Steam is a natural and wonderful way to clean stubborn stains from surfaces and kill germs, all without having to use harsh chemicals. To help you find the best steam cleaners we’ve listed our top choices from the range that we’ve fully reviewed.
Our experts have reviewed 16 steam cleaners in its latest group test and recommend nine of them. Out of the group, the Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner is the best all-rounder. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E is great value and vacuums as you go.
How we pick the best steam cleaners
We test all steam cleaners under the same conditions. The key to any product like this is the quality of the cleaning, so we test each steamer on a variety of surfaces. Depending on the attachments provided, and the steam cleaner’s purpose, we look at cleaning performance on carpets, hard floors, windows and kitchens or bathrooms.
Outside of the cleaning quality, how easy a steam cleaner is to use is the next most important aspect. All of our reviews thoroughly test the cleaners for usability, including how simple they are to refill, what it was like to use them in a variety of situations, and how easy it was to change attachments. We also look at home long each cleaner can last on a tank-full of water, giving an idea of the area that can be cleaned in one go.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got a steam cleaner buying guide at the bottom of the page to help you narrow your choice.
Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner
- Staggering steaming power
- Very fast hard floor mopping
- Good tool selection with storage
- Great VapoHydro cleaning
- Easy to carry
- High price
- No squeegee window tool
- Cable too short (5.9m)
Yes, it’s expensive, but there’s a good reason for that: the Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner is the best cleaner that we’ve tested. With its near 2-litre capacity, 2kW+ heater and powerful VapoHydro mode, this is a steam cleaner that can handle everything.
Variable steam control power lets you control the SC5’s output, so you can tackle more delicate jobs. It’s the VapoHydro that really grabs attention: this mode mixes water with steam, giving a kind of pressure-washer action.
Karcher provides accessories for almost every job. There’s an Easyfix floor mopping head complete with washable microfibre cloths and a carpet glider. A large square brush gives you power for tough cleaning. And, a detail nozzle which takes a small round brush, small detail brush and power nozzle. In fact, the only thing missing is a window cleaning tool.
On all surfaces from hard floors and carpets, to tiles and window sills, the SC5 proved itself to be a powerful performer, shifting stubborn dirt. And, it can do it at speed; in fact, we’ve never seen a steam cleaner that can clean a hard floor so quickly.
For all-round cleaning ability, the Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner is the ultimate choice.
Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E
- Vac cleans in front of steam mop
- Fast heat-up time
- Good run-time per tank
- Decent-length cable (7.5m)
- Limited suction power
- Average steam power
- No pivot on head
The Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E is a fantastic time saver, vacuuming and cleaning at the same time. We loved the original, and now the 1977E model has had a small update and now comes in a fetching blue colour. As a standalone steam cleaner or a standalone vacuum cleaner, this model won’t win awards; yet, the combination of the two features produces some powerful cleaning results.
With a 400W bagless vacuum cleaner and 1100W steam heater, small particles are sucked up before the microfibre pad steams the floor and picks up stains. For well-trodden areas in your home with hard floors, the Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E can effectively halve your cleaning time. Bissell recommends three passes for dirty area and that worked well, picking up dust and removing stains.
The downside of the system is that it’s not very flexible, and it’s neither a good vacuum or a flexible and powerful steam cleaner. Still, it’s the combination of parts that is important, and the Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E delivers on hard floor cleaning.
Black & Decker FSMH1321 7IN1 steam-mop
- Prodigious steam production
- Good size water tank
- Easy to manoeuvre as mop
- Handy detail tools
- Great glass cleaner
- Short cable (5.9m)
- Filler cap vent leaks
- Autoselect isn’t auto
The 7IN1 part of the name tells you that the Black & Decker FSMH1321 7IN1 steam-mop is a versatile product: it can handle everything from mopping floors to hand-held detail work. With plenty of tools in the box, it’s a great product for the price.
The main unit has a large attachable pole and floor cleaner, but you get a wide selection of nozzles including brushes, a window squeegee and a microfibre cloth for cleaning upholstery. Floor performance was excellent, with the pad picking up lots of grime from tiles and laminate flooring. The short cable proved slightly annoying in handheld mode for cleaning windows, although the results were good bar the water runoff at the bottom. Upholstery performance was very good, too.
The short cable is a little annoying, as is the leaky filler cap. And, the floor mop tends to pick up dirt in concentrated areas, meaning you have to swap out the cloth regularly. Still, all of these issues can be forgiven for the price, and the Black & Decker FSMH1321 7IN1 steam-mop is a great budget choice.
Vax S6S Home Pro Compact
- Powerful steam and detergent
- Glides on carpets well
- Onboard tool storage
- Slow to heat up
- Carpet glider doesn’t attach
- Doesn’t stand up by itself for storage
The Vax S6S Home Pro Compact boasts the longest cleaning session of all our favourite steam machines – a mammoth 40 minutes. The downside is that you have to wait 12 minutes for the tank to heat up, but we’re happy to stay patient for unrivalled steam time.
The S6S comes with three extension tubes, a concentration nozzle, two plastic brushes, metal brush, window squeegee, upholstery tool, detail nozzle and scraper. There’s also a detergent tank built into the handle.
The steam itself is powerful and variable, making it perfect for lifting ingrained stains, as well as scrubbing up hard floors and carpets a treat. The triangular cleaning head is also brilliant for getting into stubborn corners.
