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Which steam cleaner brand to buy in 2020

By Jon Barrow

We surveyed more than 1,000 steam cleaner owners – including those with steam cleaners and mops made by Vax, Karcher and Shark. We can reveal which brands make the most reliable steam cleaners and which have the most satisfied customers.

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In this article:

The difference between the best and worst steam cleaner brands is dramatic. The customer feedback in our survey showed that fewer than one in every 11 steam cleaners made by one brand experienced a fault in the first six years of use. But this jumps to more than one in four for steam cleaners produced by the least reliable manufacturer.

Knowing which brands develop the most faults – as well as how quickly that's likely to happen – is extremely important when you're buying a new steam cleaner. That's why we asked nearly 8,000 Which? members to tell us whether they are happy, or have experienced problems, with the products they use at home, in our unique reliability and customer satisfaction survey.

Our survey data takes into account the reported fault rates, the severity of these faults and the speed with which they occurred. In our latest analysis we've looked at the performance of the biggest steam cleaner manufacturers – including Vax, Karcher, Shark and Thane. We've calculated a reliability rating and customer score for each, enabling you to easily see which brands to choose and which to avoid.

Best vs worst steam cleaner brands compared 

As you can see, there's a big difference between the best and worst steam cleaner brands.

Owners of the best steam cleaner brands are far more likely to give them a high customer score or to report fewer faults. 

Our test lab also gives the best brands higher-than-average scores in our tough steam cleaner tests. This is because we found that models from the best brands clean better and are easier to use.

The most reliable steam cleaner brands 

The table below summarises this year's reliability results. 

Brands are ranked by their reliability score – those with the highest scores are the most reliable.

Only logged-in Which? members can see which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Brand Reliability score Customer satisfaction score
91% 68%
90% 63%
88% 69%
88% 60%
87% 67%
86% 66%
78% 52%
Table notes
The above data is based on a survey of 1,043 Which? members in September 2019.

Key

Member Content

Common steam cleaner problems 

The most common steam cleaner fault is that it stops producing steam. This is often due to a build-up of limescale that causes a blockage. If you live in a hard water area, it's worth looking for a steam cleaner with a limescale filter (this is easier than using special distilled water in the cleaner, which is the other option).

In our tests we assess how well each cleaner will stand up to repeated use, by measuring its output over 30 full steaming cycles – we use it until the tank is empty, refill it and then steam it until empty again, and repeat this process 30 times. We mark down models that produce reduced steam levels and heavily penalise those that become blocked.

Which steam cleaner brand stays fault-free for longest? 

You previously told us that you expect steam cleaners to last for more than six years, on average. The good news is that, according to our survey data, many do manage that. But buying a steam cleaner from a reliable brand gives you a far better chance of getting years of successful cleaning.

 

The graph above shows how likely it is that steam cleaners from various brands experience a fault in the first six years of ownership. You can see how the proportion of faulty models grows over time and easily compare the most reliable brand with the worst (we've also shown the overall average so you can see how reliable steam cleaners are on the whole).

And for a quick snapshot, Which? members can see which brands experience a fault after four years of use in the table below.


Only logged-in Which? members can see which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access to our table and all of our online reviews.
Brand name % fault-free after four years
95%
92%
88%
88%
87%
87%
77%
Table notes
Results based on feedback from 1,043 steam cleaner owners, surveyed in September 2019.

Key

Member Content

How we measure faults and reliability in steam cleaners

The table data takes into account minor, major and catastrophic faults (see below).

  • Minor – A fault that doesn't affect the product's performance significantly or a fault that only occurs occasionally with minimal impact. This issue may be irritating or annoying, but it isn't frequently problematic and you can easily work around it. For example, the on/off button starts to stick.
  • Major – A fault that has a noticeable effect on the product’s performance. This fault affects how you use the product and can be problematic. For example, the amount of steam generated by the cleaner decreases dramatically.
  • Catastrophic – A fault that renders the product unusable, with the fault needing to be repaired or parts replaced before it can be used again. One example would be a key electrical fault that prevents the cleaner from turning on.

Steam cleaner brands rated 

Choose a brand from the list below to find out more details about how good it is, including the number of Best Buys (if any) it's received and the average test score of its steam cleaners in our reviews.

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

Bissell steam cleaners overview table
Number tested 2
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 38 Bissell steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Bissell steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Bissell fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Vax and Karcher.
  • Discover whether any Bissell steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Karcher steam cleaners overview table
Number tested 5
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 112 Karcher steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Karcher steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Karcher fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Vax and Shark.
  • Discover whether any Karcher steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Morphy Richards steam cleaners overview table
Number tested 3
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 75 Morphy Richards steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Morphy Richards steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Morphy Richards fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Vax and Karcher.
  • Discover whether any Morphy Richards steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Polti steam cleaners overview table
Number tested 7
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 45 Polti steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Polti steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Polti fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Vax and Karcher.
  • Discover whether any Polti steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Shark steam cleaners overview table
Number tested 2
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 100 Shark steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Shark steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Shark fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Vax and Karcher.
  • Discover whether any Shark steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Thane steam cleaners overview table
Number tested 3
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 60 Thane steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Thane steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Thane fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Vax and Karcher.
  • Discover whether any Thane steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Vax steam cleaner soverview table
Number tested 7
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of all tested models that were available in November 2019. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in September 2019 of 394 Vax steam cleaner owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Vax steam cleaners score for reliability, and how Vax fares against rival steam cleaner brands such as Shark and Karcher.
  • Discover whether any Vax steam cleaners have impressed enough to be rated as Best Buys – or have been judged poor enough to be Don't Buys.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

How we calculate the best and worst brands 

Which? has a wealth of information on the UK's favourite brands. Every year, we ask Which? members to tell us about the home appliances they own – from how likely they would be to recommend a brand, to how reliable the products are once they get them home. This year, almost 8,000 Which? members told us about more than 25,000 individual products. 

We calculate a brand's reliability and its customer score based on the results of our annual survey.

Our reliability surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best steam cleaners you should buy.

This data is crucial for our testing, too. If a brand falls far below the category average, we take away the manufacturer’s Best Buy status and won’t recommend any of its products unless a marked improvement in reliability is shown.

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