A relatively new product on the market, hard floor cleaners aim to cut down your cleaning time by mopping and sweeping your floors in one hit. We look at how they work, what features they have and whether it's worth investing in one.
A hard floor cleaner looks similar to a stick vacuum, but can be slightly larger and bulkier. This is because the unit features two water tanks: one for dirty water and one for clean. As you move across hard floors, the cleaner expels continuous clean water to clean the floor while simultaneously sucking up dirt and residual water into its dirty water tank. It can essentially replace your mop and bucket, allowing you to vacuum and mop at the same time and clean your home faster.
While they may sound similar, hard floor cleaners are not to be confused with wet and dry vacuum cleaners. A wet and dry vacuum is a more industrial and heavy-duty machine designed to vacuum up both liquids and solids.
Both steam mops and hard floor cleaners are suitable for cleaning hard floors, but they aren't the same. Steam mops use an internal mechanism to create steam which is used to loosen grime before being cleaned up by the attached cloth cleaning head. With a steam mop you'll still need to vacuum your floors first.
Hard floor cleaners, on the other hand, have cleaning heads (cylindrical rollers with a velvety or pile surface or bristles) that vacuum up dirt and dust while washing the floor simultaneously. They can be used with water alone, or with a cleaning solution.
The hard floor cleaners we tested range in price from $398 up to $1649. While you can use a hard floor cleaner with water alone, most manufacturers suggest using their cleaning solutions. Generally models come with either a small sample or full-size bottle of cleaning solution when you buy the product (which can last up to several uses). Bear in mind this will be an ongoing cost if you choose to keep using them.
Unlike steam mops which can help to reduce chemical use in the home by cleaning with just water, manufacturers of hard floor cleaners tend to recommend using them with specific cleaning solutions. However, the cleaning heads are reusable, which is a positive.
Since hard floor cleaners are a relatively new product, we don't yet have longevity data from our brand reliability and satisfaction surveys. If you want to make sure yours lasts, it's worth checking that the manufacturer sells replacement parts like filters and brush rollers if needed.
You'll need to follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to empty, refill and replace the dirty and clean water tanks. We found for some models this can be a tricky, fiddly and messy process.
Some hard floor cleaners have a self-cleaning mode for the brush rollers, but without this, you'll need to remove the brush rollers after cleaning to get rid of any hair and debris that's tangled and allow the rollers to dry before replacing. You may also need to clean the filter if it's dirty, and check the manufacturer's recommendations on how often these should be replaced.
If you have lots of hard flooring around your home, a hard floor cleaner could be a worthwhile investment for regular cleaning. Our testing shows that some are definitely better than others when it comes to cleaning dried stains and mess but unlike using a regular mop, you won't have to wait long for your flooring to be dry with a hard floor cleaner.
Some models even have a carpet cleaning mode which can be useful if you have rugs and other small carpeted areas around your home.
Consider the weight of the hard floor cleaner, as this will give you an indication of its manoeuvrability. The models we tested range in weight from 3.7–9.6kg (when the water tanks are empty).
If you don't have a cordless model, the power cord should be long enough that you have good reach from the power point. Know where your power points are before you shop for a hard floor cleaner. Check the manufacturer's instructions, as some don't recommend using an extension cord with your hard floor cleaner (doing so could potentially void your warranty).
For cordless models, the battery should last long enough for you to get through one session of cleaning. The battery life for the models we tested ranges from 15–165 minutes, with around 30 minutes being common.
Indicators are useful to let you know when the clean water tank is empty and when the dirty water tank is full. They can also let you know if the battery is getting flat and needs recharging.
Water tank capacity
The dirty and clean water tanks should last long enough that you don't need to keep emptying and refilling them during cleaning, particularly if this is a fiddly process. For the models we tested, the dirty water tank volumes range from 240–2660mL and the clean water tank volumes range from 300–3200mL.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.