Put the shine back on your floors and get your kitchen, sinks and showers squeaky-clean with the top steam cleaners from £60
The best steam cleaners are great for wiping the grime from almost any hard surface, or even cleaning some soft furnishings. It may be true that there’s nothing you can’t clean with the right tools and a bit of elbow grease, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it easier for yourself.
Steam cleaners will make light work of your kitchen and bathroom, and they can sort out worked-in dirt and stains that you will struggle to shift by other means. They can do so without chemicals – a huge plus if you’re worried about what you’re breathing in – and they can kill off fleas and dust mites as quickly as germs, which makes them especially useful if you have pets.
Be warned, though, that steam cleaners come in a range of different shapes and that picking the best one for you isn’t easy. Here we’ve pulled together a few things you ought to consider before you buy.
Best steam cleaners and steam mops: At a glance
- Best handheld steam cleaner: Bissell Steam Shot | £60
- Best for hard floors: Shark S6003UK Klik n’ Flip Automatic Steam Mop | £170
- Best value steam cleaner: Kärcher SC3 EasyFix | £159
- Best all-round steam cleaner: Dupray Neat | £160
How to choose the best steam cleaner for you
What sort of steam cleaner should I buy?
Steam cleaners come in three basic formats. First, you have the classic steam cleaner, comprising of the steamer unit – where the water is housed and boiled – which connects through a pipe to the head where the steam is dispensed. The main head is usually a mop head, with some kind of pad or microfibre cloth attached so that the steam separates the grime from the surface and the pad or cloth wipes it away. However, steam cleaners usually come with a selection of attachments, including brushes for intensive cleaning of smaller areas and scrapers or wipers for, say, cleaning worktops or glass.
Second, you have steam mops. These integrate the boiler and the head into one upright cleaning machine. As the name suggests, these are really designed to work as a super-powered mop, but a growing number can also double as a regular steam cleaner, either by having a smaller, removable boiler unit or by allowing you to attach additional heads instead of the mop head. They’re now almost as versatile as the classic steam cleaner, but they’re easy to use and very compact.
Finally, you can buy smaller handheld steam cleaners. These are great for cleaning up the kitchen and bathroom, but with small tanks and less powerful boilers, they’re not really designed for tackling larger areas.
What should I look out for?
Steam cleaners differ when it comes to capacity, convenience and cleaning power. Obviously, the size of the tank makes a big difference. On some models, you can only refill the tank once the steam has been turned off and the cleaner cooled, which means you can only clean for as long as there’s water in the tank, restricting each stint to ten or 15 minutes.
However, some models now include a separate feeder tank that you can refill while the cleaner is in use, or even an inlet you can keep tipping water into while the machine is up and running. With those cleaners, you’re more likely to run out of steam than the cleaner is and you can keep on going until, say, the downstairs floors are clean or the bathroom is free of any hint of dirt or grime.
The power of the boiler also has an impact, simply because it can take time to boil and pressurise the steam. Newer cleaners have got much better at reducing that wait time, but it can still be several minutes before you get a usable head of steam. What’s more, many steamers need a breather now and then while they get steam together before they can continue. Certain cleaners are better at minimising this than others.
The other thing to watch out for is pressure. The higher the steam pressure, the faster the steam jets out and the better it is at dissolving dirt and grime. For this reason, a steam cleaner that can put out 3.5 to 4 bar of pressure will have a lot more cleaning power than a handheld cleaner with less than 3 bar.
Are there any practicalities worth thinking about?
Take a good look at the accessories you get with the cleaner. The more brushes, nozzles and scrapers, the better, while a gliding mop-head cover for doing carpets is another big plus. Also watch out for the mains lead and the length of any steam hose, as nothing’s more frustrating than not being able to steam-clean in the corner of your shower because it won’t quite reach without an extension cable.
In the past, some steam cleaners required distilled or deionised water or they would get clogged with limescale. Many recent models aren’t so fussy and contain some kind of filter or limescale prevention system, although it’s still worth using filtered water if you live in a hard water area.
Finally, make sure the surfaces you want to mop can cope with steam cleaning before you buy a steam cleaner. While hardwood floors, tiles, most worktops and sheet vinyl flooring are fine to clean with a steam cleaner, some softwood, laminate or modular floorings are a no-go and will need to be cleaned with a broom, mop or vacuum cleaner, unless you like the sight of an expensive kitchen floor peeling up before your eyes.
