Best steam cleaner 2021 to clean and sterilise floors and surfaces

The best steam cleaners and steam mops to clean and kill bacteria without harsh chemicals

Best steam cleaner: woman cleaning under sofa with Karcher SC3 steam cleaner
(Image credit: Karcher)

The best steam cleaner is a fantastic addition to any home cleaning arsenal. If you haven't embraced the many benefits of cleaning with steam yet well… you should! Several years ago it was unusual to find steam cleaners outside of a commercial cleaning firm, but they are now must-have home helpers, at least, for my money. 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 microfibre 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 house.

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, if you wave them about a bit, 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, germs, die! 

In short, one of the best steam cleaners from the list below will make a formidable partner to your cordless vacuum cleaner, your carpet cleaner, your spare vacuum cleaners and all the other parts of your dirt-blasting arsenal.

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…

The best steam cleaners you can buy

Shark Klik n’ Flip on white background

(Image credit: Shark)

1. Shark Klik n’ Flip

The best steam cleaner or steam mop pound for pound

Reasons to buy
+Top performer for the price+Large mop head+Ingenious mop fitting mechanism+Three steam levels
Reasons to avoid
-For floors only

Pound for pound, this is your best bet for steam cleaning hard floors. At a shade under £100 the Shark Klik n’ Flip is excellent value. At 33cm in width and 18cm in depth, the Shark’s thick, wooly wrap-around mopping pad covers a lot of ground per sweep and that’s a big plus if you have a large abode. The mopping pad is also reversible to some degree and, rather cleverly, it can be attached to and removed from the floor plate without touching it. 

Granted, it takes a while to get the hang of its Transformer-like mechanism but you’ll love the way the two sides unfold to accommodate the pad in a single fluid motion. Another cool thing is that, in reverse mode, if you lean the handle backwards it exposes a nozzle that automatically blasts tougher stains off the floor. 

The Shark Klik n’ Flip is extremely easy to use: simply fill the fixed 0.35-litre reservoir with water using the supplied plastic jug, select one of its three steam intensities and push and pull it along the floor. Although it didn’t necessarily outperform the Kärcher or Bissell models below, its much lower price is the ultimate clincher.

Kärcher SC3 Upright Premium on white background

(Image credit: Karcher)

2. Kärcher SC3 Upright Premium

Brilliant steam mop from the Germanic meister of jet washers

Reasons to buy
+Heats up in just 30 seconds+Superb performance on all types of hard floor+Three levels of steam+Comes with calcium filter
Reasons to avoid
-For hard floors only-Not the cheapest around

Kärcher is a major player in the steam arena. The Teutonic manufacturer's SC3 upright holds a half a litre of water in its boiler and it heats up in 30 seconds flat – and that's quick. Its anti-scale cartridge, meanwhile, automatically decalcifies hard water – handy for urbanites in high calcium areas – while its three-level steam control allows use on tiled, stone and sealed wood flooring.

The SC3 is relatively easy to store though you will need to prop it up against a wall. It’s also pretty light and not too awkward to push and pull, while its seven-metre cable is long enough for all but the most inaccessible areas.

This model ticked all the boxes in our full test so 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.

• Read our full Kärcher SC3 Upright Premium review

Bissell Power Fresh Slimsteam on white background

(Image credit: Bissell)

3. Bissell PowerFresh SlimSteam

Multi-faceted steam cleaner for floors and other areas

Reasons to buy
+Great on hard floors+Can be used as a hand held+Comes with a selection of accessories
Reasons to avoid
-A bit pricier than some of its competitors

Bissell has three steam cleaners on its roster, including a model that vacuums as well as steams, plus the little SteamShot we review below. Although it’s ostensibly for deep cleaning hard floors, the SlimSteam also comes with a raft of accessory tools that can be used with or without the extension tube – a six-bristle grout tool which is a boon for tiled flooring, a detail nozzle for cleaning the gas hob, a round brush for the odd carpet mishap and a scraper tool for removing recent oven stains.

The SlimSteam’s 35cm-wide hard floor attachment is perfect 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 extra long 7.6-metre cable meanwhile provides ample reach.

Thankfully this model comes with two mops and they’re both machine washable – another bonus since you won’t believe the amount of muck they remove after only a brief session. Although the water tank is only .35 litres in capacity, it proved to be large enough for our test kitchen. 

The Bissell PowerFresh SlimSteam isn’t the cheapest model on the shelf but some users will come to appreciate its ability to function as a handheld device as well as a bona fide floor cleaner.

