Bissell Big Green 86T3 Carpet Cleaner



Avg. consumer rating = 97/100 

The Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine is a rare animal - it is a carpet cleaner with absolutely top-notch consumer ratings.  Many carpet cleaners turn out to be a frustrating experience for owners and we have never before reviewed one that generated an average consumer score in the 90’s.  The Big Green scored a staggering 97.1 out of 100 and owners report that it does a fantastic job of cleaning carpet and upholstery.  It is also very easy and straightforward to use.  On the downside, the Big Green is a bit heavy and it doesn’t come cheap.

The Bissell Big Green is widely sold and it garners a lot of comments and ratings at different retail sites.  We were able to find over 1000 ratings from no less than 9 websites (compiled in the table below).  When averaged these ratings generate a score of 97.1 out of 100.  In our experience carpet cleaners often rate lower than vacuum cleaners and we rarely (if ever) see carpet cleaner ratings in the 90’s.  In short, 97.1 is an excellent score.  In addition, the large sample size (1093 ratings in total) would tend to indicate that the score is fairly accurate.

 Source  Consumer Ratings  #Ratings
 Amazon  4.8 stars out of 5  419
 HSN  4.9 stars out of 5  180
 Walmart  4.9 stars out of 5  168
 Bed Bath & Beyond  4.9 stars out of 5  151
 Meijer  4.8 stars out of 5  126
 Lowe's  5.0 stars out of 5  25
 Overstock  4.9 stars out of 5  16
 Viewpoints  5.0 stars out of 5  4
 Kohl's  5.0 stars out of 5  4

Following is a video by Bissell showing how to use the 86T3.  It’s worth a look to get an idea how the machine works and what it is designed to do before reading on.

A review of consumer comments indicates the following likes and dislikes:

- Large water tanks
- Long hose
- Straightforward and easy to use
- Doesn’t leak
- Does a great cleaning job
- Ready to go right out of the box
- Fairly fast drying time

- Large & heavy machine
- Expensive
- Hose doesn’t store on unit

Almost all consumers indicate that the machine does a great job on carpet and upholstery and, although it is a bit pricey, also feel that it is worth every penny.  In addition, folks report that the hose and stain tool work well on upholstery but are also useful for cleaning stairs.

The Big Green is made with quite a bit of plastic but there are still a number of comments highlighting that the unit feels solid and sturdy.  Also, the addition of a lot of metal to an already heavy machine may have made it cumbersome, and for a machine that is designed to work with water and cleaning solution using a lot of plastic may actually make good sense.

You can read more Big Green consumer reviews on Amazon if you wish. 

As with most carpet cleaners the first thing we would like to highlight is that this machine is designed to clean ONLY carpet (wool or synthetic) and upholstery.  It is not made for cleaning hard floors.  This is often one of the first questions posed by potential buyers.

The Big Green is pretty much ready to go right out of the box and there is no assembly required.  It is powered by a 12 amp motor and it has two water tanks.  One tank is for the clean water and the other is for the dirty water.  Most machines today will have two tanks which allow you to always use clean water on the carpet/upholstery. 

The water tanks can both be removed and replaced for easy filling and emptying. A flow monitor is visible on the top of the machine just behind the dirty water tank and it monitors water levels.  The water tanks are quite large and the clean water tank has a capacity of 2.0 gallons while the dirty water tank has a capacity of 1.75 gallons.

86T3 dirt wanter tanks
Emptying the dirty water tank

The Big Green cleans by spraying water and cleaning formula onto the carpet while rotating brushes loosen dirt.  The dirty solution is then suctioned up.  During cleaning the machine heats the floor to reduce drying time (Bissell refers to this as the DryAire function).

It should be noted that the unit includes a circuit breaker that will trip if the rotating brushes are obstructed.  You should be aware of this because if the unit suddenly stops this could be the problem.  This feature is designed to save the motor from potential damage.  Should this occur you must turn the machine off and unplug it, then remove the obstruction.  When you plug the machine in and start it again the breaker will be reset.

86T3 stain tool
Hose and stain tool for upholstery

Included are a stain tool and a hose.  This combination allows one to easily tackle one-off stains or clean upholstery and even stairs.  The stain tool fits on the end of the 9 foot hose so you get a pretty decent cleaning reach. The stain tool is 6 inches across at the nozzle.  We discuss how to use this tool further down in the article.

