Photo: Katie Barton for Bob Vila
A vacuum, mop, or broom works just fine for daily cleaning and upkeep, but handheld steam cleaners are more effective when removing unsightly stains, stubborn dirt, and grime. To find the best handheld steam cleaners available, we put nine models through extensive testing to discover which had the most deep-cleaning power.
Handheld steam cleaners rely on high-heat vapor from boiling water to loosen and lift tough, ground-in messes; kill germs; and sanitize surfaces. While a handheld steamer isn’t ideal for large jobs, it can work wonders on everything from upholstery to carpets, bathroom tiles to laminate floors, and even clothing and curtains.
In this guide, we’ll show you how we tested each steam cleaner and which models performed the best.
- BEST OVERALL: Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Bissell 39N7A Steam Shot Handheld Steam Cleaner
- BEST FOR CLOTHES: PerfectDay Portable Handheld Garment Steamer
- BEST FOR CARPET: PurSteam 10-in-1 Steam Cleaner
- BEST MOP: Bissell 2075A PowerFresh Slim 3-in-1 Steam Mop
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: McCulloch MC1375 Canister Steam Cleaner
- BEST ATTACHMENTS: Phueut Pressurized Handheld Steam Cleaner
Photo: Katie Barton for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Handheld Steam Cleaners
Before testing, we researched the best handheld steam cleaners and selected popular models that fit a range of needs. We included options that are budget-friendly, convert to a mop, have a large water tank capacity, and come with multiple attachments.
We chose nine steam cleaners and put them through hard- and soft-surface tests. For our soft-surface tests, we used an upholstery board with tan microsuede fabric, a white shag carpet scrap, and a pair of light-wash jeans. We stained each surface with dirt, coffee, red wine, vegetable oil, tomato sauce, and chocolate sauce. We then used each steamer on the stains. The results were consistent across the board: All steamers removed most of the dirt, coffee, and red wine on all surfaces, but none of the portable steam cleaners could completely remove the oil, tomato sauce, or chocolate sauce.
For our hard-surface tests, we used each handheld steam cleaner (except for the clothing-only model) to dislodge grease in an oven, remove mineral buildup in a dishwasher, clean dirty bathroom grout, and loosen dried food off the floor. We evaluated how well each model cleaned various household surfaces and scored them with a rubric.
Our Top Picks
The best handheld steam cleaners are lightweight, provide adequate steam, and offer a variety of attachments. They also do a great job deep cleaning floors and removing light stains from fabrics. We tested nine models; here are the ones that made the cut.
Most handheld steam mops have a relatively small tank capacity that restricts their cleaning time to 10 or 20 minutes. But the Dupray Neat steam cleaner separates the cleaning head from the tank, resulting in a capacity of 54 ounces and a runtime of up to 50 minutes. It also has an integrated funnel that makes it easy to fill.
Its extensive accessory set includes multipurpose nylon heads, a brass grout brush, floor and window tools, a steam lance, a triangle tool, extensions, microfiber cloths, and cleaning pads. A 16-foot cord and 6 feet 6 inches of hose allow good freedom of movement.
The Dupray Neat steam cleaner passed our hard-surface tests with flying colors. It put out more steam than any other model and was more efficient thanks to its 275 degree Fahrenheit temperature. We used the round brush attachment on our dingy grout, which returned it to its light pearl gray color in no time. It also dislodged mineral deposits in our shower and around our sink, degreased our oven, and cleaned our floors. We also love how slim the mophead is; it fit under all our furniture and cabinets for a comprehensive deep cleaning.
During soft-surface testing, the Dupray lifted light stains off upholstery and clothing. Like the rest of the models, it couldn’t remove dark or oil-based stains. We used it to release wrinkles on clothes, which it did quickly thanks to ample amounts of steam.
While this model is a deep-cleaning powerhouse, it does have a couple of cons. First, it sometimes spits out water after first being powered on. To combat this, we squeezed the trigger a few times before using it on upholstery so we didn’t oversaturate our fabric. Second, at 9 pounds, it’s heavier than other handheld options—though we had no problems maneuvering it around the house.
