When we heard about the Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop, we knew we had to try it. After all, who wouldn’t love the convenience of a universal appliance that could suck the dirt and debris off a dirty floor before giving it a quick and steamy once over?
Type: Upright steam mop and vacuum cleaner combo
Power: Corded, with 25 foot long cord.
Dimensions: 46.5 x 9 x 11 in
Weight: 13 lbs
Suitable for: Hardwood floors, ceramic and tile, linoleum, granite and marble
Warranty: 2 years, limited
With a list price of just over $225, the Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop is a bit of a splurge, especially if you’ve been using a simple mop and bucket, or even a Swiffer Wet Jet. There are cheaper steam mops out there, including ones with more accessories. Most of those don’t vacuum as well, though, so if you’re looking for an all-in-one, your options are a bit limited.
So if you’re thinking about investing in the Symphony, you’ll want to know that what you’re getting is worth the money and that the product works as well as it possibly could, sanitizing your floors while simultaneously saving your back from the strain of picking up tiny little pieces of food waste or outdoor dirt from hard floors.
Does the Bissell Symphony make our list of the best steam mops? We got our hands on one and put it to the test, using it to tackle kitchen floors after a few messy toddler breakfasts, in busy entryways and even low traffic areas. Read on to find out what we thought.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: Design
For the most part, if you’ve seen one steam mop you’ve seen them all, and the Bissell Symphony doesn’t really break from the trend. In some ways, though, it is a bit of a hybrid: The Symphony has the thin, padded mop bottom you’d expect from a steam mop, but there’s also a decently-sized vacuum canister right in the middle of its body.
The water reservoir sits on the back of the machine and has a handy easy-fill design for when your machine needs refilling. It can be hard to tell when there’s enough water inside, though — especially if you or someone else in your household refilled it to the top the last time they used it. If you put too much water in the tank, it simply spills out all over the floor and the machine, making a pretty big mess. (Luckily, you can just use the mop to clean it up).
Bissell advertises the Symphony’s controls as “digital,” and it’s worth noting here that “digital” in this sense doesn’t mean that they’re akin to a touch display you might see in a car or on your phone. They’re just plain old push buttons, but there’s a little light inside them that lights up when you press them. Apart from these three buttons (for High steam, low steam, and vacuum), the vacuum has no other controls.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: Features and accessories
Compared to other vacuums we’ve tested, the Bissell Symphony is pretty basic. The only accessories it comes with are two different washable mop pads—described by the company as “microfiber soft” and “microfiber scrubby”—and a cheap plastic cup with a spout that we could use to refill the reservoir. On Amazon, Bissell lists the “detachable mop pad tray” as an accessory, but it seems pretty central to the whole product to us, so we’ll lump that in with the product in general.
For what they are, the microfiber mop pads feel like they’re fairly high quality. It didn’t seem like there was a ton of difference between them when we used them, but at a push you could say the “scrubby” one was slightly better at cleaning up dried spills.
The vacuum portion of the Symphony also comes pre-loaded with a filter, so you won’t need to purchase an additional product in order to use the vacuum the first time you take it out of the box.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: Setup
The Bissell Symphony comes in a relatively slim box that’s filled with a refreshingly limited amount of packing materials. Everything comes tightly packed into three different molded pressed cardboard pieces, which you could easily throw in your recycling bin once you’ve got the mop out of the box.
You’ll need to do a very minor amount of assembly once your Symphony comes out of the box, snapping a few different pieces together so your vacuum looks like it should. We estimate it took us 90 seconds, tops.
The vacuum’s handle tilts easily on its own, though it doesn’t exactly click into place when you’re putting it back up, which always made us a little nervous that it would topple over. You can pop the mop pad attachment off with the touch of your toe, which we thought was pretty easy. Once you’ve applied a new washable mop pad—which, again, was easy to do—you can just line the little drawing of the foot back up to where it was before on the machine, snap the top part of the body down, and you’re good to go.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: Performance
We tested out the Bissell Symphony over the course of a few weeks, even intentionally letting our 4-year-old twins’ meal messes pile up for a few days. That meant there were stray Cheerios to sweep up, pieces of rice stuck in corners, mystery sauce stains on our linoleum, and a range of debris below our kitchen cupboards and along our baseboards.
