Everything You Can Steam Clean in Your Kitchen

For tackling everything from countertops to stovetops to floors, steam cleaning is all the rage!

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February 13, 2023

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Photo by: Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Our Top Steam Cleaner Picks

By Sharon Franke for Food Network Kitchen

Steam cleaners are having their day right now. That’s because they clean exclusively with hot water, so there’s no need to use chemical cleaners of any kind. Need help deciding whether steam cleaning is the best way to get rid of grease and grime in your kitchen? Here’s everything you need to know.

What to Know About Steam Cleaning?

Steam cleaning uses water that is heated past the boiling point and then forced out as pressurized steam through a brush, nozzle or other attachment. The vapor softens grease and grime without any need to pull out cleaning products, a bucket or a mop — plus, it also saves you from having to use a lot of elbow grease.

Steam mops work with reusable microfiber pads or disposable cloths that you attach to the head to help disperse the steam and pick up loosened dirt. Just as when you use a traditional mop, you need to let the floor dry after cleaning.

For countertops, appliances and even ovens, handheld models are very convenient, particularly for items like grills and grates that are hard to clean without aggressive cleaners and scrubbing. However, handhelds leave a lot of water and dirt behind that you have to wipe up.

Cylinders are bulkier to use but hold more water, making them best for cleaning large areas like a rec room or a house with tiled flooring throughout, but they aren't as idea for getting into tight areas around appliances or reaching cabinets. For that reason, we’re not recommending one primarily for kitchen use.

What Can (and Can’t) You Steam Clean?

Steam cleaners work best on hard, impermeable surfaces, such as countertops, appliances and floors made from tile or stone. Some models can also be used on fabrics to clean chair or stool seats or upholstery, mattresses and curtains in other rooms of the house.

Steaming wood floors is not recommended as the steam can damage the finish and also cause the boards to swell and buckle. If you’re tempted to use steam on your wood floor, be sure to read the floor manufacturer’s warranty to see if you’ll void it by cleaning with steam. Some users report damage to vinyl and laminate flooring, so check the manual and warranty before steam cleaning these types of surfaces as well. If you have any doubts, test a small area before cleaning the entire floor. If water is absorbed into the surface, it is definitely not safe for steam cleaning.

Do Steam Cleaners Sanitize?

The short answer: They can. While just about every steamer claims it will sanitize, it depends on what temperature the water reaches, how much pressure is built up and how you use the product. It’s critical to read the owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to how close to an area and for how long you have to hold the steamer in order to kill germs. In the case of mops, it may be the number of slow passes you have to make over the area. When you use a steamer on textiles, you can kill some odor-causing bacteria, allergens and dust mites but only on the surface of the material.

Are There Any Downsides to Steam Cleaning?

Steam cleaning does require a few additional steps. Much like when you mop your floor, you'll need to vacuum floors before steam cleaning, especially if there’s a lot of dust, crumbs or pet hair on the floor. Additionally, if you have a steam mop, you’ll have to keep a stock of pads on hand. While most can be washed in the machine, you might want to consider the additional task of washing these pads, especially since they sometimes came out looking gray, not pristine in our experience. Lastly, from our experience, you shouldn't expect a steamer to whiten dirty or stained grout.

What to Look For In a Steam Cleaner

The water tank should be easy to remove and fill at the sink. Check how much water it holds as that will determine how long you can steam without refilling the tank. For a large kitchen, you want a capacity of at least 16 ounces. If you have a small kitchen, choose a model with a smaller reservoir; the steamer will be less bulky and lighter to move around. A light that tells you when it’s time to add more water is a helpful feature.

You should also take into account whether or not a machine requires distilled water. If so, consider the added task of keeping that on-hand.

$92.69
Amazon

For its great cleaning ability and ease of use, this Bissell is our number one choice in a steam mop. It weighs just over six pounds but has a wide brush head, so it’s not cumbersome to push around and covers a lot of ground. You’ll also find it easily gets into corners, right up to the edge where floors and cabinets meet, and under chairs and tables.

It heats up in just 30 seconds, and a light glows when it’s ready to use. Thanks to its 23-foot cord and 16-ounce tank, it can steam clean a large kitchen without being unplugged and replugged or refilled with water. Adding to its convenience is its continuous flow of stream, so you don’t need to pull a trigger or push a button as you work. There are three levels of steam, so you can choose more or less depending on how dirty your floors are.

Unlike many, this model comes with no attachments. However, it has an Easy Scrubber tool on board that you press into place by pushing down with your foot. It’s particularly helpful when you’re dealing with stuck-on messes or grout lines between tiles.

Bissell does suggest you use distilled or demineralized water to extend the life of the appliance. It also claims that the mop can “eliminate 99.9% of germs and bacteria” if used properly. According to the manual (which you have to download online) you have to keep the mop on an area for at least 15 seconds but no more than 20. That means if you’re hellbent on sanitizing your floor, you’ll need to invest some time to get the job done. To impart an aroma to the entire room, you can insert Bissel fragrance discs into the pads. However, if the reason you’re buying a steam mop is to avoid chemicals, you may want to ignore this option. With its slim profile, this appliance is easy to stow away. It comes with two different mop pads, one for light and one for heavy messes.

$64.99
Amazon

Less expensive and slightly lighter in weight than our top pick, this model will give similar cleaning results. It too heats up quickly and moves nimbly around the floor. However, with a 16-foot cord and a 10-ounce tank, it’s better for a smaller kitchen. To release steam, you need to push a trigger, although you don’t have to press it continuously.

The 2-IN-1 has a distinct advantage in that it can also be converted to a handheld steamer by removing the base and long handle. Along with the steamer, you get a bristle brush for scrubbing around sinks, grates or any area that collects gunk as well as a grout brush to use on tiled countertops or backsplashes or in the bathroom.

To sanitize with this model, Bissell recommends slowly and evenly passing the mop over an area at least three times. One mop pad is included.

$36.04
Amazon

We’re big fans of Bissell steamers for dealing with grungy kitchens. Compact in size and only four pounds in weight, this handheld model has a 20-foot cord and is easy to maneuver all around the room. Using the measuring cup that comes with it, you fill the tank with water the way you would a steam iron and then wait about two to three minutes for it to heat up. To release steam, you activate a trigger. Along with the Steam Shot, you get 10 different attachments: three bristle brushes (so you can use a different one in the kitchen, bathroom, and mud room), a grout cleaning tool, a scraper for really gunky surfaces like ovens doors, a window cleaner and a fabric steamer.

You can only use it to sanitize hard, non-porous surfaces. To do so, you have to apply steam directly above an area for 45 seconds.

Some logistics that are worth considering are the length of the cord, which should be long enough to let you maneuver around your entire kitchen, and how much the model weighs. A lighter model will be easier to push and or carry around, which could be helpful if you're planning to use your steam cleaner for multiple rooms in your home. Depending on what you're cleaning, a swivel head can help you get into corners and around table legs.

How We Picked

To make our recommendations, we incorporated our own experience with steam cleaners with a thorough analysis of the category. We interviewed a cleaning expert, read what professional reviewers report, and poured over users review to see what real people say about using steam cleaners in their own kitchens. In making our selections, we kept in mind that you may not want to spend a bundle on a steam cleaner, regardless of whether you’re looking for a mop or handheld model.

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