Rating: 2.0 Reviewed by Erica
I decided it was time to get back to business and jumped in to do this Shark Light & Easy S3101 steam mop review. By the time I was done I figured the only favor I was doing for anyone was to – hopefully – save them some time and aggravation.
Its top feature is the low price and it’s stellar online reputation (I have an idea about why it seems as well accepted as it has been) but at the end of this you’ll see how I think you can do far better than this model for just an extra $5.
This is a hard-floor steam cleaner with no other features. You can’t use it to do vertical surfaces and it doesn’t come with a carpet glider. It doesn’t vacuum. It can only be used on hard floor surfaces.
It’s a stick style so, similar to a vacuum, you hold the handle and push it around the floor and let it do its thing. Where it really lives up to its promise is its weight. At only 3 pounds you can easily carry this upstairs and down and around the house as needed.
Table of Contents
Floor Types & Carpets / Mop Head Type / Water Tank & Steam / Controls / Attachments & Accessories / Cleaning Solution Options / Dimensions / Pros / Cons / Consumer Reviews & Ratings / Price / My Overall Review
Floor Types and Carpets
Most steam mop manufacturers will say they are safe on all floor type even when that is not in agreement with what your floor manufacturer would say (or many floor installers). This is not recommended for use on laminate. Eventually, it can eat away at the layers of your floor leaving them looking worn and old before their time.
This model can be used on tile, sealed hardwood, granite, marble, sealed concrete, and glazed ceramic. Keep in mind that if your floors are waxed this could remove the wax layer.
This mop does not clean grout although the pad is thick enough that it may remove some recent, random dirt or food on top of the grout.
The mop head is rectangular with an 11” cleaning width. The short profile makes it easy to go under cabinet edges with a clearance of about 5 inches.
The head, unlike most of those on competing models, does not swivel and I, personally, would greatly miss that feature. Swiveling the head back and forth is one way I use to make sure I get up against baseboards and dig into corners. Without the swivel, you’re going to have to work a bit more than necessary to do those areas and to get behind your toilets, too.
It comes with one, machine-washable micro-fiber pad which is thick and absorbent. The surface does help to lift dirt but because of the limited steam emission it doesn’t clean as well as other models. It my take several passes to get up anything sticky.
The pad can even go in the dryer – on the low setting – or you can line dry it and it won’t take too long.
While the pads are reusable, you should replace them after about 20 washes (which is really 20 full uses if you want to start with a clean pad each time). As replacements cost anywhere from $1.50-$3.50 a piece, you should plan on replacing them at least once every 5 months and figure that cost into any comparisons you may be doing against other steam mops.
However, one pad would never work for my house. Two works out much better but I’ve got at least 1000 sq feet of hard flooring so if I clean it all at once it usually takes two pads. Then, having a third on hand in case someone spills something while I’m still in the middle of washing the first two would be best.
What’s additionally disheartening about the Shark Light & Easy S3101 is that it seems it used to come with two mop pads and they’ve recently dropped that to one. Not that they cost a great deal but – if they don’t cost that much then why wouldn’t the manufacturer just keep the extra in the kit? The manufacturer’s site still shows 2 pads are included but if you look at many online listings they’ll clearly show that only one pad is included.
The pad attaches to the bottom with Velcro so any similar manufacturer pads *may* work. There’s no guarantee as a thicker pad may not allow steam from the S3101 to come through at the desired pressure and one that is too thin will leave you with a very wet pad and floor. On a positive note, this style of attaching mop pads is my favorite. I don’t like the ones that have to be wrapped around the head – that just takes more work.
The Shark does leave a dry floor behind but that’s almost as much a result of the low steam emission as anything else. As a result it also doesn’t slide very easily across the floor – at least in relation to some other models.
Water Tank & Steam
The water tank holds 7.8 ounces (230ml) of water which is the smallest tank I’ve seen yet on a steam mop. For anything more than a couple of rooms, you’re going to need to refill the mop to finish your chore.
The tank is not removable but comes with a funnel you can fill at a faucet to replenish the tank. The funnel design will fit under even bathroom faucets so if you take it along with you through the house you won’t have to go far for water.
The tank is partially see-through in the back so you’re able to tell when you’re getting low. In addition, if the sound of emitted steam goes away that’s a clue that it’s time to refill.
Once the mop is plugged in, it takes at least 30 seconds for it to heat up. This mop has an interesting feature in that you need to prime the pump in order for steam to actually come out of the bottom. Pressing down on the handle is what drives steam from the base of the mop so by pressing down on the handle several times before you start, you’ll be triggering the pump to kick into action before you start pushing it across the floor.
This feature is what the manufacturer refers to as “On Demand Steam”. If the mop is sitting still, no steam will be emitted. It’s only during the action of mopping that causes steam to come out of the vents on the bottom. However, some retail sites have described this as “variable steam” and I’d disagree with that word choice. It’s either emitting steam or it isn’t – there’s no way to dial it up or down in between.
