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Shopping Channels. Don't you just love them?
There's something strangely addictive about watching presenters who were obviously chosen for the size of their, erm…smile, rather than their product knowledge as they over-enthuse about something which is clearly crap.
I'm not quite so found of the live studio based shows of QVCs or the never ending tat peddled by Price Drop, instead preferring the American pre-recorded shows, for sheer entertainment value. These invariably involve an 'expert presenter' demonstrating the product in question as some glamed-up drippy sidekick "wow's" and "amazes" herself to a state of near-indecency.
I love the in-your-face American style of 'Chef Tony' showing us the best new ways to cook "frozen scrambled eggs" and "chilli dogs" in an appliance that looks like the bastard love child of a toaster, microwave and R2-D2. Or the never ending commercials for a new diet or exercise regime that makes people with the waist size of Newport Pagnell look like Elle McPherson in just 3 and ½ minutes per day.
But these American shows have now spawned a new genre of made for the UK infomercials. They are basically the same as the American ones - solving problems which you never knew you had - but in a more 'toned down' manner.
One of these that particularly caught my eye was half hour programme demonstrating the new miracle steam mop which cleans ceramic and laminate floors without mess or marks. For the first time, I had to admit I wanted one. This was something I needed…I was about to see if operators really were standing by…I WANT this in my life….
That was until I saw the price of about £80 including postage. Then I decided the flash power mop would continue to be sufficient.
After the shock of the price, I pretty much put it out of my mind. That was until one day when shopping in Costco I found the very product which had been the other side of my TV a few months previously. And the price? Just £29.95 plus VAT.
Well, I though, even if it's rubbish; at that price I can't really go too wrong.
For the first time in a very long time, I was excited to get my purchase home. I had roughly 2 acres of a very light (almost white) porcelain tile floor which had previously defeated almost every other attempt at keeping it clean.
Almost as soon as I was through the door I found myself ripping the box open, barely looking at the instructions, pushing the various bit and pieces into their corresponding holes until I had something that looked vaguely like the picture on the box.
The product itself seemed fairly solid - the handle was the correct height and seemed easy to grip and the bottom of the unit looked not unlike an electric carpet sweeper - but with the addition of a clear water tank sticking out of the top.
The micro fibre pad simply Velcroed to the bottom of the appliance and the water tank had to be filled up via a special jug (like a steam iron) then it was just a matter of plugging it in and I was off.
Well I would have been off had the other half not insisted that I read the instruction manual before use. For an easy life I diligently read the 2 sides of A5 paper that constituted the "manual" and I wasn't particularly impressed. After a half a page of warnings, both the assembly instructions and the operation manual weren't particularly well written or clear.
One thing I did pick out was the fact that I wasn't "to be alarmed about the noise of the water feed motor - as that is normal". Alarmed - I don't recall being alarmed by any motor in the past and it did strike me as a rather odd thing to say.
However 2 seconds after switching the unit on, all became clear. As soon as you plug it into the wall the heater starts up and there is a large foot operated switch that turns the steam on and off (once the heating light has gone out after about 20 seconds). No sooner had you hit the foot switch did the "drrr.. drrr. drrr. drrr" start from the motor. I can see why people may be concerned as it sounded like a just like a low-key fire alarm and not a sound you'd normally associate with a functioning electrical appliance.
Nevertheless at first go it seemed to live up to the hype. The floor was clean, not too wet and free of streaks. Great; something which actually works?
CLEANING THE WHOLE FLOOR
It quickly became apparently that the floor required a damn good vacuum before I proceeded further. All the dirt and dog hairs basically accumulated in strips either side of the mop head and were simply pushed from place to place by the cloth.
10 minutes later after a spell with the Dyson on hard floor mode I got rid of bulk of the loose dirt leaving me free to mop again. This did however immediately unveil another flaw in the mop. While I managed to do the whole floor in one go with the Dyson - the mop's cord was so short it only reached half way across the kitchen.
As it turns out, to clean the whole floor involves plugging it into 3 different sockets around the house - and even then it misses the last foot of hall as their isn't a socket near enough.
