Last edit: 10/06/15

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro NV356E Vacuum Cleaner Review

Lift Away NV356 Review

By now almost every vacuum buyer has seen Euro-Pro CEO Mark Rosenzweig's Oreck-style infomercials for the Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuums.

The TV infomercials feature hokey stunts like having the Shark suck up eight billiard balls.

I'm on record as disliking the infomercial sales model, and generally avoid reviewing any vac sold through dubious methods like infomercials, door-to-door sales crews, and multilevel pyramids.

But Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro NV356E has been very popular partly because it is a pretty good vacuum, with unusual versatility.

Released in late 2011, Shark Navigator Pro was a runaway best-seller for Shark, with aisle-impulse-buy-islands in several big box stores, and retail space almost everywhere.

I wasn't too impressed with earlier Sharks, or with Shark's customer support.

But NV356 rose rapidly up the charts, and is still selling well after five years.

As of this review (2015), NV356E is Amazon.com's number 29 selling upright vacuum. Shark NV356E

I bought a Navigator "Pro" for testing when it was released.

With its two-in-one breakaway wheel-less canister, for use doing detail work and stairs, Shark's Pro Lift Away is one of the best Sharks ever.

And one of the most versatile vacuum cleaners anywhere.

The Pro series is easily distinguished from the old lavender-hued NV350 Lift Aways, a few of which are still on retail shelves.

NV356 is molded in white with faux-chrome accent trim, which also sets it apart from the newer NV500 Rotator (red trim).

NV356E is slightly taller than its predecessor Liftaway, due to the larger dirt cup.

And NV356E's powerhead housing has "chrome" plate around the brush view window.

The Professional model includes a Swiffer-style hard floor Dust-Away attachment.

User reviews are almost unanimous, and I concur, that the Dust-Away tool and larger dust bin make the Pro worth the $20 price premium over the older Liftaways, especially for those with hardwood floors.

Subtle Variants

Like other vacuum manufacturers, Shark's marketing involves packaging a series of very similar products, with minor variations in accessories, tools, or perks, each designed for a specific big box retail niche.

NV356E was targeted at Amazon.com, Lowe's Home Improvement, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy's, and can be bought directly from Shark.

Shark NV355 was packaged specifically for Canadian Tire and Walmart.

NV357 was bundled with a Shark GI568 Iron for Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club.

And NV356K, with an extra dust pad and a different power brush, was headed for Kohl's.

Pro Reviews

amazon ad boy Some web reviewers have featured the NV356E Liftaway.

Vacuum-cleaner-advisor.com called the Navigator Pro "best upright vacuum for 2012."

Consumer Reports isn't as fond of the Shark Navigators, giving the NV356E a "61," a decent, but not outstanding score.

In a group of about 50 bagless uprights with scores ranging from 33 to 70, the Shark NV356E placed number 34.

Some reviewers say Navigator Liftaway NV356E suffers in comparison to the Dyson DC25 Ball, but the juxtaposition is irrelevant.

Shark NV356E sells for less than half the price of the $450 Dyson.

While Shark has clearly tried to upscale the looks and feel of the Pro version, the Dyson panache is hard to match.

I think too many pro reviewers are missing the versatility of the Lift-Away Shark, treating it like a plain upright.

The secret so many professional reviewers miss is that the power head/brush roll detaches from the canister, but also re-attaches to the wand for hard floor and under-furniture performance unrivaled by other uprights.

User Reviews

There are over 4,500 Amazon user reviews online for the Shark Liftaway Pro, averaging a real decent four point six stars.

4.6 is about as good as this parameter gets.

Despite the inevitable five star spamming, this represents exceptional buyer satisfaction.

Negative reviews (one and two stars) are very rare, and average 8%, an excellent long-term average.

I'm hard pressed to remember another vac with low enough negative review percentages to match this.

Despite disliking the David Oreck-style infomercial, stonewalling customer service, and other cheesy marketing of the Shark Navigator, our Shark NV356E test model has won our respect over several years of use.

It runs perfectly, never had any faults, gotta keep it clean.

We call our NV356E "Sharky."

Due to the popularity of the lifting feature, Shark has begun selling a wheel-less pod-vac version, calling it the Shark Lift-Around.

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pros are subtle vacs which have hidden versatility, some liabilities which need management, and unique maintenance needs which many users ignore at their peril due to the weakness of effective long-term product support.

