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Best Steam Vacuums

By: Kelly Burgess on May 01, 2018

Vac and steam mops offer light-duty cleaning in one easy step

Vacuum/steam mop combos put the power of a vacuum and a mop into one machine, saving you from having to switch between a vacuum -- or broom and dustpan -- and steam mop. The vacuums themselves are best for light-duty cleaning -- think stick vacuum rather than upright vacuum (both of which we cover in their own reports) -- but many people love the all-in-one convenience, not to mention the space saving factor.

When it comes to multi-purpose vac and steam mops, none get better reviews than the Bissell Symphony Pet (Est. $150). It can vacuum then steam, or vacuum and steam simultaneously, and experts and owners say it does both very well -- just keep in mind that the vacuum is not designed for heavy-duty jobs. However, the steam mop function gets raves for its performance. While it has the "pet" designation in its name, this steam mop is popular with anyone looking for a multi-purpose steam mop, especially people with children.

The Bissell Symphony Pet is reported as very easy to use. To sanitize, just push the steam mop over one area back and forth three times, rather than holding the mop head in place as is recommended with most other steam mops. The Symphony heats up in less than 30 seconds and will run for about 15 to 20 minutes on 13 ounces of water, depending upon whether you choose the low or the high steam setting. The water tank is not detachable, but most users say it's easy to fill using the included water cup. Bissell recommends using distilled water to prolong the life of this appliance.

The Symphony includes a good array of features, several targeted to pet owners, including disposable mop pads for the worst pet messes -- you can just toss them in the trash. A detachable filter traps pet hair and debris and can be emptied hands free. Washable, reusable pads are also included.

The only complaints we saw about the Bissell Symphony Pet are ones we see about all steam mops: that it's hard to push and leaves streaks on hardwood floors. Because steam mops don't have rollers or self-propelled technology, they do require more effort than, for example, a vacuum cleaner. However, using a clean, microfiber cloth should make the effort fairly minimal. As for leaving streaks: As we discussed in the introduction to this report, most manufacturers don't recommend using a steam mop on hardwood floors at all. Be sure to check your flooring's care instructions and warranty before using a steam mop on your hardwood floor.

Our former Best Reviewed pick in this category, the Bissell Symphony 1132A (Est. $180) is still a good choice if you need a more basic vac and steam mop. It's very similar to its newer sibling, the Symphony Pet edition, but without the features specific to pet messes (like disposable pads). However, it does have a five-position adjustable handle that is popular with owners, not only because it telescopes for taller users, but also because it makes it easier to store in a closet. This Bissell also leaves the floor just damp, which means it dries much more quickly, another feature that is popular with users. Both Bissell steam and vac mops stand on their own when not in use.

This versatile Shark can both steam and spray mop

Shark is the only company that makes steam mop/spray mop combos, and the best one for most people right now is the Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop System S6002 (Est. $130). It's the upgrade pick at Wirecutter "for bigger jobs." That's because its pads "flip" so you can have a longer cleaning session with only one pad. And the pad changing can be done without ever touching the pad, thanks to Shark's proprietary system, keeping your hands clean and scald-free.

It's not just convenient, though; in testing, Kevin Purdy at Wirecutter found that the Shark Genius S6002 did almost as well as a dedicated steam mop. While Purdy says the thick cleaning pads don't seem to work quite as well on everyday grease and grime as our Best Reviewed basic steam mop, the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop 1940 (Est. $90), it did seem to work better on tougher stains.

The best thing about the Shark Genius S6002 is that it can convert from a steam mop to a spray mop by switching out the mop body and spray bottle, something that users say is simple to do. The steam mop handle has a cord and a place to attach the filling pitcher (as with most steam mops, the manufacturer recommends distilled water); the spray mop handle has no cord, but includes a clip to attach the squirt bottle.

Which brings us to something that seems less convenient to us than a dedicated spray mop, which we cover separately in our report on mops: the spray mop part of this Shark spray and steam does not squirt the solution onto the floor for you; rather, you have to spray the floor with the included squirt bottle and then mop. That would be fine for spot messes, but probably makes it tedious to do for an entire floor. Although, in its favor, unlike popular spray mop-only models, like the Swiffer WetJet (Est. $25), our Best Reviewed spray mop, you can use any cleaning solution you like.

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