The Karcher SC3 is a compact, lightweight, cylinder-style steam cleaner with a floor-head for mopping. The accompanying tools for detailed cleaning can be used at the end of the lance to achieve a long reach.
It may be pricey by steam cleaner standards, but it’s more mid-price by Karcher standards. Performance is impressive all round, but I'd have hoped for more tools at this price.
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The SC3 is compact and looks good in Karcher's trademark yellow. It's simply but solidly built.
There's a large, 1-litre capacity water tank that's refillable without having to turn the SC3 off, which means non-stop steam. It comes up to temperature to deliver steam in just 30 seconds.
As a floor cleaner it comes with a rectangular floor nozzle, with sturdy plastic clamps at each end that can be used to hold any cloth. This means you're not limited to buying microfibre cloths from Karcher alone, which is perfect if you clean a lot of floors.
A tab on the floor nozzle enables you to park it on the side of the machine when not in use, as you would the head of a cylinder vacuum cleaner.
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You can also use the steam gun without attachments. This is recommended – from a safe distance – for refreshing clothes, removing dust from plants and moist dusting.
Beyond that, the Karcher comes with just two tools: a hand nozzle with cloth that's good for surfaces such as showers and mirrors, and a small round brush that's good for scrubbing small, heavily soiled items.
The tools can be stored on-board. There's room for four, which could be handy as Karcher sells a range of tools including compatible accessories such as a wallpaper stripper head.
The SC3 is affordable by Karcher's standards, but remains a fairly expensive purchase. It was a little disappointing to discover upon unboxing the unit that I'd have to fit the wheels myself. Although this took only a minute and didn’t require any tools, it's a pain nevertheless.
Since the water tank isn't detachable, you'll need to fill it with a jug. But it's really easy; you can’t miss.
Then, press the power button and it starts to heat up. It's quick but loud as it pumps the water through for heating.
Floor cleaning is super-impressive, but a different experience from a steam mop. It's ultra lightweight, since all the weight is in the cylinder, not in your hand. Conversely, a steam mop can feel heavy in the hand after a while.
On hard floors, the SC3 whizzed around quickly because it's so lightweight. The fact that you can use any cloth with it is a plus – as is the tab on the floor nozzle, which allows you to stow it on the cylinder. Unfortunately, there's nowhere to stow the cable when not in use.
The Karcher doesn't come with a carpet glider, so I experimented both with and without the cloth for carpets. It was definitely better with the cloth, because it moved more smoothly and did a great job of lifting dust from carpets. However, if you have carpets throughout your entire home, then I'd suggest looking elsewhere because steam mops with a plastic carpet glider move better on carpets.
Controls are straightforward. The steam trigger sits neatly under your index finger, and there's a plastic switch near your thumb to choose between the two levels of steam.
My biggest criticism of the SC3 is that it comes with so few tools. For example, there's no window-cleaning squeegee, so we had to use the hand nozzle and cloth cap. It did the job, but at this price I’d expect a squeegee.
The nozzle was great for scrubbing grubby patches on carpeted stairs. And a combination of the small brush and using the steam gun with no tools worked beautifully for quickly cleaning up a kitchen sink with ground-in dirt around the taps and drain.
The machine produces an impressively large amount of steam and yet feels surprisingly light – both in the hand and the cylinder itself. Perhaps my favourite feature was its long lance; the stick you use with the floor nozzle can also be used with the steam gun or small tools. This provides superb reach when trying to get to awkward places. I found this ideal for cleaning windows.
Karcher has turned out an impressive steam cleaner with the SC3. It doesn’t have any head-turning features – apart from the constant steam – but it just does the job very well indeed. My only criticism is that it really should come with more tools for the price.
If you're on a tight budget, the Polti Vaporetto GO is a great value alternative. Or, if you're interested in a steam mop, take a look at the Morphy Richards Total Clean Fresh or the Karcher SC1 Steam Stick.
Karcher does it again with this mid-priced cylinder that makes light work of steam cleaning.