Steam cleaners have become very popular recently as the best alternative to the good old mop and bucket for understandable reasons. Steam cleaning offers advantages in that steam removes bacteria, melts adhesive and leaves surfaces squeaky clean in an environmentally friendly and allergen friendly way. If you’re worried about the harmful toxins which may be found in surface cleaning formulas, then steam cleaning is perfect for you.
The question is, what is the best
Kärcher SC1 Premium Steam Cleaner
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Vax S4 Grime Master
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Kärcher SC1.020 Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner
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Heat up time - Heat up time of steam cleaners can vary a lot depending on the model, but typically you’re looking at approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute for the steam cleaners to heat up. Obviously, the faster your steam cleaner heats up, the less time you spend waiting around for it to heat up! The best steam cleaner models heat up really quickly.
Steaming time and water tank capacity - The amount of water your steam cleaner holds generally dictates the amount of time you can spend using your steam cleaner, and this is really important as the last thing you want to be doing with your steam cleaner is refilling it half way through your cleaning and then waiting for it to heat up again. Most steam models will provide 10-15 minutes of usage while the best steam models can offer up to 30 minutes of use.
Power output- Power output is simply a measure of the power of the steam cleaners and the higher the steam output, the easier your steam cleaner will tackle tough stains. Power output is measured in watts and you will typically see that most steam cleaners range from 1200-2200 Watts.
Weight - The weight of your steam unit matters if it’s going to be used in lots of different places in your house. Ideally, if you’re using it in lots of different rooms, you want something you can carry around, the lighter the better.
Attachments - The attachments which come with your steam cleaner make it more versatile and equipped to tackle the different challenges it faces in different parts of your home. This is perhaps not as important for if you’re planning on using the steam cleaner only on your floor, but if you plan on using it to steam your upholstery and your kitchen and bathroom surfaces, some useful attachments may help you with this.
Different Types of Steam Cleaners
Mop Steam Cleaners
Typically mop steam cleaners are mop shaped steam cleaners with a water tank located in the shaft of the mop, rather than a separate water tank like you would see in a cylinder steam cleaner. Mop steam cleaners are best used for floors only, and their advantage is that they’re very light and mobile. Storage is really easy too as you don’t have a bulky unit with a water tank taking up loads of space, you can store it in the same way that you would store a regular mop or a long handled brush.
The disadvantages of the mop steam cleaners are that they are not versatile at all, you would have a really tough job trying to steam clean your bathroom and kitchen surfaces with this and it’s really only suitable for the floors. Also, because the water tank is located in the handle of the device, it’s a lot smaller than the tank you might find on cylinder steam cleaners so you might find yourself refilling the water tank more often.
My Top Pick
My best steam cleaner under the mop steam category is the Kärcher SC1 Premium Steam Cleaner. This is a really great model as it is a handheld and mop all in one.
18.6 x 32.1 x 12.7 cm
- Because it is an all in one steam cleaner, it can be used all across the house on floor surfaces, kitchen surfaces, bathroom surfaces and upholstery. If one of the things holding you back from buying a steam cleaner is that you’re not sure exactly what you will use it for, this unit offers amazing versatility to be used in any situation
- The efficiency of the ergonomic steam release button means that even though it might have a smaller water tank than a cylinder unit, you can be a lot more efficient with your steam use and preserve the water for as long as possible, meaning you don’t have to refill it as much as other models
- You don’t have to worry about your kids getting hold of the steam unit and scalding themselves because of the child safety lock
- The steam unit is incredibly small when packed away so can be stored in a small cupboard. You don’t need to clear out lots of space for this thing
- The accessories and attachments of the steam unit allow it to provide versatile solutions for different surfaces where a one-size-fits-all approach might not work
In terms of disadvantages of this steam unit, unfortunately it only offers 5-6 minutes of steam time and reviews seem to indicate that the unit suffers a little from the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ problem. That’s not to say it’s not a really good device, it is extremely popular for a reason! But it seems that most people who enjoy this are people who only need it for light/casual use like in a regular household, or people who have bigger steam cleaners but like to have a smaller steam unit which can be used for a quick steam over the floors and surfaces.
Overall I’d highly recommend this steam unit unless you’re looking for something which will do one single job (such as steam cleaning the floors only) really good! Commercial cleaners and those looking to tackle really tough stains might want to look at the other options below.
