“Buy a steam cleaner for my house? I can do a good job with my mop and vacuum and I can call a pro to steam the rugs once a year if I need to. Isn’t having my own steam cleaner overkill?”
Truthfully, it’s not. Using steam is a better choice for many reasons: it’s environmentally-friendly because you don’t need to use possibly-harmful (and smelly) detergents, your floors will dry more quickly, steam kills bacteria that will survive a traditional mopping, it works better to remove ground-in dirt and stains while saving you from back-breaking scrubbing – and you only need one appliance to get your floors sparkling clean.
One other note: if you suffer from asthma or allergies, there’s no question you should be thinking about steam cleaners. The dust mites, animal dander, and other culprits that affect the quality of the air you breathe bury themselves deep into your carpet or upholstery (yes, steam cleaners can be used on upholstery as well), and you owe it to yourself to have a steam machine that will eradicate them before they make you sick. A steam cleaner will also get rid of bedbugs effectively.
You may be visualizing one of those enormous steam machines that large firms or professional cleaning companies use, but fortunately, you won’t need one of those. There’s a steam cleaning machine for every size of home and every budget. We’ll run down Groom+Style’s top 5 steam machine review after going a little more in-depth on what you should be looking for.
Types of Steam Cleaners
More power and more versatility almost always mean a higher price tag, and that’s certainly the case for steam cleaners. We’re not talking about commercial steam machines which can cost anywhere from $750 to thousands of dollars, but you’re not going to find one of these powerful home units for $100, either.
Canister vs. Vapor Steam Cleaners
There are two types of full-featured home steam cleaners. The first is a canister (or cylinder) model with the hose attached to a fairly large, wheeled water tank that you pull behind you, somewhat like old-fashioned vacuums. These aren’t the most convenient machines on the market, but they make up for it with all they can do. The amount of steam they produce does an exceptional job of cleaning. The tank’s capacity allows you to take care of an entire home while keeping refills to a minimum. And they normally come with a large assortment of attachments that let you steam countertops, drapes, and many other things as well as floors.
Even higher on the food chain (and price scale) is a vapor steam cleaner. It’s similar to a canister model (with all of the same benefits) except that it heats the water in the tank to a much higher temperature. That extra heat removes all of the excess water in the steam so only pure, “dry” steam is released from the hose and attachment – and there’s no time required for floors to dry after they’ve been cleaned.
Too much cleaner, or too much money? There are less expensive but very effective options… Introducing the steam mop which is built like a stick vacuum with a smaller water tank attached to the stick. For obvious reasons, it’s much easier to maneuver, but for reasons just as obvious it requires more frequent refills. A steam mop is a great choice for smaller homes or smaller budgets and provides most of the same benefits (like being eco-friendly and efficiently killing bacteria). The power of the steam and the number of attachments will vary with the model.
In this article we’re sticking to canister and vapor units, because you can read Groom+Style’s detailed steam mop reviews elsewhere on our site.
Handheld Steam Cleaner
Finally, you can choose a portable handheld steam cleaner which is best utilized for spot cleaning or sanitizing areas like countertops and windowsills. The small water tanks and lesser power provided by handheld units aren’t going to do a satisfactory job cleaning your entire floor, but they’re definitely convenient.
What to Look For In the Best Steam Cleaner
Choosing the type of steam cleaner that best meets your needs and budget will be the most important factor in deciding which one to purchase. After that, here are the other criteria you’ll want to consider.
Size and Weight
Canister and vapor units will be larger than steam mops and handhelds, but they still vary widely in size and weight. Be sure you’ll be comfortable pushing (or pulling) the cleaner around, and that you’ll have somewhere to store it when it’s not in use. A closely related factor is the size of the water tank; not only will that determine how often you’ll have to refill your machine, but how heavy it will be when the tank is full. A cleaner with a smaller tank will heat up more quickly, too. (Some machines have dual tanks, so you get even more cleaning time without stopping to refill.)
The effectiveness of the Clean
The effectiveness of a steam cleaner primarily depends on how hot the steam gets and the pressure at which it’s released. It’s also important that the unit maintains constant pressure, so that you get a consistent clean. Needless to say, hotter temperatures and consistent, high pressure usually also mean a pricier model.
Finally, think about the attachments you’ll want. Nozzles, brushes and crevice tools similar to the ones you get with a vacuum will be more than enough if you only plan to clean your floors, but many units also come with attachments for jobs like cleaning upholstery, stairs, tile and curtains, plus accessories like microfiber mop pads.
Enough introduction. Here’s a review team list of the 5 best steam cleaners that you can use in your living room.
1. McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner
Powerful, versatile and very reasonably priced – it’s no secret why the canister-style MC1275 hits the top of our Groom+Style rankings. This steam cleaner is lighter than you’d expect when you first see it, weighing less than ten pounds (with an empty tank) and quite easy to maneuver around the house on its caster wheels.
This McCulloch model has a tank that can hold 48 ounces of water, heating up in around ten minutes and giving you about 45 minutes of cleaning time before you need to refill it. The slight downside (not unusual for steam cleaners) is that you have to wait for the machine to cool down before you refill the tank, but 45 minutes should be plenty of time to clean the floors and rugs in an average home.
