During our research phase, we read subreddits like /r/BuyItForLife/ and reviewed articles from cleaning experts to gather information on what features to look for in a steam mop. We also checked out blog reviews and YouTube videos. We narrowed down the field to 18 steam mops, then culled the list even further based on consumer reviews.
Our five finalists are all rated four stars or higher on Amazon.com, and each meet all or most of the criteria that we found to be the highest importance to consumers. We then put each of our finalists through a series of household tests to see how easy they were to use, and how well they performed.
Compare the best steam mops
ProductPriceTypeTank Capacity (ml)Removable Water Tank1. Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh$$Basic443Yes2. Steamfast – SF-370WH$$Multi-Purpose1420No3. Shark – Pro (S3601D)$$Basic500No4. Shark – Steam Pocket (S3501)$Basic450No5. Bissell – Symphony 1543A$$$Multi-Purpose384Yes6. O-Cedar – Microfiber$Basic400No
Why use steam?
Steam mops make it easy to clean and sanitize your hard floors, without the need for detergents that can contain hazardous chemicals. Since hard surfaces are porous, steam cleaning can penetrate the surface to remove embedded grime. The heat from the steam vapor loosens the physical bond between soils and the surface you are cleaning, meaning that you can remove dirt and dried food spills more effectively and without the elbow grease. Plus, you can ditch that cumbersome mop bucket.
At a high enough temperature, steam vapor can kill bacteria, dust mites and mold spores. While kitchen and bathroom floors may not be one of the top germ hot spots in your home (according to the National Sanitation Foundation’s 2011 germ study, your dish sponge and toothbrush holder are likelier culprits), floors can still harbor bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli in lesser quantities, by contact with shoes or spills.
The steam mops we tested claimed to kill 99.9% of bacteria in sanitization studies. Although we didn’t perform a bacteria culture ourselves, it is true that heat above 212° will kill most microorganisms. Sanitizing an area requires continuous steam for 10-15 seconds; you’ll want to check the user guide for specific instructions for your model.
Household bleach is an EPA-registered disinfectant often recommended for disinfecting by health professionals; however, the fumes can irritate the lungs and mucous membranes. With steam cleaning, you can sanitize without exposure to toxic chemicals, which is especially reassuring if you have young children or pets crawling around on your floor.
Steam mops also offer the benefit of using microfiber pads, which are able to capture more dirt and dust than a conventional mop, even before you use the steam function. A study completed by the University of California Davis Medical Centerfound that traditional wet mops only reduced 30% of the bacteria present before cleaning, while microfiber mops reduced 99% of the bacteria.
How to use a steam mop
Steam mops can be used on ceramic tile, grout, sealed wood floors or linoleum flooring, but you should always check the care instructions from your flooring manufacturer to make sure you don’t accidentally void your warranty. Some types of flooring are sensitive to moisture and the National Wood Flooring Associationnotes that “steam or excessive water may damage a wood floor.” Manufacturers such as Armstrong/Bruce Hardwood & Laminate Flooring and Avaire Floating Porcelain Tile do not recommend steam mops, while LM Hardwood does recommend them. It’s best to check your warranty ahead of time to see what stance the manufacturer takes.
If you’ve used a wet/dry mop with a disposable pad, you’ll be comfortable transitioning to a steam mop. You attach a microfiber pad to the plastic head, fill the tank with water (most models recommend using distilled or filtered water to avoid mineral build up if you have hard water), and plug it in. Once it heats up, you can see the steam as you mop. As a general safety precaution, the user manuals recommend wearing closed-toe shoes to protect your feet.
Prior to cleaning, you should thoroughly sweep or vacuum your floors, and the microfiber pads should be cleaned and washed regularly. Some models come with carpet gliders, which can eliminate odors and freshen carpets, but do not remove stains. Multipurpose types have brushes and attachments to clean carpets.
Important features to look for
Steam control: Some types of flooring may not be able to handle the high heat settings necessary for sanitization or deep cleaning. Whether a digital or dial control, being able to customize your settings means you can adjust the steam to accommodate the type of surface you are cleaning.
Removable water tank: Not only is it easier to fill, it’s much easier to empty. This is important because you should always empty the water tank when the steam mop is not in use.
Heats in under a minute: We all have busy lives, and no one wants to waste precious cleaning time waiting for a steam mop to heat up.
Wide-angle swivel head: A mop with a swivel head allows you to clean hard-to-reach areas such as corners, under cupboards and along walls.
