Steam cleaners have become quite popular in recent years, but few people realize how popular it really is. John Lewis, for example, has recently reported year-to-year sales increases of nearly 65% for steam machines.
There’s a good reason for choosing one of these floor cleaners for your home. Steam cleaning allows you to free up and eliminate stubborn grease and dirt while killing allergens and bacteria, without spending a fortune on detergents which may pose their own health risks. Even if you’re partial to an old-fashioned hand mop, steam cleaning can do a much better job of cleaning and disinfecting while still leaving that wonderful “just-mopped” look – and won’t leave you exhausted and sore from continually bending over a pail full of soapy water on the floor for an hour or two.
Steam cleaners do a faster and better job. They attack dirt and grime throughout the cleaning process, instead of dragging dirty, soapy water across the floor of your home. And many steam cleaners have proven to kill as much as 99.9% of the bacteria, dust mites and other contaminants they encounter.
That’s why they’re so desirable. But how do you find the best steam cleaner to buy?
Hopefully this doesn’t sound presumptuous, but that’s why we’re here – to make things easy for you. We’ve researched the hundreds of steam cleaners you can choose from, and narrowed them down to the top ten best options. We’ve also given you a good choice: simple and inexpensive steam mops, more elaborate (and expensive) cylinder steam cleaners and combination units that can handle floors as well as smaller areas – corners, tile counters and hobs.
You’ll find full details on each model in our steam cleaner reviews, which follow our comprehensive buying guide so make sure to read till the end.
Top 10 Best Steam Cleaners Comparison Table
Full Buying Guide
The first step in buying a steam cleaner is the same as it is for any appliance. You have to think about how – and how often – you’ll be using it. Otherwise, the chances are great that you’ll end up with the wrong machine for your needs. In this case, your first big decision is between steam mops, cylinder, or handheld units.
Steam mops vary widely in the features and flexibility they offer, but they’re somewhat similar to a traditional long-handled mop with extra cleaning power. They’re built almost the same as the one your grandmother probably used, except with a water tank attached to the handle; this is where the steam is generated and then sent to the head to do its work. Same as with old-school mops, some steam cleaners have double-hinged or swiveling heads which make it easier to get into tough spaces.
You can use a steam mop on non-porous surfaces like floor tiles without any issues, but some lower-level cleaners aren’t the best choice for wood floors or carpets. You’ll probably need one with a variable steam control if you want to clean hardwood or laminates without damaging them. Steam mops are definitely the most convenient choice, partly because of their light weight and easy manoeuvrability but also because they’ll also heat water and be ready to produce steam extremely quickly, usually in less than 30 seconds. Their small water capacity only provide a short amount of steaming time before they must be refilled, however.
The other major option is a much bulkier cylinder steam cleaner which resembles an old-style carpet vacuum (or even R2D2, if you’re in an imaginative mood), with a large body and an attached flexible hose used for the actual cleaning. These naturally store much more water than upright steam models, and they’re built to produce a lot more steam for deeper and heavier cleaning and sanitizing. For example, they can tackle built-up grease quick and easy that even the best steam mop wouldn’t be able to budge.
Since you’re essentially dragging a heavy machine behind you when you use a cylinder steam cleaner, you may have a bit of a hard time manoeuvring around your home. However, these cleaners usually come with a large variety of nozzles and attachments designed to clean everything from floors to kitchen counters, and some can even steam ovens, upholstery or car boots. The larger capacity means you won’t have to refill as often as a steam mop, but it can take as long as five or ten minutes for the water to reach temperature. Most will have variable steam controls.
There are two other styles you can choose from. Handheld units are portable and meant primarily for use in small spaces or to clean showers or work surfaces. Two-in-one cleaners are essentially larger and comes with a detachable handheld attachment built into the handle, making them more versatile but also heavier to use than a standalone model.
The four easiest criteria to check are capacity, the time it takes to heat up, the amount of steaming time you get from each fill-up, and the weight and manoeuvrability of the unit. All will combine to make or break the user experience.
However, it’s also important to look at whether there’s a variable steam control, how much is left on surfaces after mopping (a trigger that controls steam release can help with that issue), how often the cloth has to be replaced, the amount of steam pressure generated (and by extension, the cleaning power), and whether there’s an option to dispense detergent along with the steam (some users prefer this option, although most feel it’s superfluous). Price, naturally, also factors into the final decision – as does the biggest question of all: how well does the machine work and will it really make your life easier?
We’ve considered all of these factors in our steam cleaner and steam mop reviews, which begin right now.
Top 10 Steam Cleaner Reviews
1. Karcher SC3
Karcher makes high-quality products and this one cleans almost every surface in the house brilliantly, with strong 3.5 bar pressure that simply overpowers tough dirt and grime. It’s limited to 1 litres but that doesn’t limit the amount of steaming you can do, because the water heats to temperature in an amazing 30 seconds and you’re able to refill on the go without losing work time. It has a built-in descaling filter, there are included tools for most common applications (with many more available as options), and the unit weighs a more-than-manageable 3.5 kg. This steam cleaner will take care of large homes easily with great results without costing an arm and a leg.
2. Vax S86-SF-CC Steam Fresh
Here’s a steamer that’s well suited to everyday cleaning. It has a handheld steamer while the full upright unit is nicely angled to allow access to corners and under furniture. The S86-SF-CC is somewhat heavy (3.7 kg) because of the detachable handheld cleaner, but it still manoeuvres nicely. The 0.26 litre capacity gives you about 15 minutes of continuous steaming. For some, a positive will be the inclusion of a detergent dispenser that allows you to do soapy steaming; for most, a negative will be the lack of a variable steam control. Even so, it’s a very nice affordable steam cleaner.
