10 Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Steam Floor Mop

closeup of a steam mop

The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

Steam floor mops, such as the Shark mop and similar floor cleaners, have put a whole new spin on washing floors, offering both robust cleaning power and convenience. However, it's easy to make some mistakes that make the steam mop work less efficiently or can be dangerous for the user. Do your best to avoid making these mistakes.

An illustration of what not to do with a steam mop
The Spruce / Ellen Lindner
  • 01 of 10

    Plugging in the Mop First

    plugging in the steam mop

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    Once plugged in, a steam mop heats up quickly. Therefore, the mop foot can get 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.

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

  • 02 of 10

    Idling a Hot Steam Mop

    plugged-in steam mop

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    Sometimes you get distracted while you're waiting for the mop to heat up. For example, 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. If that happens, unplug the mop and return to it later.

    Heat builds up very quickly—a few seconds with some models. If the steam mop is left in one spot for too long, it apply too much steam and heat to a small area and possibly damage the flooring.

  • 03 of 10

    Skipping the Vacuum

    vacuuming before mopping

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa 

    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

    Putting Anything Other Than Water in the Reservoir

    pouring water into the resevoir

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    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

    Cleaning With a Dirty Cloth

    dirty steam mop cloth

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    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. However, 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. When changing the mop cloth, remember to unplug the mop first.

  • 06 of 10

    Using a Steam Mop on Hardwood or Laminate Floors

    laminate floor

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa 

    It's common for steam-mop manufacturers to warn against using steam mops on "unsealed" floors, a vague direction. 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; however, 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

    Cleaning Walls With a Steam Mop

    closeup of a wall

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    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 that happens, it's also likely to damage the drywall or other material under the paint.

  • 08 of 10

    Cleaning Too Close to Cold Bathroom Fixtures

    steam mopping near a toilet

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    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.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Storing the Steam Mop With a Dirty or Wet Cloth

    removing the used cloth from a steam mop

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa 

    Leaving a wet mop cloth on when storing your mop could result in mildew, as well as ruin the cloth head. Therefore, you should always 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.

  • 10 of 10

    Washing Mop Cloths With a Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheet

    dryer sheets and laundry pods

    The Spruce / Jorge Gamboa

    Most steam mop pads can be cleaned in the washer with like-color items, but they should be air-dried. Many mop pads are microfiber, which can be damaged if it's washed with fabric softener or a dryer sheet.