Steam Cleaners: The Ultimate Buyers Guide

Vapor Steam Cleaners, Multi-purpose Steam Cleaners, Carpet Steam Cleaners,  the list goes on. All of these different terms that generally have no explanation can be confusing and deter people away out of fear of buying the wrong product and having to deal with the hassle of returning it and other nuances. But if you have been searching for a natural cleaning method or are looking to save some money in the long run, you may just be consider one of these devices. The problem with some of these tools is that there are just so many! Not to mention there are so many different steam cleaners each designed to do a specific task. Today we will try to go over everything under the sun about steam cleaning before you decide to go out and buy anything.


Table Of Contents

  • Benefits Of Steam Cleaning – We have an entire post dedicated to the benefits of steam cleaning, but we’ll go over a few here.
  • Where Do Steam Cleaners Come From? – Learn where these innovative tools originate from.
  • Steam Cleaners Or Carpet Cleaners – See the major differences in these products and although they sound similar are not at all.
  • Different Strokes For Different Folks – Learn some of the different features these products offer.
  • Purchasing The Right Steam Cleaner For Your Needs – It’s not always the bigger and badder steam cleaners you need. Learn how to evaluate your needs.
  • Proper Care And Maintenance – Although we have an entire post on the do’s and dont’s of steam cleaning, we’ll mention some vital tips here in this post.

Now that we have an agenda to follow, let’s get started.

The Benefits Of Steam Cleaning

Any reader of this site could easily tell how passionate we are about steam cleaning. There are several different reasons but we feel the strongest are the following:

  • They Are Economically Friendly – We don’t feel that there is any other product in the world that is as eco-friendly as a steam cleaner is. With the only requirement being a few cups of water it just cannot be beat. The amount we’ve saved over the years by utilizing steam cleaning technology has been incredible. We no longer use any harmful cleaning products or aerosols that damage the environment and our own health and make it an objective to keep those products away. So not only will you be improving your own health, but the environment’s as well.
  • They Can Be Inexpensive – Unless you are a business owner or are in search of a commercial steam cleaner, these devices can be relatively cheap as long as you are purchasing them within your means. We personally just use a McCulloch MC-1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner that costs around a hundred dollars and is a true workhorse. These machines do get into the thousands of dollars though which is the very reason we created this guide – for you to be an informed buyer!

Where Do Steam Cleaners Come From?

The idea of the portable steam cleaner originated in the 1960’s  when Italian boiler manufacturers began to experiment with the idea of using vapor steam as a means of cleaning. This technology was quickly accepted by European manufacturers when they saw the cleaning capabilities of pressurized steam.  Due to complications of differing voltage standards, steam cleaners were not really a big product in the United States because of it. Steam cleaning is now accepted in the US by many big name brands like Hoover, and Shark for example. These companies now mass produce steam cleaning products which have been huge successes.

Steam Cleaners Or Carpet Cleaners

A big problem we’ve seen lately are companies advertising their products as “Steam Carpet Cleaners”. What they fail mention is that these products don’t actually produce any steam at all. In fact, they are better called “hot water extraction” devices. Some commercial steam cleaning units do come with a vacuuming option which may produce steam and vacuum at the same time, but these devices are hugely expensive and not suited for a recreational home user. So before you decide to purchase that hundred dollar “Steam Carpet Cleaner” just bear in mind that it won’t be producing steam any time soon.  We personally like to use our steam cleaner as an effective stain remover. As long as you have a wet/dry vacuum you could have a quick solution for carpet spot treatment. Just steam the stain and agitate the area, and when you are done vacuum up all the water.

Different Strokes For Different Folks

We will break down the different types of steam cleaners into 4 categories as follows:

  • Handheld Steam Cleaners – These are the small handheld steam cleaners you will tend to see on television channels like the home shopping network. They are great tools for quick cleaning and don’t break the bank. Check out a few here.
  • Steam Mops – Steam mops are great devices that generally take just a minute to heat up and you are ready to go. You see these on the TV all the time because of their growing popularity.
  • Multi-Purpose Canister Steam Cleaners – These particular steam cleaners are for the more active user. These generally hold a few cups of water and produce continuous steam for up to an hour. Our favorite is the McCulloch MC-1275.
  • Commercial Steam Cleaners – A home user will not generally need to worry about needing a commercial steam cleaner as they are meant for big cleaning jobs. These don’t come cheap and are hugely expensive.

It is important to note the many different features these products offer.  We think the following are some important things to consider:

  • Heat-up Time: How long are you going to have to wait for your steam cleaner to boil the water and produce steam? Most units will be fully heated on an average of 10-15 minutes, but this time does vary and is dependent upon how much water is in the boiler, and how much power is being used to heat it. Steam mops and handheld devices can take as little as one minute to be fully heated but do not produce steam for very long and their uses are limited. These limitations are why we recommend a multi-purpose steam cleaner which generally includes a steam mop function along with all of the other cleaning attachments the manufacturer decides to include with it.
  • Pressure: You will see many different products boasting high pressures, but the reality is, pressure doesn’t really matter. The reason being is that these ‘high pressures’ are generally not high at all in the grand scheme of things. Pressure washers, which are basically pressurized water hoses, generally produce PSI’s into the several thousands. Tools like those are where pressure really matters. But in all honesty, your 70 PSI steam cleaner will not be blasting away that much so don’t worry about pressure as a selling point.
  • Continuous Refill: Admittedly, we know that you will never see this on a more inexpensive unit, but it is worth noting. Some steam cleaners offer a continuous refill mechanism that allows you to refill your steam cleaner with water as you run out of it. Some people find this a really valuable feature for steam cleaning but we don’t think it really matters much. Unless you are going to be steam cleaning for hours and hours and do not plan on taking any breaks in between, don’t worry about continuous refill unless it truly matters to you.

Purchasing The Right Steam Cleaner For Your Needs

If you’re still reading by now, we’ve gone over several different things to consider before buying a steam cleaner. Hopefully we’ve improved your knowledge about these products. What we should talk about now is purchasing the right steam cleaner for you. Are you just looking for a new cleaning tool to add to your home? Or are you a business owner in need of  a heavy-duty steam cleaner? You have to take all the information given above and around this site before you decide to buy a steam cleaner for a ridiculous amount of money. While it will be a great product regardless, you have to asses what your personal needs will be for this tool.

Proper Care And Maintenance

The first step to proper care and maintenance of your steam cleaner is to read the manual in its entirety. Once you have done that you should have a basic guideline to follow like this:

  1. Never over-fill or leave water in a steam cleaner after use.
  2. Never leave a steam cleaner plugged in when not in use or unattended.
  3. Never put any chemicals in your steam cleaner. Water only!
  4. Wear gloves when using to avoid burns.
  5. Always be sure there is no pressure in the machine after use.

It’s simple steps like these that could save you a lot of time and money. Just remember to read the manual!


Research is the key when you are looking to make any big purchase. We hope this buyers guide has been a help to you and hopefully your wallet. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email.

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