Read our full review: Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Surfaces: Floors, upholstery, grout, tile, appliances, car interiors, furniture, mattresses, bathrooms
- Attachments: 17 pieces
- Delivers large amounts of superheated steam, allowing it to clean more quickly than most other models
- 17-piece accessory set includes floor and window tools, microfiber pads and cloth, and several brushes
- Extension wand makes it suitable for hard-to-reach jobs like cleaning showers and steaming curtains
- Trigger works for on-demand steam, and the trigger lock allows for continuous steam
- At 9 pounds with a 54 ounce water tank, it might be too heavy for some users
- Loud when using a concentrated attachment like a small round brush or steam lance
Get the Dupray handheld steam cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, Walmart, or Dupray.
The Bissell Steam Shot steam cleaner is a 4-pound handheld steam cleaner with an on-demand trigger. It comes with 10 accessories, including three scrubbing brushes, a grout brush, a flat scraper tool, an angle concentrator tool, a window squeegee, an extension hose, an accessory nozzle, and a fabric steamer.
This model from Bissell is handy for cleaning up small messes, but it’s not ideal for large jobs since you can’t lock the steam trigger in place, and the water tank only holds 6.6 ounces.
We tested the Bissell on tile, and the provided grout brush did a fantastic job, fitting perfectly into our grout lines. We also used this model to dislodge mineral deposits in our dishwasher and around a faucet as well as spot clean dried-on sauce off the floor. It did great on all hard surface tests, and the attachments felt like they were of good quality.
The provided fabric steamer released wrinkles from clothes and was helpful in refreshing furniture. As far as removing stains, the Bissell was only able to remove light staining from upholstery, clothing, and carpet. In addition to being less effective on soft surfaces, one of the biggest cons of this model is its rounded front design. It often felt like the steamer was leaning forward in our hands and didn’t seem as steady as some of the other steamers.
- Weight 4 pounds
- Surfaces: Hard surfaces, fabric, grout, appliances, shower doors, and windows
- Attachments: 10 pieces
- At only 4 pounds, this model is easy to carry around the house
- Multipurpose; worked well to clean hard surfaces and also includes a fabric attachment
- Has a long reach thanks to its 20-foot power cord
- Rounded front design makes this model feel like it’s tilted forward while in use
- Can’t lock the steam trigger in place and has a small water tank; better suited to small jobs
Get the Bissell Steam Shot handheld steam cleaner at Amazon, Lowe’s, Wayfair, Walmart, or Bissell.
At just 1 pound, this small travel steamer is perfect for at-home use or taking on a trip. Its generous steam flow and ample heat effectively pull wrinkles out of all fabric types.
This compact handheld unit features a 100 milliliter water tank that provides continuous steam for up to 10 minutes. It comes with a fabric-brush attachment for cleaning dirt off garments and smoothing wrinkles. Another great feature is the auto shutoff that powers down the steamer if it gets too hot or the water levels are too low.
Since this model is intended for garments, we tested it on wrinkly clothing items and stains. It removed wrinkles from clothing well, but the small water tank capacity only allowed us to steam three women’s size M shirts or two size XXL men’s shirts before needing a refill. After testing for wrinkle release, we attempted stain removal using our test jeans. The steamer helped loosen dirt, coffee, and red wine but was no match for dark or oil-based stains.
The PerfectDay portable steam cleaner is small, lightweight, and user-friendly. It can replace a clothing iron and is easy to store. The downside is that it’s for garments only and doesn’t offer the versatility of the other options on this list.
- Weight: 1 pound
- Surfaces: Fabric
- Attachments: 1 piece
- Compact and portable; a great item for travel
- Dual safety-protection system shuts off device when its too hot or low on water
- Budget-friendly and solidly constructed; easy to use, clean, and maintain
- Only suited for clothing and fabric; doesn’t work for cleaning other household surfaces
Get the PerfectDay handheld steam cleaner at Amazon.
Gone are the days of renting a heavy carpet cleaner—this lightweight steam mop from PurSteam sanitizes deep into the fibers of carpets and area rugs. With a reservoir of 11.5 ounces, it provides up to 25 minutes of steam on the lowest setting. It works with tap water, so there’s no need for harsh chemicals.
Multiple accessories, including nylon brushes, can clean spots on carpets without leaving residue behind. But this steam mop goes beyond just cleaning carpets. It easily converts into a handheld steam cleaner with three adjustable modes and can tackle hard-surface floors such as tile and hardwood, clean windows, and steam clothing.
