For the performance tests, we use a 90-gram mixture of dirt made up of sand and talcum powder, which provides grains of multiple sizes for the vacuums to encounter. This mixture is placed on three test surfaces: shag carpet, normal carpet, and bare floor. We also test how well our vacuums can handle cat hair, as well as food debris. The food debris we use during our testing is composed of uncooked macaroni and rice.
In an audio chamber, we revved up the Kenmore 21614 and measured how much noise it produced. Our instruments picked up 74.8 dBA. That's loud enough for your whole house to know you're vacuuming. However, amongst canister designs, it's pretty standard. You'll have to shell out quite a bit more for a quiet vacuum.
Vacuum seeking cat lady
The 21614 comes with multiple attachments for dealing with animal hair. For big jobs, you'll probably want to stick to the Pet PowerMate, which picked up most of the cat hair set out during testing. A pet hair catcher tool is another handy option that can attach right in front of the dusting brush, allowing you to clean your pet's fur from the drapes without the risk of clogging the vacuum's hose.
Beyond that, the 21614's accessories are pretty standard: a crevice tool, a telescopic wand, and a bare floor brush. All of these tools can be stored in compartments on the vacuum itself.
Strong suction, but difficult to move.
The Kenmore 21614 has a catch on the bottom that keeps it from rolling down the stairs, and at nearly 22 pounds you'll have to tug pretty hard to move it forward. Additionally, the vacuum's strong suction gave some resistance when we tried to pull the head backwards during testing, and the stubbornly wide turning radius on the whole vacuum proved mediocre at best. All this is workable, but users should definitely come prepared with some elbow grease.
We also found it difficult to pull the telescopic wand from its shell in the power brush. You'll need to push a lever, press a button, and pull upward to get it out. In summary, the 21614 and its accessories stayed in place, whether you wanted them to or not.
We test edge cleaning by using a wooden obstacle to simulate an edge of a room. Talcum powder is sprinkled along the edge to provide a visual cue of where the vacuum had suction. The 21614 kept up perfect suction all the way to its front edge. However, suction didn't begin on the sides until a quarter-inch in. This could prove to be a bit of an annoyance when cleaning right near walls and corners, but if you reposition your vacuum to use the front edge, it should work just fine.
Another wooden obstacle is used in our vacuum "limbo" test. The 21614 required 6 inches of clearance in order use its full reach. This means you'll have to move most couches and beds out of the way in order to clean the floor beneath them.
Top of the High-Pile
The power brush tool on the 21614 is height-adjustable, which means it has an easier time dealing with high-pile carpets like shag. The vacuum picked up dirt and debris from deep carpets better than other models at twice the price.
On normal carpet and bare floors, this vacuum's scores were rather average. Its higher profile prevented it from cleaning fine dirt on normal carpets, even though we chose the manufacturer-recommended height setting. On bare floors, the vacuum struggled to collect food particles such as uncooked rice, even while using the bare floor brush.
However, with the use of proper tools, not even cat hair could hide from the 21614. Whether the dirt and hair were located in the middle of the room or near the walls, the vacuum sucked them right up. Its suction power was just as strong at the edges of the brush as it was at the center.
This kind of power does come at a price: The 21614 is one of the loudest machines we've ever tested. When you use it, the whole house will know.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
The Kenmore 21614 showed its best results on high-pile carpet. On average, it removed 16.1 grams of the 90-gram mixture and all the cat hair we left out for it. On the normal carpet test, the vacuum picked up 59.75 grams of the dirt mixture, as well as 83% of the cat hair.
The 21614 scored well in our food debris test. Out of 60 pieces of uncooked macaroni and rice scattered on the floor, the device picked up 95% of these "leftovers".
To simulate a dirty kitchen floor, we placed uncooked rice and macaroni on our test floor. After running the vacuum over this area, 90% of the food debris had been removed from the floor. Most vacuums have issues with macaroni due to its odd shape, but the 21614 had no such problem.
Blueberries may go out of season, but this vacuum can clean your house anytime.
The Kenmore 21614 Progressive is a stalwart device. The design isn't fancy, but it has many features that combine to create a positive user experience. All the accessories can be stored onboard, and there's a hook on the bottom of the canister to keep it from rolling down the stairs.
When it comes to cleaning, the Progressive shows Kenmore hasn't lost its touch over the years. This canister picks up dirt on both high-pile carpet and bare floor, earning scores almost as high as the much more expensive Miele S7. With its focus on both good household design and cleaning performance, the Kenmore 21614 is a vacuum we'd recommend to anyone.
Meet the tester
Senior Manager of Lab Operations@ReviewedHome
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
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