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Thursday, January 14, 2021

My Recent Vacuum Purchase Experience and My Criteria for Selecting a Shark

Shark Navigator Swivel Pro Pet Upright Vacuum with Self-Cleaning Brush Roll ZU51

In the spring of 2020, our 2005 Bissell Healthy Home quit. We kept our carpets "clean" with our 2010 Electrolux stick-vac, which is really designed for hard surface cleaning and inadequate for carpets.

Being in the midst of the spring lockdown, I needed to do all of my shopping online. I've been bitten by poor customer service in the past at some local stores when making returns of purchases. So, I limited my online shopping options to sites that also had nearby brick-and-mortar stores where I would feel comfortable should I need to return the vacuum within the store return policy. 

After researching several brands, I was most intrigued by Kirby, Dyson, and Shark.

Kirby's are known for their durability. In comparison reviews, Kirby comes out on top in more categories than any other brand. However, they're on the expensive side and very heavy, at about 35 pounds for the Kirby Sentra Upright. 

Dyson is the current popular choice for vacuums. They're lightweight, about 15 pounds on average, maneuverable, and are known for superior suction. Note, some users report that the suction on some models is too strong for some carpeting types. And, it's on the pricier side (the Dyson Ball Animal 2 retails for about $500 at Bed, Bath & Beyond.) Overall, Dyson gets a lot of favorable reviews.

Shark was barely on my radar when I began researching vacuums. Barely on my radar. I knew Target carried Shark. If I had to buy any product with the idea that I might need to use customer service for returns, Target would be my go-to store for hassle-free returns. Other than that, almost all of my knowledge of the Shark brand came after checking Target's website.

Why I chose this brand and model 

I went with the Shark Navigator Swivel Pro Pet Upright (whew, that won't be a catchy name).The top three selling features (for me) of this model were the self-cleaning brush roll, positive customer reviews of the suction power, and the machine is very lightweight. In addition, the price was less than half that of a comparable Dyson, and a fraction of that of Kirby.

Here's my experience with our Shark

I made the purchase from Target on November 10, 2020 and it arrived on November 11, 2020 -- free next-day delivery. It was $179, on sale. (reg price $229) I've now had the Shark for about 2 months.

The Pros

After 2 solid months of use, there have been
zero hairs trapped on the brush roll.

The brush roll really is self-cleaning. Here's the underside -- no hair. This is fantastic. Between my two daughters and I, we shed a lot of hair. When a vacuum's brush roll gets covered with hair, the vacuum loses suction and the brush doesn't lift the carpet, leading to poor cleaning.

to the left is our 2005 Bissell, to the right is the 2020 Shark

The vacuum is very light. I have a two-story house, so I drag a vacuum up and down stairs twice a week. Our old Bissell was heavy, weighing in around 25 pounds, and awkward to move from one floor to the other. The Shark is remarkably lighter, weighing under 15 pounds. 

Sorry to be gross -- this is what the Shark picks up
each time from 1 bedroom plus 1 office,
with 3 to 4 days between vacuuming.
Really, we're not dirty people.

For such a small and lightweight vacuum, this one has a lot of suction. We went over 5 months without a working, full-sized vacuum, using only the stick-vac on carpets. I vacuumed 3 days per week for the first 2 weeks of having the Shark and was amazed at how good our 25-year old white carpeting looked after those first 2 weeks. The great suction on the Shark pulled the carpet fibers up -- fluffing matted sections -- and pulled out so much dirt. **

One of the selling features of Dyson vacuums are their swivel capabilities. Well, this Shark also has a swivel, making it very maneuverable. The Shark slides further under furniture than my previous vacuum and turns corners with ease.

The switch for changing between hard floors and carpeting is easily accessible, within reach on the left side without needing to bend all the way over. Some full-size vacuums require bending almost to the floor to change from carpet to hard surface.

**To note: bagless vacuums need their filters cleaned/changed regularly to maintain peak suction. The Shark has a sponge-like foam filter that needs cleaning every 3 months. Shark recommends rinsing the foam filter in cold water and gently squeezing, then air-drying for 24 hours before placing back on the vacuum. According to the owner manual, detergents can cause the foam to break down prematurely.

