Bissell's robot mops and vacuums at the same time, just don't ask it to navigate

I'm blessed to be able to work from home. However, my family and I are always here. We're giving this place the lived-in look, and not in a good way. That's why I perked up when I heard about the Bissell SpinWave robot. This $250 robot vacuum promises to both vacuum and wet-mop floors, all with one device.

Few products claim to vacuum and mop, and the ones that do easily cost triple the SpinWave's asking price. Which is why I had to learn for myself if Bissell's robotic cleaner really can get the job done. Sadly, it can not.

How the SpinWave cleans

The Bissell SpinWave looks like many robot vacuums on the market. It has the classic round Roomba body shape, with one noticeable exception. A pair of circular cloth scrubbing pads protrude from the robot's back.

Supplied with a cleaning solution (water plus Bissell's soap formula), these pads rotate while the SpinWave roams around your home. Bissell says this scrubbing action wipes dirt and stains away from hardwood floors and other hard surfaces.

The robot also uses twin brushes on the front to grab any solid debris it encounters. These bits of dirt are then sucked up by the SpinWave's vacuum nozzle. The padding follows up from the rear to scrub the debris-free area spotless.

Bissell's robot mops and vacuums at the same time, just don't ask it to navigate

You also have the option of using the SpinWave as a standard robot vacuum. Simply swap the water tank mopping attachment with the regular dustbin.

A first class mop

The most intriguing aspect of the Bissell SpinWave is its dual mopping and vacuuming mode. In terms of pure cleaning performance, it's impressive. The machine easily sucked up light debris such as crumbs and dust from my hardwood floors. It then laid down a good amount of moisture (default setting) as it scrubbed.

I found it easy to tell which sections of the floor were polished. Often that's not the case with other robot vacuum and mop combos such as the Ecovacs Deebot 930. Even iRobot's dedicated Braava Jet m6 robot mop sprays floors with less cleaning solution on its maximum spray setting.

I also appreciate that Bissell bundles two pairs of reusable cloth scrubbing pads with the SpinWave. They're machine washable too. While you can buy similar pads for the Ozmo T8, they cost extra ($35). The same goes for the Braava Jet m6 ($25 for a two-pack). Both machines come with a pack of disposable mop pads.

Navigation that's not so great

Unfortunately the Bissell SpinWave has an Achilles heel, and that's navigation. During anecdotal mopping sessions across my home's flooring, the robot often became hopelessly confused. Thin to medium-pile area rugs in particular were too much for it.

The robot uses a carpet sensor to detect soft ground to avoid mopping over carpeting. My dining room rug trapped the SpinWave on multiple occasions, to the point where it froze and beeped error messages for help.

While Bissell's app lets you control and schedule the SpinWave, you can't use it to create custom maps. The way the robot moved around the room seemed to reflect this. It cut across floors in deliberate lines but chose a different path each time. The mop also bumped into the same objects like chair legs and walls it did on previous jobs.

The trade-off

The $250 Bissell SpinWave is a compelling product with a comparatively low price. However, there are some big caveats to consider. Its main appeal is the robot's simultaneous mopping and vacuuming mode. The SpinWave does wet-mop floors well, under the right conditions. Those are uniform hardwood, tile, or other similar surfaces. If that sounds like your home then buying the SpinWave makes perfect sense.

If your home has a variety of area rugs though, especially low- to midpile ones, avoid the SpinWave. Its wonky navigation system will cause you much frustration. Right now the best options for you cost a heck of a lot more, but deal with challenging floor plans a lot better too.

One is the $700 Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8. Paired with its $100 Ozmo Pro Mopping System accessory, the machine relies on a sophisticated Lidar and camera system to navigate with confidence. Another way to go is the $500 iRobot Braava m6. Of course this robot isn't ideal either. It will get stuck less but lacks vacuum abilities.That means you'll have to also buy a new robot vacuum, or use the one you have.

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