/ Home & Energy

Are steam cleaners really better than a regular mop?

Mop bucket

Cleaning with steam is all the rage these days and lots of steam cleaners are being rushed out to meet demand. But it’s likely your regular mop will out-clean your steam mop, so have you stuck to bucket dunking?

Our last test saw us taking nine steam mops and six 2-in-1 steam cleaners – a steam mop with a removable handheld cleaner – and put them through our gauntlet of floor cleaning tests. Costing between £30 and £150, you can see how they did in our steam cleaner reviews.

We also popped down the shops and picked up a regular Vileda SuperMocio mop and some Flash floor cleaner for £11.50, to see how it would compare.

Analogue vs digital

The results were very interesting. In each of the tests – removing muddy footprints, pasta sauce and strawberry jam – there was a steam cleaner that did a comparable or better job than the regular mop.

But there was not one steam cleaner that did better than the mop across all three assessments. So while there were very good steam cleaners in our tests, and the potential is there to trump the regular mop one day, steam didn’t take the top spot for overall cleaning.

Steam cleaner reliability

There is also the ongoing reliability factor. A large number of customer views on the Which? website bring up reliability problems with steam cleaners. Off the back of this, we added durability testing to our steam cleaning test program as standard.

Personally, I’ve not had any major reliability problems with my non-steam mop – other than a bit of moulting when the mop was old, and breaking one of those thin plastic wringers. But both problems were solved with a relatively inexpensive trip to the shops.

Have you stuck with your steam mop?

Where steam cleaners universally triumph over the traditional mop is that floors are usually left much dryer after cleaning, so less tip-toeing about from patch to patch as you wait for the floor to dry.

Steam cleaners also offer the ability to tackle floors without chemicals, which will appeal to many. Incidentally, some steam cleaners have detergent dispensers for dealing with stubborn stains.

Steam cleaners are also a bit easier to use than regular mops, as they are an all-in-one device and save you from having to repeatedly dunk the mop in a bucket that you have to slide along the floor as you clean. That said, steam cleaner cloths will have to be cleaned in your washing machine.

There are arguments for and against steam mops. So my question is: if you have a steam mop, do you always use it? Or have you given up with your steam mop and gone back to traditional cleaning means – and if so, why?

Comments
Member

Adrian, I only use a mop and bucket for my floor cleaning as I’m very wary of using a steam cleaner. I’m also wary of a wallpaper steam stripper as I have had a steam burn from one in the past. I do however manage a steam iron ok.

Member

Hi Figgerty, thanks for your comment.

We have received reports of handles heating up when in use, which can make the steam cleaner uncomfortable (and impractical) to use over extended periods of time. But these reports are few and actual burns seem quite rare – though not unheard of.

Member
C Miller says:
4 November 2013

I have an old Vax cylinder steam cleaner and it’s very good and reliable. However, I don’t use it very much now as it’s quite bulky and tends to get buried behind other items in the cupboard making it difficult to reach. I also found it particularly frustrating because of the 11 minute heat up time and if I was doing a particularly long job e.g. cleaning the floor grout (all the downstairs is tiled) then I would need to allow cool down time and re-heating time when re-filling the tank.

I like steam cleaning and my good but somewhat frustrating experiences with my Vax have persuaded me to try a slightly different route to steam cleaning. I’m awaiting the arrival of a Best Buy steam mop for general floor cleaning (the Holme detergent, dual tank 4001 steam mop) because of it’s lightness, easy stowability and rapid heat up time. But I will also be buying a hand held steam cleaner with accessories for all those other jobs around the house. Because of the query over durability I shan’t be disposing of my old Vax cylinder steamer but keeping it as a standby as it’s still in good working order and, as previously stated, it does a very good job at cleaning.

Member

Hi C Miller,

Thanks for your post, I would be very interested to know how you get on with your new purchase once it arrives, and how it compares to your Vax cylinder steam cleaner.

