Best Handheld Steam Cleaners For Fast Kitchen Hygiene
[Updated 1 June 2020]Probably because I’m known to dislike cleaning yet have a dog and kids, I’m often asked how I go about fast sanitizing in the kitchen, and how to do it with as little effort as possible – well the answer is handheld steam cleaners, a Bissell handheld steam cleaner to be precise.
Steam from handheld steamers will kill germs and bacteria stone dead for up to 7 days, does it with a cup of water or less per room and without chemicals, though by all means use them on the stubborn stuff first time up.
I reckon since I started using handheld steam cleaners I’ve saved a couple of hours a week on time plus the energy – and where once I bleached, wiped, rinsed then dried, now I simply steam and wipe – use of air fresheners is way down too.
The steamer also takes all the creases out of clothes in minutes, sure you can get a special steamer for that, but why have extra clutter when these do the job extremely well?
Why use a handheld steamer at all, isn’t it better to get a big steam cleaner to do the whole house?
Not necessarily, they take longer to heat up and need storage space, which these little grime busters don’t. I can have it good to go and be sanitizing in two minutes.
The above is then usually followed by “Which might be the best handheld steam cleaners to do the business then?”
After a bit of cheerful unscientific research conducted by asking around amongst those friends and teacher colleagues who use one, here are the plus and minus points we’ve come up with between us.
Upsides To Cleaning With Steam
On the whole, most of us agree our steam cleaner has never been stuck in a cupboard and is used weekly if not daily for things like the cooker top and the oven (you don’t still clean your oven by scrubbing do you?).
We all think you’ll be both delighted and disgusted to see just how much-hidden muck gets loosened and shifted the first time you apply steam – I thought my home was clean and got a totally revolting shock!
Don’t be disappointed if the first use doesn’t completely shift everything, it will have loosened way more than has come off and subsequent use should see even deep grime cleaned away.
You don’t need chemicals, really you don’t! However, note most handheld steam cleaners come with brush attachments and this should give you the clue that some scrubbing is needed for stubborn stuff, at least the first time you clean it with steam. Subsequent cleans are a lot easier and you can wipe rather than scrub.
It seems on the whole you get what you pay for and very cheap ones are more inclined to develop leaks than a good brand name, many of which are just a few dollars more in cost but a hundred dollars better in quality. That’s not to say those featured here are expensive, far from it, except the Hoover which has twin tanks.
Steam also makes your home smell incredibly fresh, it lifts and removes stale smells from clothes, carpets and soft furnishings (including whiffy dog beds upon which it works absolute wonders).
These machines are compact, easy to store, and are a great choice if you’re looking to steam clean on a small scale or regularly sanitize kitchen and bathroom – I’ve got a bigger steamer for floors and use it fairly regularly for bigger jobs.
But when you’re under pressure for time, the brain seems to be wayward and only considers how long it takes to get it out, set it up and then heat up, at which point mine stayed in the cupboard, whereas the handheld gets filled and used – really they are that easy.
Better quality steamers use the same amount of water yet they steam for longer. Basically, this means the steam is hotter and dryer, so much more effective and less water to wipe away – but that doesn’t mean you need to spend out on a big machine either.
The Best Steamer For Bed Bugs
Bed bugs and how to kill, control and contain them is a whole big subject are on which entire books have been written – there’s plenty of good information here on this Wiki page about bed bugs, if you need to know more.
The short version and where a bed bug killing steamer cleaner is sought, is to look for one which does have a bit of pressure built up to penetrate the mattress as far as possible – handheld steamers will only take killing steam down about an inch – maybe two if you’re lucky – they do a great job on pillows though and get right through them.
Keep in mind unless you use a standard sized steamer and are prepared to dry the mattress (it will get damp but will also kill most if not all bed bugs) then follow up weekly with a handheld steamer, the bed bugs will still be there, but much less active. The only real sure way is to kill them, then get a proper mattress cover.
Handheld steamers will only control them.
For this specifically, I’d look at the Dirt Devil and the Vapamore, (both below). They have a bit of pressure in the steam delivery and probably a bit more even than the Bissell.
Dust mites come under the same advice, only they really are dangerous to those with an allergy or to asthma sufferers.
Downsides To Handheld Steam Cleaners
If you’re looking at handhelds then check the water tank size and estimated running time per fill-up. Some only generate steam for very short bursts before you need to stop and refill – again the best steam cleaners hold the same amount yet go for much longer.
Refilling may not seem much bothered, but you have to wait for them to cool down for a good few minutes before you can safely open the top – even then, use a good thick oven mitten and take a lot of care.
