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9 best steam cleaners to keep your floors sparkling

Power your way to clean and germ-free surfaces with these useful home appliances

Lesley Jones
Wednesday 18 August 2021 15:57
<p>Choose from upright, tank-on-wheels and handheld models&nbsp;</p>

Choose from upright, tank-on-wheels and handheld models 

For a really deep clean without chemicals, it’s time to harness the power of steam. Perfect for germ-free floors and sparkling kitchen worktops and windows, steam cleaners give amazing results from not much effort. Trust us, you'll be looking around to find the next item to clean – they're strangely satisfying to use.

We tested a selection of widely available steam cleaners, from small handheld units to full-on floor cleaners. We looked for models that gave quick-drying results after use and came with a selection of accessories to measure up which had the best tools for the job.

Our chosen finalists were great all-rounders, tackling everything from restoring and cleaning the pile in tired carpets, to cleaning windows and upholstery or steaming toilets and shower doors.

It’s best to use filtered or demineralised water in the tanks of these products. We’d always recommend it, especially for those in hard water areas, as mineral deposits and limescale can build up on nozzles and tanks and affect performance. There is no need to add cleaning agents when you go full-steam ahead, so don’t make the mistake of pouring detergent or cleaning fluid in the tank, as it’s a fast way to void your guarantee and/or cause corrosive damage to your machine.

One of the models we’ve featured has a spray feature, but you could try heavily diluted essential oil instead of harsh cleaning products on that. You really won’t need them to help mop up the muck.

Another word of caution before you get trigger-happy around the home: some types of surface can easily be damaged by powerful steam cleaning. For starters, untreated wooden floors can warp or expand under prolonged damp and heat, and laminate will often bubble and lift if you overdo it. Delicate surfaces – vinyl, varnish and furniture veneers, for example – can also suffer if you don’t at least choose an adjustable model and select a low-power setting.

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We’d always advocate trying a test area first when starting any job. During testing, we discovered it’s a bad idea to steam a fridge door with a wire attachment (yes, ok, we got carried away) and you may find that those expensive-looking bathroom fittings may not be genuine chrome after all.

Lastly, no matter the setting, steam is incredibly hot. So always use with caution and don’t let kids try out your new toy. Now, plug in and try not to get carried away when you realise just how satisfying a deep steam-cleaning session can be.

The best steam cleaners for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Hoover CA2IN1D capsule 2-in-1 steam cleaner: £119,
  • Best for rugs and carpets – Beldray BEL01097 rectangular detergent steam cleaner: £43.99,
  • Best for versatility – Shark S6005UK floor and handheld steam cleaner: £179,
  • Best for basic cleaning – Kärcher SC3 easyfix steam cleaner: £148,
  • Best range of accessories – Russell Hobbs poseidon detergent 11-in-1 multifunction steam mop: £69,
  • Best for handheld cleaning – Morphy Richards 12-in-1 steam cleaner: £59.99,
  • Best for spot cleaning – Vileda variable powered steam mop: £90,
  • Best for hard-to-reach surfaces – Tower THS10 handheld steam cleaner: £19.99,
  • Best for large surface areas – Polti vaporetto pro 95 turbo flexi: £349,

Hoover CA2IN1D capsule 2-in-1 steam cleaner

Best: Overall

  • Power: 1700W
  • Heat up time: 15 seconds
  • Steam time: 25 minutes
  • Cord length: 7m
  • Accessories: Hose, window tool, two small round brushes, copper brush, small mop, curved nozzle, deep cleaning conical pipe, carpet glider, two mop pads

This nicely designed steam cleaner was ready for action in less than 30 seconds after filling the tank, while the strength of the steam at max was brilliant for shifting seriously stained tiles in a high-traffic hallway. You can release a small triangular scrubber by standing on the outer rim of the main pad, which was handy for getting into tight corners. The combination of bristles and steam powered through our clean up. 

Removing the tank for handheld cleaning was a doddle, and we used a combination of the copper brush and curbed nozzle to deep clean a toilet and sink that was suffering from limescale build-up. We’ll never scrub with chemicals again – steam is the way.

Beldray BEL01097 rectangular detergent steam cleaner

Best: For rugs and carpets

  • Power: 1300W
  • Heat up time: 25 seconds
  • Steam time: 15 minutes
  • Cord length: 5m
  • Accessories: Microfibre mop pad, carpet glider, detergent mop head, measuring cup

Our tester had just had some building work completed in their kitchen area, so this Beldray steam cleaner was certainly put through its paces. Although one of the cheapest models in our final selection, it easily got floors and kitchen cabinets back to their hygienic best after an initial sweep and vacuum to pick up builders’ dust and grit. 

