Steam cleaners – also called steam mops – are great for cleaning and sanitising floors. Whether that’s lifting grime from rugs and carpets or mopping hard floors. Many also come with smaller tools for steam-cleaning everything from windows and bathroom tiles to oven trays and furnishings. A good steam cleaner makes light work of floors and more, leaving them clean and hygienic as quick as a flash.
Once you see how much dirt comes off your seemingly clean mattress, you’ll be converted. We’ve tested a range of steam mops, convertibles and cylinder cleaners to suit every budget. This is our round up of the very best steam cleaners.
For more expert product reviews, check out our buying guides
How we test our steam cleaners
Our tester Caramel has decades of experience of reviewing technology products, writing for, among others, The Evening Standard, The Express, The Guardian, The Independent, The Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Mirror, The Telegraph and The Sunday Times. She’s long been part of the Ideal Home family, and knows exactly what you’re looking for in a good steam cleaner.
With two teenage children and a pet dog to clean up after, Caramel has been able to give each steam cleaner a rigorous test at home over several weeks. She’s looked at every aspect of each cleaner, taking into account its ability to clean, to manoeuvre (taking into account its weight and the reach of its cable), the tools that come with it and therefore its versatility, and how easy it is to control.
What is the best steam cleaner in 2019?
Caramel has voted the Kärcher SC5 Easyfix Premium as the best steam cleaner in 2019. If you’re on a budget, she recommends the Hoover SteamJet 2-in-1 stick steam cleaner, or the Kärcher SC3 EasyFix cylinder cleaner. Read on to check out their full reviews.
Best steam cleaners
1. Kärcher SC5 Easyfix Premium – overall best steam cleaner
This premium, cylinder-style steam cleaner is a completely different animal from a steam mop. It does an outstanding job of cleaning so much more than floors and it can keep cleaning for hours. It has a 6m cord and a large 1.5 litre water tank and the water is then pumped into a pressurised steam tank. This means you can refill the machine at any time, even when it’s in use, without pausing your cleaning.
The only downside of its constant, powerful steam is that you must wait 3 minutes for it to come up to temperature initially. Tools and onboard storage are superb. The 2m hose can be extended with one or both sections of lance, for cleaning floors and high-up or hard-to-reach places.
Then you can attach various tools. There’s a large, rectangular floor head which comes with two Velcro cloths and a clip-on carpet glider. This steam cleaner also has a large square brush with cloth and large round brush – with space on the Kärcher to stow.
But there’s more! Lift a flap on the cleaner’s body and you’ll also find a small, round brush for detailed cleaning and a concentrator nozzle. Outstanding selection of steam cleaning tools and storage. The only thing it’s missing that we care about is a window squeegee. However, Kärcher offers a wide selection of accessories if you care about this or other tools.
Cleaning was outstanding – the floor head is much more than a floor head. It’s on a lightweight lance, so we found ourselves instinctively lifting it up and cleaning the bathroom’s tiled walls, right up to the ceiling. This took two minutes and the room has never been so clean. You could do the same with a mattress. This is steam cleaning in 3D.
Steam is highly controllable, with a trigger under your finger and a dial on the body. The top setting didn’t seem OTT but dialling it back to its lowest setting was very impressive. Wooden floors were treated gently and were left nearly dry. The Karcher steam cleaner’s tools are equally impressive. We had to dial it back to avoid the bathroom becoming a steam room.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Kärcher SC5 Easyfix Premium, £474.99, Amazon
2. Hoover SteamJet 2-in-1 S2IN1300CA – best value steam mop
The Hoover is a slender, lightweight, manoeuvrable steam mop. As an upright cleaner, it comes with just one floor cloth plus a plastic carpet glider. These clip over the cloth to convert the head for cleaning rugs and carpets. There’s no spare cloth. It has a 5m power cord and 330ml water tank.
You can also remove the handle and the floorhead, at which point it converts to a small, handheld steam cleaner.
The Hoover steam cleaner comes with six small tools for this, including a concentrator nozzle. A small window squeegee and multiple brushes including a metal one (good for grimy oven racks) are included. There’s a small cloth that fits over the ‘utility head’ and a 1m steam hose for hard-to-reach spots.
It took 20 seconds to come up to temperature and then a further 10 seconds for the steam to effectively pump through.
