Best steam mops and steam cleaners

16 December 2020

best steam mops

As most of us know all too well, cleaning and parenting unfortunately go hand in hand. Steam cleaners can make light work of carpets, floors and even fabrics, and therefore are considered must-haves by many Mumsnet users. From popular brands like Shark and Vax to the coveted Kärcher, here's our roundup of the most (ahem) esteamed.

Best steam mops | Best cylinder steam cleaners

How does a steam cleaner work?

The water in the tank of a steam cleaner is heated past boiling point, forming pressurized steam. The high temperature of this steam kills harmful bacteria as well as dust mites.

It's worth considering whether you want an upright steam cleaner (or steam mop) or a cylinder version. The main difference is the type of cleaning you do, the areas you want to clean, and also your budget. Steam mops are upright and lightweight, heat up quickly but are designed for short cleaning sessions. Cylinder steam cleaners are wheeled models (similar to a traditional vacuum cleaner) and are heavier, mainly due to their larger water tanks. They are better for larger houses or deep cleaners as they can steam for longer and are usually more powerful – therefore, they are more expensive.

Are steam cleaners any good?

Steam cleaners can be good news for those suffering from allergies, as most claim to eliminate dust mites. In our round-up of the best, the Polti Vaporetto is even certified by the British Allergy Foundation. Some Mumsnet users have found using a steam cleaner physically easier, such as lessening pressure on the wrists. The lack of chemicals is also kinder to the environment and household surfaces. And, in general, steam cleaners are known for providing faster and more intensive cleaning.

I love mine. So quick and easy and dries instantly. I also have rheumatoid arthritis so it's a lot easier on my wrists than a traditional mop.

It's worth noting that steam cleaners aren't for everyone. Mumsnet users themselves are divided on those who swear by them, and those who, well, don't. As another alternative to the mop 'n' bucket, spray mops can be good for basic tasks such as cleaning floors. The Vileda spray mop, in particular, gets a big mention (see below), even as an addition to a steam cleaner.

Whatever you decide, it's certainly worth doing your research. Luckily we've done it so you don't have to. Read on for the best steam cleaners (and the worst).

Before you buy

To decide on what steam cleaner or mop to buy, here are some things to consider:

  • How long does the cleaner take to heat up?
  • How long can it steam for?
  • What size is the water tank?
  • Does it have a long cord?
  • How heavy is it?
  • Does it have a detachable handheld mode?
  • What attachments does it come with? Eg brushes or nozzles for grout or windows

And quite importantly, does it have a limescale filter? If you live in a hard water area, such as London and much of the east of the UK, you will need one – or else have to fill your steam cleaner with distilled water.

Finally, some Mumsnet users have posed the question: can you add Zoflora to a steam cleaner? While we wouldn't advise putting it inside (it can break the steam cleaner), spraying diluted solution over the floor before steaming has apparently had some great results.

If that's too much effort, there are some models that include a solution tank, such as the Vax Steam Fresh Combi Classic steam mop. It's probably worth sticking to the manufacturer-recommended detergent.

Why you should trust us

In order to provide honest and independent advice you can trust, we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate – for steam mops and cleaners, that was over 400 mentions just in the last year.

We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family.

Best steam mops

1. Best upright steam cleaner: Shark Steam Mop Klik n' Flip, £94

1. Best upright steam cleaner: Shark Steam Mop Klik n' Flip, £94

Model no: S6003UK

What separates the Shark from its other upright competitors (as well as about £40 quid) is some fancy features. This steam mop comes with double-sided pads that have 'Dirt Grip Technology'. The 'klik and flip' feature is being able to flip the mop head to the fresh, clean side, which is efficient as well as just downright satisfying. It also has three different steam settings and a 'steam blaster mode' which uses a concentrated blast of steam to get rid of those particularly stubborn stains (baby vom, we're looking at you).

All this contributes to the fact that Shark boasts that it “eliminates 99.9% of common household bacteria”. It also has one of the longest cords of all the products we're recommending (8m), if that's important to you.

“I have the Shark steam mop and really rate it! The heads are a lot thicker than other steam mops and I found it easier to wield.”

“It's easy to get out/fill/put away – the mop head clicks off and is reversible too. I've never mopped floors so much.”

