October 31, 2014

Is Steam the Thing? – Steam Mops

Keeping the house clean – or at least clean enough – is a challenge we all face daily. Sometimes adding a new tool to the arsenal against dirt can give us new energy to face the task. This is the first in a series reviewing steam use in appliances.

Looking at tests conducted by Consumer Reports which added the Steam Mop category in 2010, the results are not stunning. A dozen items that often fall to the floor—including ketchup, mustard, olive oil, syrup and baby cereal—were allowed to harden on vinyl floor tiles before testers tackled them with steam mops.

Consumer Reports called the H2O Mop ($100) and Eureka Enviro Steamer 313A ($70) “good” and the others “mediocre.” The nonprofit, independent testing agency identified a recurring flaw: When there’s a large amount of soil, more gets pushed out of the way than picked up by the pad. It also cautions that steam and water could damage wood floors and might void the warranty.

“A $15 squeeze mop proved comparable, if not better, at floor cleaning,” the magazine says.

Steam-mop manufacturers have recently addressed concerns through vacuum/steam mop combos that eliminate the need for a mop, bucket, broom and dustpan. As far as potential floor damage, the mops’ moisture levels can be adjusted for different types of floors.

“With floors that are a little more delicate, for example … you can put it on the steam-dusting setting,” says Dann Provolo, vice president of marketing for Euro-Pro, maker of Shark steam-cleaning products, which introduced its next generation of Steam-Pocket Mop. “Regardless, a traditional mop with water can leave standing water on a floor, which could damage it. Steam quickly dries.”

Portable steam systems with wedge- and cylinder-shaped pads can be used to clean countertops, tile grout, mirrors, windows and upholstery. Steam kills staph, E. coli, mold, mildew and dust mites. A steam unit also can kill bedbugs, with a caveat.

“A steam cleaner should be a tool within a variety of methodologies,” Provolo says. “It shouldn’t be the entire solution.”