Ready light indicator: This gives you a clear visual indication that the mop is ready to begin steaming.
Empty light indicator: This shows you when the tank is empty, making for much less guesswork.
Continuous steam: Most consumers purchase a steam mop because they want to decrease the amount of physical labor needed to get the job done, making a mop with continuous steam preferable to a unit that must be pumped in use.
Multipurpose: Many steam mops can only be used on hard floors, but some are great multitaskers and take it up a notch with various attachments and brushes to clean carpets and other surfaces.
How we tested
We tested each product on linoleum flooring in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry/mud room. The multipurpose steam mops were also tested on short pile carpet and area rugs. Each steam mop was put through several rounds of general purpose mopping in the kitchen and bathroom, plus two specific performance tests:
High traffic areas: We wanted to find out how well each steam mop cleaned up ground-in dirt and dust, and there was no better test for this than the laundry/mud room. Outside dirt is constantly tracked onto the linoleum floor here, leaving dusty and sometimes muddy footprints all over the surface. With each steam mop, we did the same number of slow passes on the floor and then checked the results. After cleaning, we considered the floor’s brightness, how it felt to the touch, and how much dirt was on the microfiber pad (meaning it was no longer on the floor!).
Food soil: For this test, we spread a black bean paste on the floor and let it dry overnight. In the morning, we set a stopwatch as we hovered the steam mop over the stain with short passes until the stain was removed. Our intention was to stop at 20 second intervals, to prevent the floor from becoming damaged. However, in every case, the dried food soil was removed at 20 seconds or less.
Best Cleaning Power: Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh
The Bissell – 19404 shined in high traffic soiled areas as well as cleaning caked on foods from the floor. $78.26 from Amazon
The Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh Steam Mop Hard Floor Steam Cleaner was the top performer in both the high traffic and food soil tests. The scrubby microfiber pad (one of two microfiber pad options that come with the Bissell units) and easy scrubber brush meant that the mop required less passes and fewer seconds of continuous steaming to remove dried-on messes and ground-in dirt.
The Bissell – Symphony Pet All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop also made fast work of cleaning up food soils, but the Bissell 19404 PowerFresh performed better in high traffic areas. The scrub tool and nylon utility brush attachments of the Steamfast – SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner garnered excellent results in both areas, but it did not perform as highly with just the microfiber pad you would normally use to mop a floor.
The whole idea behind a steam mop is that it offers you convenience, which means fast heat up times and fast dry times. It also means that you shouldn’t have to stop several times to refill the tank, or unplug the cord just to finish the room. After all, a longer cord allows for easier reach to electric sockets and less likelihood that you’ll have to unplug the cord and wait for the unit to heat up again just to finish a room.
To that end, we filled the tank of each steam mop up to 400 ml, and timed how many seconds it took to heat up at the medium setting. Then, we timed how many minutes it took before it ran out of steam, in order to test how long the tank lasted (again, on a medium setting). Once the floor was mopped, we pulled out our stopwatch one final time to test how long it took for the floor to dry.
Extra-Large Capacity: Steamfast – SF-370WH
Slower to initially heat up, but a great choice if you have lots to clean without taking breaks to refill the tank. $109.79 from Amazon
While the Steamfast – SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam took nearly five minutes to heat up, it had the largest tank capacity by far, holding approximately 976 ml more than the other models. The other finalists all heated up in half a minute, but only had a 400-500 ml capacity. The O-Cedar – Microfiber Steam Mop was the fastest to heat up, ready to go in only 20 seconds.
The Bissell 19404 PowerFresh Steam Mop Hard Floor Steam Cleaner and Bissell Symphony Pet All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop had the longest use times, both lasting 20 minutes (more than enough time to mop a kitchen floor). The Bissell Symphony also had the longest cord, extending 25 feet.
The convenience factor we appreciated most, however, was a fast dry time. If the water in the tank only reaches the boiling point, the steam tends to be wetter and the dry time is longer. The higher the temperature, the drier the vapor. The Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh and Shark – Steam Pocket Mop were both dry in two minutes, or about the time it takes to put the unit away and walk back across your floor without leaving a trail of footprints.
This wasn’t a test, per se, but we felt it was important to judge the comfort level of using each steam mop. We considered how much it weighed, how easily the mop head maneuvered into tight spaces, how easy it was to use, and whether or not it was noisy during use.
