Hard Floor Cleaners Buying Guide
Odds are you have hard-surface flooring in your home, whether it's hardwood, linoleum, vinyl, laminate, or tile. The right hard floor cleaner can help you keep your floors looking greatwith minimal effort on your part. Use this buying guide to find the best hard floor cleaner for your home's floors.
Types of Hard Floor Cleaners
Several types of hard floor cleaners are available, and each offers specific advantages and disadvantages. Some can be used for multiple types of hard flooring, while others can only be used on sealed, heat-tolerant floors. So be sure to choose the type of cleaning tool that will work best with your home's flooring materials. Here are the most common types of hard floor cleaners you can consider for your home.
Lightweight and easy to maneuver, stick vacuums are favored for use on various hard floor surfaces and are ideal for sweeping those hard-to-reach areas and staircases. Some models detach from the stick handle and convert into a handheld vacuum. Canister vacuums can be used on hard floors as well as carpet. Many are compact and lightweight, feature a low-profile head that makes sweeping under furniture easy, and come with accessories for cleaning multiple types of surfaces.
Dust mops attract and collect dirt on their surface; they're ideal for hardwood floors and other surfaces that are easily scratched. These mops usually feature a base or frame with a cover made from cotton (which can be treated with a cleaning solution to increase its efficiency) or microfiber (which generally does a better job of attracting and retaining dirt and can be washed and reused several times).
This type of mop is used with water to clean up spills. String wet mops are usually cotton or cotton blends and feature cut ends (generally less expensive and great for spills) or looped ends (which have a bigger surface area so they can cover more area with each swipe). A sponge mop may be more convenient if you have a small space to clean, because they don't require a separate wringer (most feature a lever and rollers or a metal plate that squeezes water out of the mop).
Unlike conventional mops that leave floors sopping wet, a steam mop leaves floors clean, dry, and safe. Some models have a trigger that releases hot steam on demand; others produce a steady, continual supply of steam; and yet others offer both. Some steam mops feature cloth pads that can be laundered after each use, while other models have disposable pads, which are convenient but require you to purchase them on a regular basis. Steam mops should only be used on sealed, heat-tolerant floors.
Poly-vinyl brooms are best for indoor use on hard floors. Bristles on this type of broom are made of synthetic materials that are often densely packed together, allowing them to grab fine dirt and dust particles in addition to larger-size debris.
In general, look for features on hard floor cleaners that increase everyday convenience. Available features will vary depending on what type of hard floor cleaner you choose, but here are a few features to consider when comparing models.
Look for a vacuum or steam mop with a head that swivels to make it easier to maneuver in tight corners.
This feature, found on most steam mops, allows you to control the amount of steam that's emitted.
Some steam mops come with a light that alerts you when it's time to refill the water reservoir.
Look for a mop or broom that can be easily mounted on the wall for convenient storage. Some models include special hardware that lets you snap your mop or broom in place.
Some mops can be folded up for easy storage. These models are great for everyday cleanup tasks and often use wet or dry disposable cloths.
If you plan to purchase a vacuum to use on hard floors, be sure to pick a model that allows you to turn off the brush to help protect bare floors. Or make sure it includes a bare-floor setting, which is usually a very low-height setting for use on hard floors.
As you compare hard floor cleaners, consider what type of flooring you have in your home and whether you'll be carrying the cleaner up and down stairs. If you have multiple types of hard flooring in your home, you may want to purchase one cleaner that will work for them all. Or you may want to have more than one tool on hand, so you can easily handle everything from a quick cleanup to a thorough whole-house cleaning. And, of course, you want to be sure to select a cleaner that won't damage your floors.
Some cleanersstick or canister vacuums and broomsare options for all hard floors. Otherswet mops and steam mopsare suited only for floors that are sealed and can withstand moisture. For a steam mop, the floor should also be heat-tolerant. A steam mop is not for use on varnished floors or those with a shellac-base finish. Extreme care should be used with paper, cardboard, or wooden composite and painted surfaces, particularly because the steam can cause the finish to blister.
If you'll be moving from room to room with the hard floor cleaner, or if it will be used on stairs, you'll want to consider the weight of the unit along with its ability to be easily transported. Cleaners with on-board tools increase the unit's versatility and enable you to clean a variety of surfacesbut they also add to the weight.
Cordless stick vacuums are ideal if you plan to take the unit from room to room. One drawback, though, is that cordless models have limited run times. A full battery charge generally lasts 15-20 minutes. Plug-in hard floor cleaners typically have 16- to 20-foot cordsand won't run out of power.
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