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Charles Vacuum Review

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Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by James Cook

We moved into our current house in May 2018. Two months later, I was on a hiking trip with a group of friends in the Brecon Beacons when I received a distressing phone call from my partner, informing me that the mains water pipe in the upstairs bedroom had burst and we had a torrent of water flooding from the kitchen ceiling immediately beneath it. I was the person in the group responsible for driving, so I couldn’t leave, and we were quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

After a rather worried ascent up Pen-Y-Fan and a dash home the next morning, I was horrified to see water still dripping from the ceiling. My partner had done her best to remove most of the water with towels and rags, but there was still a great deal left on the floor. The next couple of days involved doing our best to dry out the kitchen, and mopping up all of the water we could, (which was a slow and arduous process).

Flood Damage to Ceiling
Charles is ideal for dealing with escaped water.

When the time came for me to review the Charles Vacuum, I immediately thought back to that catastrophe, and I imagined how much easier everything would have been if we’d had a vacuum cleaner capable of cleaning up spills. The Charles is exactly that, and he can even function as a regular dry vacuum cleaner at the same time.

So if you like the idea of being able to deal with a radiator that has leaked onto your carpet, or a washing machine that has burst a leak all over your kitchen floor, or even a major catastrophic flood, but also want a regular vacuum cleaner for dry use, read on.

Charles Vacuum
£179.99
Pros:
  • Both Wet and Dry Vacuuming
  • Huge wet capacity
Cons:
  • Very heavy and bad for stair cleaning
  • Cable storage is awkward
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Who is Charles for?

Charles is best suited for people who want a vacuum cleaner that can specifically suck up liquid. This could include regular people who have experienced floods in their homes (like myself), or leaks from radiators or washing machines and who therefore know the value of being able to quickly remove such liquids before they damage flooring, or carpet. It also includes tradespeople, such as plumbers, where the risk of water escape is quite drastically higher. Charles also offers excellent dry vacuuming ability, which makes him just as useful for everyday household vacuuming tasks (in the dry). So, Charles is a really versatile wet or dry vacuum cleaner, but his main advantage over the regular Henry is the that he works in the wet.

What’s the difference between Charles and Henry?

A Charles vacuum cleaner and Henry vacuum cleaner side by side

The key difference between Charles and the original red Henry is that Henry is only a dry vacuum cleaner, while Charles can handle wet work. In terms of a dry vacuuming comparison, Charles is much larger (360 x 370 x 510mm) compared with Henry (320 x 340 x 345mm), and his dry capacity is also increased (3 litres more). Additionally, he weighs 1.5 kg more than Henry, and has a slightly better cleaning range (0.7 metres more), and has a little more suction power (2400mm H20) than Henry (2300mm H20). Lastly, he has a much more powerful motor (1060 w) compared with Henry (620 w).

This difference in dry performance, as well as the increased versatility of wet vacuuming that he provides, means that Charles is usually £50 more expensive than Henry.

Unboxing

Charles vacuum cleaner box contents

When the box arrived at my front door, it was very heavy, but when I opened it up, I was impressed by how much they had managed to fit inside, so perhaps this is not a surprise. Inside the box were a crush-proof black hose, three extension tubes (that form the wand), a combi-floor tool for dry vacuuming, a squeegee floor tool, a dry filter, a dry dust bag, and the three dry vacuum attachments (upholstery brush, soft dusting brush, and crevice tool). Lastly, the box also contains the wet filter, which has a float valve inside a cage underneath, and a washable mesh surrounding it.

Assembling Charles for dry vacuuming

Assembling a Charles Vacuum cleaner for first time use for dry vacuuming
Dry vacuuming assembly.

To assemble Charles for dry vacuuming, all I had to do was release the two clips on the side of the machine and lift off the motor head. Next,I unfolded the large dust bag and slid it onto the nozzle on the inside, and then I placed the dry filter on top, and then popped the head of Charles back on top of the machine, and pushed the clips back in. After that, I connected the three extension tubes together (to form the wand) and pushed one end onto the end of the hose and the other into the combi floor tool. Lastly, I screwed the other end of the hose into Charles’ nose. The whole process took less than 5 minutes.

Assembling Charles for wet vacuuming

Assembling a Charles vacuum cleaner for wet vacuum cleaning
Wet vacuuming assembly.

Charles is a wet or dry vacuum, which means that you can use him for either purpose but never at the same time. This is because water cannot be stored in the dust bag and cannot run through the dry filter. So to assemble Charles for wet vacuuming, I needed to remove the dry  filter and dust bag and replace them with the wet filter, which is a black plastic disc with a cage underneath and a cloth mesh bag around the cage. The hose and extension wand stay the same as they can be used for both wet and dry (as can the attachments), but I switched out the combi floor tool for the squeegee floor tool. It took perhaps a minute to switch between the dry setup and the wet setup.

