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Steam can be effective at removing glue, chewing gum, and other difficult substances because it can permeate the fabric and break down such pollutants. Don't assume any stain is too tough for a handheld steam cleaner.
Steam can be effective at removing glue, chewing gum, and other difficult substances because it can permeate the fabric and break down such pollutants. Don't assume any stain is too tough for a handheld steam cleaner.

Handheld steam cleaners are one of the best ways to clean garments, upholstery, countertops, and a number of other items throughout your home. They heat water from a small tank, creating a pressurized spray of steam to clean dirt and grime. These machines are quite versatile and come with a variety of attachments for different steam-cleaning situations. Handheld steam cleaners are lightweight, powerful, and very effective at getting out hard-to-clean stains.

If you're ready to buy a new handheld steam cleaner, read our buying guide. Our top pick, PurSteam World's Best Steamers' Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner, is a powerful steam-cleaning machine safe for use on a variety of surfaces.

Considerations when choosing handheld steam cleaners

Temperature

The temperature of the steam in a handheld steam cleaner has an impact on its cleaning ability. For example, some cleaners create steam without the need to boil water. Although this can make the steam cleaner safer to hold, it doesn't necessarily clean as well as a model that produces a much higher temperature steam. Furthermore, some steam cleaner activities require a higher temperature — to kill bed bugs, a steam cleaner must reach at least 117ºF. Keep these factors in mind when choosing your handheld steam cleaner.

Pressure

Temperature has an impact on steam pressure; higher steam temperatures yield greater pressure. In order to tackle the toughest cleaning jobs, get a steam cleaner that can reach higher pressure levels.

Warm-up time

The longer a handheld steam cleaner takes to warm up, the more delayed you may be in finishing your cleaning job. Many of the best handheld steam cleaners can warm up in three minutes or less. If you want to do your steam cleaning in a hurry, opt for a steam cleaner with a quick-heating feature.

Tank size and weight

If you get a handheld steam cleaner with a large water tank, it doesn't need to be refilled as often. Although this may seem like a great option, keep in mind that larger tanks also weigh more when filled with water. Try to balance your desire for fewer refills with a manageable steam cleaner weight.

Ease of use

Handle and button position, difficulty of removing attachments, ease of refilling a tank, and informational indicator lights can all impact how easy a handheld steamer is to use. Assess the usability and design of the machine before choosing.

Maintenance

Cleaning a handheld steam cleaner is not difficult — the hardest thing is usually the buildup of minerals on the tank if you don't put any additives into the water. If you clean your handheld steam cleaner regularly, maintenance should be easy.

Features

Attachments

The attachments included with your handheld steamer are intended to make the machine easier and more effective to use. A fabric-cleaning attachment, window-cleaning attachment, bent spray attachment, and long spray nozzle are some of the most useful attachments that may come with your handheld steam cleaner.

Price

Most handheld steam cleaners cost between $15 and $50. Handheld steam cleaners around $15 are light-duty and mostly intended for garments. For $30, you can find a multipurpose machine that includes a few extra attachments. For $50, handheld steam cleaners are likely more rugged models that can reach the highest temperatures for the toughest stains.

FAQ

Q. What is the hottest a steam cleaner can get?

A. The most powerful handheld steam cleaners can reach as high as 250? and even higher. Use great care with these machines as temperatures that high can cause serious injury to your skin.

Q. Should I add disinfectant to my steam cleaner solution?

A. Although it's possible to add disinfectant to a handheld steam cleaner, it's not really necessary. Steam is generally hot enough to kill germs on its own, so adding chemicals only serves to add potentially toxic fumes heated by the steam.

Handheld steam cleaners we recommend

Best of the best: PurSteam World's Best Steamers' Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner

Our take: An easy-to-use machine for the toughest stains your home has to offer.

What we like: Lightweight. Its 10-foot cord makes for longer reach. Warms up in as little as three minutes.

What we dislike: Not as convenient for very large cleaning jobs.

Best bang for your buck: Comforday's Multipurpose Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner

Our take: A powerful little machine at a reasonable price.

What we like: Six useful cleaning attachments. Reaches up to 250ºF. Low price.

What we dislike: Pressure is reduced when using lockable steam trigger.

Choice 3: Steamfast's Everyday Handheld Steam Cleaner

Our take: A light-duty, user-friendly steam cleaner.

What we like: Quick heating time, 12-foot cord, and six different attachments.

What we dislike: Six-ounce water tank only lasts about eight minutes.

Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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