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.
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.
Features to consider
When buying a steam mop, here’s what to think about.
This helps with manoeuvrability and prevents the mop from catching on corners or tipping over when it’s stored.
A manageable head size makes it easier to get into small corners.
Make sure the cord is long enough to reach from the power point to the furthest corner of the room you want to mop.
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.
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.
This is a landing pad on which to park the hot steam mop without damaging the floor.
Some steam mops claim to "refresh" carpets, and come with attachments that fit under the pad, pushing the steam into the carpet.
This is an attachment that blasts out hot water and steam, which is good for cleaning around sinks and taps.
A removable water tank is easier to fill than one that’s attached to the mop head.
This means you can refill the water tank without waiting for the steam mop to cool down.
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.
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.
We've tested 13 steam mops.
Find the right one for you.