Best steam cleaners 2021 – steam mops for sparkling clean floors

Find the best steam cleaners of 2021, with our reviews of top steam mops from Kärcher, Shark, Bissell, Vax and more top options for carpet, couches and cars
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  • The best steam cleaners of 2021 will keep tiled floors looking shiny and new, and some of the best steam mops can even be used on carpets, cars and upholstery to lift dirt and clean deep. Some of the best steam cleaners can even be converted to handheld, which is great for news for those who want a steam cleaner to tackle stairs, wall tiles and shower screens,

    Check out the best vacuum cleaners for more cleaning must-havses

    Not only does steam cleaning keep things looking fresh, but it also targets deep into rugs, car upholstery and hard-to-reach areas, killing 99.9% of bacteria for a spotless finish. The best steam cleaners and steam mops in our guide come from top cleaning brands such as Vax, Shark, Bissell and Kärcher. You’ll know them for creating some other amazing cleaning appliances, from the best cordless vacuums to heavy-duty wet and dry vacuum cleaners. For our complete roundup of the best steam cleaners on the market in 2021, keep on reading,

    What is the best steam cleaner in 2021?

    Caramel has voted the Kärcher SC5 Easyfix Premium as the best steam cleaner in 2021.Alternatively if you want something a little more versatile which can easily switch from an upright to a handheld steam cleaner, then the Shark S600UK also comes (very) highly recommended. Read on to check out their full reviews.

    Best steam cleaners

    1. Kärcher SC5 Easyfix

    Overall best steam cleaner


    Capacity: 2 litres
    43.90 x 30.10 x 30.50 cm
    6 kg
    2200 watts
    Reasons to buy: Removes extremely stubborn dirt, works on carpet, 6m cord
    Reasons to avoid: You have to wait for it to heat up

    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 

    2. Kärcher SC3 EasyFix

    Best affordable cylinder steam cleaner


    Capacity: 1 litre
    36.00 x 23.60 x 25.30 cm
    1900 watts
    Reasons to buy: Lighweight, chock full of accessories, heats up quickly
    Reasons to avoid: Lacks steam pressure

    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

    3. Polti Vaporetto 100B

    Best compact cylinder steam cleaner


    Capacity: 2 litres
    52.4 x 32.4 x 32.4 cm
    5 kg
    1500 watts
    Reasons to buy: Large water tank, can clean under low-lying furniture
    Reasons to avoid: Takes a while to heat up

    You get a lot for your money with this Polti. It’s pleasantly compact and modern-looking. It has a large 2 litre water tank which feeds the boiler but you can pop out the tank at any time for a refill without waiting for it to cool down or even disrupting cleaning.

    The body boasts variable steam control and an anti-calc collector. You can stow the cleaning head and two-part tube when not in use, or to pause, and there’s onboard storage for tools. It comes with a squeegee with cloth cover for cleaning upholstery, plus concentrator, scraper and two sizes of nylon brush.

    The floorhead is an unusual shape: neither triangular nor a rectangle. It comes with a floor glider and one cleaning pad. The floorhead is slim to fit under furniture and has a small brush on the back so you can reverse slightly to scrub stains. It also features a small tank for optional detergent.

    Steam takes 2 minutes to heat up and then can stop and start instantly with a press of the trigger. It’s powerful: the lowest setting is similar to the steam offered by most steam mops, the highest setting is much stronger.

    We loved using the Polti. The controls are excellent, the design is practical and it feels weightless in the hand, so much so that you can lift it to clean tiled walls, windows, curtains and more. It has a 7.5m reach. Simply pull the cylinder behind you as you move around the house.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    4. Shark Klik n’Flip Automatic Steam Pocket Mop

    Best powerful steam mop


    Capacity: 380ml
    61 x 46 x 42 cm
    1200 watts
    Reasons to buy: Two-year warranty, quick heating time, lots of accessories
    Reasons to avoid: Big floor pad isn’t great on tough corners

    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. Check out the best shark vacuums for more options.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    5. Thane H2O HD

    Best folding steam cleaner


    Capacity: 450 ml
    125cm (H) x 32cm (W) x 28cm (D)
    3.4 kg
    1500 watts
    Reasons to buy: Can fold away nicely, long power cord
    Reasons to avoid:

    This upright steam cleaner boasts a “why didn’t I think of that” design which folds in half for easy storage in smaller cupboards. Simply squeeze the circles on both sides to fold it. And you can wrap the 6m cord around lugs for storage, even when it’s folded. The curvy green and black design, with colourful lights, is attractive too.

    Assembling it for first use requires a screwdriver to attach the triangular floorhead, which comes with one cloth and a carpet glider. After that, it stays on and you pop out the middle bit if you want to convert to handheld cleaning. The fill hole on the 450ml tank is very small but there’s no funnel.

