/ 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?

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.

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.

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]

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.

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.

Mrs Bates says:
16 August 2015

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

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

You need a GOOD Carpet Shampooing Machine to get rid of pet odours. The Bissell Proheat 2 is superb for this purpose, along with NO Nonsense Carpet Shampoo from Screwfix…..it’s brilliant (and cheap).

Suzanne says:
1 November 2020

They are amazing, they are also cheaper now than when they first got popular. I use a little bleach on the floor, not in the machine and it seems cleaner and so much easier than a mop and bucket!
Wash the pad in Washington machine on a high straight after.

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.

Teddyburr says:
15 August 2020

Yeah John…….a Steam Cleaner or Steam Mop that sits on a Carpet “glider” will only blast the top surface of the carpet. If you carry on applying the steamer, you carpet will just become wetter. To clean acarpat you do need a GOOD Carpet shampooing machine.

There are products which, after application to carpets, claim to be able to clean away pet stains and neutralise surface odours but I doubt whether they will deal with underlying odours in the carpet and underlay. They might also affect the colour or condition of the patch concerned.

Pets and carpets just don’t mix; it’s like forensic science at the scene of a crime: they either leave something [e.g. hairs] behind or take something [e.g. fibres] away.

It would be helpful if the person who disagreed with my previous (factual) comment would comment on what is wrong with it so that any concerns can be explored.

I agree with all of John’s comments here.

I’ve found that hand held steam jet cleaners can be useful when cleaning up after pets, but only if used in conjunction with other appliances.

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

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?

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.

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.

It might do Barbara. On the Shark S6005 the mop heads are THICK, so with the power of steam and the thick microfibre, this should remove dirt from indented surfaces. I separately spray the FLOOR as I go with a plastic Spray bottle of water and FLASH mix, with a few drops of added Zoflora Disinfectant. Mmmm…smells gorgeous.

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.

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 .

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…

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.

Deborah says:
19 July 2020

I have shiny white floor tiles, if I use an ordinary mop and bucket with soap and disenfectant, which I would prefer to do, it makes the floor sticky with streaks. The steam itself kills the germs and cleans the floor quite well however I find it very hard to get into the corners with the steam mop.

Any suggestions?