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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
26 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
205 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best handheld steam cleaners

Every family seems to have a secret cleaning tip that has been handed down through the generations. The problem is, that tip is usually only good for one very specific purpose. A handheld steam cleaner, however, could be the answer to almost all of your home cleaning challenges. But do you know what makes one stand out from another?

Unless you only need a garment cleaner, the best handheld steam cleaners are versatile tools that come with several attachments. The ideal model should be lightweight yet powerful, offering pressurized steam while getting hot enough to kill germs and make a real impact on grime.

If you'd like to learn more about the benefits of using an eco-friendly, chemical-free handheld steam cleaner, keep reading this article. If you're already fairly certain what features you need, feel free to check out one of the highly rated options we've listed in this guide.

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Since steam cleaning uses no chemicals, it is one of the more eco-friendly ways to clean.

Key considerations

Temperature and pressure

There are a number of factors you need to take into account when purchasing a handheld steam cleaner. The foremost considerations are temperature and pressure.

  • Steam temperature: Some handheld steam cleaners can produce steam without boiling the water. This might make the unit slightly safer to handle, but it can be less desirable than a dry steam cleaner, which produces steam at very high temperatures. For instance, a steam cleaner can be used to kill bed bugs, but to do that it needs to reach temperatures above 117°F. A steam cleaner that doesn't get that hot wouldn’t be an effective choice for killing bed bugs.

    The second element you need to consider when regarding temperature is consistency. Look for a model that can produce steam at a steady temperature.

  • Steam pressure: The pressure of the steam often depends on the temperature – the higher the temperature, the greater the pressure. A handheld steam cleaner that doesn't offer higher pressure will need to be relegated to tasks that don’t involve deep cleaning.

Handheld steam cleaner features

After you've found a model with the right temperature and pressure for your needs, there are a few other factors to consider before finding the handheld steam cleaner that is best for you.


The attachments that come with your handheld steam cleaner ultimately determine how versatile the unit is. If you want to clean the widest variety of surfaces, you'll need a fabric-cleaning attachment, window-cleaning attachment, brush attachment, bent spray attachment, long spray nozzle, and others.

Warm-up time

Although this isn’t a deal breaker, the longer it takes for your handheld steam cleaner to heat up, the more frustrating it might be. If you want the best, look for a model that is ready to go in three minutes or less.

Tank size and weight

You want a tank that is large enough that you don't have to keep refilling it to complete a task. However, the larger the tank, the heavier your handheld steam cleaner will be. As a guide, 16 ounces of water weighs a little more than a pound, but that should be more than enough to get the job done.

Ease of use

There are a number of factors that can make your handheld steam cleaner easier to use. Do the attachments go on effortlessly and stay firmly attached? Is the steam button in a convenient place? Is the tank difficult to fill? Does it leak when tilted? Are there indicator lights and sounds to let you know when your unit is hot enough to be used? Check to make sure the handheld steam cleaner you’re purchasing isn't lacking any of the convenience features that you desire.


Most handheld steam cleaners won't be that difficult to clean, especially if you don't add anything to the water. The biggest problem you might have is mineral buildup, which won’t be an issue if you follow the regular maintenance routine outlined in the owner's manual.

Did you know?
Because of its higher temperatures, steam evaporates (dries) much more quickly than other cleaning methods.

Handheld steam cleaner prices

Inexpensive: At the budget end of the scale, from about $15 to $25, you have the lighter-duty models, typically more suited for garments than tough stains, but there might be exceptions.

Mid-range: Most handheld steam cleaners are multi-purpose cleaners with a variety of attachments that fall in the $25 to $40 price range. This is the best place to start looking because you’ll likely find the handheld steam cleaner you need in this range.

Expensive: After you move beyond $40, you find more durable models, which may or may not offer higher pressures and hotter temperatures for the toughest jobs. However, you must be careful to compare specs in this price range to be sure you’re actually getting a good value.


  • Read all the directions. There are a number of cautions to be aware of because steam can ruin paper, cardboard, and certain walls and floors. Be sure to thoroughly read the directions before using your new handheld steam cleaner.

  • Wear protective clothing and use caution. Steam burns are exceptionally painful.

  • Keep the steam cleaner away from children. Children should not use the steam cleaner, nor should they be nearby while an adult is using it.

  • Test first. Stream can damage delicate fabrics. Always test the cleaner in a small inconspicuous area before cleaning the whole item.

  • Use the attachments. Just like your vacuum, the true cleaning power of a handheld steam cleaner resides in its variety attachments.

  • Keep it moving. Don't linger in one area. Keep moving your steam cleaner so you don’t inadvertently saturate what you’re cleaning.

  • Use a towel. When cleaning something like a mirror or window, place a towel beneath the object to catch any drips.

  • Sanitize your kitchen. A handheld steam cleaner can be used to sanitize cutting boards and other work surfaces.

  • Think outside the house. A handheld steam cleaner can be used to clean the inside of your car, some lawn equipment, and patio furniture.

  • Use distilled water. If you want to keep your handheld steam cleaner working longer, only use distilled or demineralized water to prevent mineral buildup in your machine.

Other products we considered

Handheld steam cleaners are handy devices that are eco-friendly and can be used for a wide variety of cleaning purposes. Because of this, there are a number of manufacturers making quality units. If you'd like a couple more exceptional options, consider the following models. MLMLANT has a handheld pressurized steam cleaner that is a slight upgrade from the company's other steam cleaner that is worth your attention. It comes with additional accessories, making it highly adaptable for your many cleaning needs. The model is fast-heating and offers pressurized steam that can help with those tough cleaning tasks. BISSELL's Steam Shot Hard-Surface Cleaner has a convenient 20-foot power cord so you can reach every corner of a room. The flat scraping tool and grout brush are useful attachments for cleaning even the most resilient grime.

Even though your handheld steam cleaner is an amazing device, some cleaning chores are easier to accomplish by hand.


Q. How does a handheld steam cleaner work?

A. Using nothing more than water and heat, steam cleaners employ a two-pronged attack on dirt. On one level, the steam penetrates the surface of whatever you are cleaning to break loose dirt, grime, and other substances. On another level, the intense heat kills bacteria, mold, and dust mites and even destroys viruses.

Q. How hot does a steam cleaner get?

A. The steam from some steam cleaners can exceed 212°F, which makes the steam more dangerous than boiling water. Burns from steam are deceptive and lasting because the steam quickly penetrates the outer layer of skin and does damage where it can't be seen. The body can’t efficiently cool itself in the layers beneath the epidermis, so the damage might continue to increase long after being exposed to the steam.

Q. Do I need to add a disinfectant to my handheld steam cleaner?

A. As noted above, steam kills harmful germs on its own – roughly 99.9% of them – so adding a disinfectant is not really necessary. Additionally, some disinfectants give off toxic fumes when heated. A nonporous surface will be adequately disinfected in one cleaning with just steam (at the proper temperature). Clean a porous surface twice to be sure the steam penetrates enough to do its job.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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