A good handheld cleaner provides universal cleaning power in a portable package.
However, there are a lot of subpar handheld cleaners on the market. They have small tanks, weak heaters, and too little power to actually clean.
Problem is, they all seem the same from the outside. While many handheld cleaners claim to work miracles, a lot of them just don’t cut it for real cleaning. How do you know which ones one will actually work for you?
We researched dozens of cleaners to find the best ones on the market today. We chose them for their power, versatility, reliability, and user satisfaction. These cleaners can help you clean all over your house, and will make cleaning far less of a chore.
You’ll find our full reviews of all these great handheld cleaners below. We’ve also included a handy guide to How To Shop For A Handheld Steam Cleaner.
First, here’s a look at our three favorites!
Why Buy a Handheld Steam Cleaner?
Handheld steam cleaners are a simple, efficient cleaning tool for your home. A good handheld steamer will sanitize surfaces, dissolve sticky messes and blast away stuck-on dirt. They’re great for reaching into cracks and crevices that you can’t reach with a spray bottle and cleaning rag. They can replace many bottles and scrubbers, and tackle messes in the kitchen, bathroom, and more–all without using harmful chemicals!
- They’re a good supplement to a mop
- They’re a great choice for people who haven’t used steam cleaners before
- They’re a universal tool for spot cleaning and light jobs
Best Handheld Steam Cleaner Reviews
1. Zitronik (updated model!)
The Zitronik is bargain-priced, and provides more than your money’s worth in cleaning capability! While it’s not the best choice for frequent, intense cleaning, it’s great for small jobs around the house, and for sanitizing areas without using harmful chemicals or bleach. This updated model adds better spill-proofing, a more powerful heater, and an extra extension wand!
The cleaner advertises 15-20 minutes of continuous steam. That’ll get you plenty of cleaning action between fill-ups. It sprays with a simple trigger button. There’s a special funnel and filling cup for getting it ready to go. You won’t have to hold the cleaner under the sink, and you won’t risk overflowing the tank and making a mess.
This one comes with a full set of 9 attachments. We’re impressed by the array of cleaning tools here, especially for the price. You get pretty much anything you could want, although they are not the most heavy-duty versions.
There’s an extended spray wand, a long, pointed spray nozzle, and a general spray nozzle. There’s also a special attachment for cleaning doors and windows.
We also love the crooked/bent nozzle for reaching behind cabinets, under the stove, behind the toilet, and other hard-to-reach spots. It’s especially good for cleaning accumulated grease around lazy Susans and other rarely-cleaned kitchen fittings.
The long nozzle is great for cleaning between cushions, into cracks, and in small nooks and crannies.
The Zitronik also works very well on cars, refreshing fabric on car seats and rugs. Cleaning your car becomes a lot easier when you don’t have to drag a canister behind you.The many nozzles are great for reaching into vents and cleaning all those dashboard crevices.
It’s particularly good for all those tough grimy cracks between the toilet and the floor, or around your faucets. It can also tackle tile grout, though we wouldn’t really advise cleaning a whole room with a handheld option.
Previous buyers found lots of little uses around the house, like cleaning out coffeemakers, stovetops, and behind the fridge. The power cord is almost 10 feet, giving you lots of range. The brush plate and towel sleeve lets you use the handheld unit like a mini mop on flat surfaces. We love this feature for cleaning countertops, sinks, and showers.
More than anything, you just can’t beat the price! For around $35, it’s pretty hard to argue with the value for money here.
It’s a pretty small tank, only 8 oz. It also takes a full few minutes to warm up. Some buyers also found that the machine didn’t produce steam for as long as advertised. That’s obviously limited by the tank, as well.
It’s not the strongest cleaner in the world. Because the heater isn’t super powerful, the steam doesn’t come out with as much pressure as other cleaners. It’s not suitable for cleaning a grill, for instance. The heater simply isn’t powerful enough to deal with tough grease or heavy mineral deposits.
The hose and connections are pretty cheaply built. They’re all plastic, and some buyers said they wore down after extended use.
The Zitronik is really meant for light jobs. If your house is already fairly clean, and you’re trying to keep it that way, you’ll be fine. However, don’t expect to be able to tackle years of grime with this one.
There’s no warranty to speak of.
This European machine is our top quality pick for handheld cleaners. It stands out from the pack in build quality, power, and smart design. It’s much more powerful than other handhelds, and has the tools to direct that power for your benefit.
The Reliable is built much better than many of its competitors. It’s made of tough plastic, with a metal boiler. Overall, it’s sturdier and less delicate than other handheld options.
For a handheld device, it’s incredibly well-equipped. The Reliable comes with a whopping 14-piece accessory set. The accessories are built just as well as the machine, with wire bristles and cushioned terry cloth mop pads for windows and counters. That’s some very impressive versatility!
