/ 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

Loading ... Loading ...
suzanne clarke says:
11 February 2013

Bought the Bissell on reading the reviews on your Which best buys. After a couple of uses the water container leaks to the point of not being able to use it as the floor gets soaked. it is no longer used and a waste of money

Dingley dell says:
20 February 2013

Looking for a great hard floor cleaner thats reliable as had two failures in a Shark and Bissell. We have a large kitchen/hall way with high gloss large tiles.
Thinking about twin tank Kracher 2500 anyone tried one?

Gerry Brandon says:
9 March 2013

We have just used a VAX S2 for the first time on a variety of hard surfaces .. stone, ceramic tiles, linoleum and quarry tiles.

The S2 heated up quickly as advertised and we commenced mopping.

After about 30 seconds the green (steam) light went out and we had to wait a further 30 secs for the steam light to reappear.

This ‘stop start’ continued throughout the whole of the cleaning period… very frustrating.

After less than 2 mins of mopping significant deposits of water remained on all floors and it was necessary to revert to a regular mop to remove and dry off… somewhat defeating the object?!
The amount of steam generated seemed very poor, although the water consumption was about as advertised. (Far more water than steam!!)

Cleaning was not great and a better job could be obtained using a mop and regular universal cleanimg fluid.

VAX (in their ‘troubleshooting’ suggests not using the steam trigger all the time to limit water deposits but this does seem to remove the ‘benefits’ of a steam device!

We will give the VAX S2 another work out in a week or so time but so far we are very dissillusioned with the VAX S2 and ‘steam cleaning’.

Steam condenses when it comes into contact with cold surfaces and no manufacturer can alter simple physics, though the design of the machine will affect how much water is expelled with the steam and whether the machine can produce steam continuously.

What you really need is a machine that will vacuum up the water, but I am not aware of any domestic steam cleaners that will do this.

Gerry Brandon says:
9 March 2013

Thank you Wavechange for your observations.

I appreciate that steam condenses on cold surfaces and obviously this trueism cannot be altered.

The design of the machine (combined with user actions of course) will however surely determine the balance of steam / water discharge and absorbtion / evaporation of the head, leading to the eventual dryness of the surface?

However, what could be changed is the ‘advertising’ of steam mops which appear to show ‘dryish surfaces’ after mopping, perhaps suggesting that the mop pads, in conjunction with the amount of steam, absorbs and evoporates much of the excess water.

I do indeed concur with the second part of your first paragraph which might perhaps suggest a design shortcoming or just a one off product problem.

As indicated we plan to give the VAX S2 another airing as it may well be there is an element of ‘user finger trouble’ creating the abnormal amount of water discharged. There are so many great reviews published, against our single gripe, we must give the VAX S2 a fair crack of the whip.

Your Utopian suggestion would be great for a future design, but right now I would settle for something which approximates to the advertised performance of steam mops.

I am not surprised about the misleading advertising, Gerry. It is very sad that the Advertising Standards Authority has done little to deal with the problem – which affects many products and services.

I’m sorry if you found my comment a little patronising, but I doubt that may people know how much water will be produced if they are unfamiliar with steam cleaners. I was quite surprised when I first used a steam wallpaper stripper.

You might be interested to read the information and customers’ comments about steam cleaners on the Which? website.

Lucy says:
9 March 2013

I have just bought a cheap ‘adobe’ steam mop from Asda for just over £18 (25% offer) – had it about a week…
Reading the which reviews I came to the conclusion that the cheaper ones which made less steam also left the floor drier…but didn’t clean as well -which actually makes sense…
I can say that that is what I have found with mine – it doesn’t make much steam and on my really dirty floor left it a bit streaky (and the pads were filthy) but it dried really quickly…so I could over it a few times (with the extra pads I bought at the same time). Now (but I’m still playing with it!) I just give the floor a quick whip over every day …and they are nice and clean…and they dry really fast so I’m not worried about my children walking (or worse slipping) on the soaking wet floor…(Why I was reluctant to do the same with a normal mop)
My main concern is that it seems really flimsy – doubt it will last long..but so far love it!