Karcher SC3 EasyFix on white background

(Image credit: Karcher)

4. Karcher SC3 Easyfix

Best cylinder steam cleaner

Reasons to buy
+Can be used on all surfaces, not just floors+Excellent cleaning ability+Water filter lasts a long time
Reasons to avoid
-Most people find steam mops easier for floors-Water tank could be bigger

Kärcher is a major player in the steam arena and here it is again in this list. The Teutonic manufacturer's SC3 EasyFix 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.

Vax Steam Fresh Combi on white background

(Image credit: Vax)

5. Vax Steam Fresh Combi

A sterling steam operator for hard floors and bathroom tiles

Reasons to buy
+Excellent hand held system+Very good performance on hard floors+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Not the prettiest model on the shelf

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 model is supplied with 250ml of specialist detergent which works with the steam to neutralise nastiness. 

Rather ingeniously, the Vax’s boiler housing unclips from the upright unit so it can be used as a handheld. Oh, and its 8-metre cable not only wraps around the two spindles but there’s a UK-shaped plug hole for the plug so it doesn’t swing about while you carry it. 

Aside from the two easily detachable microfibre cleaning pads, the Vax Steam Fresh Combi comes with a veritable shedload of accessories – 11 in all, including a concentration nozzle, a grout brush for both floor and wall tiles, a metal brush for industrial-strength cleaning, two nylon bristle brushes, a window-cleaning tool, a carpet glider and a short extension hose for hand-held use. All tools fit onto the main body so you don’t lose them. 

If you’re in the market for a cracking steam cleaner that covers every conceivable base in the home, this is clearly the model for you.

Bissell Steamshot on white background

(Image credit: Bissell)

6. Bissell Steamshot

The perfect mini steamer for detail cleaning

Reasons to buy
+Compact size+Lightweight+Cheap to buy+Comes with many detail tools
Reasons to avoid
-No good on floors, obviously

This compact 1,000-watt handheld steamer weighs just 1.5 kilograms and is just the ticket for a plethora of smaller cleaning tasks around the home. It’s an absolute doddle to use because it only has one steam strength and a simple thumb trigger on the rear. Simply fill the titchy 0.36-litre boiler with water, wait about a minute and start steaming. Aside from its huge tranche of accessories – a detail blast nozzle, a nylon mini brush for cleaning around taps, a glass cleaner and all-important grout-cleaning brush – it also ships with a short 80cm extension hose for added convenience.

I wouldn’t bother trying to tackle the glass door on the oven with it since no steam cleaner I’ve ever used has made an ounce of impression in this regard but for day to day whizzes about the home, it’s a very handy little tool indeed. At a snip under £50, it’s great value, too.

Polti Vaporetto Pro 85 Flexi on white background

(Image credit: Polti)

7. Polti Vaporetto Pro 85 Flexi

A stylish pull-along steamer with large capacity tank

Reasons to buy
+Large 1.3-litre water tank+Continuous refill+Comes with loads of tools
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty pricy

Produced and allegedly assembled in Italy, the dashing pull-along Vaporetto Pro 85 comes with an ample 1.3-litre water tank that can be filled while the machine is running so you could feasibly steam till the cows come home with no interruptions. Mind, at around six minutes, its initial heat-up time is quite a bit longer than most.

The Vaporetto is exceedingly well equipped to deal with a wide variety of domestic cleaning tasks. This writer isn’t a fan of domestic appliances that come with a zillion tools but at least this model provides the space under its opaque hood to store them all. For the record, aside from the main floor pad, it also ships with a carpet glider, a window brush, a steam concentrator with brush tip and a small plastic brush with nylon bristles.

At around £250, the Pro 85 is one of the more expensive options on the market but if you have a large home and are a bit OCD about cleanliness on a grand scale, the Polti Vaporetto Pro 85 Flexi might just be what you’re looking for.

Don't fancy expending any energy to clean the floor? See our guide to the Best Robot Mops

Karcher SC3 EasyFix on white background

(Image credit: Karcher)

5. Karcher SC3 Easyfix

Best cylinder steam cleaner

Reasons to buy
+Can be used on all surfaces, not just floors+Excellent cleaning ability+Water filter lasts a long time
Reasons to avoid
-Most people find steam mops easier for floors-Water tank could be bigger

Kärcher is a major player in the steam arena and here it is again in this list. The Teutonic manufacturer's SC3 EasyFix 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.

Derek Adams
Derek Adams

Derek (aka Delbert, Delvis, Delphinium, etc) specialises in home and outdoor wares, from coffee machines, white appliances and vacs to drones, garden gear and BBQs. He has been writing for more years than anyone can remember, starting at the legendary Time Out magazine – the original, London version. He now writes for T3.