Specs *

  • Heating time: 30 seconds
  • Steaming time: 15 minutes
  • Water tank capacity: 380ml
  • Cord length: 8m
  • Weight: 2.7kg
  • Limescale filter: N
Buy now from Amazon

2. Best handheld steam cleaner: Morphy Richards 12-in-1 Steam Cleaner, £64

2. Best handheld steam cleaner: Morphy Richards 12-in-1 Steam Cleaner, £64

Model no: 720022

No doubt, handheld cleaners are a godsend. The Morphy Richards 9-in-1 steam mop is an upright steam cleaner which includes a built-in detachable handheld steamer for those harder-to-reach places. This function, combined with the mop's all-round efficiency at most cleaning tasks, makes it our most recommended handheld steam cleaner. Another big sell of the Morphy is the large water tank (400ml), so you don't have to refill it as often, without it being particularly bulky. It also includes a similar host of accessories to the Vax, complete with microfibre cloths and upholstery and worktop surfaces attachments. Indeed, it is particularly good on fabrics (even clothes), which could save on the ironing.

“It gets emulsion off window frames, the cupboard fronts were so easy it was a joy, the hob, the stainless steel splashback, the fridge, the floors, the tiles, the shower door… all sparkling and done in seconds. I'm now addicted to steaming stuff (including my thumb, which I don't recommend!).”

  • Heating time: 30 seconds
  • Steaming time: 14 minutes
  • Water tank capacity: 400ml
  • Cord length: 5m
  • Weight: 3kg
  • Limescale filter: N
Buy now from Amazon

3. Best multi-purpose steam cleaner: Vax Steam Fresh Combi Classic Steam Mop, £59

3. Best multi-purpose steam cleaner: Vax Steam Fresh Combi Classic Steam Mop, £59

Model no: S86-SF-CC

Another two-in-one upright steam cleaner or steam mop which includes a handheld mode. This is just one of 10 accessories that the Vax includes, such as a variety of brushes and nozzles – from a grout brush to a scraper nozzle. Mumsnetters even recommend it for cleaning your hob.

Compared to other similar models (such as the Morphy Richards), it has a smaller water capacity, so you'd need to refill it more often. However, it does include another tank which you can add detergent into if you like. It also includes a limescale filter, meaning you can use with any tap water, hard or not.

“I've got the cheapest Vax – I like it and think it is a good balance of cost and effectiveness. We use it mainly for the kitchen tiled floor and it cleans well and dries very quickly plus isn't a big faff to set up (stick the washable cleaning pad on, fill the water tank, plug in, then wait about 20 seconds and it's ready).”

“I bought my Vax steam mop five years ago for £60 and I love it. I hoover my floors first and then steam them. Any stubborn marks I just keep scrubbing. Sometimes I spray a cleaner on the floor and steam mop over it. I wouldn't use a mop again.”

  • Heating time: 20 seconds
  • Steaming time: 15 minutes
  • Water tank capacity: 260ml (Solution tank capacity: 200ml)
  • Cord length: 7m
  • Weight: 3.7kg
  • Limescale filter: Y
Buy now from Amazon

4. Best value steam cleaner: Asda Home Goblin White 9-in-1 Upright Steam Mop, £50

4. Best value steam cleaner: Asda Home Goblin White 9-in-1 Upright Steam Mop, £50

One of the cheapest on the market, the Goblin is an upright steam mop not dissimilar to the Morphy Richards. It's your best bet if you're not entirely sure how much you'll end up using it.

Coming in at 2.5kg it's the most lightweight model and the best value of all our recommendations. At this cost and weight, the tank capacity is small (280ml) but the steaming time is only 10 minutes. It does still come with nine accessories and, according to Mumsnet users, it still does the job. What more could you want for a cleaner under £50?

“Got a steam mop with attachments from Asda. It's a goblin one and it was £50. Love it. But never had one before so nothing to compare it to.”

“I bought the cheapest one from Asda Direct on the recommendation of my mum. I love it. Simple to use and does the job. If you're looking for heavy use it might not be for you though.”

  • Steaming time: 10 minutes
  • Water capacity: 280ml
  • Cord length: 5m
  • Weight: 2.5kg
  • Limescale filter: N
Buy now from Asda Home

5. Best steam vacuum cleaner: Bissell Vac & Steam, £129

5. Best steam vacuum cleaner: Bissell Vac & Steam, £129

Model no: 1977E

Choosing between a new vacuum or steam cleaner? With the Bissell Vac & Steam you don't have to – and it saves on storage too. With one touch you can move between using the cyclonic action hoover to steaming away and, just in case you were concerned with how it works, the dry-tank technology keeps debris dry and separate from the steam at all times.

