We have done a fair few reviews over the last few years featuring vacuum cleaners. Dyson took the lion share of these but when one of our editors got hold of the Bissell AirRam vac some time ago, I knew that we would hear more from this American company.
Today we are reviewing a multitasker that has just launched here in Australia: the Bissell Vac & Steam.
I love it when a product carries a name that describes exactly what does....
The idea of combining functionality is something that modern consumers really appreciate, as long as a product can still perform as well as a stand-alone unit. That's why I have a multifunction printer on my desk and a smartphone with more tricks up its sleeve than I will ever discover.
I would not have thought of combining suction and steaming simultaneously in one appliance as they are kind of opposite processes. Think of it as inhaling and blowing out at the same time. Plus steaming is a pretty hot process as well which calls for some nifty engineering.
But think of it this way: before you mop the floor, you need to sweep it or vacuum it. If you could combine these two functions it would be a tremendous timesaver!
I first saw this demonstrated a few weeks ago on an American TV show where Bissell featured its Symphony, which is very similar to the Vac & Steam. So when The Image Bureau reached out to us to see if we wanted to do a hands-on review of the Vac & Steam, the timing was serendipitous as our own el cheapo steam mop had given up the ghost some weeks earlier.
As a guy I don't mind reviewing domestic items (see my review of Laurastar Ironing System recently ) but I always ask the considered opinion of the ladies on our team who have to work with this stuff on a regular basis.
My take is that if I can make it work it scores a big plus in user friendliness.
Our first impression upon unpacking is that the Vac & Steam is well built and fairly lightweight at well under 5 kg. One of my daughters, coincidentally is also looking for a steam mop and mentioned that it absolutely has to be lightweight. I think 4.7 kg qualifies.
One click to assemble the foot and a quick pull on the handle to extended to your level of comfort and you are ready to roll, eh, glide.
A small plastic cup (200 mL) of water is all you need for about 15 minutes of steaming. How does that compare to a full bucket of water which you need if you are going to do it the old-fashioned way?
Press the Steam HI button and it takes only 30 seconds for the machine to build up a good head of steam.
The foot had been preassembled already with one of the steam pads (there is another one supplied for particularly grimy floors), I clicked on the VAC button and a few minutes later the whole kitchen floor was done.
This is fun!
I could not see much in the cyclonic dust canister because we kinda try to keep the kitchen floor fairly clean but now the floor was indeed squeaky clean. They claim it will kill up to 99.9% of germs and bacteria.
If only I could use it on my keyboard and smartphone...
Talking about claims, when Bissell states that this is a no compromises appliance, they have compared the results with the leading steam mop and also with the leading stick Vac in Australia, the Electrolux ErgoRapido. Perhaps that is an unfair comparison, because the ErgoRapido is battery-powered and when it comes to the 12V model pretty much underpowered. That's a pity because I'm quite a fan of this Electrolux stick vac.
If we get to review their new 18V model we will let you know the comparison results too.
Where the Vac & Steam really shines is in places such as our entrance and hall where we keep our lovely but very hairy black Labrador. We always needed to vacuum first before mopping the tiles but now we can do it all in one go. Just make sure you don't get the hairs wet first otherwise they get very sticky!
The floors dry very quickly too, unlike the slap dash bucket brigade jobs. Give it five, perhaps 10 minutes and you can walk again on them.
Even though you can use the Vac & Steam on low pile carpets (obviously without the mop pad attached) it is essentially a hard floor cleaner mainly. Yes, you can also use it on wooden floors depending on the finish.
The Vac & Steam Mark II
Thinking about any possible improvements for the next generation of the V&S here are a couple of suggestions, keeping in mind that as it is the Vac & Steam functions brilliantly.
Because I'm tall I would like to have the handle extend a bit longer.
The power cord is plenty long but you'll always have to coil the first bit of the cord in one hand while you work. If you leave it on the floor it will get in your way. Perhaps it is possible to have the power cord come out of the handle instead of down low near the mop.
And while you're redesigning: put some bright LEDs on the front! I'd love to see the dirt before it disappears...
We have done a number of tests, all confirming our first impressions of the Bissell Vac & Steam: it's a great machine, fast and thorough, good built quality, tad noisy for my liking, handy to use.
At least as quick to use as that old standby, the mop & bucket, I reckon, but with heaps better results.
Even guys can do the floors now, which sets a dangerous precedent, I know...
Highly recommended and worth the $369 or so places like Harvey Norman and JB hi-fi are asking for it.