Up to some years ago, owing a steam vacuum was something you only dreamt of. You would do it only once a year by hiring an external company to do your carpets and charge you incredibly high fees to do so. Thanks to modern technology, though, steam vacuums have become homeowner friendly, comparatively small and affordable. Strip them down, make them thinner, cheaper, and attach a cloth at the end of it, and you have the steam mop. So which one is best for you and what is the difference between them?
Steam vacuums are basically a vacuum cleaner with the additional function of steam. They are bulkier in size than normal vacuum cleaners and therefore heavier. Before purchasing one make sure you can afford it and you have a suitable place to store it. The steam storage is normally larger than that of the steam mop as steam vacuum can be used to clean carpets which need more steam. Rather than wiping the dirt away on a cloth, the steam vacuum will vacuum up the water and dirt simultaneous while throwing steam, leaving behind a surface which is clean and relatively dry.
Advantages—Unlike a steam mop, a steam vacuum can be used on all floors, on deep grout, carpets and upholstery, and there is no need to sweep before using it.
Disadvantages—It is bulkier and more expensive than the steam mop. It is also noisier and more difficult to store and take around the house. Even if it can be used to clean vertical surfaces, such as windows for example, or the inside of a car, it can get a little bit tiring using it after a while.
There are many different types of steam mops but they basically all work under the same principle. The steam, just like the steam vacuum, is generated by heating electrically the water present in their reservoir tank to a temperature over the normal boiling point. At the bottom of the mop is a cloth that can be used more than once by washing. Some of the steam mop bases are one way, and therefore you need to stop and change or wash the cloth once dirty, while others are two way. In the case of two way base, you can turn the base round and continue cleaning using the other side of the cloth without stopping. A trigger normally found in the handle, or a push normally found at the base, will release steam that will melt and help pick up quicker the hard dirt stuck to the flooring without the need of kneeling and rubbing hard on the floor and use any chemicals or detergents.
Advantages—Steam mop saves you all the hassle of dragging a bucket full of water around the house when washing. Using just the mop you will still get the clean floors that you would have achieved using traditional methods only with less fatigue. The steam mop is also environmental friendly as it uses only water compared to traditional mops where you have to add detergents to manage to clean the hard stains. As they are lightweight and very slim, steam mops are also easy to carry around and store anywhere in your house, something which is difficult to do with your steam vacuum.
Disadvantages—You cannot use steam mops everywhere in your house. Carpets, car upholstery, hardwood floors and deep grout, just to name a few, are surfaces where your steam mop is basically useless. Since there is no vacuum action, you still need to sweep or vacuum the floors before using the steam mop to remove the big loose dirt and hair.
Before deciding between purchasing a steam vacuum or a steam mop, always consider the primary purpose to which it will be put, as different cleaners have optimal efficiency on different surfaces. Even if the brand also has a big say in the picture, in reality all steam mops work the same way and brand is not such an important issue. On the other hand, you do need a good brand steam vacuum as it is more expensive and, therefore, preferably it would stay trouble free for as long as possible.