How we test steam cleaners
We put steam cleaners through their paces by assembling them, filling them with filtered or distilled water, then putting them to work in the kitchen, the bathroom and across a range of tiled or vinyl floors. Along the way, we look at all supplied accessories and their ability to remove limescale or surface dirt from surfaces and glass, and whether brushes can get into dirty nooks and crannies and obliterate lurking grime. We also time how long it takes for the mop or cleaner to heat up and get ready for action, and how long it takes for the tank to empty. Finally, we look at any additional features, and see how easy and neat the steam cleaner is to stow away, ready for the next use.
READ NEXT: Best vacuum cleaners
The best steam cleaners and steam mops you can buy in 2023
1. Bissell Steam Shot: Best handheld steam cleaner
Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at LakelandDon’t dismiss the Steam Shot because of its size. It doesn’t have the power of the bigger cleaners and you wouldn’t want to use it to mop a large kitchen floor, but it’s brilliant for cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom or handling spills and stains, and it builds up more pressure (4.5 bar) than your average handheld effort. It’s well designed, too, with a 4.8m cable and a filler cap you can’t unscrew while the steam is under pressure. The 0.36-litre tank won’t keep you steaming and cleaning away for hours – eight to ten minutes is all you will get – but this cleaner is quick to heat up and easy to use, despite the five-minute wait recommended between refills.
The Steam Shot is also more versatile than you might think, with an extension hose and an accessory nozzle, three detail brushes and a special brush for grout, plus tools for mopping, scraping and cleaning glass – ideal for mirrors and shower screens. Go bigger if you need to get floors and carpets clean, but this is a good, affordable option for spot cleaning or the occasional deep clean.
Key specs – Type: Handheld steam cleaner; Water tank capacity: 0.36l; Power: 1,050W; Max steam pressure: 4.5 bar; Accessories provided: Jug, extension hose, 3 x detail brushes, concentrated steaming tool, window squeegee, flat scraper, microfibre cleaning cloths; Cord length: 4.8m; Dimensions: 21.6 x 24 x 13cm; Weight: 1.5kg; Warranty: 2 years
2. Vileda Steam Mop: Best budget steam mop
Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at Wilko If you’re just looking for a simple steam mop to clean your floors, the Vileda Steam Mop is the best of the budget options. It’s incredibly easy to use, with very few buttons, and the 400ml water tank will keep you cleaning for more than 15 minutes at a time, with just a 15-second wait while it heats when you need to refill it. It’s very light, but it’s brilliant at cleaning away tough stains on hard floors, and even comes with a plastic glider for giving rugs and carpets a clean.
If you’ve got a larger space to clean or a lot of messy devils in your household, you might want something with more beef. The Vileda isn’t as versatile as more expensive steam mops and it struggles with more substantial build-ups of dirt. You need to turn the power up to the max to get the best from it. For those with lighter cleaning needs, though, this mop is just the ticket.
Key specs – Type: Steam mop; Water tank capacity: 400ml; Power: 1,550W; Max steam pressure: Not supplied; Accessories provided: Filling jug, 2 x microfibre heads, carpet glider; Cord length: 6m; Dimensions: 21 x 29 x 130cm; Weight: 2.5kg; Warranty: 1 year
3. Shark S6003UK Klik n’ Flip Automatic Steam Mop: Best steam mop for hard floors
Price when reviewed: £170 | Check price at John Lewis The Shark S6003UK is a steam mop, pure and simple, with no attachments or abilities to clean anything much above floor level – just a large microfibre pad at the bottom of the stalk.
On the other hand, what a steam mop. Used in its default position, the pad gets damp and hot, perfect for wiping grime from tiles or vinyl flooring. Flip it the other way and it unleashes a powerful jet of steam as you push, obliterating any dirt or caked-on scum in its path.
The 380ml water tank is only good for around ten to 12 minutes of steaming, but that should be enough for a couple of good-sized rooms at the pace this steam mop works, and you can refill the tank whenever you need to via the pull-out filling flap. Shark even throws in a handy jug.
With a choice of three steam settings, this one can cope with more sensitive floors, as well as hard-wearing tiles and vinyls, although you should still check the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s quick to get going, with less than a minute of heating time before it’s steaming up and, most important of all, it’s actually fun to use. All that gushing steam makes mopping floors a blast.