If you like, you can also leave a review of the Holme 4001 under the customer views tab of the online review: Holme 4001 steam mop

Member
C Miller says:
6 November 2013

Just tried out the Holme 4001 steam mop with mixed results. First of all, let me say that I was very pleased at its floor cleaning abilities. However, the manufacturers user guide requires some serious editing regarding detergent use. The guide implies the detergent tank is capable of holding 500ml detergent/water as a 10% mix. Dutifully, I put 50ml detergent into the container but then found the container only has an approximate 200ml capacity. Unfortunately this resulted in the mop leaving a greasy detergent deposit on the floor due to the high detergent concentration in the mix. Additionally, 2 pads are included but these are insufficient if you want floors to dry quickly. As the pads become wet (presumably as the steam turns to water on contact with the cooler surface) floors are left very wet and take a long time to dry – far longer than if a standard mop and bucket had been used. I have ceramic tiles throughout downstairs and upstairs is laminate wood floor and I estimate I shall probably require 10 pads in total for the floor area I’m cleaning if I want the floor to dry quickly. On a positive note, as I said earlier it cleans floors very well and easily with far less effort than a mop and bucket and with a frequent change of pads the floor will dry quickly. Although the steam mop isn’t heavy, I was surprised how heavy it felt in comparison to my cylinder steam cleaner – I hadn’t taken into account the difference in weight between pushing a steam mop to pushing a steam head attached to a hose with the cylinder on castors. Also, it takes a little effort to keep the trigger pressed for continuous steam whereas the cylinder is a press button type for on/off. So, if you have any significant arthritis (particularly in your hands) then this may not be a good option. Steam only is sufficient for general floor cleaning especially considering its rapid start up time (ready to steam in less than 10 seconds!) but I did notice a difference in lifting dirt from floor grout when detergent was used although I wouldn’t go so far as suggesting you use a steam mop for proper grout cleaning. In that instance the cylinder steamer with its accessories is far superior. Overall I’m pleased with the steam mop as a quick and easy way to clean floors and will definitely use it in preference to a mop and bucket or my old Vax cylinder steam cleaner. Its ease of use, cleaning ability and rapid start up time make it a winner. I doubt if I’ll be using the detergent very often as I don’t think it’s particularly necessary. I’m inclined to think that detergent steam mops are probably a bit of a gimmick and a steam only mop is good enough. Also, plenty of pads are essential but then it makes it more feasible to put the washing machine on if there are plenty of pads needing washing (just remember they will require separate washing because they’re microfiber and can’t be washed with fabric conditioner with your normal wash).

Member
Stanjackos says:
9 November 2013

C Miller states that:-
1) “On a positive note, as I said earlier it cleans floors very well and easily with far less effort than a mop and bucket”
2) “Also, it takes a little effort to keep the trigger pressed for continuous steam whereas the cylinder is a press button type for on/off. So, if you have any significant arthritis (particularly in your hands) then this may not be a good option
3) ” I was surprised how heavy it felt in comparison to my cylinder steam cleaner”

That all sounds a lot harder to me than pushing a light (Compared to a steam cleaner) mop around a floor. You must also factor in the initial cost, the cost of pads and of course the electric costs.

Member

Hi C Miller,

Thanks for the thorough review! Sounds like you’ve been won over by the steam mop. Many thanks for taking the time (and for adding it to the Customer views page), it’s very helpful.

Member

Steam Cleaners are great, From the real satisfaction of scrubbing floors with a huge brush, and floor cloths which had to be boiled to get clean every week, this is the next best thing. With little effort you can feel that surfaces are really clean, and a fresh smell in your surroundings, why would you want to mask smells with sprays?!!!.

We have had quite a few Steam Cleaners since the late 70’s, our first one was an orange pod on wheels. it brought floor cleaning time to a minimum and upholstery cleaning easily done, and also brought down the cost of cleaning products down enormously.( I was spending loads on cleaning products) This leaves a smooth feel to your bare feet, and carpet nice and fresh smell, It was going still going strong after 10 years, when I aquired a professional Polti, this was much easier to regulate and do more things with including stripping wallpaper, but proved bulky as I was getting older and weaker. Steam cleaning ovens I did not enjoy, as you cant see where you are aiming. and electrically wise felt uneasy. I find its much better to take out the shelves and sides of the oven and soak them in biological washing powder. (also great cleaner for teapots)

I then opted for a stick floor steam mop as this was easy to plug in and wizz round the kitchen and bathroom floors. but you couldnt do any other cleaning it did freshen up the carpet as well though, so worth having. It lasted 5 years and the element went. I then watched the shopping channels and brought a Little Yello. this did more, like tiles windows floors and surfaces, but became less able to get it out and put the various parts together, so its still in the cupboard, I have lost one vital part unfortunately.