Polti Vaporetto Classic 65
- Powerful constant steam
- Long lance
- No carpet glider
- Design niggles
The Polti Vaporetto Classic 65 boasts the most impressive levels of steam we’ve ever seen from steam cleaners. It’s best on hard floors, but stills makes sterling work of carpets and upholstery. It feels incredibly light in the hand and offers tools to cover all bases, with a handy storage bag to boot.
The machine operates on five steam levels, and has a long lance that enabled us to reach a whopping 9-feet off the ground in our tests. If you’ve got hard-to-reach windows or a conservatory, it’s a life-saver.
One minor caveat is that there’s no limescale filter in the Vaporetto’s large pressurised boiler; you’ll have to add anti-limescale solution to keep it clean, which comes with the machine. It’s not really a dealbreaker, and there’s plenty to keep you happy about this effective cleaner. You can even buy extra attachments, such as a steam iron, to really make the most out of its super-steamy performance.
Shark Lift-Away 2 in 1 Steam Pocket Mop S3901
- Versatile cleaning
- Handheld and mop operation
- Great selection of tools
- Fiddly window tool
- No detergent option
If you’re after handheld steam cleaner for tackling everything from floors and countertops to upholstery and grout, the Shark Lift-Away 2 in 1 Steam Pocket Mop S3901 is a fine choice. This versatile steam cleaner comes as an upright mop with a handheld unit that clips out of the main body.
It includes a a great set of well-designed tools, including a grout-scrubbing brush with a steam jet in the middle, a flat scrubber attachment, a carpet groomer and two double-sided multi-purpose cleaning mop pockets. It cleans efficiently, making light work of grubby tiles and fusty carpets.
The cleaner’s 300ml reservoir is good for 15-20 minutes of steaming on the lowest setting, or half of that on the maximum scrub setting. One real boon is that it uses tap water alone to steam off dirt, eliminating the need to buy pricey detergent.
- Long lance
- Constant steam
- Not many tools
- No carpet glider
This compact, lightweight, cylinder-style steam cleaner is a dream machine for houses with hard floors throughout. Its rectangular floor nozzle with sturdy plastic clips can hold any cloth for a highly efficient clean, while two attachments – a hand nozzle and a small round brush – handle everything from showers to mirrors.
The Karcher SC3’s long-reaching lance makes it an incredibly versatile cleaner that’s a breeze to handle when cleaning tight corners and awkward angles. Without the tools attached, it serves as a straightforward steam gun that can refresh clothes, remove dust from plants and perform a little moist dusting here and there.
All the tools can be stored onboard, which isn’t always a given with steam cleaners. We’d appreciate a few more tools for the price and better carpet compatibility, but you can’t argue with the SC3’s overall cleaning prowess.
Buy now: Karcher SC3 for £181.77 from Amazon
Vax Steam Fresh Combi S86-SF-C
- Has pop-out handheld
- Tools stored onboard
- Good at corners
- No storage for hose
- Problematic concentrator hose
The Vax Steam Fresh Combi S86-SF-C is a great 2-in-1 that excels in pretty much every circumstance. Moreover, unlike some 2-in-1s, you can store most of the tools on the mop itself, which makes life much easier.
It’s a light and manoeuvrable steam cleaner and it’s nice and balanced when you want to use it as a handheld. The triangular mop head makes it easier to get into the corners of floors, and means you won’t have to get on your hands and knees to clean tricky crevices.
The excellent selection of tools covers all possible problems – we had no problems cleaning windows or removing mildew from grouting. Both of the tanks – the one for water and the separate one for cleaning detergent – pop off, so you can refill them easily.
Karcher SC1 Steam Stick
- Good value
- Heats up in just 3 minutes
- Compact and versatile
- Not many tools
- Weight is all in hand
- Steam not variable
The Karcher SC1 Steam Stick is a lightweight, versatile steam cleaner that can be used as a steam mop or simply as a handheld cleaner. It comes with a hand tool, small plastic brush, power nozzle and detail nozzle, as well as two 45cm-long tubes and a 110cm hose. For flats and small houses with minimal storage space, it doesn’t get more compact and practical than this.
The SC1 heats up quickly, making it ideal for smaller jobs, with a full tank coming up to steam in three minutes. There’s only one level of steam for cleaning, but it does a thorough job of cleaning floors. Since the cleaning head is lightweight, it’s not suited to heavy rugs. Still, it’s more affordable, practical and compact than many of its rivals.
Those are our top picks of the best steam cleaners. If you want to know more about how what to look out for when buying a steam cleaner then read on.
Which steam cleaner you should buy will largely depend on what you want to use your cleaner for. This quick guide should help you decide.
Buy a steam mop if you just want to clean floors. They’re best for hard floors, but some are useful for freshening up carpets and lifting stains, too. They’re generally cheaper than 2-in-1 steam mops, which can switch into a handheld mode for other tasks.
Buy a 2-in-1 steam mop if you want to clean floors and other surfaces. These more versatile steam mops can be used as handhelds as well, and they normally come with a selection of tools suited to different jobs. This means you can tackle the kitchen tops, bathroom tiles, curtains and plenty more besides – all with one handy cleaner.
Buy a cylinder steam cleaner if you find upright steam mops too heavy. While some of the large cylinder steam cleaners are heavier overall, the fact that they’re on wheels means they’re easier to lug about. Most do all the same things a 2-in-1 steam mop will do, while very compact models exist that you can carry on your shoulder.
The other key difference is that cylinder steam cleaners take longer to get ready – normally a few minutes – but the advantages are longer running times and less filling up. Some can even be topped up as you clean, so you don’t have to turn off the cleaner to keep going.
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