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The Best Steam Cleaners and Steam Mops

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Tackle grime in bathrooms, kitchens and anywhere else in the home with versatile steam cleaners and mops.

There’s nothing you can’t clean with the right tools and a bit of elbow grease, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it easier. Steam cleaners are great for wiping the grime from almost any hard surface – or even cleaning some soft furnishings. They’ll make light work of your kitchen and bathroom, and they can sort out worked-in dirt and stains that you’ll struggle to shift through other means. They can do so without chemicals – a huge plus if you’re worried about what you’re breathing in – and they can kill off fleas and dust-mites as quickly as germs, which makes them especially useful if you have pets.

Be warned, though, that steam cleaners come in a range of different shapes and sizes and that picking the best one for you isn’t easy. Here we’ve pulled together a few things you ought to consider before you buy.

The best steam mops and steam cleaners you can buy

1. Vileda Steam Mop

If you’re just looking for a simple steam mop to clean your floors, the Vileda Steam Mop is the best of the budget options. It’s incredibly easy to use, with very few buttons, and the 400ml water tank will keep you cleaning for more than 15 minutes at a time, with just a 15-second wait while it heats when you need to refill it. It’s very light, but it’s brilliant at cleaning away tough stains on hard floors, and even comes with a plastic glider for giving rugs and carpets a clean.

If you’ve got a larger space to clean or a lot of messy devils in your household, you might want something with more beef. The Vileda isn’t as versatile as more expensive steam mops and it struggles with more substantial build-ups of dirt. You need to turn the power up to max to get the best from it. For those with lighter cleaning needs, though, this mop is just the ticket.

Key specs – Type: Steam mop; Water tank capacity: 400ml; Power: 1,550W; Max steam pressure: Not supplied; Accessories provided: Filling jug, 2 x microfibre heads, carpet glider; Cord length: 6m; Dimensions: 21 x 29 x 130cm; Weight: 2.5kg; Warranty: 1 year

2. Shark S6003UK Klik n' Flip Automatic Steam Mop

The Shark S6003UK is a steam mop, pure and simple, with no attachments or abilities to clean anything much above floor level – just a large microfibre pad at the bottom of the stalk. On the other hand, what a steam mop. Used in its default position, the pad gets damp and hot, perfect for wiping grime from tiles or vinyl flooring. Flip it the other way, and it unleashes a powerful jet of steam as you push, obliterating any dirt or caked-on scum in its path. 

The 380ml water tank is only good for around ten to 12 minutes of steaming, but that should be enough for a couple of good-sized rooms at the pace this steam mop works, and you can refill the tank whenever you need to through the pull out filling flap. Shark even throws in a handy jug. With a choice of three steam settings, this one can cope with more sensitive floors as well as hard-wearing tiles and vinyl, although you should still check the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s quick to get going, with less than a minute of heating time before it’s steaming up and, most important of all, it’s actually fun to use. All that gushing steam makes mopping floors a blast!

Key specs – Type: Steam Mop; Water tank capacity: 380ml; Power: 1,200W; Max steam pressure: Not supplied; Accessories provided: 2x microfibre pads; Cord length: 8m; Dimensions: 10 x 11 x 119cm; Weight: 2.7kg; Warranty: 2 years

3. Russell Hobbs Poseidon

The Russell Hobbs Poseidon is another clever 2-in-1 hybrid, with the central section containing the boiler and the water tank detaching from the handle to work as a handheld cleaner. As a mop, it’s impressive, dispensing plenty of deep-cleaning steam from the head to wipe all the grime from your vinyl or hard flooring, and Russell Hobbs includes a glider attachment for easy steaming of your carpets and upholstery. It’s light and surprisingly agile, swivelling to reach into tricky corners. It also helps that the water tank is, at 500ml, larger than the average, and removable for filling. A full tank lasted us just under 20 minutes, and there’s also a smaller 120ml detergent tank.

What really makes this one great, however, is the wide range of accessories. You get a window squeegee for windows and shower cubicles, an extension hose, an angled nozzle, and four different brushes, including a special one for grout and a copper one for serious grime, although you don’t want to use it on anything that might scratch. There’s also a scraper tool that’s great for tackling any hardened bathroom gunge. With a bit more steam power than most hybrids, it’s an impressively versatile machine that masters more tasks than you might expect.