Let's root them all out with a Real Vacuum Cleaner Review.

Filtration and Emissions

Every Air-purifier-power vacuum cleaner review leads off with emissions.

If the vac fails emissions tests or seems likely to be a particle leaker, the rest or the review will be short.

There was an initial plastic break-in odor as the Navigator was unpacked.

With my test model, which sat on the porch for 24 hours, the plastic odor was soon imperceptible.

Shark NV356E Lift Away is advertised to "trap over 99.99% of dust and allergen particles between 0.3 and 0.5 microns that enter the vacuum."

But with so much questionable marketing, I expected a disappointment on the filtration claims.

Our Shark, which was randomly selected from a retail store (I never accept manufacturer loaners/gifts for reviews, they can easily be prepped or hopped up) surprised us with very good emissions tests.

The weakest point on most bagless vacuums is dust bin security.

This Shark has four points securing the bin, plus it sits flat against the filter casing.

This minimizes leakage as the NV356E is working.

Many big box retail vacuums are secured by just one latch.

But the two latches which hold the bin down are subject to breakage, and can loosen enough for some contaminants to leak as the vacuum ages.

There is video on Youtube which purports to show the NV356E's dust bin distorting under user-imposed "clog" conditions, but this seems like a rare occurrence in the real world.

NV356E has two pre-motor filters, one foam and one felt, right below the canister.

At the post-motor exhaust port there is a HEPA filter.

Infomercials advertised the earlier Lift Away as having a HEPA filter, but buyers who did not order directly from Shark found their Lift-Aways had cheaper substitutes in the lower filter drawer.

After considerable negative feedback, I think Shark has finally stopped doing this.

The post-motor location of the HEPA is important.

Many "HEPA" filtered vacs have the filter before the motor, allowing carbon bits from brush wear, and metal particles from the motor bushings, into the exhaust airstream.

Navigator Lift-Away has no carbon odor filter.

When the vac is idle, there is no dirt smell.

But upon start-up there is a brief period of "dirty" odor.

Many user reviews mention smelling the dirt.

I think this temporary odor is caused by dust particles that have settled on the motor windings burning off.

Keeping the dirt bin clean between uses will minimize odors.

My only odor issue has been a bag of ginger (spice) which was spilled and vacuumed up.

Sharky smelled like ginger until the bin and filters were washed.

Exhaust Particle Testing

I am very finicky about vacuum cleaner particulate emissions, and will not run a dirty vac in my home.

I have been pleasantly surprised with the Shark Pro's sealed system and HEPA filter train.

My particle counter does not give a zero reading at the Shark's exhaust, but averages were around 2,000 .5 micron particles per cubic foot.

These low exhaust particle densities qualify Shark NV356E as an acceptable allergy/asthma vacuum.

I also get very close to a vacuum to search for leaks, like cracks in the vacuum body or loose fitting joints.

Shark's anti-allergen complete seal system has gaskets on every joint, I couldn't find a single leak.

Using the Navigator in a closed 10 by 16 room, there was no elevation in ambient .5 micron particle count after 20 minutes.

Shark Lift-Away 356 has excellent filtration efficiency for a $160 vacuum.

I do not put much faith in allergy foundations, but Shark Liftaway is certified by the British Allergy Foundation.

NV356E's Power and Suction on Carpets

Shark has backed away from unsuccessful attempts to copy the Dyson multi-cyclone technology, which I think is overrated anyway, due to long-term clogging of the smallest cyclone chambers.

While NV356E does use a rotating action, there is only a wire mesh screen at the top of the chamber.

The small upper cyclones which marred some earlier Shark models are gone.

NV356's are ten amp vacuums.

Most full size vacuums pull 12 amps, but Shark Pro has a narrow footprint and there is plenty of suction across the brush roll.

Is Sharky's suction as strong as a Dyson DC41 Animal?

No.

A couple of Hoovers and Bissells I have on test have slightly stronger suction, and while great on big carpets, they tend to chew up throw rugs.

I think Shark Lift-Away's suction is adequate for all but the highest carpet piles.

There is no suction loss assuming the bin is not overfilled.

The suction control, a handy rotating ring bleed valve, is located just below the handle.

Despite being molded in a contrasting dark gray color, this valve is often overlooked by users.

Navigator Professional has two motors, one for suction, and another to rotate the brushbar.

The all-important brushroll on/off switch is present, allowing easy transitions from carpet to hard floors.

