Steam is a wonderful thing. It’s a natural, powerful way to clean some of the most stubbornly soiled surfaces – and best of all you can kill germs without that sickly chemical smell. But not all steam cleaners are created equal, so check out our favourites.
Best overall steam cleaner
The Bissell Vac & Steam is our overall top pick for best steam cleaner. It's one of the most advanced models available and packs in both steam mop and vacuum cleaning in one. It's not designed as a vacuum cleaner replacement, but the function is supremely convenient.
Our experts have reviewed 16 steam cleaners in its latest group test and recommend nine of them. Out of the group, the Bissell Vac & Steam is the best all-rounder, cleaning and vacuuming at the same time. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Vax S6S Home Pro Compact is outstanding value and comes with lots of attachments.
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.
best value steam cleaner
This steam cleaner boasts the longest stamina of any we've tested, providing 40 minutes of continuous cleaning. You get plenty of accessories included, making this steam cleaner incredibly versatile.
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.
Bissell Vac & Steam
- Vacuums as well as steams
- Adjustable handle height
- Anti-calc filter
- Quite heavy
- No handheld tools
- Hard to see controls
The Bissell Vac & Steam is about as advanced as steam mops get. As the name suggests, this is actually a steam mop and vacuum cleaner in one. It probably won’t replace a vacuum cleaner for most people, but it does mean you don’t have to get the main vac out before cleaning the floors.
Vitally, it offers plenty of control – you can steam, vacuum, or do both at the same time. Vacuuming and steaming simultaneously is a great time saver, particularly if you have lots of hard floors. The cleaning results in our tests were excellent, and fragrance discs leave the room smelling great, too.
The only serious downside is the weight – at 4.6kg it’s quite a bit heavier than most steam mops, although it’s about the same as most small upright vacuum cleaners.
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.
Russell Hobbs RHMSM3002 Steam and Clean 11-in-1 Mop
- Compact for storage
- Plenty of tools
- Modest levels of steam
- No storage for tools
Light, sturdy and easy to stow away in smaller cupboards, the Russell Hobbs RHMSM300 is an ideal handheld cleaner for small jobs and tight budgets. It transforms into a steam mop with the addition of a tubular handle and floor-head, but its modest steam levels are better suited to handheld mode, or for quickly mopping over freshly vacuumed hard floors.
One of the perks that swung it for us is the RHMSM300’s vast selection of tools. There’s a window tool, upholstery tool with microfibre cloth, angled nozzle, crevice brush, round brush, jet nozzle adapter, and a scraper tool to boot. You get a generous 15 minutes of steam before the tank needs a refill, which is a decent stint for such a small machine.
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 maneuverable 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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