In this Guide
What’s the best steam mop available in 2019? Do I need a special steam cleaner for wood or tile? Our engineers have tested all the major brands on the market including Bissell, Shark, and Reliable, so if you’re in the market for the best steamer read on…
Steam mops are a modern cleaning solution for busy people. They can be used on nearly any sealed floor material, including tiles, hardwoods, and laminates, and many modern steamers are also effective for carpets. Overall, these products offer a deeper clean for flooring without the elbow grease or harsh chemicals required by manual mopping – BUT not all steam mops are created equal. Many of the cheaper brands (and a few of the expensive ones also!) in our tests simply didn’t perform as well as the old mop-and-bucket.
So which brands live up to the hype? We spent hours testing and reviewing all of the models to bring you the best steam mops for 2019. We tested and directly compared dozens of models, while keeping in mind different budget requirements, flooring types, and household messes (pets, kids, etc.). We also compared features, specs, user reviews, and other expert analyses from Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and other publications.
In the end, we’re confident that we’ve found a few solid choices that really do live up to the hype! It’s all about finding the right one for your individual floors. We’ll guide you through which features are best for each flooring type, and help you narrow down your search. Also be sure to check out our other top-rated steam cleaning machines for more specialised jobs like upholstery, pet messes, carpets, and even bed bugs!
Here’s a quick sneak peak at our top overall picks based on floor type:
The O-Cedar was our top pick for wood floors and the Bissell Lift-Off Pet for tile floors. A few of our choices, like the Bissell Symphony, our pick for best hybrid steam cleaner, are crossover mops with attachments that let you use them as handheld cleaners all over your house. These three units were stand outs in their fields for their smart design, powerful steam units, and durable materials. To read our full reviews on each of these units continue reading below…
Best Steam Mop Reviews for Wood Floors
Steam mops for wood floors have to be powerful enough to do an effective cleaning job, but adaptive and gentle enough to protect hardwoods. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) advises avoiding the use of steam cleaners that are not specifically designed to clean hardwood floors as improper drying of the water may damage the hardwood surface. Some specific units are capable of cleaning hardwood effectively without causing damage however, due to their ability to leave the surface completely dry, and we’ve identified the top 3 below. These models also have adjustable steam levels, cushioned mop pads, and specific designs for mopping hardwood floors. As long as your flooring materials are sealed and finished, any one of these cleaning machines will suit you well.
1. Best Budget Steam Mop – Bissell PowerFresh
The Bissell PowerFresh is the top selling steam mop on Amazon, and for good reason. It’s very reasonably priced, and as one of our least expensive recommendations offers the overall best bang-for-your-buck. It’s surprisingly feature-rich, including a 3-setting control and two pads (scrubby and soft), it does a good job on all flooring types. Importantly for hardwood, and unlike some other models, in our tests it effectively dried the areas as it polished, and didn’t leave any water residue behind it, which should keep your hardwood surface from water damage.
Bissell also uses smartly designed mop pads, which wrap around the mop head with a clipless design. The microfiber fabric also uses integrated Microban technology, for additional antibacterial properties. This is particularly important for wood floors, which due to their microscopic structure tend to harbor far more hygienically-relevant bacteria than other surfaces such as polyethylene. The padded microfiber cloths are also great for wood floors as they’re soft enough to protect your floor’s finish, while the microfiber actually polishes the wood as you go.
The PowerFresh is a bit more versatile than the average offering, since it comes with a scrubber brush and special scrubbing mop pad for working on tiles. While we found it not quite as effective as the Shark Steam Pock (see below) on tile, It’s a good choice if you have a variety of flooring types and want to clean them inexpensively. The Bissell also ties with the Reliable for the longest power cord of any of our recommendations, at 23 feet long.
