Steam is a powerful cleaning tool. It can be used to clean a variety of surfaces around your home including carpets and upholstery. Hot and powerful steam from a steam cleaner can help release stains, odors, and caked-on messes that can make your carpets and furniture look dirty or dated.
Choosing the best steam cleaner to help you breathe new life into your carpets or upholstery is not always an easy task. There are many options and features to consider, making a product choice tough. To help make your decision a little easier, some of the best steam cleaners are listed below.
- BEST OVERALL: Hoover FH52000 Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner
- BEST HANDHELD: PurSteam World’s Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Dupray Neat Multipurpose Steam Cleaner
- BEST VACUUM AND STEAM MOP: Bissell PowerFresh All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop
- BEST SPOT CLEANER: Pure Enrichment PureClean Steam Cleaner
- BEST FOR DEEP CLEANING: Bissell Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner Machine
Types of Steam Cleaners for Carpets and Upholstery
A quick search for the best steam cleaner will reveal many different products and options. Understanding the differences among the types of carpet and upholstery steam cleaners can help you select a product that will meet your specific needs.
Handheld Steam Cleaners
Handheld steam cleaners are one option you’ll see. As their name suggests, these products are small enough to hold and carry around your home. They typically come with a variety of attachments that allow you to clean other items in your home, such as appliances, countertops, windows, and hardwood floors, in addition to carpets and furniture.
Since you’ll be carrying it around and holding it as you clean, a handheld steamer is best suited for smaller cleaning tasks, such as removing a stain from your carpet or sofa. It would not be the best option if you plan to steam clean all the carpets in your home.
Cylinder Steam Cleaners
Cylinder steam cleaners are one of the best options for bigger steam cleaning tasks. These products typically have a larger water tank, which means they’ll be able to produce steam for a longer amount of time before the tank will need to be refilled. The water tank on most cylinder cleaners is between 40 and 48 ounces, which should allow you to steam clean for up to 50 minutes at a time. Because of their larger water tank, cylinder steam cleaners are heavier than some other options. However, most have wheels to help you move them around on your carpets or hard floors as you clean.
Most cylinder steam cleaners come with numerous attachments to allow you to steam clean nearly any surface in your home. Extension tubes, triangular attachments, and brush attachments are some of the options you may find helpful when cleaning your carpet or upholstery.
Vapor Steam Cleaners
Vapor steam cleaners use a boiler to turn water vapor into a steam that is hot enough to disinfect surfaces. When the hot steam from a vapor steam cleaner comes in contact with different surfaces, it breaks the bonds that cause stains and messes. This will loosen the components of the stain, and you’ll be able to wipe them up. Unlike cylinder steam cleaners, vapor steam cleaners use dry steam, so the surfaces you use them on won’t be wet after you clean.
Many vapor steam cleaners are commercial-grade models and weigh close to 20 pounds, whereas most cylinder steam cleaners weigh about 10 pounds.
Like cylinder steam cleaners, vapor steam cleaners typically come with an array of attachments, enabling you to clean many different surfaces in your home. They may have brushes or other attachments to help you release stains on your furniture or carpets.
Vacuum Steam Cleaners
Vacuum steam cleaners are often referred to as carpet cleaners. These products use hot water and a cleaning solution to release stains and odors from carpets. If you want to clean the entire carpet in a room, as opposed to just spot cleaning, a vacuum steam cleaner is a good choice because it will allow you to steam clean a larger area more easily.
Unlike the other types of steam cleaners, a vacuum steam cleaner can also suck the excess water and trapped dirt out from your carpets. This will not only help your carpets dry more quickly but will also make sure no dirt or debris stays hidden in the carpet fibers after you release a stain. Like carpet deodorizers, vacuum steam cleaners also can help remove odors and leave your carpets smelling fresh.
In addition, many vacuum steam cleaners come with an upholstery tool designed to steam clean furniture and stairs.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Steam Cleaner
When you are trying to select the best steam cleaner to meet your needs, there are a few key features you may want to consider. Since there are so many types of steam cleaners and available options, knowing the features you need may help simplify your decision.
Wired vs. Wireless
First, consider whether you want a wired or a wireless steam cleaner. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
Wireless cleaners can be very convenient. You don’t need to worry about finding an outlet near where you are cleaning or be concerned about running over the cord. However, the battery on a wireless steam cleaner will only last so long before needing to be recharged. This can be very inconvenient if the battery dies when you’re in the middle of a cleaning task.
