Whether you're redecorating a home with frumpy old carpets, harboring adorable yet messy fur babies, or cleaning up after clumsy toddlers, a steam cleaner is a highly regarded sanitation tool guaranteed to make your hectic caretaking easier. Like a vacuum, steam cleaners suck up dirt, hair, and general messes. Unlike a vacuum, however, steam cleaners offer exceptional steaming technology which loosens and lifts stubborn grime more thoroughly than typical vacuum suction. Since steamers use regular tap water without any need for extra chemicals, many customers find the product extremely worth the investment. Check out our best steam cleaners' guide to find the model that's best for you.
Considerations when choosing steam cleaners
There are a few different types of steam cleaners on the market. Here's a quick summary of the three main types available:
Mop steam cleaners
Steam mops come in a larger construction and, like your average mop, include either microfiber pads for catching loose dirt or attachable scrubbers to eradicate the more stubborn gunk that accumulates over the years. Many buyers appreciate the reusability of the pads and attachable accessories, which consequently aid the environment while saving hard-earned money. These heavy-duty steamers work best for loose crumbs, sticky messes, and sanitizing hard surfaces. Unfortunately, steam mops aren't meant to be used on carpeting but are a must-have for deep cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, and garages.
Canister steam cleaners
Canister steam cleaners are the go-to product for customers wanting to treat a wide range of home flooring, including hardwood, tile, and carpets. These models arrive with attachable accessories to treat the variety of spaces within your home--a jet nozzle, an angled brush, a squeegee, microfiber pads, and an extension wand are just a few of the possible attachments. These attachments make the machine useful for cleaning bathtubs, grills, kitchen counters, stoves, tire rims, and car upholstery, all alongside its multipurpose floor sanitation. However, be aware that canister steam cleaners must be used on sealed hardwood and linoleum.
Handheld steam cleaners
Customers wanting a smaller, lightweight model should opt for a handheld steam cleaner. Like the canister, handheld steam cleaners often include a variety of attachments for multipurpose functions. Unlike the canister, handhelds are conveniently portable for buyers who want to use their steam cleaner in larger or two story homes. Though it would be difficult for the small, handheld device to sanitize your floors, these models are extremely successful at deep cleaning kitchen and bathroom appliances, and hard-to-reach areas. Be aware that the water tank is much smaller in this model than in the mop or canister steamers, which means you will have to refill the water tank with every 10 to 20 minutes of cleaning.
When deciding on a steam cleaner, it will be helpful to consider a size that fits your needs. Larger steam cleaners tend to be more heavy-duty, especially when sanitizing large swathes of flooring. Mid-size models can usually be wheeled around like a vacuum, but can be a hassle when moving up or down stairs. Smaller cleaners are fabulous for portability, but often fall short for large-scale cleaning needs. Another sizing issue to take into account is the water tank capacity. The largest water tanks will allow you to clean for upwards of 45 minutes without having to refill the steamer, while smaller tanks can only steam for about 10 minutes before requiring more water.
Steam cleaners tend to run in the $25 to $200 range based on the kind of steamer you are looking to purchase.
Cheaper steam mops are priced around $60, while the more expensive models can be found for about $150.
Canister steamers are more expensive in nature due to their convenient versatility. These are usually priced between $100 and $200.
Handhelds are the cheapest of the bunch, starting around $25 while the more quality brands come in around $40.
Other important details
Many buyers are unaware of the variety of surfaces steam cleaners are able to sanitize. Here is a brief list of items that could use a steam cleaning treatment: carpets, sealed flooring, mattresses, trash cans, grills, toilets, sinks, bathtubs, kitchen appliances, countertops, mirrors, toys, car exteriors and interiors, draperies -- and the list goes on! Fun fact: the steam of many cleaners is even hot enough to kill off unwanted pests, such as viruses, fleas, and bedbugs.
Q: Can I replace my vacuum with a steam cleaner?
A: Definitely not. Manufacturers recommend you vacuum flooring before using any type of water-based cleaning device.
Q: Are there any surfaces I should avoid steam cleaning?
A: You'll want to avoid leather, unsealed flooring, wallpaper, and delicate fabric.
Steam cleaners we recommend
Best of the best: McCulloch Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner
Our take: The go-to steam cleaner for customers needing a versatile machine with a variety of attachments.
What we like: One of the best deep cleaning steamers available for online purchase. Wheeled tank offers simple transport system.
What we dislike: More expensive than other canister steam cleaners.
Best bang for your buck: Bissell Powerfresh
Our take: Customers wanting an inexpensive steam mop will find their match in this ridiculously popular model.
What we like: Especially helpful in cleaning hard floors and deodorizing pet dander. Three levels of steam, depending on the severity of the grime.
What we dislike: Optional Spring Breeze scent annoys some buyers.
Choice 3: Dirt Devil Easy Steam
Our take: One of our top choices for handheld steam cleaners with its reputable brand and helpful attachments.
What we like: Relatively inexpensive when compared with canister and mop steamers. Extremely portable. Easy to store.
What we dislike: Not the most effective option for cleaning large items, such as floors or countertops.
Moriah Lee is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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