If you have kids or animals in the house, a steam cleaner is an inexpensive way to keep the house clean and bacteria free. The machine you choose will depend on what you need to clean.
It doesn't make the most sense, but not all steam cleaners clean with steam. Many just use hot water mixed with detergent. True steam carpet cleaners are available but can be expensive. Take note that the process takes a long time. A sure way to differentiate a true steam cleaner and one that is not is the need for detergent. Steam cleaning only requires very hot steam -- no cleaning substances are necessary.
Types of Steam Cleaners
Handheld Steam Cleaners
How to Choose
Think about what usually needs cleaning. If you need something small for a variety of different jobs then go for a handheld. If your house is composed of mainly hard floors then a steam mop is the perfect choice. A home with lots of carpets needs a full upright. Even though they are bulkier and heavier to push around they are better for cleaning large areas or heavy pile carpets. They are pricier but more affordable than a professional carpet-cleaning service. A canister model is a less expensive, lighter, and more versatile. It is effective on both carpets and hard floors. They are especially useful on stairs, car interiors, furniture and small spaces.
* On/off indicators or LED light.
* Quick heat-up time for models with onboard water heaters.
* Easy fill canisters and large capacity tanks for upright models.
** They usually come with one gallon tanks in both uprights and canisters.
** Bigger is usually better because it eliminates the need to keep refilling.
* Separate reservoirs -- one for water and one for a cleaning solution. This keeps the water from getting dirty.
* Rotating brushes (up to six usually) will not only increase the effectiveness of the cleaner, but also the price. Very essential element of a steam cleaner.
* Onboard cleaning accessories and tools. Auto-cleaning tools will up the price of the unit but they can be useful for cleaning upholstery. Some uprights will come with bare floor attachments.
* A conveniently situated trigger on models that use cleaning solutions.