With a wired or corded steam cleaner, you don’t need to worry about being at the mercy of the charge on the battery. In many cases, corded steam cleaners will have a more powerful motor than battery-operated models, so they may perform better. However, wired steam cleaners will need to be plugged into an outlet, and you may find that you frequently need to unplug the cord and move it to a different outlet to clean your home.
Size and Weight
Before making a purchase, consider the size and weight of each model you are considering. Heavier steam cleaners, which could weigh 20 pounds or more, will not only be harder to push across your floor, they will also be more challenging to carry up or down the stairs to clean other areas in your home.
The size of a steam cleaner and its included attachments will impact how quickly you’re able to complete steam cleaning your upholstery and carpets. For example, if you choose a steam cleaner that only has a 3-inch tool to use on carpets, it will take you much longer to finish cleaning than it would with a larger vacuum steam cleaner with a wider cleaning head.
Power is another feature to compare. Some steam cleaners are able to produce steam at a higher pressure than others; this feature can be very helpful when releasing stains. If you’re looking at vacuum steam cleaners, some products will have stronger suction power than others. The power will help remove more of the dirty water and help your carpets dry more quickly.
There are different steam settings available on some steam cleaners. While some steamers don’t allow you to adjust the pressure, steam cleaners with variable steam and pressure control options typically offer about two steam settings. The lower pressure setting is around 15 grams per minute and the higher pressure setting is around 30 grams per minute. If you choose a steam cleaner that has only one pressure setting, it will likely be around 30 grams per minute.
Being able to adjust the pressure can help you safely clean more surfaces around the home. If you are cleaning a more delicate surface, having a lower pressure setting can prevent accidental damage.
The tank capacity of the different products you’re considering is important. Products with a larger water tank will be able to produce steam for longer periods of time before you’ll need to stop to refill. If you choose a steam cleaner with a small tank, you may get frustrated by the number of times you need to interrupt the task to refill the water.
For example, some handheld steamers may only have a capacity of around 10 or 12 ounces. These products may only produce steam for 15 minutes or less before they will need to be refilled. If you choose a product with a larger tank, such as a cylinder steam cleaner, it may hold closer to 50 ounces of water. This would allow you to steam for about an hour before needing to refill the tank.
With vacuum steam cleaners, a larger capacity tank also can allow you to clean longer before stopping to change the water. Most vacuum steam cleaners have a two-tank system with one tank for clean water and one tank for dirty water. Options with a larger tank will allow you to clean more carpeting before the dirty water tank is full.
Your comfort is another factor to keep in mind. Look for a product that is designed to be easy to hold and move around your floors. Features that can enhance the comfort of a steam cleaner include easy-to-reach controls and an ergonomic handle. Handles that have padding help keep your hand comfortable and prevent it from getting fatigued as you work with the steam cleaner in various rooms around your home.
Finding a steam cleaner that is easy to maneuver is essential. If the product you purchase is hard to push or turn, you may become frustrated as you try to complete your steam cleaning tasks.
The length of the hose on a steam cleaner also affects maneuverability. Longer hoses will make it much easier to clean stairs and other hard-to-reach areas.
If you’ve tried all the upholstery cleaning tips and cleaners you could find, and you still haven’t been able to get rid of set-in stains on your furniture, a steam cleaner with the right attachments may be just what you need. Look for models that come with cleaning brushes to help you get rid of unwanted stains and messes on your furniture.
If you would like to get the most out of your purchase, you may also want to look for products that come with other attachments to let you clean other surfaces in your home. If the necessary attachments are included, a steam cleaner can be used to clean grills, toilets, countertops, windows, appliances, mattress, and so much more.
Our Top Picks
The products below were selected to represent the best steam cleaners on the market. These products were chosen for a variety of reasons including quality, durability, and the features discussed above.
The Hoover Smartwash Automatic Cleaner is a great option if you need to clean large sections of carpet or entire rooms in your home. This vacuum steam cleaner is easy to use. Push it forward to dispense the hot water and solution mixture to clean your floors. Then, pull it back to suck up all the water, dirt, and grime to leave your carpets clean and refreshed.
