Tackle floor messes with a great steam mop.

Tackle floor messes with a great steam mop. (Kam Idris via Unsplash/)

Long gone are the days of lugging around a messy bucket of dirty water and sloshing it all over the place—thanks to steam mops. These handy-dandy contraptions disperse hot water vapor to a fiber pad, allowing you to clean your floors with minimal effort, chemicals, and mess. When you’re done, you just pop off the pad and toss it in the garbage or washing machine. No muss, no fuss. What’s crucial is that you figure out what you want and need from your steam mop and also what your expectations are. For example, what kind of floors do you have? Do you have pets? Are you interested in a vacuum-and-steam-mop combo? The key to getting a good clean steam-mopping is to make sure to follow the directions to a T. You could buy the best steam mop around, but if you don’t use it correctly, you’ll end up frustrated. Before you invest, figure out what you want and need out of your steam mop, then get shopping!

On a cleaning spree? Check out the best upright vacuum for your carpets and floors.

Features to consider when shopping for the best steam mop

The best steam mop for me may not be the best steam mop for you. For example, do you have hardwood floors? Then you need a wood floor steam mop. Or maybe your clumsy kiddos and spouse tend to knock things around while they’re doing their chores. In that case, might we suggest a cheap steam mop (so you don’t cry when someone inevitably breaks it)? With so many steam mops on the market, it can be overwhelming to delve in and find the right one. Use our guide to navigate the marketplace and come out with the best steam mop for you and your family. Note to editor: Include keyword with anchor text linking to related Camden article.

How to pick the cleaning tools that are right for you

You want to make sure that your new steam mop doesn’t become just another device in the Land of Forgotten Cleaning Tools (i.e. the closet where you keep all the wonderful accessories that were supposedly going to revolutionize the way you clean your house but which made it out of the box precisely once).

The good news is, steam mops are so diverse, if steaming your floors is something you want to do, chances are there’s a model that’s perfect

for your particular lifestyle, making it a tool you’ll want to use. Unlike traditional mops, which can unwittingly track the dirt you just wiped up all over your floor, giving your floor a steam wash lets you loosen and trap dirt while also killing bacteria and dust mites, thanks to the hot vaporized water. The best part is that no harsh chemicals are required.

There is a multitude of qualities and features to consider before you invest in a steam mop. For example, if you plan on covering a lot of ground in your home, it’s likely important to find a steam mop with an extra-long cord, so you’re not constantly having to unplug and replug. If you have arthritis or any other debilitating conditions, it’s crucial to pick a lightweight steam mop so you don’t strain yourself.

Best steam mop overall: Bissell Steam Mop

This one is safe on all hard floors—hardwood, ceramic, tile, granite, marble and linoleum—and its easy-fill water tank, multiple power settings, and swivel steering make it simple to maneuver.

This one is safe on all hard floors—hardwood, ceramic, tile, granite, marble and linoleum—and its easy-fill water tank, multiple power settings, and swivel steering make it simple to maneuver. (Amazon/)

Three simple buttons mean this Bissell steam mop is perfect for even the most technologically averse, and its ability to deliver a seriously deep clean and heat up quickly make it a favorite. Bissell is one of the most trusted brands in cleaners, and, bonus: The company is dedicated to animal philanthropy, so pet lovers can rest easy knowing that a portion of their purchase is going toward helping critters in need.

Looking for a steamer that works as a hardwood floor cleaner?

“Steam” and “wood” aren’t two words that naturally go together—moisture and hot temps can warp wood—but there are steam mops made specifically for your natural flooring. There are various things to keep in mind when steaming a hardwood floor. First, make sure that your floor is sealed. If it’s not, don’t steam it. (You can test your sealant by dribbling some water onto the surface. If it beads up, you’ve got a seal.) Second, it’s crucial that the hardwood floor cleaner you’ve chosen wicks away moisture as it works. Also note that faux hardwood, or vinyl, doesn’t face any of these risks, so steam away if that’s what you’re working with!

Other helpful tips for steaming your wood floors: Do a preliminary clean first, sweeping or wiping away dirt. If you add any sort of solvent besides pure water, make sure it’s pH neutral. And most importantly, avoid any worn or degraded spots on your floor. Those are the most at risk for water seepage (and warping).

