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 cylinder steam cleaner: Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
- Best steam mop and handheld: Shark Lift-Away 2 in 1 Steam Pocket Mop S3901
- Best budget steam mop and handheld: Russell Hobbs Neptune Multifunction Steam Mop
- Best steam mop alternative: Karcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner
- Best budget handheld steam cleaner: Hoover Steam Express
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.
One of the best things about steam cleaners is that they are capable of disinfecting areas, using heat to destroy germs. As a result, they’re a great way to keep your home extra-clean, particularly in areas where harsh chemicals can’t be used. To find out more about this, you can read can a steam cleaner kill coronavirus?
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. Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
A versatile cylinder steam cleaner for all situations
Looking more like the type of product that you might find in the Apple store, the cuboid Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner is the neatest steam cleaner that we’ve reviewed. Fortunately, beyond its shiny white exterior, this is also an excellent cylinder steam cleaner that ships with all the accessories you need to tackle a range of jobs around the home.
It’s a touch tricky to fill up the water tank, although at 1.6-litres you shouldn’t have to fill it too often. Dupray says that this tank is enough to see you through 50 minutes of cleaning, which is enough to tackle a very tough job or for cleaning a larger area, such as a floor, more regularly.
Most importantly, this steam cleaner did an excellent job in all of our tests: it quickly cleaned floors, removed tomato paste from a kitchen counter, brought grouting back to its best, removed limescale from a shower screen and made an oven look close to new. The cleaner did all of this without leaving surfaces too wet at the end.
Available for a great price, the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner is a great choice if you need a tool for all types of job, from mopping to detail work on tiles. Slow warm-up times and the need to wait 20 minutes between refilling are the only real downsides, but they’re easy to forgive on such a quality product.
Steam cleaner type: Cylinder steam cleaner, Dimensions: 260 x 260 x 230mm, 4kg, Accessories: Floor head with three microfibre pads, manual nozzle with microfibre cover, detail and squeegee nozzle, brass bristle brush and five small brushes, two extension tubes and microfibre cloth and fragrance disc, Water tank: 1.6-litres
Read our full Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner 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. Russell Hobbs Neptune Multifunction Steam Mop
A versatile and well-priced steam mop and handheld all-in-one
Although the Russell Hobbs Neptune Multifunction Steam Mop is primarily a steam mop, it can be turned into a hand-held model for tackling some smaller jobs – no bad considering the budget price. The price is slightly reflected in the build quality, with this model feeling a touch cheap, and a little flimsy as a mop, but it does a decent all-round job.
Primarily, the Russell Hobbs Neptune Multifunction Steam Mop will be used for cleaning floors, and we found that this model tackled tiled floors and laminate flooring well, although it left them a bit damp with some watermarks that we had to remove with a clean cloth at the end. This was a quick job and we can forgive this minor issue at this price.
In handheld mode, you get a whole range of accessories, too for tackling everything from grout to windows. In testing, we found that grout was brought back to its best, and the Russell Hobbs Neptune Multifunction Steam Mop cleaned up a sofa, but it struggled to remove stains from a carpet. The cleaner also struggled to remove burnt-in oils from an oven.
There are bigger and better steam cleaners, but nothing else really at this price. If you’re on a tight budget or just want something for occasional use, this is a great choice.
Steam cleaner type: Steam mop and handheld, Dimensions: 11150 x 250 x 310mm, 2.3kg Accessories: Floorhead and upholstery pads, carpet glider, window/upholstery and scraper tools, detail and jet nozzles, crevice and round brushes, Water tank: 350ml
Read our full Russell Hobbs Neptune Multifunction Steam Mop
7. Hoover Steam Express
A small and cheap steam cleaner for spot cleaning
If you don’t have large areas to clean and just need a steam cleaner for close-up jobs, the small and well priced Hoover Steam Express could be for you. Little larger than a water sprayer, this handheld tool comes with all of the accessories to clean up smaller areas in your home. You even get an extension hose, which makes it a bit easier to get into gaps or reach up higher.
Testing around the home, with the accessories, we managed to clean up limescale around a tap, clean grease off of an oven rack, get marks off a chair and even clean a shower screen. There’s plenty of steam from this model: in fact, sometimes the shot of steam is a bit too powerful and objects can be left quite wet. When we cleaned our shower screen we had to be careful not to drip hot water onto ourselves.
With lots of accessories and its low price, the Hoover Steam Express is a great choice if you don’t need to tackle bigger jobs; if you do, then look elsewhere on this list for a cleaner that can also manage hard floors.
Steam cleaner type: Handheld, Dimensions: 260 x 220 x 120mm, 1.6kg Accessories: Crevice, detail and scraper tools, 80cm hose, metal and round brushes, window/upholstery tool with textile pad, Water tank: 400ml
Read our full Hoover Steam Express 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.
Should you use detergent with a steam cleaner? Steam cleaners don’t have to use detergent, and use clean water and steam alone to remove stains. This makes them more gently cleaners in some regards, as you don’t have to use harsh chemicals to remove stubborn stains. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use chemicals in the normal way. For example, for cleaning floors and surfaces, using traditional detergent and disinfectant makes sense, although you can then use a steam cleaner afterwards for dealing with some stains. Likewise, you should still clean with cleaning products for the deepest clean, letting the steam cleaner handle deeper jobs.
Is tank size important? The larger the tank of water you have, the longer the steam cleaner can keep cleaning. This is more important on some models than other. Many models have a refillable water tank that you can remove and top up when you like. These ones heat water when its removed from a tank, effectively giving you continuous cleaning. For these models, the size of the tank isn’t so important, as you can get water when you need it. If you have a cleaner with a built-in tank where all of the water is heated at the same time, you have to have a cool-down time (up to 20 minutes or so) before you can refill and use them again. For these models, it’s important to have a running time that will last for the length of job you have, so that you don’t have to pause in the middle of cleaning.
What accessories do I need? Steam cleaners, bar standalone steam mops, will come with a variety of attachments for different jobs. Largely, these are there to make specific tasks easier. Each accessory works by changing how steam is directed, such as a thin nozzle to help push steam towards tile grouting, or by providing a tool to help clean, such as a wire brush for cleaning an oven. Tools can do both, such as an upholstery brush that directs steam over a wider area and gives you a brush to agitate the upholstery and loosen dirt. When you buy a steam cleaner you should think about the jobs you want to do and make sure that your chosen model has the right accessories.
Can you use a steam cleaner on all surfaces? Steam is generally safe to use on most surfaces but there are some exceptions to this. As you’re using water, using a steam cleaner on an unsealed surface isn’t recommended. And, surfaces that may react badly to a lot of water, such as solid wood flooring, may not be suitable, as you could get swelling.
The situation is worse if you’re apply steam directly to the surface but also applies with steam mops. Although mop heads will absorb most of the heat of the steam, they can still get very wet, which is no good for many surfaces. For dealing with hard floors, we recommend that you buy one of our best hard floor cleaners, instead.
Can a steam cleaner kill bed bugs? Steam is an effective way to kill bed bugs and their eggs, thanks to the high temperatures proving lethal. If you’re worried about an infestation, then steam cleaning soft furnishings can help. Make sure that you use the upholstery attachment and/or mattress accessory to clean. You should move slowly over the area, taking at least 30 seconds before moving the steam head in order to deliver a killing dose of steam. Make sure that you cover all areas, and press the steam head into crevices and around the bed; for mattresses, cover the sides and underneath, too.