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Steam Cleaner vs Vacuum Cleaner

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you’re shopping for the best vacuum cleaner, you may have wondered how it stacks up against a steam cleaner. Of course, you’re probably aware of some fundamental differences between a steam cleaner vs a vacuum. Still, there are a few other vital details between the two, so if you’re unsure which cleaning machine would be your ideal choice, read on.


Comparing Carpet Steamers and Vacuums

Steam vacuum cleaners use hot water and the power of steam to pull ground-in dirt or a stubborn stain from carpeted floors. A steam carpet cleaner, or carpet shampooer, sprays a combination of water and cleaning solution from a water tank onto the carpet, then uses a suction mechanism to pull up dirt and excess water, making it easy to remove tough stains from high foot traffic areas.

Insider Tip

Invest in a handheld steam cleaner or portable spot cleaner to get stuck on stains out of your furniture.

On the other hand, a vacuum uses powerful suction in conjunction with brush action to clean carpet and hardwood floors. Most models have an array of attachments to get into small spaces or clean delicate surfaces. In addition, you should compare robot vacuums and standard vacuums for the ultimate in convenient cleaning.


While a powerful vacuum is great for sucking up general dirt and dust, carpet steam cleaning will leave your floors completely clean. That said, a portable carpet steamer won’t outpace your high-powered vacuum. Much like comparing a stick vacuum and an upright model, both appliances will do their job, but one is more powerful.

Cleaning Speed

Steam cleaning carpets takes much longer than vacuuming, especially if you factor in drying time. After applying and rinsing the soapy water from your carpet, it takes between 10 to 24 hours for the carpet to dry. Of all the cleaning solutions for your carpeted floors, steam cleaning is one of the most time-consuming. If you find you’re needing to clean both debris and spills, consider the top-rated wet dry vac as well.


If you’re concerned about cost, go with a traditional vacuum. A carpet cleaner is regularly double the price of an excellent vacuum, and you’ll need to buy carpet cleaning fluid to mix with the water to get the best results. That said, you can easily rent a steam cleaner, but it still won’t be cheaper than a vacuum. The cost for carpet cleaning services can add up, especially if you schedule regular carpet cleanings.


While they may not clean better, vacuums are much more convenient to use than steam cleaners, even though modern carpet cleaners are easier to use than ever before. However, you still have to monitor the water quantity and wastewater reservoir. You’ll also need to use them with a special cleaning liquid for the best clean. If that’s too much fuss, you can contact a professional carpet steam cleaner to do it for you.


Do not touch the head of your carpet steamer during the steaming process. High-quality steam cleaners use scalding water vapor that will burn your hand if touched.


Do steam cleaners also vacuum?

A modern steam carpet cleaner will have similar suction power to a vacuum. In addition, steam carpet cleaners also have spinning nylon brushes to agitate and trap dirt before pulling it away.

Is steaming floors better than mopping?

Steam cleaning results in a more thorough clean than simple mopping. That said, if you can find an affordable steam mop, you can still get the advantages of steam cleaning.

What Is dry carpet cleaning?

Dry carpet cleaners use smaller amounts of water than traditional steam cleaning. That said, some consumers do not like the harsh chemicals and professional service required for a dry carpet cleaner.

STAT: According to EnergyStar, steam carpet cleaners have a 10 percent market share in the United States. (source)

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