You may find a few mixed reviews online for the Bissell PowerFresh that echoed our previous concerns when we reviewed an earlier model. To Bissell’s credit however, they took these criticisms on board and last year refreshed the design to address all of these early issues. While early versions of this model had mixed reliability, our recent tests reviews have demonstrated that quality control has markedly improved with the current units. The Bissell PowerFresh is therefore our top overall pick for 2019 for cleaning hardwood floors when considering ability and price.
2. Best High-End Steam Mop – Shark Steam Pocket 3.0 (new!)
The Shark takes out the top spot of more expensive/prosumer-level steam mops on our list. It provided the best clean of any of the units we tested on both hardwood and tile and is the most fully featured, however you definitely pay a premium for it. It has key features such as usefully customizable steam settings to match to your specific flooring type and the mess at hand. Like the Bissell PowerFresh it’s suitable for both hardwoods and tile and we found it does a good job at keeping wooden floors dry during use, which the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) advise is extremely important for preventing wood floor cracking or splintering over time.
The standout feature of the Shark compared to other models, and the main reason it takes out our top spot for steam mops at a higher price point, is that it is extremely well-suited for large spaces. Its mop head flips over, so you can use both sides of your pad which means you can mop twice as far as standard single-sided mop models before needing to swap it over. We especially love the coverage you can get with this – the Shark’s mop head has a much larger footprint than the competition, at a full 12″. Thirdly, it also has a larger water tank to match, so you can cover lots of ground quickly, without refills. Finally, the mop head comes with two sets of machine-washable pads, so you can use one while the other is being cycled through your laundry.
As in other top models, the steam is adjustable, so you can turn it down to protect your finishes and turn it up to remove tough stains. Its rag-mop style cloth also did a particularly good job of cleaning in between tiles, which is where dirt and bacteria can really build up so if you’ve got a style of tile with deep grouting, cracks, or other gaps between tiles, this steam mop is definitely the best option. The other notable feature of this steam cleaner is the build quality – the Shark is clearly built to last, with a metal wand and sturdy construction. This rock-solid construction places it above both the Reliable and the relatively thinner, largely plastic (but light) construction of the Bissell. If you’re willing to pay a bit more for a top quality steam mop, the Shark Steam Pocket 3.0 is your best choice – it is feature-rich and particularly well suited to larger homes.
3. Best Mid-Range Steam Mop – Reliable Steamboy
Our top mid-range steam cleaner for hardwood floors is the the Reliable Steamboy. Not only did it do an excellent job cleaning both hardwood and tile floors in our testing (on par with the excellent Shark and Bissell models above), it uses cleverly designed mop-pads which are great at protecting skirting and molding around your floors. (Our engineers can’t be the only ones that occasionally get carried away with cleaning and accidentally smash into the molding leaving a scratch can they??). Its mop pads are highly cushioned, and wrap around the mop head to protect the molding around your floors, as well as the floors themselves. The mop head is also triangular, which helps you clean into corners much better than a traditional rectangle which many other models inexplicably continue to use.
One of the best things about the Reliable is that it gets hotter than other steam mops we tested. This is great for particularly stubborn stains (but you need to ensure your hardwood floor is well sealed can deal with the heat – some can’t!). It comes from a company that also makes big canister systems, and they’ve clearly carried some of that expertise over. The super-hot steam is also beneficial as it ends up leaving less moisture behind compared to other models, which is good news for your hardwoods. You also won’t end up with streaks or puddles.
Overall the Reliable is a great unit and sits comfortably in both price and performance between the Shark and the Bissell steam mops. It’s very ergonomic, easy to use, and leaves very little moisture behind. It also comes with a glider attachment for refreshing and spot-cleaning carpets. It has an impeccable record for durability, and comes with a 1-year warranty. The Reliable Steamboy is the therefore our pick for best mid-range steam mop.