Before and after
Hand-held Steam Cleaners
Hand-held steam cleaners are typically the best steam cleaner type for steam cleaning surfaces such as your kitchen worktops, bathroom surfaces, and tiles etc. The great thing about hand-held devices is that they’re compact and mobile, meaning they can get into smaller spaces which couldn’t be steam cleaned with some of the larger steam cleaners.
Typically the hand-held steam cleaners are only suitable for surfaces, you wouldn’t buy one of these for using on the floor and if that’s your main purpose you might want to go with a mop or cylinder steam cleaner.
My Top Pick
My best pick in this category goes to the Vax S4 Grime Master. This option is highly rated and fairly priced considering the features packed into it.
22 x 11 x 31 cm
- The fast heat up time means that even though it is a small handheld unit which does not hold much water, it can be refilled very easily and is quickly ready to steam again
- The 7 piece accessory kit really helps this unit differentiate itself from mop steam cleaners and cylinder steam cleaners as they allow the unit to be very versatile and do a good job of steam cleaning different types of surfaces
- The dial means that you have a lot of control over the ‘strength’ of the steam cleaner which is really important if you’re using it on a surface which has really tough stains, or perhaps on a surface which requires a more delicate touch
- Reviews suggest that the unit works really great on window frames and grills
There are a few bad reviews I’ve seen on this product. For example, one review warns against using the steam cleaner in a confined space like the inside of an oven where steam fills the oven up really fast and it becomes difficult to see what you’re doing and entirely ineffective. The biggest gripe I have seen, however, seems to centre around the fact that the product is not designed to be used at an angle which makes it really difficult to use on things like upholstery and the bottom of your shower tray for example.
All in all, the product is typically really well received and is one of the top rated products on the market today. I think for the price you can’t go wrong, as long as you realise that the unit has limitations. If you’re looking for something which is going to provide more power, you should definitely look at other options though!
Cylinder Steam Cleaners
Cylinder steam cleaners tend to be the more ‘premium’ option when it comes to steam cleaners. Most of them tend to be ‘all-in-one' units which are more powerful and are best at steam cleaning the whole house than standalone mop steam cleaners or hand-held steam cleaners. They typically hold more water, meaning they can be used for longer without being refilled.
The disadvantage of cylinder steam cleaners is that they tend to be bigger, heavier, and all around bulkier. You should really weigh up your options and ask yourself whether your needs warrant such a large unit which may be inconvenient to store, but there is no doubt that these steam cleaners will blow the others out of the water in terms of performance.
My Top Pick
My best pick in this category goes to the Kärcher SC1.020 Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner. This is a highly rated unit with a lot of features packed into it.
28 x 25.4 x 26 cm
- The fact that this unit is much larger than the mop and hand held products means that you’re getting more power from the unit. At 1500 watts, this product is going to produce steam at higher pressure and make tougher stains much easier to clean. Perhaps not too important if you’re just doing a quick sweep of the house to wipe up and light stains, but if you’re looking to do a deep clean this can handle the job no problem
- The unit has a much larger water capacity than the other products on this page, 5 times bigger than the mop steam cleaner for example. Again, this is not too important if you just want a quick clean around the house, but if you're looking for something which can do powerful deep cleaning for a long period of time, this steam cleaner is miles ahead.
- The flexibility and versatility of this product means that it will tackle any job you throw at it. Unlike the mop and handheld cleaners which tend to be good for one job only, this will do it all!
Unfortunately, the machine does take up to 8 minutes to heat the water up, but this is understandable considering the much higher capacity. If you're refilling you may want to save time by boiling the kettle as your water is coming to an end, and using the already boiled water in the machine, this makes the heat up time much quicker. Also, the machine is a lot bigger than either the mop or handheld steam versions, so storage can be a bit difficult if you have a small house.
Overall, this machine does it all and is leagues ahead of the mop and handheld steam cleaners in terms of performance. If you’re looking for top quality performance, a cylinder steam cleaner is definitely for you and this is a really great option that you should consider. You should weigh up whether the amount of space it will take up in your home is worth the benefit that it would have to your cleaning regime at home.
It is really difficult for me to say which steam cleaner is going to be best for you as it depends on so many different factors, but I hope the information I have provided in this buyer guide gives you a clear understanding of the benefits of each type of steam cleaner and will allow you to form your own opinion on what will be best for you. If you are looking for some alternatives to the products I have mentioned throughout this page, there are links to a few more reviews on alternative options located on the right-hand side of this page.