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Karcher or Vax – which steam cleaner should you buy?

Latest Which? tests reveal which brand came out on top for steam cleaning

Karcher and Vax are two of the big-hitters in the steam cleaner world, but only one brand was victorious in our latest steam cleaner tests, shooting to the top of our league table with a model that scored 73%.

We tested 10 popular steam cleaners, including models from Karcher, Morphy Richards, Polti and Vax. Our tough cleaning trials uncovered two models that were good enough to be recommended as Best Buys, and one that was so poor we made it a Don’t Buy.

We also found that the quality of steam cleaners from even the most established brands can be very inconsistent. The same manufacturer made both the highest-scoring and lowest-scoring products in our 2017 test.

Find out which steam cleaners proved capable of delivering a pristine clean in our round-up of the best steam cleaners.

Steam cleaners vs steam mops

If you’re in the market for a steam cleaner, there are several types to consider. The right one for you will depend on what cleaning jobs you want to tackle. Some are best for floors, while others can tackle a range of household jobs from sprucing up grimy grout to getting windows sparkling again. The three main types are:

  • Steam mop – designed for floors only.
  • Two-in-one steam cleaner – a mop with pull-out handheld steamer and accessories for smaller cleaning jobs.
  • Cylinder steam cleaner – like a cylinder vacuum cleaner. The main body of the cleaner is on wheels and has a long hose and attachments for both floors and other surfaces.

Cylinder steam cleaners tend to have a larger water tank and can maintain steam for longer – usually 25-40 minutes. Steam mops and two-in-ones don’t steam for as long, but they do heat up quicker. You can also refill some as you go, whereas most cylinder cleaners have pressurised tanks that have to cool before you can refill them.

With mops and two-in-ones, the weight of the unit can help when mopping tough stains, but this can also mean they’re harder to push across the floor than cylinder models.

Get more advice on which type of steam cleaner is right for you in our steam cleaner buying guide.

Carpet cleaning – to steam or not to steam?

One reason people buy a steam cleaner is to avoid using chemicals when cleaning, as the steam can help to loosen stubborn grime. So it’s understandable that if you own a steam cleaner and spill a glass of wine on your carpet you might want to reach for the steam cleaner to remove the stain. But is it the right tool for the job?

We found that Which? members were using their cylinder steam cleaners to tackle carpet stains at home, so we tested this in the lab to see how effective different models were. We found some that did a decent job, but overall this wasn’t an effective stain-removal method. No steam cleaner we tried completely got rid of the carpet stain.

For advice on getting rid of carpet stains, see our page on carpet cleaning without chemicals.

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