Top 5 Common Steam Mop Mistakes


If you like to keep your house spic and span, you likely have a few cleaning appliances in your cleaning closet: a vacuum, a mop, a broom, and perhaps even a robot vacuum. But do you have a steam mop? If not, we highly recommend investing in one. If you can avoid the common steam mop mistakes, this handy tool will make cleaning so much easier. 

What Is a Steam Mop?

best steam mops

Steams mops are excellent for cleaning. The device is half steamer, half mop, and it can clean and disinfect without the need for chemicals. If you have young children and pets or would prefer keeping your home chemical-free, we highly recommend a steam mop.

If you’re using a steam mop, you don’t need the traditional bucket of soapy water – thus, steam mops are cleaner, faster, and easier to use than traditional mops. Plus, steam mops leave your floors in a more sanitary condition.

How Do Steam Mops Work?

Steam mops have cleaning pads at one end and a water-filled reservoir at the other. The water heats up to approximately 250 degrees Fahrenheit or more (200 degrees Fahrenheit is the necessary temperature to kill bacteria) and then moves to the end of the mop. As you mop, the steam helps loosen dirt and grime for quicker clean. The steam also works to kill bacteria. 

Some steam mops allow you to control the amount of steam released while others do not. If you often have sticky floors or stains, you may want to invest in a steam mop that allows you to give a push of extra steam when the need calls for it. If you tend to have tidy floors and want a steam mop for regular cleaning, you may not need this. It’s up to you.

Using a steam mop is easy, but there are a few common mistakes people can make if they’ve never used one before.

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Here are 10 of the most common steam mop mistakes.

10. Never Plug the Steam Mop in Before Attaching the Mop Pad

BISSELL PowerFresh


Most steam mops heat up within 45 seconds. Some can even heat up in less than 20 seconds.

What happens when they heat up? They begin producing steam. And that steam is hot. So, if you plug your steam mop in before attaching the mop pads, it will probably produce steam before you’ve fully affixed the pads. If you connect the pad after that point, you could burn your hands or have to delay your cleaning time.

The next time you want to steam clean your floors, affix the mop pads first and then plug in your steam mop. Otherwise, you may be sorry.

9. Don’t Let the Mop Idle After It Starts Steaming

Steam mop

Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock

You should never let your steam mop idle. As we mentioned, the steam mop will begin producing steam within 45 seconds of being plugged in.

So, what happens if you plug it in and then the phone rings? Either ignore the call or unplug it. Do not let the steam mop stand idly by itself.

If you allow a steam mop to remain plugged in while you multi-task, steam will start to flow, build up heat, and cause potential damage to your floors, carpets, or whatever area you are steam cleaning. The steam builds up quickly and is hot, so the steam could ruin things if you leave it in one spot for too long.

8. Never Steam a Dirty Surface

Carpet covered with confetti

The Creative Exchange / Unsplash

You may be wondering why you can’t use a steam mop on a dirty floor. After all, it is a cleaning tool. But a steam mop is not a vacuum. It is not designed to suck up dirt and debris.

Steam mops are designed to clean grime off of floors and sanitize them in the process. To operate as efficiently as possible, they need a vacuumed or swept surface. If not, they may become clogged with dirt, crumbs, pet hair, and whatever else was on your floor.

Can you imagine if you tried to mop a sandy floor? You’d rub sand into the surface. You might inflict potential damage to your floors and your steam mop.

The next time you want to steam mop, do a quick vacuum job or sweep up in advance.

7. Don’t Put Anything Except Water in the Tank

woman attaching water tank


Essential oils may be all the rage these days, but they should never be inside your steam mop’s reservoir. Neither should bleach, Lysol, or any other chemicals.

In general, steam mops steam water. Nothing else. While there are some exceptions, the company will make those exceptions clear.

The steam alone is capable of disinfecting your surfaces and removing bacteria, so there isn’t a need for chemicals or other additions. If you add anything besides water to your steam mop’s tank, you risk ruining your mop and void the warranty. Most steam mops have a one-year or two-year warranty, and the warranty states explicitly that it will be void if you use anything but water in the mop.

