Why Buy a Steam Vacuum?
Brooms, dustpans, buckets, mops and vacuums fill our closets, but many steam vacuums can handle the jobs of all of those items. Steam vacuums have the versatility of cleaning the carpet and bathroom, as well as the dog's bed and your car seats. And since steam cleaning just uses water, it's eco-friendly, which is good for kids and dogs running around the house. Steam deodorizes, sanitizes and kills bacteria.
When you need steam cleaning, renting a steam machine might be a suitable short-term plan, and you can hire a professional carpet cleaner, but that gets expensive. If you clean your floors, bathrooms and furniture regularly, a steam vacuum of your own can be a good investment. Starter steam vacuums are reasonably priced, but you can make a large deposit on longer-lasting, commercial-grade steam vacuums as well.
Steam Vacuums: What to Look For
Since steam vacuums accomplish two tasks, their attributes vary widely. Some have large water tanks or long power cords, and others offer multiple steam settings or powerful motors. Here are a few things to consider when comparing steam vacuum cleaners:
Because steam cleaner vacuums are so versatile, they come in various shapes and sizes. Some models have a lightweight, handheld, dual steam design and others are maneuverable uprights. You can opt to pull a canister along or push a heavy-duty carpet washer. Check for the cord length so you don't have to walk over freshly steamed areas to switch outlets if you go beyond the cord's reach.
The water tank is an extra consideration compared to standard vacuums. Models with smaller water tanks and an easy-fill design are best for quick cleanups and tidying around the house. Built-in reservoirs are often awkward to fill. Larger water containers allow you to refill less and deep clean, but they will make the vacuum heavier.
Motor & Suction Power
When technology multitasks, it usually takes a hit to efficiency. That's why it's important to check amps, volts and watts while steam-vacuum shopping. It's not always clearly listed, but when you can find those specifications remember higher is better. Watts in particular measure how much power the vacuum's motor has, which generally makes for stronger suction. Keeping your steam vac well maintained and changing the filter regularly will affect suction as well.
Controls & Attachments
When you clean with steam, you want to make sure there's no standing water when you're done so it's not soaking into your carpet or ruining your hardwood floors. Some steam vacuums come with a drying unit built into the steaming process or a vacuum switch to suck up the extra water. The best steam vacuums will have a trigger or other controls to manage the amount of steam they release. Look for a model that lets you adjust for the type of flooring as well.
If you're itching for an all-in-one steam vac, look for attachments that specialize in steaming grout, furniture and bathroom fixtures. A carpet glider, mirror squeegee and steam nozzles that get hard-to-reach places are good finds. The extra attachments can add bulk though. Simple steam vacuums without all the extras can weigh as little as 12 pounds and are more maneuverable.
Cleaning & Maintenance
You can choose between bagged or bagless vacuum models. Some steam vacuums with bags have better suction, but bagless vacuums have their own benefits. Bagless steam vacs are convenient because you don't need to purchase replacement bags, but it can be messy to empty and clean the cup.
On top of regular vacuum maintenance, there is the extra cost of water filter replacements. Some filters are rinsable, and some steam pads can be washed. If two or more reusable steam pads come with your vacuum, you can toss one in with your laundry and use the other.
Help & Support
Most steam vacuum manufacturers offer a one- or two-year warranty. More expensive brands sometimes have more extensive warranties or include protection for attachments. Also, make sure you only use the recommended cleaning solutions or you might void the warranty. Generally, you will find downloadable manuals and a phone number and email address to contact support, but some manufacturers also offer frequently asked questions (FAQs), how-to videos and cleaning tips.
Your home use will determine if a portable vacuum and steam mop will keep those floors shiny or if a commercial-grade carpet cleaner for all surfaces in your house best fits your needs. Consider the other options you need, from attachments to suction power, and you'll be able to decide the best steam vacuum cleaner for you.