Best steam mop for hardwood floors: Reliable 300CU Steam Floor Mop

Heavy-duty scrubbing bristles clean sealed hard floors, tiles, and even carpets with high-temp vapor steam.

Heavy-duty scrubbing bristles clean sealed hard floors, tiles, and even carpets with high-temp vapor steam. (Amazon/)

The coolest thing about this steam mop for hardwood floors is that you can actually use it on your rugs and carpets. It’s got a 21-foot cord, so it’s easy to move around, and an easy-press foot release makes it effortless to switch between the scrub and steam functions. An illuminated dashboard makes for effortless operation in even low-light conditions.

Do you need a floor steam cleaner specifically designed for tiles?

The great news is that tiles are hardy, easy to clean, and everywhere you look—in particular in places where the greatest number of stains happen. Whatever floor steam cleaner you buy, it’ll almost certainly be appropriate for the tiles in your bathroom, kitchen, and wherever else you happen to have them.

What’s particularly helpful about using a steam mop (as opposed to an old-school bucket model) on tile is that you can really get into the gritty, grouty areas without using too much elbow grease. And because tiles are so tough, you can usually use the highest heat and power setting, guaranteeing a truly thorough clean. (That’s a plus considering your bathroom and kitchen are likely two of the tiled rooms in your home, and where you might get the peskiest stains.)

Basically, if you’ve got tile, a steam mop is one of the most important cleaning tools you can have in your arsenal.

Best tile cleaner: PurSteam Steam Mop Cleaner

The unique triangular-head design gets into tricky corners, and an array of included accessories (nozzle, nylon brush, copper brush) means you can also steam your curtains, clothes, and anything else that needs a jolt of hot vapor.

The unique triangular-head design gets into tricky corners, and an array of included accessories (nozzle, nylon brush, copper brush) means you can also steam your curtains, clothes, and anything else that needs a jolt of hot vapor. (Amazon/)

This steam mop for tile delivers serious power without the heft, meaning it’ll stand up to your toughest messes but isn’t a total pain to push around. It’s particularly good with hard-to-get-rid-of substances like grease. It’s also super versatile: You can disassemble the tile cleaner into smaller handheld parts depending on what you need it for.

What kind of steam mop cleaner should I be using for laminate floors?

Laminate flooring is a synthetic hybrid that you can install yourself. It’s a great affordable alternative to wood or vinyl, but you do have to be careful when you steam-mop it. As with wood, a steam mop cleaner can warp or crack laminate, and potentially even cause it to come unstuck from the floor. Separately, if moisture gets trapped underneath the laminate, it could lead to must or mildew.

So, words to live by when steam-mopping your laminate: Use a low-heat setting, keep the mop moving and never linger too long on one spot. If your floor steam cleaner has a scrubbing option, skip that—you don’t want to risk scratching the laminate surface with anything abrasive. And even though it probably goes without saying, if you’re using any additives other than water, read the directions and make sure it’s laminate-safe first.

Best steam mop for laminate floors: McCulloch Canister Steam Cleaner

This features a 48-ounce water tank (it heats up in under 12 minutes) for up to to 90 minutes of uninterrupted steam cleaning. It also comes with 20 accessories, including a scrub pad and nozzle.

This features a 48-ounce water tank (it heats up in under 12 minutes) for up to to 90 minutes of uninterrupted steam cleaning. It also comes with 20 accessories, including a scrub pad and nozzle. (Amazon/)

The floor-mop attachment is ideal for laminates, while scrub pads and utility brushes let you get down and dirty with less-delicate materials in your home. The tradeoff of this steam mop for laminate floors is that it weighs 13 pounds, so it’ll get the job done but may be too much to lug around for some people.

Looking to save space? These are the multipurpose household appliances that multitask

Behold the vacuum-and-steam-mop combo! This product washes and vacuums your floors simultaneously, saving you effort and time. Never again have to sweep before you vacuum, then vacuum before you mop!

Vacuum-and-steam-mops work on a multitude of surfaces and are particularly handy if you have a pet in the house. By dry-suctioning and wet-cleaning at the same time, you get at every kind of mess all at once, from the bitsy little pieces of fluff to caked-on spills and stains.

