The Ultimate Buying Guide to Steam Mops

Unlike your regular mop, the steam mop vaporizes water to use it in cleaning. Hot water sterilizes  your surfaces, leaving them not only clean but germ-free too. You can use it on practically any surface  type.

Last night, I was watching the news, rather flipping through the channels looking for something other  than the usual-politics and war. Then, just before I resigned to watching the highlights of yet cook show  for the umpteenth time, an advert came up. Good! What was it about? Cleaning no less (a topic I like. I  am a sucker for clean spaces).

The Ultimate Buying Guide to Steam Mops

The talking steam mop, Lisa, was explaining her abilities to the world; her steam power, tank capacity,  cleaning prowess, and many other characteristics that my simple but reliable mop would never possess.

You see, I am the old school kind, still stuck with my mop and squeegee from back in the day. I haven’t  had the reason to change to a more modernized way of cleaning because the mop never failed me (it gets grime removed and leaves the floor clean enough to eat from, so why rock the boat?). This advert,  however, challenged me to try it out and see for myself whether the steam mop lives up to its name.


I painted my vinyl floor red, literary (with the help of my 5 and 7-year-olds respectively. They had a field day, those two). We indiscriminately coated the floor pasta sauce, ketchup, flour, hairspray, barbecue sauce, mustard, and a reasonable amount of olive oil, and left it overnight. In the morning, the patio smelled like the stage of a cooking show. The grime was also much tougher than your usual kitchen mess.

I got three steam mops from various brands (which I will reveal later) to use on the floor. The idea was to test their capability to clean out the grime efficiently and in the least time (because one of the upsides of using a steam mop is to save the time and energy used with the regular mop).

The Results?

All the three steam mops (with varying steam capacities) performed differently. The results were, however, appealing and evidently took me just a few minutes to clean out the mess. The experiment helped me analyze what to look for when getting a steam mop. Here are my findings:

How Does It Work?

Back to the basics; what is will the fuss about this steam mop? Well, unlike your traditional mop that requires you to have a pail of hot water at hand, the steam mop only requires you to add cold water into which it vaporizes and uses the steam to clean your surfaces.

What should you look for when buying a steam mop?

1. Holding Capacity

As noted, the steam mop needs water to make the steam that cleans your surfaces. It is, therefore, important that the holding capacity is just right for the work that you want to be done (to avoid return trips). I tested the Oreck Steam-It Steam Mop, and it performed quite well. It went on for just over 37 minutes at full steam without requiring a refill (Oh, and you can use tap water). I cleaned my floor, (had to work harder on that since the grime was too thick) and had it looking as good as new with steam to spare. I even went ahead to clean some hideous stains on the patio that I had been ignoring for weeks.

2. The Type of Surface

The surface that you intend to use your steam mop on matters. Personally, my floor is vinyl, but I have parts that are ceramic too. I made my initial test on the vinyl floor and noted that it worked quite well. I expected to have issues with sliding, but I did not. For the ceramic, it worked even better as the surface makes it easier for the mop to slide. The Oreck requires you to attach the cleaning cloth manually and to fasten it with pins (a downside), but the material gives you a wider selection of surfaces. You can use it on your hardwood, ceramic, vinyl, and even on your upholstery. The Oreck, as with the two other brands that I tested have a setting that allows you to regulate the steam that comes through. This way, you can clean various types of surfaces without ruining them with high heat.

3. Weighty Matters

I discovered in my quest for the best steam mop that some varieties weigh more than 10 pounds (but with a full reservoir). That is quite heavy especially if you have to lift it up to clean those hard-to-reach spots on the ceiling. The Oreck weighs 9.2 pounds, which is a bit on the heavy side and it even gets heavier after absorbing the grime. The upside of this model is the handle, which made it easy for me to hold the mop and clean the out-if-reach areas efficiently without dropping it. I must say it was a good workout, though. (A few more cleanings and I should be rocking some major biceps).

4. No spillage and Ease of Storage

While using your mop, you want one that allows you the flexibility to stop and adjust something. My advice would be to look for a brand that stands on its own. The Sienna Aqua Pro has this property that I found quite convenient. One other thing that annoys most people is the spillage that comes with placing the mop in any other position than upright. The best buy is one that you can turn upside down wit hout the liquid moving from the reservoir to the floor.

The Sienna also has a foldable handle, which I found to be quite convenient. It makes it easy to store as  once folded it measures half its original size.

5. How Easy it to clean?

If like me you area attached to your regular mop that only needed a good wash in detergent-filled water, the cleaning process for the steam mop will frustrate you. First, the pad holds up to six times its weight in grime. You have to change it to clean it up. For you to remove the pad, you have to exhaust the water in the reservoir (at least with the Oreck, Sienna, and Steam Boy T1 that I tested). So you could allow the mop to run out of steam or you could just empty the water reservoir (which I find daunting, so I prefer to keep at it until the steam runs out).

Once the pads are out, the process is as good as done. All you have to d is pop them into the washing machine and viola! Good for the next cleaning.

6. On and Off Switch

I hate having to switch my gears at the main when I am distracted halfway. I hate distractions in the first place, but of the come (as they are wont to when you have toddlers); I prefer to get them out of my way as soon as possible. The Oreck and Sienna had an on and off power button which I liked. Steam Boy T1, whoever convenient (lighter than the other two models) lacked this property.

7. Cost Effective – Tap water use

I found out that some brands require you to use distilled water. I would prefer to buy a brand that allows the use of tap water, as it is cost-efficient for me. All the three brands I tested allowed for the use of tap water.

8. Does it cost an Arm and A Leg?

Now, the elephant in the room – Price. I am a stickler for a budget, but the occasional good buy that is good value for my money does not faze me. My faithful mop and squeegee, which have served me for several months, cost me $15. It would be insane to expect such a prize for a mop that sterilizes my surfaces, but I would also not be willing to spend too much on it. The Sienna, with a runtime of 15-17 minutes costs $120 on Amazon; the Steam Boy T1 sets you back $94. It can run at full capacity for up to 18 minutes. The Oreck, which has a runtime of 37 minutes, costs $149.99. Pricey, I know, but the quality of work done by this little one is worth the price. I got them from Amazon.

Final Thoughts

It has been weeks since Lisa the steam mop made her statement. I have to say it was a sad day when I let my faithful and humble mop of 10 months go. I have found a new way of cleaning, and I cannot go back (Talk about moving on up). I have since tried other brands of steam mops, but I am somehow stuck at the Oreck. I like the holding capacity and the fact that I can adjust the intensity of the steam to suit my cleaning needs. It also runs longer than most brands (for 37 minutes at full settings).The cost is on the higher side but as with most other steam mops, I have a year’s warranty should something come up.

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