The good news is that none of our finalists were noisy enough to wake up a sleeping toddler. The Shark – Steam Pocket Mop and Steamfast – SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner made no noise at all except for the sound of steam being released, and the remaining mops were equally silent once they heated up (after the first fill or refill, they make an initial “knocking” sound). If you wanted to use the vacuum function of the Bissell Symphony Pet All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop, we might recommend waiting until after nap time.
At less than five pounds, the Shark – Steam Pocket Mop and Shark – Professional again won points here for weighing the lightest of the mops we tested. We also found the smaller size of the rectangle shaped mop head was the best for small spaces, like in the bathroom. However, the Shark Steam Pocket Mop does require you to pump the handle and push to create steam. Even though this is the natural action of mopping, we found it more comfortable when the steam was released without manual effort. This feature is improved in the Professional model.
This made the Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh Steam Mop Hard Floor Steam Cleaner and O-Cedar – Microfiber Steam Mop our top picks for comfort. At eight and seven pounds, respectively, they are both lightweight enough to push around the room easily, and both release a continuous steam flow without any physical labor.
Best overall: Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh
After two weeks of testing (and moving around appliances so we could find new areas to steam), we found the Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh to be the easiest steam mop to use. It was also the steam mop that gave us the best results, leaving brighter, shinier and cleaner-feeling floors.
The added cleaning capability was thanks to the built-in easy scrubber, which flips down with your foot and adds an extra boost to the steam power. In our tests, it took only ten seconds to clean up dried-on food soils and the easy scrubber made a clear difference in the high traffic areas. This certainly beats scrubbing with a paper towel. (Check out our paper towel review for the best ones.) You can actually see the grime coming up as you clean, with a marked difference in the areas just steamed.
Top Pick: Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh
Features like the flip-down easy scrubber, variable steam control, and removable water tank make the Bissell PowerFresh a clear choice for most households. $78.26 from Amazon
It comes with two microfiber pad options: a white microfiber pad for everyday use, and a striped scrubby pad for tougher messes. Both pads are treated with Microban antimicrobial protection, and have a pocket to hold an optional Spring Breeze scent disc. We found the fresh scent of a clean, steamed floor was appealing enough, but if you’re really a scent person, you can add the discs or even Bissell demineralized water in scents like Citrus and Eucalyptus Mint.
Our favorite feature is the removable water tank. It was so convenient to pop it out and bring it to the faucet to refill, or to dump out the extra water when we were finished cleaning. All the steam mop manuals advised not to store the mop with water in the tank, and it was a chore to hold the whole mop over the sink or outside in order to empty the tank. With the Bissell 19404 PowerFresh, this wasn’t an issue, and we were grateful for the thoughtful design.
The shape of the mop head fits into corners and tight spaces (like around the toilet), but it’s still large enough to cover a lot of square footage quickly. The 23 foot cord and 20 minutes of steaming time also mean that you can cover a large area without stopping. The mop head swivels easily, and the light weight of the unit makes it easy to push around, while still being sturdy enough that it didn’t feel as if it would break easily.
The Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh starts heating as soon as you plug it in, and is ready in 30 seconds, when the digital indicator light stops blinking to let you know you’re all set to begin. It doesn’t have an empty light indicator (perhaps the only negative), but you can tell you’ve run out of steam when it makes a knocking sound. There are three digital settings (low, medium, and high), so you can easily vary the level of steam you want to use.
All in all, this mop was simple to use, super convenient for cleaning floors and reasonably priced, leading us to recommend it as the best steam mop on the market.
- The removable water tank makes the Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh a breeze to fill the tank, without searching around for a measuring cup. It also makes the tank exceptionally easy to empty after you’ve finished mopping.
- The PowerFresh comes with a removable easy scrubber and two machine-washable microfiber pad options, so you can customize your cleaning power for the best results on your floors.
- The digital indicator light and steam control settings make it simple to figure out when you’ve reached full steaming capacity, and to choose which level of steam will work best for the job you need to do.
Best multipurpose: Steamfast – SF-370WH
We were impressed with the wide variety of surfaces the Steamfast – SF-370WH was able to clean, from floors and baseboards to oven racks. In fact, we were so excited that we made a whole day of it, steam cleaning our fridge, oven, and walls. Thanks to the extension wands, we were even able to reach the ceiling.
Best Multipurpose: Steamfast – SF-370WH
A steam cleaner that can easily mop floors, but also clean BBQ grills and shop tools. With accessories ranging from a microfiber pad to a brass utility brush, you can tackle a wide variety of cleaning projects with this all-in-one unit. $109.79 from Amazon
The scrub brush and nylon utility brushes did an amazing job on our floors and walls, removing years of grime that couldn’t be touched by other cleaning products. The nylon utility brush also refreshed our low-pile carpet, removing stains and unflattening the fibers. On the area rug, it removed stains, but did pull on the fibers, so we would have preferred a more gentle tool there.
