Need to know

A mop and bucket is so old school, right? Enter the steam mop. Hailed as a saviour for busy neat-freaks, there are now dozens of steam mops on the market that promise sparkling floors with less effort.

Basically, you plug it in, and steam pumps out of the cleaning head onto your floors. This loosens grime that the cloth then wipes away.

They are generally good at removing stains and don't use cleaning chemicals, which is a definite plus (although some do use detergents). Also, there's no need for dunking a mop head into a sloppy bucket filled with dirty water.

The idea is also that your floor is left much drier after cleaning (so no yelling at the kids to stay out of the kitchen while the floor dries).

That said, steam mops aren't perfect: they're not suitable for all floor types; they're not great for cleaning up large amounts of spilled liquids; and you do have to sweep or wipe up dirt before steam mopping, otherwise you're just spreading the muck around.

And, as we often find with many appliances we test in our CHOICE labs, there are definitely some products that perform better than others.

We've tested 30 steam mops currently available and given them each a CHOICE Expert Rating. This is based on factors such as how much water is left on the floor after you mop (and therefore how long it will take to dry) and how easy they are to use (how easily the mop head glides across your floor and how easy it is to replace, for instance).

Here we dish the dirt on the four mops that bottomed out in our expert tests.

Linda LSMO585B 10-in-1 Steam Mop

Cost: $50

CHOICE Expert Rating: 53%

Ease of use score: 54%

Floor wetness score: 50%

It's only $50, which may seem like a bargain considering it advertises 10 features in one mop. How many features can a mop possibly have, you ask?

Well, our testers note that there are indeed plenty of accessories included, one of which enables you to use this mop as a garment steamer (fancy!), and it can also be used in handheld mode to clean tiled walls or wash windows. But they also gave it a dismal score of 50%, which means there's a fair bit of water left behind on your floor after mopping.

Our experts also noted that the joints feel flimsy and it takes quite some effort to push and manoeuvre, which isn't great news if you envision a smooth-sliding steam clean. If you're on a budget, we have similarly priced steam mops that perform better in our tests (check out our full expert reviews here).

Bissell Steam Mop Select 23v8-F

Cost: $169

CHOICE Expert Rating: 62%

Ease of use score: 65%

 Steam mops to avoid buying

Floor wetness score: 50%

We review six Bissell steam mops at different price points and all have varying degrees of performance. This is the cheapest Bissell mop we review and it failed to impress our testers with a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 62%.

They had few good things to say about it and gave it a floor wetness score of 50%, which means you're likely to have a few puddles of water left behind after mopping.

Although the triangular shape of the mop head is supposed to make this mop easier to use (as you can get into hard-to-reach places), our testers gave it an average overall ease of use score of 65%.

Vax Steam Fresh Pro Steam Cleaner VX87

Cost: $149

CHOICE Expert Rating: 64%

Ease of use score: 68%

Floor wetness score: 50%

Another one that's going to leave your floor a bit wet after mopping is this Vax model.

It doesn't perform as well as other products from this brand that we've reviewed (plus we review cheaper products that perform better). It uses a combination of steam and detergent, which the manufacturer claims eradicates germs (but see what our experts have to say about these claims).

On a positive note, our testers say that the design of the mop head makes it very easy to attach the pad when you're changing it for washing.

Vax Steam Fresh Pro Steam Cleaner VX87

Cost: $79

CHOICE Expert Rating: 65%

Ease of use score: 69%

Floor wetness score: 50%

Kogan has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to some products. Although we found a couple of their steam mops are fairly good, this one scored the lowest in our testing.

Like the other bottom scorers above, this one leaves quite a bit of residual water on your floor after mopping and received an average ease of use score (69%).

Two of its boasted features are a grout attachment that cleans tiled floors and surfaces and a 'hard grout attachment that cleans tougher grime'. But if cleaning grout is one of your priorities, our experts say a steam cleaner may not be your best choice.

CHOICE expert Matthew Steen says, "We tested how well steam mops cleaned cola and tea stains from grout, and they all did a poor job.

"Steam mop pads aren't designed to get into recessed grout, and steam is, well, just hot water, and that's often not enough to remove in-ground dirt.

"For these jobs a steam cleaner with jet nozzle tools and a brush may help, but they're only useful on small areas."

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