The cleaner features FlexForce PowerBrushes that work to loosen and remove dirt and HeatForce technology to help carpets dry quickly. A 2-in-1 antimicrobial pet tool also is included to help you steam clean stairs and upholstery.
Enjoy chemical-free cleaning with the McCulloch Heavy-Duty Cylinder Steam Cleaner. This model has a large, 48-ounce water tank that will dispense hot steam for up to 45 minutes. The tank heats up very quickly. After just eight minutes you’ll be ready to start tackling all of your cleaning tasks.
The 15.7-foot power cord combined with the 9-foot steam hose allows you to easily reach all the nooks and crannies you need to clean. Eighteen accessories are included with this steamer, including various brushes to help you get rid of spots and stains on your carpets and furniture.
The PurSteam World’s Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner is a lightweight and portable option that will make it easy to clean any room in your home. The steamer can safely be used on many surface types including cotton and wool carpets, bedding, upholstery, laminate, granite, and wallpaper.
One of the best things about this model is that it will be hot and ready to use after just three to four minutes. The steam cleaner also comes with a nylon brush, an ironing brush, an extension hose, and six other accessories to make any cleaning task a breeze.
The Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner is capable of dispensing steam as hot as 275 degrees Fahrenheit. When used correctly, this is hot enough to sterilize surfaces in your home and will kill 99 percent of viruses and bacteria. The tank on this model holds enough water to allow for up to 50 minutes of continuous cleaning.
Eighteen accessories, including a triangle tool, crevice tool, and brushes for cleaning carpets and upholstery, are included with this product. You will receive a mop head and microfiber pads with the steamer, so you’ll also be able to steam clean the hard floors in your home.
The Bissell PowerFresh All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop is designed to cut down your cleaning time. With this one tool, you’ll be able to both vacuum and steam at the same time, eliminating the need to go over the same area with two or more cleaning tools. The cleaner features digital controls, allowing you to select vacuuming mode, steaming mode, or both at the same time.
The included microfiber soft pad and microfiber scrubby pad are perfect for all the hard floor surfaces in your home. Switching between the pads or taking them off for cleaning is easy with the detachable mop pad tray. This product features dry tank technology that keeps the debris inside the dirty tank dry for easier cleanups.
The Pure Enrichment PureClean Steam Cleaner comes with an 18-piece accessory set to help you get rid of unattractive stains on carpets, furniture, and even other hard surfaces in your home. Stain removers can only do so much; this steamer dispenses pressurized steam that will help break down and release stains and spots.
The cleaner features a 16-foot power cord. This makes it easy to move around and spot clean sections of your carpeting or furniture without worrying about unplugging the steamer and finding a new outlet. With the 1.5-liter tank, you’ll be able to clean for up to 45 minutes before the tank will need to be refilled.
The Bissell Big Green Carpet Cleaner Machine is a professional-grade option that will leave your carpets looking like new. This cleaner features Bissell’s DirtLifter PowerBrush that scrubs deep into carpet fibers to loosen ground-in dirt and grime. The machine’s heavy-duty suction then works to extract all the dirt and water from your carpets.
This product has a two-tank system that keeps the dirty and clean water separate to simplify cleanup. It is very durable and sturdy and will not tip over easily.
FAQs About Steam Cleaners
The following answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can help you decide on the best option before selecting or using a steam cleaner.
Q. Do you put hot or cold water in a steam cleaner?
You should put cold water into a steam cleaner. The machine will heat the water to the temperature needed to produce hot steam.
Q. How long do you steam clean?
The amount of time it will take to steam clean will vary based on what you are cleaning. Removing a spot from a couch, for example, will take significantly less time than steam cleaning a room’s carpet.
Q. Does steam cleaning kill bed bugs?
Yes, steam cleaning can kill bed bugs. The surface temperature of the mattress or bedding you are cleaning will need to reach between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit in order for the bed bugs and their eggs to be killed.
Q. Does steam cleaning kill mold spores?
Yes, a steam cleaner can kill mold spores. The high temperatures will kill the spores and the steam will be able to penetrate through cracks to kill mold in harder-to-reach areas.
Q. Does steam cleaning kill bacteria?
When the temperature is high enough, steam can effectively kill bacteria. The steam needs to be at least 175 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria, but higher temperatures are even more effective.