The Cons

The cord comes out of a spot on the lower part of the vacuum, so I constantly run over it. There's a cord hook higher up on the side, but it really doesn't hold the cord. The photo on the top of this page is Target's photo and is misleading for where the cord is attached to the machine. That photo shows the cord in the cord clip. My experience -- I have to hang onto the cord the entire time I'm vacuuming. This is a minor issue and something I'll eventually get used to.

The dust container is pretty small and needs emptying twice if I'm vacuuming the whole house, once if I'm only doing the downstairs. Again, I think this is a small issue.

The cord is short, about 25 feet, meaning I have to unplug and replug more often when vacuuming the entire house.

The attachments were somewhat awkward to use at first. I've since adjusted. The model only came with a basic brush plus a crevice tool, with the option of either a long wand or a short handle. My previous vacuum had a powered brush that really cleaned the carpeted stairs well.

I have no idea how long this vacuum will last for us. With our last vacuum, when I took it in for a repair at 7 years old, the repairman said it was junk and was surprised it had lasted so long. After that one repair, we were able to squeeze 8 more years of service from that machine. Sometimes a person just gets lucky, and sometimes a person gets very unlucky.  What I can say about my own purchasing is that I abhor junk appliances that fall apart long before their time. I do research and select products that should last many years. I also won't over-pay just to have the trendy brand. What I'm saying is this was a thought-out purchase decision. I based my selection on quality of the brand, customer reviews, special features (like the self-cleaning brush roll), price, and access to a local storefront in case of return.

My overall user experience so far -- I was surprised at how clean the Shark got my carpet. It keeps pulling up more and more dust. My old vacuum just wasn't doing a very good job in comparison. After the first week, I told my daughters that they were going to love how clean and new their bedroom carpet would look, and indeed they did!

One final thought. I've discovered that I like vacuuming. After all of these years, this chore is no longer "a chore." A lightweight vacuum that makes older carpet look pretty good has changed my opinion of this one job of housework.


  1. Great! I took my son vacuum shopping and there were several Sharks where we went. He was going to select the cheaper version but I suggested the one you have which was better but a bit more expensive. He loves his new vacuum and paying a bit more for something that will last longer is also important.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I agree, paying a bit more can be very worth it.
      I hope your son enjoys his new vacuum as much as we are!

  2. Currently, our vacuum cleaner is working, but I would like to get a lighter weight one with the next one. The other day, I did some vacuuming in the basement and borrowed my son's vacuum cleaner, so I wouldn't have to lug ours up and down the steps. His is lighter weight and I didn't think worked very well. I felt very silly when I finally figured out that it was on the attachment setting instead of the floor setting. When I corrected that, it worked just fine. :)

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Oh, dear! I've done similar things. I'm glad that it worked after all!

  3. I like hearing real world experiences about purchases. It's helpful to me to hear the pros and cons. I purchased a new Hoover vacuum a few years ago. I'm a fan of the style with bags. The thought of dealing with cleaning out a bagless style frequently is off-putting to me. I also like the filtration of the kind with bags. It would be interesting to hear what you think about your vacuum after you have had it for a year or so.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I wish there was a way to go into the future and see how well this vacuum works in a year's time. I'm hoping it does well, obviously!
      I've read that bagged vacuums are better with allergies, and I was seriously tempted by one bagged model by Kirby. Our first vacuum was a Hoover. It as a good vacuum and had some interior parts that we were able to replace ourselves. That was a plus.
      I'll keep you posted on how this works out in a year.

  4. I'm a Hoover girl through and through. I just bought a new one two weeks ago. My old one broke after about 10 years. I've heard rave reviews about Shark and almost purchased one but I was afraid of the "neck" on the vacuum - how it swivels. I was worried it would jam/clog up in that area for me - I have a golden retriever so I have lots and lots of hair to vacuum daily. My friend has the Dyson ball and hates it. I tried using it but it very cumbersome and most of the parts are plastic, really not worth the high cost in my opinion.

    Just my 2 cents worth of info.


    1. Hi Shelby,
      The plastic parts are such a disappointment. They break and can't be repaired. Like I said to Kris, our first vacuum was a Hoover and it worked very well for about 10 years. We replaced a couple of internal parts ourselves and that kept it running and saved some money. I hope you have many good years with your Hoover.


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