Cleaning floors is annoying, right? You are basically immobile till it all dries off, you will miss at least one spot, you need to soak and wring the mop more often than changing socks, and in the end – no matter how well you clean, it gets dirty again before you can blink. Moreover, there is always that one stubborn stain. For these reasons, more people are turning toward steam-powered appliances to replace regular old mops.
But how do you figure out the best steam mop for your home? You will need to consider what floors you have, what exact functionalities you need, and whether a steam version will actually be a better fit for you than a traditional one with a bucket. To help you untangle this conundrum, we put together a handy guide on all things steam mop. Enjoy!
How does it work?
Like the name implies, it has its own water heating system which generates hot steam. This vapor is then pushed through the mop head so that you can apply it to your floor (or even wall). The concentrated moisture helps remove hard dirt without all the painful scrubbing, and the heat kills germs and leaves the floor sanitary.
The system itself features a small water tank, less than a liter in volume (typically around 700 – 750 ml). When you turn on the power or plug the appliance into a socket, this tank starts heating up. When it reaches 120 C (or 248 F), the steam starts coming out of a jet. This jet is covered by a pad of microfiber, which is highly absorbent. It catches the grime and bacteria deep into its texture and lets the steam go, so it will not get drenched and drip around.
How do you use it?
It tends to be a pretty simple process. Most manufacturers will require that you prepare the floors before steam mopping them. This can be easily done – just give them a once over with a vacuum cleaner or sweep them with a broom. While you are dragging your steam mop along, press the trigger button to release the vapor onto the floor.
To make sure that a given area is sanitized, keep the mop head on the spot for 15 – 20 seconds (no longer, though). If the steam stops coming out while you are cleaning, turn the appliance off and refill the tank with regular tap water. Check out this article for some great hands-on advice about making the most out of your new home cleaning weapon.
What kinds of floors are they good for?
They are designed for bare, hard, smooth, uniform surfaces, so basically sealed hardwood and tiled floors. Things like marble, stone, laminate, or vinyl might also benefit from steam. Keep in mind, though, using it on unsealed wood can actually damage it with the moisture, and floor wax will probably lose its shine.
Also, never use these appliances on rugs and carpets. Some carpet attachments are available, but these only refresh, not deep clean. For example, they can get rid of the pet smell, but not pet vomit or such. For those needs, a steam vacuum would be a better choice.
Why are they better than regular mops?
For starters, there is no heavy bucket to lug around, and no chance of dripping everywhere. Also, no cleaning chemicals are necessary, so they are eco-friendly as well.
They are friendlier to your back and joints, too. No need to bend over, crawl on the floor, and torture your wrists and elbows with incessant wringing.
Different head shapes allow you to quickly clean large areas as well as reach the tricky little corners. And the final cherry on the steamy cake: the microfiber pads are independently washable, so no need to throw the whole head (or whole mop!) away once they get dingy.
What should you pay attention to before purchasing?
If you decide to give these home helpers a go, there are three major points you should consider before you actually buy one: the dimensions, the settings, and the additional functionalities.
First off, check out the size and total weight. Move the mop around the store. Is it comfortable to handle? Is it small enough to store neatly? Does the handle fold or telescope down? Can you remove the tank or will you have to carry the water to the appliance whenever you need to refill it?
Next, see what settings the system has. Can you change the steam level to different intensities and forms (e.g. cloud vs. jet)? If you can, then you will be able to tailor it to best match the material you are cleaning as well to better combat different amounts and types of dirt. Is there a sweep-while-steaming feature? If you have this, you can usually skip the floor preparation altogether, which really saves tons of time and elbow grease.
Finally, look up what attachments or accessories come with the basic mop. Most will have a landing tray where you can rest the appliance to catch any potential drip. Some include gliders for freshening up your matted carpets and throw rugs. Others feature brushes for grout, to give that extra bit of TLC to your tiles. Yet others might have extensions for cleaning windows, mirrors, and glass tables. Some might even boast all three!