Without many of the time saving household conveniences of our American cousins, Brits have long been content to go about domestic chores armed only with good old fashioned elbow grease. But with only so many hours in the day, it's perfectly understandable if you're looking to modernise your cleaning tools.
Using a steam mop
Steam mops are becoming increasingly popular for those who need to clean hard surfaces - particularly ones which are susceptible to dust and dirt. They are in equal parts effective across tiled kitchen and bathroom floors as well as more delicate laminate wood surfaces found in lounges and dining rooms.
Literally speaking, you can also use them to tackle stains in carpets and rugs - but don't expect fantastic results for those pesky, long-term blemishes. You're better off, in that instance, leaving it to a professional cleaner (or at least hiring a specially made product, the type of which you probably can't fully justify buying outright).
The word steam conjures up images of hefty machinery but many steam mops these days are stripped back and easy to move around - meaning you can even put them to work on certain counter tops if you need to (and tuck them away in a cupboard when they're not in use).
Modern cleaning appliances are supposed to be about taking the strain off of the homeowner - so we encourage anyone interested in testing the wats to opt for a product that's simple easy to maintain, and can be used from a standing position. You don't want to be on all fours while cleaning the floor - otherwise you might as well just go for the classic rag and a soapy bucket.
Be wary of committing to a product that only accommodates its own range of accessories, as vacuum bags, pads and fragrance discs can be a big money spinner for companies when the primary gear itself is relatively cheap. Also bear in mind a typical steam mop may only have a lifespan of a few years.
For first timers, we recommend Hoover's S2IN1300A Steamjet Steam Mop. It's got a name that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it's designed for ease of use. You can operate it from an upright stance but it's also detachable, so you can go handheld if you absolutely have to - plus it's triangular so you can get into those hard-to-reach corners. The Steamjet is available at Argos for a modest £49.99.
Anyone with more ambitious cleaning projects in their sights could do worse than look at BISSELL's Vac and Steam 2-in-1, which - as its name would suggest - is simultaneously a vacuum and mop. If you're only dealing with hard surfaces, you can probably use this instead of a conventional vacuum (although for carpets you may need to have some sort of back-up option). Granted, the Vac and Steam is a little more pricey at £150, but we see it as a worthwhile investment given its versatility.