Unless you want to be messing around with extension cables, make sure the power cord is long enough to give you the reach you need from your nearest socket to where you intend to clean – I tripped over a lead on the vacuum once, not funny!
Don’t Return It By Mistake!
Most steamers are tested in the factory before being packaged up and there are water droplets still clinging to them. I can understand when it arrives and you take it out the box, you could easily think you’ve been sent a used or returned item – the probability is, it will still be damp from the test.
Your Expectations Of Steam Cleaning – Some Words Of Caution
We are so used to the sheer power of pressure washing, there is an expectation of the same amount of oompf from a steam cleaner. Guess what – steam cleaning isn’t about whooshing power and blasting grime everywhere.
Steaming to clean is the application of very hot and incredibly fine water vapor to nasty yucky mucky things which can then be easily wiped clean – would you really want to use a powerful blast on elderly grout or the inside rim of the toilet? One could be cleaning you-know-what off the ceiling for hours!
If by this point you still can’t decide what type of steamer you want, never mind which brand or model – go have a read of this really clear explanation of steam cleaners both handheld and upright – it also takes a quick look at pros and cons. The article is on a UK newspaper site and is as helpful as anything else out there.
Handheld Steam Cleaner Reviews
It’s fair to say that between us we have mostly cheap, popular and quite powerful little machines (remember powerful doesn’t mean blasting yuck…). There really aren’t any complaints between fifteen of us, other than running time and the availability of new attachments. The following handheld steamer reviews are in order of the number of us that have that model – the numbers look a bit odd because several people have more than one handheld steamer and use it for clothes not cleaning – I told you this was unscientific!
Bissell Steam Shot (8/15)
The Bissell Steam Shot is my weapon of choice so I can give a personal view. “buy it” springs to mind but is even less scientific! I chose the Bissell for steaming time and power, by which I mean stem does have a little oompf with it, without blowing grout out from between the tiles.
The water tank only holds 6.6 ounces but that equals 10 – 15 minutes of very hot steam. The first time I cleaned very dirty tiles was in my sisters new home – new to them that is.
I guess it took a lot of elbow grease plus three tanks to do the shower and another tank for each of the other (equally awful) bits of bathroom ceramic. Ugh.
But once done, it’s stayed done and she does quick weekly steam clean like always.
For use in the kitchen, I love it. One ten-second blast and trash cans smell of nothing, hobs, and even ovens are a breeze because nothing cuts through baked-on grease and fat like steam, again the first time can be painful – but once done you keep it clean and fragrant very easily. Try using silicone oven liners to cut down on any cleaning, just give the liner quick steam and wipe every week, or after a heavy baking session.
Prolonged use is okay for the machine but may not be for your hand and arm, at least not until you’ve used it a few times. The Bissell is very good quality and feels it, but that quality makes it a solid machine and not overly lightweight, but no heavier than most others either. I use it with the hose extension mostly, so can put the steamer down to use, rather than carry it everywhere.
Filling and refilling are easy, I usually use an oven mitt and loosen the lid to release steam gradually, once off it will cool faster enabling a faster refill. Highly recommended at the price, eight out of 15 of us have this or an earlier model and all of us would happily recommend it to a friend – Check the current price of the Bissell Steam Shot here.
Vapamore Handheld Steam Cleaner (3/15)
Not a lightweight option at 3 1/2 lb, nor the cheapest at $129, the Vapamore nevertheless boasts the largest array of accessories – I haven’t counted them and compared, but there sure are plenty of cleaning accessories included. It also comes with a lifetime warranty – really, no joking.
All three colleagues who have this model have bought it since December 2013 and oddly enough its been bought by men for either house, garage, car or all three, maybe the grey is a more masculine color – more professional and workmanlike possibly!
One of these colleagues is a science teacher and he uses the steamer to kill bed bugs – actually I think most of us do.
Continual steaming is okay for up to 5 minutes, but you do then need to give the steam time to build up again – this is the same with all of them. In fact the Vapamore 75 probably gives longer than others – certainly, the Bissell needs a break every few minutes to rebuild the steam and put it under a bit of pressure.
All three Vapamore owners say it does produce quite a powerful jet of steam, allowing for the fact this is not a pressure washer – all three are delighted with it and say it’s the best steam cleaner for grout – I’ve not used it so can’t say, other than they all clean bathroom grout pretty well, but you do need to scrub a bit the first time.
None of them mention the handy carry case that comes with it, whereas on Amazon reviews women in particular like it to keep the accessories together and for travel – all these handheld steamers do a great job on clothes and are a real asset if you’re on the road.
It sounds very posh and expensive but is neither. A very efficient and fast steamer, the DBTech comes with the usual attachments which include a brush, large and small nozzles, a hose extension nozzle and attachments for windows, doors, and clothes!