Key specs – Type: Steam mop; Water tank capacity: 380ml; Power: 1,200W; Max steam pressure: Not supplied; Accessories provided: 2 x microfibre pads; Cord length: 8m; Dimensions: 10 x 11 x 119cm; Weight: 2.7kg; Warranty: 2 years
4. Kärcher SC3 Upright: Best steam mop for carpets, rugs and laminates
Price when reviewed: £163 | Check price at AmazonKärcher’s upright steam mop is heavier and more powerful than the average steam mop, so you could be excused if you’re slightly underwhelmed by its head of steam. Where the Shark Klik n’ Flip pumps out clouds of the stuff at the least provocation, the SC3 Upright looks quite restrained. However, its big selling point is its versatility. With settings for wooden and even laminate floors as well as rugs and carpets, it’s not limited to tackling tiled or vinyl hard floors, and we found it gentle but effective on parquet and tiled vinyl flooring as well. Just be careful to check the setting first, or you could end up with excess water on your surfaces, which is rarely a good idea.
The Kärcher also scores some bonus points by having a large 500ml tank, and by having the option to refill the tank while the steam mop is still in operation. The Shark is a little cheaper and just as effective on most hard flooring, but if you have tricky surfaces you’re worried about damaging, this is the steam mop to buy.
Key specs – Type: Steam mop; Water tank capacity: 500ml; Power: 1,600W; Max steam pressure: Not supplied; Accessories provided: Microfibre pad, anti-limescale filter cartridge, carpet glider; Cord length: 5m; Dimensions: 31 x 21 x 118cm; Weight: 4.26kg; Warranty: 2 years
5. Hoover Steam Capsule 2-in-1: Best 2-in-1 steam mop
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at Robert Dyas There’s no shortage of good 2-in-1 steam mops out there, but there’s something about Hoover’s latest that just clicks. The design puts the water tank and most of the weight at the bottom, and this and the ball-joint mounted head make for a more ergonomic and manoeuvrable mop. Hoover provides a neat, rectangular nozzle pad for use on large areas, along with a glider for carpeted floors, but you can remove both to reveal a smaller triangular head, which is perfect for getting in the corners.
It builds up a good head of steam in around 15 seconds, with enough welly to sort out areas of stubborn grime, though it can leave floors and surfaces pretty wet. And if you need to shift attention to sinks, shower screens and worktops, you can just pull out the handheld cleaner, attach the appropriate nozzle and get to work. It comes with three brush nozzles to cover different surfaces and dried-on grease and gunk, along with a squeegee to handle your windows, mirrors and more. With a 350ml water tank, you’re good for around 20 minutes of solid steaming, which is more than some hybrids can manage. We’ve yet to meet a 2-in-1 that can match the cylinder models when it comes to serious cleaning, but the Steam Capsule 2-in-1 comes very close.
Key specs – Type: Hybrid steam mop; Water tank capacity: 350ml; Power: 1,700W; Max steam pressure: 4 bar; Accessories provided: Carpet glider, extension nozzle, jet nozzle, 2 x metal brushes, detail brush, squeegee, squeegee cover; Cord length: 7m; Dimensions: 31 x 18 x 117cm; Weight: 3kg; Warranty: 1 year
6. Kärcher SC3 EasyFix: Best value steam cleaner
Price when reviewed: £159 | Check price at AmazonKärcher’s mid-range EasyFix steam cleaner isn’t just easy to set up, it’s also incredibly easy to use. The extension tubes and mop head just click one by one onto the nozzle, then you fill the tank through the recessed hole in the top, which incorporates a built-in anti-limescale filter. Within a minute (slightly longer in our tests than the claimed 30 seconds), it’s built up a good head of steam, and from there it will keep on going until the water runs out. With a one-litre tank, this will happen after ten to 15 minutes of solid cleaning, but it’s not a problem as you can tip in more water without powering off.
This wouldn’t be so impressive if it was an underwhelming cleaner, but it’s fantastically beefy, dispensing plenty of hot steam with every squeeze of the trigger and handling dirt and grime without mercy. Disconnect the extension tubes, add the smaller head or brush attachment and it’s just as happy cleaning tiles, shower enclosures, splashbacks, sinks and more.
It’s practical, too. The main unit is surprisingly light and easy to lug around the house, while the 4m cable and 2m steam hose give you plenty of reach. Other cleaners will do carpets and give you more accessories, but when you need serious cleaning power, the SC3 EasyFix has what it takes. Although its RRP is listed as £230, it’s often listed around £160.