Although the power of steam cleaning can tackle stains and rid surfaces of almost all germs, some prefer a spritz of detergent to make things smell fresher. This model has a small tank for just that, with a trigger action releasing a short spray in front of the cleaning head when needed. We thought the swivel head made this light floor cleaner really easy to handle, with the glider making it easy to push over rugs and carpeting too.

Shark S6005UK floor and handheld steam cleaner

Best: For versatility

  • Power: 1050W
  • Heat up time: 30 seconds
  • Steam time: 15 minutes
  • Cord length: 8m
  • Accessories: Two dirt grip pads, filling flask, accessory hose, concentration nozzle, steam blast scrubbing tool, copper brush, steam crevice tool

Two steam modes – high or low – on this powerful steam cleaner mean that it’s suitable for just about every household clean up. After testing it on an out-of-sight area, we used it on the low setting to clean skirting boards, quickly moving the velour, wedge-shaped head over surfaces for instant grime busting. Pick up was impressive on floors, especially; we liked being able to flip the large microfibre pad over to give twice as much clean surface area to mop up with. 

We kept on going without unplugging, thanks to a generous 8m cord. When removing the pad for washing, we didn’t have to wrestle it off the main body – one click and it dropped off into the laundry basket. We liked this model a lot – it was versatile and well built – though it is not a budget choice.

Read the full Shark S6005UK floor and handheld steam cleaner review

Kärcher SC3 easyfix steam cleaner

Best: For basic cleaning

  • Power: 1900W
  • Heat up time: 30 seconds
  • Steam time: 25 minutes
  • Cord length: 4m
  • Accessories: Hand nozzle, detail nozzle, small round brush

The attachments included with this tank-on-wheels model were limited compared to some in our finalists, though Kärcher does sell a whole range of add-ons separately. It worked very well on basic cleaning through a kitchen clean up, freezer defrosting and a splash-back degrease. We liked the way there was no delay in filling up again as there’s no need to let the machine cool down. The sturdy cleaning handle and accessories on this model seemed of superior quality to some of the other steamers we looked at, but then the price does reflect that.

Read the full Kärcher SC3 easyfix steam cleaner review

Russell Hobbs poseidon detergent 11-in-1 multifunction steam mop

Best: Range of accessories

  • Power: 1500W
  • Heat up time: 30 seconds
  • Steam time: 20 minutes
  • Cord length: 5m
  • Accessories: Window squeegee, mini cloth, grout brush, metal bristle brush, large nozzle, angled nozzle, scraper tool, soft small brush, soft large brush, hose, glider, two mop pads

We tried this model first on a selection of flooring, using the plastic glider attachment to skim over the surface of short-pile rugs and runners. There was an impressive (and embarrassing) amount of grime lifted on the terry pad and a wash at 40 degrees restored it perfectly. The same went for the mini cloth and soft large brush, which we used on a fabric sofa, scrubbing grubby armrests back to freshness – although we did find the cushions too damp to sit on afterwards and would recommend overnight drying. The window squeegee made panes shine – it was great fun to use and very versatile.

Morphy Richards 12-in-1 steam cleaner

Best: For handheld cleaning

  • Power: 1600W
  • Heat up time: 30 seconds
  • Steam time: 11 minutes
  • Cord length: 5m
  • Accessories: Two microfibre floor cloths, carpet glider, extension nozzle, upholstery attachment, worktop surface attachment, window cleaning attachment, angled jet nozzle, round brush, crevice brush, plastic scraper, jug, funnel

A powerful cleaner with a fantastic selection of attachments, we found this Morphy Richards model easy to use and intuitive when it came to fitting the wide variety of accessories included. We blasted our way around the kitchen in handheld mode using the work-surface attachment, before fitting the tank into the floor mode and tackling tiles. The scraper and wire brush accessories were the dream team for bringing a gruesome oven back to respectability. This is a great steam cleaner for the price but we’d have liked a slightly larger, longer-lasting water tank.

Vileda variable powered steam mop

Best: For spot cleaning

  • Power: 1550W
  • Heat up time: 15 seconds
  • Steam time: 15 minutes
  • Cord length: 6m
  • Accessories: Extension hose, fabric steaming tool, microfibre cloth, long nozzle attachment, nylon brush, squeegee, angled nozzle, funnel, measuring cup  

This straightforward floor-cleaning tool was no-nonsense and really effective. There’s not a lot of fancy add-ons in the box – just two pads for the head and a plastic glider attachment to help it skim over the surface of carpets and rugs.