An Adobe steam mop? I must get a new version of Photoshop because mine only has brushes. 🙂

Lucy says:
9 March 2013

Meant to say …pretty sure hoover type -but not steam- hard floor cleaners do exist
(looked at one when buying a Vax carpet cleaner – but v. expensive and couldn’t find reviews – and my old vax dry vacuum/carpet washer came with hard floor cleaning head – 12+yrs ago before I had laminate so no idea what happened to it or I’d give it a try and let you know….)

Lucy says:
10 March 2013

Whoops!!! – even with your comment it took me a while to get my head round my typo! I meant of course Abode ….(note to self – wear reading glasses! and engage brain before typing!!!!)

val says:
18 March 2013

hi has any one got a gener8 5in1 steam cleaner is it a good buy

Jac says:
26 March 2013

I recently bought a H2O 5 in 1 steam cleaner from Robert Dyas distributed by Thane Direct, I have been so disappointed, it is flimsy, the handle bows when pushing it along, as a hand held it is too heavy on the wrist and due to having to keep the water tank on a down ward tilt makes cleaning windows near on imppossible unless you are standing above the window, all at a cost of £100 It is a Which best buy for a hand held steamer, however reading customers reviews on Which, they do not agree with this rating. I am in the process of requesting a full refund, although as yet Robert Dyas are not being very forth coming. Reading the above reviews I’m not sure there is a steam cleaner out there which is worthy yet, so it might be back to a mop and bucket for me !!

Rosey says:
1 April 2013

We bought a holme steam cleaner about a year ago. It was cheap and it worked really well. No chemicals, no smelly mops and clean floors. However its manufacturing quality was abysmal (though what do you expect for £30). One blew up. That was after having to have a new head ordered as the plastic ‘screws’ were not up to the job. the replacement had the same problem with the screws holding the under parts in place. Want another steam mop….. but one that has better quality manufacturing and parts.

Chris says:
3 April 2013

Hi, Groupon currently have a deal for a James Russell Easy Steam Mop for £27. I was thinking about going for it but the mixed reviews have made me think twice!! Does anyone have this particular product? Would you recommend giving it a go?!

I first bought a steam cleaner several years ago. It was a handheld ProAction model from Argos and cost about £15. I found it amazingly good for cleaning kitchen, bathroom and loo, and it’s still going strong. On the strength of this positive experience I then bought an earlier version of the Thane H2O mop from QVC which cost about £90. It was not so successful and basically fell apart shortly after passing its first birthday, despite being little used. Not sure what the moral is here!

Mrs Simms says:
11 April 2013

I purchased athe X700 Vapour Mop from Pitch tv around christmas time and up until recently I was on my second mop which replaced the 1st one that was sent out to me. I was really excited to use the steam mop as I was told it kills germs and me and my son age 7 are always ill due to poor immune systems so this would have been a great product for us. Having said that, when I received it, the box was already open and I was a little suspicous as to why? However, I opened it and set it up and waited for the steam to generate but it only worked when in a flat position. I was not going to start cleaning lying down so I got straight on the phone to Pitch Tv. They said they get it picked up and send e a new one in the mean time. I received this within a wk and this one worked fine. After a month or so it stopped producing steam too so I’ve been on the phone to arrange pick up, waited in all day and no one turned up. Now I have made a formal complaint about the product and rubbish customer service they were offering to replace it as I was out of my 7day refund policy. Who gives 7days to get a refund?? Obviously nothing is going to go wrong in 7 days, how clever these company’s are! Well in my opinion the x700 is rubbish and wont last very long at all and by the tim it stops working, all they can do is keep fixing it. You’ll be stuck with a faulty product and unable to buy a new one. So Frustrating! I have argued my case and they have now agreed to give me a refund, I think this is because they know it doesn’t work and they knew I was going to take this further if they didnt do something about it. I have now joined Which? and I am looking for a new one…I will try the X5..Its so hard choosing the right one, unless you use it, you’ll never know but thanks for all the reviews it helps but I’m still confused!!!