Key specs – Type: Steam cleaner; Water tank capacity: 1l; Power: 1,900W; Max steam pressure: 3.5 bar; Accessories provided: Floor nozzle, hand nozzle round brush; Cord length: 4m; Dimensions: 29 x 19 x 111cm; Weight: 3.6kg; Warranty: 1 year
7. Dupray Neat: Best all-round steam cleaner
Price when reviewed: £160 | Check price at AmazonIt’s hard to make a steam cleaner that stands out from the crowd, but Dupray has managed it with its cute, cubic Neat. The design is surprisingly practical, packing neatly into a cupboard when the cleaning’s done, while the lengthy 5m cable coils into a space at the bottom for storage. The Neat also couldn’t be much easier to use: fill the tank, screw on the cap, and press the massive power button on the front to set it boiling away.
You’ll have to wait around eight minutes for the button to change from glowing orange to green, but the wait is worth it as the Neat just keeps on dishing out hot steam until the 1.6L tank runs dry, giving a good 30 to 40 minutes of cleaning in our tests. What’s more, Dupray throws in a full set of accessories, including a fantastically effective shower/window squeegee, a triangular brush for tight corners, and six nozzle brushes – five nylon, one brass. With that lot and the Neat’s steaming power, you’re equipped for some seriously in-depth cleaning.
We’d like the Neat even more if you could refill it during cleaning – you have to wait for it to cool before you can open the tank – but, as it is, it’s a great all-rounder, on surfaces, sinks, or shower trays, and just as fabulous on floors.
Key specs – Type: Steam cleaner; Water tank capacity: 1.6l; Power: 1,500W; Max steam pressure: 3.5 bar; Accessories provided: Window tool, triangle brush, detail nozzle, 5x nylon brushes, 1x brass brush; Cord length: 5m; Dimensions: 26 x 26 x 24cm; Weight: 4kg; Warranty: 1 year
8. Polti Vaporetto Smart 100_B: Best steam cleaner for stamina
Price when reviewed: £249 | Check price at AmazonYou would expect the nation that came up with the espresso to know a bit about steam, and the Polti Vaporettio Smart 100_B is a brutishly powerful steam cleaner. Wait two minutes for the boiler to do its stuff and it will carry on dishing out vast quantities of steam for longer than most of us can cope with, thanks to a massive two-litre tank. There’s no waiting for more steam to come through at any point afterwards, and you can remove the tank and refill it from the tap while the cleaner is on, without it cooling down first. Where other steam cleaners run out of puff, the Vaporetto just keeps going.
It’s fantastically versatile as well. The Vaporforce brush dispenses steam downwards for mopping, or you can add the included rug accessory and clean your rugs and carpets. You also get a smaller head with a brush and a rubber blade for glass, along with two smaller, tougher brushes and a scraper. Armed with this lot you can tackle everything from tiled floors to sinks and splashbacks, and it all comes out looking sparkly clean.
It’s bigger and heavier than many steam cleaners, and more expensive than most, but, if you have a house full of kids and pets where the floors and surfaces frequently need some major cleaning, it’s a price you’ll be more than happy to pay.
Key specs – Type: Steam cleaner; Water tank capacity: 2l; Power: 1,500W; Max steam pressure: 4 bar; Accessories provided: Vaporforce brush, rugs accessory, small brush with window cleaning fitting, small round nylon brush, heavy-duty red brush, steam concentrator, scraper; Cord length: 4m; Dimensions: 400 x 270 x 290mm; Weight: 5kg; Warranty: 2 years
9. Kärcher SC4 EasyFix: The most powerful steam cleaner
Price when reviewed: £239 | Check price at AmazonIf your home’s a little larger (or grimier) than the SC3 EasyFix can handle, its bigger brother, the SC4, will be up to the job. It has a more powerful 2,000W heater, although the actual steam pressure is the same, but the real game-changer is a removable tank, which you can pull out and fill at any moment, then keep on steaming instantly. In our tests, this meant we could deep clean a bathroom and clear a shower screen of hard water limescale without stopping for a break – and when we needed to stop, it was because we needed a cuppa and a break from the SC4’s huge steam output; the cleaner could have kept on going longer!
Like the SC3 it’s a versatile cleaner, with two extension tubes and a range of nozzles that will wage war on grime in your sinks, shower trays, tiles, baths and worktops. It also has a child lock on the steam gun to stop the kids steaming themselves or anyone else into A&E. Easy to use and powerful enough for the most demanding household, the Kärcher is a steam-cleaning superhero.
Key specs – Type: Steam cleaner; Water tank capacity: 800ml; Power: 2,000W; Max steam pressure: 3.5 bar; Accessories provided: Floor cleaner, hand nozzle, small brush, round brush, 2 x microfibre covers, 2 x extension tubes; Cord length: 4m; Dimensions: 38 x 25 x 27cm; Weight: 4.1kg; Warranty: 2 years