There are hundreds of steam mops to choose from, with several of the big-name manufacturers producing numerous different models. That gives you lots of choice, but making the right decision can get rather complicated.
We've narrowed down the field to include just five of the best machines on the market today. In the process, we've covered a wide range of capabilities, all within a relatively modest budget.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
Our finalists are:
How do the elite steam mops on our shortlist cope out there in the real world? This part of the ratings explores each mop's performance, from how long it takes to heat up to how long it will run.
Seemingly small details can make a big difference in how easy a mop is to use. In this part of our review, we look at things you might not think particularly important until you actually get your hands on the mop. For example, how long is the electric cord? Every time you unplug your mop's cord, the water cools down, slowing your progress. A mop with a good length of cord can make a big difference in usability.
In this section of our ratings, we look at the features each machine provides and what advantages they could bring. Cheap steam mops, for example, might not offer much in the way of extras, but you don't need to spend that much more to get digital controls — a very nice feature, indeed.
Competition between retailers is often fierce, and it's usually worth checking offers before making a purchasing decision. Here's where we round up what we've learned about each steam mop and factor in the cost of each machine.
Denise has a background in healthcare and physical therapy. She also has the unique experience of raising three boys. Through the years, she has coached her sons and many of their friends through their share of childhood health problems and accidents. When not helping others recover from their injuries, you may find Denise working in her garden or reading.
The O-Cedar Microfiber Steam Mop produces usable steam in as little as 20 seconds, and the tank holds enough water to handle two medium-sized rooms without a refill. The microfiber pad is smooth enough to glide over sealed hardwood, tile, or linoleum flooring, but it is still aggressive enough to remove heavy dirt and grime. Even without additional chemical detergents, the O-Cedar still kills 99.9% of the bacteria commonly found on household floors. Many satisfied customers praise its nearly silent operation.
Those owners who've taken the trouble to measure the steam temperature produced by the Shark Steam Pocket Mop have come up with quite varied figures — anything from 110 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. That's probably due to the delivery system (which we'll get to in the next section), and although these temperatures are still considerably hotter than traditional mopping, they're not as high as some of the mops in our ratings. A few people felt they had to work extra hard to remove tough dirt, but most were perfectly happy with the Shark's performance. It cleans, but whether it produces steam hot enough to properly sanitize is debatable. The Shark does heat water very quickly — in around 30 seconds — but the tank only holds enough water for about 10 minutes of steam cleaning.
Like the Shark, the SteamFast SF-142 Multi-Surface Steam Mop adheres to the principle of keeping the water tank as close as possible to the floor. However, with a maximum heat of around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the SteamFasts's steam temperature does not reach the heights provided by some competitors. It takes four or five minutes to achieve working heat, which some owners thought too long. With a water tank that only holds seven ounces, run time is also quite short at as little as six or seven minutes.
Bissell makes much of the fact that the Powerfresh Steam Mop offers three different steam settings, but this needs clarification. What they're talking about is three different setting for the amount of steam produced, not three different temperatures. Real-world operating temperature is in the region of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (much like the SteamFast). It's ready from cold in about 30 seconds, and it will run at full power for 15 minutes or so. (At lower power settings, it will run even longer.) To help with tough spots, Bissell also includes a very useful and effective flip-down "Easy Scrubber."
Our final choice, the Hoover FloorMate Deluxe Hard Floor Cleaner, is not a "steam mop" at all, but it's an effective alternative that will appeal to many, and that is why we've included it in this review. Rather than heating water, this model mixes detergent with water and applies it cold, using "SpinScrub" brushes to clean the surface. The disadvantage is that you're using chemicals (whereas steam mops don't), but the advantage is that you don't risk incurring the steam damage that can happen with laminates in particular. (You should always check floor surface manufacturers' recommendations about cleaning methods.) The Hoover FloorMate has two tanks, one for clean and one for dirty water, so you'll never find yourself cleaning the floor with a pad that might be too contaminated to do the job properly. With no water to heat, the Hoover is ready the moment you turn it on. Working time comparisons aren't really valid given how differently the Hoover operates, but one owner washed a room of 450 square feet with a single 1.5 quart tank.
Unlike some other steam mops, the O-Cedar functions as a one-piece cleaning unit. There is no need to remove the onboard tank for refilling; the entire mop can be taken straight to the water source. The steamer head pivots and swivels, allowing the user to reach under tables and couches with ease. The quick addition of a glider attachment makes it possible to “touch up” carpeting with a light steaming action. The amount of steam is controllable through a switch, and the default setting is a constant flow, not a trigger-controlled burst of steam. (Trigger-style steam controls can cause user fatigue after a few minutes.) We also like the incredible lightness of the O-Cedar, which weighs less than five pounds even when the tank is completely full.