Brushroll shutoff when upright is automatic, saving carpet from wear-spotting when the vac is stationary.

Navigator NV356E has no carpet pile-height adjustment, but performs well on most carpets.

User reviews say the Professional NV356E's strong suction restores some loft to matted down carpets in high traffic areas.

NV356 cleaned our carpets, many of which are outdoors on porches where they get very dirty, as well as any vac I have tested.

However, there are issues with long pile and fluffy shag carpeting, buyers with large areas of fluffy carpet should read many 1-star reviews before deciding.

Hard Floors and the Shark NV356E Professional Dust-Away Tool

Navigator NV356E also performs quite well on bare floors as an upright, earning an "excellent" from Consumer Reports.

On the hardwood floors in our cottage, Sharky does a very good job in upright mode.

But it is in Lift Away mode that Sharky gets to show off. (The Dust-Away tool can only be used in Lift Away mode.)

Shark's Dust-Away tool, with its micro fiber cloths, has been criticized by some reviewers as "useless."

More eloquent pro reviewers have implied that the Swiffer-style DustAway is a gimmick that adds little to the top-of-the-line Shark's value proposition.

Their tests didn't find much difference between the upright power head and the microfiber of the Dust Away attachment on hard floors.

I disagree, and this is also a good illustration of the shortcomings of typical vacuum cleaner reviews that use a uniform large particle size for all tests.

I think vacuuming should remove all particles from our living environment, NOT just the big stuff (20 micron and up visible particles).

Polished bare floors, and just plain unfinished hardwoods like ours, make a good surface for micro-particle electrostatic adhesion.

Suction alone rarely gets 100% of these attracted particles, which can then release and become airborne when weather changes alter the electrostatic attraction.

To get hard floors really clean, and get under and around furniture, we really like the Lift-Away mode with the Dustaway's Swiffer-like cloths.

The proof is simple, just vacuum a hard floor with any strong-suction vacuum.

Wash out the Shark's dirt bin till it sparkles (see below), then go over the area with the washable microfiber cloth.

Examine the cloth, which is inevitably filthy with fine particulate that suction alone missed.

There will also be dirt in the bin.

The Lift Away canister has no wheels and must be carried just about all the time, which is more tiresome than dragging a cannister.

Shark's website has a graphic of a woman who is either running the 100 meter high hurdles or practicing to be a ballerina, while simultaneously, and joyously, vacuuming with her Lift-Away.

Not possible.

But I think the point, though exaggerated, is well taken - NV356E is a very adaptable and versatile cleaning tool.

I carry the Shark canister with the left hand, using the tools or Dustaway with the right.

I like the Dustaway's u-jointed swivel head, which can get into spaces as narrow as seven inches wide by dog-tracking at about a 60 degree angle to the wand.

Pet Hair Pickup

Pro reviewers say the Sharks' pet hair pickup is just OK.

Consumer Reports called NV356E only "fair" on pet hair.

While our test Liftaway did a good job cleaning up human hair, buyers with really strong shedding pets might consider a 12 amp vacuum cleaner.

Area Rugs

Shark NV356E has enough suction power to lift area rugs off the floor.

If you are vacuuming carpet runners or throw rugs that are not secured, you will have to decrease the suction.

The "Professional" may eat fringed area rugs approached with brushroll spinning.

Even with the brush roll off and suction set to low, it still wants to tug light throw rugs.

We have an entry-area rug that picks lots of outdoor debris and is vacuumed just about daily.

Standing on the edge of the rug with my toes holds it perfectly for Sharky.

Shark Lift-Away Pro Useability

Initial unpacking and assembly of the Liftaway is simple, but not intuitive.

Most user reviews remark on the simplicity of assembly.

No screws are required, just snap the parts into place.

The manufacturer's documentation is a bit sparse as far as maintenance.

Many user reviews complain about the three way power switch location, about halfway up the canister.

Users must bend down to reach it in upright mode.

But the power switch is right under the left thumb in liftaway mode, where sporadic operation is most likely.

There is no upright lock pedal, but just a touch of the left foot while gently pulling back releases the upright hold.

Extremely Maneuverable

Part of the genius of the new Shark is the swivel steering.

I think the NV356E steers as well as a Dyson ball, and I prefer its handling to all the Dysons.

Just a little wrist pressure from the left hand easily tilts and turns the Shark into smaller spaces.

This vacuum has no complex ball steering, and is much easier to maneuver than stiff standard uprights.

