This article contains affiliate links. The products or services listed have been selected independently by journalists after hands-on testing or sourcing expert opinions. We may earn a commission when you click a link, buy a product or subscribe to a service.
How do I love steam mops? Let me count the ways. First, I live in the countryside, with an untrainable dog, a cat that brings in unmentionables, two kids who prefer to consume, construct and paint with highly-spill-able substances, and a husband whose carpentry workshop is attached to the main house. Reader, that’s a lot of different types of grime being trafficked, daily, through the sitting room. Only the best steam mop stands a chance of tackling it.
Also: two years ago, on Christmas Eve no less, my entire house was flooded. Water came gushing off the fields and into the kitchen, sitting room, loo and more. And with the water: mud, gravel, and myriad other sticky, unsightly substances. None of the floors were carpeted, which meant finding the best steam cleaner became my new, near-full time occupation. Borrowed Sharks, Kärchers and Bissells became my best friends.
While this is a tragic tale on my many levels, it has taught me some valuable lessons. Everyone should have a steam mop. And not all steam mops are created equal. I’ll explain why shortly – but if you’re in a rush, here’s a quick look at the best out there:
Which are the best steam mops in 2024? At a glance
Best overall Kärcher SC 5 EasyFix Premium
Best value steam cleaner H20 HD Five-in-one
Best handheld steam cleaner Vax Steam Fresh Combi
Best steam mop Shark Steam And Scrub Mop
What’s the difference between a steam cleaner and a steam mop?
“A steam cleaner is usually a compact, handheld device which emits an intense, targeted spray of steam onto a surface in order to loosen dirt particles,” explains Emily Barron, cleaning expert at Rezigo. “These versatile devices can be used to clean a number of different surfaces and fabrics, including clothing. A steam mop is generally only used to clean floors and takes the shape of a traditional mop or floor cleaner but with the added oomph of jets of steam which more effectively clean floors.”
How I tested the best steam mops
First, this technologically and spatially challenged reviewer assembled each model and rated it for ease of construction. Then I tested each on tiled and stone floors, cleaning a variety of substances from dried wellington boot prints to orange juice spillages and vegetable oil splatterings.
I took notes on speed, ease, efficiency and handling (especially in tight corners and under low furniture). I used all the accessories and laundered and refitted all the pads to check that it was a straight-forward process.
Best steam mops
1. Kärcher SC 5 EasyFix Premium
Best overall, 10/10
We like: the infinitely multi-tasking nature of this carthorse
We don’t like: twice the price of the others
Water tank capacity: 1.5l
Power cord length: 6m
Guarantee: two years
In the box: floor tool (pictured) with two microfibre pads, carpet glider, hand tool with various brushes. The window, textile and power nozzles are sold separately
Kärcher are famous for their pressure washers and have brought that Germanic expertise to this multi-function steam mop. It comes with a party bag of robust attachments, transforming it from mop to carpet steamer and steam ironer. A manual nozzle also cleans nooks, crannies and bathroom fittings.
In the box it looks a Ghostbuster’s pack. Once assembled (remarkably intuitively, when you eventually locate the English language pages of the thick instruction manual) it resembles a cylinder vacuum – think Henry the Hoover’s shape.
The microfibre cloth attaches to the mop head by velcro so that you can attach and detach it in seconds. The gargantuan water reservoir detaches easily from the body so that you can fill it directly from the kitchen sink (not a given – lots of steam mops require you to fill them with a fiddly jug).
That’s really the extent of your prep. There is a short wait for the machine to heat to sufficient temperature, but that’s the trade-off against a water capacity that allows you to clean room after room without stopping to refill.
Then you choose from five different intensities of steam; the biggest range in our test sample. ‘One’ is designed for dust and ‘five’ – also known as VapoHydro – mixes hot water in with the steam, leaving the floor fairly wet but reliably getting rid of stubborn encrustations. I’m embarrassed to say there are plenty of these on my kitchen floor. The Kärcher glides around behind me, turning corners easily and dealing with the most unpleasant matters in a just few, firm passes.
It gets under our floating kitchen island and a shallow dresser easily – although the latter requires me to get down on hands and knees. Once finished, I add the ‘carpet glider’ attachment to the mop (a sturdy plastic frame that raises it fractionally off the surface) and clean the carpet in the kids’ room. Next, the brushes and power nozzles make the bathroom sink and shower tray sparkle. All these jobs are easy, quick, and intensely (frankly, embarrassingly) satisfying.
2. H20 HD Five-in-one Steam Mop and Handheld Steam Cleaner System
Best value steam cleaner, 8/10
We like: lightweight but packs a punch
We don’t like: slightly fiddly to put together
Water tank capacity: 0.45l
Power cord length: 6m
Guarantee: three years
In the box: floor tool with microfibre cloth (pictured above), carpet glider, extension hose, window and garment cleaning tool and cloths, duster tool and cloth, jet nozzle and wire brush
Lakeland’s model is a little trickier than others to assemble – you have to screw the foot to the body yourself. But for such a slim and lightweight machine, it packs a lot in. Like the Vax, it converts into a handheld, with a jet nozzle with a mini wire brush that efficiently blasts and scrubs the gunk from around my bathroom taps (too much information?)
It also has a feature that wasn’t included in other models: a special attachment for window cleaning. It works wonders on the grubby children’s fingerprints on mine.
The mop itself does the job on kitchen floors. I tasked it with cleaning baked bean smears from under the table the morning after three nine-year-olds ate supper. The triangular head and ball jointed handle did frankly heroic work. There’s also an attachment for carpet cleaning
The water tank is removable; there are three strengths of steam from which to pick and the front capsule neatly slides out to create a handheld steamer too. Nattiest of all, the handle folds down, making it super compact and easy to squeeze into a cupboard.