How does the wet filter work?

The wet filter contains a small float valve in the shape of a ball, which rises upwards inside its cage as the tank fills with water. When the float reaches the top of the cage, it effectively blocks off the suction from the motor, to ensure that the tank never overfills. This is a clever, uncomplicated design feature that made sense to me just by looking at it. It is therefore essential to never use Charles for wet pickup without this float valve inside. The mesh that sits around the cage is washable, which is another practical bonus, especially when you consider that not all liquids that you will be using the Charles to suck up will be clear and totally free of debris and other muck that will clog up the mesh filter over time.

Charles vacuum cleaner's wet filter with float valve
As the water rises, so does the float, which will eventually cut off suction when the tank is full.

You will always know when the tank is full, as you will suddenly lose suction power.

Charles Vacuum
4.7
£179.99
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Floor tools and what they’re for

Charles comes with two floor tools, one for dry vacuuming (combi floor tool) and one for wet vacuuming (squeegee floor nozzle).

Combi floor tool (dry)

Charles vacuum's combi floor tool
Almost all of the Henry vacuum’s come with this tool.

The combi floor tool is the workhorse of the Henry range, providing the versatility of both hard and soft floor vacuuming, with the flick of a switch. It has a built-in brush bar that is lowered or raised via a foot pedal, and it has a ridge on the underside that runs along its entire width, ensuring that you get good suction along its entire surface area. Lastly, two small wheels at the back help it glide along your hard floors or carpets effortlessly.

The results I got on both my carpets and the laminate in my kitchen were really excellent, using the combi floor tool. The increased suction power of the Charles, compared to Henry, means that it takes a little more strength to stroke back and forth. I figured out that you can actually decrease the suction power, however, using a small bleed valve on the top of the extension wand.

The air bleed valve on the handle of the Charles vacuum cleaner
The air bleed valve on the handle is handy for reducing suction power.

Combi floor tool before and after (one stroke up and one stroke down)

Charles vacuum's combi floor tool cleaning results on carpet
Impressive results on carpets.

The vacuuming results were really good, but there was too much suction power, so I had to use the air bleed valve to avoid lifting up the carpet.

Squeegee floor tool (wet)

Charles vacuum's squeegee fl

The squeegee floor tool is your main weapon for dealing with liquids, with two rubber squeegee bars (one at the front and one at the back), which act to push a wall of liquid into the centre of the floor head, where the vacuuming power takes it up the nozzle and into Charles’ tank. Two small wheels also help this tool glide along flat surfaces. There is no reason to use the squeegee for dry vacuuming, as it would simply stick to the ground and produce poor results.

Squeegee floor tool before and after (five strokes)

Charles vacuum's squeegee floor tool cleaning results on laminate flooring
Clean edges and fast pickup.

I was really impressed by how quickly all of the water (mixed with food colouring) was sucked up from the laminate flooring in my kitchen. The squeegee tool sucked up everything in one pass, and it took perhaps 20 seconds to remove all of this liquid, leaving the floor almost completely dry (apart from a few minor spots here and there).

Once it was all gone, I simply removed the motor and wet filter and then unscrewed the hose to allow me to pour the contents out into the sink, and down the drain.

Charles vacuum liquid vacuuming test
Disposing of the liquid.

All in all,  fantastic results from this floor tool and from Charles’ wet vacuuming ability. It really cemented how useful this machine is for emergency wet pickup.

Charles Vacuum
4.7
£179.99
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Using Charles when you clean your washing machine filter

Not only is Charles a life saver for dealing with emergency water leaks, he can also be really useful for those semi-regular chores in the home that we all have to do, where the possibility of water escaping and a messy cleanup is high. For instance, when you have to clean your washing machine filter, it is common for water to pour out (which you either have to collect with a baking tray or mop up afterwards). However, with Charles, I was actually able to suck the water up as it flowed out, before it hit my laminate flooring.

Charles vacuum being used to remove water from a washing machine
Sucking the water out of my washing machine filter before it touches the floor.

Additionally, if you have ever been unfortunate enough to experience a power cut while a load of washing is being cleaned in your washing machine, you’ll know that sometimes you are forced to empty out all of the soapy water this way. If this were to happen, Charles would prevent an ungodly amount of water from escaping and the subsequent clean-up.

Attachments and what they’re for

Charles comes with all of the standard attachments that the entire Henry range comes with, including the crevice tool, upholstery brush, and soft dusting brush. The crevice tool can be used for wet pickup, but I would avoid using the other two for liquids, as they both have bristles that will definitely get wet and possibly gunky (depending upon the type and consistency of liquid that you are vacuuming).

