The best steam cleaners of 2024

If you're looking to keep your home spick and span, these powerful machines will get the job done.

Best overall

McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner with 18 Accessories

McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner

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Best upholstery cleaner

A Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Portable Spot Cleaner on a blue and white background

Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Portable Spot Cleaner

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Best multipurpose

BISSELL steam cleaner

Bissell Steam Shot Deluxe Hard-Surface Cleaner

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If the area under your sink is a hodgepodge of spray bottles to clean your hardwood floors, carpets, appliances, and upholstery, it may be time to upgrade to a steam cleaner. This machine could be all you need to safely and effectively sanitize the various surfaces, fabrics, and materials in your home—without harsh chemicals. If you’re ready to invest in a steam cleaner, figure out what you need from the device before you buy. Will you be using it primarily on hardwood floors? Or is your home carpeted? Do you want something that will pull triple-duty as a floor-cleaning tool, a handheld contraption for hard-to-reach places, and an upholstery steamer? Then you need something multipurpose. Use our guide to find the best steam cleaners for your particular needs, even if you’re on a tight budget.

How we chose the best steam cleaners

Sometimes, a vacuum-mop just isn’t right for the job. And the best steam cleaners for someone with rooms full of wall-to-wall carpet and upholstery may not be the right option for someone just looking for an extra layer of sanitation on all the hard surfaces of the kitchen and bathroom. And it may be different, still, for someone who wants to break out the machine once a year for a super-deep spring cleaning. Whether you’re looking for a basic floor cleaner, something to deep-clean the carpets, or an upholstery cleaner to finally knock that seemingly permanent layer of dust off the furniture, a device is right for you. We considered a range of brands and options before making our recommendations.

The best steam cleaners: Reviews & Recommendations

A steam cleaner does what it sounds like: heats water until it vaporizes, then uses that water to disinfect and sanitize. Because it’s a green way to clean, it’s a great option for anyone eco-conscious or with allergies. Some studies have even shown steam cleaning to effectively fight mold, bacteria, viruses—even bed bugs (eek). In fact, steam is the CDC’s recommended method for sanitizing your home. One of our choices should help you clean all the nooks and crannies in your home.

Best overall: McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner

Large-Capacity Tank

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Why it made the cut: This steamer will take care of most of your cleaning needs, from your kitchen floor to your carpet to the detail on your car.

Specs

  • Weight: 12 pounds 
  • Power: Corded 
  • Tank capacity: 48 ounces

Pros

  • Works on a wide range of surfaces
  • Performs heavy duty cleaning on grease and grime
  • Comes with 18 attachments

Cons

  • Not as portable as other models

Though this steam cleaner is heavier than some of its peers—12 pounds, to be precise—a 15-foot-long power cord and a 9-foot steam hose make it easy to maneuver all over your home or business. This versatile machine works on carpets, most floors, counters, windows, appliances, windows, and inside vehicles. It comes with 18 attachments that allow you to switch on mops, sqeegees, brushes, scrub pads, and more. You can feel good using it often in your home because it cleans ceramic tile, grout, granite, sealed wood flooring, grills, and more without dangerous chemicals. And its 48-ounce tank heats water up in under 8 minutes and allows for 45 minutes of cleaning at a time, making it the top option on our list of best steam cleaners.

Best for floors: Bissell PowerFresh Slim Hard Wood Floor Steam Cleaner System

Eliminates 99.9 Percent of Germs

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Why it made the cut: This versatile device converts from stick mop to handheld device for maximum utility.

Specs

  • Weight: 6 pounds 
  • Power: Corded
  • Tank capacity: 10 ounces

Pros

  • Works on a range of surfaces
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to transport

Cons

  • Smaller capacity

If you’re working with hard surfaces, especially wood, you need to make sure the cleaner you’ve chosen is compatible to avoid any damage. First, double-check that your floors are sealed, and that goes for other materials, too, like linoleum, granite, and marble. If they’re not sealed, do not steam them. (The best thing to do is check with the manufacturer, but a quick test is to spill a few droplets of water on the floor. If they bead, you’re sealed.)Once you’ve confirmed that your floors are appropriate for steaming, choose the proper gentle accessory—for example, a flat-surface tool (not a scrub brush or scraper) and make sure to set your machine to “low.” The last thing you want to do while sanitizing your floors is to damage them accidentally.

