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Steam cleaner features explained

Lynn Wright / 25 May 2016

Everything you need to know about the essential steam cleaner features when shopping for the perfect model.

Carpet steam cleaner
The best steam cleaners cut down on cleaning time

Steam cleaners take the effort out of cleaning. Using steam to quickly remove dirt and stains from floors, kitchen, bathrooms, windows and upholstery, the best steam cleaners cut down on cleaning time and result in revitalized fabrics and surfaces around the home.

With such a huge range of steam cleaners available, it can be confusing having to choose the best one for you. Here’s our guide to the best steam cleaner features you should consider when buying.

For more on choosing the best steam cleaner, see How to buy the best steam cleaner.

Best steam cleaner features to look for

Steam pressure A steam cleaner’s maximum operating pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). Steam cleaners with high pressure and a higher boiler temperature clean quicker and more effectively than lower-pressure models. Look for a steam cleaner with at least 3.5 bars/50 psi.

Water tank capacity This is the amount of water held in the water reservoir, typically measured in litres. The larger the tank on your steam cleaner, the more time you’ll have to clean between refills. Handheld steamers have the smallest capacity and therefore the shortest steam time. Steam mops and 2-in-1 steam cleaners vary considerable with some lasting only ten minutes while others manage 30 minutes of steaming before they need refilling.

Weight This is linked in to the size of a steam cleaner’s water tank. While a large tank lets you clean for longer, you’ll need to balance this feature against how lightweight and therefore comfortable a steam cleaner is to use.

Heat-up time Determines how quickly you can start using your steam cleaner after switching it on. Handheld and steam mops heat up significantly quicker than cylinder steam cleaners. If choosing a steam mop, look for a heat-up time of less than 30 seconds to start cleaning straightaway.

Continuous versus triggers Steam cleaners that continually emit steam when heated up offer less control than a trigger-activated model. Although you need to hold down a button or press a trigger to keep the latter steaming, you can pause mid-clean without wasting steam. Continuous steam models are, however, more comfortable to use when cleaning large areas in one go.

Adjustable steam A dial or button that lets you adjust the steam pressure to suit different surfaces.

Cable length A long cable makes it easier to clean a large area without have to swap plug sockets.

Limescale filter If you live in a hard water area, opt for a steam cleaner with an anti-calc filter to slow down the build up of limescale within the machine.

Swivel head Double-hinged or swivel heads let you clean around furniture more easily.

Telescopic handle If storage space is an issue, plump for a steam mop with a height-adjustable handle so it can be packed away neatly.

Cleaning cloths Steam mops come with microfibre cloths or pads that fit over the mop head. While these can be washed and reused, you’ll probably need to buy new ones at some point so it’s worth checking the price and availability of replacement pads before choosing a model.


Look for a steam cleaner with several attachments for use with a wider range of cleaning tasks. The most common attachments include:

  • Window squeegee for cleaning glass
  • Grout brush for cleaning up tile grout
  • Carpet glider to use on carpet
  • Upholstery brush to use on fabric
  • Scrubbing pad to remove grease from ovens

Ready to buy a steam cleaner, read our guide to the Five best steam cleaners.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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