Key specs – Type: Hybrid steam mop; Water tank capacity: 500ml; Power: 1,500W; Max steam pressure: Not stated; Accessories provided: 2 x microfibre cloth, carpet glider, extension hose, squeegee, angled nozzle, 2 x nylon brushes, grout brush, scraper, copper brush; Cord length: 5m; Dimensions: 32 x 26 x 110cm; Weight: 3.5kg; Warranty: 2 years

4. Kärcher SC3 EasyFix

Kärcher’s mid-range EasyFix steam cleaner isn’t just easy to set-up, it’s also incredibly easy to use. The extension tubes and mop head just click one by one onto the nozzle, then you fill the tank through the recessed hole in the top, which incorporates a built-in anti-limescale filter. Within a minute (slightly longer than the claimed thirty seconds) it’s built up a good head of steam, and from there it’ll keep on going until the water runs out. With a max 1L tank, this will happen after ten to fifteen minutes of solid cleaning, but it’s not a problem; you can tip in more water without powering off.

This wouldn’t be so impressive if it was an underwhelming cleaner, but it’s fantastically beefy, dispensing plenty of hot steam with every squeeze of the trigger and handling dirt and grime without mercy. Disconnect the extension tubes and add the smaller head or brush attachment and it’s just as happy cleaning tiles, shower enclosures, splashbacks, sinks and more.

It’s practical, too. The main unit is surprisingly light and easy to lug around the house, while the 4m cable and 2m steam hose give you plenty of reach. Other cleaners will do carpets and give you more accessories, but when you need serious cleaning power, the SC3 EasyFix has what it takes.

Key specs – Type: Steam cleaner; Water tank capacity: 1l; Power: 1,900W; Max steam pressure: 3.5 bar; Accessories provided: Floor nozzle, hand nozzle round brush; Cord length: 4m; Dimensions: 29 x 19 x 111cm; Weight: 3.56Kg; Warranty: 1 year

How to buy the best steam cleaner for you

What sort of steam cleaner should I buy?

Steam cleaners come in three basic formats. First, you have the classic steam cleaner, comprising the steamer unit, where the water is housed and boiled, which connects through a pipe to the head, where the steam is dispensed. The main head is usually a mop head, where some kind of pad or microfibre cloth is attached so that the steam separates the grime from the surface and the pad or cloth wipes it away. However, steam cleaners usually come with a selection of attachments, including brushes for intensive cleaning of smaller areas and scrapers or wipers for, say, cleaning worktops or glass.

Second, you have steam mops. These integrate the boiler and the head into one upright cleaning machine. As the name suggests, these are really designed to work as a super-powered mop, but a growing number can also double as a regular steam cleaner, either by having a smaller, removable boiler unit or by allowing you to attach additional heads instead of the mop head. They’re now almost as versatile as the classic steam cleaner, but they’re easy to use and very compact.

Finally, you can also buy smaller handheld steam cleaners. These are great for cleaning up the kitchen and bathroom, but with small tanks and less powerful boilers they’re not really designed for tackling larger areas.

What should I look out for?

Steam cleaners differ a lot in terms of their capacity, convenience and cleaning power. Obviously, the size of the tank makes a big difference – on some models you can only refill the tank once the steam has turned off and cooled, which means you’re limited by how much water you can fit in the tank. Other models have a separate feeder tank that you can refill while the cleaner is in use, but even then refilling can be a pain. The more cleaning you can do without stopping, the better.

The power of the boiler also has an impact, simply because it can take time to boil and pressurise the steam, ready for cleaning. Newer cleaners have got a lot better at reducing that wait time, but it can still be several minutes before you get what you might call a usable head of steam. What’s more, many steamers need a breather now and then while they get a decent steam together before they can continue. Some cleaners are better at minimising this than others.

The other thing to watch out for is pressure. The higher the steam pressure, the faster the steam jets out and the better it is at dissolving dirt and grime. For this reason, a steam cleaner that can put out 3.5 to 4 bar of pressure will have a lot more cleaning power than a handheld cleaner with less than 3 bar.

Are there any practicalities worth thinking about?

Take a good look at the accessories you get with the cleaner. The more brushes, nozzles and scrapers the better, while a gliding mop-head cover for doing carpets is another big plus. Also, watch out for the mains lead and the length of any steam hose, as nothing’s more frustrating than not being able to steam clean in the corner of your shower because it won’t quite reach without an extension cable.

In the past, some steam cleaners required distilled or deionized water or they’d soon get clogged with limescale. Many recent models aren’t so fussy and contain some kind of filter or limescale prevention system, though it’s still worth using filtered water if you live in a hard water area.

Finally, make sure the surfaces you want to mop can cope with steam cleaning before you buy a steam cleaner. While hardwood floors, tiles, most worktops and sheet vinyl flooring are fine to clean with a steam cleaner, some softwood, laminate or modular floorings are a no-go, and will still need to be cleaned with a broom, mop or vacuum cleaner, unless you like the sight of an expensive kitchen floor peeling up before your eyes.

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