While the Shark Steam Pocket Mop doesn't have an adjustable handle, it sports a "knuckle" joint at the bottom that makes the cleaning head easy to steer. Another advantage down there at the "business end" of the machine is that the pads are double-sided. When one side gets dirty, simply flip it over and carry on. Some of the more expensive Shark models come with a detachable tank that you fill under your faucet, but unfortunately, that's not the case with the Steam Pocket Mop; you must carry water to the appliance in a jug. One big benefit of the Shark's design is that the cleaning head is very thin, allowing it to wedge into places that the SteamFast and Hoover cannot reach. The major disadvantage is that steam is delivered via a trigger pump that you have to keep operating while in use. Pump faster and you'll get hotter, faster steam — but only for as long as you can keep it up. Cord length is 20 feet.
At just six pounds, the SteamFast SF-142 Multi-Surface Steam Mop is quite light. Owners benefit from an adjustable handle, although not all people find the grip to be particularly comfortable. The reservoir cannot be detached and filled under a faucet; you must carry water to the machine, which is a bit of a pain. Operation is simple: as soon as the SteamFast is turned on, it starts to heat up (albeit a little slowly). Owners especially like the on/off foot switch. The cord is fairly average at 20 feet long. Several owners note that the curved shape makes it difficult to clean corners successfully.
At nine pounds, the Bissell Powerfresh Steam Mop is a little heavier than some, and it doesn't have the adjustable handle that many consumers prefer. However, the grip is designed to be ergonomic and, in use, it doesn't feel heavy or cumbersome. One thing we definitely like about this product is the removable water tank. Simply detach it from the machine and fill it at your faucet. The Bissell Powerfresh also has slightly longer than average cord length (23 feet) and what the manufacturer calls a "low-profile" cleaning head. It's not quite as thin as the head of the Shark, but there aren't many places it won't go.
Although the new version of the Hoover FloorMate Deluxe Hard Floor Cleaner is lighter than the previous Hoover edition, it still weighs in at 15 pounds dry. Having said that, you're not likely to lift it often, as the structure is more like that of a vacuum cleaner than a steam mop. There's no adjustment in the handle, but the on/off trigger is within the grip; anyone who has used an ordinary Hoover in the past is likely to be comfortable with this. The Hoover's cord length is in line with the average for this kind of appliance at 20 feet. The cleaning head is a bit tall when compared to the other machines here, but it will go anywhere a vacuum will. Having said that, owners report that it doesn't quite get right up against walls or into corners because the brushes are just slightly inside the cleaning head. The main plus point with the FloorMate is its dual water system: fill one tank under the faucet and empty the other down the sink, quick and easy.
The O-Cedar Microfiber Steam Mop does not arrive with many additional features, but the ones it does include are very useful. Many users like to use the chemical-free cleaning power of a steam mop to remove surface dirt from placemats and area rugs, but this is a difficult chore without a protective glider. Fortunately, the O-Cedar includes a snap-on glider that keeps the steam head safely suspended above the surface of fabric rugs and carpets. Replacement microfiber pads (a separate purchase) are especially helpful to have on hand when tackling larger cleaning projects.
The Shark Steam Pocket Mop sits at the bottom end of the companies' product and price range, and as such, it's quite basic. You get a filling jug and a single cleaning pad. Although the Shark's pads are double-sided and can last up to 20 washes, we're disappointed that only one is included.
The SteamFast SF-142 Multi-Surface Steam Mop includes neither a funnel nor a filling jug. This is not a major inconvenience, but it would have been nice if these products had been included. The SteamFast does come with two cleaning pads which, according to owners, can last several years if cared for properly. The SteamFast's star accessory, however, is its "carpet glider." This excellent device can be attached to the base to enable the steam cleaning of low-pile carpeting.
The Bissell Powerfresh Steam Mop's most outstanding feature is its flip-down scrubber, designed primarily for tougher spots. There's no need for a filler or funnel because the tank is detachable. The Bissell Powerfresh comes with two pads, but they're not both the same; one is smooth and one is ribbed for use on dirtier areas. Consumers might want to buy an extra pack of pads so they have spares on hand. Another interesting option (for a few dollars extra) are the fragrance discs. Just slip them in with the cleaning mops and they leave a pleasant, fresh scent as you clean. (The mop works fine without them, but some people enjoy this aromatic option.)
The Hoover FloorMate Deluxe Hard Floor Cleaner doesn't have mops to replace, so what we should talk about here is the way it works. In "Wet Mode," you get your floor wet, lightly scrub it using the Hoover's counter-rotating brushes, then suck up the dirty water. In "Dry Mode," you use a squeegee and suction for faster drying, but no brushes are involved. The Hoover sports a "detergent boost" button on the front of the handle. This button comes in handy when you're working on tough-to-clean areas.