This was a very lightweight model and didn’t take up much room in storage, with our tester using it often to sort out a porch and hallway floor that was used and abused by two muddy dogs and multiple wellies. It was easy to skim over the tiles and get into corners, thanks to the triangular design of the head. The pads picked up a considerable amount of grime and came up well when washed at 60 degrees. Steam strength could be dialled up or down, which was useful, but there was no trigger to control the flow, so the machine produced it constantly. For that reason, it was perfect for quick, concentrated bursts of cleaning, post walking the dog, but it may be a hassle to use if you’d like to take your time.

Tower THS10 handheld steam cleaner

Best: For hard-to-reach surfaces

  • Power: 1050W
  • Heat up time: 3 minutes
  • Steam time: 10 minutes
  • Cord length: 3m
  • Accessories: Extension hose, fabric steaming tool, microfiber cloth, long nozzle attachment, nylon brush, squeegee, angled nozzle, funnel, measuring cup  

If your priority isn’t floor cleaning but you need a tool to tackle kitchen, bathroom and hard-to-reach surfaces then this lightweight model from Tower is a great solution at a sensible price point.

With its chunky handle, the machine didn’t feel as cumbersome to use as some of other models that had to be switched to handheld mode. We set it to work on everything from grubby double glazing to a tired car interior with great results. We loved its neatness for storage and quirky looks – this one also comes in a snazzy rose gold and black colourway if you like to add some glam to your cleaning routine.  

It takes three minutes to heat up, but at this price, and with its impressive range of included accessories and a three-year warranty, we can wait.

Polti vaporetto pro 95 turbo flexi

Best: For large spaces

  • Power: 1100W
  • Heat up time: 6 minutes
  • Steam time: 45 minutes
  • Cord length: 4m

Accessories: Storage case, vaporflexi brush, brass bristle brush, small brush, three small coloured brushes, two floor cloths, carpet accessory, window cleaning brush, steam concentrator and brush, steam lance, two sockettes, two Kalstop anti-limescale product

It may be the most expensive machine in our line up, but it’s so effective on all sorts of cleaning problems that it’s just a little bit addictive. This is for you if there’s a lot of cleaning to do. 

We found this cylinder model particularly good on floors. We tried it out on a huge, open-plan kitchen-diner and managed to work with high-power steam for three quarters of an hour on one fill, brightening grout, removing stains from ceramic floor tiles and bringing everything back to good as new. Its large-capacity tank took comparatively long to reach steam point, but the easy-fit floor and hand tools were good quality and fitted snugly, giving great results on every surface we tried. This Polti model came complete with a superb selection of attachments to suit most cleaning tasks, and there’s even an optional steam-iron attachment available.

Steam cleaner FAQs

Do you need to use any cleaning products with a steam cleaner?

It is advised to not use anything other than water in the steam cleaner, including any cleaning solutions or bleaches, as putting chemicals in your steam cleaner can cause corrosion. The heat of the steam will sterilise surfaces and floors, so you don’t really need any harsh chemicals or detergent to clean them efficiently. Most manufacturers also recommend using demineralised water only.

What to look for in a steam cleaner

  • Water tank capacity – When picking a steam cleaner, you should consider your cleaning needs, and how big your space is. Smaller steam cleaners will heat up faster, but that also means that you may have to refill your water tank more often, perhaps in the middle of your chores. On the other hand, larger tanks will last longer so are great for bigger spaces or mammoth cleaning sessions, but will often take longer to heat up, so you may be stuck waiting around to get started.
  • Heat up time – Most steam cleaners will take around five to 15 minutes. Depending on your time constraints, you may want to invest in a more pricey model that has a quicker heat up time.
  • Weight/size – While it may seem like a good decision to get a bigger cleaner as you can cover more ground without having to fill up as often, you may find that the compact designs can really get in those nooks and crannies and are easier on the arms.
  • Variable steam settings – Some steam cleaners have varied settings which allow you to clean on all surfaces, even more delicate floors.

The verdict: Steam cleaners

Our pick of the bunch was the powerful Hoover capsule, simply because it looked great, was easy to use, quick to heat up and came with a full range of accessories. 

If you have more money to play with, both the Karcher and Polti Vaporetto Pro models make cleaning satisfying and, dare we say it, fun. For first-time steamers, the Tower model is a cheap way to find out what steam can add to your cleaning power.

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