Oct 11, 2023
Henry HVR160 Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner review
Henry isn’t fancy or flashy, but this smiley red vacuum is robust and affordable If you’ve grown up in the UK, it’s hard not to have some level of affection for the classic Henry. And while it’s a
Henry isn’t fancy or flashy, but this smiley red vacuum is robust and affordable
If you’ve grown up in the UK, it’s hard not to have some level of affection for the classic Henry. And while it’s a simple vacuum with basic features, I think a Henry is still a decent all-rounder at a very affordable price. And if you ask me, there are merits to a plug-in vacuum that keeps all the dirt in a bag.
Easy to use
Compact and easy to store
Replacement parts and extra accessories available
Mess-free dirt disposal
Only one power level
Buying vacuum bags is an ongoing cost
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Many of us have been sucked into the brave new world of cordless, bagless vacuums. Meanwhile, Henry continues to keep a strong foothold in the floor cleaning market as one of the best vacuum cleaners despite being neither of these. And I think it’s because this little guy is a British institution, used by families and professional cleaners alike, and is ultimately a dependable workhorse that does the job with a constant smile.
At just £160, with easily replaceable parts, not only is Henry very affordable, but these vacuums are built to last. So it’s easy to see why Henry remains a popular choice in so many homes.
It’s been 20 years since I lived in a student house with a well-loved Henry vacuum. And yet, this fresh-out-of-the-box Henry felt like a familiar old friend. I don’t think he’s changed at all in that time. Nevertheless, I was keen to try him out and see if he can stand up to the new wave of all-bells-and-whistles cordless vacuums that I usually review these days.
After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK, where she reviews all sorts of home and garden appliances using her wealth of experience.
Sandwiched between two easily recyclable, protective cardboard inserts, Henry lifts out of the box virtually ready to use. The setup is very minimal, the long black hose needs to be screwed on to Henry’s face, then the three metal wand sections can be pushed together and attached to the floorhead.
Henry has barely changed over the years, so if you’ve ever vacuumed with one, you’ll be instantly familiar with how to use it. There’s one button on the top to switch him on or off, and a light to show he has power. The power cord pulls out without any resistance and has to be wound manually back in. I was actually surprised at how quickly the whole cord winds back into the vacuum.
Henry's main combi floor tool has a foot pedal to adjust the brushes on the underside, depending on whether you’re vacuuming carpet or hard floor. And it’s supplied with three hand tools; a crevice tool, dusting brush and an upholstery tool that has removable brushes.
At the back there’s a clip for the floorhead, so it can be clipped to the main vacuum for easy storage, and either side of this you’ll find a slot for a handheld tool. This is a bit of bugbear for me since there are only two slots, but three small tools. So I was forced to either carry the third in my hand or pick my favourite two. Inevitably I took all three but kept forgetting where I’d left the third.
Henry came with one bag inside and a spare in the box, so you don’t have to worry about buying bags for the first few months. And on top, there’s a flip up carry handle that makes transporting him up and down stairs effortless.
As you’ll probably know, Henry doesn’t have a selection of power levels to choose from or any other fancy features - arguably that’s part of his charm. But at the top the wand there is a twistable air flow regulator so that you can reduce suction when required.
Henry was my main vacuum during a week off work where we tackled both indoor and outdoor DIY. So not only was he faced with sawdust and paint flakes and other general DIY mess, but I also relied on him to keep on top of the mud and leaves that kept getting trodden into the house.
Using Henry is effortless and I found myself switching him on frequently to clean up the mess as we went, rather than waiting until the end of the day. My cordless vacuum seems to get clogged filters at the mere sniff of DIY dust, so I enjoyed having a robust Henry to hand. All the fine DIY dust was swiftly removed and trapped inside the bag - it was nice not having to worry about emptying a bagless canister every five minutes.
The power cord unwinds as you go and it’s long enough for 2-3 rooms depending on the size of your rooms and where your sockets are. Henry’s four wheels mean he has great manoeuvrability and I certainly didn’t feel like pulling him along behind me was an effort.
When vacuuming carpets, although surface debris was removed, I could tell that the suction wasn’t strong enough to remove deeper dirt. And this was very apparent on a deep pile rug that still had visible bits trapped deeper in the pile, even after I gave it a thorough vacuum.
On hard floors though, virtually everything gets collected, even along the edge of the skirting board. The suction is even strong enough to pick up the odd small stone. But on some surfaces like wood floors, the floorhead will push debris such as oats out in front, so you need to sweep in a few different directions to collect it all.
