of seconds. The vacuum doesn't even stand up on its own if it is put flat against a wall whilst the folding handle also makes no difference when the cleaner is stored away unless you put it in a corner with flat wall.
So why does it get two stars? Well when I purchased my model in 2006, the Junior ST226F barely lasted a year before the hinge at the back broke off and one day when going to use, the handle snapped in two. From other owners online I had kept in touch with, it seems that this is a common fault with the Junior stick vacuums despite their lovely painted exterior and cosmetic silver detailing. The design of the vacuum cleaner is fantastic but sadly when it comes to use, it is the plastic and components that seem to let it down. If this stick vacuum was made with better, thicker plastics I would probably recommend the Junior ST226F today. It is a great hard floor cleaner and would probably do well for caravans - but due to its build quality, and restrictive design rather questionnable to how long it would actually last! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2011
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