The brush set is a real standout, with three brushes in all. There are two nylon brushes. They’re color-coded, so you can keep dedicated brushes for different areas. That means you won’t be using the same brush in the bathroom and the kitchen.
Our favorite feature is the special Aramid fabric cleaning attachment. This is a very nice cushioned microfiber attachment for cleaning clothes. It’s more refined and safe than the competition.
Most other handheld steam cleaners have stiff plastic attachments which can snag and damage delicate fabrics. The Reliable protects and cushions even the most delicate fabrics. You can use it on clothing as well as furniture.
There’s also a special window attachment, complete with a squeegee! You can use this around the house, as well as for your car. We particularly love it for cleaning windows on microwaves and ovens, which can be hard to get clean with regular window cleaner and a paper towel. Plus, you won’t be using harmful chemicals around food surfaces.
Most importantly, there’s no shortage of steam power. The pressurized boiler tank puts out steam at 4-bar (58psi) pressure, as much as a full-size canister steamer! A handy indicator light tells you when you have steam pressure.
The added power means that unlike some other handheld steam cleaners, this can actually clean oven grease, barbecue grills, and blast deep grout. Others have the attachments to handle tough tasks, but don’t have the power to back them up.
The cord is also nearly 20 feet–twice as long as the Zitronik’s.
Unlike most handheld units, there’s great warranty coverage. All the parts are backed for a year, and the boiler unit is insured for life!
It’s expensive. The Reliable is 3X the price of many budget handheld steamers, and comes close to the price of a canister steamer.
Some reviewers were disappointed that the Reliable didn’t work as many wonders as they had hoped. We would caution buyers to make sure they’re being realistic about what any handheld cleaner is designed to handle. While the Reliable is as good as a handheld will get, it’s not designed to clean whole rooms, or to be your primary cleaning machine.
This Hoover is one of the only steam cleaners to combine cleaning solution with steam power. You can choose how you want to clean each surface and each mess, making the Hoover a versatile favorite for us. This is a good compromise choice for folks who want to use steam for certain projects, but also want to be able to add some detergent as a backup!
The Hoover provides a twin-tank steaming solution. You can clean with steam alone, or with steam mixed with detergent. And because there are separate tanks, you can alternate throughout a single cleaning session. You can switch between modes with a simple dial.
The cleaning solution also acts as a disinfectant, so you can be sure that your surfaces are sanitized. Plus, the cleaning solution is both biodegradable and non-toxic, so you don’t have to worry about using it in food preparation areas. The cleaning solution is also more effective than steam at neutralizing odors.
It comes with a full set of attachments, to help it handle pretty much any mess you have in your house. We particularly like how they’re conveniently grouped by area. For instance, there are three attachments specifically designed to help you clean your bathroom.
In our book, that’s a big point for Hoover. One annoying thing about other cleaners is that they provide you with plenty of tools, but very little guidance on how to use them effectively. The Hoover’s guide saves you time and mistakes (which could damage surfaces and cost you money).
Reviewers said it’s particularly good at cleaning around the inside of the car. They reported great success in cleaning sticky residues from drink spills and food, especially on the cluster, dashboard, and in pockets.
There’s a window attachment with a squeegee, as well as several wands for cleaning in cracks and corners.
For the rest of your house, like countertops and other surfaces, there are padded mop head wands. There’s a wide one for quick coverage, and a pointed detailing wand. We love that the cloths are double sided, so you can flip them over and use them twice as long, or clean with both sides in a crevice.
It’s a lot quieter than some less expensive cleaners. The Hoover also has an extra-large water tank. That saves you time and energy since you don’t have to refill it as often.
The steam isn’t as pressurized as other models. Previous owners wrote that the Hoover has a tendency to sputter sporadically, which means hot water can drip.
As a general rule, people experienced that problem when using the long hose. This one is less well leak-proofed than the Zitronik.
Some reviewers questioned whether it was really getting the vapor hot enough to kill bedbugs, which is a key selling point on this model. Remember that with any cleaner, the longer the attachment is, the more the temperature and pressure will decrease.
The nylon brushes wear down fairly quickly. They’re a lot less sturdy than you want at this price.
It takes a while to heat up. This is a combined effect of the large tank and small heater.
Top Portable Deep Steamer for Fabrics
Bissell Little Green ProHeat Spot Cleaner
The Little Green is our favorite solution for a portable deep cleaner. Since most steam cleaners can only do basic stain treatment on fabrics, we thought we’d include this handy fabric cleaner. The Bissell uses soap and hot water to deep clean carpeted stairs, upholstery, and car fabrics. We love it for quick spot-cleaning on carpeted floors, as well as small tasks around the house. Since it’s light and small, you can take it anywhere you need it!
It’s super compact and light. The body is built from lightweight plastic, which is at least 50% recycled. The whole thing only weighs about 12 pounds!