The best steam cleaners for floors? A Bissell steam cleaner is pretty much the gold standard in the category. All the accessories conveniently hook onto the base, which still weighs only 6 pounds, making it easy to schlep around. The 25-foot power cord makes it easy to move around, and it can be used everywhere from your grout to the inside of your oven.

Best portable: Mosche Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner

Just 4 Pounds

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Why it made the cut: If you’re not looking to pull around a machine, this handheld steamer is convenient and comparable power to other models. 

Specs

  • Weight: 3.85 pounds
  • Power: Corded
  • Tank capacity: 12.35 ounces

Pros

  • Easy to transport
  • Works on a range of surfaces
  • Handheld

Cons

  • May not reach high locations as easily

Handheld steam cleaners offer the most adaptability, versatility, and convenience. They tend to be relatively lightweight for easy maneuverability, especially in tight corners. If you’re looking for something that can clean every surface of your house—from the soap stains on your vanity to the grease marks on your hutch to the wrinkles in your sheets—you can’t go wrong with a portable handheld. These are great for detail-oriented cleaners. This steamer comes with 11 attachments that you can use everywhere, from the grill to your bathroom tile to your car. But portable doesn’t mean powerless: this 1050-watt steamer heats up in under 5 minutes and can continuously emit pressurized steam for up to 12 minutes. You can easily carry this handheld from room to room and it comes with a 9.4-foot cord for when you need to plug in, which makes this model our pick for the best steam cleaners that are portable.

Best upholstery cleaner: Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Portable Spot Cleaner

Great On Stains

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Why it made the cut: This cleaner is designed for spot cleaning and upholstery, which makes it a good choice for pet owners.

Specs

  • Weight: 9.4 pounds
  • Power: Cordless
  • Tank capacity: 8 ounces

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good to cleaning spills and up after pets
  • Cordless

Cons

  • Not as good for bigger jobs
  • Short battery life

The best upholstery cleaner is a spot cleaner, which uses suction and vapor to get into even the most down and dirty stains. And the best part about steaming your fabric-covered furniture is that because you’re using only water, you’re relatively safe from damage. (Use your instincts. For example, don’t use a steamer on your leather armchair.) Especially if you have fabric-covered furniture and you also have pets, an upholstery cleaner is a must. With this steam vacuum cleaner, you’ll suction up and destroy dirt, dander, germs, and whatever else your pets (or guests) may have tracked in.

This lightweight, 350-milliliter capacity, handheld furniture steam cleaner is great for whipping out at a moment’s notice. Toddler spill something? Pet make a mess? Just want to give that wrinkly dress of yours the once over? Grab the handheld steamer and you’re set. It heats up in three to four minutes and delivers 20 minutes of steam. You get their Paws & Claws stain remover with your purchase of the best upholstery cleaner, which is great if you’re looking to amp up the power of your steam cleaner beyond plain water. Just always remember two words before you get started: Patch. Test.

Best multipurpose: Bissell SteamShot Deluxe Hard-Surface Cleaner

Tiny but Mighty

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Why it made the cut: This option from a respected brand is designed to target tile and grout with directed pressure and a range of brushes.

Specs

  • Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Power: Corded
  • Tank capacity: 6.6 ounces

Pros

  • Directed cleaning with range of nozzles
  • Comes with three nylon brushes and a grout tool
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not good for floors

A multipurpose cleaner delivers concentrated shots of vapor into those hard-to-reach places you may have never thought about steaming. Ever knelt and used a Q-tip to clean the goopy track of your shower door? No longer! What about the grimy grout between all your tiles? Forget about it.