All three of the attachments are strong and tough, and can be connected to either the end of the extension wand or the end of the black hose.

Upholstery brush

Charles vacuum's upholstery brush
For stair treads, sofas and chairs.

The upholstery brush is perfect for vacuuming upholstery (as you may have guessed), including sofas, chairs, stair-treads, and car seats. It has a circumference of firm bristles that are perfect for agitating dust and dirt, which can slide on and off the tool (in case you want to vacuum really delicate upholstered items). You need a bit of strength to use this tool successfully, but the results were really good (particularly on my stairs).

Upholstery brush before and after (multiple strokes)

Charles vacuum's upholstery brush cleaning results on stair tread

Soft dusting brush

Charles vacuum's soft dusting brush attachment
For delicate items such as lamp shades.

The soft dusting brush is small and circular, with a circumference of soft bristles that are similar to horse hair. It’s purpose is to very lightly agitate dust that has collected on delicate items, such as picture frames, ornaments, ceiling fans, lamp shades, and more. I found this particularly useful for cleaning a delicate velvet chair in my kids room, as well as my light fixtures.

Soft dusting brush before and after (multiple strokes)

The cleaning results of the Charles vacuum's upholstery brush

Crevice tool

Charles vacuum's crevice tool attachment
For those hard to reach tight spots.

The crevice tool is long and thin in shape, which means that all of the suction power is being funnelled through a very narrow gap, that allows you to reach the really tight spots in your home, including down the side of your sofa and between your cat seats. Furthermore, it is also useful for attacking the gap between your skirting boards, furniture and carpet. I was able to get some really good results right up to my skirting boards with this attachment.

The crevice tool is fine to use for wet pickup.

Crevice tool before and after (one stroke)

Charles vacuum's crevice tool cleaning results on skirting boards

Cord Length

Charles comes with a very lengthy 10-metre cord, which was long enough for me to vacuum the entire floor of my 3-bedroom Vicrorian terraced house without having to relocate to a new wall socket. This is a practical feature that really cuts down on vacuuming time, and it comes as standard with all of the machines in the Henry range. I was able to reach from our kitchen, across our rear terrace, down the steps, and a good way down the lawn before I ran out of cord.

The cable length of the Charles vacuum cleaner
Impressive cord reach.
Charles Vacuum
4.7
£179.99
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Storage

The cable storage on Charles is a bit awkward and has the impression of being an afterthought. Unlike with Henry, there is no automatic cable rewind system, so you have to manually wrap the cord between two hooks (one on the front and one on the back). I did find this to be a little tedious, and I do think that James has a similar but better design for this kind of cable storage, but the design does serve to store the cable adequately.

Charles vacuum cable storage
Storing the cable is awkward.

On the rear of Charles is a storage caddy, which offers the ability to slot in four attachments, including the floor tools. The regular Henry only has room for two, so this is quite a nice upgrade. The main benefit of this kind of on-the-go storage is that you can easily swap out attachments (and even the floor head) as you move around your home or workplace, instead of having to keep returning to one spot each time. The key to effective cleaning with Charles is to use all of the attachments interchangeably, so this is a well thought out feature that adds to the practicality of the machine.

There is even a clip for the floor head that you currently have connected to the assembled extension wand, for easy verticle storage while not in use.

The storage caddy on the rear of the Charles vacuum cleaner
Handy tool storage.

When it comes to storing the machine while it is not in use, it is definitely a little harder to find a space in the home to store Charles, in comparison to the much smaller Henry. However, I was able to lie him on his back, with the extension wand detached, inside an Ikea storage chest, and there was plenty of room for all of the attachments and wet filter too. I can imagine that the best place to store Charles would be under the stairs or in a similar space with enough vertical space for his considerable height.

A Charles vacuum being stored in a storage chest
Not the easiest vacuum cleaner to store away.

Dust Capacity

Charles vacuum dust bag
A comparison of Charles’ dust bag (left) and Henry’s (right)

Charles has a very large dust capacity of 15 litres, which is far larger than Henry’s 6 litres. This kind of capacity means that you won’t have to change the bag for a few months with everyday household use. Once the bag is full, all you have to do is release the clips, remove the motor head and the filter, and then slide the bag off the nozzle. There is a handy flap that will prevent the contents from escaping as you make your way to your outside bin for disposal.

The bags are inexpensive to replace and feel tough and strong to the touch.

Charles Vacuum
4.7
£179.99
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Manoeuvrability

I was surprised to see that Charles does not have the rubber buffer ring that runs around the circumference of the Henry, Hetty, James, Henry Xtra and others. I always considered this to be an excellent design feature, as it cushions the impact of the machine as it inevitably bumps into door frames and pieces of furniture as you pull it behind you. I am really not sure why they have not included it with Charles. Instead, Charles has just the regular hard plastic in its place. For me, this means that you are more likely to scuff both the machine and the inside of your home with Charles, compared with any of the smaller vacuums in the Henry range, which is something to consider if you are thinking about buying Charles mainly for domestic, dry vacuuming.