Because it’s so small and light, you can use it as a handheld unit, holding the canister in one hand and the nozzle in the other.
It comes with two attachments. One is a tough stain brush, with bristles and a 3-inch spray nozzle. It’s perfect for dealing with pet messes. The other is a long crevice nozzle. We like this one for cleaning between cushions, and at the edges of carpeted floors.
Everything rolls up and stores right on the machine! The cord, the attachments, and everything will be in one neat little package, ready to go. You can also store it ready to use, with clean water and solution ready to use.
After it cleans, it sucks all the water back up, just like a full-size carpet cleaner.
Unlike most carpet cleaners, this machine has an onboard heater. That means it’ll clean at up to 25 degrees hotter than your tap will go! The heat also helps deodorize.
Thanks to the separate switches, you can clean with the heater on or off. This is a great feature, because it lets you choose between maximum cleaning power, like a steam cleaner, and a gentler wash for old or delicate fabrics.
The included cleaning solution combines cleaner with Scotchgard stain protector. So, after it cleans, it prevents future messes.
Some reviewers said the nozzle sprayed too widely. An adjustment knob would be a nice feature.
A few buyers reported problems with leaking when it sits with water in it. It only has a sample bottle of cleaner.
Some buyers warned against storing it with water. They said that if you don’t use it often, the water can get a bit funky. We’d also recommend cleaning the dirty water tank after each use.
We found that a lot of problems mentioned in buyer reviews resulted from people not following directions, or not being realistic about what the machine is designed to do.
Which handheld steam cleaner should you buy?
The Zitronik is a good basic introduction to steam cleaning. It’s perfect for newcomers, or buyers on a budget. It comes with a full attachment set, and reasonable steam pressure. It’s our favorite budget-priced handheld steamer. If you’ve already got a good full-size steam cleaner, it’s a quick and easy solution for those times when you don’t want to haul out the big machine–without adding too much cost.
If you’re going to be cleaning with a handheld steamer more frequently, you might try a more powerful, durable model like the Hoover or the Reliable.
The Hoover is a good compromise for people who want the ease of use and efficiency of a steam cleaner, but the cleaning power and sanitation of cleaners. It’s better equipped than the Zitronik, and its attachments are built more solidly. We love it for its versatility. However, it’s still cheaply built, even though it’s very expensive compared with the Zitronik.
For the very best in handheld cleaners, the Reliable is our absolute favorite. Its smart design, build quality, and overall power stand out from the pack. It’s expensive, but your investment is backed by a long warranty and good customer service. Just don’t expect it to solve all your problems alone.
Even the best handheld cleaner isn’t a substitute for a full-size steam cleaner. If you’re going to be doing intense deep cleaning, or cleaning whole rooms with steam, you’ll want to check out a full-size steam cleaner.
Decide what you want to clean:
Depending on the surfaces and messes you have in mind, you’ll want different attachments.
The most important thing to consider is what you’ll actually be cleaning with a handheld steamer. Obviously, they’re not suitable for cleaning entire floors, but some can handle carpet stains and rug cleaning. Other attachments let you handle grout, grills, or other surfaces.
If you’re just using it to sanitize and clean up stains, you won’t need to think about fancy attachments or bristles. If you’re expecting to use a handheld cleaner on grout, grills, or other tougher spots, you’ll need a more powerful heater, pressurized steam, and sturdier attachments.
This also has a bearing on how much power you need from your handheld steam cleaner. If you’re going to be blasting hard water deposits, you’ll need a bit more power than you would for cleaning a sink and windows.
Consider your budget:
If you’re going to be using a handheld unit as a complement to another steam cleaner, it might make sense to buy a basic model. However, if the handheld steamer is going to be your primary tool for small jobs and spot cleaning, you’ll want to invest in something that’ll last and be powerful enough for all the jobs you have in mind.
Less expensive handheld steam cleaners have shorter warranties, less powerful heaters, and lower steam pressure. Their attachments also tend to wear down much faster.
If you’re looking to tackle whole floors or tough surfaces like grills, you don’t want a handheld steamer.
You want a steam mop or canister steamer, instead.
One common misconception is that the fancier handheld steam cleaners can handle tougher messes. That’s true to an extent, but they’re still handheld units. Even the best handheld steamer isn’t meant to clean full floors, or the toughest messes.
If you’re going to be relying fully on a steam cleaner, we strongly recommend considering the bigger ones. And remember, a steam cleaner takes a lot of the elbow grease out of cleaning, but you should still expect to do some scrubbing!
If you’re looking for a whole-house steam cleaning solution, try a canister steamer. They come with a full set of attachments to do everything a steam mop and a handheld steamer can do, in one package! They are also more powerful.
If you’re interested in steam cleaning your floors, check out our guide to the best steam mops. We’ve got you covered for tile floors, wood floors, and everything in between!