I tried out one of those hand held steamers, which was brilliant in the bathroom, and also the kitchen surfaces, even windows, but finally opted for a Shark Pro Steam Pocket from Lakeland, as they have a policy that if you dont get on with a product you can change it. This Shark is both a hand held and stick cleaner, still quite heavy and bulky to change accessories, they are all in a big bag so hopefully I wont lose any this time. and it does everything I want it to with three settings. Like getting rid of Moth eggs in the carpet to cleaning the skirting boards, spring cleaning was never easier.
Dont put anything other that water in the tank, you do have to make sure it is cleaned as we have a chalk problem.

Member
JohnO says:
8 November 2013

I have a Kardean floor in my kitchen. I asked Kardean for comment on the use of stream mops. This is their advice:
“Unfortunately we would not recommend that you use a steam mop or cleaner as the heat and steam can emulsify the adhesive, and in turn this can cause the tiles to lift. As with many other types of flooring, repeated use of steam mops can ruin the original aesthetic of your floor and can also mark it.”

Member
Suzanne says:
8 November 2013

I bought a very cheap steam cleaner at least 6 years ago. It is still working and I use it by choice on the kitchen floor, where it removes all but the most stubborn marks. I am still trying to persuade my husband to use it – he prefers a mop and bucket.

Member
Carolyn Wright says:
8 November 2013

I do have a steam mop but actually prefer the e-cloth mop which is just brilliant. Using barely any water (so all those comments about mops and buckets don’t apply) the floor is dry almost immediately. I find I get so much dirt on the mophead – much more than the steam cleaner, which begs the question which is more effective. Also, the e-cloth mop doesn’t use chemicals either and is no harder than wiping down a worksurface, and so encourages me to use it frequently. My steam mop is sitting in the cupboard gathering dust…….

Member

I have had a Thane H20 steam cleaner with accessories, for a few years. The body is detachable for hand held steaming, curtains, bathroom, windows, the oven, steaming clothes etc. The newer model is smaller and even easier to handle. I find it great for all around the house, and it only uses water, so, no chemicals. I just put a little water in the container switch it on and in 5 minutes the floors are clean, just pop the dirty cover into the washing machine. The floors take about 5-10 miutes to dry. There is a thicker cover that can be used for a quick run over the floors after washing for a quicker dry. There is also a cover on which to place the steamer and the carpets can be refreshed, without making them soaking wet.
There is no way I would go back to dirty water mop wringing and bucket emptying again.,

Member
Robert says:
8 November 2013

Isn’t the objective here to clean a floor? Whilst a mop will nicely spread the dirt around, mixed with some chemicals, the steam cleaner will go some way to sterilising the floor. Or are we talking about superficial cleaning here?

Member

I am not sure of the purpose of even attempting to sterilise the floor. Humans and dust carry a lot of bugs, so any efforts to keep floors bug free are doomed to failure, and I doubt that there is much evidence that people become sick as a result of dirty floors.

Member
Grubby Geoff says:
8 November 2013

The only person that I have seen kissing the ground is the Pope, is that why he gets carried around in a chair?

Member
testhead says:
17 April 2015

made me smile,about the pope being carried in a chair

Member
Jean Paul says:
8 November 2013

I am a professional cleaner, I had used kentucky mops for professional work.I had used both, the simple cheap flat mop which cost about £10-£15 and will last for a decade and one steam cleaner which ,I paid about £ 50 and lasted only one month. I had to point out that during this time ,I had never seen any steam coming out but the 10 square centimeters mop was only warm and the small mop is soon very dirty. It’s quicker to clean my kitchen floor, which is about 10 sqares foot, with a flat mop and he does clean under the fridge and cooker. I can use bleach to disinfect as I got a cat. or any other chemicals as I wish.
I have another 3 bar steam cleaner ,which I only use as a subtitute. I now only use my steam cleaner for a deeper cleaning and dusting around the house.

