/ Home & Energy

Have you joined the steam cleaning age?

As the interest in steam cleaners starts to take off, these hot appliances could soon be in vogue. Have you bought into this home cleaning product, and if so, just what are you cleaning?

Steam cleaner popularity is on the rise, whether they’re handheld steam cleaners from Karcher or steam cleaning mops from Vax.

According to research by Experian Hitwise, there’s been a 125% increase in ‘steam cleaner’ searchers over the past three years. And as if by magic, our first batch of cylinder steam cleaners has just been shipped to one of our test labs.

But before we put them through their paces, I want to know more about your steamy habits.

Steam cleaners – the Swiss Army Knife of cleaning?

Generally quite adaptable, cylinder steam cleaners tend to come armed with an array of tools and attachments that make them suitable for cleaning many surfaces. Tiles, hard floors, windows, carpets, upholstery and ovens – cylinder steam cleaners can tackle them all.

With so much cleaning potential from just one device, are you using your steam cleaner for everything you can or do you save it for tackling a particular task?

However, so much versatility could cause problems. From our previous tests of steam mops and handheld steam cleaners, we’ve found that reliability can be an issue.

Are steam cleaners built to last?

Quite a few people have fed back on our steam cleaner reviews that they’re having some trouble with them. One of the most common problems is that the device has simply stopped producing steam, as Alan explains:

‘After just a handful of uses it would not heat the water, [and therefore would] not produce steam.’

Another handheld steam cleaner owner said they tried to clean an oven and ‘after an hours use it broke down’.

The other most-voiced complaints include the cloth cleaning pads either falling off the mop when in use or shrinking in the wash. And then there are the handles breaking, or even the bush attachments melting during use, as Simon shares:

‘Very poor results and the attachment brush was ruined after the first go.’

We’ve now built in durability tests into our future steam cleaner reviews, but what problems have you encountered when using your steam cleaner, whether it be mop, handheld or cylinder? And if you haven’t yet bought into the steam cleaner craze (if we can call it that), are you tempted?

Have you bought a steam cleaner?

No, and I have no interest in buying one (32%, 82 Votes)

No, but I'm interested in buying one (31%, 78 Votes)

Yes, but it hasn't lived up to my expectations (21%, 54 Votes)

Yes, and it's lived up to my expectations (15%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 253

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I use mine for general cleaning and getting creases out of clothing as I do not wish to use any chemicals including salt to clean floors for the sake of my dogs – The manufacturer states the high pressure steam out of the nozzle is at 230 degrees (it is not at atmospheric pressure) – though my temperature gauge registers 228. It is not quite as good as the adverts state in that it takes two or three wipes to remove all but the lightest of dirt – but it is excellent to clean all normal surfaces and leaves them streak free.


I find it great for windows, tiling and kitchen cabinets – not so good on carpet – but I have very little carpet only on the stairs – most of my floors are parquet or laminated wood – I do use a small hand brush to assist the cleaning of taps and sinks etc – the steam alone not sufficient. The floor mop does get very dirty – but using two (one after the other) overcomes this. My kitchen floor gets very dirty as my three large dogs have free access to the garden day and night through the dog door in all weathers.. The finished results better than the old mop and bucket method gave.

I use my steam mop to do the kitchen floor. I use a floor cleaner spray as well. The claim is that steam sanitises things, but I’m not totally convinced that this happens with the steam output from this mop – hence the cleaner to make sure. It has a carpet glider attachment too, but it doesn’t seem to improve carpets so I don’t use it.
I also have a steam cleaner. The hose has proved temperamental and now fails to produce steam even though it is under pressure in the cleaner. When it was working I tried it on an oven door with little success. I also found that it was quite time comsuming using it for taps, basins and the like. My steam mop is also becoming faulty with problems with the switch. It’s a good labour saving device and I’ll probably replace it with another one, when I find out which one you recommend.

I don’t really see this as necessary, but then I don’t have children or animals making a mess.

It has been suggested that keeping our environment ultra-clean leads to health problems such as an increased risk of allergies. I am not convinced by this theory, but some people are over-zealous in their cleaning.

I took a hand-held steam cleaner home with me to find out what they were like when preparing a test of steam cleaners for a Which? article.