Best Steam Mops for Tile Floors
Now on to steam cleaners for tile floors. These tend to be much hardier than wood floors, and can deal with more rigorous cleaning and steamers with with a bit more juice. For tiles you’ll hugely benefit from a steam cleaner with pressurized steam, and some decent scrubbing action from the mop pad. We also highly rated features like grout brushes and spraying modes for working on the spaces in between tiles. Here are our top 3 picks for steam cleaners for tile floors:
4. Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop System
Shark’s new Genius mop is one of our absolute favorites right now and is our overall top pick for a steam cleaner for tile floors if you’re on a budget. It combines a great cleaning performance with a good selection of features at a surprisingly low price point.
There are lots of reasons to love the Genius Shark steam mop. The first is the pads on this one, which are really stellar. For people like us, who geek out over the weave and texture of mop pads, they’re a dream! The Genius pads have lots of nap, which is what we look for to clean into the grout between tiles. They also have these grippy rows sewn in, which work like those Rubbermaid cleaning cloths. They scrub the surface as you move the head, so you don’t have to keep running back and forth over the same area.
We’re also massive fans of the new steam spray feature that Shark has built into the Genius. We hope it makes its way into the rest of their mops! Most other mops with “spray” features blast steam from the whole pad. It does help get into grout, but it also starts to get messy fast. This one targets a spray to one specific area, so you can tackle a problem spot without making puddles. Score!
5. Bissell Lift-Off Pet
The Bissell Lift-Off Pet is our top recommendation for tile floors if you don’t mind spending a little more and just need a top-notch steam cleaning machine. We particularly love it for its tile scrubbing abilities that were basically unmatched in our testing. It also comes with a long warranty, which likely reflects its high build quality and confidence by the company that it will last for several years. The mop head is equipped with a snap-on scrubber brush, which is perfect for reaching into and effectively cleaning grout, which is important for maintaining hygiene particularly in the bathroom and kitchen, as well as scraping off tough spots like crusted food or gum.
It also comes with special scrubbing pads. All the mop pads stretch to fit over the head, so you don’t have to use any clips, catches, or brackets. In most other models we tested these parts were often delicate and could be annoying to fit quickly, so Bissell’s clever design which minimizes messing around changing scrubbing pads was a huge plus for us.
The Bissell Lift-Off Pet is also very versatile. The Lift-Off features lets you make full use of a 13-piece attachment set, and provides plenty of power to back them up. It’s also one of the only options with a padded fabric attachment for upholstery and curtains. Because it has adjustable steam, it’s also suitable for wood floors!
As mentioned above, the Bissell’s warranty is longer than most other steam cleaners on the market, at 2 years. That’s at the high end of warranty coverage for this kind of product. Our testers had very few complaints overall about this updated model. It’s more powerful and more durable than its predecessor. Plus, there are intelligent new features like stain removal, steam alert lights, and odor removal with Febreze scent discs, so it was among the most feature-packed models we’ve tested. Overall we highly recommend this steamer and it is definitely worth the extra money for this level of performance.
6. Shark Blast and Scrub
A close third place on our list is the Shark Blast and Scrub. A little more expensive than the Shark Genius, but not quite as feature-packed as the high-end Bissell Lift-Off Pet, the Shark is a great steam cleaner that roughly sits in between the other two units in terms of price and features. The Shark Blast and Scrub features both a normal mode, and a pressurized “Blast” mode. You can also combine the two for full-blast on tough tile and grout. Steam levels are controlled automatically, so you always have a base layer of moisture to help the mop glide easily along floors. Then, you can turn on the spray mode to amp up the cleaning.
The blasting mode is great for sanitizing areas with deeper grout, since it reaches deep into crevices to kill hidden bacteria that you can’t reach with other mops. This is important for maintaining good hygiene in places like kitchens and bathrooms – the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for example recommends steam sterilization on surfaces where possible as it non-toxic, rapidly kills microorganisims, and penetrates well. The Blast and Scrub also comes with a dedicated scrubbing cloth for tough messes. You can use it for the tricky bits, then swap out for the standard pocket to protect your hardwoods.
You can also sanitize and spot clean above floor level, using the attachment nozzle and extension hose. It’s hard to beat this thing for versatility!