User reviews say vacuuming carpet on full suction can get tiring as Navigator Lift-Away seems to stick to the floor.

I notice NV356E's tendency to tractor forward on carpets, but adapting to this is not difficult.

There are some weaknesses to the Shark's narrow design.

One is the very narrow cleaning path width - 9.25 inches.

Vacuuming a large carpeted room will take longer with Sharky than with a Hoover Widepath or other 15-inch wide cleaner.

Under Furniture

A very large number of both user and professional reviews mention annoyance at not being able to vacuum under furniture in upright mode because the canister is too high. Shark NV356E under furniture

But here is one key subtlety of the Shark Liftaways.

The Lift-Away feature, NOT the upright, is intended to be used for getting under furniture.

For low clearance cleaning, it is necessary to dismount the brush bar head and attach the wand to it.

This set-up allows cleaning under objects with as little as 5 inches of clearance.

We have some chairs with a four inch high crossbar which just barely traps the nozzle.

The brushroll is off in this configuration, and the swivel feature, while present, is a bit harder to use.

The wand/powerhead combination will stand upright, but we don't leave it stowed that way (see tip-overs, below).

Edge Cleaning

Some reviewers note the NV356E does not have strong edge suction, leaving a narrow trail along walls unswept.

The powerhead has a 1.2 inch wide suction-less area where the brushroll drive attaches, on the far left side.

Since the suction is supplied by a hose on the other end of the brush, the left side is a bit weaker on edge cleaning.

Using the right side, the side with the hose attached, will produce better edge results.

Weight and Carry

The "Pro" is about three pounds heavier than its predecessor Navigators, tipping our scales at about 16 pounds.

It is light and maneuverable enough as an upright, but when converted to a stand-up canister (Lift-Away mode), there are some handling issues that require user accommodation.

Lift-Aways are NOT drag-behind canisters, the only wheels are on the powerhead.

This means users must carry, and constantly tend, the eight-pound Lift-Away section, with one hand.

Some users dislike the lack of wheels/towing/follow, but I find this quite convenient, much easier than using a conventional upright with tools.

It is true that carrying the canister is a drag, but I have developed a drag-and-drop rhythm which works well.

The canister will fall over if not continuously brought along.

I think the Liftaway beats nearly every conventional upright vacuum for detail work and stairs, perfect for working up the stairway to our loft.

Older or physically impaired users may find the canister a bit too heavy.

Cord Management

Shark NV356E has a thirty-foot manual-wind cord, a five foot increase over earlier Navigators.

I notice the cord is a medium-duty variety, not thin or twist/kink-prone.

Years of moderate use have produced no cord issues.

But the Shark's plug is not a grounded three-prong type.

Some user reviews report light electrical shocks from what are apparently defective Navigators.

Hose and Reach

Shark NV356E reach The most frequent user review complaint, for this Shark as well as nearly every inexpensive upright, is that the hose is too rigid and short, limiting the upright's ability to reach in distant spaces.

Some previous Sharks, like the Shark Navigator Delux Edition, had better reach.

Some user reviews mention ordering the 10-foot extension hose from the Shark Navigator NV22, only to find it does NOT fit the 356E.

But this is another area where the Lift-Away capability gets neglected.

The canister, once lifted away, can be carried into spaces an upright couldn't go, supporting tool use in awkward locations.

Tip-Over Prone

Every vacuum design has flaws.

The Shark Lift-Away's combination of a taller canister, very narrow footprint, and short hose, makes Shark Professional prone to falls when using the hose and attachments.

Users should anticipate the tip-overs, keeping NV356E under close control in both upright and lift-off modes.

Buyers should know, in advance, that continued falls are one of the key life-shorteners of bagless vacuums.

Knowing this danger, I have allowed the Shark to fall only once (to observe the process), and recommend switching to Lift-Away mode for attachment use.

Trying to roll the upright configuration by tugging on the hose, as is generally done with standard uprights, can also tip the Shark.

Many user reviews express extreme frustration with a Navigator which has fallen and broken.

I think the Shark's flexibility is worth the effort, but admit to babysitting to avoid tipping.

Dirt Bin

A key reviewer complaint with previous Navigators was the smaller dirt bin.

So Shark designers doubled the bin's capacity, which made it three inches taller in the NV356E, setting up the top-heavy scenario.

The Shark "Pro" dirt canister capacity, to the fill line, is 0.55 gallons, about 4.5 quarts.

