This steam cleaner vacuum is my new favourite household appliance
Product test

This steam cleaner vacuum is my new favourite household appliance

Translation: Veronica Bielawski

Dirt and stains are annoying. The Bissell SpotClean HydroSteam Pro is designed to tackle them with steam – and suction. How well does it work?

As soon as I go outside, the white edges on my sneakers turn brown or even black. Cushions, seats and upholstery are also stain magnets. Cleaning them is a hassle. A damp cloth often isn’t enough. And if I go in with a ton of water, drying it off takes ages. As a result, I end up doing nothing, more often than I’d care to admit. Dirt and stains then remind me of my neglect for weeks on end.

A few weeks ago, category manager Sina mentioned a «hidden bestseller» to me. That is, a product that sells very well but that many people aren’t aware of, myself included.

Will the steam vacuum solve my stain problems?

The magic term is «wet and dry vacuum cleaner» – an appliance combining a brush, mop and vacuum. US manufacturer Bissell, which has been building carpet cleaning appliances since 1876 (!), is the pioneer and market leader. Bissell has a specialised product line for removing stains and dirt from smaller surfaces called SpotClean. I’m intrigued and ask the manufacturer to send me a test device.

Here’s the version with two instead of three nozzles and without wheels for pulling the vacuum cleaner around:

Bissell sent me its current top-of-the-line model, the SpotClean HydroSteam Pro. I’m sceptical as to whether it’ll really solve my stain problem. But hey, that’s exactly why I’m testing it. I unpack the device and read the quick-start guide.

The SpotClean looks like a small vacuum cleaner with a hose. Instead of one dust container, it has two tanks: a 1.9-litre fresh water tank and a 1.5-litre waste water tank.

The SpotClean is easy to use. Instead of touch surfaces, there’s a sturdy, rustic rotary knob. Sure, it doesn’t look quite as elegant, but it’s much more practical in everyday life. The pictograms are easy to understand even without the instructions. I can choose between three modes: steam and water, water only, and steam only.

I can switch modes using the practical and robust rotary switch.
I can switch modes using the practical and robust rotary switch.
Source: Lorenz Keller

Cleaning with the SpotClean

So, how does the Bissell work? Attach one of the three included suction nozzles to the hose. When you turn on the Bissell, the suction motor starts up. To emit water and/or steam from right behind the nozzle, pull the trigger. The SpotClean sucks up the moisture straight away. It’s as simple as that.

I try my hand at cleaning a running shoe. The smallest of the nozzles is elongated and specially designed for narrow areas, like the edges of a sole. When switching to steam mode, I have to wait 30 seconds until it’s ready.

In the meantime, I can tell the vacuum is very loud. I measure just over 80 decibels along a one-metre radius. I haven’t had this loud an appliance in a long time. This is the downside to Bissell’s robust product design.

Unfortunately, the SpotClean is quite loud – like a vacuum cleaner from earlier times.
Unfortunately, the SpotClean is quite loud – like a vacuum cleaner from earlier times.
Source: Lorenz Keller

Cleaning sneakers made easy

Sneaker in my left hand, nozzle in the right. Let’s roll! But before I start cleaning, I hold the nozzle over a cloth and pull the trigger. I saw in some YouTube videos from US testers that the Bissell only releases steam after a few seconds. Before the steam comes out, some water sprays out first,

so it’s a good idea to have a cloth or towel at hand. Once the steam starts flowing, I get to cleaning. Wow – it works really well! The big advantage of the SpotClean is that I can easily scrub the shoe and have enough, but not too much, moisture, as any excess gets sucked up.

I get the soles clean in under a minute, and the shoes are totally dry again after 15 minutes. Cleaning is quicker and more thorough than with a damp cloth. If I had used a brush and water, the shoe would definitely have been soaked.

