Which steam cleaner brand to buy in 2020
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.
|Brand||Reliability score||Customer satisfaction score|
The above data is based on a survey of 1,043 Which? members in September 2019.
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 (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 Which? members can see which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, to get instant access to our table and all of our online reviews.
|Brand name||% fault-free after four years|
Results based on feedback from 1,043 steam cleaner owners, surveyed in September 2019.
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.
Head to our steam cleaner reviews
Know which steam cleaner brand you want? Use the links to go straight to our reviews and find your ideal model:
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.