Portable Steam Cleaners
Reviews & Buying Guide

Cleaning supplies for a homeImage by AnnaliseArt from Pixabay

How to buy the best portable steam cleaners for your clothes, car detailing, carpets, furniture, floors, and upholstery. Explore handheld steam cleaner features, benefits, pros, and cons. Models reviewed: Shark, McCulloch, Wagner, Bissell, and other top sellers.

Find out more about steam cleaning benefits, potential safety concerns, and its impact on the environment.

The buying guide helps homeowners to make informed decisions about why they should invest in a portable steam cleaner.

In this article

  1. What is steam cleaning and benefits
  2. Where to use
  3. Types
  4. Top sellers
  5. How it works
  6. Where to use where not to
  7. Buying guide and what to look for
  8. Popular brands

What is steam cleaning and benefits?

Steam cleaning is the safe and eco-friendly way of cleaning your floors, upholstery, clothes, furniture, cars, bathrooms, and kitchen surfaces, using only hot water. The temperature of hot water can reach temperatures over 300 F, producing steam or mist which dries very quickly.

It cleans deeper than other cleaning tools and supplies and by removing dust and dirt makes the surrounding air healthier to breathe.

It also prevents cross-contamination.

There is no need to use detergents and other cleaning chemicals, so it is safer for the environment, you, and your kids. No side effects and skin irritation when or after using the cleaner, making it ideal for allergy sufferers.

Except cleaning, hot steam helps in sanitizing surfaces in your bathroom, kitchen, and car. It can kill up to 99% of bacteria, germs, dust mites, flea eggs, bedbugs, and successfully remove mold and grease.

Where to use portable steam cleaners

A portable steamer or vapor steam cleaner is a small and compact cleaning tool designed to clean various objects and surfaces of your home or vehicle, sanitizing and deodorizing easily and efficiently, leaving surfaces virtually dry.

Most small steam cleaners, such as models from the Shark manufacturer, are equipped with interchangeable quick-release hand tools, designed to clean flat surfaces, also hard-to-reach and tight spaces.

Smaller models are designed as handheld steam cleaners, great for spots and surfaces, while larger ones that utilize wheels are ideal for floor cleaning, including large surfaces.

Portable steam cleaners are versatile household devices that can be utilized in many applications:


  • Showers
  • Tiles
  • Bathroom fixtures


  • Tiles
  • Ovens
  • Stoves
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Sinks
  • Some appliances


  • Hardwood floors
  • Furniture
  • Upholstery
  • Carpets
  • Blinds and drapes
  • Windows
  • Walls
  • Ceilings


  • Interior and exterior detailing

As there are a variety of types of steamers, buy one wisely. Use floor steam cleaners just for floors, portable clothes steamer for clothes, and when traveling use travel steamers... use it only for what it is designed for.

As different materials react differently on high temperatures and moist, use the manual to see where the steam cleaner can be used. If not sure, always test on a small area first and for a short time.


Based on the application and available features, you can find several types of portable steam cleaners:

  • A handheld steam cleaner is the true representative of portability and convenience; designed for smaller and hard to reach spots, but not for floor cleaning and large spaces, due to its smaller attachments and shorter cleaning time.

  • A home steam cleaner is the most versatile type. It is usually equipped with the floor brush and cloths, extension wands, it has wheels for easy transport and can clean many surfaces. As they utilize larger water tanks, such cleaners are larger and heavier than mop and handheld types, making them ideal for sanitizing and cleaning larger surfaces.

  • Steam floor cleaners clean and sanitize flooring surfaces such as tiles, sealed wood, and linoleum. You can find them as steam cleaner mops and home cleaners equipped with cleaning attachments. Steam mops look like traditional mops but have a water tank usually attached to the handle.

  • Travel, garment or cloth steamers are small and lightweight devices, made mainly for travelers. Travelers carry them inside their luggage and use to quickly remove wrinkles from their clothes and give a fresh look to their favorite silky skirt or linen pants. They heat up very quickly, and despite their small size, you can use them for approximately 10 minutes.

Top sellers

McCulloch MC1375 Canister Steam Cleaner

"Makes cleaning/disinfecting a breeze!"

"You will use it way more than you think"
(Amazon customer) 

  • Heats water to over 200 F in 10 min
  • 48 ounce capacity water tank - 90 min of steam
  • Variable steam control
  • 20 versatile accessories
  • Ideal for wood, tile and laminate floors, appliances, autos
  • Customer ratings: 4.4 out of 5

Steam Mop Cleaner 10-in-1

"Miracle worker"

"Cleaning my floors is no longer a chore!"