3. Vax Steam Fresh Combi
Best handheld steam cleaner, 8/10
We like: lightweight, excellent manoeuvrability, easily converts into a handheld
We don’t like: won’t stand up on its own for storage
Water tank capacity: 0.3 litres
Power cord length: 8m
Guarantee: one year
In the box: floor tool (pictured above) with two microfibre pads and compact scrub brush, carpet glider, precision steam tool, soft scrub brush. Detergent also included.
This one faced quite a challenge. Our downstairs bathroom – a place where dogs are washed, kids are hosed down post football and the carpenter traipses through in boots. It also has aggravating textured tiles on the floor (excellent at preventing slipping, but also at obstructing deep cleaning).
Like the Kärcher, the Vax comes with an attachment that allows it to work on carpets too, though it is far lighter and shaped more like a conventional mop. Its real selling points are the triangular head, which makes corners and edges a cinch, and its ball jointed handle which helps you guide it under low surfaces (in this case, a freestanding bath).
The body also detaches from the handle, creating a handheld steam cleaner to which you can add a little brush or ‘precision tool’ that sends out focused jets of steam. It’s brilliant on grout.
Attaching the cloth is easy – little teeth in the head of the mop adhere to it – and while the water tank is a little bit fiddly to fill, it is detachable and even has a separate compartment for detergent, if the sanitising power of steam is not enough for you.
It heats up fast, has four settings so that you can set the sensitivity for different surfaces and really lifts dirt. My tiles look cleaner than they have in years, especially after I take the micro-fibre cloth off and use the scrub brush underneath in combination with the ‘steam boost’ button that’s handily placed for your foot.
My only quibble? It’s the only steam mop I test that doesn’t stand up independently. You have to prop it carefully in a corner or fit the wall bracket that’s included – but which you’ll only ever have in one of the rooms you want to steam.
4. Shark Steam and Scrub Mop
Best steam mop, 8/10
We like: automatic spinning pads mean you can stand still while the scrubbing is done for you
We don’t like: the pads sometimes gets tangled on obstacles
Water tank capacity: 0.35L
Power cord length: 8m
Guarantee: two years
Like the Bissell, this steam mop proved blessedly straightforward to assemble. Click the handle into the body, click the two circular cloths into their pads and you’re away.
Its functions are also streamlined: no accessories or detachable parts and only two settings: light for delicate surfaces, and normal. The water tank is filled with a slightly fiddly jug, but it heats up almost instantaneously.
I took it first to the family bathroom, where shampoo and toothpaste is routinely splattered over tiles. I plugged it in, picked the ‘normal setting’, pulled the handle back and off it went, the pads rotating 150 times a minute. For a second this was disorientating. I felt like the machine was taking me for a walk. But once I got to grips with the handling it was miraculous.
The handle lowers to a vertical, so I could easily get to recesses under the bath that hadn’t been explored for... well, too long. No need to scrub, or even pass it back and forth. You just hold it over the offending grime and viola – it’s gone in seconds. In the kitchen and on the stairs, coffee, juice and cooking stains met the same fate.
The downsides? Leave anything on the floor (shamefully discarded school ties, for example) and it can easily get caught in the rotations. Cord too. And the circularity of the pads mean they aren’t able to reach deep into corners.
5. Bissell Vac and Steam
Best vacuum cleaning steam mop, 8/10
We like: a vacuum and steam mop in one, so you needn’t do the jobs separately
We don’t like: hard to tell when you’re running out of water
Water tank capacity: 0.41l
Power cord length: 7.6m
Warranty: two years
No fiddly or fancy attachments here. It’s pretty much ready to go straight out of the box. At first glance, it’s a lightweight stick hoover. But a micro-cloth pad slips over the foot like a shower cap and a non-removable water tank fills from a little jug, so that it can simultaneously hoover and steam mop for around 15 minutes before you need to refill it.
This being the case, I tested it on the flagstone floors of our hall where muddy wellies and bikes are flung and pets are fed. It heats in 30 seconds then does a remarkably good job of hoovering up grub and grit while producing convincing quantities of steam on two intensity settings. When I remove the pad, its blackened hue is grim proof that it works.
The body tilts near-horizontal, so it’s good at getting under low surfaces. And when you’re done it is easy to remove both the mop pad and the vacuum cylinder, the contents of which can then be carried to and emptied into the kitchen bin before clicking easily back into place.
My only gripe? You rely in part on the sound of the steam stopping as signal that it’s time to refill. This is tricky to discern over the noise of the hoover.
Steam Mop FAQs
Why is a steam mop better than a conventional mop?
“A traditional mop uses hot or boiling water to loosen dirt, however, the water will usually cool quite quickly, making it less effective and making it necessary to use more,” explains cleaning expert Emily Barron. “A steam mop uses a concentrated stream of super-hot moisture which not only cleans more effectively but is also less likely to damage flooring and other items.” It’s also eco-friendly: no detergent necessary, the steam kills germs and lifts dirt without help.
What floors can you steam mop?
“Steam mops are incredibly effective at cleaning tiled and hardwood floors, as long as they’re sealed,” says Barron. But many can now be used on a variety of flooring, including carpets – although, she points out, you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions first. For that job, you may be better off with a carpet cleaner (in conjunction with a great cordless vacuum cleaner, of course.)
If you are bying a floor steamer, says Barron, you should be looking out for the following features:
Different heat settings
A carpet glider which helps to refresh carpets and rugs
A number of accessories to help you get into every nook and cranny of your flooring