I though it was an absolutely diabolical piece of equipment.

I tried it in my microwave (which was quite grubby) and it got rid of surface grease and didn’t touch the baked on stuff at all. Stainless steel cleaner did the job though.
It didn’t make any difference to the build up of mold on the sealant around the bath (bleach shifted that no problems). Or to the build-up of limescale and linestone around my bathroom taps.
The squeegee left my window panes scratched and streaky.
The cleaning pads left my granite and stainless steel kitchen surfaces streaky.

It did shift the build up of grease in my extractor fan, but not as effectively as soaking the washable extractor sheets in a sink full of hot soapy water. Overall the effort outweighed the result.

Using the steamer was difficult, it kept falling over easily and the moment I tilted it the supply of steam stopped. It also had a habit of spitting everywhere.

In fact I’ve only found it better than scrubbing on one surface – I used the steam cleaner and a scrubby pad to clean a wooden table that had been outside for several years. At the time both of them seemed to clean equally effectively, although the steam cleaner did raise the grain on the wood a bit more. The following spring though, lichen had begun to recolonise the scrubbed bit, whereas the steamed and scrubbed bit still looked pristine. So if you want to rejeuvenate wooden furniture I’d recommend you give one a try.

Otherwise I think they make cleaning less effective, less convenient and twice as frustrating.

P.S. I have no children or animals to clean up after either…

Maybe you should not have been the person to test it? – I find mine a boon – I don;t have any children now but I have large dogs. All of my floors are laminated wood or polished parquet – I have nine largish rooms. Ordinary mops have always left smeared and streaky unsatisfactory finishes. Carpets are not practical to allow free access to the often muddy garden using a dog door for my dogs. At the moment I have nine dogs (three of my own and six I’m fostering for elderly people who cannot afford kennelling fees while they are in hospital). Dogs often shed some fur when stressed – so I have the dirt of muddy footprints and the extra fur on all floors as well as “ordinary dirt”. The Steam floor mop actually collects both fur and dirt – so no need to vacuum first.- and dries fast – I simply have extra mop heads so that I’m not trailing dirty mops around. These are easily cleaned in the w/machine at the end of the session. I do half the house at a time. In addition it is superb to clean windows and removes wrinkles from shirts and curtains far faster than traditional methods. As for cleaning the inside of the microwave I have found it great using the wire brush then finishing off with the bristle brush. Though it is a bit fiddly. The rest of the kitchen surfaces are easily cleaned One thing I did make was a tool belt to carry all of the accessories around so I have instant access to the various tools when needed..

Janine says:
1 October 2012


I’ve just bought a steam cleaner, it’s not arrived yet. It’s the Polti Vaporetto Eco Pro 3000 Lux Steam Cleaner. It’s expensive, but has the British Allergy Foundation seal of approval – and everyone that’s written about it on-line says it’s worth every penny. I have asthma and eczema. Recently I was tested for allergies and unfortunately for me it was found that I’m very allergic to two preservatives and two fragrances that are used in masses of products from washing up liquid to floor cleaner to clothes softener to toiletries to soap, etc. I have to change my life by researching everything that we use in the house and typing out lists of what I can and can’t use any more. When it came to house cleaning, it just seemed easier to aim to do without and use steam. Apparently it may well help with my asthma too by getting rid of dust mites, etc. Being too clean isn’t my aim – I agree that people should come into contact with germs to build up their immune system…I just want to be able to be in my house without having to worry about these chemicals. It would be interesting to know the pros and cons of doing this when looking at being greener – using less chemicals versus using more power.
I will be trying it out on all manner of surfaces – the oven, floors, walls, limestone, wood, leather, windows…you name it…! So I will be back to post the results of my use.

You are absolutely right about doing your own research about allergies. Though there are some common allergens, those of us who suffer are all different.

Watch out for manufacturers changing the formulation of their products, which is very common. You could encounter a problem with a product that has not been a problem, or vice versa.

Allergies can change too. I’m now allergic to dogs and cats, whereas they never used to cause a problem. On the other hand, I can now eat Stilton and other blue cheeses, where the mould content used to cause intense irritation of my throat.

I don’t understand the benefit of steam cleaners for household cleaning since a damp soapy cloth or floor mop is effective and will not spread dust around the room.