We also tested the Bissell Symphony in our home’s entryway, where everyone comes in and goes out. It’s an area where the hardwood floors can start to look a little grimy when the weather gets rainy or the kids have been out messing in the mud, so it seemed like an apt challenge.
Lastly, we ran the Symphony through our laundry room, where dry detergent can sprinkle onto the ground and bits of playground gravel or cracker crumbs can tumble from pockets.
We were impressed with how easily the Symphony’s thin head fit below our kitchen cabinets, meaning we could just run the whole line of baseboards in one fell swoop. Overall, the Symphony was fairly easy to maneuver, and light enough that we didn’t mind moving it from spot to spot. The 25-foot cord was a little lengthy when we were trying to go back and forth in our galley-style kitchen, but we liked having it when we had to find an outlet in our living room, given that there isn’t one near the front door.
In each spot, we tested the vacuum function first, and the results were pretty mixed. First of all, it has to be said: this vacuum cannot handle carpet. Some reviews online mention that people use this vacuum on their low pile rugs, but we can’t see how that’s really possible. There are instructions in the manual that tell you to take the mop pad off in order to best give it a go, but even when we did that, it was a bit of a struggle. It would run right under area rugs and didn’t really seem to do much cleaning-wise other than make lines on the rugs. Admittedly, Bissell has stated a number of times that this vacuum is best used on hard surfaces like wood, tile, and linoleum, so anyone buying this appliance should bear that in mind.
While the vacuum seemed to pick up most of the granular debris by our front door and washer/dryer, it had a bit of a tougher time in the kitchen. We had to make several passes over little bits of pancake or tiny shreds of Halloween candy wrappers. It would get them eventually, but sometimes we had to pick the vacuum up and put it right on top of the item we were trying to suck up and at that point, we might as well just bend down and grab the trash ourselves.
Mop-wise, the Symphony was also a bit of a mixed bag in terms of performance. There are both high and low steam settings on the mop; Bissell says the high is for “durable floors or sticky messes”, while the low is for “delicate floors or everyday cleaning”. We found the low setting to be a little underwhelming, effectiveness-wise, but we do have a high-traffic house with messy kids. We found ourselves typically opting for the high steam setting no matter what, just because it felt like it did a better job of cleaning.
That is not to say that we thought the high steam setting was incredibly effective. As previously stated, we did let some kid messes sit for a few days before tackling them with the mop, and when we did try to get up dried sauce or mystery drips with the mop, even using high steam and holding down the steam-producing trigger, we were generally unsuccessful. There were a few things we managed to get off, but most of the stains had to be tackled with a more traditional household spray cleaner and some good old fashioned elbow grease.
In order to actually get your mop to steam, you’ll need to be holding down the steam trigger on the handle. While that makes sense engineering-wise, it’s actually pretty annoying in practice. Because of where the trigger is inside the handle and because it’s so big, we found ourselves frequently pressing it when we didn’t want to use it, or just having to hold it down for 15 continuous minutes of mopping, which made our hands cramp up. It would be great if there was some sort of “on” button for the steam that would just make it stay on, but unfortunately there is not.
One last thing to note: Traditionally, we’ve washed our home’s floors using more traditional mop methods, meaning we’d be carrying around heavy buckets and getting big whiffs of Pine-Sol or whatever cleaner we had around. While we certainly didn’t miss carrying a big bucket of easily-spillable dirty water, we did miss having that lemon-fresh scent when we were done mopping our kitchen. Walking back in later, it was clear that the vinyl flooring was cleaner than it had been prior to us using the Symphony, but there was a sort of cleanliness disconnect between our eyes and our nose. Was it really that clean if we couldn’t smell the clean? Fortunately for us, Bissell does actually sell what it calls “Scent Water”, which is basically water with some citrus fragrance in it. At $7.99, it seems a little extravagant, but we could see maybe using it in the future at some point.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: Care and maintenance
The Bissell Symphony is compact enough to get tucked into the back of a pantry and light enough to carry from room to room. The dry debris container was easy to unlatch and empty, and we could clean it out with a wet rag if we wanted. Similarly, the mop pads were easy to get on and off the Symphony’s bottom piece, and washing them was a snap.
