Find out Exactly How to Use a Steam Mop

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Learn how to get the most out of your steam mop with this 5-step guide.

Have you just bought a steam mop and feel a little lost on how to use it? Do you want to know how you can get the best from your new investment? Don’t worry, we’ve been there: it can seem like a foreign object at first.

You may have purchased a steam mop because it’s a convenient, germ-killing tool ­– just what you need for a busy family home.

But if you don’t know how to use it properly, it’s not much good, is it? Once you get the hang of it though, it’s a breeze. We’ve prepared some answers to common questions and a step-by-step guide for getting started.


How Does a Steam Mop Work?

When connected to a power outlet, the water heats up to around 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Some may be a little lower in temperature while others could go higher. The hot water vapor is then emitted from the base onto the mop pad.

The idea is that the steam loosens tough dirt and grime which is then absorbed by the mop pad. It can even remove stains and mold (1).

What Floors Can I Clean With a Steam Mop?

You can scrub a variety of surfaces, including tiles, grouting, linoleum, ceramic, and carpet. The key is that the flooring should be sealed. This may help to avoid excess moisture damaging vulnerable materials.

In particular, it’s recommended to avoid unsealed hardwood. The steam might warp the wood and lead to swelling and discoloration.

If you don’t know whether your flooring is sealed, you can do a water test. Choose a contained area and drop small amounts of water onto it. If the water isn’t absorbed after a few minutes, this may mean that it’s sealed and safe for steam mops.

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Can I Use a Steam Mop on Carpet?

It may be possible to use some multi-function steam mops on the carpet. This is usually down to the inclusion of an accessory called a carpet glider. A carpet glider clips on to the mop head to prevent resistance from the carpet.

However, we recommend referring to the user manual before you use your steam mop on carpet. The last thing you want is to distort the color or appearance. Steam may damage carpets with man-made fibers and Berber carpets might become fuzzy.

How Often Should I Use a Steam Mop?

The answer to this question will depend on how dirty your flooring can get. For example, if you’re an outdoorsy family, you may have muddy shoes bringing in dirt.

On average, we’d say that families use a steam mop around once a week. It may be more if you’re busy and active.

Can I Fill the Water Tank With Cleaning Solution?

Steam mops only require water to function. Topping them up with your own cleaning solution may damage it, as well as your flooring.

Some steam mops have additional accessories, such as scented demineralized steam mop water. But it’s best to read your user manual first to make sure it’s compatible with your model.

Plus, you can take advantage of not using any toxic or harsh chemicals in your home. This may help those with allergies, as well as be safe for children and furry friends.

Can I Use Tap Water for a Steam Mop?

If you live in a region with hard water, it’s recommended that you don’t use tap water. This is because it can contain minerals, such as calcium and magnesium (2).

While tap water may be safe to drink, it might damage your steam mop. There’s a possibility that over time, minerals may block the steam outlets. We’d suggest using distilled or demineralized water to prevent this from happening.

Will Using a Steam Mop Kill Germs?

The answer to this question is “yes.” Fortunately, steam mops can kill bacteria and pathogens due to the high-temperature water vapor.

For example, studies have found that steam can significantly reduce Acinetobacter baumannii, VRE and MRSA (3). It can also be used to sanitize and can be effective at removing Clostridium difficile too (4). Another big one that can be attacked with steam is Salmonella, an important factor for those that do a lot of cooking.

Idle the steam mop for five seconds to kill bacteria

Studies have found that it only takes a steam mop five seconds to get the job done (5). How awesome is that?

How to Use a Steam Mop

The size and style are going to be up to you. But the good news is that all steam mops operate in a similar way. This means the primary steps are going to be, more or less, the same.

1. Remove Any Obstacles and Loose Objects

You may want to get the mopping done quickly. The best way to do this is by moving anything that could become an obstacle out of the way. For example, you can put your dining chairs on the table, and remove loose objects from your stairs.

Steam mops normally have rotating mop heads for working around any furniture. But it may be easier to see what areas need cleaning when you move them from the get-go.

2. Sweep or Vacuum First

First of all, it’s best to sweep or vacuum your floor before bringing out the steam mop. You may think this is counter-productive – aren’t you using more time using two cleaning tools? Well, it’s actually going to be faster and be more effective for cleaning.

It’s better to use the suction power provided by a vacuum for loose dirt and crumbs. The mop pads will get less dirty and the steam mop can concentrate on stains and grime. Dragging large pieces of debris around the house on the mop may cause unnecessary scratches on your floor too.

It doesn’t have to be an intense vacuuming session – just get rid of grit you see lying around. You may be interested in an all-in-one steam mop, offering a vacuum combined with a steam mop. It can be handy if you’ve got limited storage or just want to avoid the hassle of several cleaning accessories.

3. Prep Your Steam Mop

If your steam mop is cordless, make sure it’s charged and ready to go.

Next, attach the mop pads to the base with Velcro or towel clips, depending on your model. Many steam mops come with mop pads included, either reusable or disposable. Still, you may want to purchase extras just in case.

While you’re mopping, it’s beneficial to have several mop pads in your cleaning holster. You want to have them on hand so you can change them if they get too dirty. The last thing you want is to smear grime back onto your clean surfaces.

You’ll also want to fill your water tank. We’d recommend filling it up to the maximum capacity so you can clean for longer.

The last step is connecting your steam mop to the nearest power outlet or simply turning it on if it’s cordless. Let it warm up for around 20 to 30 seconds. There may be an indicator light to show you when it’s ready to use.

4. Start Away From the Doorway

Nobody wants to walk over the floor they’ve just spent time cleaning. To avoid this, start at the corner furthest away from the doorway.

It’s easiest to clean in straight lines to monitor where you’ve already been. Glide the steam mop gently in a back-and-forth motion for the best results.

5. Don’t Leave the Steam Mop on and Unattended

It doesn’t matter whether the delivery man is at the door or the phone rings, avoid leaving your steam mop. If it’s concentrated on one spot of the floor for too long, it may damage it.

If you have to stop mid-session, just remember to turn it off.


Steam It Up

A steam mop may be the best tool for sanitizing your home floors. Its ability to kill germs is just what you want when you’ve got pets and children. Just be sure to avoid cleaning solutions and opt for demineralized water.

Steam mops are easy to use once you know how. There are only a few simple steps to prep your steam mop, including filling up the water tank. Don’t forget to vacuum before you begin, with mop heads at the ready.

For efficient cleaning, start in the far corner and glide in a back-and-forth motion — it’s simple. Let us know how you get on with your new steam mop in the comments below.

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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!
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