What You Can and Cannot Add to a Steam Mop/Cleaner

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If you own a Bissell or Shark steam cleaner, it’s tempting to add something extra, like cleaning solution or vinegar, into the tank. Adding essential oils or disinfectant sounds like a good idea too. But what can you actually add to a steam cleaner/mop?

You should not add anything other than water to a steam cleaner/mop tank, unless it is recommended by the manufacturer. If the manual says to add water only, adding any kind of cleaning solution, essential oils, dish soap, or other cleaning fluids puts the machine at risk of damage and voids the warranty.

However, as of time of writing, there are at least 2 manufacturers who supply additives for steam cleaners. Some people have also raved about adding vinegar into their steam cleaners, but is it safe?

In this post, we will share with you what you can and cannot add to a steam mop/cleaner, including what you can add to make it smell nice. You can use the quick navigation tab below to find quick answers.

What You Can and Cannot Add to a Steam Mop/Cleaner

Before we move on to what you can or cannot add to a steam mop/cleaner, it’s important to note that steam cleaners work by utilizing water only.

With the exception of a few models that have dual functions, a steam mop/cleaner is typically designed to be used with water and nothing else. The machine works by heating water past the boiling point which creates low-moisture without the use of chemicals.

Let’s explore what you can and cannot add to a steam mop/cleaner:

1. Can you put a cleaning solution in a steam mop/cleaner?

Cleaning solutions, like Pine Sol and Mr. Clean, do a great job of removing dirt and grime from floors. However, they rely on chemicals to get the job done.

You should not put cleaning solutions in a steam mop/cleaner because it may cause clogging and mineral build up. If you want to use a cleaning solution, apply it directly on the floor, then go over it with the steam mop. The steam mop/cleaner itself should only be filled with water.

According to the Environmental Working Group, Pine Sol is not green certified and may contain ingredients with potential for chronic aquatic toxicity. While it does a great job of getting rid of dirt and grime, you should not put it inside a steam mop/cleaner water reservoir.

Adding cleaning solutions is also the number one culprit why your floor is sticky after steam mopping.

2. Can you put disinfectant in a steam mop/cleaner?

A concentrated multipurpose disinfectant like Zoflora does a great job of killing 99.9% of bacteria and viruses that can cause illness and create bad odor. But can you add it to a steam mop/cleaner?

It’s not recommended to add disinfectant to a steam mop/cleaner water tank. Some disinfectants will give off toxic fumes if heated and can cause a steam mop/cleaner to break or potentially even catch fire.

While it is possible to add a disinfectant to some machines, it is considered unsafe. Some high pressure steam cleaners can explode if disinfectants are added to them.

Also, please do not put Zoflora into your steam cleaner or your steam mop as it will cause damage to the heating element inside the machine, or worse, potentially even catch fire.

The best way to go about this is to disinfect before and after steam cleaning.

To do this, spray the disinfectant on the surface you wish to clean and leave it for 10 minutes, then steam clean the area. After steam cleaning, spray the disinfectant again and wait another 10 minutes.

Rinse or wipe the area if needed.

3. Can you put essential oils in a steam mop/cleaner? 

Essential oils, like eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil, mask other scents in your home, including cooking smells and garbage smells. They leave behind a fresh scent in your home, but can you add them to a steamer?

Essential oils are not safe for use in a steam mop/cleaner because they have an oil base that has a thicker consistency than water. The oil will sit on top of the water when you add it into the steam mop/cleaner water tank, which may cling onto the surfaces inside the machine, causing damage.

Additionally, essential oils and oil fragrances are not water soluble, so they will not be evaporated into steam. Once all of the water has been evaporated, the oils may stay behind, build up inside, and clog the machine.

Remember, oil fragrances, such as essential oils, contain a mixture of alcohol and scents. Never put alcoholic products, like essential oils, inside a steam mop/cleaner because it can damage the machine.

Even if the essential oils do not damage the steamer, they may cause discoloration to fabric and upholstery

4. Can you put laundry detergent or dish soap in a steam mop/cleaner?

It makes sense. Laundry detergents, like Tide, clean fabrics while dish soap, like Dawn, cleans tiles and floors. But can you actually add either of them inside a steam cleaner?

You should not put laundry detergent or dish soap in a steam mop/cleaner. Much like multipurpose cleaning solutions, laundry detergents often contain harmful chemicals with negative effects on both the environment and your steam mop/cleaner.

Even something as innocent as dish soap, like Dawn, can have potentially dangerous chemicals that may pose as hazards to human health and as contaminants to the environment.

If you want to keep your steam mop/cleaner in good shape, avoid adding laundry detergent and dish soap inside the water reservoir and use distilled water only.

5. Can you put vinegar in a steam mop/cleaner?

Widely regarded as a natural deodorizer and disinfectant, it is easy to assume that you can add vinegar inside the water tank of a steam mop/cleaner. But is it really safe to do?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not recommended to add apple cider vinegar or white vinegar inside a steam mop/cleaner because it is considered a descaling agent. Most manufacturers will void the warranty if you add vinegar to the machine, so add vinegar at your own risk.

We've done extensive research on this. And on page 3 of the user guide of one the most popular steam mops, Bissell Powerfresh, it plainly states: "Never put descaling, aromatic, alcoholic or detergent products into the steam cleaner, as this may damage it or make it unsafe for use."

