Need to deep clean your car’s upholstery? You can’t put your car seat in a washing machine, but the best steam cleaners for cars can bring the washing machine to your car seat. Steam cleaning is an eco-friendly means to remove allergens, bacteria, mold, and bad odor. It’s also a fast and gentle means to remove exterior grime like bird droppings and tree sap.

But which type of steam cleaner is best for cars? A portable handheld model, or a heavy-duty cleaner with a large capacity and more attachments? We reviewed both to help you determine which is the right for your needs and vehicle.

#1 Editor’s Pick: Vapamore MR-100 Primo Steam Cleaner

Vapamore Steam Cleaner

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The Vapamore MR-100 is a high-capacity steam cleaner that includes a wide variety of useful attachments. While the steam mop is not something necessary for car detailing, it’s a nice inclusion that improves the overall utility of this appliance. Featuring excellent cleaning power, this steam cleaner is a good pick for deep cleaning or small messes.

Key Features

  • Cost: Around $350
  • Tank capacity: 54.0 ounces
  • Weight: 18.9 pounds
  • Lifetime warranty

Attachments

  • Detail adapter
  • Four nylon brushes
  • Floor head with triangle brush
  • Fabric surface tool

Our Experience

Steam Cleaner Vapamore

The Vapamore comes with a wide variety of attachments, and the manual details the surfaces and situations in which each attachment is useful. Overall, we felt the Vapamore had the most detailed and easy-to-follow instruction manual.

Filling the Vapamore is simple: An included funnel and measuring cup help ensure you don’t overfill the tank.

Though this cleaner is large, it’s easy to move this steam cleaner. The power cord is 198.0 inches and retractable. The steam hose is detachable, making this the most portable of the larger steam cleaners we tested. Another nice feature is the storage compartment, which holds several attachments.

The high-capacity tank allows for extended use, and the steam power is adjustable. Overall, this is a good product for car cleaning.

Overall Rating4.7 out of 5
Ease of Use5 out of 5
Versatility4.5 out of 5
Portability4.5 out of 5

What Customers Are Saying

There are about 1,000 ratings on Amazon for the Vapamore MR-100. The average score is 4.3 out of 5, and 83 percent of reviewers give the Vapamore 4 or more stars.

People praise Vapamore customer service, which is quick to replace broken components. Most say this is an easy-to-use steam cleaner that performs well. The large tank means a long cleaning time, and it is easy to clean and maintain this steam cleaner.

Some complain about the attachments coming loose during use. Another typical complaint is that the cleaner is loud.

#2 Best Handheld Steam Cleaner: Bissell SteamShot

Bissel Steam Cleaner

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This handheld steam cleaner can spout powerful gusts of steam. It includes a number of useful attachments for cleaning nooks and crevices (like your cup holders), as well as a brush for window cleaning. However, we don’t recommend steam cleaning your auto’s windshield.

Key Features

  • Cost: Around $35
  • Tank capacity: 6.6 ounces
  • Weight: 4.0 pounds

Attachments

  • Extension hose
  • Accessory nozzle
  • Detail brush
  • Flat scraping tool
  • Angle concentrator
  • Grout brush
  • Fabric steamer
  • Window squeegee

Our Experience

Bissel Steam Cleaner

The Bissell SteamShot is filled using an included beaker. There is no funnel, but it is not necessary as the beaker has a narrow spout. This small and lightweight steam cleaner has a 186.0-inch extension cord.

Attached to the cord is a velcro strip which makes storage easier. However, there is no accessories bag, so you’ll need to find your own box to store all of the attachments.

Overall, we found the SteamShot simple to use, and we like the large variety of brush heads for many purposes. However, the smaller tank capacity means you may need to fill it more often.

Overall Rating4.2 out of 5
Ease of Use4 out of 5
Versatility3.5 out of 5
Portability5 out of 5

What Customers Are Saying

Around 30,000 Amazon reviews give the Bissell SteamShot an average rating of 4.3 stars. A total of 80 percent of reviews give this steam cleaner 4 or more stars.

Reviewers appreciate the sturdy brushes and high pressure offered by this small unit. The size and various brush attachments are excellent for cleaning out small crevices and crannies.

Some complain about the low-capacity tank. When full, this handheld steamer offers about 15 minutes of steam power, which isn’t enough for some users. The cleaning process to detail an entire vehicle is likely to take longer than this.

