Full-sized steam cleaners are a great choice if you really want to deep clean your home or accomplish big cleaning jobs quickly and with as little hassle as possible. If you just need a vapor cleaner for small jobs, see our discussion of portable/handheld steam cleaners elsewhere in this report.
The McCulloch MC1275 (Est. $140) earns top reviews from owners for its superior performance on a variety of tasks. 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 with canister-style steam cleaner. Others wish there were somewhere to coil the nearly 10-foot steam hose and 15.7-inch power cord, and would prefer that the MC1275's onboard caddy could hold a few more of the included accessories.
We also spotted a lot of good reviews for the Steamfast SF-370WH (Est. $120). It's extremely versatile and is very popular for users who want a steam cleaner that also works well as a steam mop (although nothing works as well on floors as a dedicated steam mop, which we cover in a separate report). At 64 inches, the hose on the Steamfast is shorter than the hose on the McCulloch, but the Steamfast has a compartment with a cord wrap for storage.
In addition to the floor-mop attachments, the Steamfast SF-370WH includes a wide range of other accessories, including a corner tool, a number of brushes for various jobs, an extension wand and a squeegee. There is no onboard storage for the accessories, but overall, the Steamfast steam cleaner has a smaller footprint than the McCulloch MC1275, and owners say that makes it very easy to store. At 8.4 pounds, it is also slightly lighter than the MC1275, which weighs 9.95 pounds.
The Steamfast SF370WH has a water capacity of 45 ounces and steams for approximately 45 minutes. Owners rave about how well the SF-370WH works on a variety of surfaces, and quite a few say it has completely renewed their old bath or shower, rendering tough stains almost invisible. The SF-370WH also gets raves from people who use it to clean their vehicles, although a few wish the hose was longer and, as we saw with the McCulloch, the accessories don't hold up well to hard usage.
The Wagner 915 (Est. $85) is a somewhat less expensive steam cleaner that reviewers say is a top performer even for tough jobs, and it seems extremely sturdy, too. It gets particularly good reviews for its ability to remove wallpaper with a minimum of effort using an included wallpaper steam plate. The Wagner 915 also includes a full range of accessories, like two extension wands, a squeegee, floor cleaning brush and jet nozzle. The hose is 8 feet long and the water reservoir holds 48 ounces. Users say it can steam for about an hour before needing to be refilled. The Wagner lacks some bells and whistles, like a water level indicator, and doesn't get the best reviews for heavier jobs like cleaning barbecue grills, but, overall, most say it is a great value for most household tasks.
While most people can get by with a standard, fairly inexpensive canister-style vapor cleaner, those who suffer from allergies, or who have situations where sanitizing is very important -- like daycare owners -- a commercial-grade machine is almost a must.
The best of these heavy-duty steam cleaners is the Ladybug XL2300 with TANCS (Est. $2,000). 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 high-pressure steam that offers remarkable results. Users pepper review sites with positive comments about how sparkling it gets everything from grout to cement.
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. Unlike lower-priced models, you can use ordinary tap water rather than distilled water and not have to worry about mineral buildup. 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, so that it disinfects as it cleans. Combined with the Ladybug XL2300's high heat, this qualifies the Ladybug XL2300 as an EPA disinfectant.
If you'd rather buy the XL2300 without the TANCS option, the price decreases by about $265. 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 has a long, 15-foot power cord.
The only real gripe we found about this unit is that a few users feel that the steam trigger is 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 Breeze Steam Cleaner (Est. $700) is a relatively frugal alternative in the high-end range. It's sold only at AllergyBuyersClub.com, and experts there give it very high ratings for steam quality, accessories, ability to maintain steam and pressure, and tank capacity as well as how long it can run before its tank needs to be refilled. Users agree, saying the WhiteWing is a high-quality machine that is easy to use and offers a deep, sanitizing cleaning.
The WhiteWing steamer weighs 9 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 steamers 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. But if either are overkill for your needs or simply out of your budget, the McCulloch MC1275 is the next best steam cleaner and will be sufficient for most households.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Steam Cleaners: Steam cleaners can make your cleaning days a lot easier because they do the work, saving you the elbow grease. These are the best full-sized and handheld vapor cleaners for any task.
Handheld and Portable Steam Cleaners: For small, yet challenging, jobs, a handheld steam cleaner will be your best friend. Portable vapor cleaners are great for cleaning cars or for travel. These are the best choices.
Buying Guide: There are many options when it comes to steam cleaners. Our buying guide will help direct you in choosing the perfect vapor cleaner for your needs.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user tests, comparisons and reviews we used to determine the best steam cleaners. They are ranked in order of their credibility and usefulness.