When we tested this mop, we were immediately impressed by how quickly it warmed up and how much steam it put out. It removed light staining on the carpet and upholstery, leaving the fabric refreshed. The jet nozzle worked to steam our carpet for sanitization purposes, and the round nylon brush was suitable as a spot cleaner. We also tested it on hard surfaces, like grout, sinks, and an oven. The handheld unit was awkward to maneuver when tackling large jobs since it lacks an extension hose, but it still cleaned well.
We also used the mop, and it was one of our favorite features. Since it delivered such a high amount of steam, it cleaned quickly. The biggest con was the short 15.9 foot power cord that didn’t reach across some of our test rooms.
- Weight: 4.85 pounds
- Surfaces: Hard surfaces, floors, fabric, grout, carpet, clothing, windows, mirrors, stainless steel
- Attachments: 10 attachments
- Excellent mopping power and slim enough to fit around toilets, baseboards, and furniture
- Cleans multiple surfaces, including upholstery and carpet, with only water
- Super lightweight and maneuverable; water tank can be refilled while steaming
- Handheld unit doesn’t include an extension hose, making it hard to reach some surfaces
- Shorter 15.9 foot electrical cord doesn’t stretch across long rooms, requiring users to switch outlets
Get the PurSteam handheld steam cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, or PurSteam.
This cleaner from Bissell offers the versatility of a handheld steamer while attaching to a long steam mop. The mop allows easy cleaning of hardwood, laminate, tile, and other hard floor surfaces, while the handheld steamer works on furniture, curtains, clothes, and other fabrics.
The onboard cleaning kit includes three round scrubbing brushes, a flat scraper, a flat surface tool, a bristle scrub brush, a grout tool, and an angle tool. The attachments can hook directly to the handheld unit or the same extension tube as the mophead, helping you reach ceiling fans, molding, and windows. A bonus garment steamer makes this unit a complete in-home cleaning system.
During testing, we used the fabric steamer to release wrinkles from clothing, and it worked as intended. We also spot treated stains on carpet, microsuede, and jeans. This model removed the light stains but didn’t make a dent in dark or oil-based ones. To continue testing, we switched to the grout brush, which dislodged the dirt in our grout lines. We appreciated that the attachments could hook to the extension tube, allowing us to clean high shower grout without straining our arms or neck.
The handheld unit also performed well on grease and mineral buildup, but this model does have a couple of pitfalls. First, there’s no hose for the attachments. When tackling larger jobs that are low to the ground, like cleaning floor grout or removing buildup in bathtubs, models with a hose sit on the ground while you hold the lightweight cleaning attachment in your hand. Since the Bissell PowerFresh lacked a hose, we constantly had to switch hands when one became too tired, especially when cleaning floor grout. Second, the handheld unit attaches to the top of the mop, so it feels heavy compared to other options.
- Weight: 6.125 pounds
- Surfaces: Hard surfaces, floors, fabric, upholstery, grout, appliances, showers, sinks, bathrooms, toys
- Attachments: 7 pieces
- Converts from a handheld steamer to a stick mop for whole-house cleaning
- Multiple cleaning-head attachments go directly on the handheld unit or the extension wand
- Can clean most materials and surfaces, including upholstery, kitchens, baths, ovens, and countertops
- Lack of extension hose makes for awkward cleaning on jobs like grout, sinks, and ovens
- Expensive in comparison to other mop/handheld steamers with similar features
Get the Bissell PowerFresh handheld steam cleaner at Amazon, Lowe’s, Wayfair, Walmart, Target, or Bissell.
The McCulloch MC1375 is a canister steam cleaner with handheld and mop attachments. It boasts a 48 ounce water tank and can last up to 90 minutes. It features an on-demand trigger that locks in place for continuous steam, which is important when tackling large jobs like cleaning grout.
This model works for indoor and outdoor surfaces, including floors, bathrooms, concrete, grills, and many kitchen surfaces. It features a wheeled bottom, an 18-foot power cord, and a long extension hose, making it easy to maneuver. It also comes with integrated cord storage and a bag for its 20 accessories.