#3 Most Attachments: McCulloch MC1375 Canister Steam Cleaner

McCulloch Steam Cleaner

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The McCulloch MC1375 is a heavy-duty steam cleaner/mop. It heats quickly and to a considerably high temperature. While the steam mop feature is not useful for auto detailing, it includes several useful nozzles that are. The high-quality utility brushes are likely to last for many years.

Key Features

  • Cost: Around $160
  • Tank capacity: 48.0 ounces
  • Weight: 10.8 pounds
  • One-year warranty

Attachments

  • Jet nozzle
  • Angled nozzle
  • Triangle brush
  • Large brush
  • Scraper
  • Round scrub pad
  • Nylon utility brush
  • Brass utility brush
  • Mop
  • Bristle brush

Our Experience

McCulloch Steam Cleaner

The McCulloch comes with a measuring beaker but no funnel. However, the shape of the receptacle makes it easy to fill without spilling. This steamer has a handle and wheels and is not especially heavy, making it reasonably portable. The cord is 216.0 inches, which is useful, but can be a hindrance for storage.

This device seems more specifically designed for steam mopping, but it also includes many attachments that are useful for auto detailing. The triangle head brush is good for seats, and the hard-bristled heads can get into crevices and clear out built-up grime. The steam is especially hot to fully sanitize surfaces.

We did feel that the pressure output didn’t rival other steam cleaners, especially given the size of the MC1375.

Overall Rating4.2 out of 5
Ease of Use4 out of 5
Versatility5 out of 5
Portability3.5 out of 5

What Customers Are Saying

Amazon reviewers rate the McCulloch steam cleaner an average of 4.5 stars. A total of 88 percent of reviews give this steam cleaner 4 or more stars.

Some purchased this steam cleaner specifically for auto detailing and swear by it. It heats up very quickly and is good at maintaining steam pressure. The long hose is useful for reaching into a vehicle and a single tank can detail an entire car.

Some report issues with the mop attachment breaking. Others feel that the pressure is too weak and should be stronger considering the price.

#4 Great For Detailing: Wagner Spraytech

Wagner Steam Cleaner

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The Wagner Spraytech is an inexpensive steam cleaner relative to its tank capacity. Considering the number of quality attachments, this is a good deal for those looking to buy a simple cleaner for light work. It offers a fast heating time and excellent steam pressure.

Key Features

  • Cost: Around $135
  • Tank capacity: 40.0 ounces
  • Weight: 13.4 pounds
  • One-year warranty

Attachments

  • Squeegee
  • Fabric steamer
  • Jet nozzle
  • Nylon brushes
  • Brass brushes

Our Experience

Wagner Steam Cleaner

The Wagner Spraytech includes a funnel, but no measuring cup. It’s easy enough to use your own measuring cup to appropriately fill the tank, so this isn’t a major hindrance. The instructions let you know the maximum tank capacity so that you don’t overfill the device.

There is a storage compartment in the front of this cleaner that holds most of the attachments, and an accessory bag to carry the rest. The cord is 71.0 inches long.

We found the extended nozzle easy to use and helpful for getting into the tight areas of our vehicle. The large tank provides extended use, and this cleaner has a powerful steam output. It preheats very quickly in under 10 minutes.

Overall Rating3.8 out of 5
Ease of Use4 out of 5
Versatility4 out of 5
Portability3.5 out of 5

What Customers Are Saying

The Wagner Spraytech has an Amazon review score of 4.3 based on over 11,000 ratings. A total of 82 percent of reviews rate the Spraytech 4 or more stars.

This steam cleaner has been reviewed by auto detailers, who claim it is one of their favorite cleaning tools. Most say this has excellent steam pressure, and can remove a lot of grime with little to no scrubbing. Steam power builds quickly and it’s easy to maintain this machine.

The Wagner may not get as hot as some other steam cleaners. Some also complain that the storage compartment is small as it does not fit all of the included attachments.

#5 Also Consider: HAYI Handheld Steam Cleaner

HAYI Steam Cleaner

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HAYI offers a high-pressure, high-temperature handheld steam cleaner at a nice price. It includes a number of useful accessories and is easy to operate. The long power cord and simple design make it easy to use, and the safety cap prevents you from removing the lid while the contents are still under pressure (our tester learned the hard way why you should wait to empty excess water).

Key Features

  • Cost: Around $45
  • Tank Capacity: 12.0 ounces
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • One-year warranty

Attachments

  • Long spray nozzle
  • Bent spray nozzle
  • Round brush nozzle
  • Extended spray nozzle
  • Window spray nozzle
  • General spray nozzle

Our Experience

HAYI Steam Cleaner

The HAYI includes minimal instructions, but its operation is straightforward. A measuring cup and funnel are both included to properly fill the device.