Member
Grubby Geoff says:
8 November 2013

Why bother with all this dusting and polishing. If you leave the dust for long enough after about ten years you can just roll it up and bin it. Same with steam cleaners, you can spend the money on a few pints of good quality bitter, far more interesting than crawling behind fridges, and a lot more enjoyable. The problem with a lot of kids is that they are stuffed full of the side effects of cleaning products, some germs are good for you.
BLX to Dettol, I’m off to the pub!

Member
Robbiemop says:
8 November 2013

Ha Ha Ha Ha !! Very entertaining comment Geoff !! Not what Which was expecting I am sure !! But not to worry I enjoyed it.

Personally, I provide regular instruction to the Wife on how to use a microfibre floor mop. I was in the business of selling microfibre cleaning products for many years so I know what I am talking about !

Yet . . . . . . . . . somehow I still end up doing the mopping when I return from the pub and find the job not done.

Where did I go wrong? I reckon the chain from the kitchen sink to the lounge is too long!

Member
Poppy says:
8 November 2013

I have a cleaning business and one of my clients has a steam mop. Coincidently, I mentioned today how energy companies must be rubbing their hands in glee as people keep buying gadgets such as steam mops.

Personally I still prefer a traditional mop and bucket. You can get into nooks and crannies, cheap to buy, only a tiny amount of washing up liquid is necessary, no electricity used, no cloths to fix on and take off to wash, no cable to keep unplugging and finding another socket or fixing on to an extension lead to stretch far enough etc etc.

Member
raymond slater says:
9 November 2013

Our first steam cleaner from Aldi 3 months ago blew up,casing sides and bottom expanded cracking all around OK it was only £30 pounds and Aldi gave me a refund our second one is from Asda it works fine and has lasted longer than the Aldi one cannot afford a more expensive one and find using a mop and bucket difficult have heart failure,diabetes etc,also 67 years of age do all that wringing out is out for me

Member

Steam does not stay hot enough for long enough to really deep clean a floor. I use boiling water with washing soda and bleach in a mop and bucket. Nothing escapes that!

Member

My steamer gives constant hot steam during the job of cleaning and steriling. When I have used the drying pad after cleaning, I found no dirt surplus, so it does do the job. The newer model has a dial for varying heats of steam. I have no trouble getting into all the corners with the shaped front of my machine.

IT IS, I think, just a matter of personnal preference. Whether one wants to have all the hassel of buckets, water, cleaning liquids and bleach etc, or, a quick machine job, small amounts of water and no other cleaning stuff, which is my preference.

Member
Jayne says:
9 November 2013

I purchased a Hoover steam mop – the one with the centre removable red scrubbing brush – just great!!! I can throw the pads into the washing machine (along with my dog towels – so I get a full load) and they come out perfect. The scrubbing segment soon gets to grips with mud and all manner of dirt and the floors dry quickly – as opposed to mop and bucket power which resulted in smelly dirty mop heads and merely rolling the dirt around the floors. My floors have never looked so good. The additional/replacement microfiber cloths were easy to source and I have a couple of “spare sets”. I am able to manage the flow of steam via the trigger which prevents my tiles from becoming too wet but equally can manage dirty areas. This is the best bit of kit I have purchased.

Member
Jenny says:
9 November 2013

I have had several steam cleaners, essential with 8 dogs…meaning I use one daily at least once. They eventually become blocked and I have never been able to remedy this on any model, resulting in having to replace the cleaner every 12 months on average. The best one was a Vax hard floor master which seems to have lasted the longest but still only a year. All mine have included the handheld unit but I hardly ever use these, I find them quite ineffective and they take ages to actually impact on dirt or grease, it’s quicker to use elbow grease. I’m considering whether it is worth it buying one every 12 months, and am hoping a manufacturer will make one that doesn’t block. The filters are still clean and I have loads of extra bits which I’ve never used.

