* Prices may differ from that shown
I am a big fan of steam cleaning and have tried a few different brands/models of steam cleaners. My favourite being the Polti 950, which is a pull along 'cylinder vacuum-style' steam cleaner. It's my favourite because it's incredibly powerful and cleans much more effectively than upright 'mop-style' cleaners I have tried. However, in exchange for power, the Polti sacrifices with slow heat up times and bulk. The steam mops are much quicker to heat up (usually within 30-60 seconds), which make them much more convenient and constantly on hand for quick clean ups. The 2-in-1 steam mops, which can also be used as a handheld, are in theory the perfect solution - with quick heat up speed, easily switching between floor and handheld modes, and lightweight, easy to store etc. However, being a smaller package generally means less steam power...
I decided I wanted to buy a steam mop purely for those quick clean ups and general day to day floor cleaning, and save the Polti for less regular deep cleaning. I had seen the Vax S7 Duet Master advertised as being a 2-in-1, so went for it as I thought the handheld option could be useful, despite not being my main reason for purchase.
The Vax S7 Duet Master specifications (as on the Vax website) are as follows:
Heat-up Time: <30 secs
Water tank capacity: 0.4 litres
Solution tank capacity: n/a
Steaming Time: 12 minutes/tank
Onboard Tools: No
Cord: 8.0 metres
Guarantee: 2 year guarantee
Other tools included: Hose, scraper tool, grout brush, detailer nozzle, concentration nozzle, squeegee tool, small plastic brush, metal brush, measuring cup, carpet glider, 2 x velcro microfibre cleaning pads, window cloth, shoulder strap, cooling base
The S7 uses 1600w of power, which is slightly more powerful than other steam mops on the market which tend to be around the 1500w mark. After using the S7, and previously using a 1300w mop - I would say that anything less than 1500w is absolutely not worth getting.
Heat up time is incredibly fast - definitely true to the <30 seconds claimed. Although I haven't actually timed it, the green indicator light always comes on within a few seconds of switching it on. This makes it super easy to grab it and start cleaning straight away. It's far quicker than the time it takes to make up a bucket of solution to mop the traditional way.
The 0.4L water tank is adequate for the quick jobs you would probably use it for most - but it really doesn't seem to last very long (not sure it even lasts a full 12 minutes as stated), and mopping the laminate floor and separate rug in my medium/large lounge usually takes the full tank. Though I must admit I'm very thorough! :) But if you want to mop/steam carpets of every floor in the house you will need to refill frequently. Refilling is very easy however, and the quick heat up times don't keep you waiting too long - plus a larger tank capacity would add weight, which wouldn't be good when using as a handheld as I already find it quite a weight in that mode.
Unlike some other Vax models, the S7 requires no expensive specific cleaning solutions - something that had put me off buying previous models, as apart from the regular expense, water should really be all you need. It's the heat of the steam that kills germs, and I feel that any machine that requires the help of solutions can't be a very effective steamer. Making the switch to steam cleaning should mean that you can get away from having to buy regular cleaning products.
The power cord on the S7 is an impressive 8m long, which makes it even more user friendly reducing the need to unplug and replug in different areas. The upright handle has brackets to wind it around and keep it neatly out of the way as you clean, and the brackets swivel round which makes it easy to remove the cord in one go if necessary (like when changing to handheld). There is no cord tidy when using as a handheld however, so you end up with lots of cord trailing everywhere which can be a nuisance - though I can see it would add weight to the unit otherwise.
There are a huge number of attachments as the specifications show - almost too many...
* The hose is for use as a handheld, which increases the reach and ability to get into harder to reach areas.
* The scraper tool is meant for scraping burnt on mess on flat surfaces, such as cooker tops.
* The grout brush is a straight line of bristles which supposedly makes getting right into the grout lines easier (though the round plastic bristle brush does this job too).
* The detailer nozzle is curved to allow you to clean under the rim of the toilet and behind taps.
* The concentration nozzle is a long pointed nozzle which concentrates the steam to a specific point, and creates a more powerful jet of steam. Useful for blasting stubborn dirt - this is an essential used in conjunction with most of the other smaller attachements.
* The squeegee tool is for windows, or with the window cloth becomes an upholstery cleaner/large surface/kitchen side cleaner.
* Small plastic brush is for scrubbing stubborn dirt from most surfaces. My cleaner actually comes with a larger (double row of bristles) plastic brush too - though not stated in the specifications.
* The metal brush is for heavy duty scrubbing, for example on grill/BBQ racks. This is really quite sharp and will scratch plastic or enamel surfaces, so I would only use it for metal racks.
* Measuring cup with a narrow spout allows you to fill the tank without spills and to the precise fill capacity.
* Carpet glider is used in conjunction when used as a mop. to allow you to go over carpet smoothly, refreshing and removing surface dirt/dust.
* 2 velcro microfibre cleaning pads, which stick to the floor head and pick up and retain all the dirt. These are machine washable and seem very good quality.
* Window cloth - as stated above this goes on the window squeegee attachment. I have found that it becomes sodden very quickly.
* Shoulder strap, when using as a handheld takes some of the weight off your wrist - but I have found it makes the machine more of a faff to control as it swings around. It doesn't allow for hands free cleaning as you need to hold the steam button on the machine continuously.
* Cooling base - great to have a surface to put the hot/wet floor attachment after use to protect your floors and carpets.
In reality, I only regularly use the concentration nozzle, plastic brushes with the handheld - and floor pads, carpet glider and cooling base when using as a mop.
To use the machine, you fill the tank which clips into place, plug it in and switch it on - the power being indicated by a blue light. It takes only a few seconds to reach temperature, upon which a green light comes on above the blue power light. There are two steam release buttons/triggers depending on which mode you are using the machine in. As a handheld, there is a small button on the handle, and as a mop there is a trigger. In both modes, to activate the steam you initially press the button/trigger in short bursts until a steady level of steam is released - after which you can hold the button/trigger continuiously.
When used as a mop, the S7 is faultless. It cleans effectively and the floor dries quickly. It's easy to use and manouver, and lightweight and easy to store away.
However in handheld mode I don't rate it so highly. The main unit holds the water tank, which makes it heavy to hold (imagine holding a kettle constantly as you clean). It's also not powerful enough to deal with stubborn surface dirt quickly, and takes a long time to even soften it let alone blast it like the Polti does - and holding the heavy unit for a long time results in aching arms/hands. I wouldn't even bother attempting to clean a dirty oven/BBQ with this! But for light surface dirt and general sanitising, killing germs it's fine.
Another couple of cons are:
The on/off button is located by the power light quite low down on the machine, which requires the user to bend right down if using as a mop (not ideal for a bad back).
There is no option to lock the steam button/trigger, so you have to hold it down continuously - this makes your thumb/hand ache after a while.
It retails at £149.99 and has a 2 year guarantee. I personally think the RRP is a little high, and would say £100 would be a fairer price. I was lucky enough to get mine as a refurbished model for less than £100, and I'm happy with that for the steam mop alone, regardless of the handheld option. I would definitely recommend shopping around to get it for £100 or less.
In conclusion, I love this machine as a mop and for that element alone I would recommend it (if you can get it at the right price), but as a handheld it doesn't live up to my high expectations. For that reason I can only rate it 3 stars as the advertised product - but if I rated it as a mop only it would be 5/5.
Short name: Vax S7