Home improvement

Steam vacuum cleaners for the home: what is it and how to choose the best one

Steam vacuum cleaners combine three devices at once: a steam generator, a steam mop and a vacuum cleaner. We will talk about the features of these devices and the parameters that you should pay attention to when buying.

When cleaning with a steam vacuum cleaner, you can not use detergents, since most household dirt can be easily removed with steam. This is especially true in a house where there are small children and allergy sufferers. 

Steam effectively removes stubborn dirt from tiles, kitchen hoods, windows and mirrors, hob, faucets, artificial carpets, etc. But there are some nuances when using it on some floor coverings, so when choosing a steam vacuum cleaner, you need to study the description of the device and instructions. And if you are already in the process of cleaning in doubt whether hot steam will damage the surface, try treating a small area first.

What is a steam cleaner

Do not confuse a steam cleaner with a steam mop and steam cleaner. Yes, all three types of cleaning equipment use a steam generator, and usually a removable one, but this is the only thing that unites them. 

A steam cleaner  is a vacuum cleaner equipped with a steam generator. With it, you can do the usual dry cleaning, and then remove the remaining dirt with a steam stream and easily vacuum it. The principle of steam cleaning is as follows: water is poured into a special tank, the liquid is brought to a boil, and steam is supplied under pressure to the surface to be cleaned. In some models, wet cleaning without steam is also provided.

A steam mop is a hybrid of a conventional mop with a steam generator. The dirt softened by the steam flow is not sucked into the appliance: it must be removed manually with a cloth. A conventional steam cleaner also treats the surface with steam, after which the user removes the exfoliated dirt with a vacuum cleaner or microfiber – the device itself does not suck in or wipe anything.

Types of steam cleaners

Vacuum cleaners can be equipped with the steam cleaning function:

  • Ordinary “classic” with a bag (obsolete).
  • Cyclonic – they more effectively separate polluted air into debris and purified air flow, and also maintain the same suction power throughout the entire cleaning. In addition, the user does not need to buy consumables for such a device. The cyclone model is suitable if you need a vacuum cleaner for dry and steam cleaning only. 
  • Detergents with an aquafilter – also allow you to perform wet cleaning. But they are bulky, so they are not very convenient for use in high-rise buildings and small apartments. Before choosing a washing steam cleaner, evaluate its dimensions and weight, and also find a place to store it in advance.

Also steam vacuum cleaners are divided into horizontal and vertical. Horizontal – with a classic design (you hold the hose in your hands and pull the vacuum cleaner along with you). Usually they are large in size, but also with increased power and functionality. Therefore, such models are well suited for large rooms and cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, where you need to remove dirt and grease from surfaces that are above floor level.

More popular are vertical steam cleaners: they are actually a modernized steam mop, supplemented with a suction function. Outwardly, they resemble ordinary upright vacuum cleaners, but more massive due to the presence of a built-in steam generator. 

Such devices are convenient to store, they are suitable for dry and steam cleaning of floor coverings in small rooms, and sometimes also for wet ones. Keep in mind: it is not very convenient to clean the hood or tile under the ceiling, wielding a device weighing several kilograms. Therefore, when choosing a vertical model, you should pay special attention to ergonomics and ease of manipulation. It is best that the device has a removable steam generator, which will be easier to lift to a greater height.

How to choose a steam cleaner

Below we will analyze the main criteria that you need to pay attention to when choosing a steam cleaner.

Vacuum cleaner power and steam output

Manufacturers usually focus on power consumption, but in fact this parameter shows the maximum possible power consumption, so we are not very interested in it.

It is much more important to know the suction power – it indicates how efficiently the device collects debris. For “steamers” the value of this indicator is less than for ordinary “cyclones” and detergents. And for horizontal models – higher than for vertical ones. Alas, you most likely will not find this parameter in the technical specifications – manufacturers rarely advertise it. If one is found, then it is worth focusing on the figure of 250-450 watts.

The steam flow parameter is also important for a steam cleaner. The higher it is, the larger the area can be effectively affected by the steam cleaner. It is best if the performance is adjustable so that you do not waste water and can choose the appropriate mode depending on the surface to be treated. 

We also advise you to take into account the value of steam pressure – usually it is indicated in bars and should be higher than 4 bar (otherwise the equipment will not cope well with persistent pollution). The presence in the vacuum cleaner of adjusting the steam pressure depending on the surface and the degree of its contamination will help to save water and electricity, and also extend the life of the vacuum cleaner. 

In addition, it is good if the device is equipped with a humidity controller, that is, it supports switching between dry and wet steam. Wet steam works well on hard surfaces, while dry steam cleans upholstery, textiles and carpets.

Volume of water tank and dust container

One liter of water is usually enough for half an hour of cleaning. In vertical vacuum cleaners, typical containers have a volume of 0.3 to 1 liter, in horizontal ones – 2–5 liters or more. You just have to estimate the amount of work and correlate it with the volume of the tank. 

Also choose the capacity of the dust container according to the principle “the more the better”: the more dust you can fit in it, the less often you have to empty the container. 

Water heating rate 

The speed of the cleaning process depends, among other things, on how quickly the water in the tank heats up. The optimal indicator is up to 2-5 minutes. True, the heating time can be reduced by pouring hot water into the tank.


The cyclone technology already has a double filtration system, but the outlet can be additionally protected by a fine filter. The most effective class of such filters is HEPA.

If there are allergy sufferers and asthmatics in the family, the HEPA filter class should be at least 12 (detains more than 95% of allergens). Even better, if the filter can be washed – so you save on consumables.

As for the aquafilter, steam vacuum cleaners with a washing function are additionally equipped with it. In general, the “more is better” principle also applies to filters.

Protection functions

Hot steam is not safe, so choose a steam cleaner with extra protection. At a minimum, the device must have a safety valve to protect against steam burns. As a maximum, a child protection function that allows you to lock the control panel and the boiler until the water cools down.

Ergonomics and attachments

If the vacuum cleaner has a suction power regulator, it will effectively remove debris, save energy and physical strength. For example, a flat floor like linoleum is completely useless to vacuum with maximum power, but it will come in handy on carpets.

Also, the use of a steam vacuum cleaner will facilitate the following features:

  • control buttons on the handle;
  • protrusion on the cord holder for its comfortable placement during cleaning;
  • water level indicator, which will allow you to see that it will end soon;
  • convenient system for installing and removing a rag for wet cleaning, for example, by pressing the pedal;
  • wheels on the main nozzle for better maneuverability;
  • closable storage compartment for attachments or external accessory locking system; 
  • parking mode, with which you can place the vacuum cleaner anywhere.

And, of course, a large number of complete nozzles allows you to expand the capabilities of the steam cleaner. Please note that the kit includes accessories for processing the surfaces you need. The most popular accessories:

  • rigid oval for textiles and carpet;
  • steam concentrator for hard-to-reach areas;
  • scrapers;
  • soft covers for carpets;
  • nozzles for windows and mirrors;
  • fabric overlays for various surfaces.

Summing up

When choosing a steam cleaner, you should first of all evaluate the surfaces that need cleaning, as well as the availability of appropriate nozzles in the kit. Separately, we note that steam is not recommended to clean carpets with natural pile, unstable laminate, wooden floors, brick, concrete, plaster and other porous coatings.

If you want to process upholstered furniture, curtains and other textiles, pay attention to the dry steam cleaning function. Finally, consider the weight of the device, especially if the house has stairs and high thresholds, and its ergonomics – all settings should be at hand.

Apart from this, if you are interested to know more about Your Energy then visit our Travel category.

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