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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?


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.


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.

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.


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

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).

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.


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.


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.

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.”