The Shark Blast and Scrub uses the same wide, double-sided pocket mop design as the Professional model we’ve recommended above for hardwoods. You can clean with both sides of the mop head, and cover lots of ground with the 12″ floor attachment. Overall a highly recommended steam cleaner that fits between the high-end and more budget-friendly models above.
Frequently Asked Questions about Steam Mops
How do these work?
To begin with, steam is a natural cleaning whiz. If you’ve ever seen a detective movie where the ace investigator uses steam to open envelopes, you can already see why! Instead of requiring chemical solvents, the mix of super-hot water and air dissolves sticky adhesives and other messy compounds in a jiffy. So, rather than having to use soaps or other nasty mopping chemicals, you just use water and heat! In most cases, steam does an even better job!
With a base layer of steam keeping the mop pad wet, these mops eliminate a lot of the friction you encounter with a traditional stick mop. The mop head glides along the floor, loosening dirt with steam and heat rather than relying on scrubbing. You can hover over a spot to give it more steam, and then gently scrub away the spot.
These also have cloth pads, like a normal mop. They’re generally a bit more sophisticated than the manual version, and are made from microfiber or chamois. Some pads also integrate anti-bacterial coatings to help trap and kill bacteria. You can wash and reuse mop pads for a variable amount of time, depending on the company.
What can they clean?
Basically, any sealed floor surface. These are an effective tool in your cleaning arsenal for laminates, tiles, hardwoods, and pretty much any other flooring you can think of. They’re not designed to clean whole carpets, although some models have attachments for spot treatment and “refreshing” small areas.
Some models include “lift-away” or “lift-off” features. This lets you use the unit without the wand or mop head. It gives you a basic handheld steam cleaner, which you can use with the included attachments for surfaces like countertops, plumbing, and kitchen appliances.
These attachment sets are generally pretty good, but they’re not as heavy-duty as a full-sized canister cleaner. Expect them to do a decent job for light cleaning and maintenance on most surfaces. Also, some aren’t as powerful in the handheld mode.
Why are they better than a traditional mop and bucket?
These use pressurized, high temperature steam to sanitize flooring surfaces, killing harmful bacteria and biological matter, and reducing residual bacteria and mold in cracks of tile floors. This type of soap-less cleaning saves you money, since you won’t have to buy cleaners. It’s also a safer, more eco-friendly way to clean your floors.
They’re a powerful tool for chemical-free cleaning. Because they don’t use any harmful chemical cleaners, eco-minded consumers can rest easy while still cleaning with maximum effectiveness. Steam also reduces exposure to allergens in cleaners, and eliminates the risk of your pet ingesting toxic chemicals.
These don’t rely on a bucket of water, which can get dirty as you clean and leave streaks and muddy spots on the floor. You won’t have to deal with your mop water cooling as you clean, and you’ll always have full heat for breaking down stains and dried spills. You’ll also be leaving a lot less moisture behind.
You won’t have to use nearly as much elbow grease. Steam dissolves or loosens pretty much any floor mess, so you’ll just have to keep moving the mop head back and forth to wipe things away.
How do I know if my floor is sealed?
If you’re not sure if your floor is sealed, there’s a good chance it isn’t.
Linoleum and laminates are usually a safe bet for steam mopping, as are new tile and hardwood flooring. Older tile can develop cracks along the grout, or pockmarks in the sealant. Older hardwoods frequently have cracks between boards, which can let moisture seep into the base of the flooring. Make sure you check your floor’s warranty, or get someone who knows what to look for to double check for you.
What can happen if my floors aren’t sealed?
Wood floors can warp and buckle. Without the proper sealant, these mops can also mar or destroy the finish of the wood. With tile floors, water can seep between tiles and create mold in the floor support beams and cushion.
Even if floors are sealed, they’re not necessarily designed to be cleaned with a steam mop. Some finishes can be destroyed or removed by this kind of cleaning, so please check your manual or call the installer first if you’re not sure.