Member
Shirley says:
11 November 2013

Why have none of the expensive models, such as the Karcher SC5.800 been tested? Surely they would produce better results. I’ve not seen a bad review of this machine anywhere – does anyone have it?

Member

Hands, knees and boomps-a-daisy are not entirely eliminated in our exprerience. We didn’t think much of a push-around steam mop we had bought without much prior research so we recently bought a Polti steam cleaner to do our kitchen and utility room floors which are ceramic tiled. These rooms have doors to the garden and the garage so some dirt gets brought into the house and there are also the usual small spillages found in any such areas. The machine produces copious amounts of steam and the pressure can be varied. It is quite easy to use and does an effective job in liberating any dirt or stains that have stuck to the floor. Spill spots [like tea and coffee] get diluted by the steam and just evaporate away. Dirt particles, like crumbs, powder, soil, mud, hairs and so on, still have to be rounded up and removed which is why there is no substitute for getting on your hands and knees [although a traditional mop can be quite good at that]. We did consider buying a Vax appliance that steams, dries and vacuums in three successive operations but the reviews were not sufficiently favourable. After using the Polti, the floor dries very quickly and leaves it looking very clean. One side-effect of a steam cleaner, which might be an advantage in some circumstances, is that it does remove any polish or artificial surface shine, so if you have matt or semi-matt tiles and want them to gleam and sparkle you’ll need to reapply the polish after steam-cleaning.

Member
PS says:
19 July 2014

I’ve always cleaned my floor on my hands and knees using a good quality floorcloth and a bucket of floor cleaner. Is a mop or steam cleaner better?

Member
Kiki says:
20 July 2014

I’m not getting on my hands and knees to clean nobody’s floor…that’s crazy

Member
Workingmom says:
9 September 2014

Can I use a steam mop on vinyl Kandean floors? My friend says the floor tarted to come off after using the steam a couple of times.

Member
Dawn Gibson says:
21 March 2015

I have had quarry tiles laid in an extension that was built in 1978. This week they suddenly started to explode off the floor. My kitchen is a mess. My insurance company are not interested and said it was wear and tear! I looked on you tube and saw an identical scenario but the people had not found a cause, there are no underfloor water courses or pipes and the floor is on solid concrete. I sat and puzzled what could have possibly caused it and eventually I thought of the Beldray steam cleaner I bought 6 months ago and use once a week. This appears to be the only possible answer and when I replace my floor I will be using Lino flooring.

Member
Compy says:
25 June 2015

Aldi steam mop

In my opinion, don’t bother with this item. I have used it twice and it has failed. I have had it four weeks.

I tried to contact the company that Aldi farmed out support to, TEMPO, first thing on Monday morning. The call rang for some time before an answering machine asked me to leave my name and number. I did but had got no response by Wednesday morning when I phoned them again. I got through after a few attempts and was told the machine needed replacing but they did not hold any stock or any spares. I find this amazing given that the supplied literature states that customers have a “3 year parts and labor (sic) warranty” and “dedicated helplines and WEB support.

Tempo do not expect to have any spares in the foreseeable future. This is a month after purchase on a product with a 3 year warranty!!

I contacted Aldi, they were to get a member of their team who is based at Tempo to call me. Apparently they had got a few issues with this supplier. I did get the call back, not from Aldi but the same guy at Tempo. He obviously didn’t remember the conversation on Tuesday as I had to tell him the details again. This, despite him never having had a machine fail like this before Still no spares.

Back to Aldi. They can offer me a replacement machine but not at my two local stores. I would need to travel to a store in another town – 25 minutes away. They cannot get the machine shipped either to me or to my local stores. It seems that when an Aldi supplied item fails the customer has to do the leg work to get it replaced. The machine is effectively junk. Its going back for a refund.

[Hi Compy, thanks for sharing your comments about your steam mop. We’ve had to edit your post so it aligns with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Member

Compy, you are protected legally by the Sale of Goods Act. This also says (to the retailer) “Any refund, repair or replacement you arrange with your customer relating to faulty goods must not cause them too much inconvenience and you will have to pay for other costs, for example, collection or delivery.