Not the one I have, this is owned and used daily by 9 of my sample group – but not for cleaning as the primary task, which is why it holds second place!
Oh yes, but not about the cleaning power – it cleans just fine, but not for very long. You only get six ounces of water into this at any one time, but unlike others with the same sized tank, it only gives you five to ten minutes steaming at most, making it too small for most of us who have biggish families.
But 4 of the 9 who have this, bought it for getting creases out of clothes fast – they never intended to clean with it and have another with longer steaming power. The other five who did buy the DB to clean with say it’s fine and will sanitize kitchen sink and counters with one tank. Funnily enough, this group is either single or the chicks have flown the nest – way less mess!
The upside is weight. If you struggle to hold heavier appliances, this and the Clearmax Lightweight Steamer are great options – both feel incredibly light compared to my small but distinctly heavier Bissell and both are around the same price – you can check the current price of the DBTech at Amazon here.
Like most handhelds, the Steamfast comes with a good range of attachments including a jet nozzle, an extension hose, a large nylon brush, a small nylon brush, a small brass brush and an innovative water measuring cup – clever as this one has a long narrow spout meaning you don’t need a funnel for the water.
Very similar to the Bissell, the Steamfast holds 6 ounces of water and steams for 10 to 15 minutes and also like the Bissell, it has no on/off switched but does have a thermostat so you don’t overheat. Two of my ‘sample group have this model and one or two have grumbles.
It doesn’t feel as robust as others but has lasted well, both having been in use for more than three years. This more flimsy feel isn’t a bad thing – the Steamfast is lightweight to use. The biggest moan is that if you tilt it when cleaning, boiling water can leak out – not so good. Overall both are happy with it and you can check the current price of the Steamfast SF210 here– but only one of them would recommend to a friend.
Of my sample group, 4 have got this Hoover Twin Tank model. Not everyone prefers chemical free and there are times as with my sister’s bathroom, that you could do with something extra – this offers a combination attack on bad stains.
But what folks really like and why they chose this one is the on/off switch.
I’m still trying to figure this one out because all handheld steamers have a thermostat to prevent overheating, I guess it’s a popular safety feature – or maybe to save power?
The most expensive model any of us have, the Hoover comes with a better than usual range of accessories, one of which is a longer flat nozzle which makes cleaning counter tops and shower walls much faster than you could do with the others, my Bissell included.
Is it really worth the extra dollars? Well, I’m not convinced one way or the other – go have a look for yourself and if you buy one let me know how it goes will you? (I’ve never used this one) but I can tell you they all love it and there are no complaints. Would they recommend to a friend? Yes, all of them would and some have been so pleased they got one immediately for a relative – which is as good a review as you’ll get.
At the middle of prices but still cheap for the value you’ll get, is the Dirt Devil Easy Steam Handheld Steamer. My brother bought himself one for his workshop, it seems bizarre but when he rebuilds an engine, the steam cleans all the bits, same with garden tools, the mower positively sparkles.
I used it around his house while my sister-in-law looked on, no doubt amused at having her faucets cleaned. I like it as much as the Bissell, it puts out an excellent blast of steam and doesn’t splutter as some do.
The steam is so hot it’s almost dry, which is exactly what you want for mattresses and the kid’s toys. It weighs about the same as the Bissell, maybe a little bit less and comes with a full set of accessories.
One weakness is the hose which is not as robust as my model and it split after a few months. Boys being boys he repaired it with duct tape and then rang customer service. They didn’t twitch! Just sent out a replacement part no questions asked, and no they didn’t want the faulty one back!
The other steamers people have are old models now, 2 of my sample group got them years ago and one of those has no brand name on it at all, so not much help from them.
So, The Best Handheld Steam Cleaners Are?
Err… any of these actually and probably most of the rest of what’s available – I might give the Steamfast a miss if it leaks when tipped because my Bissell doesn’t and none of the other steamers have this reported either – though it is lightweight to use. I liked the Dirt Devil a lot and would buy that one if the Bissell didn’t exist.
I also have a feeling that the Vapamore is a nice machine and it comes with a lifetime warranty – now that’s confident!
The handheld steam cleaners featured above are just a few of what’s available – if you like something, read a few customer reviews and you’ll soon get a feel for other buyers opinions, good or bad.
Other than that I’d say don’t either, just get what’s on sale or the one you like the look of most and get steaming – because once you have, I promise you won’t go back to to the old days or old ways of cleaning and sanitizing your home with bleach and other harsh chemicals, not to mention the scrubbing!
The link below will take you to the best sellers on Amazon right now, so go check prices and reviews out to get the best bang for your bucks.