Why are there so many mixed reviews for steam mops online?
We found that a good many of the negative reviews on our choices came from people who didn’t follow the user manuals, or had unrealistic expectations about what these products could actually do.
Often, complaints were due to people using tap water, or trying to mix soaps into the tank. Other problems were due to running the tank on empty, or treating it roughly, using it like a traditional stick mop.
Other issues mentioned in some reviews are from older incarnations of these models, and have since been recognized and addressed by the manufacturer. We’ve pointed out specific examples of those in our in-depth reviews.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the provided instructions. Beyond that, it seems like a given that you’ll have to treat it with care. They’re not industrial, and are more finicky than a vacuum cleaner or other machine. Take your time, and let the steam do the work for you.
With that said, almost all steam mops are fairly temperamental. They’re a newer technology, and are still improving. Some of them have weak points, like mop cloth clips or poorly designed tank clasps. We’ve avoided those as much as possible, to minimize delicate breakage points. We also tried to find products with at least 1-2 years of warranty coverage.
We put in extra effort to find superior options that have minimal risks of breakage or faulty parts. We chose the models with the least negative reviews. And we put the extra time in to read all the user reviews to see if there are really serious issues with our recommendations. We’re confident that our choices are more reliable and more effective than their competition.
Important Tips for Using Your Steam Mop
- Take your time, and let the steam do the work for you.
If a spot doesn’t come clean, just give it some more steam. Don’t apply too much pressure when you scrub. That puts stress on it, and defeats the purpose of the unit.
- Follow the instructions
It’s really important to use filtered/distilled water. Even if you have great water filtration at home, the slightest mineral content can build up and clog delicate parts in the unit.
Also, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for how to clean each surface. Each one has its own quirks, so it’s worth taking the time to get to know them before you start cleaning. Read more on what not to do with a floor steam mop.
- Be realistic
These can do some pretty deep cleaning, but it’s not an industrial solution for really heavy, accumulated messes. If your floors have a lot more than just surface stains or spots, you might want to look at a heavier-duty canister cleaner. These have attachments for floors, and a lot more power.
- Check your floors
You really do want to be sure that your floors can be steam mopped. Check the warranties, and test a small area of the floor to be extra safe.
- Do the prep work
If there’s loose dirt on your floors when you’re mopping, that clogs up the mop cloth and means you’ll get less cleaning time out of it. Loose dirt and pet hair should be vacuumed first, so you’re just using a mop for the really tough stuff.
The Symphony vacuums and mops at the same time, so you don’t have to clean your floor twice! This combo machine is great for any smooth tile or wood floors. Both features are simple and easy to use. They’re also kept separate by design, so you won’t be vacuuming up moisture, and you won’t be mopping up any dirt. To see our full review of it, along with other combination and hybrid cleaners, click HERE.
Steam mops vs. steam cleaners vs. handhelds
|Steam Canister||Handheld||Steam Mop|
|Cleans Tile Floors||VG||N/A||VG|
|Cleans Wood Floors||F||N/A||VG|
|Cleans kitchen fixtures||VG||F||N/A|
|Cleans car interior||VG||G||N/A|
- VG – Cleans very well
- G – Cleans moderately well
- F -Does a fair job but not great
- P – Cleans, but not ideally suited
- VP – Doesn’t do much
- N/A – isn’t mean to clean
How to choose between our top-rated steam mop recommendations:
Consider your flooring types
Think about your lifestyle and household
Decide on your budget
Read up on our picks:
- Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop System
So, which one is right for you?
1. For cleaning all flooring types on a budget: Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop System
2. For people with pets and/or messy households: Bissell Pet
3. For the ultimate convenience and maneuverability: Shark Blast and Scrub
4. For houses with all kinds of floors: Bissell PowerFresh
5. For houses with mostly wood floors: O-Cedar
Note: The best steam mop so far, considering the quality, price, and popularity, in our opinion, is the O-Cedar.
