Steam cleaner buying guide

Steam cleaner buying guide

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Better than a standard mop and handier than a vacuum cleaner, steam cleaners remove any kind of dirt from any type of surface, such as tiles, windows and carpets. But do you need a steam cleaner with suction? And what power rating should you choose? What factors do you need to bear in mind to pick the right steam cleaner? Read on to find the right steam cleaner for you.

Important features

  • Type of steam cleaner
  • Flow rate and pressure
  • Power and run time
  • Additional attachments and accessories
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What is a steam cleaner?

What is a steam cleaner?

A steam cleaner is a household appliance similar to a vacuum cleaner. Mainly used to deep clean flooring (carpets, tiles, linoleum, etc.) and get rid of mites, steam cleaners can be used to clean work surfaces, windows, hobs, rugs and mattresses, depending on their individual set up and/ or attachments (round brush, floor nozzle, flat fan nozzle, etc.),

An efficient and environmentally friendly cleaning device, steam cleaners can kill over 99% of bacteria, microbes and other allergens just with steam, with no need to add cleaning products to aid the cleaning process.

Steam cleaners run on electricity and could be mistaken for vacuum cleaners at first glance. But they operate differently in every other regard, since they heat water to 100°C, turning it into steam.

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Functionality and steam generation

Steam cleaners are equipped with an electric motor that heats the water, turning it into steam. A thruster then kicks in and sends the steam from the heating chamber down the hose to the brush.

The steam, blasted out by the brush, squeegee or gun, cleans thoroughly thanks to its high temperature. Factors such as the flow rate and power rating will vary depending on the features and intended use of your steam cleaner. Equipped with a steam diffuser, all-in-one steam cleaners offer enhanced versatility.

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Steam cleaners

Different types of steam cleaner

First off, a steam cleaner will eliminate all manner of dirt, grease, germs and mites that are lurking in your home. From your tiles, windows, fabrics, even in the bathroom, they'll work their magic on any surface type. By heating water to 100°C or more (200 °C max.), instead of using detergents, steam cleaners make it easy to keep your house spick and span. They come in many shapes and sizes, so to pick the right steam cleaner, you'll have to weigh up your needs.

Handheld steam cleaner


Are you looking for a quick-start ultra-light steam cleaner for small household chores? Go for a handheld steam cleaner. They will easily remove grease and limescale from your taps and sanitary fixtures. Nothing stands in their way!

Steam mop


Steam mops are specialists in cleaning hard floors: tile, linoleum, wood floors, etc. Thanks to their stick design, you can avoid back pain. Their light weight and manoeuverability make them ideal, and when it comes to storage, they're perfect!

Basic steam cleaner

Klassischer Dampfreiniger

Whether portable or on wheels, a basic steam cleaner is similar to a cylinder vacuum cleaner. This versatile model is ideal for sanitising floors, bathrooms, windows, fabrics and other objects using the range of attachments. Also available in more compact versions which take up less space.

Vacuum steam cleaner


Two appliances in one, the vacuum steam cleaner combines two actions: steam cleaning and automatic suction. No need to vacuum before you start. Perfect if you're in a rush!

Window cleaner


Easy to handle thanks to their compact size, your windows will be sparkling in no time! Say bye-bye to flyspeck and residue on your windows! Steam window cleaners are fast and efficient.

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Pressure washer detergents

Calculating the flow rate and pressure

Besides power ratings and run time, the flow rate and pressure determine how efficient the steam cleaner will be.

Steam cleaner flow rate

Flow rate defines the amount of steam emitted by the steam cleaner. Flow rate is measured in grams per minute (g/min) and ranges from 0 to 115 g/min. The higher the value, the more efficient the steam cleaner will be. For hard floors, a flow rate higher than 70 g/min offers great performance. On some steam cleaners, you can adjust the flow rate according to the type of floor to be treated and how dirty it is.

Steam cleaner pressure

Pressure is expressed in bars, indicating the force with which the steam cleaner blasts out steam. You generally want between 3 to 6 bars. High pressure and time-saving go hand-in-hand. Over 4 bars, steam cleaners are considered suitable for effortlessly removing dirt from your carpets and from between tile grouting, etc.

