How Do Steam Mops Work

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A steam mop is a better alternative to a traditional mop in terms of ease of use and cleaning efficiency.

Before investing in a steam mop for your house, it’s important to understand how it works. There are certain scenarios where its better to use a regular mop so you don’t damage your floors. Once you understand how steam mops work, it will be easy to determine when to use one.

How Do Steam Mops Work

Steam mops look pretty similar to stick vacuums and they use hot steam to clean floors. They come with a built-in reservoir where you need to add water before starting the mopping process.


When you plug the device into a wall outlet and turn it on, its water boiler starts its function. It converts water into steam at high temperature and pressure, the same principle as a pressure cooker.

After that, the machine transfers the steam to the mop pad attached to the mop head and it starts loosening up grime and dirt on the floor. It allows the mop pad to easily absorb the dissolved dirt particles and clean the floor effectively.

Why Use a Steam Mop

As compared to standard mops, steam mops aren’t only more effective but they’re also easier to use.

One of the best features of this machine is that it uses water and you don’t need to buy expensive cleaning agents with abrasive chemicals. This feature makes steam mops a great option for a home with pets and kids.

Additionally, the temperature of the steam can reach up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to kill bacteria, mites, and other harmful germs.

This also allows steam mops to be effective on tough surfaces, like epoxy garage floors or concrete basements.

The pads of steam mops are mostly made of microfiber cloth and they can clean different types of floorings. Many modern steam mops also come with different types of accessories, such as disinfecting fabrics, and vacuums to make the cleaning process even easier.

You can also buy steam mops that come with two-sided heads. It allows you to clean larger areas without needing to clean or change the mop pads. You’ll only need to change its side and continue the cleaning process without worrying about spreading dirt and debris around.

What Floors Can be Steam Mopped

Sealed floors made of moisture-resistant materials can be steam mopped. You should avoid cleaning unsealed floors with a steam mop because they have small gaps and crevices.

The steam can get into these gaps and cause irreparable damage, such as warping, joint line separation, and swelling. The following list of flooring types will help you determine whether you can use a steam mop in your house or not.

Porcelain and Ceramic Tile

Porcelain and ceramic tiles are solid and durable and they’re not easily damaged. They’re baked in a kiln at a very high temperature that a steam mop can never reach. So, you can use a steam mop to clean tile floors.


If your floor is made of grouting, you can clean it using a steam mop. However, you need to make sure that it’s sealed properly. You don’t want the moisture to get stuck into the grouting’s pores as it can lead to damage in the long run.

The easiest way to determine whether your grouting is sealed or not is to perform a water test. Just place several drops of water on an inconspicuous spot and wait for several minutes.

After that, use a dry cloth to wipe down the water. If you don’t see any real discoloration of the grouting, it’s safe for steam mopping and vice versa.


You can steam mop your linoleum floors if they’re properly sealed. Linoleum is made of a mixture of different materials, such as powdered cork, ground limestone, and wood floor, and it’s porous in an unsealed form. It means steam can damage it if it’s not sealed.

However, make sure you’re using the best mop for linoleum flooring. Steam is really helpful.


You should never steam mop laminate floors. They’re made of a wood base layer featuring a stylish wood pattern. The decorative wood layer has a protective plastic coating that only covers the upper layer.

The seam between planks on laminate flooring is tight and it keeps liquids from entering. However, steam particles are extremely fine and they can make their way to the unprotected wood base layer.

It can lead to warping and irreparable damage. That’s why most manufacturers void the warranty of their laminate flooring if it is steam mopped.


Wood is a porous material and you would already know that water and heat can damage it easily. A steam mop uses both water and heat to clean surfaces and can cause the hardwood to warp and deteriorate quickly. Therefore, you should never use it on hardwood floors.

Some manufacturers offer specialized steam mops and claim that they can be used on laminate floors and hardwood. However, they aren’t completely risk-free as they can damage your flooring over time. 

If you want to use these steam mops on laminate or hardwood flooring, make sure that you select a low-pressure setting to minimize the risk of damage.

Can You Use a Steam Mop on Carpets?

Yes, you can use a steam mop to clean most carpets and rugs. There are steam mops available in the market that come with a vacuum function. It helps loosen and collect the dirt easily instead of steaming it deeper into the carpet.

If your steam mop doesn’t have this function, consider vacuuming it before cleaning it with a steam mop for the same results.

Additionally, some products also offer a carpet glider accessory that you can add to the mop’s head. It allows you to prevent resistance from the rug or carpet and move the mop easily.

Important Note: Steam can damage the color of carpets made of artificial fibers. Make sure that your carpet or rug can withstand steam because you don’t want to end up with a distorted appearance or color.

Benefits of Steam Mopping

Here’s a list of benefits that steam mopping offers.

  • Eco-friendly and safer alternative to traditional mopping
  • Sterilizes your floors by killing molds, bacteria, allergens, and other harmful germs
  • Eliminates pet odors that resulted from urine discharge and spills
  • Saves money in the long run as you don’t need to buy expensive floor cleaners
  • Can clean a range of different types of floors

Final Words

Steam mops make the cleaning process quick and easy. Not only are they effective but they’re also environmentally friendly as they don’t use any abrasive chemicals. We hope this guide will help you understand how a steam mop works and whether it’s the right cleaning device for you or not.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.