You trigger steam with a button positioned nicely under your fingertip. It’s powerful with lots of steam. The highest steam cleaning setting was too wet for our wooden floors, but you can dial the variable steam down with a knob on the cleaner body.
Getting the tools on and off is a bit tricky, but you get an awful lot for your money. Powerful, controllable steam and plenty of detail tools for around £50. A good cleaner and superb value.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Hoover SteamJet 2-in-1 S2IN1300CA, £44.99, Amazon
3. Shark Klik n’Flip Automatic Steam Pocket Mop – best powerful steam mop
Uniquely, the Shark’s floorhead and cleaning pad are double-sided, giving you twice the surface area for more cleaning. It comes with a second cleaning pad, too. It’s only designed for cleaning floors, so there are no accessories except a filling jug. We like the way this clips to the pole, so you always have it to hand. There’s space to coil the 8m power cable too.
There are two steam levels: a button on the front of the body of the cleaner cycles between these and off. It heats up in under 30 seconds.
On the main side of the pad, you steam clean as normal. The pad is big and rectangular, ideal for cleaning large areas fast. Flip the floorhead back on itself to use the other side, then push the whole machine down to get a powerful steam blast that sprays directly forwards onto the floor.
After use, squeeze two tabs together on the body of the cleaner and the floorhead comes open, so the cleaning pad falls off into the laundry basket with no need to touch it.
If you only want a steam cleaner to clean floors, this is powerful and the double-sided floorhead and two cleaning pads mean it can tackle large homes with ease.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Shark Klik n’Flip Automatic Steam Pocket Mop S6003UK, £99, Amazon
4. Kärcher SC3 EasyFix – best affordable cylinder steam cleaner
The SC3 is less than half the price of the excellent SC5 EasyFix Premium. Maximum steam pressure is less at 3.5 bar and everything is a bit smaller, including the tank capacity (1 litre, enough to clean 75m²) but it’s a stunning powerhouse for the price and the smaller makes for easier storage. It’s literally half the weight of the SC5; it’s very light and easy to carry around.
Accessories-wise, it comes with a floor nozzle and hand nozzle, both with microfiber cloths, two extension tubes for cleaning floors and reaching high places, plus a detail nozzle and a small round brush. There’s also a descaling cartridge to tackle limescale in tap water: the machine alerts you when it’s time to replace it.
It’s not just smaller than the SC5, it’s speedier: it’s ready to use in just 30 seconds (compared with 3 minutes).
We love the floorhead. And we love it for more than floors: the advantage of a lightweight cylinder, compared with a steam mop, is that it’s nimble. We ran it over bathroom wall tiles for a thorough deep clean in minutes, then used the detail nozzle and brush on the lighter steam setting to get the taps, overflows and plugholes squeaky clean. It was all a breeze.
In all, we were so impressed that we’d seriously consider downsizing from the bigger model. It’s powerful enough, brilliantly nimble, affordable and very hard to fault.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Kärcher SC3 EasyFix, £130.60, Amazon
5. Black & Decker 15IN1 steam-mop with SteaMitt – best handheld steam cleaner
This mid-priced steam mop is more versatile than most, thanks to its unusual SteaMitt. This is a glove on a hose that lets you steam clean with your hand. You feel like a housework superhero. It serves fine as an upright mop, with 6m cord, 500ml tank, two floor cloths and a clip-on carpet glider.
There’s no trigger on the mop handle, but a dial on the body lets you turn it on and select steam level. Handy graphics indicate floor types, from wood and laminate that require gentle steam up to stone and marble that can take more.
This steam cleaner is powerful, better than many steam mops, and the controls are responsive. Turn it off and the steam stops pretty much immediately. The middle pops out and converts to a handheld.
It comes with an easy-to-attach hose and lots of tools. These include a concentrator nozzle, window squeegee, a small brush and three larger brushes, including one with metal bristles. The tools all use the 1m long steam hose, which is easy to attach.
But by far the best tool is the SteaMitt. You literally put your hand inside it (either hand will do) and stroke things to clean them. The SteaMitt comes with its own hose and two cloths. The silicone mitt’s fabric inner comes out for cleaning from time to time too.
We used it to quickly clean vast swathes of a tiled bathroom. It would be good on suitable walls and worktops too. The cloth lifted grime and felt like a good way to cover a large area quickly.