Pros: Cleans carpets very well; water heater; separate detergent dispenser
Cons: Repair prone; needs lots of preventive maintenance; short time between fills; design of water tanks
In the realm of describing certain members of the human species, I am sure you have heard of the term “high maintenance”. In the world of carpet steam vacs, I would give that honor to this Bissell machine. This is actually my second one. You may ask “Why?”; particularly those of you who have owned one and have experienced problems with them.
Well, I actually was able to keep the first one going for about five years before it would no longer pump out solution. As fate would have it, I went out shopping that day and happened upon this refurbished one at Ollie’s. The fact that you find so many of these as refurbs indicates that there are lots of issues with them. No surprise, as my first one was also a refurb, and I always see them at various outlet stores. After looking at various ‘new’ models at several stores, I went back and purchased the refurb.
Examining the visible components of this machine indicates it is basically the same as my first, except that they added one more row of bristles to the agitator…wow, what an upgrade! The heater comes in handy to boost tap water an additional 25 degrees for better cleaning. Like my previous steam vac, its prowess on removing embedded dirt from carpets is hard to match. To give you an idea, a neighbor who was going to rent out his apartment thought he was going to have to replace the carpet. He borrowed my vac and was amazed at how it removed the stains and brought the carpet back to life. The fast agitator fluffs up the carpet quite nicely. I also had to clean up after my condo suffered smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire. It did quite a nice job on all of my carpets and furniture.
There is a separate dispenser for the detergent. This is handy, as you don’t have to premix the detergent and water. There is a dial for regular and heavy traffic that regulates the release of the detergent. I have found this machine to be slightly better at conserving detergent than the previous one.
The hand tools are also useful, although suction through the hose is not the greatest, and extraction of the solution from the fabrics/carpet is never as good as at the floor nozzle. The heater will not heat solution that is directed through the hand tools; it’s only used to heat solution going to the floor. I had a ‘Turbo Tool’ from the previous machine that I am still able to use with this one. I find this tool to be rather worthless, as the agitator does not do as effective a job as scrubbing manually with either a separate brush or by using one of the other attachments.
So, here is where I must tell you the downside of this machine. My first one got blocked up rather quickly and would not pump solution to the floor. Apparently, the solution crystallizes and blocks the fine tubes of the heater. The repairman told me this was common. To avoid it, he suggested filling both the detergent and main fill tanks with plain old hot water and running the machine for a bit to flush the system. I do this at the end of each use. By the way, this is not in the manual. This worked for years until it no longer pumped. For this one, I continue this treatment; I also now drain the machine by raising the hose and squeezing the trigger until all the remaining water has drained.
You will also find that, over time, the plastic parts will crack, so be careful about running into things with the floor nozzle. Also be aware of any slightly raise screws or other fasteners in floor trim, as it will catch on those, too. Sounds like a “no brainer”, but as you get into cleaning, you become mesmerized and forget these simple bits of knowledge.
Another downer is the “tank-in-tank” design for the clean and return water. The clean water goes in a “bladder” located within the main tank. As water is pumped out, dirty water is returned and fills the area surrounding the bladder. It’s a unique design, but I would prefer separate tanks for clean and dirty water. For some reason, this design only allows for short periods of cleaning before you must empty and refill the tanks, even though there is some fresh water still available in the bladder.
The other issue with doing the cleaning yourself is the length of time it takes to clean. I am sure this is true with most carpet machines. Over the years, I have tried various methods of using the machine. I have found it most effective if you take it section by section, as recommended in the manual. It helps to slightly wet the carpet with the ‘Plain water’ setting. Then I turn off the suction and start dispensing the detergent solution over the area. I then make several passes with the suction still turned off to work the solution into the carpet. I turn the suction back on, remove the water, and do a final ‘Plain Water’ rinse. I make several more passes without dispensing anything to ensure as much solution is extracted as possible. If your head is spinning at this point, don’t fret; you can develop your own method.
Overall, I can say that I have had reasonably good luck with these machines. They have been cheaper than securing a professional cleaning service, and the machine is available whenever you have a stain or spill that needs immediate attention. If you purchase this model, be prepared to do some maintenance to the machine. Otherwise, you will most likely suffer from the problems that I and others encountered.