As a steam cleaner, the specs are similar to the Shark, with a big tank and moderate steaming time. It is a heavier model though, which is unsurprising due to its vacuuming capability. The vacuum element also has two washable filters – foam and pleated – to trap fine dust (and whatever else) and allow clean exhaust air out.

“It vacuums and steam-cleans the floor in one. No more lugging buckets of water or smelly mops. Saved my sanity with a newborn.”

“I love my Vac & Steam. Absolute gem of a gadget. Sucks up the bits and mops the floor. Couldn't be without it.”

  • Heating time: 30 seconds
  • Steaming time: 15 minutes
  • Water capacity: 400ml
  • Cord length: 7.6m
  • Weight: 4.8kg
  • Limescale filter: Y
Buy now from Amazon

Best cylinder steam cleaner

6. Best cylinder steam cleaner: Kärcher SC3 EasyFix Steam Cleaner, £148 (was £230)

6. Best cylinder steam cleaner: Kärcher SC3 EasyFix Steam Cleaner, £148 (was £230)

The Kärcher S3 steam cleaner is a cylinder model – this means that rather than an upright steam mop, it's a wheeled cleaner with a cleaning wand, similar to a traditional hoover. If you're a fan of a good, regular deep clean, these are for you – they have capacity for a lot more water (the Karcher's is one litre) and hence a longer steam time.

Other features include an indicator light when the descaling cartridge needs replacing, a hard floor cleaning kit and, vitally, safety valves and locks to prevent any, ahem, unintended steaming sessions.

“I tried a few steam cleaners before I came to my Kärcher and it's blooming ace. It has various attachments for cleaning work surfaces, upholstery, floors etc and I wouldn't be without it. You really do get what you pay for with steam cleaners, so go for a good one.”

  • Heating time: 30 seconds
  • Steaming time: 23 minutes
  • Water tank capacity: 1L
  • Cord length: 4m
  • Weight: 4.6kg
  • Limescale filter: Y

We must also mention the Kärcher window cleaner which comes highly recommended: “But even better is the Kärcher window cleaner. It is amazing, just fantastic. Our windows are spotless and take about 30 seconds No rubbing or shining needed. We have ceiling to floor windows along two sides of a room at the back of the house and they are spotless after years of streaks and looking very grubby.”

Buy now from Amazon

Steam mops to avoid

Black & Decker

While their vacuums have a relatively good rep (such as the Dustbuster), Black & Decker steam cleaners do not, especially the 9-in-1. Whether they don't perform well on tiling, or the Velcro makes them a rip-off (sorry), Mumsnet users would recommend avoiding them.

I got a Black & Decker and it is very disappointing. It does a good job on some types of floors, but on others, like my kitchen which is a sort of vinyl tile, the cleaning pad keeps coming off. It is held on by Velcro – big mistake and it should have been a signal not to buy it – so you have to clean so carefully or else the damn thing comes off.

Thane H20

QVC sensation the H20 steam mop hit the shelves with a bang. But Mumsnetters reported that it gave up after a whimper. It is worth noting that the latest model, the H20 X5, is meant to be better though.

I bought a Thane Direct Steam cleaner. It worked beautifully for about six uses and then gave up the ghost. Followed all the instructions to clean with water and white vinegar and poke the debris from the holes with the pin provided, all to no avail. A great disappointment and a complete waste of money. My friend bought one a little while before me. The exact same thing happened to hers. Thane did replace it without a fuss, but guess what? The same thing has happened to that one! So infuriating. Back to the mop and bucket for us.

Best spray mop

As for spray mops, those who have steam cleaners and those who don't both rave about the Vileda spray mop. Say goodbye to your bucket – this uses a microfibre mop pad with integrated cleaning liquid spray. The pads are machine-washable and designed to be long-lasting.

The Vileda spray mop is brilliant, cheap and so easy to use. I have a steam cleaner (cylinder vacuum cleaner style) and it's great for nooks and crannies and greasy things like the cooker hood, but far too much faff for everyday use. By the time you've filled it with water, plugged it in and waited for it to heat up you could be finished mopping with the Vileda.

Buy now: Vileda 1-2 Microfibre Spray Mop, £30 (Amazon)

*Times are according to the manufacturer. Weights are calculated when tanks are unfilled.

Prices correct at the time of publication. Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here). But, if you weren't impressed with the product and decided to return it, we wouldn't make a penny.