This versatile steamer lets you seriously sanitize—with minimal effort—those places you dread the most. High-pressure concentrated vapor wipes out dirt with no additional cleaning solvent or elbow grease required. At just 4.5 pounds, you can tote this Bissel steam cleaner around, looking for surfaces begging to be blasted. And it takes just 30 seconds to warm up. Steaming can tackle ceramic, laminate, vinyl, granite, marble, fabric, and sealed wood, making it our pick for the best multipurpose steam cleaner.

Expensive isn’t necessarily better when it comes to finding the best steam cleaners that are almost as good as a professional steam cleaner. Especially if you end up intimidated by contraptions with lots of bells and whistles (and therefore end up not using them), there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple and affordable. You may end up with a smaller capacity tank or a model that takes a little longer to heat up, but the best device on a budget will still get the job done.

Best budget: LIGHT ‘N’ EASY Multi-Functional Steam Mop

Just the Essentials

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Why it made the cut: This steam mop is lightweight, has a flexible head for easier cleaning, and comes at an affordable price.

Specs

  • Weight: 6.3 pounds
  • Power: Cordless
  • Tank capacity: 6.7 ounces

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Powerful
  • Works on a range of floors

Cons

  • Not ideal for upholstery or smaller spaces

Expensive isn’t necessarily better when it comes to finding the best steam cleaners for you. Especially if you end up intimidated by contraptions with lots of bells and whistles (and therefore end up not using them), there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple and affordable. You may end up with a smaller capacity tank or a model that takes a little longer to heat up, but the best device on a budget will still get the job done. A flexible head lets you get into hard-to-reach places. This cheap floor mop uses vapor to clean and also heats up in only 20 seconds. But if you want to use this one on the rugs, you’ll need to buy separate accessories.

Things to consider when looking for the best steam cleaners

Instead of outsourcing your rug cleaning (expensive!) or just vacuuming (doesn’t sanitize), steam cleaning at home not only removes stains from your carpets but also disinfects, thanks to the high heat. That means it can kill mold spores, germs, and bugs while also refreshing your carpet, giving it new life.

Parents—of human children and furbabies alike—can also take comfort in knowing that steam cleaning uses only hot water to do the job. So your kids and pets are safe to roll around and do whatever it is they do on the carpet without your worrying about what potentially harmful solvents they’re lying on.

Before making a purchase, consider whether you’re looking for a machine that can handle a range of jobs or one that is best for floors, or your car, for example. And think about whether you prefer a cord or a cordless device and if you would like it to be handheld or a larger device that you will pull.

FAQs

Q: How much does a steam cleaner cost?

Our picks on this list range from just over $40 to more than $150. Steam cleaners vary in price depending on their features, attachments, power, and other factors.

Q: How long does steam take to kill bacteria?

No time at all! Well, practically no time. As long as the steam is hot enough (between 175 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit, though even higher is better), three minutes should do the trick. When you’re using a steam cleaner on floors, remember to vacuum first.

Q: What happens to the dirt when you steam clean?

It’s true: Matter cannot be created or destroyed. So if you’re steaming a surface in order to clean it, even though it looks like the grime may have just disappeared, it hasn’t. The dirt gets picked up when you wipe it away. You steam mop the floor, and the dirt adheres to the reusable or disposable pad.

Q: What should you not steam clean?

Avoid delicate fabrics like silk, leather, and suede; porous surfaces like stucco and brick; any unsealed wood, granite, or marble; and anything that’s been painted. When in doubt, skip the steam.

A final word on shopping for the best steam cleaners

Whether everybody in your house has a cold and you want to sanitize every single surface, or you’re just looking to upgrade your arsenal of cleaning tools with an easy-to-use, convenient, hypoallergenic machine, these devices may be for you. With nothing but piping-hot water, the best steam cleaners can take on every dust mite, microbe, and dirt fleck that dares set foot in your home.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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Billy Cadden

Senior Director of Commerce

Billy Cadden is the Senior Director of Commerce for the science, tech, and outdoor group at Recurrent. He began working as the Commerce Editor at PopSci in 2017, where he spent 5 years diving deep into every product he could get his hands on. Cadden splits his time between Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and Woodstock with his dog Wanda. He spends his time seeking new coffee shops and writing for his solo music project