Canister-style vapor steam cleaners release plenty of high-pressure steam on demand, which is important to people who clean large areas frequently, need a steam cleaner for commercial use, or suffer from allergies and thus need the deepest clean possible.
Reviewers agree that the best of these heavy-duty steam cleaners is the Ladybug XL2300 with TANCS (Est. $1,825) . It's pricey, but owners say you get what you pay for: The XL2300's massive, 70-ounce stainless steel boiler produces a reliable stream of hot, high-pressure steam that gives remarkable results. Users pepper review sites with comments like "I didn't know the grout in my bathroom was white until I cleaned it with my Ladybug."
Others report that it does a great job of killing mold and dust mites, and can even wipe out old stains that owners had long ago resigned themselves to. The optional, proprietary TANCS (thermal accelerated nano crystal sanitation) technology converts the minerals in tap water into crystals that disrupt the cell membranes of microorganisms. Combined with the Ladybug XL2300's high heat, it qualifies as an EPA disinfectant.
Unlike lower-priced models, you can use ordinary tap water rather than distilled water without mineral buildup. If you'd rather buy the XL2300 without the TANCS option, the price decreases by about $200. Either way, this heavy-duty steam cleaner has a great durability record, including input from several shop owners who've put it to regular commercial use.
The Ladybug XL2300 rolls smoothly on its casters, making it easy to maneuver despite its 16-pound weight. The big boiler gives more than an hour of continuous steam cleaning, and the separate reservoir allows you to refill the Ladybug without waiting for it to cool down first. The XL2300 has a relatively short 6.5-foot steam hose but comes with a long power cord.
The only real gripe we found about this unit is that a few users feel the steam trigger to be awkwardly placed. But most say the controls and features -- including a pressure gauge and low-water indicators -- make the Ladybug XL2300 with TANCS very easy to use. Best of all, it comes with a lifetime boiler warranty that makes it easier to justify it as a long-term investment. The non-TANCS version has a three-year boiler warranty.
If you don't quite need the power of a commercial-grade steam cleaner, the WhiteWing Steamer (Est. $700) is a relatively frugal alternative in the high-end range. Testers at AllergyBuyersClub.com say the WhiteWing is a solid machine that worked well in cleaning mattresses, grout, an oven and mold on a painted ceiling. Although the manufacturer claims the WhiteWing's 64-ounce capacity provides up to two hours of continuous steam, testers recommend it for intermittent cleaning because its pressure eventually drops with continuous use. Its boiler is not continuous-fill, so you'll have to wait for it to cool down before adding more water. This steam cleaner is manufactured by Basement Systems for AllergyBuyersClub.com.
The WhiteWing steamer weighs 14.5 pounds, and comes with pressure and low-water gauges, plus a pressure-release safety cap on its aluminum boiler. Both the Ladybug XL2300 and WhiteWing Steamer offer a similar range of attachments such as brushes, nozzles, cloth towels and extension wands.
If money is no object, the Ladybug XL2300 with TANCS is hands down the very best steam cleaner; at less than half the cost, the WhiteWing Steamer is a reasonable alternative. However, if you're on a budget or just don't need to worry about heavy-duty steam cleaning to reduce allergies, the best bargain-priced steam cleaner may be more than enough.
The top steam cleaners may be pricey, but there are a few cheap steam cleaners that give pretty impressive results in spite of a budget price tag.
The McCulloch MC1275 (Est. $120 and up) earns better consumer reviews than other models in its price range, making it the best budget alternative to the Ladybug XL2300. We found plenty of satisfied customers using the McCulloch MC1275 to clean and sanitize everything from birdcages and barbecue grills to mattresses, windows and car interiors. Some even say the MC1275 produces enough heat to kill bedbugs, and that it makes wallpaper removal easy. The 48-ounce boiler offers about 45 minutes of continuous steam, but must cool down before refilling.
The MC1275 comes with a full range of attachments, including a triangle brush, small scrubbing brushes, squeegee, upholstery/floor brush and two extension wands. Unfortunately, durability for those attachments is a weak point, according to reviewers. One owner says the sponge scrubber fell apart after just 30 minutes, and others report brushes either melting from the heat or not lasting beyond the first job. The good news is that the McCulloch MC1275 is covered by a one-year warranty and customer service gets great reviews for replacing disintegrating accessories.
A few users note that the McCulloch MC1275 is a little cumbersome to wheel along, a common complaint in the lower end of the steam cleaner price range. Others wish there were somewhere to coil the 10-foot steam hose and power cord, and would prefer that the MC1275's onboard caddy could hold a few more of the included accessories.
Another budget steam cleaner with mostly positive reviews is the Steamfast SF275 (Est. $130) , which has nearly identical features and attachments to the McCulloch MC1275. The Steamfast's 48-ounce, 1,500-watt boiler provides about 45 minutes of continuous steam, although some owners say you have to stop every two or three minutes to let the pressure build up again.
Some reviewers say the Steamfast SF275's spray does a great job of cleaning in cracks and crevices, returning grout to its original color and leaving bathrooms sparkling clean, but some complain about the amount of scrubbing you have to do to achieve those results. As long as you're willing to contribute some elbow grease, you can get remarkably good results, users say.
The Steamfast SF275 comes with 17 attachments, including a squeegee, mop head, triangle brush, scrub pad, extension wands and utility brushes. At 6.5 feet, the SF275's steam hose is nearly 4 feet shorter than that of the McCulloch MC1275, but when paired with the extension wands, users say it gets into most places easily.
Like the McCulloch steam cleaner, only the smallest brushes fit into the Steamfast SF275's onboard caddy and durability remains an issue; some users say the brush head deformed with one use. Reviews indicate that the SF275 is very versatile, but doesn't necessarily have what it takes to tackle the heaviest caked-on grease or grime without some scrubbing or pre-treatments, which for many defeats the purpose of a steam cleaner.
Overall, the Ladybug XL2300 with TANCS is still the best steam cleaner we evaluated. But if it's overkill for your needs or simply out of your budget, the McCulloch MC1275 is the next best steam cleaner. Despite its many similarities with the Steamfast SF275, the MC1275 still receives significantly better user reviews.