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Where Does The Dirt Go When You Steam Clean? | Steam Cleaning 101

Steam mops and steam floor cleaners are popular cleaning aids in many homes, helping users keep their floors cleaner by combining the power of hot steam with steam mop pads and/or vacuum suction.

Thanks to hot steam, steam mops and steam floor cleaners not only clean floors but also disinfect and remove sticky and stubborn stains, leaving some users wondering where does all the dirt go during the steam cleaning?

Published: February 28, 2023.

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How Does A Steam Mop Remove Dirt?

Steam mops feature onboard tank for tap, demineralized, or distilled water, water heater, and microfiber pad.

When the steam mop is turned On, the water heater (usually in the 1000-1500W range) vaporizes the water into the steam mop, which exits the steam mop at the bottom, where the steam mop microfiber pad is attached.

During cleaning, the steam mop is manually pushed/pulled by the user - as the steam mop travels over the floors, it cleans by the combined power of hot steam and steam mop pad.

Any dirt found on the floor is trapped within the microfiber pad fibers and lifted off the floor. After cleaning, the microfiber pad is simply machine washed and, after drying, reused again.

High-quality steam mop pads can be reused up to 25-30 times, sometimes even more.

Types Of Steam Mops

Steam mops differ in design and actual cleaning method, and they include:

Ordinary Steam Mops

Ordinary steam mops clean floors by combining hot steam and microfiber mop pad, while the user provides the cleaning motion by pulling and pushing the steam mop.

These are the simplest types of steam mops - they are very affordable but may last a long time. Also, these are the most popular ones.

Steam Mops With Vibration Mechanism

To improve the cleaning, some steam mops feature a vibrating mechanism built into the steam mop cleaning head holding the steam mop pad.

As the steam mop pad vibrates, it cleans the surfaces more thoroughly than an ordinary steam mop, requiring less passes by the user and saving time and effort.

Steam Mops With Rotating Mop Pads

Steam mops with rotating mop pads clean floors by combining hot steam and a pair of rotating mop microfiber pads, requiring very little effort from the user.

Even better, some models feature angled mop pads, providing a small forward pulling force - all the user has to do is hold the mop in a vertical position, and the mop will practically do the rest.

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One such model is a very popular Shark S7001 Steam Mop (Amazon link, opens in the new window), featuring two rotating pads (~150 RPM), 3 steam modes, 2 types of steam mop pads, LED headlights, etc., and is intended for regular cleaning and sanitizing.

Steam Mops Vacuum Combos

Before cleaning with steam mops, it is highly recommended to vacuum first heavily soiled areas - this prevents potential damage to floors caused by dirt and ensures that the steam mop microfiber pad doesn't have to be replaced during the cleaning task.

To save time and effort, some brands offer steam mop vacuum combos that at the same time clean floors by combining vacuum suction, hot steam, and microfiber mop pads.

bissell 2747a

One such steam mop vacuum combo is the Bissell 2747A PowerFresh All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop (Amazon link, opens in the new window), which can be used as a vacuum, as a steam mop, or as both vacuum and steam mop at the same time.

Bissell 2747A steam mop vacuum combo features two types of mop pads, two levels of steam mop, a strong vacuum cleaner with cyclonic action, detachable mop tray, it can be used with the Bissell Scented Demineralized Water or with Spring Breeze Scented Discs, etc.

Bissell 2747A is one of the most popular models in its class.

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Cordless Steam Mops

Pure cordless steam mops don't exist, at least not yet. The reason is the amount of energy required by steam mop heaters which heat up water and produce hot steam.

However, some manufacturers offer corded steam mops with detachable power cords - as long as they are connected to the wall power outlet, they operate as classic steam mops. However, without the power cord, they can be used only as hard floor mops, using the onboard batteries to power the water pumps and mop pads.

Although such units can save some storage area, most of the users prefer classic steam mops and hard floor mops.

For more about this topic, feel free to check our Best Cordless Mops: Cordless vs. Corded Mops article.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are some of the most common Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about steam mops.

Does steam cleaning really clean?

Yes, hot steam, sometimes also called dry steam, cleans thoroughly, especially when combined with washable microfiber mop pads.

What should you not steam clean?

Steam mops should not be used to clean sensitive and porous surfaces, including sensitive wooden floors, unsealed floors, unglazed tiles, etc.

Also, freshly waxed wooden floors should not be steam cleaned because steam can change the wax color and its shine.

Does steaming carpet remove dirt?

Yes, but only surface dirt. Steam mops cannot penetrate deeply into the carpet and remove deeply embedded dirt. To steam clean the carpet, steam mops need Steam Mop Carpet Gliders.

Do steam cleaners leave water behind?

Most steam mops use hot/dry steam and leave practically dry floors behind.

If a thin layer of moisture is created, it dries very quickly.

Where does the dirt go when you steam clean?

Classic steam mops collect the dirt in their steam mop pads, while steam mop/vacuum combos store the dirt in the onboard dirt bin and within the fibers of their mop pads.

What are the disadvantages of steam cleaning?

Steam cleaning can damage sensitive and unsealed surfaces. Also, steam mops depend on the mains power and don't have the freedom as cordless vacuums do.

Does a steam mop disinfect cleaned surfaces?

Yes, steam mops can disinfect cleaned surfaces by killing up to 99.9% of bacteria found there. If the surface tolerates this type of cleaning well (granite floors, glazed tiles floors, etc.), this percentage may even be improved by holding the steam mop in a single position for a longer time, or by slowly pushing the steam mop.

Does a steam mop remove stains?

Yes, steam mops can remove various stains - hot steam makes the stains softer and easier to remove, while microfiber mop pads remove the stains from the floor.

Can You use tap water in steam mops?

While tap water can be used in steam mops, it is highly recommended to use distilled or at least demineralized water, which leaves no residue on the water heater or other internal parts. Also, such water can leave residue marks and streaks on the floor.

In areas where tap water is very hard, the use of demineralized or distilled water is highly recommended.

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