Member
Rose elder says:
28 June 2015

I find cleaning my kitchen floor is transformed by using a steam cleaner. The old way of filling a heavy bucket with hot water and then mopping is hard work. The skirtings get splashed, and one has to continually dunk and then squeeze out the water. Then you have to clean out the bucket and the mop head, and then store all that wet and bulky stuff. Simply washing out the steam pad is easy by comparison.

Member
Mrs Bates says:
16 August 2015

Hi
I have 2 dogs and both carpet and hardwood floors. I want to know how well the steamer preforms on carpet especially with dog odour?
Many thanks

Member
jim hawkins says:
16 August 2015

Why bother about steam cleaners! To get rid of dog odour buy new carpets and get rid of the dogs.

Member

Although most steam cleaners will tackle carpets with some degree of adaptation, they don’t seem to be properly designed for the task and the steam does not penetrate the pile on heavier carpets. Steam cleaners do not remove any dirt – they just liberate it so that it can be removed more easily with a floor mop or brush [hard floors] or vacuum cleaner [carpet]. On hard floors some dirt [like spillages] will stick to the mop head and on carpet some fluff will also stick to the head. Thorough cleaning involves (1) sweeping or vacuuming the floor, (2) using the steam cleaner and allowing to dry, and (3) sweeping or vacuuming again.

I have no idea whether steam cleaning makes any impression on dog odour embedded in a carpet. It possibly depends on the origin of the odour and its intensity. It might neutralise concentrations of odour but a professional cleaning machine with a wet/vacuum action might be needed to expunge odour altogether.

Member
jim hawkins says:
16 August 2015

Why bother about steam cleaners! To get rid of dog odour buy new carpets and get rid of the dogs.

Member
Chris says:
30 August 2015

I’ve just bought a Vax S86 steam mop on basis of Which reviews, for the vinyl floor in my kitchen & bathroom. Floor is textured and seems to hold on to dirt, whatever I do. I am tired of having a slightly dirty-looking floor so hope this will do a better job. We will see. But I am wondering whether anyone knows if one can replace the expensive Vax detergent with e.g. Flash liquid?

Member

It would be worth a try. Sometimes the manufacturer-specified products are not the best for the job.

A steam cleaner should deal with a slightly textured floor covering better than other methods. Go gently at first though in case the steam heat affects the vinyl – don’t hover over one spot too long and mop or brush up any liberated dirt as soon as possible before it can stick to the surface again.

Member

Chris, how are you getting on with your mop? I have a similar floor covering with a textured finish where all the dirt seems to stay when washing with a conventional mop. I’m wondering if a steam mop will remove grime from the indentations.

Member

I have a shark steam cleaner. Good results for smooth floors. Not so good on tiled floors with uneven indents as per the design of the flooring on my kitchen floor. Two dogs two cats and a rabbit frequently in and out of the garden in all weathers not to mention the adults.
Tried several floor mops but still didn’t get the dirt from the indents.
Bought a hard yard brush and dunk it in hot water with cleaning fluids – Washing powder and some bleach scrubbing it manually. It gets into all the crevices nicely and does the trick but a lot of water left. Then bought a spinning top mop and bucket to pick up the water. Best results ever floor gleaming.

Member
Paula B says:
27 March 2016

I have been using a Shark Steam Pocket mop on my stone floors for several years now. It has been reliable and easy to use and I am very pleased with the way it leaves the floor dry. With an ordinary mop it can take hours for the uneven surface to dry out. The grout lines are not cleaned properly with either the steam mop or a flat microfibre mop, however, so I akso need to scrub and use a conventional mop when I have the time, but for a quick and easy clean of the floor the stem mop is the best optionI have found .

Member
Christine says:
23 August 2016

I tried a steam mop and, intially, thought that it was very good… but it created condensation and mold so I have gone back to mop and bucket (‘pedal spin’ bucket which spins the mop as dry as I want) and I much prefer this way of cleaning my laminate floors and tiled kitchen floor…

Member
shabaz says:
19 January 2017

I have seen some youtube videos of spinning mops which looks very good because they seem to clean a large area fairly quickly. I need one to clean my tiled garage. Has anyone tried these and can recommend a good brand.