With a retail price point of $64, the O-Cedar Microfiber Steam Mop is a solid midrange option that has the steaming capacity of a higher- end model and the straightforward design of an entry-level model like the Shark Pocket Mop. Microfiber pads may be more expensive to replace than the disposable paper-based pads found on cheaper models, but we believe microfiber pads do a more thorough cleaning job, especially on sealed hardwood and tile flooring. The O-Cedar is not just designed for smaller cleaning tasks and spot cleaning. It is an affordable alternative to high-end steam mops with few sacrifices in performance.
You'll pay $61 for the Shark Steam Pocket Mop. It's another machine that's light and easy to maneuver, and the double-sided cleaning pad would be a big advantage but for the fact that only one is included with purchase. You have to fill the machine with water quite frequently, but the majority of owners don't seem to be bothered by this. A few have had problems with broken handles, but the main criticism is that you constantly need to pump the steam through — which some people feel requires too much effort.
The SteamFast SF-142 Multi-Surface Steam Mop retails at $99 and is the lightest model in our ratings, if only by half a pound. It doesn't need pumping like the Shark, and owners compliment its long-lasting cleaning pads, foot switch, and carpet glider. Indeed, many say that the SteamFast works better than expected. Negative comments are few, but there are those who have concerns about build quality and durability. A few owners in our survey experienced problems with the SteamFast not heating up, but this ought to be covered under warranty.
The Bissell Powerfresh Steam Mop is a $89 machine from one of the best-known names in floor cleaning appliances. That's reflected in the general quality, ergonomics, and numerous useful features it offers. We especially love the Bissell's multiple steam settings, removable water tank, and superb "easy scrubber." Some customers have reported durability issues and/or leaks (some leakage is common with all steam mops), but most owners love it and say it does everything as advertised.
At $118, the Hoover FloorMate Deluxe Hard Floor Cleaner is the costliest of all the contenders in this review, but it's altogether a different machine. It holds a place on our shortlist because it's a viable alternative to steam mopping, and for plenty of consumers, it's the number one choice. There are some surfaces, particularly laminates, that you just can't clean with steam. Enter the Hoover: a practical, efficient, highly-rated solution. Most owners were initially amazed (and horrified) at how much dirty water this appliance sucked up. It's not flawless: it's heavy by comparison, and a few people report problems with the minimal assembly require. However, consumers with gripes are far outnumbered by owners who declare themselves completely satisfied.
It's extremely difficult to pick one winner when you've got five such capable machines, but overall, the Best of the Best steam mop on our shortlist is the Bissell Powerfresh.
At first glance, the Bissell looks more robust than many of its competitors. The quality of its appearance doesn't translate to great bulk, however, as the Bissell weighs only nine pounds. The handle is comfortable, and owners note how easy it is to maneuver the low-profile head into corners and under objects. The flip-down "easy scrubber" makes light work of tougher cleaning areas, too.
This is the only machine in our ratings that boasts three adjustable steam levels. (Note: this function varies the amount of steam delivered, not the temperature. If you opt for a lower steam setting, you can clean for longer without needing to refill the tank.) On that subject, the Bissell Powerfresh has the added convenience of a tank that's removable, so there's no need to fiddle with jugs or funnels — just run the tank under the faucet. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to use distilled water with this product.
The Bissell Powerfresh is a tremendously popular steam mop, but it's not without critics. Some think it ought to get hotter and that "sanitizing" requires leaving it in the same position for too long. Some complain about leakages. (A degree of leakage is inevitable with all of these.) In general, however, the Bissell is a great all-rounder. Literally thousands of happy owners say it does a superb job on a variety of different floor surfaces. At a cost of just $80, it's an excellent value, too — the very best of the best.
While the Shark Steam Pocket Mop may appear a little basic compared to other models on our shortlist, we have found that many satisfied customers prefer "simple and quick" when it comes to emergency floor clean-up. The Shark's 30-second warm-up and 10-minute run time is all they need to spot clean a kitchen floor or remove mud from a hardwood living room floor. For those who want the cleaning and sanitizing power of a steam mop without any expensive add-ons, the Shark Steam Pocket Mop is definitely worth consideration. The mop's enticing entry-level price and strong brand name also support our selection as Best Bang For Your Buck.
The Shark Steam Pocket Mop is by no means an ideal alternative to higher- end steam mops, but many users aren't necessarily shopping for a high-performance machine. They simply need a steam-generating mop that gets the job done with minimal fuss. Shoppers may want to think of the affordable Shark Steam Pocket Mop as playing the same cleaning role as a handheld vacuum. It may not have the capacity to clean an entire kitchen floor with a single tank of water, but it can definitely handle any spot cleaning needs that arise.