User reviews say the NV356E's bin is easy to dump.

I like the relatively solid construction, top and bottom doors, and four point anchoring of the Shark's dirt bin design.

(See our bin-washout method under maintenance, below).

Noise

I like the relative quiet when vacuuming hard floors with the brush off.

Combined with the easy handling, this actually makes Sharky my favorite vacuum to actually use (as opposed to testing).

User reviews agree that NV356E is pretty quiet in hard floor mode.

Of course the Navigator is louder with brushbar motor running for carpet, and the high-pitched whine of the brush head motor is noticeable.

There is also some heat that blows out of the filter screen, but Shark Lift Away is a cool running vacuum, due in part to its (lighter) ten amp power consumption.

Using NV356E with Tools

Here again, professional and user reviews often miss the versatility of the Lift Away, judging the Shark solely as an upright.

Consumer Reports called the Shark's airflow for tools "mediocre."

I respectfully disagree.

This is a break-away canister, and is thoughtfully designed to be used as such.

We have 13 steps and two landings to reach our two bedroom loft.

Vacuuming these stairs with any other upright machine is a slow, tedious, and dangerous process.

Lifting away, these stairs take about two minutes.

I love the Shark's suction control ring, which I rarely slide, but cover/uncover with the index finger of the right hand to vary suction for tools.

"Triggering" the pet hair power brush, which does take a little time to get right, makes it possible to vacuum our throw pillows without ever getting the brush stuck or the pillow case inhaled.

There are also finger-controlled suction ports on the eight inch and 24 inch crevice tools.

I prefer to cover these ports with cellophane tape to focus finger suction control at the main ring.

Used in this way, there is enough suction to repeatedly open the clog-bypass port's spring-loaded diverter door, which makes a very distinct noise.

While there is no extension wand, I find the 24-inch crevice tool handy for extending the Lift-Away's reach to do ceiling fan blades and hard-to-reach blinds.

I think other reviewers have overlooked these very attractive, maybe too-subtle features.

The short crevice and small brush tools are stored on the vacuum, but numerous reviewers say the eight-inch crevice tool falls off.

Pushing it firmly all the way will stop the fall-offs, but is tedious.

There is a first notch that feels like the tool is stored, but I found that just pushing it up a bit higher makes it stay well.

While I like the air-powered "pet hair" brush attachment, it lacks a swivel, and must be carefully aligned with the wand and used somewhat stiffly.

Lift Away is easy to store, I just loop the cord like a lasso and drape it on the handle, ignoring the cord storage clips.

I recommend storing the Shark clean and dry, as described below.

Maintaining the Shark Navigator Lift-Away

Filters

While the NV356E Lift-Away from Shark has no real cyclones (a fine screen instead), the circular airflow centrifuges dirt particles into the lower chamber, extending the manufacturer's recommended time between washable filter maintenance.

Shark says users only need to hand-wash the sponge prefilter every three months.

While this is a strong selling point (some vacuum's prefilters need to be washed after every use), I think Shark is exaggerating, or at least telling buyers only what they want to hear.

I wash our Sharky's foam filter more often, whenever visible discoloration or accumulation is noticed, at least monthly.

Some user reviews mention the 24-hour drying time and say they dislike cleaning the NV356E's sponge.

Shark's ads say users will never need to buy filters, but lots of them get sold on Amazon.

Other reviews note the fragility of this filter, I recommend handling all vacuum parts gently.

Keeping this foam prefilter clean is the first step to a longer life for the vacuum.

A partially occluded prefilter creates back-pressure, straining the motor, and depriving it of cooling air flow.

This filter is visible every time the Lift-Away's dirt bin is dumped.

I think this might be the easiest filter train to maintain anywhere.

Keeping the foam prefilter clean, and chamber back-pressure low, keeps the secondary prefilter, the felt one, from getting dirty.

Designers of the Sharks have cleverly installed a spring-loaded pressure relief valve in the filter train.

This valve opens to admit cooling air to the motor when upstream clogs or tools sucking cloth cut off suction.

Many competing vacuums simply wait for the overheat switch to kick off when there is a clog.

Allowing the motor to overheat repeatedly shortens the life of the vac.

A small rectangular vent, almost unnoticeable on the side below the prefilters, will open and allow airflow to bypass.

With the foam and fabric filters removed for washing, it is easy to look into the motor chamber and see the spring and bypass channel.

