Best Steam Mops - How Choose the Right One?

shark s3501 1Steam mops clean and sanitize the floor surfaces combining the cleaning effect of hot steam and scrubbing effect of steam mop pads. Due to the hot steam, steam mops kill up to or even more than 99.9% of bacteria and other germs, keeping the home clean and pleasant to live.

On the other hand, one has to be very careful when cleaning and replacing steam mop pads due to the heat. Also, hardwood, laminate and similar sensitive floors must be certified for such cleaning and must have finish without cracks, since moisture can enter the wood and cause it to buckle and even rot.

Published: March 1, 2019.

Corded vs. Cordless Steam Mops

Corded steam mops feature water heaters in 1000 - 1600 watts range, usually around 1500W. Even such strong water heaters require 20-30 seconds to start to produce the steam just to be able to begin with the cleaning.

Thus, steam mops come with 20-30 feet (~6.1 - 9.1 m) long power cords, giving them relatively long cleaning range using single wall power outlet.

Cordless steam mops would be similar units, being powered only with onboard battery. Since required amounts of energy are still beyond the reach of lithium ion (or other) batteries at the reasonable price, cordless steam mops as such are not yet available on the market.

Many sites claim that they list the 'best cordless steam mops', but in fact they list corded versions.

Note: there are cleaning aids/units very similar to cordless steam mops, for example:

- Shark SK460 Professional Steam & Spray Mop is corded/cordless unit, being able to operate as corded steam/spray mop and cordless spray mop - very versatile mop.

- Bissell 2307 SpinWave Cordless Hard Floor Mop is cordless hard floor mop that can use warm water, but it doesn't have water heater that would create hot steam, hence it is not 'cordless steam mop'. Nonetheless, very useful unit, being much more gentle to sensitive floors than classic steam mops.

Also, there are other similar units, but in the end, none of them is 'cordless steam mop'. For more information about this topic, check our Cordless Steam Mops article.

Steam Mops Features and Specifications

bissell 1543a 1Most important features of steam mops include:

- water heater converts water into the hot steam, which is then used for cleaning. As said before, water heaters operate in 1000 - 1600 W range and they require plenty of energy, hence steam mops are corded units.

- power cords are generally 20-30 feet (~6.1 - 9.1 m) long and are wrapped around wrap hooks. Automatic power cord rewind systems are generally not found on steam mops, since they would increase the weight, mechanical complexity and in the end - the price.

- water tank size varies, but generally it is in the 10-17 oz range (0.3 - 0.5 liters), which is enough to clean rather large area in most situations (steam setting on 'High').

- water type: most steam mops can use tap water, but it is recommended to distilled or demineralized water in order to prolong the steam mop life, especially in the areas with hard water. Hard water leaves deposits on the water heater and other internal components of the steam mop and can even leave marks and streaks on the floors. Recommendation: use distilled, demineralized or even scented demineralized water.

- operating time of steam mops depend on the amount of water, steam setting (if available), type of cleaned floors, amount and type of dirt, etc. Generally, steam mops can operate for 15-25 minutes using single wall power socket and one water tank refill, after which, they must he shut off and cooled down. Of course, more expensive units generally don't have such limitation.

- steam mop controls are simple. In most situations, there is just an 'On/Off' button/switch, steam level switch and in some models there is 'Steam on demand' switch. Most controls are positioned right on the handle and can be operated quickly and easily. More advanced models have additional controls, depending on the features they have.

- steam levels vary from simple 'On/Off' switch to continuous regulator, with 'Steam on demand' somewhere in the middle. Steam mops with several steam levels are more suitable for homes with various types of floors, while steam mops with the simple steam on/off are suitable for homes with tile and similar, heat resistant floors.

- cleaning head shape: most steam mops come with rectangular steam mop cleaning heads, allowing them to quickly clean large areas. However, rectangular cleaning heads can have issues when maneuvering over the floors with many obstacles and objects, and can have issues when cleaning corners. Thus, some steam mops come with triangular cleaning heads, while some models feature both rectangular and triangular cleaning head, allowing the user to choose which one to use, according to the situation.

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- types of steam mop pads: most steam mops feature at least two types of steam mop pads. Fine microfiber pads are intended for every day cleaning and for cleaning of sensitive surfaces. Scrubby steam mop pads are intended for cleaning extra dirty areas on tiles, marble and other similar floors with heat/mechanical very resistant surfaces. Depending on the design of steam mop cleaning head, some steam mop pads are two sided - when one side gets dirty, steam mop head is simply flipped and clean side of the steam mop pad is used. This way single steam mop pad can cover double the area before it must be replaced. Steam mop pads are generally machine washable, although some models feature disposable mop pads for cleaning extra dirty areas and pets/kids messes.

- scented discs and scented water are used to refresh the cleaned area. Scented discs are placed in the special pockets of steam mop pads, while scented water is used as common distilled/demineralized water. Although this scent is soft and gentle, some users use just half of the scented discs and dilute scented water with distilled/demineralized water. Personally, scent is not that strong, but do as You please.

bissell 1544a steam mop m- cleaning attachments/detachable pods: most steam mops are designed for floors only, but steam mops with steam hoses and detachable steam pads can be used for cleaning elevated surfaces too, and can be very helpful for cleaning toilets, bathrooms, kitchens and similar areas.

- scrubbing mechanism: most steam mops are mechanically very simple cleaning units, with the users providing all required scrubbing by pushing and pulling steam mop cleaning heads over the cleaned surfaces. However, in order to improve and speed up the cleaning, certain models come with the scrubbing mechanism that scrub the surface with the steam mop pads. Scrubbing mechanism can be of great help for everyday cleaning, but it is excellent aid for cleaning stubborn messes and stains. On delicate and sensitive floors, it is generally recommended NOT to use scrubbing mechanism.

- weight and dimensions: simple steam mops are very lightweight and compact units, weight just few pounds. On the other hand, steam mop/vac combos can weigh up to 10 pounds, blurring the difference between the steam mop/vac unit and lightweight upright steam vacuum cleaners.


For short: if you have large areas of bare floors at your home/apartment, especially tiles and similar, heat resistant floors, steam mops can be of great help. They clean and sanitize floors using just the power of hot steam and scrubbing effect of the steam mop pads - with no chemicals. Simple steam mops, with no scrubbing mechanism, but with steam level selector can be found really cheap and can last for a really long time.

Just be sure to choose according to your individual needs and personal preferences.