Best steam cleaners – the top steam mops for refreshing floors and more

We've tested and rated the best steam cleaners for floors that will keep your home spick and span
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  • 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

    best-steam-cleaners-Black and Decker copy

    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.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Black & Decker 15IN1 steam-mop with SteaMitt, £155.99, Amazon

    6. Morphy Richards 9-in-1 Steam Mop 720020 – best steam cleaner for tool storage


    Calling this a ‘9-in-1 steam cleaner’ is absurd. It’s just a steam mop with a pop-out handheld cleaner. We suspect that the ‘9’ refers to the tools, which is misleading. A very small amount of assembly (one screw) is required the first time you use it. It’s ok as an upright steam mop.

    It has a rectangular floor head and stands up well by itself. It comes with two floor cloths: these attach with a drawstring that cinches closed, rather than Velcro. This means they can’t possibly fall off.

    There’s a carpet glider that sits underneath but doesn’t clip into place, so if you lift the steam cleaner the glider stays on the floor. The 350ml water tank pops out so you can refill it under the tap, no jug required. It has a 4.5m cord. There’s no indication when it’s up to temperature.

    We tried the trigger after 30 seconds and it was; it took a further 10 seconds for the steam to come through.

    Steam is powerful but you can’t control the level, only tap the trigger. We felt our wooden floors were getting too much of a good thing from the constant flow of steam. Also, when you turn it off, the steam keeps coming for a while – potentially damaging.

    Popping the middle out was easy and it made much more sense as a handheld. The powerful steam made quick work of lifting dirt from a mattress.

    This steam cleaner comes with a couple of small brushes with stiff bristles, a scraper, a concentrator nozzle and a convertible mid-sized tool that acts as a window squeegee or flat cleaning head, complete with cloth cover. There’s no hose.

    We like the black mesh bag supplied for accessories: it’s not especially attractive but it’s really handy and you can get away with slinging wet tools in there. This is much better than a carrier bag. We felt the Morphy Richards steam cleaner worked best as a handheld that you might occasionally use to mop floors.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Morphy Richards 9-in-1 Steam Mop 720020, £52, Amazon

    7. Vileda Steam Mop SC-1806 – best compact steam mop

    best-steam-cleaners-Vileda (1)

    Who better to go to for a straightforward steam cleaner for floors than mop giants Vileda? This, their only steam mop, is simple and lightweight. It sets out to do one job well. The steam mop has a triangular floorhead and comes with two cleaning pads that Velcro on.

    Add the plastic carpet glider underneath for rugs and carpets. It also comes with a measuring jug. The tank capacity is 400ml and a 6m cord means you can clean a room or two at a time.

    This steam cleaner’s controls are very simple, just: an on/off switch and a dial to adjust the amount of steam. It only takes around 20 seconds to come up to temperature. The Vileda steam cleaner is very light and manoeuvrable and the controls are responsive.

    Having to reach down to the body for the power and steam controls isn’t a big deal. However, we yearned for a trigger under our finger to start and stop the steam. If you need to pause cleaning and don’t want to soak a patch on the floor then you must turn it off completely.

    There’s not enough steam at top whack for intensive cleaning but as a mop replacement it’s very good. It leaves floors that have already been vacuumed clean and not too wet. It’s slender, doesn’t take up too much space, and stands upright by itself when not in use.

    There’s no pop-out cleaner or detail tools… but that means no accessories to store. While not the cheapest steam cleaner, it’s a good choice if you want a simple steam mop for floors without any fancy features.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Vileda Steam Mop SC-1806, £75, Amazon

    8. Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E – best steam cleaner with vacuum

    best-steam-cleaners-Bissell (1)

    An upright, cyclonic vacuum cleaner and steam mop in one. You can vacuum and steam at the same time but it’s recommended that you do one and then the other. There’s a lot to squeeze in, so there’s compromise compared with a standalone vac or steam mop. Vacuuming is a thin strip across the front of the floor head, with no motorised brush bar for pet hair, and the dirt container capacity is small at 930ml.

    The majority of the floor head is dedicated to steam cleaning, with a large cloth that’s elasticated to fit. There are three buttons on the front of the handle: vac, low steam and high steam (for more durable floors and stubborn dirt). It stands up well by itself.

    There are no accessories or tools, it just comes with the jug, two floor cloths and a couple of optional fragrance discs. Vacuuming performance is ok. It’s manoeuvrable, gets into corners and up against skirting well.

    Cleaning is more like a lightweight cordless vac (albeit with a 7.5m cord) than a full-sized mains upright. You don’t need the floor cloth on there – in fact, it’s probably best to save it till later so it stays clean for mopping.

    The steam mop has a 380ml tank accessed via a flap at the back that’s a bit awkward. It supposedly takes 30 seconds to come up to temperature then you squeeze trigger.