    The Thane boasts three steam levels but all switches are on the front of the handheld, so you have to reach down to turn it on or off, or change setting. As an upright, you must use the floorhead. The concentrator nozzle and two brushes attach directly to the handheld.

    There’s also a 30-inch extension hose to which you can connect the window squeegee (with cloths to adapt it for garments and upholstery) or duster attachment. The latter was our favourite tool thanks to its “coral” cover with fat, absorbent cloth fingers that pick up dust brilliantly.

    Startup takes around 30 seconds but after that it’s quick and responsive. Aside from a few niggles, we liked the design and it cleaned floors and more well.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    6. Shark Floor & Handheld Steam Cleaner S6005UK

    Best steam cleaner for versatility


    Capacity: 500 ml
    H:118cm W:34cm D: 22cm
    2.8 kg
    1050 watts
    Reasons to buy: coverts from an upright to a handheld
    Reasons to avoid: no on board storage for the seven accessories

    Working as an upright floor steam cleaner and then as a handheld, this option is a good one for those with various surfaces throughout the home which want their time to shine. On the floor I would really recommend using a broom (and dustpan & brush) to sweep up any loose debris before use, otherwise you’ll just be moving it around. After plugging in, it takes a matter of seconds to heat up the 500ml tank of water and there are two automatic steam settings to switch between – LO is good for lighter dirt removal whereas HI will tackle high-traffic areas – and a standby mode so you can pause the clean until you’re ready, or for when it’s break time.

    This model – S6005UK – also comes with the same Klik n’Flip technology as number three in our list which is mega handy if you have a particularly mucky floor which requires a cleaner pad to lift off dirt and grim.

    Using the steam cleaner elsewhere in the house as a handheld meant that I could remove tea stains and other greases from surfaces such as the front of the dishwasher, the fridge door and even our induction hob. Again it was quick to heat up but, it took a bit of figuring out to get the steam to show because, unlike when used as a floor cleaner, this was not automatic – a button on the handheld unit needed to be held down when in use.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    7. Vax Steam Fresh Combi

    Best steam cleaner for tool storage


    Capacity: 460 ml
    H116, W31, D30cm
    3.7 kg
    1600 watts
    Reasons to buy: Triangle brush is perfect for scrubbing floors
    Reasons to avoid: Chunky, unappealing design

    This upright steam mop has a triangular floorhead like the pricier Vax Steam Fresh Power Plus and again, as well as the floorhead, two cloths and carpet glider. You can pop the head off to reveal a medium-sized triangular brush perfect for scrubbing.

    But while the Steam Fresh Power is a top-heavy stick cleaner, this is a traditional upright with a pop-out handheld in the middle for use with detail tools: squeegee with cloth cover for upholstery, concentrator, scraper and four different brushes. Unusually, there’s onboard storage for six tools on the back of the upright. There’s also a mesh bag for the others and lugs for storing the 8m cord.

    The 260ml tank pops off for easy filling. There’s also a 200ml detergent tank and a bottle of detergent. We use this with the floorhead and carpet glider to clean the tide marks on an old, colourful rug. It worked to great effect and we only needed to switch to the brush a few times. Surprisingly, the detergent isn’t smelly, it’s subtle.

    It’s ready to use in less than 30 seconds. Steam is variable and powerful on the top setting. The Vax isn’t especially good looking, it’s chunky and a rather clinical cream and blue, but it gets the job done. And we liked the fact that it can stand up independently when you need to pause cleaning.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    8. Black & Decker 9IN1 steam-mop with SteaMitt

    Best handheld steam cleaner with mitt



    Capacity: 500 ml
    H120.0 x W17.0 x D29.5cm
    1300 watts
    Reasons to buy: Ready to use in 30 seconds
    Reasons to avoid: No automatic pause function

    The design of this Black & Decker is much like its predecessor, with a glove on a hose that lets you clean quickly and thoroughly. It’s a bit smaller but it’s more affordable than ever.

    There’s no trigger on the mop handle, but a dial on the body lets you turn it on and select steam level. It takes 30 seconds to heat up the first time but then stops and starts promptly. It doesn’t pause automatically though, so if you stand it still then the floor underneath gets wet. The top steam level is good and powerful and the dial has helpful settings for different floor types.

    The middle pops out and converts to a handheld, with a 0.8m hose, squeegee, cover and two brushes. Or better still use the SteaMitt on its longer (1.3m) hose. It’s the size of an oven glove and comes two cloths. The silicone mitt’s fabric inner comes out for cleaning from time to time too. You put a hand inside the mitt and stroke things to clean them. It made quick work of lifting grime from upholstery, tiled walls and more. At this price, it’s a great buy and does more than most steam cleaners.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    9. Bissell Powerfresh Slim Steam

    Best stick steam cleaner


    Capacity: 300 ml
    110 x 35 x 26 cm
    4.74 kg
    1500 watts
    Reasons to buy: Wall mount for convenient storage
    Reasons to avoid: Handheld function is awkward to use

    Pretty much all convertible steam mops have a handheld that pops out of the middle of the upright cleaner. This, however, is designed more like a “stick” cordless vacuum cleaner. You hold the handheld and then add tubes below to clean floors. As a result, it’s nippy but top-heavy. It won’t stand up by itself then and there’s no carpet glider.

