The thought of canister vacuums often conjures up images of grandmothers lugging dead weight behind them as they perfect their footprint-less living rooms (…or maybe that’s just us). But when you think of Dyson, you probably think of smart, cutting-edge technology. Marry the two together, and you get the $449 Dyson Ball DC39 Multi Floor vacuum, a smart canister vacuum that even Grandma would love. The benefit of canister vacuums is that you don’t have to push and pull the full weight of the vacuum with every stroke. Also, the suction part has a lower profile, which means they can reach under kitchen cabinets and some pieces of furniture better than their upright counterparts.
The downside has typically been that the machine clumsily follows behind you, nicking walls, woodwork, and table legs as you go. Dyson aims to change that with DC39 Multi Floor vacuum and, for the most part, succeeds. Because it has a low center of gravity and swivels on a ball, it follows you pretty effortlessly on both carpet and hard floors. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but overall, it does what it sets out to do. You will still need to be careful how you pull it. Despite the low center of gravity, it’s a still 23-pound ball of hard plastic on wheels, and if you aren’t paying attention, it will get caught up on things.
At first glance, there’s no question that this vacuum is a Dyson. With the brand’s iconic gray-and-gold aesthetic, the DC39 very much resembles its upright brethren. In the box is everything you’ll need, including the hose, wand, brush bar, crevice tool (which has a brush you can slide down for dusting), and a flat 3.5-inch stair tool. You also get a lifetime HEPA filter.
Assembly was pretty straightforward: Just connect the hose to the main body, the wand to the hose, and the brush bar to the wand. The picture-based instructions are easy to follow, and they also detail how to empty the bin, clean the filter, look for blockages, and clear any obstructions. The power button is on the main body, though we would have liked to have a second one on the handle, as well. On the opposite side of the body is the cord-retractor button. This feature, while not exactly cutting-edge, worked beautifully. While Dyson’s website says the cord measures 21.3 feet, we measured it at just over 20 feet and found ourselves wishing we had about 6 more feet to work with.
We eagerly assembled the vacuum and started on the living room floor, which has Berber, or loop pile, carpet. We immediately noticed that pushing the wand forward was smooth and fluid, but pulling it back was choppy and rigid, as though it didn’t want to go that way. We double-checked the instructions, but there was no mention of this sort of issue. So we kept going and found that the bumpiness happened only when we were facing one direction, such that when pulling the wand back, it was going directly against the grain of the carpet. To make sure there were no adjustments we could make to eliminate this issue, we called Dyson, and indeed, this is simply how this vacuum works on Berber carpet. It did not hamper suction at all, however, and once we realized there was nothing wrong, we were able to vacuum with confidence.
It easily picked up dirt, hair, dust, and small particles. When you’re vacuuming on carpet, you need to have the brush moving. But when you switch to hard floor, you’re supposed to turn the brush off to avoid damage to the floor. You can easily turn it off with a trigger in the handle (if you need it off for only a second) or turn it off for good, using a button near the handle. When we got to the kitchen, we challenged the DC39 with some Honey Nut Cheerios. Unfortunately, the brush bar was unable to handle them. Some Cheerios, the DC39 just pushed around. Others got caught in the brush bar (even though the bar itself was not rotating, per the instructions) and never made it to the canister. When we switched to the 3.5-inch stair tool, though, the vacuum easily sucked up the Cheerios, and we could see (and hear) them rotating around in Dyson’s Radial Root Cyclone in the main body.
As with the Berber carpet issue, we double-checked our Cheerio situation with a Dyson representative to make sure we weren’t missing anything (we weren’t). The representative basically said if the stair tool works best to pick up larger things, then use the stair tool. (That was helpful.) She also pointed out, however, that the DC39 is really designed to pick up fine particles, as it sucks all the way to the floor. And in fact, we had no problem picking up fine particles—or at least, the amount of dust in the bin when we were done suggested that it picked up a ton of dust and dirt we didn’t realize was there.