There was also a second problem with the cord as it protrudes from the base of appliance at foot height. While on a typical vacuum, the cord normally comes into view at waste height in order that you can hold it out of the way - the combination here of not enough length and being low down meant me constantly snagging it and tripping myself up.
And while I still moaning about the cord it was just as awkward to wrap around the storage hooks. So much so I ended up using a cable tie to attach it to base of the handle to keep it out of the way.
Then I have some reservations about how it cleans. Yes, it certainly left the first bit cleaned and dry, but the cloth soon becomes saturated with water, which in turn leaves the floor damp. Not as bad as a conventional mop, but after about 10 minutes it was certainly getting wet under foot.
Aside from that I found that some of the most stubborn marks simply didn't come off as easily as in TV land. Repeatedly I found myself using the mop to rub hard for a minute or so to get a single spot clean. I did start to wonder whether the steam plays a pivotal role in the proceedings at all as I could just rub a floor clean with a cloth on the end of the long pole anyway.
Eventually I found myself filling a spray bottle with flash floor cleaner and spraying in advance of mopping which seemed to improve things no end.
Then we get to the most frustrating thing of all - because the cord is so short you end up having to walk over the floor you've just cleaned to retrieve the plug. And, because the floor isn't very dry you end up leaving foot prints in what otherwise would be a clean sweep.
As the floor dried plenty of streaks appeared in the areas where I hadn't used floor cleaner. The manual did recommend using demineralised water, so that may just be our hard water which is outside the control of the mop.
OTHER FLOORING TYPES
It also comes with a carpet attachment, which is basically a bit of smooth plastic to allow the cleaner to glide over the surface. I did give a quick go and found that it didn't really make any appreciable difference to the pile or the colour. In summary it was a bit of a waste of time, but as we have a carpet cleaner anyway, so I'm not too fussed about this.
Finally I had a go on the bathroom floor which is a sort of cushioned, embossed vinyl. I know it sounds horrid, but it basically looks just like laminate flooring. The steam mop didn't really do very well in here at all. The embossing of the floor and roughness of the under-cloth meant the two surfaces didn't exactly glide like Tourville and Dean either.
Where the floor at the base of the sink was dirty with various unsavoury hair gel and toothpaste stains, the mop was basically useless. The steam didn't have any effect at all; I ended up getting on my hands and knees with a cloth and some Mr Muscle.
After all this cleaning, it must have done some good as the pad was filthy. You can simply pop it into the washing machine (no fabric conditioner) or hands wash it to use it again, though I'm still not sure the steam had much to do with this.
However I used the mop every week for about a month and still have mixed feelings about it. I've found it to be pointless on both carpet and vinyl and questionable on tiles.
That may be a touch unfair, as we live in a hard water area and have an unfeasibly light floor tiles. I think with different water and a floor less likely to show the marks it would do a half decent job.
However my real vitriol is rightly reserved for the cord. I'm not sure whether the designers had forgot about the need to power it and it was only when the realised their fatal mistake they just bodged in a cord off the nearest kettle?
When you combine the rather wet floor it leaves behind with the constant need to move plug sockets its almost inevitable you're going to have to walk over what you have just mopped. Even if you have a very small area to do - the lack of a 'power off' switch on the machine means you're still going to have to go to the socket to turn it off.
I think if this had been invented by a company that actually do some decent research and testing it had the potential to be very good indeed.
However as it stands, I'm sorry even at £29, this just isn't good enough.
I'm not sure I would ever have bought anything from a shopping channel, but I find it even harder to take them seriously now that presenting on one has become a regular task on The Apprentice. That said, from your entertaining review it sounds as though a potentially good product turned out pretty disapointing. I particularly agree about short electrical cords - our vacuum cleaner suffers from a similar problem, which isn't such an issue as it doesn't make the floor wet but at best suggests a lack of forethought by the manufacturer.
blackmagicstar4 17.04.2009 14:11
Well written review- thats annoying having a short lead x
S.Bate 06.05.2008 08:23
You would need to take the wind-up extension lead with you and start the far end! Does sound like a lot of messing about and probably reverting to a regular mop and a bucket of hot water would cause a lot less frustration.