Cleaning dirty floors can be one of the toughest chores we face. Ground-in dirt, food and drink, and whatever we track in on our shoes can be tough to remove. Too often, it seems we end up just smearing the smudge and making the mess worse–if we manage to make a difference at all.
Traditional mops rely on thin woven ropes tied together and attached to a stick. You submerge the head in a bucket of water. The biggest problem with these mops is that, unless you get fresh water with every dunk, you’re using dirty water to clean your floors from the second dunk on. That doesn’t sound right, does it? Not to mention the fact that these mops generally aren’t any good at scrubbing stuck-on or ground-in gunk. If you do manage to get the floor clean enough to make you happy, there’s the matter of cleaning the mop head. Wet, dirty mop heads smell awful, and they’re dirty, so that makes it hard for you to rely on them to do any real cleaning. Some heads are removable and machine washable, which helps, but it doesn’t seem to take long for those little ropes or cloth strips to start coming unraveled and fall apart, leaving a mess in your washer or all over the floor you’re trying to clean.
Newer models have heads made of sponges. This eliminates most of the shedding problem, and many of these mops are better at scrubbing, but you still have the problem of a bucket of dirty water and keeping the mop head itself clean enough to be effective.
If dealing with the frustration of old-fashioned mops isn’t bad enough, there’s the hassle of dealing with harsh chemicals to enhance cleaning or kill germs that can be present on kitchen and bathroom floors. These cleaners can be expensive, and the fumes can be harsh. Not to mention the fact that some chemical cleaners aren’t appropriate for all flooring types and increasing concern that they might not be as effective as we once thought at killing germs.
Thankfully, there is a solution that can work for everyone. Today, there are quite a few different steam mop models available. These mops generally have a reservoir that holds a pint or so of water. Once the mop is plugged in or turned on, this water is converted to steam, which is directed to the mop head, usually a metal or plastic frame covered by a cotton or microfiber material. As long as the reservoir contains water, you’ll get a steady stream of powerful steam. The steam combined with the mop head essentially functions much the same way as hands-and-knees scrubbing with a rag or sponge without having to be on your hands and knees. Additionally, the steam is hot enough to kill most germs, bacteria, and viruses that might be hanging out on your floors. The steam is also great at loosening ground-in gunk, too. You can get superior cleaning power without expensive and harsh chemicals or a bucket of dirty water. Depending on how much square footage you have to clean, you might have to refill the reservoir during mopping, but most models are ready to use in a minute or less from the time they’re filled. The cleaning pads are machine washable and reusable.
In addition to steam mops, there are handheld steamers designed to clean upholstery and countertops. Make sure you read any manufacturer’s care instructions before steam cleaning upholstery; some fabrics and dyes won’t tolerate the steam. When it comes to countertops, the sanitizing and penetrating power of steam is a great way to clean grout and seams on your counters and, again, you can do it without bleach or other harsh cleaners.
This site won’t give you carpet maintenance advice, but you can find comparisons and pros and cons of several of the top-rated steam cleaners for your bare floors.
Check out these handheld steam cleaner reviews for information on the top contenders for cleaning upholstery.
Go to proper mopping techniques for tips on using a steam mop and reviews of top models to help you make your decision.