  • Only 2.2 pounds
  • 11.5 ounce capacity water tank - ready in 30 s
  • 99.9 sanitation
  • 10-in-1 multipurpose with detachable handheld unit
  • Ideal for hardwood, vinyl, carpets, garment, glass
  • Customer ratings: 4.4 out of 5

Conair Turbo Extreme Steam Hand Held Fabric Steamer

"This steamer is a winner!"

"Awesomely Powerful Steamer - Perfect for Large Fabric Panels"
(Seriously Speaking...) 

  • Only 3.2 pounds
  • Kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria
  • 5 Steam settings
  • Turbo extreme steam - 67% faster results
  • Ideal for delicate fabrics and tough wrinkles
  • Customer ratings: 4.4 out of 5

How portable steam (vapor) cleaners work

Small and portable steam cleaners are equipped with an internal boiler that heats water and then releases the pressurized steam or vapor through a nozzle. This way, the steam loses the bonds of grime and dirt naturally. You can use a clean cloth to remove dirt by wiping the steamed surface off before it gets dry.

Most portable steam cleaners, such as handheld travel and garment steamers, do not use suction, as larger carpet cleaners or floor steam cleaners. They simply expose the material with the light mist. As the steam coming out is at a high temperature, it is recommended to expose the surface for a few seconds in order to sanitize it properly. Vapor steamers actually offer a chemical-free cleaning solution.

Did you know that vapor steam cleaning originated in Italy?

Examples where to use vapor steam cleaners

  • Portable steam cleaners can be used on sealed hard surfaces to clean and sanitize without the use of chemicals.
  • Ceramic tiles, hardwood floors, marble, linoleum...
  • Clothes (not made of the delicate materials).
  • Carpet.
  • Walls.
  • Use the steamer to sanitize around the sinks and taps.
  • Appliances - exterior surface only.
  • Furniture.
  • Bedding, mattress, drapes and blinds.
  • Garden tools.
  • Boats.
  • Doors and windows.
  • Inside of the car, including upholstery and carpets.
  • For bed bug infestation, bacteria and viruses.
  • Portable steam cleaners are great for allergy sufferers against dust mites and mold.

Examples where not to use

  • Freshly painted, waxed or polished surfaces.
  • Do not use it on wallpapers and self adhesive vinyl.
  • Materials that cannot withstand the moist and high temperature, soft plastic, for example.
  • Antiques.
  • Not recommended for leather.
  • Do not use portable steam cleaners on unsealed flooring and untreated wood.

Buying tips and what to look for

Size and capacity. Steam cleaners come in many sizes, weights, and shapes. If you are looking to get a portable type, it might be important for you to buy a model that is easy to carry (lightweight) and store.

Handheld steam cleaners have much smaller capacity than the larger wheel-mounted units, and the steaming time is shorter, usually up to 10 minutes. Bigger units, equipped with the wider nozzles, wand extension, can clean larger areas for up to an hour.

This is why steamers with a larger boiler are user preference. Smaller units or handheld are easy to move and transport; you can carry them from one room to another without the hassle, and clean every part of your home. Large and bulkier models are harder to move around and reach areas such as sofas or cars.

Cost and quality. Expensive portable steam steamers are advanced, faster, and more effective than the budget models. With the higher temperature and pressure, such models generate more steam, resulting in deeper and dryer sanitary cleaning.

High-temperature steam where the temperatures are over 200 F helps destroy dust mites, mold, viruses, bacteria... or sanitize dirty areas. They are also equipped with better material, such as stainless steel boiler vs. plastic one on the cheaper models, pressure gauge, steam control, and many multi-purpose attachments...

Boiler quality. Buy a steamer that has a stainless steel or aluminum boiler as they are more durable. If the water tank can separate from the unit, better. Fast start-up time means you can clean it sooner. Some models come with two water tanks, providing continuous refill and longer operation time.

Safety features. Steam cleaners are also safe. They come with safety features, including the automatic shut-off, child safety, low water indicator, all working to protect you from the high temperatures or a machine from breaking.

Attachments. Most cleaners come with the basic attachments, and that is ok if planning to clean only the recommended areas for such a type. But, if you plan to clean more areas and different types of surfaces, buy a steam cleaner that has more functions, or get the proper attachments. The attachments and accessories are sold separately.

Popular brands

  • Bissell
  • Hoover
  • McCulloch
  • Shark
  • Conair
  • Rowenta
  • Eureka
  • Steamfast


Portable steam cleaners make our homes and vehicles cleaner, healthier, chemical-free, and more comfortable to enjoy. Cleaning tasks are faster and efficient without any impact on the environment and your household.

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