    We found it took longer. Both steam settings are pretty gentle; you won’t overdo it on sensitive floors with the low one. Overall it did a good job quickly. But for the same money you could buy a budget steam mop and a budget vacuum cleaner that would clean better. Still, this is a good choice for smaller homes with hard floors if you don’t have space for a vacuum cleaner and a steam mop.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Bissell Vac & Steam 1977E, £168, Amazon

    9. Polti Vaporetto Pro 95 Turbo Flexi– best mid-priced

    cylinder steam cleaner


    This cylinder-style steam cleaner is pricier than a steam mop but affordable for a cylinder, and good value for the powerful cleaning it offers. It follows you round as you clean and comes with a 2.5m hose and two-part steam lance. Although the 4m power cord is a bit on the short side. It’s tool-tastic though. It comes with two sizes of window squeegee, concentrator nozzle with four different tiny brushes and a larger rectangular brush with two cloths. Then there’s a rectangular floorhead with two cloths that clip securely over the floorhead at each end.

    The water tank doesn’t detach but you can refill it at any time because the water is pumped into a separate, pressurised tank to make steam. It takes a few minutes to come to temperature but then you get impressive steam and control. This ranges from very powerful right down to gentle enough for delicate floors. A knob on the body of the cleaner controls the steam level, while a trigger for it sits under your finger.

    There are clear indicator lights on the body too. The two-part lance is long and light, which makes it easy to reach cleaning tasks with tools and even with the floorhead. We found it was possible to use the latter to clean the tiled bathroom walls quickly and easily. A great machine if you want powerful steam cleaning for floors and much more.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Polti Vaporetto Pro 95 Turbo Flexi, £349.99, Amazon

    10. Vax Steam Fresh Power Plus – best hand steam cleaner

    best-steam-cleaners-Vax (8)

    Most convertible steam mops have a middle that pops out to turn into a handheld cleaner. But this Vax puts the cleaner in your hand and then extends it with a lance and floor head. As a result, the controls are at your fingertips and it’s easy to use the lance for hard-to-reach spots as well as floors. The top-heavy design makes it very manoeuvrable but heavy in the hand and it can’t stand up by itself. But it does come with a wall bracket for storage.

    The steam cleaner floor head is triangular and comes with two cloths and a carpet glider. It also comes with two tools: one offers a concentrated jet of steam, the other is a soft scrub brush with a scraper on the end for stubborn grime. A handy tool storage bag is also supplied. The power cord is a generous 8m and there are two tanks: 300ml for water, 165ml for (optional) detergent.

    It takes just 20 seconds to heat up and there are two levels of steam, controlled with your thumb. There’s also a control for detergent (but we found the fragrance a bit overpowering). Steam is powerful enough and there’s an additional boost button on the floor head too. While cleaning we discovered a third tool: a small, triangular brush hidden inside the floor head that’s handy for impromptu scrubbing. That said, we were disappointed with the lack of tools offered by this steam cleaner.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

    Buy now: Vax Steam Fresh Power Plus, £99.99, Amazon

    How much should I spend on a steam cleaner?

    best-steam-cleaners-Black and Decker

    Image credit: Black & Decker

    The most straightforward steam mops start at £50, but up to £150 is average for a convertible upright. These are steam mops that double as smaller, handheld cleaners. Budget upwards of £300 for a cylinder model with much more steam power.

    Still confused? Read our sister site Trusted Reviews’ best steam cleaner reviews.

    What are the different types of steam cleaner?

    Steam mop

    If you only want to steam clean floors, consider a simple machine that doesn’t convert to a handheld. It will be light, easy to manoeuvre and you won’t have to store fiddly tools that you’ve no intention of using.

    Convertible steam cleaner

    A.k.a. 2-in-1 cleaners, these are upright steam mops where the steam generator can pop out from the middle to be used as a smaller, handheld cleaner. They come with various tools for steam cleaning smaller stuff.

    Cylinder steam cleaner

    For the ultimate in powerful, long-lasting steam, get a cylinder cleaner. They generate a constant flow of strong steam that make light work of anything. But they take up more cupboard space.

    What else should I look for in a steam cleaner?

    best-steam-cleaners-Vax (6)

    Image credit: Vax

    1. Variable steam

    If you have wooden floors, avoid models that don’t let you adjust the level of steam. You’ll want to dial back steam to its lowest setting to avoid damaging them. A good steam cleaner can use a small amount of steam, then pick up the moisture with the floorcloth, so the floor is left nearly dry. If in doubt, check with your flooring supplier in case they advise against steam cleaning.

    2. Powerful steam

    At top whack, powerful steam is great for loosening stubborn grime. For example, you can bring old oven grills back to life or finally get bathroom taps squeaky clean.

    3. Steam cleaner tools

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    Convertibles and cylinders come with smaller tools as well as a floorhead. Expect brushes for scrubbing and a concentrator nozzle for a precise, powerful jet of steam. A mid-sized cleaning head with cloth is great for furniture and a squeegee is handy if you want to clean windows. If a steam cleaner comes with lots of tools, bonus points if it also comes with a way to store them.

    4. Steam cleaner cord length

    This may matter, depending on where your power sockets are. We found a 4m cord was too short to reach our bathroom.

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