When you’re using a steam mop, it’s always fun when you’re done to check out the mop cover, since it’ll always be much dirtier than you really expected. The Bissell Symphony certainly delivered in that respect, as our previously pristine mop cover was fairly filthy after only about 15 minutes of initial use. A quick rinse in our washer took care of the grime, though, and we were glad we didn’t have to worry about residual bleach or an alternative cleaning product rubbing off on whatever else we had in the washer. Because the Symphony just uses steam to clean, all you’ll really ever have on the mop head (besides dirt) is water.
Rudy Vega, owner of Vacuum Experts in the Chicago Suburbs, says that people often use vinegar in their steam mops, which can ultimately damage the machine. To maximize your steam mop’s longevity, he says, make sure to opt for distilled water instead of water straight from the tap. “Tap water has minerals that collect in the steam mop,” says Vega. “All that stuff stays in the mop’s system, and you don’t want that. That’s why they say use distilled water in your iron, too.”
The Symphony has a two-year limited warranty, which basically means that if anything goes wrong with the product due to manufacturer error, shoddy workmanship, or cheap plastic, the company will repair or replace your machine. If your steam mop breaks because you put maple syrup in the reservoir instead of water or you ram it into a cabinet too hard or something, then you’ll have to fix it on your own dime.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: Price and availability
The Bissell SurfaceSense Multi-Surface Vacuum is available direct from the manufacturer's website or from retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Macy's, Kohl’s, and Wayfair.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: User reviews
Overall, the Symphony All-In-One seems to have generally positive reviews online. At the time of writing, it had 4.3 stars out of five on Amazon, with over 5,000 people weighing in, and on Bissell’s own site, it was holding down a 4.2 out of 5 rating, with over 1,300 buyers making their feelings known.
Most reviewers think the Symphony is easy to assemble, easy to use, and easy to maneuver. Where the ratings start to slide is on the question of suction, though as one five-star Amazon reviewer notes, “This is not a household vacuum, but [rather] a chance to suck up the little bits that don't mop up before they get waterlogged.” Some users noted that, in particular, the vacuum seemed to have issues with kitty litter, so if that’s the pet mess you’re looking to tackle, you might want to take a swipe with a traditional broom or vacuum first.
Reviewers also seem to get frustrated with the vacuum’s cord, which comes out of the bottom of the Symphony’s body and can get in the way. One reviewer wrote that they were "constantly feeling trapped to the wall and could not maneuver around my home as quickly as I would like because of the dang cord,” while another said they resorted to zip-tying some of what they deemed to be excess cord to the body of their vacuum.
Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop: What the experts say
Vacuum expert Rudy Vega says that while he has little experience with the Bissell Symphony All-In-One, steam mops in general are a good option for cleaning hardwood floors. “Those types of cleaners have a boiler that produces steam, which you can use to clean your floors,” Vega says. “It’s basically the same thing as a mop, and some people use types of sanitizer or detergent in their mops as well, like you would with a bucket of water.”
Vega says that with proper maintenance, a good steam mop should last you at least a couple of years.
Should you buy the Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop?
If you’re dealing with constant messes, dirty paws or shoes, or just hate looking at a dirty kitchen floor, then the Symphony All-in-One could be worth your money. Having two appliances in one can be handy if you're short on space or don't want to clutter your closet.
Then again, if you don’t mind giving your floor a quick sweep before you use a traditional (and much cheaper) steam mop, then you might be better off just doing that instead. Overall, we weren't overly impressed by the performance of both the vacuuming and steam function, and feel this 2-in-1 steam mop and vacuum doesn't quite replace having two separate appliances.
How does the Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Sanitizing Steam Mop compare to competitors?
Our favorite overall vacuum is the Dyson V12 Detect Slim, but we wouldn’t really consider the Symphony to be a vacuum, for all intents and purposes.
If you’re looking for pure pet-centric vacuuming power,we think you’d be better off opting for the Bissell CleanView upright vacuum, which is just $99.99.
In terms of straight up steam mops, we like the Bissell PowerFresh, which according to our reviewer “offers impressive cleaning power at a reasonable price.”