This should be clean and free.

Air rushing into the rectangular port, and the noticeable sound it makes when open, should not be ignored.

The Shark should NOT continue to run until the entire air path is clear.

There are three filters, and some owners never discover the HEPA filter down low behind the exhaust grill.

The HEPA can also be washed, but should be gently tapped or vacuumed with a soft brush without touching prior to gentle washing.

I inspect the HEPA monthly, and find that when the washable upper filters are well-maintained, the (post-motor) HEPA collects mostly fine dark carbon particles from the motor brushes.

Shark's "lifetime" claims could come true, with good maintenance, the HEPA might actually not need replacing for several years.

Dust Bin Cleaning - Washout Method

Shark NV356E has a bigger bin, but how fast it fills depends on the nature of the dirt being vacuumed.

With any bagless bin, long hair will ball up and load the canister fairly quickly, whereas fine sand can be picked up for a much longer time before dumping is required.

Users who dump the bin, which is pretty easy to clean because Lift-Away has two dirt bin doors, will notice fine dust accumulating inside the canister.

This makes it harder and harder to tell when it is actually full, and some debris tends to accumulate in the upper small chamber and screen.

When hair and dust get stuck in the upper chamber, or the wire mesh filter gets dirty, users report needing to use hands to remove the mess. Shark NV356E bin washing

Dirt on the hands and a cloud of fine particles to breathe are the result.

I think inhaling these nasty particles is totally unnecessary with the so-easy-to-wash Shark Lift-Away's no-cyclone dirt bin.

Some dirt bins, mainly those with closed cyclone chambers (Dyson) cannot be washed.

Others must have every speck of dirt carefully removed from the cyclones using a toothbrush and pick (Hoover).

Any and all moisture must be kept out of these cyclones (and HEPA filters), or the tiny pores will encrust and clog earlier than normal.

But Shark has eliminated the tiny cyclones, using a fine wire mesh screen instead.

This arrangement makes the NV356E dirt bin perfect for my wet dirt-bin emptying technique. Shark NV356E bin wash

As the photos show, this can be done in the kitchen sink.

I carefully support the bin doors to prevent excessive weight on the latches, then fill the bin about one third full with water.

Gentle sloshing will dampen all the dirt in the bin, including fine particles.

Unhealthy fine particles will NOT go airborne when wet.

Hair will generally ball up with the water, coming out in a big clump without embedded dust.

Using a dish-spray attachment or garden hose to thoroughly clean the wire mesh filter is also recommended.

Users often miss the subtle and gradual occlusion of fine pores in bagless vacuum cyclone chambers, a key starting point of the suction-loss-overheat death spiral that snuffs out so many innocent vacuum's lives. Shark NV356E bin washed

The laser particle counter next to the sink shows a steady background particle concentration, with NO dust cloud from the bin.

Thoroughly rinse the bin and gently wipe the now crystal-clear plastic with a towel.

Allow a few hours to dry with both doors open before reinstalling the bin.

Keeping the dust bin clean makes it easy to see how much particulate and debris is in the cup.

A clean dirt cup makes a bagless vacuum less of an eyesore when sitting idle, and lowers the opportunity for odor-causing microorganisms to breed in the vacuum.

Replacement Parts List

An important question buyers should be asking, even for the "no filters to buy" NV356E, is "Where can I buy filters for this vacuum cleaner?"

The Shark website, sharkclean.com, shows replacement parts and filters for the Navigator Liftaway Pro series (NV355, NV356, NV357).

Attachments are interchangeable between the regular Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum and the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro Vacuum.

The Dust-Away Swiffer-like microfiber-cloth covers for the hard floor tool can also be washed (without fabric softeners), but never returns to its hospital-white original appearance.

They can be put in the dryer on low heat, but I just put them out on the deck in the Texas sun.

These Dust-Away pads cost ten bucks apiece.

Brush Roll

Shark NV356E bottom The demonstrated weak area of the Shark Lift-Away is the powerhead, Shark's "motorized floor nozzle."

This is a sealed unit with NO user replaceable parts inside.

It breaks, you bought it, for $60.

So our maintenance efforts look to prolong the life of the Shark powerhead.

Keeping the brush free of windings - hair, yarn, carpet fibers... - is essential to keeping the stress load on brushbar bearings low.

Scissors are the tool of choice for clearing Sharky's brushes.

