Steam mops

You’ve seen them advertised on TV, but do they really work?

man cleaning floor with steam mop

Steam mops are a good way of cleaning a lightly soiled hard floor, and their lack of chemicals may be useful for people sensitive to chemical cleaners. But they’re far more expensive than a regular sponge mop and do a similar job.

We've gathered information on 14 steam mops.

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How do steam mops work?

The mops plug into the wall like a vacuum cleaner, but they don’t have suction to suck up spills, so floors must be vacuumed or swept beforehand. An on-board heater vaporises water in the reservoir, and the resulting steam is pushed through a washable cloth pad on the cleaning head. This loosens grime for the pad to wipe away.

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Features to consider

When buying a steam mop, here’s what to think about.

Swivel head

This helps with manoeuvrability and prevents the mop from catching on corners or tipping over when it’s stored.

Head size

A manageable head size makes it easier to get into small corners.

Cord length

Make sure the cord is long enough to reach from the power point to the furthest corner of the room you want to mop.

Weight

The design and weight distribution of the mop can affect how heavy it feels when in use, so try it in the shop first if you can.

Height adjustability

This is useful if you are taller or shorter than average, or suffer from back pain.

Tumble-dryable cleaning pads

Cleaning pads are machine washable and, although most pads can be tumble-dried, manufacturers don't recommend it as it reduces the life of the pad. It can take several days to dry a pad without using a dryer. Most mops come with two pads.

Turbo steam button

This sprays a strong burst of steam on difficult-to-remove stains.

Steam-on lock switch

A lock switch means you don't have to keep holding the trigger button to get the steam going.

Heat-up/cool-down pad

This is a landing pad on which to park the hot steam mop without damaging the floor.

Carpet attachment

Some steam mops claim to "refresh" carpets, and come with attachments that fit under the pad, pushing the steam into the carpet.

Jet nozzle

This is an attachment that blasts out hot water and steam, which is good for cleaning around sinks and taps.

Water tank

A removable water tank is easier to fill than one that’s attached to the mop head.

On-the-go refill

This means you can refill the water tank without waiting for the steam mop to cool down.

Cord storage

A clip is handy for keeping a long cord out of the way when the mop’s in use.

How and where to use them

Steam mops can be used on most hard-floor surfaces, but not on cork tiles or unsealed or waxed wooden floors. Most manufacturers suggest testing on an inconspicuous area first. If you’re unsure, we recommend checking with the manufacturer of your flooring product to ensure they don’t recommend against steam cleaning.

Some manufacturers recommend holding the mop in one spot to “disinfect and sanitise”. Don’t do this for long, as leaving a hot mop for too long in one place can mark a floor. Also, read the instructions about this carefully — it might be suitable for some floors and not others.

Some models come with a carpet attachment. We found these fine for “refreshing” carpet, but unsuitable for heavy soiling or stains.

Some steam mops can also be used on sofas, beds and soft toys.

Third-party heads

One of the most expensive things about a steam mop is replacing mop heads. The branded heads can be expensive and are sometimes hard to find.

Some shops sell cheaper third-party steam mop heads that claim to fit certain models. While this is often cheaper, it pays to ensure the mop heads fit. If in doubt, take your current mop head into the store to compare it to the third party head.

How we test steam mops

How we test steam mops

How we test steam mops

Consumer isn't shy about putting the latest appliances through some real-life challenges as part of our product testing. Find out how we put the latest steam mops through their paces.

More about Consumer testing

Which steam mop brands are most reliable?

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