Bissell Power Fresh Steam Mop

Bissell Power Fresh Steam Mop with...
  • Clean and sanitize sealed hard floors without the use of harsh chemicals; Eliminates 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria with the natural power of steam
  • Power through tough, sticky messes with the flip down easy scrubber
  • Choose from high, medium, or low steam based on your cleaning needs with the smart set digital steam control

Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar is considered a “descaling product”.

A descaling agent, according to Wikipedia, is a liquid chemical substance used to remove limescale from metal surfaces in contact with hot water, such as in boilers, water heaters, and kettles.

So, despite what you might find on the internet, never add vinegar to a steam mop/cleaner. Not only will it void the machine’s warranty, but it can also cause damage to the steamer or make it unsafe to use.

Related: Does steam cleaning remove limescale?

6. Can you put bleach in a steam mop/cleaner?

When it comes to disinfecting or killing mold or mildew spores, bleach is a common ingredient in many DIY cleaning solutions. But can you add it to a steam mop/cleaner?

Never put bleach in a steam mop/cleaner as the bleach can degrade the plastic and rubber components in the machine. Using bleach in your steam cleaning machine can also damage the carpets, wood floors, natural stone floors, and upholstery you are trying to clean.

While bleach is a great cleaning solution, it is toxic under certain circumstances. Adding it to a steam mop/cleaner can damage the machine, cause serious health issues, and ruin the area you are trying to clean.

Related: Does steam cleaning kill mold?

7. Can you put Bona in a steam mop/cleaner?

If you are considering using Bona, then it means that you are trying to clean wood floors.

While Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner is a water-based, residue-free solution, you should not put it inside a steam mop/cleaner. Both Bona and the National Wood Flooring Association do not endorse steam cleaners because the steam could seep into your wood floors, eventually causing damage.

However, you probably don’t want to be on your knees scrubbing wood floors for hours. So, if you choose to use a steam cleaner, it is best to do it separately and wipe the floors immediately afterwards. 

Bona floor cleaner is water-based and is made with plant-derived ingredients, so it does a great job of cleaning hardwood floors by gently removing dust, dirt and grime to reveal the floor's natural shine.

Bona Ultimate Hardwood Floor Care...
  • Durable 4 piece mop handle with extra-large mop head
  • Two Bona Microfiber Cleaning Pads - designed for effective cleaning with dual zone cleaning action
  • Bona Microfiber Dusting Pad with electrostatic design traps dust, dirt and pet hair

If you want to incorporate steam cleaning with Bona, here’s what you should do instead:

  1. Sweep or vacuum the floor to remove excess dirt and debris.
  2. Grab your Bona Cleaner and Microfiber Cleaning Pad.
  3. Start with the Microfiber Cleaning Pad slightly damp.
  4. Turn the spray nozzle to mist or stream setting and spray cleaner directly on the floor.
  5. Wipe up the cleaner with the Microfiber Cleaning Pad.

Remember, steam cleaners work best with water only, so you should apply the Bona cleaner first before steaming. As long as the steam can evaporate immediately, you’re good to go.

Otherwise, you need to wipe up the floor with the Microfiber Cleaning Pad.

If you are cleaning a large area or several small rooms, take the cleaning pad off of the mop frequently and rinse it out with warm water to release the captured dirt. Wring it out so it is only slightly damp and attach it back on the mop and continue mopping.

8. Can you put Murphy’s Oil Soap in a steam mop/cleaner?

According to the manufacturer, Murphy’s Oil Soap contains 98 percent naturally-derived ingredients.

It safely cleans finished wood and other household surfaces without leaving a dulling residue. Murphy’s Oil Soap does not contain ammonia, bleach or oils, so it’s tempting to add it to a steam cleaner.

While Murphy’s Oil Soap contains 98 percent naturally-derived ingredients, adding anything other than water may cause damage to the internal components of a steam mop/cleaner. Steam cleaners are sensitive to the slightest of additives, so you should not add Murphy’s Oil Soap to a steam mop/cleaner.

If you want to achieve a natural shine on your wood floors, consider using Murphy's Oil Soap once a week after a successful steam session. Both steam cleaning and Murphy’s Oil Soap can keep your wood floors beautiful so long as you use them separately.

9. What can you put in a steam mop to make it smell nice?

Sure, steam cleaners harness the power of water to clean floors effortlessly. However, water alone does not leave a nice smelling scent in your home. So what can you put in a steam mop/cleaner to make it smell nice?

You can add either the Bissell Eucalyptus Mint Demineralized Water, which leaves behind a refreshing eucalyptus mint fragrance as you clean, or the Hoover Steam Plus 4X Hard Floor Solution, which leaves behind a fresh linen scent. Both products are safe to use with all steam mops and steam cleaners.

Bissell Eucalyptus Mint Demineralized Water for Steam Mops
  • Leaves behind a refreshing Eucalyptus Mint fragrance as you clean
  • For use in all steam mops, all brands
  • No dulling residue left behind
Hoover Steam Plus 4X Hard Floor Solution

Instead of adding a cleaning solution or essential oils into your steam mop/cleaner, you can safely add either the Bissell demineralized water or the Hoover steam hard floor solution.

Both have been expertly formulated to work with all steam mops and steam cleaners, with no dulling residue left behind and no harmful fumes.

Bottom Line

Now you know what you can and cannot add to a steam mop/cleaner.

Steam cleaners work best with water, especially distilled or filtered water. Remember, never put descaling, aromatic, alcoholic or detergent products into the steam mop/cleaner, as this may damage it.

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