Budget-priced steam cleaners (costing about $100) are one way to reduce expenditures on cleaning supplies without the investment of $1,000 or more for a top-of-the-line model. Budget-priced steam cleaners resemble a canister vacuum; some are mounted on wheels, while other wheel-less models have a shoulder strap. Regardless of their outer design, each unit contains a boiler, which heats water and converts it into steam. Owners say budget-priced steam cleaners are particularly useful for cleaning bathrooms (like shower stalls and mirrors) and kitchens (countertops, ovens, grills and the front of appliances). Other multi-purpose uses include cleaning windows, blinds and upholstery in homes or cars. A few folks even say they use steam cleaners to remove wallpaper.
Most budget-priced steam cleaners hold up to 48 ounces of water, producing steam continuously for as long as 45 minutes, and have attachments beyond the basic brushes, squeegee and wide nozzle that come with handheld steam cleaners. Some downsides: Budget models can't output steam for as long as pricier units and they don't possess a separate water reservoir (that allows water to be safely added during the cleaning process without waiting for the boiler to cool down). Budget models often have plastic boilers, which generally don't last as long as the rust-resistant, sturdier stainless-steel boilers of more expensive steam cleaners.
One noteworthy product is the McCulloch MC1275 (*Est. $110) , which earns good reviews at numerous consumer sites. More than 500 owners at Amazon.com give it a good rating overall. They agree this budget steam cleaner is lightweight and easy to maneuver; however, some wish there was storage for the hose and power cord or that they fit into the onboard storage compartment meant to house many of the accessories. The McCulloch comes with nine attachment tools, including a floor brush, squeegee, scrubber pad and an assortment of utility brushes.
The majority of users say the steam spray on the McCulloch MC1275 is powerful and not too noisy. Approximately 200 owners at Walmart.com are also pleased with the maneuverability of this model. A few individuals wish the steam came out hotter and with more pressure, and some report the steam ineffective on stains. At HomeDepot.com, nearly 100 owners praise this unit's fast heat-up time and performance, although some users say quite a bit of scrubbing and patience is needed for removing heavy buildup. This steam cleaner also receives good reviews from about a dozen owners posting reviews at both Target.com and Epinions.com. Owners agree the McCulloch is well built and makes cleaning floors and other tough jobs a whole lot easier.
We also found some good reviews for the Steamfast SF-275 (*Est. $110) , which is priced the same and has identical attachments, accessories and features to the McCulloch. There's a good reason for that -- both are made by Kansas City-based Top Innovations. The Steamfast steam cleaner isn't as widely reviewed as the McCulloch, but it gets mostly praise from owners at Walmart.com and Amazon.com. Owners say the spray does a great job of cleaning in cracks and crevices, grout returned to its original color and bathrooms looked sparkling clean. Like with the McCullough, some owners say too much scrubbing is still required.
Both the McCulloch MC1275 and Steamfast SF-275 models can produce steam for up to 45 minutes with a 48-ounce water capacity. The manufacturer says each machine takes two to eight minutes to heat up, depending on the amount of water added to the boiler, with an indicator light to let you know when it's ready to steam. Owners caution if the water is not properly heated, water may spray out of the nozzle instead of steam. These machines come with nine tools, including a floor brush, squeegee, triangle brush, brass brush, scrub pad and four nylon brushes. The scrub pad is intended for porcelain and countertops, but some owners say the pad is just glued on and doesn't last. Others say the nylon brushes wore down quickly. (Replacement attachments are available for purchase from the manufacturer.) The McCulloch's steam hose is nearly twice as long as the Steamfast, which also adds about a half pound to the weight. Oddly, the Steamfast version has a two-year warranty, which is a year longer than the McCulloch steam cleaner.
The Wagner 915 Power Steamer (*Est. $95) is another 1,500-watt steam cleaner that fares well in consumer reviews. Like the two aforementioned canister steam cleaners, it has a 48-ounce water tank and a locking mechanism on the steam button for continuous steaming. One unique aspect is it comes with a steam plate attachment for wallpaper removal. (Wagner is known for its paint sprayer products.) At Amazon.com, about 50 reviewers give it an average rating of 4.3 stars and offer many detailed reviews. Owners say it removes wallpaper without scraping where chemicals failed. In addition to cleaning floors, windows and bathrooms, it works well at cleaning tough jobs like burnt food on the stovetop, bugs off the front bumper, and grease and grime off the lawnmower engine. One downside is there's no storage compartment for the attachments.