What’s the best steam cleaner you can buy?
Steam is a truly wonderful thing. It naturally removes stubborn stains and kills germs, all without having to resort to using harsh chemicals.
So, whether you want to clean up those old windows, refresh your tiles or just keep a hard floor in tip-top condition, you need to find the best steam cleaner for the job.
For convenience, we’ve listed all of our best steam cleaners in the list below, but keep reading this article to get the full low down on each product, or a link to to the full review.
- Best overall steam cleaner: Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner
- Best budget steam cleaner: Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E
- Best steam mop: Shark Klik n’ Flip S6003UK Steam Mop
- Best multifunction steam mop: Black & Decker FSMH1321 7IN1 steam-mop
- Best steam mop and handheld: Shark Lift-Away 2 in 1 Steam Pocket Mop S3901
- Best budget steam mop and handheld: Vax Steam Fresh Combi S86-SF-C
- Best steam mop alternative: Karcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner
Unlike many other websites, we’ve actually gone out and reviewed loads of models from the top steam cleaner manufacturers, letting us compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of each model to bring you this definitive list. We’ve put together a list of nine steam cleaners, covering a wide range of budgets and uses.
How we picked 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, we ask how easy a steam cleaner is to use. 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.
Do I need a steam mop or a traditional steam cleaner?
If you look at the range of products on sale, you’ll see that steam cleaners are available in two main types: traditional steam cleaners and steam mops. So, what’s the difference and which one do you need?
Let’s start with steam mops. These are, as the name suggests, regular mops, only they use a water tank and heater to push steam down to the mop head.
As you move the mop over the floor, the steam is used to loosen dirt, while the mop head (typically microfibre) picks up the dirt. It’s as simple as that and these products are designed to be used on hard floors to keep them clean with less hard graft than a traditional mop. And, steam mops will leave the floor less wet than a mop will, so you can clean with less water and walk on your fresh floors again.
Traditional steam cleaners tend to come with a separate tank, with steam coming out of a nozzle attached to a hose. A range of accessories tends to ship with these devices to tackle different jobs: typical attachments include a upholstery attachment for furniture, a small nozzle for directing steam directly at grout and a window cleaning tool. Many traditional steam cleaners also come with a mop attachment, so that you can use them on hard floors, too.
Traditional steam cleaners are typically more versatile than mops, but the trade-off is that they cost more. If you only really want to clean your hard floors, buy a steam mop; if you want to tackle more jobs buy a traditional steam cleaner and make sure it has the attachments that you need.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning handheld steam cleaners. These are handheld devices, designed for cleaning much smaller areas, such as tiles or around bathrooms. If you get areas with stubborn marks, such as around tiles in a kitchen or bathroom, handheld cleaners are a good choice.
With that out of the way, here’s our selection.
1. Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner
Our favourite steam cleaner
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.
Steam cleaner type: Cylinder, Dimensions: 439 x 301 x 305mm, Accessories: Floor cleaning kit, EasyFix + extension tube (2 × 0.5 m), hand nozzle, detail nozzle, round brush (small), microfibre cover for manual nozzle, Water tank: 1.5-litres, Steam pressure: 4.2bar
Read our full Karcher SC5 easyFix Premium Steam Cleaner review
2. Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E
Our favourite budget steam cleaner
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.
Steam cleaner type: Steam mop and vacuum, Dimensions: 439 x 301 x 305mm, Accessories: Floor head (carpet and hard floors), Water tank: 380ml
Read our full Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E review
3. Shark Klik n’ Flip S6003UK Steam Mop
Sets a new standard for steam mops
If you’re looking for a steam floor mop to quickly clean up hard floors, the Shark Klik n’ Flip S6003UK Steam Mop could well be the model for you. This well-priced steam mop is focussed on floor cleaning, shipping with a double-sided mopping pad that clips to the bottom of the mop. It’s a huge mop, making short work of floors, as you can clean large areas with a single swipe.
Cleverly, the Klik n’ Flip head can flip over partway through a clean, giving you the clean side of the pad to keep cleaning with, without introducing a lengthy changeover. Cleaning performance was excellent, with the Shark Klik n’ Flip S6003UK Steam Mop tidying up mud on a tiled floor with ease, and picking up everyday kitchen stains: the steam blast function is particularly useful for cleaning up tougher stains.
Easy to use, easy to move and brilliantly priced, the Shark Klik n’ Flip S6003UK Steam Mop is the best steam mop that we have ever tested. If you’ve got lots of hard floors, this is a great model to buy.
Steam cleaner type: Steam mop, Dimensions: 1190 x 110 x 100mm, Accessories: Floor head, Water tank: 330ml
Read our full Shark Klik n’ Flip S6003UK Steam Mop review
4. Black & Decker FSMH1321 7IN1 steam-mop
A versatile steam mop that can handle every occasion
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.
Steam cleaner type: Steam mop, Dimensions: 325 x 179 x 650 mm, Accessories: Flexible accessories hose, window squeegee, small brush, tile and grout brush, 2x standard pad, microfibre cover for squeegee, Water tank: 500ml
Read our full Black & Decker FSMH1321 7IN1 review
5. Shark Lift-Away 2 in 1 Steam Pocket Mop S3901
An upright mop and handheld steam cleaner all in one
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 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.
Steam cleaner type: Steam mop and handheld, Dimensions: 1295 x 170 x 310mm, Accessories: Concentrator nozzle, flat scrubber, carpet glider, window too, detail brush, Water tank: 300ml
Read our full Shark Lift-Away 2 in 1 Steam Pocket Mop S3901 review
6. Vax Steam Fresh Combi S86-SF-C
A well-balanced and practical 2-in-1 steam cleaner
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.
Steam cleaner type: Steam mop and handheld, Dimensions: 1120 x 300 x 280mm, Accessories: Hose, metal brush, small plastic brush, large plastic brush, scrapper tool, concentration tool, grout brush, bent nozzle, window tool, Water tank: 260ml
Read our full Vax Steam Fresh Combi S86-SF-C review
How to buy the right steam cleaner for you
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.