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Buying Guide: Steam Mops

By: Kelly Burgess on May 01, 2018

What the best Steam Mop has

  • A large water tank. The more water a steam mop holds, the longer it can clean without needing a refill -- the best steam for a minimum of 15 minutes before needing to be refilled, which is long enough for most jobs, reviewers say. Some can keep going for 30 minutes or even a little more, especially on lower settings.
  • An easy-fill design. Built-in reservoirs typically require a funnel and cup to fill, which can be awkward and time consuming. The best steam mops have a removable water tank so you can stand at a counter to refill it. Keep in mind that most manufacturers recommend using only distilled water.
  • Variable steam control. A well-designed steam mop uses a trigger or dial to set the amount of steam it releases. This allows the user to use a lighter steam for general cleaning, and dial up more steam for stains or spills.
  • Easy handling. Steam mops with a swivel head, light weight and good balance are the easiest to maneuver, especially when cleaning difficult places such as under counters.
  • Long power cord. Power cords vary from 16 to 30 feet long. The best steam mops have a cord that's at least 25 feet, giving users a long enough reach to steam large areas without unplugging.
  • Built-in power switch. Steam mops with an on/off switch on the unit can power on when you are ready; without a built-in power button, users have to plug the machine in to turn it on.
  • A heat indicator light. This will alert you when the water is fully heated and the steam mop is ready to use.
  • Fast heating. It can take a while for a steam mop to heat up; sometimes several minutes. Other steam mops are ready to use in as few as 20 seconds.
  • A cooling mat. Most steam mop manufacturers say you should not leave a hot mop on a surface to cool down because it might discolor the flooring. If your steam mop does not include a cooling mat, be sure to leave it to cool on a sealed surface or place something under it to protect the floor.

Know before you go

Do you want a machine that sweeps and steams? A vacuum steam mop combination gives users the ability to sweep first, and then mop. However, experts say these machines often do only a mediocre job as a vacuum, so are best for light jobs.

Do you need to sanitize? All steam mops will sanitize, but some need more time to do so. To sanitize, the floor (or surface) needs to be heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which will then kill some common pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella. However, it's not an instantaneous process, you have to hold the mop head in place for anywhere from 8 to 20 seconds, depending upon the temperature that the steam mop heats the water to. The owner's manual will give directions in how long the steam mop needs to sanitize a spot. However, if sanitizing is your main focus, we recommend you purchase a steam mop with the highest claimed temperature, keeping in mind that your results may vary.

Do you need to steam more than just the floor? If you want a steamer for surfaces such as grout, furniture or bathroom fixtures, look for a mop that offers extra accessories. A carpet glider, upholstery brushes and steam nozzles are some user favorites. For cleaning vertical surfaces such as mirrors and shower walls, be sure to select a mop that can tip upside down without spilling water, or one with attachments for those tasks. However, if you more commonly steam items other than the floor, you'll be better off with a steam cleaner, which we cover in a separate report.

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