Janine says:
1 October 2012

Hi wavechange – and thanks,

I will be doing checks on formulations of the products that I use regularly. For me, the steam clean is simply to avoid using chemicals – the four that I am allergic to, I was told I would have great difficulty avoiding through purchasing day-to-day off the shelf products…and it’s true, most of the products that I’ve checked so far contain at least one of them…it’s hard to find products without any. Now I’m going to have to buy on-line, so have to factor in p&p and higher costs of products that are not mass produced. Again, for me, steam cleaning makes sense…an initial outlay with immediate benefits (not using chemicals) and over time will pay for itself by us using less products. 🙂


Please can the Which? team also give some thought to other issues, such as where to avoid using a steam cleaner to avoid possible damage to surfaces.

I’ve heard of people using steam cleaners on mattresses, which could encourage mould growth inside. Far better, I believe, for asthmatics to use a good quality mattress protector and to wash this regularly to dispose of dust mites.

I couldn’t find any comparison between the steam cleaners and a regular mop and bucket. I could probably do with the exercise of mopping so a steam cleaner has to be a lot better to be worth it. Our whole house is hard floors plus we have kids but we don’t really care about sterilising the place.

Martin Smith says:
20 November 2012

We have a natural slate kitchen floor which traps dirt and grease, especially in the most used areas by the cooker and the sink. We’re currently considering buying a steam mop – maybe the Vax S2S (because you can add detergent when necessary). Does anyone here have experience, good or bad, of using these appliances for this reason – ie an uneven, ridged stone or slate floor.

Carol says:
7 May 2013

I just bought a karcher steam cleaner for use on my slate floor. It is really brilliant although the first time I used it I needed to change heads a couple of time to direct steam to the “next to oven” areas or where there was a build up in all the cracks and grooves you get with a slate floor. Would recommend it. Cant wait to try it on the bathroom floor tiles and find out where else I can use it. I too have dogs so need something that works.

Bernice says:
5 December 2012

I moved into a new house with polish porcelein floors and bought a steam mop from Lakeland. I wouldn’t rate it at all. The floor has to be very clean of fluff before using the mop and that can take a long time to hoover up. When I do use the steam mop it does all the right things – heating up the water to produce steam quickly… but… despite scrupulous vacuuming of the the floor first the mop dusters get really dirty which is a good thing as this means the dirt is being picked up, however they do not come clean in the washing machine at all. I have tried soaking first, spraying with oxy pre-stain cleaner etc. to no avail. The WORST thing is that any dirt or fluff lifted from the floor (that was a stain) is just ingrained by the mop in another place so I get a series of black fluffy/specs of dirt pushed into corners and around the floor which means then getting on my hands and knees to clean off these bits of dirt. is it worth it? I don’t think so and have sent back my mop to Lakeland as a complaint as it seems more trouble than it is worth. I had hoped that the Which? reviews might mention this as an issue on this or other mops but they don’t. Now I am in a dilemma do I buy another steam mop in the hope performs better or do I revert back to old fashioned floor cleaning methods? anyone’s comments would be helpful.

Karyn Shanlin says:
8 December 2012

After reading the Which? Reviews, we bought the Vax Handheld Steam Cleaner and have generally been quite pleased with it. We are nearing the end of some major renovation works and the cleaner has been great for cleaning most hard surfaces which, to be fair, because they are all new now are not particularly dirty but are certainly constantly covered in building dust. The only real complaint is that the steam turns to water if you hold it at an angle necessary to access some surfaces, so although the instructions tell you it needs to be kept upright, that may not always be practical. HOWEVER, and this is the big one, my cleaner stopped working about six weeks after i bought it and when I phoned the helpline number on the machine a very pleasant advisor took me through a checklist and eventually declared that the thermostat had stopped working. She wanted me to package the machine up and return it AT MY EXPENSE AND PAY AN ADMIN FEE OF 4.99! I was furious! She agreed the fault was theirs and not mine but said the shop i bought it would only exchange it for 28 days after purchase and thereafter would ask the customer to phone the helpline. I will never buy another Vax product – EVER!

madonna says:
29 December 2012

my steam cleaner worked great for a day,,,,,,then trips electrics,,,,,,something to do with poor build quality its a DHL04……I would steer clear of that make….when it worked it was great but its going to the tip today

Has anyone got any recommendation for a steam mop? I have seen these things on TV and am considering getting one for the kitchen and bathroom floors as I am tired of finding my mop and bucket are dirty and I want easier storage too. My OH often spills on the carpet and it gets patchy.I am hoping one of these things will clean that too. However, the conversation here isnt too promising.

