/ 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?


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.

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.

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.”

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.

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…….

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.,

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?

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.

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

testhead says:
17 April 2015

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

Michelle says:
18 February 2019

It might be blocked due to limescale if you haven’t been using de-ionised water but using tap water instead, especially if you live in a hard water area.

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?

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.

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?

Kiki says:
20 July 2014

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