The Big Green is a hefty machine and it weighs in at 42 lbs (with tanks empty) – but then it is not really meant to be frequently lifted and moved from place to place.  It does have carry handles on both the front and back however to make lifting easier when it is necessary.  The weight does not seem to affect the mobility of the unit (when cleaning) and most owners find it easy to move back and forth over carpet.

Bissell Carpet Cleaning Solution
Included carpet cleaning solution

The machine has a 10.5 inch wide cleaning path which is not particularly wide but there are no complaints regarding this.  The handle on the 86T3 adjusts up and down to accommodate owners of different stature and the handle can also fold down for easy storage.  This is a pretty big unit so anything that limits its footprint is helpful.

Overall reach for the carpet cleaner is respectable as it has a 25 foot power cord, and if you include the 9 ft hose then cleaning reach is extended to a full 34 feet.  The power cord is manual wrap and a few folks wish it was auto retractable.  The unit carries a 5-year warranty and is UL listed.  UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories which is a non-profit, independent product safety certification organization in the United States. A 24 oz bottle of 2X Professional Deep Cleaning Formula is also included.

Operating this machine is fairly straightforward and following are basic cleaning steps (you can get more detail in the manual if you wish):

Preparing to clean:
- Vacuum area to be cleaned first
- Fill the clean water tank.  It is under the dirty water tank so first remove the dirty water tank then unscrew the clean water tank cap and fill it to the fill line - use hot tap water (the machine does not have a heating element).  The clean water tank cap also acts as a measuring device.  Add two caps full of cleaning formula to the clean water tank.
- Tighten the clean water cap and place the dirty water tank back on top and lock it into place (lay handle back down to lock).
- Plug machine in and turn it on via the switch on the back.

- Cleaning stroke 1: while pressing the spray trigger (on the right side of the handle grip) make a forward and a backward pass. 
- Cleaning stroke 2: Take your finger off the trigger and make another slow forward and backward pass.
- Repeat strokes 1 and 2 until you see the water start to come up clean (you can see the water in the clear plastic channel as it travels from the floor to the dirty water tank). At this point stop using the trigger and move the machine back and forth over the same area to suck up residual water and promote drying.  Heat is applied during the entire cleaning process and this also helps the carpet dry much faster.
- When finished remove and empty the dirty water tank.

Using the hose and stair tool:
- When cleaning upholstery do not to clean velvet or silk.
- Also, make sure to check the furniture manufacturer’s tag and ensure it has a "W" or a "WS".  These mean you can use the Big Green Machine safely on it. 
- Bissell also suggests testing the material for colorfastness (which means it will keep the same color after being washed).  The best approach is to do a cleaning test on a small unobtrusive area of the upholstery to see if it maintains its color.
- Like floor cleaning, carefully vacuum the upholstery before doing the actual cleaning.
- Then fill the clean water tank and add solution as per instructions above.
- The hose is then attached to the machine via the insert (just in front of the flow indicator) and the stain tool is attached to the end of the hose.
- The stain tool has a red trigger which is pressed to release the cleaning solution (water and formula) onto the area to be cleaned.  Then the tool is slowly moved back and forth over the stained area (without the trigger depressed). This is continued until no more cleaning can be achieved.  Make sure not to use too much cleaning solution as this can soak deep into the upholstery.
- remove and clean tool and hose and empty dirty water tank.

Storage tips:
- Rinse both water tanks clean, leave them empty and let them dry out.
- When storing the Big Green Machine do not store in an area that freezes as residual water in the machine can freeze and cause damage.  This may void the warranty as well.

Following is a good video that shows an individual using the Big Green Machine to clean a very heavily trafficked office carpet.  This is not a commercial and it has some interesting “before” and “after” comparison shots near the end of the video.

Also, if you are trying to decide between the Big Green and the Rug Doctor you may wish to check out the video below.  We don’t know how scientific or fair this comparison is but it is food for thought.

You can check out the Big Green 86T3 manual here on the Meijer website if you wish.  The manual is fairly good and worth a look if you have more questions regarding features, operation, maintenance or troubleshooting.

Image Nigel Russco has been writing for Vacuum Cleaner Advisor for years and has a background in business and engineering, as well as a keen interest in anything related to vacuum cleaners. Connect with Nigel on Google+


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About Me


I'm Nigel Russco, a 50 year old professional engineer who loves to review vacuums, and I’ve been doing just that since 2008.  

I strive to write unbiased, intelligent vacuum cleaner reviews and I provide a score for each and every vacuum I investigate.  My goal is to help you find the best vacuum for your cleaning needs.

Also, watch my video reviews on the Vacuum Cleaner Advisor YouTube Channel.