We've had a lot of enquiries from members who want to know about steam mops. No doubt that’s because they are heavily advertised on TV as an alternative to a traditional mop and bucket and claim there’s no need for chemicals. But what exactly is a steam mop?
A steam mop has a water container and an electric heater that heats the water to produce steam. The steam is pushed through a cloth pad, aiming to loosen grime from the floor so the pad can pick up the dirt. The mops have a long cable that plugs into the wall like a vacuum cleaner, and the pads are removable so you can wash the dirt off them (replacement pads can be purchased separately).
We've begun testing six steam mops (and yes, one is the 'as seen on TV' Aqua Lazer, $299.25 for two), but in the meantime we’ve looked at what Choice, our Australian equivalent, found in its test in 2001. Choice learned that steam mops aren't the best for cleaning up a big mess, like a spill. For that an ordinary string or sponge mop is best because you can rinse it out as you go. A steam mop does work well if the floor isn't too dirty or if it's being cleaned regularly.
Some of the steam mops claim to "refresh" carpets and come with attachments that fit under the pad pushing the steam into the carpet. Choice found this to be fairly ineffective for cleaning and that it left the carpet quite wet.
An advantage of a steam mop is that it doesn't require chemicals in the cleaning process, making it a good, if expensive, option for people who are sensitive to detergents.