Mud is dissolved and sucked up immediately

What about dirty trekking shoes? They’re mud central. I usually clean them over the sink with a cloth that I have to keep rinsing out to avoid simply smearing dirt over the shoes. And once I’m done, I stuff the shoes with newspaper to dry them, as they’re also wet on the inside.

With the Bissell SpotClean, these problems disappear. The hot steam and the brush easily lift the dirt, and the brown broth gets sucked up straight away. The shoe is clean in two minutes and only needs to dry a little on the outside. A great tool, though you do have to be careful with fine leather and delicate materials.

Cleaning floors, furniture and textiles

The SpotClean doesn’t just clean dirty shoes. The cleaning appliance is suitable for carpets, tiles, wooden floors, upholstered furniture as well as other textile surfaces or the interior of a car. Anything you’d typically clean with water and a brush, you can clean with the SpotClean.

In my case, our booster seat for the car and a cushion from our balcony. For this cleaning job, I need more liquid, so I switch on the steam and water combo mode. I use the wider attachments to cover more area.

Here’s where the limits of the SpotClean start to reveal themselves. The white staining on the seat cushion, probably from our cats trampling over it with dirty paws, is easily lifted with the Bissell. But there’s another, much deeper stain. I scrub and scrub, then wait anxiously for the cushion to dry.

Although this deeper stain is less visible afterwards, it’s not totally gone. And because I didn’t clean the entire surface, I can also see the edges around where I did clean. I have the same problem with the car seat. Deeply engrained, older stains aren’t removed.

Even the SpotClean didn’t get rid of the old, deep-seated stains.
Even the SpotClean didn’t get rid of the old, deep-seated stains.
Source: Lorenz Keller

Tricks to get out almost any stain

Is there a way to get better performance out of the SpotClean? Indeed, there is! Fortunately, I take another, closer look at the review videos from the USA. I notice they move the nozzle much more slowly, keeping it pressed to the surface. I decide to try that in my next attempt.

I also add as much of the rather expensive special cleaning agent as the manufacturer suggests. The tank shows me exactly how much water and how much detergent to add. It feels like too much, but I do it anyway.

Lo and behold, I do actually get better results this way! With the recommended amount of detergent and a slow, thorough clean, the small stain disappears completely and the large one is much less visible. It’s absolutely worth it to do slow passes over the surface and to keep the nozzle pressed down. This time, I cleaned the entire surface, so there are no edges after drying.

My verdict: not letting it go

«Yet another household gadget that you only use once or twice a year to have lying around,» I thought prior to trying the Bissell SpotClean. And now? I don’t want to go without it! The Bissell SpotClean is a dirt- and stain-fighting jack-of-all-trades.

I’ve used it to clean shoes, textiles and cushions. It can also be used to clean grimy bathroom joints. The Bissell even replaces your mop. Tomato splatter on the kitchen floor? The SpotClean lifts it away.

Many details on the Bissell are very well thought out. For example, there are fold-out handles on the two tanks to make removing them easy. The handles simultaneously serve as a locking mechanism that’s easy to operate with one hand. When not in use, you can wrap the hose around the Bissell and snap it into place so it’s not trailing about.

The handle also functions as a locking mechanism. Below, you can see the rolled-up hose.
The handle also functions as a locking mechanism. Below, you can see the rolled-up hose.
Source: Lorenz Keller

But there are also disadvantages to the Bissell SpotClean. First off, the premium appliance is clearly too loud. And at 320 francs or 350 euros, it’s not cheap. Add to that the cleaning agent, which costs around 12 to 20 francs/euros per litre.

There are cheaper models from Bissell starting at around 170 francs/euros. Kärcher and Thomas also offer wet and dry vacuum cleaners in a similar price range. However, these typically don’t include the steam function, which proved very practical without fail whenever I wanted to avoid things getting too wet, like when cleaning shoes.

Header image: Lorenz Keller

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Gadgets are my passion - whether you need them for the home office, for the household, for sport and pleasure or for the smart home. Or, of course, for the big hobby next to the family, namely fishing.

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