Steam cleaners: How to buy the best steam cleaner
- The different types of steam cleaners and mops explained
- Steam cleaner and steam mop features to look for
- How to choose the best steam cleaner for your home
Need a hand deciding which steam cleaner or steam mop to buy? This expert guide will give you the tips you need to find the right steam cleaner for you and your home.
Steam cleaners are available in three main types – steam mop, handheld and cylinder steam cleaners. 2-in-1 models combine a mops and a handheld steam cleaner. Read on to discover the differences between them, what to look for in the shops, what the accessories are for and how much you should expect to pay.
Video: steam cleaner and steam mop buying guide
Our video below reveals the essentials of buying and using the different types of steam cleaners and what tasks they are good for.
What type of steam cleaner should I buy?
Steam cleaners work by rapidly heating up water to produce steam which is then applied to the surface or floor at high pressure. This produces a ‘dry’ steam that manufacturers claim is able to shift dirt and grease and kill bacteria and dust mites. Some steam cleaners can perform more than one cleaning task – doubling up as vacuum cleaners with water-based filters, or featuring attachments for window cleaning. We’ve tested all types to uncover Best Buy steam cleaners and those we think you should avoid.
Steam mops are next-generation mops that promise to harness the power of steam for effective and hassle-free floor cleaning. They are upright with a water tank attached to the handle.
When we compared steam mops with a traditional mop and bucket we found that both get the job done but a top-scoring steam mop gets good results with less effort. However, poorly-scoring models make you put your back into cleaning so arguably you may as well stick with the cheaper and more lightweight traditional mop and bucket over an ineffective steam mop.
Handheld steam cleaner
Handheld steam cleaners are compact and easy to store and can be a good option if you’re only looking to steam clean on a small-scale – bathroom tiles, curtains or hard-to-reach carpet edges, for example. They aren’t a great choice for cleaning large areas, such as flooring.
They deliver a concentrated burst of steam through a nozzle and usually come with a range of attachments to help you clean different surfaces such as tiles, windows and upholstery.
2-in-1 mop and handheld steam cleaner
2-in-1 steam cleaners look like more substantial steam mops. The handheld steam cleaner is built into the handle of the mop and can be removed and used separately. The two types of steam cleaner combined mean they can tackle most steam cleaning tasks but they are often heavier to use as mops than steam mops. They usually come with a range of attachments for the handheld cleaner for tackling different surfaces.
Cylinder steam cleaner
Cylinder steam cleaners (also called barrel steam cleaners) resemble cylinder vacuums and are composed of a main body, bendy hose, plastic tube and nozzle. They tend to be heavier than steam mops but, on average, giver longer steaming times. It can take between four and 12 minutes for them to heat the water in their tanks however, so they’re not ready to use as quickly as handhelds or mops.
They come with attachments for mopping floors and for a range of surface cleaning tasks. A well-equipped cylinder cleaner should be able to do all of the jobs or handheld cleaners and mops combined.
How much do I need to pay for a good steam cleaner?
You can find a Best Buy steam mop for less than £50 and a Best Buy 2-in-1 steam cleaner for under £100. Cylinder steam cleaners can cost up to £260 but we’ve also tested one costing £60. Handheld steam cleaners can be the cheapest, with models available for less than £20 but you can also splash out on a £50 option. Price doesn’t guarantee quality so check our steam cleaner reviews to find the best for your budget.
Bissell, Shark, Karcher, Morphy Richards, Russell Hobbs and Vax are among the big brand names which produce steam cleaners – with stores including Argos, John Lewis and some supermarkets stocking steam cleaners in their household departments. Some steam cleaners can only be bought online, like the Quest 43560 steam mop.
What steam cleaner accessories do I need?
Common steam cleaner attachments allow you to tackle other cleaning jobs around the home, like window cleaning, clothes steaming and even cleaning your car types (more typical of handheld models). Keep an eye out for:
- Squeegee - for cleaning glass
- Cleaning pads - for wiping surfaces down
- Upholstery tool - to make treating stains and refreshing fabric easier - often comprise of a brush or squeegee tool with a cloth/pad fitted over the top
- Scrubbing pad - to make light work of removing grease from ovens
- Scrubbing brushes - to remove embedded grime from grout and tiles
We’ve come across a few models which come with detergent and a built-in dispenser. Our tests haven’t found that these models clean better and the costs of buying replacement detergent will add to the initial purchase cost.
What other steam cleaning features should I look out for?
The capacity, heat-up and steaming time are all important factors to consider. The heat-up time in the model specification refers to how long the model takes to reach steam generating mode, which will depend on the capacity of the machine. Hand-held steam cleaners are lightweight and easy-to-use but don’t steam for long. Steam mops are much faster to heat-up than cylinder steam cleaners; the fastest mop is ready to use in under 20 seconds.
It’s also worth checking how many cleaning pads mops and cylinder steam cleaners come with. Over time these will need replacing so it’s handy if a few are provided at the start.
The steaming time is how long you can use the cleaner with continuous steam before it needs refilling with water. The small water tank on handhelds meant that they can only generate steam for short bursts before you need to stop and fill-up. Depending on the model, steam mops and 2-in-1s can steam from anywhere between 10 minutes to just under an hour before the water tank needs refilling.
Steam output - is higher better?
The steam output is measured in grams (g) of steam per minute (m) - the higher the figure, the more powerful the steam. We've reviewed models claiming to offer over 100g/m. It’s worth considering that those that offer the highest steam outputs often also leave your floors the wettest in the process.