If you want to add scents to your steam mopping routine, check out the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop (our Editors’ Choice For Best Steam Mop). It allows you to add fragrance disks to the mop pad, so you can get a clean scent while you steam. Bissell also makes a variety of scented waters including Spring Breeze 1394, Eucalyptus Mint 1392, and Citrus 1393 if you prefer to insert the scent directly into your water filter.

6. Never Use Dirty Mop Pads

dirty steam mop / Flickr

This should seem like a pretty obvious tip, but we felt compelled to note it anyway: never steam clean with a dirty mop. Doing so would be like cleaning your windows with a dirty, grimy rag. You wouldn’t be cleaning your windows as much as you’d be smearing dirt all over them.

When cleaning your home, check your mop pads after each room. If the mop pad is dirty, replace it with a fresh one before starting on the next room. We recommend investing in 3-5 reusable mop pads depending on the size of your home.

Most importantly, make sure to unplug your steam mop before removing the dirty mop pad and attaching a clean one.

5. Don’t Store the Dirty Mop Pad on the Mop

Steam mop against a wall

Yourbestdigs / Flickr

Again, this one should be obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people get lazy and put the mop away dirty.

Once you are finished using your steam mop, remove the dirty pads after you have unplugged the mop and let it cool. Wash the pads immediately before the stains have time to set.

If you put a steam mop away with dirty pads, the mop may get mildew. Mildew could ruin the mop. If you want to add a clean cloth to the mop head, this is fine, but make sure it’s dry.

4. Don’t Wash the Mop Pads Incorrectly

Washing machine

Stevepb / Pixabay

We’ve already told you not to add essential oils to your water tank, and now we’ll let you know not to use fabric softener when washing your mop pads or dryer sheets when drying them.

It’s fine to wash the mop pads with similar colored items on a regular washing cycle, but we recommend either drying them on low (without dryer pads) or hanging them to air dry.

Most steam mop pads are microfiber, which can be destroyed if cleaned with fabric softener or run through dryers with dryer sheets.

3. Don’t Forget to Test the Area in Advance

Shark steam mop


If you’re using a new beauty product, you test it before putting it on your face. Steam mops should be operated under the same principle.

If you’re using a steam mop for the first time, test small areas before running the mop through the middle of the room. Steam is hot, and if you steam clean a multi-colored carpet, the colors might run. The steam can also ruin certain types of flooring such as waxed wood and unsealed porous surfaces including limestone and marble.

2. Don’t Forget to Clean Your Steam Mop

how to clean a steamp mop


If you want your steam mop to last, take good care of it.

Thankfully, steam mops are relatively simple to clean and maintain. Make sure to clean the mop pads, reservoir, and exterior of the mop (as well as any attachments) after each use.

Doing so is pretty simple:

  • Steam mop pads: The majority of steam mops feature removable pads. Once you finish cleaning and the mop is unplugged and cool, remove the pads. Then, throw them in the washing machine with like colors. Some steam mop pads can go in the dryer, others cannot. Research yours to find out. If in doubt, air dry them.
  • Water reservoir: After you have used your steam mop, make sure the water reservoir is void of water or moisture so that it won’t develop mildew in storage. To do so, wait for the steam mop to cool down and then use a clean, dry cloth to wipe it down. Only reassemble and put away once it has dried.
  • Exterior of steam mop: To clean the outside of your steam mop, wipe it down with a clean, dry cloth. That’s it! 

1. Don’t Run Out of Water

Bissell steam mop


Different steam mops come with different sized water reservoirs. One of our favorites – the Shark Steam Pocket Mop – has an extra large water reservoir that can hold 450 ml of water, which means you can likely clean your entire home without having to fill the water reservoir. Others hold substantially less.

If you purchase a steam mop with a small water reservoir, keep an eye on the water level. If it runs out, refill it. Otherwise, you may be mopping your floors with the mop pad, but they won’t get clean without the steam.

In the market for a new steam mop? Make sure you check out our favorite steam mops to buy 2019.

top 5 common steam mop mistakes