As anyone with long hair knows, rotating brushes wind hair around themselves and can eventually cause the brush to stop turning until you cut out the hair with a scissors. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened with the DC39, too. When James Dyson so famously says the problem with all vacuums is that they lose suction, we wish he’d realize that the real problem with all vacuums is that they don’t know how to handle long hair. We can’t really fault the DC39 for this issue, since we’ve never encountered a vacuum that has mastered long hair, but let’s just say we’re officially putting it on our wish list.
Unlike with Dyson’s DC23 Turbinehead , we did not encounter any issues with air blowing out behind the vacuum, which was a plus. However, we did notice after only a few minutes of use, the areas around the base of the wand and on top of the brush bar were covered in dust and hair, making us think there must be some air swirling around down there and not getting sucked into the canister or it was a just a result of static electricity.
We most enjoyed how you can lay the wand down nearly completely flat, without the end tipping upward. Because of this, we were able to suck up all the dust bunnies that congregate under the dining room table without having to move any chairs. Also, the wand tools are conveniently stored on the wand itself, so you don’t have to go hunting for them.
Vacuuming steps is possible with the DC39, but it’s likely not as easy as it would be with the DC23, since it is way too big to sit on any one step like the DC23 does. Instead, you’ll have to hold the main body by the handle in one hand while you vacuum with the wand in the other. When we left the main body at the base of the stairs, we were able to get up to the ninth step with the brush bar. Or you can use the stair tool, but the brush bar worked fine. Overall, vacuuming the steps was a little clumsy, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad.
Overall, we were very pleased at how quiet this vacuum is. We own a Dirt Devil for the kitchen floor that is so noisy we pretty much avoid using it at all costs. This one is quiet enough we could almost carry on a phone conversation with it running. (It would still be rude to do that, though, so we don’t recommend it.)
We vacuumed about 1,000 square feet and still had plenty of room in the 0.53-gallon bin for more dust and particles. As we mentioned above, we were a little surprised by how much was in there from vacuuming such a small space. It definitely picked up a ton of dust that our previous vacuum was missing (though to be fair, that vacuum has seen better days). Emptying the bin was pretty easy. You do it more by feel than by sight, but once you go through the process once, you won’t forget it. Just push a button on the main canister to release the bin, and when you’ve got the bin over the garbage can, push a red button to release the hatch and drop out the contents. Snapping it back into place is another session of feeling more than seeing, lining up a notch at the bottom with a slot and then dropping down the handle at the top.
Finally, when you’re ready to store the DC39, you might need to find a new space for it. We previously had an upright vacuum, and this one is too wide and unwieldy to fit in that tight space in the front hall closet. We were pleased, however, to discover a little notch for the wand to snap into, so at least the hose and wand aren’t falling all over the place or needing to lean into a corner.
Having called Dyson’s customer service, we can add that the experience was very pleasant. When we called, we were told by a recording that they were having a longer-than-usual wait time, and the recording said they could keep our place in line and call us back. Sure enough, our call came about five minutes after we hung up the phone, and the representative was very pleasant and knowledgeable.
The impressive five-year warranty covers original defects in materials and workmanship. Normal wear and tear, however, is not covered, nor is clearing blockages. Also, if you damage your floor because you forgot to turn the brush bar off, Dyson does not cover that. We should also mention that for $50 more, you can get the DC39 Animal version, which comes with a Mini turbine head to clean pet hair and dirt from tight spaces.
All told, this is a good vacuum. It does have some things we don’t like about it (it’s big and awkward at times, and it doesn’t always pick up what you want it to), but they’re the same reasons we don’t like vacuuming in general. Dyson hasn’t solved the dead-weight issue common to canisters, but it did make significant strides forward with the DC39’s ball design. We love how quiet it is, and we love how easy emptying the bin is. The DC39 doesn’t make vacuuming more fun, but it does make it more efficient by getting all those fine particles, eliminating the need for bags, and letting you get under pretty much any piece of furniture without having to move it.
The Good: Quiet. Large bin for dust and particles. Easy to set up and empty. Switch from carpet to hard floor without bending over to adjust settings. No air blew out the back end.
The Bad: Doesn’t pick up large particles with main suction tool. Awkward to store. Gathers dust and hair around base of wand. Cord could be a little longer.