The long hose combined with the long metal wand give good reach when cleaning stairs. I found I could easily reach up the first half of the staircase while Henry sat at the bottom. Or, if I removed two sections of the wand and attached the floorhead directly to the top curved section, I could carry Henry in one hand and vacuum the steps with the other.
I used Henry to spruce up my car after all those trips to the DIY shop and garden centre left it in a total state. The long hose means the main body of the vacuum could sit on my drive and I could easily reach in and vacuum each seat and footwell before moving it to the next door. The crevice tool was long enough to reach down the sides of the seats and the upholstery brush made fast work of cleaning the seats and carpets. I also used the dusting brush on the dash and centre console and the car was looking great in no time.
As well as being handy for the car, the small tools were useful all around my house. I always vacuum my sofas and the upholstery tool surprised me at how fast it did this job. I was expecting to remove the brushes but actually preferred keeping them on, it was very effective at removing all the crumbs.
The dusting tool made it easy to remove the DIY dust from a bookcase and the crevice tool got into the hard to reach spots. Going into it I thought I might miss having adjustable suction when using the hand tools, but I actually didn’t. It’s something to keep in mind though when considering a Henry.
Henry doesn’t really have a handle, let alone a posh comfy padded handle. You can kind of hold the wand anywhere that feels comfortable to you depending on the task at hand. And I found it comfortable to use no matter what I was vacuuming. Similarly, the wand isn’t telescopic, but you can remove sections to make it shorter and it has a great reach under furniture.
Henry is far from loud in comparison to some other vacuums I’ve reviewed. My noise meter recorded a maximum 78dB, which is more than acceptable.
Thankfully Henry is as easy to learn how to clean as he is to use. The six litre dust bag should last several weeks, and when it does need emptying, it’s a doddle. Simply unclip the two side clips and lift off the top, then remove the large filter. The bag slides off the nozzle and has a built-in stopper that can be closed to stop dust leaking out while you take it over to the bin.
Then it’s simply a case of sliding a new bag on to the nozzle and closing it all back up again. It could be improved if there was a light or some kind of alert to let you know when the dust bag is full - but the price tag would inevitably increase with this kind of upgrade.
I enjoy the fact that there’s not a series of different filters that all need frequent washing. The dust bag takes care of most of the filtration, with the big filter on top doing the rest of the work.
Henry is really simple to disassemble should there be a blockage, which means easy at-home maintenance and no hefty repair bills - especially since there’s very little that can go wrong. And if something does break, spare parts are readily available online.
For an extra £20 it’s definitely worth looking at the Henry Xtra if you've got a lot of carpet. In my opinion, the motorised Airobrush carpet tool gives carpets a more thorough clean than the standard Henry floor tool. Plus this bigger vacuum takes 9 litre dust bags so is well suited to larger or very busy households. What’s more, it comes with a dedicated hard floor tool as well as the same selection of hand tools, making it a great buy for only a fraction more money.
However, if you’re looking for more than Henry can offer, it’s worth checking out the Shark CZ500UKT Duoclean & Anti Hair Wrap Bagless Cylinder Pet Vacuum. It’s £300 from Shark so you’ll need to up the budget, but this bagless vacuum has a beast of a floorhead that’s great on carpet, which is a must if you’ve got pets too. It will need more frequent emptying since it only has a 1.6 litre dust capacity, but it does come with three suction modes and controls on the handle for ease of use.
If you love Henry's personable appeal, but you'd rather opt for a cordless vacuum, then it's worth checking out our review of the Henry Quick vacuum too, where Herny goes cord-free.
Yes, if you want an affordable, reliable vacuum that can handle a range of tasks whilst being really low maintenance. But if you’re looking for super strong suction or a vacuum that deep cleans carpets, this won’t be the model for you. Likewise if you’re hoping for fancy features and multiple suction levels, you’ll be disappointed.
But the thing I like about Henry, is the unapologetic no-frills design that lends itself to being intuitive to pick up and use for just about anybody. And the configuration means it’s easy to maintain and there’s very little that can go wrong. In an age where most vacuums now seem to have screens, lasers, and tiny bagless dust canisters, Henry reminds us that you don’t need to spend a fortune on all this tech to get the job done.
As part of our commitment to how we test products, Helen used Henry in her two bedroom house for a couple of weeks before writing this review. She vacuumed all areas of her home including wood floors, tiled floors, carpets and rugs as well as her sofas and even her car to make sure she thoroughly tried out all the accessories. She was allowed to keep the vacuum after the review.
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After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK.
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