Why Buy a Steam Mop?
The top performers in our review are Bissell PowerFresh, the Gold Award winner; Black & Decker 2-n-1 Steam Mop, the Silver Award winner; and Oreck Steam-It, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 products.
A truly clean floor offers a lot of peace of mind, especially if you have small children who spend time playing on it. Steam mops can help you get more than a clean-looking floor. They can help you get a floor that is actually clean. Steam mops clean and disinfect by emitting hot steam that loosens dirt and kills bacteria and viruses. These handy cleaning tools are typically used on hard surfaces such as tile, stone, marble, laminate, bamboo and sealed hardwood floors.
Traditional mops can, of course, help you clean your floors, too, but they can require a fair amount of physical effort with all of the scrubbing. Also, with traditional mopping you have to find the right soap and deal with a mop bucket. Investing in a steam mop can save you some of the effort, and the entire process requires only one piece of equipment. The best steam mops can loosen even a stuck-on mess more quickly and easily than mopping. Also, since it is impossible to keep traditional mops wet enough, with hot enough water to kill germs, you have to use a lot of soap to get the same level of clean you can get from steam mops. All that soap can be tough on the environment and tough on people with respiratory problems.
Steam cleaner-style mops are easy to use and inexpensive to operate. They use plain water instead of a specialized cleaning solution. Pads on the bottom of the mop capture dirt and debris that has been released by the steam. Some steam floor mops are basic models that balance affordability and straightforward functionality, while other floor steamers convert into handheld steamers or function with attachments that let you clean carpets, windows, drapes and other surfaces, in addition to floors. For more information, check out our articles on steam mop cleaning.
Steam Mops: What Else to Consider
Steam mops can potentially make your cleaning go faster, cutting through stuck-on spills quickly and eliminating the need to retrace your path. And it can be wonderful not to have to buy and use so many chemicals for cleaning. You have to be careful with some steam mop claims, though. These steam floor cleaners do not automatically sanitize. They have the potential to kill germs if they are used correctly. Each manufacturer will have different instructions on how to make sure they are sanitizing. It usually means mopping slowly, lingering over each spot for a specific amount of time to make sure everything gets hot enough to kill bacteria.
Another thing to keep in mind is that steam mops can be the wrong choice for wood floors. If they leave too much water behind it can seep into cracks and seams, and damage your wood. It is worth checking with the manufacturer of any type of flooring you have before you use a steam mop to clean it. Steam mops should work just fine on hardwood floors with a good seal.
Steam Mops: What to Look For
Floor steamer mops designed for home use include sizes and styles that work well both in small apartments and in large homes. Here are some things to consider when purchasing a floor steamer:
The best mops are the ones that make cleaning as easy as possible. They can get around your furniture and into corners. They are powerful enough to clean stuck-on stuff with very few passes, rather than a lot of scrubbing. You want to find a mop that is ready to use quickly, and one that heats the water to a very hot temperature – the hotter the water, the better. If you get it to at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit you can count on the mop to sanitize your floors, if you follow all instructions. A longer cord can be nice for cleaning bigger areas without having to change outlets constantly, or use an extension cord, which can be unsafe. A large reservoir capacity can make it easier to clean for longer times without having to refill.
All of the steam mops on the market have the same basic design, but we like the ones with features that make cleaning even easier. Some units also have conveniences like adjustable steam levels for cleaning especially tough messes and for getting the right amount of steam for specific surfaces. A removable tank is the easiest way to keep the water full. That way you do not have to take the unit over to the sink or involve a pitcher. The units that stand on their own are more convenient when you need to step away from your cleaning project temporarily, and they give you more options for storage.
The focus of our testing was on each steam mop's most important aspect – the ability to clean floors. The inclusion of certain accessories can be a nice bonus, though. Steam mops with accessories such as brushes, squeegees and carpet glides let you use your appliance in many areas of the home. A multipurpose steam mop that pulls apart so you can use it as a hand steamer offers an added level of flexibility. Higher-end models offer more versatility, including vacuuming capabilities in some cases, but a more basic model is all you need if you only plan to use your steam mop for hard floors.
Help & Support
With any type of product you should expect quality manufacturers to stand by their products with a warranty and good customer support. The best steam mop makers have lots of contact options and make it easy to get your questions answered.
Steam Mops: How We Tested, What We Found
We followed manufacturer instructions on assembling each mop, noting how easy it was to do so and scoring them on ease of installation. Most require only a couple of steps, including attaching the head to the main body of the machine and then the cleaning pad to the head.
We tested each mop's cleaning capabilities on the kitchen floor of our laboratory, which is tiled. We let several different spills settle in overnight, including spaghetti sauce, mustard, orange juice and cola. Then we tested each mop on each mess, counting how many passes it took to completely remove the spills. The fewer passes we counted, the better the mop scored.
We scored maneuverability along the way as well. Adjustable handles and swivel heads make a mop easier to maneuver into the spaces you need cleaned. We created an obstacle course of chairs and tables to evaluate and score each mop.
We also tested how long you can use a mop without having to stop. A longer run time can make it more convenient for big cleaning jobs. Smaller tanks can lead to frequent stops for refilling, so the units with larger capacity generally had longer run times and better scores for this test.
Temperature is important for boosting cleaning capabilities. In order to get an idea of how hot each unit's steam is we let them heat up enough to produce steam. We then lifted each mop head and immediately pointed a digital thermometer at the center of the cleaning pad for a reading as the steam was rising. Some heat inevitably escapes right away, but since we were repeating the test the same way on each unit we were able to get an idea about the heating capacity of each mop, and to compare units for scoring.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison either on loan from the companies or through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
The Bissell PowerFresh scored well in all of our testing. This steam mop was able to lift just about any spill in very few passes by producing the right amount of hot steam. Competing units produced too much moisture and left a lot of water in their wake. Others produced too little steam and required physical force to loosen the spills with a relatively dry mop head. The PowerFresh produced just the right amount and powered through every mess. It was also incredibly easy to assemble and use.
The Black & Decker 2-in-1 Steam Mop was a close second, scoring high in most categories, though it was less impressive on the dried mustard. A nice long cord and speedy heat-up time make it convenient for any task.
Oreck Steam-It rounds out the top three and is impressive in its own right, especially with its long running time, adjustable steam dial and long list of accessories.
Top steam mops make cleaning hard floors easier and environmentally friendly by eliminating the need for soap. Find the right balance between price and functionality to get a floor steamer that works for you.