A palm reader once checked out my character line: "You like your surroundings to be clean and tidy, hon," she told me, then added "but you prefer someone else do the cleaning for you." You don't have to be a mind reader to divine this. Who actually likes to clean house? Fortunately, a number of power tool manufacturers have recently turned their attentions to filth fighting and are releasing some great cordless cleaning tools that take some of the dirty work out of tidying up. So, until we can all afford a Cye on every floor of our house, here are a few useful cleaning gizmos.
Believe it or not, cleaning tools have been taking their cues from the space program. Black and Decker's line of cordless, rechargeable "Buster" tools, for example, grew out of collaborative technology research with NASA. You don?t have to be collecting dirt samples from the moon, however, to enjoy their FloorBuster ($70 including rechargeable batteries). Unlike earlier cordless vacs that were portables on a stick, the FloorBuster is designed low to the ground and with a curved detachable handle that's off-center so you can get up close and personal with walls and edges. This lightweight, easy-to-maneuver tool is perfect for small apartments, SoHos, dorm rooms, and for anyone who's physically impaired.
The power behind this sleek little wonder is the VersaPak rechargeable battery system, which also charges twenty of B&D's cordless power tools, garden and household devices. Plug the batteries into an electrical outlet, juice 'em up, and pop them into the cleaner for a good fifteen minutes of untethered work. For difficult projects, such as sucking out all of Rover's hair from the upholstery, check out B&D's next generation Double Action DustBuster. It's more powerful than the original and it has a new filter system that keeps your pinkies out of the crud while changing bags.
The real test of any tool, cleaning or otherwise, is if you -- or your on-hand child labor -- enjoy using it. B&D's Scumbuster ($40), a cordless tub and tile scrubber, is almost too much fun and kids of all ages will be lining up to tackle the tile. This ergo-friendly tool looks like a hand-mixer with rotating scrubbers instead of blades. It comes with 3 attachments -- a non-abrasive scouring pad for tile work, a bristle brush for grout, and a detail brush for faucets and the like. You can add a variety of specialized accessory packs ($10 each) tailored for kitchen, barbecue and auto cleaning. [Warning: In addition to removing bathtub plaque, mold and mildew, this gadget can also be used as a deadly weapon against the ticklish.]
Dedicated robot vacuum cleaners have been vaporware for years now, and despite continued hype, this doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. Eureka's Robot Vac continues to dazzle 'em at home shows, but it?s still unfortunately described as a "concept vacuum." The shiny red 15" prototype resembles a curling puck on steroids. It has no cords and no remote control. Just place it on the floor and watch as the microprocessor and sonar sensors avoid obstacles and chase down dust bunnies. No word yet on a release date or selling price. High-tech British vacuum maker Dyson has also been showing off a 21st century-looking robovac. So far, you can just "register interest" in the little mechanical rugrat on their Web site.
We may have to wait a few years before we have robot vacuum cleaners, but in the meantime, the current crop of cleaning tools, with their superior design and next generation battery technology, fits right in with our increasingly leash-free high-tech lifestyles.