    We liked the design and how easy it was to convert back and forth. We loved the plastic tray that clips to the underside and holds all four supplied tools (concentrator, scraper and two shapes of brush). If your steam cleaning is a mix of floors and fiddly smaller things then the Bissell is hard to beat because your tools are always on board and converting is a doddle.

    There are a great many other thoughtful design touches. The fill hole for the 400ml tank is a good size and it comes with a jug. There’s a Velcro strap for stowing the 7.6m cord. There’s also a mesh bag for if you buy additional tools or don’t want to store them on board.

    Cleaning is versatile and the two steam levels are good enough for all uses. It’s not the most powerful steam on test and yet it’s the cleaner we’d pick up and use again and again.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    10. Bissell Vac & Steam

    Best vacuum and steam cleaner combi


    Capacity: 380 ml
    28 x 23 x 118cm
    1600 watts
    Reasons to buy: Easy to fill water tank, 3-year-guarantee
    Reasons to avoid: No handheld cleaning tools

    The first rule of mopping or steam cleaning is that you vacuum first. You lift as much dust and hair as possible dry, then use water to lift the remaining grime. It therefore makes sense to have a machine that does both.

    This Bissell does double duty, with a cyclonic vacuum cleaner followed by a steam mop. There are no handheld cleaning tools, it’s just for floors. It’s heavy (4.4kg) but does the job of two appliances.

    Vacuuming is straightforward: stiff brushes help lift dirt but there’s no rotating brush bar. For steam cleaning you just need to fill the 380ml tank and add the fabric pad (it comes with two, one plain and one with lines to scrub dirt, each with a pocket for adding an optional fragrance disc). There’s no carpet glider because it’s really designed for hard floors.

    The cyclonic vacuum is bagless, with a 950ml dust container. There are two steam levels and it takes just under 30 seconds to heat up. There’s an anti calc filter and lugs to store the 7.6m cable when not in use.

    You can use each feature independently but the Bissell Vac & Steam is at its best when you use both at once to save time. You can whizz round the house at double speed if dirt isn’t too ingrained.

    The Bissell is a jack of all trades, master of none. But it comes quite close to mastering both jobs. If you want to vacuum and mop every time it’s well worth your consideration.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    11. Beldray 12-in-1 Steam Mop

    Best steam mop for value


    Capacity: 330 ml
    H110 x W20.7 x D30 cm
    3.3 kg
    Reasons to buy: Can clean easily under furniture
    Reasons to avoid: Pausing function is awkward

    This cheap-and-cheerful upright cleaner has some nice features but misses some tricks. For example, the handle folds forwards by around 40° so you can clean under furniture without stooping, but it doesn’t fold completely for easy storage.

    Its 5m cord and 330ml tank are pretty standard but the tank has such a tiny fill hole that it comes with both a jug and a funnel, for belt and braces. It comes with plenty of tools, including two floor cloths and a carpet glider for the floorhead, plus two nozzles, two brushes and three other tools – there’s a cloth to convert the window squeegee to clean upholstery and clothes.

    As an upright, it’s manoeuvrable enough, but press the trigger and the steam is slow to respond. It takes 30 seconds to get going the first time and at least 5 seconds thereafter. Worse still, if you pause cleaning the steam persists for 5-10 seconds, so you can’t pause on a delicate surface.

    Remove the floorhead and handle to convert to a lightweight handheld, which works well but won’t give you a long reach. The tools are good for a budget cleaner but there’s no sense of why it’s billed as “12-in-1” as it doesn’t set out to clean in 12 different ways.
    Steam isn’t immensely powerful but you get what you pay for and the Beldray is fine for floors and a bit of handheld cleaning.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    12. Vax Steam Fresh Power Plus

    Best hand steam cleaner

    best-steam-cleaners-Vax (8)

    Capacity: 300 ml
    74 x 28.6 x 22.2 cm
    3.4 kg
    1600 watts
    Reasons to buy: Great handheld cleaner, cleans hard-to-reach areas easily
    Reasons to avoid: Not many accessories

    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 

    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. And when it comes to steamers, she’s an expert, having tried out the best clothing steamers for this year too.

    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.

    How much should I spend on a steam cleaner?


    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.

    What are the different types of steam cleaner?


    Image credit: Dupray

    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

    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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