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Home & garden.

1 November 2021

Best steam cleaners for 2021

From the best cheap steam cleaner to which Karcher is best, we recommend the top models to buy in 2021
JP
Joseph Perry
Woman using steam mop steam cleaner

The best steam cleaners lift stubborn stains without the need for harsh chemicals. But not all models will make your home any cleaner – some struggle to shift even the simplest spills.

To make sure your next steam cleaner really is an improvement on a wooden mop, we've handpicked our favourites from our full list of the best steam cleaners, including the best handheld steam cleaner, our top cheap model and the best option for dealing with carpet stains. 

We've also found three steam cleaners so substandard, we think you should avoid them at all costs.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best cylinder steam cleaner

  • 76%
    £400.00

    If money is no object, look no further than this model. It's the most expensive cylinder steam cleaner we've tested – and the best. It blasts steam at twice the rate of most other models, helping it to lift sticky stains with ease. At 8.5kg, it's not the easiest to carry up stairs and it lacks a glass cleaning attachment. But if performance is more important than cost and convenience, this is the model for you.

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Best steam mop

  • 71%
    £89.99

    This steam mop is straightforward and built to last. It takes just 15 seconds to heat up, which is far quicker than most steam cleaners, and does a good job of removing sticky deposits. However, it's less effective at tackling dried-on stains and you can't put it to use across your home; like most steam mops, this model is only for use on hard floors.

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Best handheld steam cleaner

  • 60%
    £44.00

    This is the best handheld steam cleaner we've tested, but it still ranks a long way behind the top wheeled models. It's simple to operate and does a decent job on most surfaces, especially tiles and grout. However, it can't be used on floors and only steams for five minutes at a time, so it's not the best option for a deep clean.

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Best two-in-one steam cleaner

  • 71%
    £78.99

    This two-in-one steam cleaner has a couple of quirks: you can add detergent to the water tank to give your home a scented clean (this is rare – manufacturers usually advise against mixing detergent and steam) and it has a scrubbing brush beneath the cleaning pad for tackling deep stains. It does a decent job on most surfaces and, thanks to its multi-purpose design, is easy to manoeuvre around the home. The only snag is steaming time: a full tank gives you just six minutes of steam.

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Best cheap steam cleaner

  • 71%
    £52.68

    If you're after a cheap steam cleaner, you'll struggle to top this budget steam mop. At 2.1kg, it's one of the lightest upright models we've tested, so it's no hassle to carry up and down the stairs. There are snags that you can avoid if you're willing to pay more – filling the water tank is fiddly, and it doesn't have a spare cleaning pad – but for fuss-free cleaning, few do better.

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Best steam cleaner for carpets

  • 67%
    £349.00

    No steam cleaner can better a carpet cleaner at removing stains from soft floors, but this cylinder model comes close. It has a carpet brush to remove ingrained dirt, and you get 46 minutes of steam: plenty of time to go over areas in need of extra attention. It has 13 other attachments, including a window cleaning head, so you can put it to work across the rest of your home too.

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Table last updated: November 2021.

Not found the right steam cleaner for you? See all our steam cleaner reviews.

Three steam cleaners to avoid

There's a lot to like about steam cleaners, but it doesn't include this trio of mediocre models. Each fails to reach the most basic cleaning standards you'd expect from a steam cleaner – no matter how tempting their prices might seem, they're best left on the shop shelf.

Only logged-in Which? members can view the models to avoid in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

  • 40%
    £106.48

    In our tests, this two-in-one steam cleaner stopped working after just three uses – closer examination revealed that a water tank leak had caused it to short circuit. As a result, we had no option but to make it a Don't Buy.

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  • 43%
    £79.00

    Although it's designed for hard floors, this steam mop struggles to make them any cleaner. In fact, it gets just two stars for hard floor cleaning – you'd be better off scrubbing the kitchen floor by hand.

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  • 43%
    £74.99

    This cylinder model runs for up to 34 minutes, but that hardly matters when a steam cleaner is this bad. It's poor on tiles and woeful on carpets; we've no hesitation in making it a Don't Buy.

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Table last updated: November 2021.

Spending more or opting for a well-known brand won't guarantee you avoid a second-rate steam cleaner. See our full list of Don't Buy steam cleaners for the models to steer clear of.

Buying a steam cleaner: what to consider

We've tested models ranging from little more than £20 to several hundred pounds, but you don't need to spend that much for a great steam cleaner – we've found Best Buy steam cleaners to suit all budgets.

Whatever you're willing to spend on a steam cleaner, here are three things to consider before buying:

1. Cylinder, handheld or steam mop

We test four types of steam cleaner:

  • Cylinder steam cleaners are similar to cylinder vacuums (think of a Henry) – they run on wheels, and have a long hose and mop head. They tend to be heavier and bulkier than other steam cleaners, but their large water tanks mean they can steam for longer.
  • Steam mops resemble traditional upright vacuums. They're often lighter and more maneuverable than cylinder models, but aren't as versatile – as their name suggests, they're mainly for floors.
  • Handheld steam cleaners are the easiest to carry and store – plus they're well-suited to cleaning vertical surfaces and hard-to-reach places. However, their small water tanks mean they need lots of refilling.
  • Two-in-one steam cleaners combine an upright steam mop with a detachable handheld unit, so you get the convenience of a handheld steam cleaner without having to bend down to clean floors.

2. Steaming time

We've come across steam cleaners that give you almost an hour of steam, but we've also tested models that stop steaming after just five minutes – barely enough time to clean a shower door, let alone a house.

Based on our test results:

  • Cylinder steam cleaners steam for around 35 minutes, with some models capable of lasting 55 minutes.
  • Steam mops stay steamy for 15 minutes, but some models stop after just five minutes.
  • Handheld steam cleaners give you eight minutes of cleaning time.
  • Two-in-one steam cleaners last 12 minutes, although some models can steam for almost 20 minutes.

3. Accessories

Some models come with attachments and accessories for cleaning all corners of your home. Look out for:

  • carpet gliders
  • cleaning pads
  • direct steam nozzles
  • extension hoses
  • flat scrubbers
  • grout brushes
  • scrubbing brushes
  • scrubbing pads
  • squeegees
  • swivel heads
  • upholstery tools

For more on what they do and whether you need them, see our guide on how to buy the best steam cleaner.