One of the features that is great about the Steamfast is the ability to either clean in short bursts using the steam trigger, or to push forward the steam-lock switch for a continuous flow of steam. This gives your hand a break when cleaning larger surfaces such as floors, but also gives you the ability to stop and move furniture or other objects out of the way without worrying about damaging the floors with continuous steam.
This cleaner is shaped like a tank, and with good reason. It holds up to 1,420 ml of water, so it can be used for around 45 minutes without needing to refill. That’s just over double the amount of use time as the other finalists. The only drawbacks we found were that the shape was a little more cumbersome than the models shaped like conventional mops, it took a little longer to heat up, and that the boiler was hard to fill without spilling.
- Multiple accessories that come with the Steamfast – SF-370WH allow you to decide which attachment to use on different surfaces; soft microfiber pads work well on hard floors and delicate surfaces, the squeegee tool can be used to clean windows and nylon utility brushes provide extra scrubbing power on grout and carpets.
- An extra-large capacity water tank gives you up to 45 minutes of steaming time, allowing you to complete several rooms or projects without stopping to refill and reheat.
Budget pick: Shark – Steam Pocket Mop
For a budget-priced buy, the Shark – Steam Pocket Mop is our pick for the best deal. Priced as low as $52 at publication, this mop comes with many of the key features we looked for in a mop. It heats up in less than a minute (30 seconds, to be exact) and our test floors were dry in around two minutes.
It only took slightly longer to remove dried-on food soil than our top pick, the Bissell 19404 PowerFresh. It cleaned our high traffic areas at least as well as a conventional mop, without the hassle of hauling around a mop bucket and waiting ages for the floor to dry. Plus, you can start sanitizing the floor after three minutes of use, although you do need to pass over the area with a backward and forward motion at least 15 times.
This is the only steam mop we tested that takes elbow grease to use. You have to pump the handle to start releasing steam, which it continues to release with a push forward motion. As you push faster, the steam gets hotter. Since the mop itself is so lightweight, only four and a half pounds, this isn’t a difficult task, nor did it put any strain on our arms.
Budget Pick: Shark – Steam Pocket Mop
The Shark produces steam in 30 seconds, dries in less than two minutes, and quickly removes dried-on soils. $47.95 from Amazon
What we liked best about the Shark is the pocket style microfiber mop. It slips over the mop head and both sides can be used. All you have to do is easily flip the mop head, which can even be done mid-cleaning. We loved using one side of the double-sided microfiber pad to clean, and then flipping it over to sanitize with a fresh side. The Shark comes with a large rectangle shaped mop head, but you can order a triangle shaped mop head separately, if you prefer.
The few negatives we have to report are the fact that you have to lay the mop sideways to fill or refill tank, which was tricky and not at all convenient, and that the provided filling flask is not marked with milliliters. This made it difficult to know how much water you were putting in the tank, or if you reached capacity. (We used a separate measuring cup for our tests.)
Many consumers reported that they preferred a steam mop that released steam automatically, but if you don’t mind the manual pushing, this mop is a great choice, especially for the price.
- The double-sided cleaning pad on the Shark – Steam Pocket Mop means you can scrub the tough messes without tracking any soil to the rest of the floor.
- Its lightweight design makes it easy to haul around the house, and easy to push around the floor, making it perfect if you have multiple rooms you wish to clean.
Shark – Professional Steam Pocket Mop S3601D
With three unique digital steam settings, continuous steam and an extra large water tank, paying the extra money for the Shark – Professional Steam Pocket Mop S3601D is a worthwhile investment. For tough cleaning jobs, the Shark Pro’s heavy steam setting removes dried-on soils in ten seconds and cleans high-traffic areas as well as our top pick, making it our pick for runner up.
Although still quiet, the Shark Pro does makes more noise than the rest; it sounds something like a cat purring loudly. Unlike all the other finalists we tested, this one requires a Phillip head screwdriver to put together, but you only need to screw together the handle and the water tank.
In terms of upgrades from the basic Shark, the Professional doesn’t require any manual effort to produce steam. It has a digital steam control with three settings for dusting, mopping and scrubbing. The scrub setting, paired with the scrubbing strips on the Sonic Lift microfiber cleaning pad, was especially effective on high-traffic areas. The other side of the pocket pad features shaggy fingers which are meant to lock in dirt and dust, which is great when you want to use the lower heat dust setting on more delicate surfaces.
