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How we test steam mops

Our experts put dozens of steam mops through the wringer in our rigorous lab tests.

steam mop on a wooden floor

Did you know our steam mop reviews are now among the most popular on our site? Who'd have thought! There are countless steam mops on the market, ranging from basic $45 models up to top-of-the-line machines for more than $1000. So how do we find out which ones work well in a home setting?

Our expert testers

Our experts have seen all types of household appliances come through the CHOICE labs over the years, and they focus on the basics so that when it's time to buy, you can be sure the steam mop you pick will work well in your home.

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 sometimes we'll be lucky enough to get our hands on 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 floor wetness assessment, along with how easy the steam mop is to use.

Floor wetness

This accounts for 20% of the CHOICE Expert Rating (our overall score).

Our members frequently report excessive wetness on the floor after mopping with a steam mop. Steam mops should leave as little water residue as possible to minimise slip hazards and speed up drying time. This may also reduce damage to the floor over time, which may occur from excessive heat and moisture.

Historically, the amount of wetness left behind was assessed visually, but since 2022 our experts have been devising more accurate ways to measure wetness. Our latest method, developed in 2023, measures the amount of time it takes for our laminate floor to dry after mopping. The shorter the time, the higher the score.

Why do we use laminate flooring? It helps us recreate a realistic use scenario. While some floor manufacturers advise against steam mops, they're still commonly used in Australian homes. 

A bit about grout

A lot of you have asked us how well steam mops clean grout. In the past, our test involved preparing a tiled surface and staining 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 a nylon brush.

Ease of use assessment

This accounts for 80% of the CHOICE Expert Rating. These checks include:

  • ease of filling the water 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 the 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).

What about stain removal?

While we've tested stain removal in the past, we've removed our stain removal test since all the steam mops remove stains fairly well, wth marginal differences, and flooring tends to be sprayed with an anti-stain repellent these days.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.