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31 Jan 2020

Is the £149 Karcher SC3 Upright steam mop worth buying?

We test the SC3 - the first upright steam cleaner from the Karcher EasyFix range. Find out if it's worth buying, or if you can get away with a cheaper steam cleaner

Karcher claims that the SC3 Upright is its 'best performing steam mop'. But it's also one of the more expensive steam cleaners on the market and this high price creates high expectations. Does it exceed these or fall short?

Steam cleaners have become an increasingly popular, environmentally-friendly cleaning method, because the steam kills germs and removes dirt without the use of harsh chemicals.

Previous Karcher models have done well in Which? testing, demonstrating their high quality. Keep reading to find out what this upright Karcher steam cleaner offers in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

And if the SC3's £149 price is too steep for your budget, we've also included some cheaper steam cleaners - including another Karcher model - so you can see if one is right for you.

Karcher SC3 Upright - key specs

Karcher SC3 Upright
  • Weight (with a full water tank): 3.81kg
  • Cord length: 4.95m
  • Water tank capacity: 500ml
  • Time to warm up: 30 seconds
  • Steaming time: 14.10 minutes
  • Included accessories: carpet glider attachment, descaler cartridge

Karcher SC3 Upright - what features does it offer?

As the name suggests, this is an upright steam cleaner. These resemble vacuum cleaners, although rather than suck up dirt they have a pad on the bottom for cleaning hard floors.

Upright cleaners are typically lightweight with a pivoting mop head that's easy to manoeuvre around obstacles and into corners. However, the downside is that they're not very versatile, and can only be used on floors. Cylinder or combination two-in-one cleaners, on the other hand, are compatible with a range of different attachments, enabling you to steam hard to reach areas such as wall times or kitchen sinks.

Consequently, the Karcher SC3 Upright only offers a fairly limited range of features. But it does come with a carpet glider attachment, which slots over the steam head to help it 'glide' over your carpets, letting you refresh the pile. And there's also a descaling cartridge to prevent the build-up of limescale in hard water areas.

Look and feel of the Karcher SC3 Upright steam mop

Like all Karcher cleaners, the SC3 is a premium model that's well built using high quality materials. And we liked the SC3's controls - they're clearly marked with multiple buttons and are easy to use.

But it is on the heavy side, weighing 3.81kg - that's over 1kg more than the average for this type of device. And, so while upright cleaners tend to be easy to manoeuvre and carry from room to room, the SC3 is a little bit more unwieldy and awkward.

It is also unable to stand upright by itself, so you either need to put it away after use or lean it up against a wall.

To find out what happened when we put this steam mop through our expert lab test, see our Karcher SC3 Upright review.

Is an upright steam cleaner the right choice?

As noted above, upright steam cleaners like the SC3 are good at cleaning floors, but not much else aside from that. And other types of steam cleaners, such as handheld and cylinder ones, are better at cleaning a wider variety of surfaces and hard-to-reach spaces.

Cylinder cleaners that you pull along behind you come with huge water tanks that enable them to offer long steaming times. But they're bulky and can take quite a while to heat up enough to generate steam. They're also usually expensive.

In complete contrast, handheld cleaners are small, light and cheap. They're handy for cleaning the odd mark but their limited capacities mean they're not suitable for cleaning large areas as you'll need to refill them after only a few minutes use.

Two-in-one cleaners, which usually combine an upright with a detachable handheld unit, can offer the best of both worlds, although our testing has uncovered some that disappoint in everything they do.

If you're unsure of which to choose then get more expert buying advice from our guide on how to buy the best steam cleaner.

Which? reviews of other Karcher steam cleaners

If you're in the market for a high-end steam cleaner, Karcher offers a wide variety at a range of prices.

Karcher SC1 EasyFix - £90

The Karcher SC1 is the cheapest model in the brand's EasyFix range and is one to consider if you are looking for a smaller upright mop that has the ability to clean a variety of surfaces.

Unlike most combination models it doesn't have an upright cleaning mode - instead you attach a long cleaning wand to the handheld unit and then connect cleaning tools to the end. This design helps keep the weight down but also means that there's only space for a small water tank. Consequently it can only steam for around six minutes before you'll need to top it up (and you'll have to wait till it's cooled down first).

It comes with a brush and nozzle attachment, good for scrubbing away stuck-on dirt and focusing steam in a concentrated area for a more powerful wash.

Read our full review of the Karcher SC1 EasyFix.

Karcher SC5 EasyFix Premium - £499

At the other end of the price scale is the Karcher SC5.

This cylinder cleaner is the most expensive model in the EasyFix range, but in return for your money you get a device with a huge water tank (giving a steaming time of over half an hour) that generates a huge amount of steam.

This blasts dirt out of cracks and crevices while the array of attachments help you tackle numerous household chores.

Read our full review of the Karcher SC5 EasyFix.

Cheaper steam cleaners

Are you looking for a less expensive steam cleaner that still gets rid of dirt and germs without breaking the bank? Take a look at our round-up of two of the cheaper cleaners that we've tested:

Shark S1000UK - £50

Shark S1000UK

The Shark mop is an affordable, light upright steam cleaner. It heats up quickly and is incredibly simple to operate - you just plug it in and away you go.

The removable water tank is easy to refill and the cleaner comes with two machine-washable pads (most come with just one). But it's very basic and doesn't come with any cleaning accessories - it lacks even a carpet glider (standard with many models).

It may be cheap, but is it cheerful? Find out how it performed in our independent lab tests by reading our full Shark S1000UK review.

Asda Goblin GSM401 - £28

Goblin White 9 in 1 Upright Steam Mop

The Goblin GSM401 is a multipurpose steam cleaner that combines an upright for your floors with a detachable handheld unit. It's available from Asda and comes with eight accessories, including special attachments for cleaning glass, upholstery and carpets.

It's lightweight and offers 13 minutes of steaming time - OK for this type of cleaner.

Originally selling for £49, Asda has recently slashed its price to £28. Read our Goblin GSM401 9in1 full review to see if this cleaner is the bargain it appears to be.

Why you can trust Which? reviews

Which? has tested hundreds of steam cleaners over the past decade so you can be sure that we know what makes a great device.

Our tests go further than anyone else's to ensure that the best steam cleaners we recommend really are the best of the bunch. And we don't just reveal the best models - we also highlight the low-scoring Don't Buy steam cleaners, so you can avoid buying a dud you'll soon be keen to replace.

Every model we review goes through a battery of assessments in which we measure and rate every aspect of its performance, from how long it takes to heat up to how well it removes sticky stains from smooth and textured floor tiles. And because we know that many models aren't built to last, we also use each steam cleaner 30 times and measure the steam output throughout to see if it drops off after repeated use.

Find out more about our lab assessments in our how we test steam cleaners guide.