3. Polti Vaporetto Eco Pro 3.0
The Eco Pro 3.0 is the highest-level steam cleaner in our rankings and while this Italian-made cylinder unit is quite pricey, it’s also quite a machine. It has a 2 litre capacity which should let you get through the whole house without needing a refill, the 110 grams per minute pressure from the 4.5 steam bar is so strong you’d almost think it’s illegal, and there’s a professional steam pressure indicator you won’t find on anything else. (Pro-level accessories are also available, in addition to included ones like the terrific pressure lance.) The Eco Pro 3.0 weighs more than the others at nearly 5 kg and it takes a whopping 11 minutes to get up to temperature, but it’s worth the weight and wait. This cleaner has also received the British Allergy Foundation’s seal of approval for its effectiveness in removing allergens. That alone is pretty hard to beat.
4. Polti Vaporetto Go
If the last product sounded enticing but is way beyond your means, you might want to start slowly with this more compact, entry-level Polti Vaporetto cylinder model. The Go is made in China rather than Italy, but it still has the Allergy Foundation’s seal of approval, puts out an impressive 3.5 bar pressure and comes with most of the accessories you’ll need for steaming your floors, counters and grout to near-perfection. The tank only holds 750ml so it takes about five minutes to produce steam and will probably require refilling for large jobs. It is very lightweight at only 2.7 kg, and does an amazing job for its size.
5. Vileda Steam Mop
Small, light, convenient and inexpensive are the best ways to describe this sleek steam mop, which won’t take care of hard dirt and grime but is great for quick ones. This can produce steam in 15 seconds, weighs only 2.5 kg, the triangular head is mounted on a ball joint so it can swivel into tight spots, and the Vileda is the most budget friendly steam mop on our list. There’s even an included glider that attaches onto the mop head so you can use it to refresh your carpets. This unit is great for regular but light use.
6. Karcher SC5
Readers who were intrigued by the Karcher SC3 we ranked at the top of our list – but who have substantially more money to spend – will be positively enthralled by the company’s SC5 cylinder type cleaner. It’s more powerful (2200 watts instead of 1900), puts out more steam (4.2 bar instead of 3.5 bar), has a VapoHydro function for additional monster blasts of hot water if needed, and features a twin-tank system (one fixed, one removable) holding a total of 2 litres and can be filled on the go. Once the heater is switched on, it only takes 3 minutes before it starts spewing out steam. Most of the tools you’d ordinarily need, like detail nozzle, floor tool and hand tool are included, and you can even attach a Karcher steam iron to the machine (the iron attachement is a separate purchase, though). This weighs a full 6 kg and may be overkill for your home, but it’s a fabulous product.
7. Vax S86-SF-C Steam Fresh
You can tell from the similarities of the numbers on their names that this steam mop is almost identical to the S86-SF-CC we’ve already reviewed. There are a few tiny differences; this one weighs a little less, has a slightly higher capacity but slightly smaller detergent dispenser, and gives you 20 minutes of use instead of 15. The major difference, though, is that this unit includes a variable steam function for better control of your cleaning. Expect that convenience to cost you a little extra.
8. Karcher SC2
We have two more Karcher cylinder steam cleaners in our rankings, and this one is for those who definitely want a Karcher but don’t need (or can’t afford) the power of the two models we’ve previously discussed. The SC2 offers slightly less power and pressure (1500 watts, 3 bar), the one litre capacity needs only 6 minutes to get ready, and it can’t be refilled while you work. Even so, it’s lighter (3.2 kg) than the other Karchers and still does a wonderful job of steam cleaning – and that’s really the purpose, isn’t it?
9. Karcher SC4
So what’s left on the Karcher product spectrum? The SC4, which is one notch above our top choice, the SC3. We preferred the SC3 because it’s slightly more affordable and faster preparation time, but the SC4 has a bit more to offer for the extra cost: dual tanks (0.5 litre fixed and 0.8 removable), an extra 100 watts of power, and even greater steam pressure control. We prefer to trade those for the SC3’s 30-second heating time instead of the four minutes the SC4 requires, but you may feel differently.
10. Morphy Richards 720020
You didn’t think we’d have a top-ten appliance list without a Morphy Richards product, did you? The “9-in-1” name for this steam mop is a bit misleading, however, since it’s really a 2-in-1 with a detachable handheld cleaner. 9-in-1 just refers to their list of the areas (floors, hobs, work surfaces, etc.) you can clean with the 720020. It’s max capacity is 400 ml gives you 14 minutes use, and even though there’s no steam pressure control, you really wouldn’t expect one for the affordability of this very serviceable steam mop.
Full Steam Ahead
Not everyone wants a steam cleaner for their home; in fact, many people have never even thought about buying a mop, let alone a steam mop. But for those who take pride in sparkling clean floors, or those who want to do everything possible to eliminate dust mites and allergens in their living environment, a steam cleaner is definitely worth the buy.
Once you’ve decided whether you need a steam mop, a 2-in 1 with a detachable handheld attachment or a cylinder model, most of your work is done. After that, picking out the best steam cleaner to buy will primarily be a matter of deciding on the weight, power and size of the machine you’ll need for your home, and balancing the available extras against the budget you have to work with.
Our comprehensive steam cleaner reviews should get you most of the way there, since we’ve listed all of the most important specifications, pros and cons. All you have to do now is pick one, and get those floors and work surfaces sparkling clean!