What Is a Steam Mop and How Do They Work?

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what is steam mop

A simple and fairly easy alternative to the traditional mop and bucket is a steam mop

Steam mops are an innovative way to clean your floors in a snap.

However, if you’re not sure how to use one, you will need a little guidance.

Making a mistake when using a steam mop can make dirty floors an even bigger mess or even ruin your floors. 

Remember, not all floors can handle being steam cleaned and not all cleaning solutions are safe for your floors.

What Are Steam Mops?

Steam mops are exactly what you would think they are. Looking very much like a stick vacuum with similar workings of a clothes iron, steam mops are great for cutting through tough spills and stains

These mops work by heating water, kept in a reservoir or water tank, to over 200 degrees. Then, a jet stream of steam is sent down to the mop head, which is covered by a mop pad. 

The steam soaks the pad and easily lifts the dirt and grime off your floor surface and the mop head absorbs it.

This steaming system is much more simple than dragging out a bucket of water and traditional mop

How Do Steam Mops Work?

Steam mops use steam to clean your flooring.

Cheaper mops use one jet stream to dampen the mop pad, while more expensive ones can have up to fifteen jet streams.

All this steam and moisture is what loosens the dirt and grime from your floor.

The intense heat from your steam mop doesn’t just clean dirt from your floor. It kills most bacteria along with dust mites, fleas, and other things that might be found on your floor. 

What are the pads for?

Steam mop pads are what glide across your flooring, leaving it nice and clean. Making sure your pad is clean ensures a streak free floor.

Most mops use a microfiber pad that is dampened by the steam. In turn the mop absorbs the dirt and grime instead of just moving it from one area of the floor to another. 

These mop pads are great for cleaning hardwood or laminate flooring. 

Some mops have two sided heads.

Many steam mops, especially the more pricier ones, come with a two-sided head. One side of this kind of mop head is for the microfiber mop pads described above.

The other side of a two-sided head is more abrasive. This side is used for scrubbing different kinds of tiles and cleaning harder to clear stains. 

How Do You Store a Steam Mop?

how do you store steam mop

Once you are finished with your steam mop, turn it off and unplug it. Let the mop cool before trying to remove the pad from the mop head and removing the water tank. 

Not allowing the mop to cool off can result in painful burns.

Remove the water tank and make sure it is completely empty and mostly dry before placing it back on to your mop. 

Make sure to also remove the wet mop pads too. Leaving water in the tank and wet pads attached can result in mildew and lime forming on or in your mop and cause it to quit working.

Thanks to their slender build, steam mops are easy to store and take up very little room. With no bulky bucket to store with it, a steam mop can be stored in even the smallest closets.


Using a steam mop is a great way to clean your floors. With a smaller size and a water tank attached, a steam mop is a simpler way to rid your floors of dirt and grime. 

Steam mops can be used on a variety of surfaces. However, always evaluate and check your floor to make sure the mop will not ruin your floors or cause any damage. 

Some floors can be traditionally mopped but can’t handle the intense heat from the steam which helps kill germs and bacteria. Others can’t get too wet without weakening adhesives used to bind them or causing them to bend and swell. 

With a variety of attachments and cleaning tools, you can make a steam mop suitable to clean your floors. A steam clean is a great step to add to your regularly scheduled weekly cleaning. They are also good for cleaning up messes in a pinch.

With the ability to clean up muddy footprints, stubborn stains, and everyday grime, steam mops are great for tile, linoleum, and vinyl floors

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Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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