The steam level is quite powerful for a cleaner of this size and in this price range, and does an excellent job on floors, tile, counters, appliances, bathroom fixtures, outdoor furniture – the list goes on. There’s also a convenient locking button so you don’t have to keep a button pressed for the steam to flow continuously as you work. One warning, though; the handle can get rather hot if you do that. The MC1275 comes with 18 different attachments including two wands, floor brushes, tile nozzles, upholstery brush, and a squeegee.
The McCulloch Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner doesn’t do quite the same job as an expensive commercial model, but it’s a great home machine for the money and is wonderfully maneuverable and lightweight.
Facts and figures on the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner:
2. Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner
This Steamfast model didn’t quite make it to the top spot, but the Groom+Style team liked it a lot. It has many of the same advantages as the McCulloch in terms of weight, run time and power. Where it fell a bit short was in its performance on carpet (better for spot cleaning than large rugs) and its accessories (a few less than the McCulloch, and flimsier). However, it still does a very nice job when it comes to the most important factor: performance on most surfaces.[youtube id=”XTjgVosRbp4″ width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
The SF-370WH has a slightly smaller water tank (45 vs. 48 ounces) but still gives you about 45 minutes of steaming time, along with the same convenient “stay on” switch. It’s a bit smaller and lighter than the McCulloch, but the flip side is that it feels less sturdy; this machine is definitely stronger than its provided attachments, but we wouldn’t expect it to be quite as durable as its top competitor. The 15 attachments include a steam mop, lots of brushes (including a brass brush), and a squeegee, but the review team was disappointed that there was no upholstery brush.
With most of the pros of the McCulloch model and at a slightly lower price, the Steamfast is a good choice for those who want a good canister steam cleaner but don’t need “everything.”
Details on the Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner:
3. Vapamore MR-100 Primo Steam Cleaning System
We have really mixed feelings about the Vapamore MR-100. The marketing material implies that it’s a dry vapor machine, but the steam that’s produced is right around water’s boiling point, so you shouldn’t be surprised to sometimes have a somewhat-wet carpet after you’re done cleaning. And the price for this model is around the same as our recommended “true” vapor cleaner (reviewed later on this list), so it’s high-priced for a canister unit.
The problem is: the MR-100 still does a great job – and after all, that’s what matters most. Thus, our mixed feelings.
The stainless steel boiler has a large 54-ounce capacity which gives you a full hour of cleaning time, there’s a control to adjust the amount of steam that shoots through the hose, the lightweight plastic unit is sturdier than it looks, it has an extra-wide head to cover more space than usual, and it moves smoothly on its rubber wheels despite being rather heavy. There’s also a large assortment of accessories with great attention to detail; for example, there are three different nylon brushes (one for grout), and all of the attachments fit nicely into the back of the steamer.
Groom+Style loves the performance of the Primo Steam Cleaner; we just wish that it wasn’t a “tweener,” either always producing dry steam, or priced at the level of other canister models.
Specs for the Vapamore MR-100 Primo Steam Cleaning System:
4. Homegear X100 Portable Multi-Purpose Steam CleanerNo products found.
* Unfortunately this product is no longer available, we are working on a replacement.
Here’s our budget selection, and it has many of the features of our top two Groom+Style choices at about half the price. The X100’s tank holds about 33 ounces which is good for around 35 minutes of steaming time, but it’s just as powerful (1500 watts) as our higher-level picks and heats up in a little less than ten minutes.
The performance of the Homegear steam cleaner isn’t quite up to the level of its more expensive competitors, but it’s close; you won’t be disappointed when doing most of the jobs those competitors do well, particularly when you choose the “high” steam setting. 14 accessories are included to cover most applications, and those on a tight budget will be pleased.
The X100 isn’t the best steam cleaner you can find, but it may be the best you can find for the money. It will handle most day-to-day cleaning jobs better than you’d probably expect after seeing its price tag.
Looking closer at the Homegear X100 Portable Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner:
5. Reliable Brio 250CC Dry Vapor Steam CleanerNo products found.
Most dry vapor machines will end up costing you in the high three-figures (if you’re lucky) or more often, well over a thousand dollars. The Groom+Style review team wanted to include a true vapor steam cleaner on this list, but also understands that most readers aren’t ready to shell out that kind of money for a home unit. That’s how the Reliable Brio 250CC ended up here; it’s still nearly three times as expensive as our #1 rated steam cleaner, but it’s the lowest-priced dry vapor machine we feel comfortable in recommending.
It’s compact, lightweight, and slightly lower-powered (1400 watts) than we’d like. But the water temperature in the boiler reaches 320°, and the dry steam that blasts from the tip is right around 250° – well above boiling point, so your floors or countertops will be receiving pure steam, no water. The tank only holds about 34 ounces but you’ll still get about 45 minutes of continuous use from the Brio, with just a five-minute heat-up time. There are 21 accessories and attachments to cover almost any use you can think of, it cleans extremely well, and it’s hot enough that it’s even effective against many pathogens that some canister models can’t handle. The 360° swivel front wheel is a nice touch, too.
You’ll spend a lot more for a top-quality dry vapor steam cleaner. But the 250CC is a very good quality machine, and a terrific value if you want that hotter dry steam for sanitizing your home.
Digging deeper on the Reliable Brio 250CC Steam Cleaner: