steam mop right for your flooring type?
Unlike many cleaning tasks, using a steam mop requires absolutely no
chemicals. Rather, the steam mop heats the water (distilled water is often
recommended), the heated water loosens the dirt, and a microfiber pad attached
to the mop head absorbs the dirt. In general, steam mops are suitable for all
types of hard flooring; however, there are a few caveats. Most hardwood and
laminate floor manufacturers recommend against using steam mops -- and doing so
can void your floor's warranty. Many steam mops say they can be used on
"sealed" wood floors, but, again, the manufacturer may disagree with
that. Always check your floor's warranty (if still in effect) to be sure that
using a steam mop won't void it. To be on the safe side, it's probably a good
idea to try out your steam mop first on an out-of-the way section of your floor
to be sure it will work without causing any damage.
We also found a lower level of satisfaction with the cleaning
performance of steam mops on hardwood floors than with linoleum or tile. Quite
a few users say the floor dried with streaks, or that the "scrubbing"
pads included with the steam mop left scratches on their wood floors. Because
of all of that, our advice is to be very careful before using a steam mop on
any type of hardwood or laminate flooring. However, if you have tile, linoleum,
or most of the other common types of hard flooring, a steam mop may be your new
best cleaning friend.
Types of Steam Mops
Basic Steam Mop
Designed to do just one thing, steam mop your floors, these feature a built-in water tank, an element to create hot-water vapor and a flat mop head. You just fill it with water, turn it on, wait for it to heat up, and start steaming. Some reach hot enough temperatures to sanitize as well, while with others you may have to hold the mop on the spot for 10 to 20 seconds to sanitize. Basic steam mops are inexpensive to operate and environmentally friendly. Most include microfiber mop pads that are washable and reusable.
Multi-Purpose Steam Mops
These perform another cleaning function in addition to steaming. Some have vacuums to pick up debris before you mop, eliminating the need for using a separate vacuum or broom and dustpan. This saves you storage space over having more than one appliance, and may save money as well.
However, if all you need is a regular mop, see our separate report on mops for the top choices. We also recommend the best vacuum cleaners, stick vacuums, robotic vacuums and handheld vacuums for getting
your floor debris free and ready to steam clean. And if you want someone else
to do the mopping for you, check out this blog post on mopping robots.
Finding The Best Steam Mops
"The Best Steam Mop"
"The Best Steam Mops Review"
"The Best Steam Mops of 2018"
There aren't a lot of steam mops on the market, and
there are a few good expert reviews, so it's pretty easy to find a consensus
among them as to which steam mops are best. Those expert sites include Wirecutter,
Your Best Digs and Top Ten Reviews. All of these sites test and then rank and
rate the mops against each other.
In addition to looking at what the experts had to
say, we evaluated thousands of owner reviews to find out how the steam mops
ranked in real-world performance. This is particularly helpful in finding out
if users experiences in things like ease-of-use and drying time matches up with
the experts' relatively short term tests. Even more important, user reviews
offer a great window into a product's long-term durability and the
responsiveness of a manufacturer's customer service department when there is a
problem. All of these factors were taken into account when making our
recommendations for the top steam mops.
basic steam mops
For a basic steam mop, experts and owners agree
that you can't do better than the (Est. $90). It's the top pick at Wirecutter,
Your Best Digs and Top Ten Reviews after extensive testing. Kevin Purdy at Wirecutter
praises the 1940's flexibility, ease of use and, in particular, the continuous
steam feature, which is says, "is more convenient and comfortable than
pump handles or triggers." Bryan Vu at Your Best Digs calls the Bissell's
removable water tank his favorite feature, saying, "It was so convenient
to pop it out and bring it to the faucet to refill, or to dump out the extra
water when we were finished cleaning." However, the manufacturer
recommends using distilled or demineralized water "to prolong the life"
of this appliance.
In testing at all three of the sites mentioned
above, the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop 1940 performed well in cleaning a
variety of messes, including ground-in dirt and dried food spills. It also had
the ability to produce just the right amount of steam to get floors clean,
without leaving them overly wet. Your Best Digs notes that it took only about
two minutes for the floors to dry after using the 1940, or, as they note, "about
the time it takes to put the unit away and walk back across your floor without
leaving a trail of footprints."
Owners love the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop 1940,
too, saying it works very well for steam cleaning your floor on a daily or
weekly basis. It also does a good job of removing stains on grout, some say --
and several reviewers post pictures to prove it. Many owners say they bought
this mop because they felt that regular mops weren't getting their patterned
tile floor clean and are thrilled with the improved results.
Although the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop 1940 is a
basic mop, meaning it doesn't have any accessories or attachments to make it
suitable for any type of steam cleaning other than floors, it does have three
steam settings (low, medium and high). The 1940 can also sanitize, but you have
to hold it in place for about 20 seconds to sanitize a spot. However, most
owners say they did not buy the PowerFresh to sanitize, but rather just to
clean, so they don't see that as a significant negative. The Bissell's 12-inch swivel head gets much praise for its
ability to fit under most cupboards and clean along the walls. Its extreme
maneuverability is one of the reasons that it lands in the top spot at our
three expert test sites, too. It also locks into a standing position --
something most steam mops don't do -- and that is a very popular feature.
The Bissell PowerFresh 1940 is very easy to use,
say owners -- just fill, plug it in, wait about 30 seconds, and start mopping.
And testing at Your Best Digs found that it does heat up that quickly. Some owners
would rather see a dedicated power switch rather than plugging in and
unplugging the mop to turn it on and off, though. The PowerFresh's 15-ounce
water tank produces about 15 minutes of steam on the high setting, and up to 30
minutes on lower settings. Your Best Digs found that 20 minutes was about
Purdy finds one minor quibble about the Bissell
PowerFresh 1940: he says the mop heads are fiddly to remove and replace --
especially when the mop is hot. That matters because the 1940 includes two mop
heads, one for general cleaning and a more heavy-duty version for scrubbing. If
you need to change them out mid-task, be careful not to burn yourself.
Like all steam mops, the PowerFresh is intended to
clean only with water, although, as we've already noted, the manufacturer
recommends distilled, rather than tap water. For those who like the "clean
smell" of scented cleaning products, Bissell includes several "scent
discs." Purdy describes their fragrance as "Febreze-like," and
doesn't recommend them. There is also an upgrade to the Bissell 1904, the (Est. $90). The 19404 is the
version tested by Your Best Digs, it's identical to the 1904, with just a few
differences in the accessory package.
If the cost of the Bissel is a concern,
the (Est. $55) is a more
affordable option that also does well in professional testing. It receives thousands
of owner reviews that are nearly as high as those of the Bissell PowerFresh. This
Shark steam mop is the number four mop after testing at Your Best Digs, but the
number two mop is actually a steam cleaner (which we cover in a separate
In testing at Your Best Digs, the Shark Steam
Pocket had good results in cleaning high traffic areas (the Bissell earned an
excellent in that regard), and took about 12 seconds to remove dried soil. It
also dried in two minutes and heated in 30 seconds. At 4.8 pounds, it's lighter
than the Bissell, but with a shorter, 20-foot power cord. It was also the
quietest steam mop editors tested, making no noise at all. Ultimately, they
name it their top budget pick.
The Shark Steam Pocket S3501 scores lower at Top Ten
Reviews, coming in sixth out of eight steam mops tested there. In particular,
as both Angela Parkinson at Top Ten Reviews and the editors of Your Best Digs
point out, you have to employ some elbow grease to use the Shark: producing
steam requires you to pump the trigger and push the mop back and forth. That
makes it harder to use than the Bissell, as does the fact that the water tank
is not removable. The Shark works best for light messes, both sites agree,
rather than heavier, dried-on dirt or food stains.
Still, as we noted, owners rank the Shark Steam
Pocket 3501 very highly. One feature in particular that they say is pretty
nifty is Shark's signature "flippable," 2-sided cleaning pad. When
one side is dirty, just flip it to the other side to finish the job -- both
expert test sites like that feature too, because you don't have to touch a
dirty, hot, wet pad with your hands. The pads can be tossed in your washing
machine. Shark says that each pad lasts for about 20 washes, but replacement (Est. $8 for 2) are readily
available, as are generic options.
Although the Shark Steam Pocket may not be the best
for heavy-duty cleaning, experts and users love it for everyday touchups.
Except for the fact that you have to use a bit of elbow grease to generate
steam, which owners barely mention, but it's otherwise extremely maneuverable
and easy to use. The Shark steam mop includes a flask for filling the tank --
and the manufacturer recommends you do so with distilled, not tap water. As
with all steam mops, we see a few durability complaints about the Shark Steam
Pocket. Some say it didn't work or the tank leaked right out of the box.
However, Shark gets great reviews for its responsive customer service.
For heavier-duty cleaning or bigger homes where you might
need longer-lasting steam, we recommend the (Est. $120). It's almost identical to our Best
Reviewed spray mop/steam mop combo, the Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop System S6002 (Est. $130), which we cover in our discussion of the Best Steam Vacuums elsewhere in this report. However, it does not convert to a spray mop as the
S6002 does, and the S5003D has three steam settings as opposed to the S6002's
At Wirecutter where Kevin Purdy tests the S6002, he
recommends the Shark Genius S5003D as an upgrade for bigger steaming jobs if
you don't need the spray mop option. Owners give it very good ratings too,
saying it's easy to use and they love that "flippable" pad
technology. Again, the main complaint we see about this steam mop -- and all
Shark steam mops -- is that it does not stand up by itself and you have to lean
it against a wall.