They also extended the cord by two feet and improved the range of the swivel motion (it is pretty impressive). We tested the S3601D, with the “D” option adding an triangle mop head and pocket pad to the deal. The triangle mop head is useful to get deeper into corners and clean tight spaces, but for larger jobs, the rectangle mop head is more effective and we found we didn’t want to switch mop heads just to finish a single room.
Bissell – Symphony
Both of the Bissell brand models we tested performed highly in terms of final cleaning results. The Bissell – Symphony Pet All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mopwas able to remove dried-on soil in ten seconds, when using the vacuum function. It also picked up all the dirt and grime in our high traffic areas, although it wasn’t as bright of a finish as the 19404 PowerFresh.
If you have pets, you know how stubborn pet hair can be, even after sweeping. The Symphony gives you the ability to steam clean your floors while vacuuming up the pet hair at the same time. It features digital controls, so you can easily switch the vacuum on and off, as well as switch between high and low steam settings. We also appreciated the ready light indicator, which lets you know that the water has heated sufficiently to begin steam cleaning.
Good for Pets: Bissell – Symphony
This unit solves a more specific problem, but can be a lifesaver. The Symphony steams and can vacuum stubborn pet hair simultaneously. $165.11 from Amazon
Although it doesn’t have a removable water tank, this was the easiest stationary tank to fill, thanks to an easy fill opening that helps prevent spills. The dirt tank is also easy to use, and features a built in Drop-IT system. All you have to do is press the lever to empty the debris into the trash.
The Symphony comes with the everyday use microfiber pad and scrubby pad (along with an optional scent disc, just like the 19404 PowerFresh), as well as steamboost disposable pads. We all know that sometimes pets make messes that are better suited for the trash than the laundry, and the disposable pads are a handy option in those cases.
It does take longer for the floor to dry with the disposable pads (40 minutes versus the five minutes with the microfiber), and in general, we found the need to remove bottom tray to attach either style of pad a little annoying. Other than being a little more bulky than necessary for regular use, we found the Symphony to be a highly efficient steam mop that would be great for pet-owning families.
O-Cedar – Microfiber Steam Mop
While it doesn’t have an extra bells and whistles, the O-Cedar – Microfiber Steam Mop was probably the fastest mop to set up and gets you started the soonest. With a couple of clicks, the addition of a velcro pad attachment that was the easiest to get on, and a fill of the water tank, you’re on your way. The best part about the O-Cedar is that it heats in only 20 seconds, the fastest heat up time of all our finalists. It weighs only seven and a half pounds, so it’s easy to push around, and it releases continuous steam until you unplug it.
Fastest Startup: O-Cedar – Microfiber
If a long startup time is going to prevent you from ever using a steamer, the O-Cedar clocked in as our fastest startup time at 20 seconds. $78.12 from Amazon
It comes with an angled head mop, which is great for quickly covering large spaces and fitting into corners, but difficult in small spaces such as bathrooms. It does make knocking noise when heating up (just like both the Bissell models we tested), but is silent while cleaning. The reason we rated this one last is it took several swipes to remove food and dirt soil, and performed only fair on high traffic area. It also had a long dry time of 16 minutes, much like using a conventional mop.
The O-Cedar also comes with a carpet glider, for refreshing and deodorizing carpets. Again, it’s easy to use; you just snap the glider on over the mop head and steam away.
The bottom line
The Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh Steam Mop Hard Floor Steam Cleaneroutperformed the competition in several of the key metrics we used to determine the best steam mop. It heats up in less than a minute, can be used for 20 minutes at a time, and the floor dries in less time than it takes to put the unit away. Most importantly, the built-in easy scrubber and scrubby microfiber pad work with the steam to remove soil and grime in a matter of seconds. The icing on the cake is its removable tank, which makes filling and emptying the tank with water a breeze.
If we were to choose a runner up for the best steam mop, the Shark – Professional Steam Pocket Mop S3601D would be our pick. The water tank holds 500ml, providing the largest holding capacity of the basic mops we tested. In terms of removing dried-on soils and cleaning high traffic areas, it was on par with the Bissell – 19404 PowerFresh, when we tested with the heaviest steam setting and the scrubbing strips on one side of the microfiber pad. However, the Bissell won us over with features like the removable water tank, flip-down easy scrubber, and ready light indicator.