How to Clean Your Steam Mop Effectively

Rid your steam mop of bacteria and dirt before you begin cleaning.

We’ve got a question for you: Do you clean your steam mop? Don’t think it’s necessary to do this since steam mops kill bacteria anyway? We hate to break it to you, but regular maintenance is involved when you own a steam mop.

Just like everything else in the home, a steam mop has to be cleaned regularly. It’s recommended that you do so after every use. This will keep your floors immaculate and extend the life of your steam mop.

But don’t worry, cleaning your steam mop isn’t going to take all day. There are just a few simple steps to follow.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a Shark or an unknown or unbranded steam mop — it’s the same. Let’s see how you can take care of your steam mop.

How to Clean a Steam Mop

We’ve condensed all the information you need to know about how to clean a steam mop. There are six easy steps — you can use this as your cleaning guide.

1. Unplug Your Steam Mop

The first thing you want to do before you clean your steam mop is to unplug it from the power outlet. The last thing we want is an accident. This is especially necessary if you’ve got a model that automatically releases steam when it’s plugged in.

Don’t forget that steam is water that’s heated up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, so it may scald your skin (1).

If you’ve been scrubbing with your steam mop, you might also want to give it time to cool down. Around 15 minutes should be enough, then you can start cleaning.

2. Empty the Water Tank

If you’ve not used up all the water in the tank, it may be tempting to leave it in there. You’ll be using your steam mop soon anyway, right?

Wrong. This is not a good idea. Water that is left sitting may damage your machine. It could lead to corrosion and shorten its lifespan.

There is also a risk of mold developing inside the water tank. Mold can grow in warm and damp areas, creating spores that can spread (2). There may even be a bad smell after a while.

So, the best thing to do is empty the water tank every time you use your steam mop. Yes, even if there’s only a little left inside.

3. Clean the Water Tank

Some steam mops allow you to detach the water tank, which can make this step a lot easier. Take a cloth and clean around the inside of the tank. The mop may gather some dirt and grime from there.

There might be some scaling on your steam mop, depending on the water that’s used inside the tank (3). This can look like a white haze on the plastic. A good way to get rid of limescale is to use vinegar.

Vinegar has natural antimicrobial properties that can clean the water tank and it means you can avoid buying cleaning solutions (4). Be sure to dilute with plenty of water since it contains acid. We’d say around two parts water to one part vinegar, though some may say you could dilute it even more.

With a cloth, make sure that the water tank is completely dry before attaching it to the machine. You don’t need to fill it up with water — simply do this when you next use your steam mop.

Take Note

Avoid using cleaning solutions in the water tank. While we said to use vinegar in the water tank, this is only for descaling — not cleaning your floors.

Steam has the natural ability to kill a range of pathogens. These include E. coli, VRE, MRSA, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Clostridium difficile and Aspergillus niger (5).

You can ensure your floor is safe for young children this way. Using cleaning solutions in the water tank may also damage your steam mop.

4. Clean the Nozzles

You may have to clean the nozzles on your steam mop periodically. This is particularly true if you’ve used hard water in your water tank. There are limestone and minerals present in hard water from the faucet, and over time, these can block the nozzles.

A good way to avoid mineral residue is to use distilled or demineralized water in the tank. Steam will be able to flow freely from your steam mop. It may extend the life of your machine.

If your steam mop suddenly stops emitting steam, this may be because the nozzles are clogged. But you may not have to rush out and buy another one. All you’ve got to do is un-attach the mop head base and access the nozzles.

You might need a screwdriver to get the base plate off. This is common on Bissell steam mops, as the nozzle is located in the base.

If there is build-up, you may be able to see it around the nozzle. A cotton pad might be enough to unblock it and to resume cleaning. But if the residue is inside the nozzle, you might need a thin pin to clear it.

Some steam mop brands supply you with a device to help you with this step. For example, Shark steam mops come with a nozzle cleaner. You use this to unblock the nozzle by pushing it forward and backward.

If you don’t get a tool with your steam mop, you can simply use a paperclip. Then you re-attach the mop head and it’s all clean and ready to use again.

5. Change or Wash the Mop Pads

It’s recommended that you wash your mop pad after every use. This can stop contaminants from building up and bacteria growth. Of course, if you use disposable pads, you simply throw it away and attach another to your mop head.

If your mop pads are made from microfiber or cotton, they’re normally reusable. You can wash them by hand or in the washing machine.

To wash by hand, use a mild liquid detergent or baking soda — no more than a teaspoon. Mix it into a bucket of hot water. Let the mop pad soak in the water for around 25 minutes, then you can rinse it with clean water.

Try to avoid using any bleach or fabric softeners. This may damage materials such as microfiber.

Microorganisms are destroyed with hot water at a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes (6). So, choose a washing machine setting that’s going to follow this.

You may be able to dry mop pads on a low setting in the tumble dryer. But if you’re unsure, it may be best to air dry them.

This helps to prevent moisture lingering on the material and growing mold in storage. It can also stop unwanted odors from appearing. Leave the mop pad out flat to dry then you can re-attach it to the mop head.

Most manufacturers will provide the proper cleaning requirements with their products, so it’s best to check before your mission.

6. Wipe Over the Steam Mop

The last step is to simply wipe over the exterior of the steam mop. This includes anywhere you can spot moisture, to avoid mold growth. In particular, check the base where the mop pad has been.

You can do this simply with a dry cloth. Give it a once-over and it’ll be ready to store in your laundry room.

Let’s Mop It Up

If you want your flooring spic and span, you may want to start with a fresh and clean steam mop. It’s going to save you time if you wash your steam mop after every use.

Always be sure to unplug it before cleaning, and start with the water tank. Emptying it and scrubbing shouldn’t take long if you get into the habit of doing it every time.

You may only have to clean the nozzles periodically, or if you think the steam isn’t emitting strongly enough. Remember to throw the mop pad in the trash or the washing machine while you wipe the exterior.

Do you have any questions or tips you’d like to share about how to clean a steam mop? We’d love to hear from you — leave us a comment down below.

Headshot of Amy Anthony

About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy is a stay-at-home-mom, seasoned writer, and a home cleaning and organization aficionado. Amy enjoys having an absolutely spotless home and has worked hard to develop strategies to keep it that way, despite having 2 kids and 3 dogs!