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Steam mops

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Do steam mops live up to their intimidating names?

Steam mops are advertised as a chemical-free and “sanitary” way to clean floors. But they’re an expensive alternative to the conventional sponge mop and elbow grease. We've tested 16 models – find out how well they performed.

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How they work

Steam mops create their own steam with a built-in water container and an electric heater.

The steam is pushed through a washable cloth pad on the cleaning head to loosen grime for the pad to wipe away.

The mops plug into the wall like a vacuum cleaner, but they don’t have suction to suck up spills so floors must still be vacuumed or swept before steam mopping.

Steam mops don't use chemicals for cleaning so may be useful for people with allergies.

Features to consider

If you’re thinking of buying a steam mop, here's what to consider.

  • Swivel head: Helps with manoeuvrability and prevents the mop 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. Cords for the models in our test ranged from 4.3 to 9.6 metres.
  • Weight: Choose a model with a weight you can easily manage. The design and weight distribution of the mop can affect how heavy it feels when in use, so try it in a shop first if you can.
  • Height adjustable: Useful if you are taller or shorter than average, or suffer from back pain.
  • Tumble dryable cleaning pads: Cleaning pads are machine washable and while most pads can be tumbled 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 2 pads.
  • Turbo steam button: Sprays a strong burst of steam onto difficult-to-remove stains. The button is on the handle and may be difficult to press while moving the steam mop.
  • 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. Useful while the mop is heating or if the phone rings in the middle of your cleaning session.
  • Carpet attachment: Some steam mops claim to "refresh" carpets and come with attachments that fit under the pad, pushing the steam into the carpet.
  • Water tank: A removable water tank is easier to fill than one that’s attached to the mop head requiring the use of a cup. Cups are supplied if they’re needed.
  • Cord storage: Most mops have clips for winding the cord around when stowing it away. They can also be handy for keeping a long cord out of the way when the mop’s in use.

Stain removal

We assessed stain removal using a large sheet of vinyl with everyday stains like coffee, mustard, red wine, shoe polish, and soy and tomato sauces. We left these stains to dry overnight and then attempted to clean them with the steam mops. Most people would wipe up a spill straight away – so this was a tough test.

Most mops did better on some stains than others - become a Gold or Silver member to view the results.

Our view

  • Steam mops are a good way of cleaning a lightly-soiled hard floor – and their lack of chemicals may be useful for people with allergies. But they’re far more expensive than a conventional sponge mop.

  • For everyday stains that you clean up immediately, warm soapy water and a conventional sponge mop are still a great option.

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