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Home steam cleaners are a great weapon in your home cleaning arsenal! Although less essential than a good vacuum cleaner, they are becoming more popular and more affordable and can really add an extra sparkle to your home. Many people look to purchase these to assist in cleaning their bathrooms and kitchens, although they can be put to use in any room with a tiled floor or other hard surface. The high pressure steam that is generated by steam cleaners is effective in attacking and loosening dirt and stains from hard surfaces, which can then simply be wiped away with a cloth saving you a ton of elbow grease in the process. They have the benefit of being chemical-free, saving you money on expensive cleaning products and have little ongoing costs other than replacement cloths and pads. Let’s look at the available options and features and what you can expect to spend to add these to your home cleaning tool set.
Types of Home Steam Cleaners
Home steam cleaners can be broadly categorized into three main types: handheld, mop and multi-purpose. Details below give an idea of the differences. You will also find two-in-one steam cleaners, which usually combine a steam mop for floors with a hand held steam cleaner that can be used for other areas such as wall tiles and glass. Features and attachments vary between models, which impacts on their cleaning ability, so once you’ve decided on a type it’s important to check or compare what you get with a particular model before you buy. We’ll look at some of the main differences between models so you are informed and know what is available and can decide what is important to you.
Hand Held Steam Cleaners
These are portable, lightweight home steam cleaners, which are compact and easy to store for quick access when you need it. They are your best bet if you’re only looking to steam clean small areas like bathroom tiles, bath/ shower and kitchen surfaces, oven/ hob or hard to reach corners and crevices. They aren’t the best choice if you have large floor surface areas that you want to steam clean. They are also not usually suitable to be used for steam-cleaning curtains and mattresses, as they are not able to extract the water left behind from the steam and will leave these surfaces wet.
Handheld steam cleaners deliver a concentrated burst of steam through a nozzle. They come with a range of attachments for tackling different surfaces and getting into all of those hard to reach corners and crevices.
The price range for handheld steam cleaners is between $35 to $75.
These are the most popular type of home steam cleaners for hard floors. They stand upright with a long handle where the water tank is usually fitted (so comparable in style to an upright vacuum). Steam mops can save you many hours when compared to using a traditional mop and bucket. This is the case if you purchase a good quality, top performing steam mop.
However, beware that there are many steam mops out there that do not perform and will not leave you any better off than if you saved your money on stuck with a mop and bucket! Check out our review of the Best Steam Mop for hardwood floors.
As mentioned, it is common to find steam mops that double up as a hand held steam cleaner, which are called two-in-one steam cleaners, such as this Dirt Devil two-in-one steam mop pictured.
The price range for steam mops (including two-in-one steam cleaners) is between $45 to $120
Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaners
Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaners (also known as canister, barrel or cylinder steam cleaners) are comparable in style to a canister vacuum cleaner. They consist of a base unit to generate the steam and a flexible hose with different nozzles and attachments to deliver the pressurized steam when a trigger is pulled.
The better models include a steam mop attachment for use with cleaning large floor areas. Some premium home steam cleaners include additional attachments such as steam irons for efficient ironing of clothes to really get the most out of your machine.
They are usually the heaviest type of home steam cleaner primarily due to the larger volume of water that they carry so you don't need to refill them as often and have longer uninterrupted steaming time. They are typically larger, more powerful home steam cleaners than the handheld or mop versions. They can be used for a wide variety of tough tasks such as cleaning floors, appliances such as ovens and BBQs, baths and kitchen sinks, wall tiles and grout and upholstery.
They are not as handy as handheld cleaners or steam mops due to their larger size. It also takes longer for the water in their tanks to heat up, which can vary between 4 and 12 minutes depending on the model (compared to less than a minute for handheld/ mop steam cleaners) so look out for this in the specification.
The price range for multi-purpose steam cleaners is from $60 to $300.
With some careful consideration you can find a good value, affordable home steam cleaner that will really assist in making your home sparkle with the minimum of time and effort. It's important to assess the quality of the home steam cleaners that you are considering by checking over the specification and learning about its features. Additional points that you should take into account when considering a home steam cleaner are as follows:
- Length of power cord - make sure that the power cord is long enough to reach all of the areas that you want to clean, particularly as many bathrooms don’t have power sockets - you don’t want to end up only being able to steam clean half of your bath!
- Size of water tank - the larger the water tank, the longer you can clean before refilling and reheating, which is referred to as the steaming time in specifications. The size of the tank also relates to the time it takes for the water to heat up.
- Steam pressure rating - the stronger the pressure the easier it will be to remove the dirt and grime, aim for a pressure of 3-bar and higher for best results.
- Steam quality - lower-quality cleaners produce more water than steam. The best steam cleaners use dry steam because it is highly effective and leaves less residue than other cleaners. Note that even with less residue, steam cleaners only loosen the dirt from the surface and you will still need to wipe down the surface with a cloth to pick up the dirt afterwards.
- Attachments - as we’ve pointed out in previous sections, the attachments can make a big difference to the usefulness of a steam cleaner so you need to decide on which attachments you need. The main attachments on offer for you to consider are:
- Window Squeegee - for cleaning glass
- Scrubbing brushes – for removal of the toughest embedded dirt on hard surfaces
- Scrubbing pad - to loosen grease and grime from ovens, hobs or BBQs with ease
- Cleaning pads - for wiping surfaces down, these are generally machine washable, however will require replacing at some point and this will come at a cost.
- Carpet glider – This tool allows steam cleaners to be used on carpets, although they are not carpet cleaners. They can only be used to “refresh” carpets by killing some of the embedded bacteria and dust mites or for “spot cleaning” of carpets to loosen hardened dirt or stains, which can then be vacuumed up afterwards. For a deep cleanse a dedicated carpet cleaner is required.
- Upholstery tool - to refresh and remove stains from fabric upholstery
- Warranty - as with vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners come with a variety of warranty periods and terms and you should check what is offered in the specification. Aim for a minimum of 12 months, however there are models offering 2 years warranty.
So that brings our guide to home steam cleaners to a close, we hope you’ve found it informative. As always, if you have any comments on the article please let us know over at the contact page. We will be providing a review article on the top steam cleaners based on our market research in the near future so be sure to look out for that if you are on the hunt for a top home steam cleaner!