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Do steam cleaners actually clean your floors?

Expertly reviewed by Ketia Daniel

There are many ways to clean. Some are better than others. Some take less effort but do just as good of a job. The trick to finding the best method is finding what works for you in your home and not incorporating rituals that aren’t as effective as you might believe.

Ketia Daniel is the founder of BHM Cleaning Co. and our cleaning expert at BestReviews. She is also a cleaning influencer. Daniel said a steam cleaner is a great appliance because “it can break down stubborn and stuck on messes.” We’ve sprinkled other bits of her wisdom and tips throughout this article to give you everything you need to know about steam cleaners.

This article was reviewed and approved by Ketia Daniel, the BestReviews Cleaning Expert.

How does a steam cleaner work?

A steam cleaner uses water and heat to provide a remarkable deep clean with little effort. According to Daniel, using a steam cleaner “cuts down cleaning time due to it being able to break down stains, grease, bacteria and more.”

Every steam cleaner has a reservoir of water. The larger the reservoir, the longer you can clean without refilling, but the heavier the cleaner will be. The water is heated until it turns into steam. The rapidly expanding steam is the same force that powers steam engines. However, with a steam cleaner, the vapor is channeled out through a nozzle, a brush, a cleaning pad or some other attachment. The force of the steam loosens dirt and grime, while the high temperature kills dust mites, mold and bacteria.

What are the benefits of a steam cleaner?

  • A steam cleaner is effective: The dual-cleaning power of a steam cleaner — the heat and the pressure — makes it a highly efficient and effective cleaning appliance. It “kills bacteria and removes tough messes,” Daniel emphasized.
  • A steam cleaner is eco-friendly: A steam cleaner only uses water for cleaning. There are no chemicals or detergents needed, so it is kind to the environment.
  • A steam cleaner is safe: Because there are no chemicals involved, Daniel said it is safe to use in households that have children and/or pets.
  • A steam cleaner is versatile: A steam cleaner can be used on floors, countertops, drapes and more. Just be certain to read the owner’s manual to make sure the machine won’t damage what you are cleaning.
  • A steam cleaner requires little effort to use: You don’t need to employ a great deal of elbow grease to use a steam cleaner. The steam and high temperatures do the heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning.
  • A steam cleaner is easy to maintain: There is very little maintenance required to get the most out of your steam cleaner. The pads can be washed and reused, and the machine only uses water. You just need to make sure it is empty and dry before putting it away.

What should not be steam-cleaned?

While a steam cleaner is excellent for cleaning, not all surfaces can withstand heat and vapor. In general, Daniel said you should never use a steam cleaner on porous surfaces, such as natural stone and natural marble. She also said unsealed wood and thin plastic surfaces cannot endure the heat, pressure and moisture of a steam cleaner. While steam cleaning may work for spot cleaning, Daniel does not recommend it for large carpeted areas.

Are there any cons to steam cleaning?

  • High temperatures: The water vapor that comes out of a steam cleaner is very hot. It is possible to get burned if you are not careful when using.
  • More expensive: Steam cleaners cost more than a mop and a bucket, and they use electricity. However, you only need water for cleaning — no chemicals. They also produce much better results.
  • Requires a warm up period: According to Daniel, one downside of using a steam cleaner is “the wait time that you have when heating the water.”
  • Results may not last when steam cleaning: As great a tool as a steam cleaner is, Daniel said “the cleaning results may not last because you’re not using a preventative cleaner. For example, when it comes to mold and mildew, you have the option of using a product called Microban. Microban not only kills the mold and mildew, but it prevents it from growing back.”

Three steam cleaning tips from a cleaning expert

When it comes to using steam cleaners, ​​Daniel offered the following three tips:

  • Always clean your pads: Be sure to always clean your steam pads after each use. 
  • Do not use detergent on stained pads: Cleaning stained pads is easy. Simply toss them into the washer. Our expert does not recommend using any type of product on them besides borax and/or baking soda to help remove stains.
  • Always use all the water: Do not store your steam mop while water is still in the reservoir. If you do, this invites mold growth inside your steamer.


Q. Do steam cleaners actually clean your floors?

A. According to Daniel, “Steam cleaners are great for lifting stubborn dirt off of your floors. I see steam cleaning as more of a before and after you mop method. Not only does it lift dirt, but it can get rid of streaks that a mop may leave behind and even sanitize due to the steam that comes from a steam mop.”

Q. Which type of floors or surfaces are best for steam cleaning?

A. “Steam cleaners are great for marble, laminate, tile and wood,” Daniel said.

Best steam cleaners for your floor

McCulloch Deluxe Canister Steam Cleaner

This comprehensive cleaning set comes with 23 accessories, making it adaptable to a wide variety of cleaning situations. The large capacity tank holds 64 ounces of water and heats up in 12 minutes.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s and Macy’s

Bissell Symphony Pet Steam Mop

The Symphony is a pet-friendly model that includes disposable pads for messes that are better thrown away. It also comes with washable microfiber pads for everyday use. A portion of your purchase is donated to the Bissell Pet Foundation. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Shark Steam and Scrub All-in-One Scrubbing and Sanitizing Hard Floor Steam Mop

This is the model that our expert favors. It is tough on stains but gentle on floors. It has three steam modes for different levels of cleaning and powerful headlights to reveal hidden debris. The rotating pads provide up to two times better stain removal than standard steam mops. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s and Macy’s

Bissell Titanium Steam Mop Select

If you’re looking for the ultimate in maneuverability, this lightweight model is a solid choice. It only weighs 6 pounds and features a triangular mop head to get into those hard-to-reach areas.

Where to buy: Sold by Kohl’s

Shark Professional Steam Pocket Mop

The two-sided steam pocket pads on this model offer twice the cleaning of typical mops. The cleaner comes with one quick-release rectangular cleaning head and one quick-release triangular one for versatility.

Where to buy: Sold by Staples

Hoover Complete Pet Steam Mop

Individuals who crave value will like this model from Hoover. It has 10 multipurpose tools and a removable handheld steamer for easier above-floor cleaning.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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