I have a hand held one (cheapie really) and have found it next too useless – not enough steam for long enough and fiddly to fill. Thought a mop might be better. Suggestions?


Anyone tried and tested the Vax Pro Clean? Is it as good as it seems.

joan carnaffin says:
16 January 2013

I would be interested to see a comparison done between steam mops and spray mops (e.g. Bona) in terms of hard floor cleaning. In view of the very mixed reviews for steam mops I’m about to buy a Bona to test the water – though of course it doesn’t use any.

Bernice says:
16 January 2013

In the light of my bad experience with a Lakeland mop (see earlier review) and other people’s comments, I am thinking of reverting back to a mop handle and clip on microcloth. What would other people say to that – good or bad idea (I haven’t ever used one) but they can’t be as bad as the steamp mops – can they? at least they are cheaper!

Starman2013 says:
21 January 2013

I had been really looking forward to purchasing a steam mop as I have a large number of wooden and tiled floors that need regular cleaning. However, having read the numerous negative reviews, I have changed my mind and will save my money. I have no doubt that the product will clean floors well, but how long will the product last before bits start falling off and it stops producing steam?

Until the positive comments start outweighing the negative, I’ll stick with a mop and bucket (unfortunately!)

Sentora says:
26 January 2013

I have used a steam mop and am really happy with the concept, maybe not with the actual model I had. It has stopped working and I am looking for a replacement. It is great for mopping the kitchen and bathroom floor, but that’s it. The cleaning power of steam is over rated in my opinion.

Lucy says:
30 January 2013

I’m looking at steam mops to clean the all laminate floor downstairs. Mainly I want something that dries fast and streak free. Just worried about the reliability…
I use a combination of a mop and bucket or one of the vileda squeege types for quick tidy ups (although actually isn’t that quick!). Often end up drying the floor with one of those flat cloths on a pole type things – which isn’t very effective or even on hands and knees with rags.
I have a steam wall paper stripper with attachments so have used steam to clean before although it isn’t pressurised and also you can’t turn it off on unit (just at socket) so house tends to get steamed up and it is a bit drippy. Although it did do a good job of cleaning the floors downstairs and also is handy for defrosting freezers and (if it wouldn’t drip so much!) of ironing washed curtains after hanging. Agree isn’t good at cleaning ovens etc.
Reading the earlier stuff about allergies – we don’t have any – but I only use environmentally friendly cleaners/washing powder – and I buy in bulk (now part of a Co-op but used to get via health food shops) so not much more expensive than other leading brands. I only use washing up liquid, liquid hard surface cleaner, dishwasher powder and washing powder and they all work well enough. And my partner once drank some washing up liquid (long story – but was in a cup when having kitchen refitted) and according to label no reason to panic and it didn’t do him any harm (although didn’t taste v.nice!) . I also buy bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar (or 80% acetic acid for diluting if I can get it) in bulk . A damp cloth dipped in bicarb is fantastic at shifting grease – especially the kind you find on top of kitchen cupboards/around extractors – vinegar is good at cleaning taps/sinks and toilets (vinegar and warm water shifted limescale buildup in the toilet of a house I moved into – after I’d tried and failed with lots of other limescale removing toilet cleaners). Finally cleaning microwaves – microwave some water (and lemon juice if you have any) in a cup – unplug and leave for a 5 mins so steams up and then just wipe out. Read somewhere about someone who always put a tray of lemon juice and water in their oven when they turned it off and then just wipes it out – but I’ve never been that organised!

Denewalker says:
9 February 2013

Hi – has anyone bought a reliable upholstery steam cleaner, pls? Just want something to remove the years-old dirt from my 3-piece suite. Had it wet-washed professionally last year but results were poor and had to wait 36hrs+ before it was dry enough to sit on. Thanks a lot.