Best steam cleaner 2021: Clean and sterilise floors, surfaces and everything else

We help you find the best steam floor cleaners money can buy...

Best steam cleaner

The best steam cleaner is not something everyone is in search of, but given the many benefits of cleaning with steam, maybe they should. Five years ago you'd be lucky to find one outside of a commercial cleaning firm, but steam cleaners are now the latest must-have home helper. Forget the antiquated mop and bucket, steam cleaners can tackle everything from wall tiles and hobs to wooden floors and bathroom suites eliminating dirt, bacteria and grease with every high pressure pass.

Most are also detergent-free, using the natural power of steam and a microfiber cloth to do the donkey work. This also makes them an eco-friendly, allergy-happy and cost effective cleaning solution. They're also quick drying so you'll never get penned in the corner of the kitchen waiting for the puddles to disappear.

Steam cleaners are all the rage among the safety-conscious brigade who'd rather not be smearing chemical detergents all over the abode.

Steam cleaners are not only adept at removing grime and other ingrained dregs off wooden floors, tiles, grout, ovens, taps and windows, they're also efficient at straightening creases out of curtains and clothing and bringing airborne dust and pet hair to ground. Steam cleaners are also said to kill 99.99% of germs which accounts for roughly .99% more microbe deaths than a bottle of Domestos. Die, you little bastards, die!

How to choose the best steam cleaner for you

Which model you choose will depend on the size and style of your home. If you've got wall-to-wall shag pile carpets a handheld steam cleaner for upholstery, bathroom and kitchen will be ideal, while acres of hard floors and tiles will benefit from an upright modern steam mop or cylinder steamer.

Multi-functional models offer the best of both with various nozzle attachments included to clean everything from rugs and carpets to grouting and glass.

Now, let's get steaming…

5 best steam cleaners 2018

1. Kärcher SC3

The best steam cleaner, with bags of power

Reasons to buy
+Loads of tools included+Heats up in just 30 seconds
Reasons to avoid
-Not a looker

Kärcher is a major player in the steam arena. The Teutonic manufacturer's SC3 holds a single litre of water in its 3.5-bar boiler and heats up in 30 seconds flat – and that's quick.

Its anti-scale cartridge automatically decalcifies hard water – handy for urbanites in hard water areas – while its two-level steam control allows for both general use on floor tiles and baths and heavy duty steam-blasting intensity for grubby grout, toilets, taps and oven hobs. It's easy to store, too, relatively light and not too awkward to pull along. And its two-metre steam hose is long enough for all but the most inaccessible areas.

Like every other steamer on the market, the SC3 comes with more tools than you'll ever need, including a general hand tool, a detail nozzle for the removal of last night's boiled over bolognaise sauce, a round brush for the odd carpet mishap and a 30cm-wide hard floor attachment for restoring your tiled flagstone floors to the condition they were in before you ill-advisedly decided to buy a pair of bearded collies. The unit also comes with the usual gamut of terry cloths to soak up excess water so that all that's left is smear-free cleanliness.

If you're in the market for an extremely powerful steam cleaner that doesn't cost the earth, then give this vigorous vaporiser a whirl. It won't let you down.

2. Polti Vaporetto Airplus

A stylish steamer with large capacity tank

Reasons to buy
+Large 1.6-litre water tank+In-built deodorant reservoir
Reasons to avoid
-Instruction manual not helpful-First pull of trigger can produce water not steam

Produced and assembled in Italy, the dashing pull-along Vaporetto Airplus comes with an ample 1.6-litre water tank that should provide around an hour of steam-cleaning power without the need for constant revisits to the tap. And that's a good thing because the lack of a separate water-filling reservoir means having to wait a few minutes before refilling is allowed (an anti-slacken valve prevents opening until the pressure has dropped). Heat up time is a fairly respectable five minutes.

The Vaporetto is exceedingly well equipped to deal with a wide variety of domestic cleaning tasks; it even has a deodorant reservoir that suffuses the room with a pleasant aroma. Tucked away under the burnished orange and white-liveried body is a compartment containing a multitude of little clip-on tools designed for different cleaning jobs. The instruction manual doesn't let on which tool is best for a particular assignment so experimentation is the order of the day. As with all steam cleaners – and indeed most espresso machine's milk frother attachments – the first pull of the trigger produces as much water as steam. So, to prevent spurting water soaking your curtains or making a mess of the oven hob, we advise holding the unit's hose end over a sink or a bucket first. After a few spluttering seconds it'll start producing clouds of ultra fine steam at a sufficient rate of 85 grams per minute.

The Vaporetto does many tasks very well, but don't expect miracles.

3. Thane H20 X5

A versatile handheld steam cleaner

Reasons to buy
+Easy handheld usage+Heats quickly
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most robust design

Great price considering it comes with enough attachments to clean every conceivable crevice; the H2O X5 converts quickly between handheld and steam mop and heats quickly to avoid unnecessary dripping. Not the sturdiest of designs but considering the choice of brush and pressure nozzle attachments, floor scrubbers, clothes steamer, carpet refresher and window cleaning attachments it's a worthy contender.

4. Vax Steam Fresh Pet steam cleaner

The perfect steam cleaner for pet owners

Reasons to buy
+Specialist pet detergent included+Powerful
Reasons to avoid
-Only 30 minutes steaming timing-Not very portable

Steam is an impressive deodoriser, but if you've got a house full of pets it can still be hard to get rid of their whiff. This powerful 1600W Vax is supplied with a specialist pet detergent which works with the steam to neutralise nastiness. Combined with the removable pet hair pad and compact scrubbing brush your home should stay smelling sweeter for longer. Like spraying Febreeze, but actually cleaning as well.

5. Bissell Vac & Steam

A vacuum and steam cleaner in one

Reasons to buy
+You get a vacuum as well+Steam function can be used separately
Reasons to avoid
-Quite expensive-Ugly design

Logically this 2-in-1 bagless vacuum and steam mop hybrid shouldn't work. The combination of dust and water just screams icky mess to us, but in practice it works like a charm sucking up the dry dust and dirt before the steam and microfiber pad gives the floor a quick drying clean. We're not claiming it is perfect – wet dirt is impossible to ignore – but it's a great time saver especially as the steam can be used separately.