Steam Cleaners Buying Guide

Steam Cleaners Buying Guide

May 13, 2016

Thinking of buying a steam cleaner but aren’t sure where to start? In this handy buyer’s guide we aim to make things easy by providing you with a simple run-down of the various types, styles, technologies and accessories available.

How a steam cleaner works

Virtually all steam cleaners operate on the same principle; they have a heating element that rapidly turns water into steam – steam which is then applied at high pressure to remove stubborn dirt, grease and grime. This technique is also very effective at eliminating bacteria, dust mites and other allergens.

Types of steam cleaner

The three most common steam cleaners are upright steam mops, handheld steam cleaners and cylinder steam cleaners. Each type has its own advantages.

  • Upright steam mops: These look a bit like a vacuum cleaner, but where a vacuum cleaner would have a dust chamber, a steam mop has a water tank. It’s used in much the same way as a vacuum cleaner too (you simply glide it around the floor). Upright steam mops have rapid heat-up times; often you can start cleaning within 30 seconds of switching it on.
  • Handheld steam cleaners: If you’re cleaning on a small scale or in hard-to-reach areas, a handheld steam cleaner may be the best option. They’re easy to handle, simple to use and they store neatly away in a small cupboard after use. You’ll notice that some upright steam mops can be converted into handheld steam cleaners.
  • Cylinder steam cleaners: These are made up of a separate cylinder unit, a flexible hose and a cleaning head. This design usually means you get a longer cleaning time but a slower heat-up time.

What you should look out for

  • Power – More power (a higher wattage) generally means a greater cleaning action, although this isn’t always the case. Other factors, including the design of the cleaning head, can influence how effective the steam cleaner is.
  • Steam control – Most steam cleaners have a dial that allows you to adjust steam output according to the surface you’re cleaning.
  • Capacity – Some steam cleaners can hold more water than others, which means you can go for longer without having to fill up. This is particularly true of cylinder cleaners, which tend to hold over a litre of water. However, the larger the capacity, the slower it is to heat up.
  • Heat-up time – This really depends on how long you’re prepared to wait to get cleaning. Most upright steam mops and handheld cleaners are ready to go in under a minute, whereas cylinder cleaners can take longer.
  • Weight – Needless to say, the lighter and more compact the steam cleaner, the easier it is to use.
  • Versatility – How many different surfaces can you clean with it? Some steam cleaners can be used on hard floors only, whereas others can be used on everything from carpets, cushions and curtains to ovens, tiles and windows. How versatile your steam cleaner is usually depends on how many accessories you get with it.
  • Anti-scale features – A steam cleaner with anti-scale technology will usually perform better over a longer period of time, so this is definitely something to look out for. 

Steam cleaner accessories guide

Steam cleaners tend to come with a range of attachments that enable you to carry out a variety of cleaning tasks. Things to look out for include:

  • Floor cloths/Microfibre pads – These usually come as standard with your steam cleaner. They are suitable for use on most floor surfaces and in most cases can be machine washed as needed.
  • Carpet glider – This is a piece of plastic that attaches directly to the cleaning head, allowing you to glide over carpets and rugs more easily.
  • Nozzles – Attaching a nozzle to your steam cleaner allows you to clean in tighter spaces and in narrower gaps.
  • Scrubbing pads/brushes – Stubborn dirt, grease and grime requires a tough cleaning action: scrubbing pads and brushes help to make light work of it. They are particularly useful for cleaning ovens and tiles.
  • Upholstery/garment tools – Many steam cleaners come with an attachment for freshening up cushions, curtains and even items of clothing.
  • Squeegee – Turns your steam cleaner into a very handy window cleaner. 

Steam Cleaner FAQs

Do I need to put detergent in my steam cleaner?

Adding a detergent or any other chemical is not usually necessary. You can achieve great results with water alone. Some steam cleaners may use detergents for tackling tough stains and eradicating pet odours.

How much does it cost to run a steam cleaner?

Good news. Most steam cleaners are extremely efficient, which means cleaning a kitchen floor can cost you as little as 1p in electricity.

Can I machine wash steam cleaner cloths?

In most cases yes, but you should always check the label or packaging first. Being able to machine wash your cloths saves you having to buy replacements.

Which water should I use in my steam cleaner?

You can use hard or soft water, but we highly recommend using a deioniser or buying a steam cleaner that has one built in if you live in a hard water area. This is because hard water has a high content of lime which can block up the cleaning head and affect performance in the same way it does with an iron. Another option is to purchase bottles of deionised water.

Will it clean carpets and upholstery?

A steam cleaner will certainly freshen up carpets and upholstery (and possibly even break down tough stains), but it won’t clean them in the same way as a specialised upholstery or carpet cleaner will.

Are steam cleaners good for allergy sufferers?

Yes. Research has shown that steam cleaners help to reduce allergen counts within the home.

Will a steam cleaner eliminate bacteria?

Most manufacturers state that their steam cleaners are able to eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria.

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