Think of it as a 360 approach to cleaning your floors: You get all the sanitizing benefits of steam mop, but are left with a dry, streak-free surface.

Best vacuum and steam mop combo: BISSELL Crosswave All in One Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner and Mop

A high-tech system keeps the clean water going out and dirty water coming in completely separate, so there’s no contamination. Smart-touch handle controls make moving back and forth between modes easy as pie.

A high-tech system keeps the clean water going out and dirty water coming in completely separate, so there’s no contamination. Smart-touch handle controls make moving back and forth between modes easy as pie. (Amazon/)

A variety of specialty solutions made specifically for this vacuum and steam mop combo allow you to customize your cleansing. Options like Hard Floor Tough Mess & Odor Eliminator, Area Rug formula, Multi-Surface pet formula, and more give you extra control over your clean-up. Just remember: Any time you add anything to your water, you’re potentially adding irritants, so always read ingredients. For the safest option, stick to plain water.

Best steam mop on a budget: What you get for under $65

The best steam mop that won’t hurt your wallet gets the job down sans bells and whistles. You power it on, mop up everything with a reusable microfiber pad, and call it a day. Especially if you’re intimidated by too many buttons or really do just want something a bit easier than a bucket model, you can’t go wrong with an inexpensive steam mop.

Best cheap steam mop: Shark Handheld Cleaners Steam Mop

This lightweight option is easy to operate. And even though it’s not nearly as fancy as some of its steamier siblings, it delivers 99.9 percent sanitation against bacteria.

This lightweight option is easy to operate. And even though it’s not nearly as fancy as some of its steamier siblings, it delivers 99.9 percent sanitation against bacteria. (Amazon/)

This is the best cheap steam mop for someone with a relatively tidy home who’s just looking for an easy alternative to schlepping a bucket of water around. If you need high-power options for attacking really stuck-on grease and stains, this isn’t the one for you. But if you like to give your floors a weekly polish just to sop up the unavoidable layers of dust and dirt that accumulate, this will get the job done.

FAQ: Everything else you need to know about buying the best steam mop for you

What steam cleaner accessories do I need?

When it comes to cleaner accessories, it all depends on how you plan to use them. For example, do you want your steam mop to pull double duty as a steamer for your curtains? Then make sure the model you choose comes with bonus detachable parts that allow you to use the mop on more than just the floor or get into hard-to-reach corners. When it comes to buying additional accessories, you might want some extra bonnets, replacement pads, or scented demineralized water to use in your mop. Just make sure that whatever you choose is compatible with the mop you own. One size does not fit all.

Can I put vinegar in my steam mop?

Whether you can put vinegar in your steam mop depends on what surface you’re mopping. Tile floors, linoleum, and vinyl can benefit from a swipe of the natural disinfectant, but you should not use vinegar on hardwood or stone floors—it’s too harsh and can cause damage. If you’re cleaning with vinegar, it’s best to use the white kind so it won’t leave a color stain, and always dilute with water. (If you can’t stand the smell of regular vinegar, the apple cider variety works—just note that it’s darker, so it leaves you at risk for staining.)

Do steam mops damage hardwood floors?

To figure out whether a steam mop will damage your floors, determine whether the hardwood floors in your house are sealed. If they are sealed, no damage will be done—if not, they may warp. Unsealed hardwood is vulnerable to moisture damage, so know what kind of flooring you have before you pop out the mop. And if you want to be on the extra-cautious side, avoid steam-mopping your wood floors even if they are sealed. Some experts warn against using any sort of moisture on wood, so just stick to dry cleaning techniques.

Related: Best shop vac: More powerful than your regular vacuum cleaner

A final word on shopping for the best steam mop

To find the best steam mop for your home, consider your budget, the variety of surfaces in your home, and how exactly you plan to use the mop. If you like to give your floor the once-over multiple times a week, a lightweight option is probably best. If some rooms in your house are tiled, others are hardwood, and still others are stone, then you need a versatile mop that can adapt. And if you happen to be a bit of a klutz—or you live with one—invest in a cheap mop so you won’t feel bad if it gets knocked around!