10 Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Steam Floor Mop

Steam mopping the floor
Diane Macdonald/Getty Images

Steam floor mops, such as the Shark and similar floor cleaners, have put a whole new spin on washing floors, offering both robust cleaning power and convenience. There are no spills rinsing, smells, hand-wringing, or deep bending. But steam floor mops do need a little care, and there are a few things you shouldn't do with one.

  • 01 of 10

    Never Plug in a Steam Mop Before Attaching the Mop Cloth

    An illustration of what not to do with a steam mop

    Illustration: The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

    A steam mop heats up very quickly, and the mop foot gets too hot to handle if you try to attach the cloth while it's heating up. There's also a potential risk of electrical shock while handling a wet mop cloth while the mop is plugged in.

    Take time to fill the water reservoir, unwind the cord, and attach the mop cloth before you plug in the steam mop. Plugging it in should always be the last step. When the reservoir needs filling during the cleaning process, take the time to unplug the mop before refilling.

  • 02 of 10

    Don't Idle a Hot Steam Mop

    You're ready to start cleaning the floor and you've plugged it into an outlet, but then the phone rings or someone's at the door. Or maybe you figure there's time to do something else while you wait for your mop to heat up. Don't do it.

    Heat builds up very quickly (a few seconds with some models) and if left too long, the mop can apply too much steam and heat to a small area and possibly damage the flooring.

  • 03 of 10

    Don't Skip the Vacuuming

    Floors should be vacuumed or swept before they are steam-mopped. If ​you skip this step, any surface dirt, sand, dust, crumbs, and hair will be picked up by the steam mop, hindering its ability to do a good job. It's similar to washing a window with a dirty cloth. Mopping without vacuuming also means you have to change the mop cloth more frequently. 

  • 04 of 10

    Never Put Anything in the Water Tank Except Water

    With the exception of a few models that have dual functions, steam mops are typically designed to be used with water and nothing else. The steam alone does a great job of cleaning the floor. Always read the manual thoroughly for complete use guidelines.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Don't Keep Cleaning With a Dirty Mop Cloth

    When you have a large floor area or more than one room to clean, it can be tempting to just keep mopping and ignore the amount of dirt buildup on the mop cloth. But cleaning with a dirty mop just spreads the dirt around. For this reason, it's a good idea to have one or two spare mop cloths on hand so you can put on a fresh one when needed. Remember to unplug the mop first.

  • 06 of 10

    Never Use a Steam Mop on Hardwood or Laminate Floors

    It's common for steam-mop manufacturers to warn against using steam mops on "unsealed" floors, which is very non-specific. The fact is, there's no such thing as a completely sealed wood or laminate floor. Most hardwood floors are finished with polyurethane (a moisture-resistant finish), but even hairline gaps between boards are not bridged by the finish, thus leaving the wood exposed to moisture and especially steam. ​

    Laminate flooring is made up of prefinished planks, and the seams between the planks are not sealed. The seams can let steam reach the core of the flooring material, which is highly vulnerable to moisture. 

    Also, avoid using a steam mop on any type of flooring that should not have hot water on it, or on adhesive tiles with lifting corners. 

  • 07 of 10

    Don't Clean Walls With a Steam Mop

    While using a steam mop to wash walls doesn't sound like a bad idea, hot steam could cause paint to bubble, peel, or lift. If so, it's also likely to damage the drywall or other material under the paint.

  • 08 of 10

    Never Store the Steam Mop With a Dirty or Wet Cloth

    Leaving a wet mop cloth on when storing your mop could result in mildew as well as ruining the cloth head. Remove the cloth after the mop has cooled. It's fine to add a clean cloth if you want the mop to be ready to roll the next time you need it. Laundering the dirty cloth immediately will help to remove stains before they set in.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Don't Wash Mop Cloths With a Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheet

    Most steam mop pads can be cleaned in the washer with like-color items, but they should be air-dried. Many are microfiber, and with this type of material, you shouldn't use fabric softener or a dryer sheet. 

  • 10 of 10

    Don't Clean Cold Bathroom Fixtures

    Cold porcelain toilets and other fixtures can crack if subjected to a burst of hot steam. Keep the mop on the floor and away from direct contact with the fixture.