6. The Best Bargain: Shark Professional Pocket Mop
Best Handheld Steam Cleaner
These are a convenient, portable option for tackling small jobs around the house. You can use handheld cleaners on pretty much everything you’d use a full size cleaner on. They have attachments for grout, windows, counters, grills, and more!
Some higher-end models have padded fabric attachments and upholstery tools, as well as large brush sets. The difference between handheld cleaners and canister systems is mainly a matter of scale. While they won’t work for deep cleaning jobs or whole rooms, handheld cleaners give you most of the same features as a full size system for a fraction of the price! They take less time to set up and take down, and take up far less space in the closet.
Our favorite handheld steam cleaner is the Reliable Pronto:
This high-end handheld steamer comes with heavier duty attachments than other brands, and is built much more sturdily overall. It comes with metal brushes, a stainless steel boiler, and a deluxe fabric attachment. The unit pumps out 48-bar steam pressure–as much as most canister systems!
We’re also super impressed with the warranty coverage from Reliable, who insures everything for 1 year, and covers the boiler for life! While the Pronto is certainly an investment, it’s a really impressive handheld cleaner.
Read our full review, and see our Best Handheld Steam Cleaner Reviews!
Best Canister Steam Cleaner
For tougher jobs, as well as larger projects, a canister cleaner system is your best bet. They can handle most floors, with extra-large attachments. They’ve also got more power and pressure than a mop, so they’re great for deep cleaning tile floors and grout. You can even use a canister system on concrete walks and garage floors!
In addition to the floor heads, canister systems sport larger, heavier-duty versions of the attachments sold with handheld systems. And unlike handheld systems, they really do have the power to clean grills, car parts, hard water deposits, and built-up kitchen grease.
One of our favorite full-size steam cleaners is the McCullough 1275:
This canister cleaner pumps out 48-psi, and has an extra-large tank capable of providing 45 minutes of cleaning time. The trigger has a lock function, so you can have constant steam without holding your finger down the whole time.
The attachment set includes extension wands, a mop head with microfiber cloths, and plenty of brushes and bristles to clean the rest of your house. The McCullough is a powerful solution for windows, floors, appliances, and pretty much everywhere else in your house or car. The best part is the price–it costs about the same as a steam mop, but covers a lot more ground!
Read more and check out the:
Our special guide to canister-style steam cleaners takes you through everything you need to know about these all-purpose cleaning machines. We’ll talk about what they work well for, how they measure up to steam mops, and why we think you should own one. Check it out!
Aside from spot-treatment, steam mops aren’t your best tool for addressing carpet issues. That’s where carpet cleaners come in! We’ve reviewed a few of our favorites in this dedicated guide. It answers all your questions about carpet cleaning machines, and shows you lots of options, from compact household units to heavy-duty machines that are ideal for homes with all-carpeted flooring. You’ll find it all here.
This special guide focuses on all the do’s and don’ts of shopping for a steam mop when you’ve got hardwood floors. We’ll discuss which types of hardwoods can handle steam, and which not to touch. We’ll also talk through the features that make a model better or worse for hardwoods, and talk about what to do when you’ve got a mixture of flooring. So, if you’ve got hardwoods to clean, read on!
Likewise, we’ve put together a guide specifically for tile and laminate flooring! In this guide, we talk about all the features you should look for to clean tiles of all sorts, and deal with grout too! There are lots of exciting options, so check it all out now!
When you need extra power for cleaning floors and a mop won’t cut it, you need a floor steam cleaner. We’ll talk about the differences between steam mops and floor steam cleaners in this guide. We’ve also reviewed a few of our favorites, so you can get a sense of which one would be the best for your home.
Looking for other products that help you keep your home or office clean with minimal work? Check out our review of the best robotic window cleaners on the market today. These great products have come a long way in the last decade or so since becoming mainstream, and one or two can make short work of even the dirtiest windows completely autonomously. We look at five of the best robot window cleaners and cover their pros and cons.