Black & Decker Flex vacuum
Black & Decker Flex vacuum. Click image to enlarge

Review and photo by Paul Williams

The pictures on the box show a woman using the Black & Decker “Flex” Cordless Mini Cannister Vac in the home. There she is vacuuming stairs, touching up rugs in the living room, cleaning the dust off venetian blinds, attending to the tops of bookshelves, getting at those “hard to reach” places between appliances in the kitchen, diligently probing under the cushions on the sofa, and removing pet-hair from said cushions.

Oh, and there’s a picture of a guy detailing the interior of his car…

You gotta love division of labour, right? (If you’re a guy!).

But is an automotive web site, and gender stereotypes regardless, women also own cars. So, our focus is on this cordless vacuum’s performance in the driveway.

The $79.00 Flex (FHV 1200 is its B & D identifying number) is light and compact. It’s fitted with a 1.2 metre (four-foot) flexible hose that wraps around the unit when not in use. The Flex’s portability is immediately preferable to lugging a shop-vac to your car.

According to Black & Decker, the Flex uses “cyclonic” action to generate 40 per cent more suction power than the company’s Dust Buster (model CHV 1218).

The Flex arrives with accessories including a pet hair tool, nozzle/brush and crevice tool, along with an accessory storage caddy that securely holds two of the three tools.

A battery charger completes the package which, when used for the first time, requires 21 hours to fully charge the Flex’s nickel-cadmium battery (I know, 21 hours seems excessive, but that’s what it takes), and according to the manual, you may need to fully charge and discharge the Flex five times before it achieves the best running time performance.

After charging once, I used the Flex to vacuum the interiors of two cars, and found that it has excellent suction, although it’s a little noisy. Most importantly, I managed to remove all manner of debris from the carpets using the nozzle/brush, and the thin crevice tool is able to easily fit between the seats and the sills.

The Flex’s canister is easy to empty. It has two filters — a plastic pre-filter and a pleated filter — that are reusable and washable if required. No replacement filters are necessary.

This thing is a keeper. Its small size and light weight make it really easy to use, and the accessories fit snugly into the storage caddy so they stay where you put them. The accessories also snap securely onto the hose, rather than just using friction to hold them in place. Overall, the Flex is one of the best designs I’ve found for this type of appliance.

My only real complaint is that the level of charge is not indicated, so you don’t know how much charge is left after use. True, the blue “charging” light indicates that the unit is charging, but it doesn’t tell you anything else. It would be nice to know how much juice is left and how long it will take to fully recharge. Black & Decker says that it is safe to leave the Flex plugged in indefinitely, but to reduce power consumption the company recommends unplugging it after 24 hours.

The Flex comes with a two-year home use warranty.

In the interests of gender equality, I also tried the Flex’s brush tool on some dusty venetian blinds, and am happy to report that the little woman should be well pleased with its functionality.

Okay, okay… a joke. Jeez!

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