The McCulloch MC1375 performed the best during our soft-surface tests. It removed dirt, wine, and coffee on all surfaces. While it didn’t completely remove oil, chocolate sauce, or tomato sauce, it eliminated or lightened these stains better than the other models. Its accessories proved useful in deep cleaning hard surfaces, and it was able to blast through grease on the oven, remove mineral deposits around a sink, and break down dirt and grime on our floors.
At over 10 pounds, it’s the heaviest handheld steam cleaner on our list and not a good option for those cleaning multiple stories. It also doesn’t include a dedicated upholstery attachment, although the jet nozzle worked well for spot treating stains and releasing wrinkles from clothes. It’s best suited for those who’ve previously used steam cleaners and are looking for a high-quality steamer with tons of versatility and heavy-duty attachments.
- Weight: 10.78 pounds
- Surfaces: Hard surfaces, floors, concrete, appliances, grills, decks
- Attachments: 20 accessories
- Wheeled bottom, long extension hose, and 18 foot power cord make it easy to maneuver
- Performed the best in our soft-surface test, removing several types of stains
- Comes with 20 versatile accessories for indoor and outdoor cleaning
- Heavier model that may not be ideal for carrying up and down the stairs
- Doesn’t include a dedicated upholstery attachment; must use jet nozzle instead
Get the McCulloch handheld steam cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, McCulloch, or Kohl’s.
Light and compact, the Phueut pressurized handheld steam cleaner has 12 accessories, including a jet nozzle, four brushes, dedicated window and upholstery tools, a flexible extension hose, and a bent nozzle for reaching awkward corners. The high-pressure steam can reach a temperature of up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, effectively killing germs and bacteria.
The Phueut handheld steam cleaner is ready in 3 to 5 minutes, and with a tank capacity of a fraction under 12 ounces (350 millimeters), it provides 8 to 12 minutes of cleaning time. The safety cap locks down when the steamer is at working temperature, preventing accidental scalding.
The Phueut handheld steam cleaner was one of our favorite compact models. The quality of the steamer and attachments felt on par with well-known brands and were easy to operate. We used it to release wrinkles from clothes, spot treat upholstery stains, and break down mineral deposits and grease. The high temperatures helped it dislodge dirt more quickly than some of the other steamers on our list.
One frustration point was the short 9.8 foot power cord. Switching outlets when using a steamer is not ideal, and we had to since this unit can’t reach far. Its on-demand trigger has no locking mechanism for continuous steam blasts. Considering how well this model cleaned, we wish we could’ve locked the steam into place during more time-consuming jobs.
- Weight: 3.9 pounds
- Surfaces: Hard surfaces, floors, fabric, upholstery, grout, car interiors, furniture, windows
- Attachments: 12 pieces
- Pressurized steam reaches 230 degrees Fahrenheit and lasts for 8 to 12 minutes
- 12-piece accessory kit includes 4 round brushes and other attachments designed to tackle various tasks
- Safety cap can only be opened if power is off and steam inside has cooled
- No steam trigger lock; must hold down the button during use
Get the Phueut handheld steam cleaner at Amazon.
We also tested the Comforday pressurized handheld steam cleaner and the Light ‘n’ Easy multifunctional steam mop, but neither passed testing. Within 5 minutes of using the Comforday, the metal tip blew out of the long spray nozzle. The steamer also featured a safety lock on the trigger, which felt cumbersome to hold down for more than a few minutes.
The Light ‘n’ Easy multifunctional steam mop worked well as a mop, but the detachable handheld unit left a lot to be desired. It only came with three attachments: a jet nozzle, a fabric-cleaning tool, and an extension hose. The fabric attachment worked to release wrinkles in clothes and upholstery but didn’t provide the whole-house cleaning versatility of the other models on our list.
What to Consider When Choosing a Handheld Steam Cleaner
The best handheld steam cleaner doesn’t just remove stains, dirt, and grime. It also needs to suit your budget, arm strength, and even patience. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when looking to buy a handheld steam cleaner.
Handheld steam cleaners are typically portable, even when the water tank is full. Even most large handheld models usually don’t run for more than an hour, which means they work well on emergency spills, small stains, pet accidents, and other light-duty jobs.
Many manufacturers list the types of tasks their handheld steam cleaners can tackle, but be aware that some models specifically meant for garments, for example, shouldn’t be used on a carpet. Knowing a steam cleaner’s intended use helps shoppers narrow down the options that best meet their cleaning needs.
