Steamer vs Mop: Which to Choose?

Take a look at whether a steamer or a mop is the best tool to get your floors sparkling clean.

Dirty floors? Choose between a steamer or a mop to get them clean

Mopping the floors of any home is about as enjoyable as a visit to the dentist’s office. Just because it must be done doesn’t mean you enjoy doing it. With the popularity of hard-surface floors on the rise, we’ve all found ourselves booking an all-too-frequent appointment with the dreaded mop and bucket.

Fortunately, with the increased presence of hardwood floors, appliance manufacturers took notice and began releasing products designed as alternatives to traditional mops: electric steam mops. An electric steam mop works by simply heating up the water you’ve filled in its chamber and releasing a steam mist to loosen and remove dirt from floors, without the need for harsh chemicals.

Steamers aim to solve the most common gripes we have with our mops, from the tedious prep work involved, the grueling boot camp-style workout you get from actually mopping, and worst of all, the feeling that you’re just spreading dirty water around the floor.

But are steamers as great as they seem in theory, or just a lot of hype and hot air? Read on as we compare steamer vs mop.

Mop Pros

First, the best part about mops: they’re cheap. Like really really cheap. In fact, you can visit your local Dollar Tree and score a mop for a buck. The dollar store even has two varieties of mops to suit your individual preference- choose between the looped yarn type or the sponge on a stick.

Once you have your mop, you’ll need little else to get going, besides a bucket of hot water and a bottle of Pine Sol— except some elbow grease, of course!

Mops are also the best choice if you need to truly deep clean, as heavily soiled floors will quickly dirty up a steamer’s pad, and you’ll end up just pushing dirt around unless you have several replacement pads already on hand.

Mop Cons

The work that goes into cleaning a floor with a traditional mop and bucket is hard work. You’ll have to fill up a bucket with hot water, mix in detergent, dip the mop into the bucket, wring it out, and while applying lots of pressure, push the mop across the floor.

Once a small section is complete, you’ll have to repeat the above steps of dipping and wringing and mopping until your water is gone. Then it’s back to step one until the job is done. Mopping with a bucket is exhausting work and while some folks do find enjoyment in this, for the rest of us, not so much!

As if all this grueling work isn’t enough, mopping doesn’t completely sanitize the floors or kill all bacteria unless the water stays at a consistent 200 degrees fahrenheit from start to finish. Plus, mopping leaves a slight filmy residue from the detergents used in your bucket, which may be harmful to pets or children.

Steamer Pros

Most steamers are designed to wash your floors so well, they’ll eliminate the need for a mop and bucket cleaning.

Instead of the whole routine of fill up the bucket, wring, mop and repeat, all you’ll need to do with a steamer is put on a clean pad, fill the steamer chamber with water, let it heat up, and go to work.

The best part about a steamer is its ease of use. While a mop requires you to forcefully push it over the floor in order to remove dirt and grime, a steamer glides effortlessly with the same ease as a vacuum cleaner. And without the need to wring out a mop and refill buckets of water, a steamer will get your floor clean and you can get on with your life much quicker.

Steamers are also the safer choice for families with pets and children, as they heat up and retain the necessary temperature to kill bacteria on your floor. They also don’t require chemicals in order to clean, but instead sanitize with the power of steam, which means no filmy detergent will stay coated on your floor like you get with a mop and bucket.

Steamers Cons

Steamers do have their drawbacks. Let’s start with the initial cost: expect to pay between $50-200 for an electric steam mop. Most steamers will come to you with one or two replacement pads, but if you need extras (and you will!) they’ll run about $5 a pad.

Also, steamers aren’t designed to work on certain floor types, such as unsealed or some hardwoods, as the amount of moisture they release can cause damage. If you plan on purchasing a steamer, be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications for approved floor types.

Our takeaway

Whether or not you choose a mop and bucket, or electric steamer will depend on your preferences, lifestyle, and budget. Busy families with kids and pets who don’t want to waste their whole Saturday cleaning a floor that will again be dirty by Sunday night, should opt for an electric steamer. Traditionalists or those without high traffic through their home may prefer to go the typical mop and bucket route.

Whatever you choose, just make sure to check with the product’s manufacturer to ensure safety and compatibility with your flooring type.

Resources— The Spruce, Open Handy Stuff