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Which power rating to choose for enhanced performance

Die richtige Heizleistung

Expressed in watts (W), the power rating determines the warm-up time before the steam is ready.

The higher the power rating, the faster the device will start up, making it more efficient. The different types of steam cleaner have differing power ratings:

  • window cleaners - 12 W to 900 W;

  • handheld steam cleaners and steam mops - 900 W to 1600 W;

  • steam cleaners with or without suction - from 1200 W. If you want to save time, a 1900 W steam cleaner will be ready to clean in less than a minute.

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Handheld steam cleaners

Run time: tank capacity and/or battery life

Various parameters come into play when choosing the suitable run time for your steam cleaner.

Tank capacity

When the water held in the tank runs out, you will need to turn your steam cleaner off to recharge it. With a tank of less than one litre, run time is 20 to 30 minutes, which is enough to clean a small area in one go. Over 2 litres, you have a run time of up to 2 hours, enough to clean your whole house. Another interesting option: a steam cleaner with a removable tank that you can refill with water while in use; even better, a steam cleaner equipped with an auto-refill function.

Cable length

For electric steam cleaners, the length of the cable itself – from 4 to 9 metres – will limit the operating range. Some handheld steam cleaners are battery-operated. In this case, their run time is based on the battery life - from 2 minutes to 2 hours.

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Multi-purpose steam cleaners for more efficient cleaning

Multi-purpose steam cleaners for more efficient cleaning

Did you know that steam cleaners can be used for other purposes thanks to additional attachments? With a range of nozzles, you can cover all of your day-to-day needs.


A large brush for tiles, a small brush to thoroughly clean small areas - mattresses, armchairs, etc., and a triangular brush to get into every corner!

Detail nozzle

A detail nozzle is highly effective at removing impurities from taps, toilets, between tile grout in the bathroom - no matter how stubborn!


Squeegees are a must-have to make your mirrors and windows sparkle without leaving any residue behind.


The best way to gently uncrumple your clothes.

Wallpaper stripper

Wallpaper steamers are handy and save you long hours slogging to manually strip wallpaper.

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Options for ease of use

If we're talking about daily cleaning, comfort is essential!

Steam cleaner weight

Your steam cleaner should be easy to handle, especially if you need to lift it to clean high up areas. If the choice is between two steam cleaners with the same specs, go for the lightest one.

Steam cleaner noise level

If you don't want to become deaf, make sure the tank on your cleaner has good sound proofing. Otherwise, opt for a steam cleaner with a noise reduction pump.

Handle controls

A steam cleaner with handle controls saves you from having to bend down to adjust the flow of steam. This comes in handy because you can adjust the controls with a simple flick of the thumb to handle areas with different levels of grime.

Tips for choosing and using your steam cleaner

Dampfreiniger: Tipps zur Auswahl und Verwendung

Are weight and manoeuvrability your main concerns? Opt for handheld cleaners with or without a cable - or steam mops that can easily be stored in a small space.

However, if you're looking for a multi-purpose steam cleaner, there's nothing better than a cylinder steam cleaner or those that incorporate a vacuum cleaner. One thing they can be used for is cleaning glass with a squeegee. However, if you want to clean a large surface area, it's better to arm yourself with a window steam cleaner.

Given that steam cleaners use boiling water, it's important to check what safety features they incorporate, such as safety valves and child locks. Then all you need to do is just blast out that steam!

Before making any purchases, make sure you check the availability of future attachments and try to test their durability - hose, squeegee, brush, etc.

If you have hard water in your house, consider filtering it so that it works better in your cleaner. An accumulation of limescale can obstruct the water flow and block circulation. For other cleaning purposes, get yourself a high-pressure washer!

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Window steam cleaners

More information

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Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

First of all, my studies have nothing to do with decoration or DIY as I was specialised in management. My passion in DIY started 5 years ago (very recently!) Everything started when we bought a house to renovate from floor to ceiling. As I’m a self-taught person, I started working on different house projects both inside and outside. My husband helped me but the student soon overtook the teacher! And as there are a lot of green spaces in Wales, gardening tools have no secrets for me. My friends and family often come to me for advice when it comes to DIY. Today, I want to share this knowledge with you!

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