It’s easy to maneuver the lightweight HAYI, and the long cord (107.0 inches) makes it easy to reach any part of your vehicle’s interior. One downside we note is that there is no storage bag for the included attachments.

This steam cleaner performed excellently in our detailing test. It comes with a number of useful attachments, and we found the steam heat and pressure to be impressive given the HAYI’s small size.

Overall Rating4.2 out of 5
Ease of Use4 out of 5
Versatility3.5 out of 5
Portability5 out of 5

What Customers Are Saying

Amazon reviews rate the HAYI handheld steam cleaner an average of 4.4 stars based on over 2,300 reviews. A total of 85 percent of reviews give this device 4 or more stars overall.

Many say the HAYI is powerful and simple to use. It is a low-cost portable steamer that gets the job done.

Typical complaints regard use time. The tank has a low capacity and does not provide much steam time, especially considering it takes about 10 minutes to pressurize.

Buyers Guide: Best Steam Cleaners For Cars

A steam cleaner is an excellent tool for detailing your vehicle. Steam cleaners can destroy mold and bacteria as well as help dislodge built-up gunk and grime. Many steam cleaners are designed for home use, but work just as well for automobiles. Steam cleaning is great for auto detailers who want to cut down on chemical use.

When looking for a steam cleaner specifically for a car, you’ll want to find something that is portable and includes useful attachments for auto detailing. Some steam cleaner attachments aren’t useful for auto detailing (like a steam mop), while others are necessary. Look for steam cleaners that have stiff brush attachments for the small crevices in your vehicles. Also useful are wide triangle brush heads for upholstery.

Capacity

Another thing to consider when purchasing a steam cleaner is tank capacity. Handheld steam cleaners are portable but may not have the tank capacity to clean your entire vehicle in one go. If you don’t want to refill the tank several times, look for a steam cleaner with a large tank. A 48.0-ounce tank can provide about 90 minutes of steam, which should be enough to detail a full-sized auto.

How To Steam Clean A Car

If you decide to steam clean your vehicle, you’ll want to follow these steps:

  • Prepare your steam cleaner: Fill your steam cleaner with distilled water (tap water has minerals that can degrade the interior), and plug it in near your vehicle. Most steam cleaners take about 10 minutes to pressurize.
  • Clean out your vehicle: Remove all items from your consoles, seat pockets, floor, and doors.
  • Vacuum: Before steam cleaning, remove as much debris as possible using a shop vac or handheld vacuum cleaner. If you have embedded pet fur, you should use a stiff brush in conjunction with your vacuum.
  • Steam: Use a steam cleaner along with a cleaning solution that’s suitable for your car’s interior and upholstery.

While steam cleaning, make sure that you don’t apply steam to the same spot for too long. The hot steam can damage rubber and plastic. If you make sure to keep the steamer moving, you can safely bring your vehicle to a pristine clean.

Many steam cleaners include an attachment for glass cleaning. We tried this on our vehicle and do not recommend steam-cleaning your car windows unless you have a background in this already. In our experience, it can leave spots that make a windshield more difficult to see through than if it were never steam cleaned at all.

Our Review Standards

The steam cleaners in this article went through two rounds of reviews. We started by searching Amazon for top products, looking at factors like Prime shipping eligibility, customer ratings, Amazon superlatives, and prices.

The steam cleaners that best met these standards were ordered by our team for testing. A team member tested each product in a car, taking note of ease of use, versatility, and portability.

Ease Of Use

Steam cleaners come in different shapes and sizes. Not all are equally easy to fill and use. While none of the cleaners we tested were especially difficult to operate, some have convenience features like retractable power cords or storage containers for the attachments.

Versatility

Our versatility score is based on the number of attachments included with each steam cleaner. Different attachments are useful for cleaning different areas of your vehicle. A wide brush can quickly steam down a seat, while smaller brushes with stiff bristles are good for nooks and crannies.

Portability

Lightweight steam cleaners score best in this category. We also considered cord length and hose length when assessing portability. It’s important that a steam cleaner for a car be able to reach every part of your vehicle.

Steam Cleaners For Cars Testing Process

To test the steam cleaners for this article, our review team filled and used each device according to any included directions. We tried each included attachment to clean the exterior and interior of a Ford Fusion.

FAQ: Steam Cleaners For Cars

*Data accurate at time of publication.