Steam cleaners are versatile cleaning gadgets that can handle a wide range of cleaning chores around the house – from hard floors, tiles and windows to cooker hobs and even upholstery.
They use high-pressured dry steam to penetrate surfaces, easily shifting stubborn stains and blasting away dirt and grease. Most work with water alone, so you’ll save money on buying expensive detergents plus you’ll do your bit for the environment. And as dry steam also kills bacteria, mould and dust mites, a steam cleaner is an excellent way to keep your home allergen-free.
For a full list of steam cleaner features read How to choose the best steam cleaner features.
Which type of steam cleaner should I buy?
Steam cleaners fall into four main categories: steam mops, handheld units, cylinder steam cleaners, and finally 2-in-1 steam cleaners that combine a steam mop and a detachable handheld unit.
Which type you choose will depend on the size of your home and the cleaning tasks you need to complete. Most steam cleaners come with a range of accessories and attachments so you can use them to clean a variety of surfaces.
Steam mops are the most popular type of steam cleaner. Kicking the traditional mop and bucket into touch, they offer fast, effective and fuss-free floor cleaning. They look and work much like a normal mop but with a water tank attached to the handle. Many have swivel and double-hinged head so cleaning around furniture is easy. Models with adjustable steam control can be used on wood and laminates as well as tiled floors, and many offer attachments for carpets and rugs.
Choose a steam mop that heats up quickly – around 20-30 seconds – so you can get to work quickly. Opt for a decent sized water tank too, so there’s less need to stop and refill.
Handheld steam cleaners are perfect for small areas and fiddly jobs such as cleaning tiles, hobs, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Compact and lightweight, handheld steam cleaners are easy to use and store. Small water tanks, however, mean you’ll have a limited cleaning time before you need to refill.
2-in-1 steam cleaners These multifunctional models offer the best of both worlds when it comes to steam cleaning. Typically, they come as an upright mop with the handheld steamer integrated into the handle. Although heavier than normal steam mops, their versatility makes them a popular choice, and some models have built-in vacuum cleaning too, which is useful when storage space is limited.
Cylinder steam cleaner Similar in looks to cylinder vacuum cleaners, these steam cleaners have a water tank in the main body and a bendy hose to use with various attachments for mopping floors and cleaning other surfaces. With large water tanks, they offer longer steaming times than steam mops with less need to refill, but are not as quick to heat up – taking anything from four to 10 minutes to be ready.
Most come with a range of attachments so you can use them for floors, bathrooms, kitchen, even on upholstery. Opt for a model with high pressure steam output (measured in psi) and variable steam control so you can to tackle different cleaning tasks.
Look at the tools and attachments that come with your chosen steam cleaner. These may include squeegees for glass, scrubbing brushes for removing stubborn stains and cleaning pads or cloths for wiping clean surfaces.
If you're ready to choose the perfect steam cleaner for you, read our guide to the Five best steam cleaners.