The missing rubber buffer on the Charles vacuum cleaner, in comparison with the Henry Xtra
The missing rubber buffer on Charles (left) compared with Henry Xtra (right)

On the underside of Charles are two front swivel castors and two rear fixed wheels, and their combined efforts make Charles quite easy to pull along behind you as you go. The manoeuvrability of such a large and tall machine is really quite excellent, even when it is full of nine litres of water.

The undercarriage of the Charles vacuum cleaner, including wheels and castors.
Charles’ undercarriage.

The two castors have a thin rubber coating that will protect your hard floors from scratches, but the rear wheels are missing the thick rubber that covers the counterpart wheels for the Henry, Hetty, James, and other smaller vacuums in the Henry range. Once again, I am not really sure why they have been removed from Charles, as I would have thought this extra protection would benefit both the wheels of Charles and the hard floors of the owner or user.

The missing rubber coating on Charles vacuum cleaner's rear wheels, compared to Henry vacuum
The missing rubber coating on the rear wheels on Charles (left) compared with Henry (right)

Stair cleaning with Charles

Stair cleaning with Charles vacuum

None of the vacuum cleaners in the Henry range are well suited for stair cleaning (except for the Henry Quick), but Charles is one of the worst. His heavy weight and height make him completely unsuited for tackling staircases, especially when you consider that your only real option is to carry him in one hand as you vacuum with the other. This is because his hose will only reach half way down  the stairs, reaching from the machine sitting either at the top or bottom of the stairs. Therefore, if you have any strength or mobility issues at all, I would steer well clear of Charles if you intend on using him for domestic cleaning in your home.

I found stair cleaning to be quite arduous, and I was fairly tired by the end of it.

A Charles vacuum being used to clean a staircase
Heavy and bulky, Charles is not ideal for vacuuming staircases.

Car cleaning with Charles

A Charles vacuum being used to clean a car

Having just completed a return trip from Bristol to Worthing on the South Coast, with two young children snacking in the back in both directions, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put Charles through his paces. Firstly, the long 10 metre cord meant that I could reach across our (albeit small) drive to our car without having to use an extension cord. I made use of all three attachments, with the upholstery brush being very effective on the floor mats and the boot, the soft dusting brush being best suited for the seats and dashboard area (the soft bristles were particularly handy for the air vents), and the crevice tool effectively reaching those really tight gaps down the side of the front seats.

Charles vacuum soft dusting brush car
The soft dusting brush is ideal for car seats and the dashboard area.
Charles vacuum car cleaning with attachments
The crevice tool and upholstery brush are also useful for car cleaning.

I was impressed by the cleaning results, and it really didn’t take much effort on my part, which I think is down to the large suction power of Charles.

Verdict

Charles impressed me greatly. His wet pickup ability is really impressive, and his simple, uncomplicated mechanics combined with strong, durable floor tools and accessories mean that he will likely last for years, just like all of the other vacuums in the Henry range. The fact that he is both a wet and dry vacuum cleaner is quite a marvel, and it means that if you are someone who needs a machine that can suck up emergency spills, as well as vacuum the dust and dirt in your home or workplace, he is a great pick for you.

However, even though he is a dual vacuum, his real purpose and reason for being is to suck up liquids. Therefore, I would only consider buying Charles if you know that this is something you will benefit from. If you can’t see yourself using the wet pickup feature, I would opt for the regular Henry instead, as he is so much lighter and easier to move around while offering very similar dry vacuuming results.

Where to buy Charles

Charles Vacuum
£179.99
Pros:
  • Both Wet and Dry Vacuuming
  • Huge wet capacity
Cons:
  • Very heavy and bad for stair cleaning
  • Cable storage is awkward
Buy Now Direct Check Amazon Price
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Top Alternative

A Cheaper Wet & Dry Option
Kärcher Wet & Dry Vacuum
£63.01
Learn More
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06/07/2024 07:29 am GMT

 

James Cook
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10 thoughts on “Charles Vacuum Review”

  1. Unfortunately after only 3 years our motor has stopped working. Even though we’re only 1 year outside warranty we’ve been told there’s nothing we can do unless we pay the additional fixing costs

    • I am sorry to hear that. The official manufacturer myhenry.com do offer a standard 3 year warranty with their purchases, which is worth considering for the future.

  2. now we are elderly, we need a lighter cleaner. is blue charles
    lighter than henry. can i have comparisons between the two

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