How we test steam mops

Steam mops are put through the wringer in our rigorous tests.

Top of the mops

Our steam mop reviews are now among the most popular on our website – who'd have thought! There are countless models on the market, ranging from $500 machines with multiple attachments to basic $50 models. So how do we find out how well they perform, and how easy they are to use?

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Steam mop reviews

Our expert testers

Our expert testers review a wide range of products – from espresso machines and irons to tents, lawn mowers and tyre pressure gauges. 

How we choose what we test

Our market researchers find out what the most popular brands are on the market. They'll survey manufacturers about their latest models, and ask them whether they'll stick around beyond publication time. Sometimes we're lucky enough to be able to buy a steam mop ahead of its general release.

Steam mops come in barrel/canister form as well as the more typical stick type and we define both types as being steam mops (steam mops can sometimes be referred to as steam cleaners or steam systems). Steam cleaners that have suction abilities are not part of this category.

How we test steam mops

Our standard steam mop test includes a cleaning performance test, ease of use assessment and a floor wetness test. If a steam mop includes handheld accessories we'll assess those too, and publish a separate score.

Cleaning performance test

We test our steam mops on a vinyl surface. Why vinyl? There are simply too many hardwood and tile variations on the market, and countless types of finishes. To ensure that results can be compared fairly and consistently each time we run our test, we need to have several years' worth of the same material to test on, so we buy vinyl in bulk.

Our testers spreads some stains in a set pattern across the vinyl floor, including red wine, tomato sauce, a muddy footprint, mustard, coffee and soy sauce. We then let the surface dry overnight and mop up any excess with a damp cloth, which is what many people would normally do at home after a spill.

Our testers then attempts to clean the spillage and rates how well the steam mop performed on a scale from very poor to excellent. This is then converted into a score.

Floor wetness

One problem members frequently report is excessive wetness on the floor after mopping. Steam mops should leave as little water residue as possible to minimise hazards and speed up drying time. After conducting our performance test, our testers assess how much residual water is left on the floor and give each steam mop a rating – the less water, the higher the floor wetness score.

Handheld accessories

Some steam mops come with accessories such as a jet nozzle or nylon brush. Our testers rate the handheld accessories' performance in a home bathroom to see how well they clean up soap scum and grout discolouration. Because not all steam mops are equipped with these tools, these scores are published separately.

A bit about grout

A lot of you have asked us how well steam mops clean grout. For our most recent test, we prepared a tiled surface and stained it with cola and tea. All of the steam mops we tested did a poor job of removing grout stains, and we don't recommend them for this purpose.

If you're really keen on using a steam mop to work on grout stains, we tested handheld accessories separately in a home bathroom (if supplied), and found there may be some improvement with grout discolouration when using attachments such as the nylon brush.

Ease of use assessment

These checks include:

  • Ease of filling the tank
  • Ease of moving the mop head on the floor, and whether or not it gets tiring
  • Ease of using and accessing the controls
  • Ease of attaching mop pad
  • Steam mop reach score (the distance between the power point and the tip of the steam head, which also includes the hose and the wand)

Reliability survey

We've asked steam mop owners how satisfied they are with their purchases, and whether they've run into problems with them in the past year. We've highlighted these results in our report, categorised by brand, to help you find out not only whether a steam mop is likely to last the distance, but how happy it'll make you, too.

We've also run a pilot test on steam mops, to check whether they last at least a small distance (30 runs). All three price categories passed, from the $50 sample up to the $599. If they're going to fail, we found our three samples weren't going to do it in the short term.

Test criteria explained

Performance makes up 50% of our overall score. Ease of use is 30% (out of all the ease of use criteria, the ease of moving the mop head on the floor makes up 50%). Floor wetness makes up the remaining 20%.

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