How do you find the best steam mop? Turns out it's a bit like being a kid, you make a big mess, and then you have to clean it up. Except this time we didn't' have any parents yelling at us.
A steam mop is useless if it doesn't clean floors well, so this is was our most heavily weighted testing metric. We focused most of our testing on tile and stone flooring, as these are both the safest surfaces on which to use a steam mop, and the surfaces that these mops tend to clean the best. We also did some tests on vinyl flooring, but we would not recommend using a steam mop on such a surface. In fact, many vinyl flooring manufacturers count using a steam mop on their floors as grounds for voiding the warranty. So why did we do this test? Because, even though we personally would not use a steam mop on our own vinyl flooring, we know that many people out there will want to do so anyway.
For all the surfaces where we tested cleaning performance we first made a uniform and realistic mess. This involved mixing dirt and water in a paint tray to make mud, sloshing our feet in said mixture, then walking around the floor in a grid pattern. In the clear areas we also painted on evenly spaced splotches of ketchup. On each floor we also kept a few square feet clear where we then poured down some coffee. After all that mess making we let everything dry and set for 2 hours, then got to cleaning. We divided each floor into lanes, using one mop on each, so we could compare their cleaning side-by-side.
Old stubborn, set-in stains where a bit harder to come by. Luckily our neighbors granted us access to their floors, and we were able to find enough old stains to effectively test all of our mops stubborn stain cleaning.
As mentioned above, we spent a lot of time cleaning with all of these mops. Throughout that process we took careful notes on all of the little annoyances we encountered while using them. We focused on how easy it was to fill the water tanks, and how easy it was to change the cleaning pads. We also noted slightly less but still significant points, like whether or not the water tank was clear so you could check in on how much water was left, and how quickly each model was able to get up to steaming temperature.
Our maneuverability testing focused on two things: how smoothly each mop glided along the floor, and how easy it was to get into corners and edges. Mops with smoother glide were much more pleasant to use. Most mops had cleaning pads that were able to easily get into corners and along edges, but some mops weren't able to get as much steam to the edges of the cleaning pad. If a mop could clean an edge in a single pass it earned a perfect score in this test. If the steam was weak at the extremes of the cleaning pad, and thus required multiple passes and some scrubbing to get the edges clean, the mop earned a lower score.
Many people are attracted to steam mops because of the potential accessories that can clean more than just floors. In our features testing we evaluated all of the different accessories each model provides. The highest scorers were able to clean stovetops and even steam clothes, while the lowest scorers were only capable of cleaning floors.