I cannot overemphasize this point enough - the powerhead is no-deposit-no-return, users DO NOT replace belts, neither does Shark.

Belt

Shark comes with a "Lifetime Belt" and a brushroll overload shut down circuit, complete with red/green jam indicator light.

Sharky will shut down if a carpet fringe or sock gets eaten.

This is supposed to prevent belt wear/burn when the brush is jammed.

The bad news is that if broken, the solution is a new powerhead, not a new belt.

Wheels

The two small wheels on the front of the Shark powerhead should not go unnoticed.

User reviews say these can wear prematurely if hair or other debris winds around them.

If the small wheels fail, the powerhead will drag and need replacing.

Shark/Euro-Pro Service and Warranty

As readers have seen, I really like the Shark NV356E.

But Shark does NOT have a great reputation for warranty and service.

The infomercial marketing model suggests improvements will be slow to come.

Shark NV356's original buyer is covered by Shark's five-year warranty with proof of purchase.

This is different from the 10-year warranty touted on the Navigator infomercials.

A warranty claim involves costs.

The USER PAYS shipping AND $20 for return postage, insurance is recommended as in-transit damage is not covered by warranty.

Shark's customer service is reported fluent and courteous, but parts, especially powerheads, are often "on backorder" more-or-less indefinitely.

Quality Construction

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional is, of course, made in China.

We think the quality is better than most big box vacuums in the under-$200 range. <

There is little of the obvious fragility that plagues under $100 vacuums.

Our primary bagless vacuum survival criterion, dirt bin security, is met squarely with a four-point mount and decent, but not bullet-proof, latches.

Durability and longevity of the four latches for the dust cup will most likely set the life expectancy for the NV356.

The lower unit/powerhead is also prone to other quality issues, a small percentage of lemons will clear shipping in China.

With no carpet height adjustment, brush wear may be an issue.

Note that liftaway mode survives the demise of the powerhead.

Because Lift-Away is so tip-over-prone, lots of users are crashing this vacuum cleaner repeatedly, likely generating many damage issues.

It takes some getting used to tending (I call it "babysitting") the high-centered vacuum to prevent falls - users should come into the deal expecting this.

Some user reviews mention short durability of the pet hair air powered brush where multiple pets are involved.

The list above is the only parts source, there is no exploded diagram for parts available to local vacuum shops or do-it-yourself repairers.

I love to fix old vacuums, and find this faux-pas disheartening.

But I think it is the future of vacuums, Shark is just getting there faster.

For all practical purposes, despite the market acceptance, Shark's Lift-Aways are throw-away vacuums.

But show me the under-$200 competitor that still runs after five years.

There is lots of dumpster-bait in this price class.

Some pro reviewers are making durability comparisons to Miele, Sebo, Kirby, Dyson, and Riccar vacs costing many hundreds more.

I think these are blatantly irrelevant.

The proper question is "Does the durability of the newest Shark compare favorably to other vacuums selling for $160?"

Competitors are the flagships of the Hoover and Bissell product lines, with durability issues of their own.

Despite the faults I think the Lift-Away Sharks have a quality-to-price ratio as high as any off-shored vac.

Because small parts are not available, some NV356's will be discarded too soon, as the cost of a replacement module makes a new vacuum more feasible.

Shark Lift-Away NV356: Conclusions

Pros

extremely good $160 price point vacuum
very low particle and noise emissions
good suction and very good suction control
swivel handling, steers very easily
Lift Away gets into gaps and under more furniture
Dust Away hard floor attachment really does work, saves wear on powerhead
low maintenance costs, but NOT "zero maintenance"

Cons

NV356E is best Shark ever, now cheesy marketing needs to catch up
lack of parts and support
top heavy, tip-over prone
cleaning path too narrow for large carpet jobs
powerhead life an be short

Not Recommended For

large wide open spaces
very high pile carpets
the vacuum maintenance challenged

Best Applications

best deals acceptable low budget allergy/asthma vacuum
hard floors more than all carpet
buyers on the fence between a canister vacuum and an upright
cluttered smaller spaces with furniture where wide uprights can't work effectively

At the height of Navigator's popularity, MSRP reached $269.

I like NV356 better now, selling well below $160.

I think the extremely versatile Shark Liftaway NV356E represents real good value, among the best mass market vacuums.

Amazon.com shoppers are invited to browse the

Shark Navigator NV356E Professional Lift-Away Vacuum Cleaner at Amazon.com

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