Kay says:
11 April 2013

I have purchased a steam mop which stopped producing steam I’m the third use . If I had read the reviews I could have saved m money- anyone with an H2O mop need some free tools????

Lilyxyz says:
3 May 2013

I have tried three different steam cleaners for my large vinyl covered kitchen floor. Two of them cleaned well but packed up within a year. The third, the Bissel best buy never worked properly and I returned it for a refund. I have reverted to an Addis sponge mop, much cheaper and does the job with not much more effort better. The new design squeezes very well so the floor is not left very wet, and the sponge head lasts a long time. Unless steam mops improve I won’t be tempted again.

Betty says:
5 May 2013

I keep thinking I will buy a steam mop to clean my slate bathroom floor but after reading the reviews etc have decided not to waste my money. I have fibromyalgia and all cleaning is problematic for me. If anyone would like a good floor cleaning tip it’s this-from the book “Is there life after housework”-
1.Put your cleaning solution in the water in an ordinary bucket then plain water in your mop bucket-the old fashioned kind.
2. Wet your floor with the cleaning solution and leave for a time to work.
3. Wring your mop and pass over the floor to pick up dirty water then keep rinsing it in the plain water until floor is done. You will end up with clean floor and cleaning solution and several buckets of dirty water. Best tip I’ve ever read.

The best buy mop is very useful for a quick refresh on a floor which is not too dirty so you could find it helpful. I have osteoarthritis and use mine regularly and only revert to the mop and bucket every couple of months or if through traffic has been particularly heavy in winter.

Which Best Buy Bissell Steam Mop works well for a quick refresh on all limestone kitchen tiles and other non-glossy floor-tiles but I still revert to using an old-fashioned mop and bucket and floor cleaner for a thorough clean when a floor is really dirty. The steam mop does NOT leave glossy floor-tiles streak free unless I dry them off afterwards, but this could be because I wash the pads in the washing machine using a little detergent which might not be thoroughly rinsed out. The steam mop has worked perfectly for a year now. My biggest gripe was the cost of buying 2 additional pads but they have worn very well and though it is impossible to ever get them white again, they still do not need to be replaced.

Lynn D says:
8 July 2013

~Can anyone hekp ?

I bought a Vapour Mop X700 a few months back and both of the microfibre cloths need replacing (the string that holds them on has broken and they basicly fell to pieces.

The company that makes this product has now gone into administration and I cannot seem fo find anyone online who sells these.

Any ideas ?

All help or suggestions welcome.

Ian says:
14 July 2013

H2o mop (Thane) failed again.
We bought one of these after reading the Which review and watching the TV advert. We use it once a week for about half an hour (two tankfulls max). Within a month, I failed to produce team – power lights OK, pump still squirts but only cold water. I suspected a duff thermostat, and this was confirmed by the service person when I rang to report the fault. They e-mailed me a returns label and I took it to the courier pick-up place and the item was returned at no cost to me. OK, so far, so good. A new Mop (brand new in its original packaging – NOT a refurbished model) arrived with the week, happy again. However, after a few more weeks, exactly the same problem again, and I reported that again, and it was replaced (again). Mop number three arrived two weeks ago and, guess what, it’s developed exactly the same fault but his time I am going for a full refund and won’t be looking for a replacement. Is this the result of cheap construction and materials?

lisa says:
30 July 2013

i bought a vapour mop 700 a year ago after seeing it on a tv ad and have used it week after week ever since in kitchen micrwave, oven cupboards sink etcetc., windowws inside and out. laminate floor carpet and also in the bathroom floor and ahower ,bath etcetc. I cant reccomend it highly enough….although it has just stopped producing steam ……although i think it may be blocked …? the little hole ??
what a shame its company are in administration ….:-/ i researched this and the only reason i went for the vapour mop was the free poostage etc as oppposed to H2o mop……..

what to do now if i cant get vapour mop going …will really miss it ….:-)