How Does a Steam Mop Work?

Steam mops are extremely effective at cleaning because of two main reasons. Firstly, the heat and moisture from the steam vapor loosens stubborn dirt and “washes” surfaces. Secondly, steam is able to kill bacteria because it exceeds 212°F (100°C) which happens to be the temperature at which bacteria dies.

This results in effortless and fast cleaning which far less scrubbing and no need for chemicals or soaps. They also happen to be very well priced making it the better way to clean tile, marble, laminate, and even hardwood floors* (with caution), making them a popular time saving and sanitizing appliance in homes with children or pets.

Remember to check out our best steam mop for tiles and grout review.

The Process

Here’s a summary of what happens inside a steam mop:

Once the power is switched on, the boiler begins to heat the water in the tank, which produces steam (similar to a steam iron). This steam is pushed out through a high pressure pump and directed to the nozzle and ending in the mopping surface covered in a microfiber pad.

High pressure steam then weakens the bond between the cleaning surface and the dirt, grime and bacteria. The steam gets into tiny crevices which you would otherwise not reach. The microfiber pad then wipes loose and absorbs the dirt as well as any remaining moisture.

As the steam is hot and excess moisture is absorbed by the pad, the cleaned surface dries surprisingly fast and is left both cleaned and disinfected.

The Science Behind Steam Cleaning

Steam that is heated to 212°F is enough to kill germs on contact. Most quality steam cleaners exceed this temperature.

Scientific tests were done to test the effect of the steam on common bacteria. Steam was heated to 248°F and the results showed that within 2 seconds of exposure, all organisms tested, including Enterococcus, E Coli, Central Nervous System Bacteria and Staphylococcus were completely eliminated.

The test study extended to steam exposure on common household items like toilets, baths and showers and again, the bacteria was killed, bar a very tiny percentage of stubborn critters.

Useful to know, the grout in the shower had the most remaining bacteria so if you plan to eliminate 100% of germs, give your shower grout an extra steam clean with a grout tool.

A second test study was carried out over 6 weeks in a library used by 15 000 students daily.

Heater steam was used for cleaning bathroom walls, floors and plumbing fixtures. Although the time saving was minimal, when surfaces were tested, there were only a tenth of the germs compared to the traditional cleaning methods which included using chemicals to disinfect surfaces.

Now there’s a strong case study for the use of steam cleaning in your home!

How Does Steam Cleaning Keep You Healthier?

High-Temperature steam is a known antimicrobial heat agent. Its effective bacteria killing powers are what make it widely used not just in homes but in the food industry and even hospitals.

Home steam cleaning units vary in heating temperature and vary between 150° and 300° Fahrenheit, ideal for creating a clean and hygienic environment.

Steam cleaners for home use are especially versatile if they are designed to efficiently handle general floor cleaning, but also have an adjustable nozzle to clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

Steam cleaning tables, countertops and even door handles can help eliminate contagion. If a family member is sick and you want to avoid having the germs make their way through the house, steam cleaning items will kill bacteria and viruses. It can even be used on children’s toys.

Benefits of Steam Cleaning

  • It saves time as the cleaning process is quick and easy
  • Steam cleaning is environmentally friendly
  • Steam cleaning eliminates the risk of keeping harsh detergents around young children
  • It kills harmful germs, bacteria and mold
  • It’s great for allergy sufferers and eliminates allergens like dust mites
  • It helps to remove pet odors from surfaces and can even be used to clean pet beds