Corded vs. Cordless
Since steam cleaners draw large amounts of electricity, there aren’t any cordless options. Instead, keep cord length in mind: The longer the cord and extension hose, the more of a reach a handheld steamer will have. The best handheld steam cleaners provide plenty of length so you don’t have to unplug mid-clean.
Size and Weight
When selecting the right handheld steam cleaner, size and weight are key since you’ll be holding and lifting the steamer during operation. If the reservoir is large, the volume of water can make a handheld cleaner heavier, making it more difficult to use after a few minutes. You’ll want to look for models with ergonomic handles and easy-to-reach buttons or switches.
Accessories are equally important and should be big enough to reach the areas that need deep cleaning yet small enough to store compactly when the handheld steamer isn’t in use.
Power and Steam Settings
Just as some vacuums have greater suction, some handheld steamers have more forceful steam pressure than others. Higher pressure can lead to better cleaning, but it could also damage certain surfaces, especially if the user is careless. As a general rule, perform a small spot test before cleaning a specific item or area and use only as much pressure as needed to do the job. On an upholstered sofa, for example, select a small area on the back, spot cleaning it using different power settings to determine the one that cleans best without causing damage.
Some steamers have one setting only, so the only way to change the pressure is to hold the steamer closer or farther away from the object. Other models have two or three modes to accommodate different tasks.
If the tank capacity is 6 to 8 ounces, the steamer will be much lighter and easier to lift but will run out of steam rather quickly, often in just a few minutes. A larger tank capacity means longer cleaning power, but it makes the unit much heavier.
Ideal tank capacity varies by task. A smaller tank can handle simple spot cleaning, but a larger one is necessary to clean, say, a set of shower doors. Again, larger tank capacity makes a steam cleaner heavier, so you’ll want to determine how much weight you can comfortably hold throughout a chore.
Ergonomic handles with padding and easy-to-reach controls mean a handheld steam cleaner can be used without strain on the fingers.
A lighter handheld pressurized steam cleaner is much more comfortable than a heavier model. As previously discussed, weight depends on tank size—the larger the tank capacity, the heavier the handheld steam cleaner will be when it’s full.
If cleaning floors is a primary use, you’ll want to consider a handheld model with longer attachments or a detachable wand to help alleviate back strain. Those that double as steam mops offer similar benefits.
Steam cleaners often come with a wide variety of attachments as a standard part of the purchase. A good cleaner typically includes a few brushes, a window squeegee, angled and bendable nozzles for cleaning in deeper or hard-to-reach areas, carpet or mop steaming heads, and a longer attachment for reaching places like the top of ceiling fan blades. If those aren’t enough, look for optional attachments, like detailing nozzles for cleaning the upholstery in a vehicle or stiff brushes for cleaning grout or kitchen grills. Extensions can turn some into lightweight, full-size steam mops.
In this guide, we give shoppers ample information to make an informed handheld steam cleaner purchase. Those still wanting more information may want to read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about handheld steam cleaners.
Q. Can a handheld steam cleaner be used on carpet?
Yes, a handheld steamer is an excellent tool for spot cleaning carpet. For whole-house carpet cleaning, a larger model designed specifically for that purpose works best.
Q. Will handheld steamers kill bed bugs?
Yes, handheld steamers can kill bed bugs and their eggs, both of which die at temperatures above 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Since water must be 212 degrees Fahrenheit to form steam, it’s well above the temperature needed to kill bed bugs.
Q. What cannot be cleaned with a steam cleaner?
Avoid porous and unsealed surfaces, large carpeted areas, delicate materials such as silk or satin, and any object or fabric that doesn’t hold up well to heat.
Q. Should I add disinfectant to my steam cleaner solution?
No, never add anything other than water to a handheld steam cleaner’s reservoir unless the manufacturer’s instructions specifically say it’s fine to do so.
Why Trust Bob Vila
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Meet the Tester
Katie Barton has over 10 years of experience in product writing, has tested dozens of cleaning products, and has authored hundreds of articles for major media outlets. Her cleaning and organizing advice has been featured on a variety of popular home and finance websites. She takes an unbiased approach to product testing, using each product multiple times or for several days/weeks.
Additional research provided by Shannon Lee and Bob Beacham.