Where this might be a benefit is that it can – just very slightly – mean you’ll get more coverage out of one tank of water since you’re not wasting some of it when the mop is sitting still. However, that leads us to a new issue…
The manufacturer claims this mop can achieve 99.9% sanitizing against germs and bacteria. In order to do this, steam of a very high temperature must hit the target area for a period of time. That time is often around 8-10 seconds for a steam mop but dependent on the temperature of the produced steam.
If this mop doesn’t produce steam except when in the mopping motion then using it to really disinfect is going to require more time and effort than a mop that distributes a consistent flow of steam. If you mop with a normal motion you’re probably not killing very many germs. In fact, it’s interesting that the manual doesn’t even mention how to use the mop in a way that will insure sanitizing floor surfaces.
In terms of cleaning performance, the Shark Light & Easy does pick up dirt but it struggles with dried material and may require several passes in order to get the job done.
It does operate quietly and you could hear the TV over the mop if you were in the same room.
There are no complicated controls or buttons. There’s not even an on/off switch. Once you plug it in, a power indicator light shines on the front of the mop and the tank starts the heating process.
The handle is comfortable and curved for a natural fit. It’s not very sturdy, though, and there are multiple reports online of the handles breaking during use. I’m sure the delicate pole was incorporated to keep the mop as light as possible. However, since you have to pump the handle in order to produce steam this seems a recipe for disaster. Replacement handles are available but I just don’t like the idea of it being so flimsy.
I’ve dropped my steam mops more times than I can count. The handle has slipped out of my hand or I leaned it up against the counter and it slipped off to the side and down to the floor. I think a weak handle is just asking for trouble at some point.
The Shark S3101 comes with one mop pad and the tank refill funnel. There are no other attachments.
You can buy several items separately for use with this mop, though:
- Additional washable pads
- SaniFiber Disposable Cleaning Pads
- A carpet glider which is a plastic frame that fits on the bottom of the mop head so you can run it over carpet. This freshens your carpet by applying steam to remove odors and loosen the fibers.
- Spray cleaners that you can put on the floor before you clean (although any such spray cleaner would work the same way so there’s no need to buy the manufacturer’s brand)
Cleaning Solution Options
You cannot use cleaner inside the water tank with this model. Chemical cleaners used inside the mop could damage the internal parts and cause the mop to break down.
If you want to use a chemical cleaner then buy a spray bottle of your desired brand and squirt it onto the floor in front of the mop as you clean.
Dimensions & Storage
The mop weighs a shockingly light 3 lbs. The power cord is 20 feet long which is average for a steam mop.
There’s a cord clip on the handle so you can wrap the cord when it’s not in use. Just flip the clip to the side and you can unwrap the cord easily.
There is no stand or cooling mat included with the purchase so you’ll want to store it carefully and only after its cooled down but it would take up just a little space in the corner of a closet.
- Low price
- Does not use a chemical cleaner (which is a plus or minus depending on your needs)
- Head doesn’t swivel
- Handle is very flimsy and has been known to break
- Comes with only one pad that should be replaced after 20 washes
- Does not produce much steam
- Has to be primed to produce steam
- May require several passes to clean very obvious dirt
Shark Light & Easy S3101 Reviews and Ratings
What really surprised me were the outstanding ratings online at various retail stores for this mop. There’s a lot of disparity inside each rating, though, with many people giving it the lowest ratings possible while others have come along and balanced that out with the highest rating.
I find this kind of activity fascinating. Some people love it while others seem to hate it but I think I know why. If you’re looking to step up from a standard mop and bucket then almost any steam mop makes the job easier and using this one is most certainly easier than cleaning floors the “old fashioned” way.
If, though, you’ve used any other steam mop this is going to be a huge letdown. There really are better models on the market and they don’t have to cost much more than this one – in fact, Shark makes one of the best alternatives in this price range.
Shark S3101 Steam Mop Price
I know the attraction to the Shark Light & Easy is the price. It costs about half of the more popular Bissell 1940 Powerfresh. At the same time, you’re sacrificing a lot in terms of performance and ease of use when for just about $5 more you could have a much better steam mop. (Keep reading…)
Instead of the S3101, take a look at the Shark Steam Pocket Mop (S3501). It’s much sturdier, has a two sided mop pad that takes some getting used to but does a great job. I have this mop and have tested it myself. (I don’t remember why I haven’t written the review yet but it will come!) I’ve since given the S3501 to my son for his new apartment. He’s had it for over a year and not had any issues.
If you go that route you won’t be one of the many people who wishes afterwards that they’d just sprung the extra few dollars for the S3501.
I can see a couple of very slim instances when the Light & Easy S3101 would be a good fit. If someone has a really small amount of hard flooring and a small amount of storage space then this is, again, at least a step up from using a manual mop. The other instance might be for anyone who needs something quick and handy for a small office but doesn’t need to use it for regular cleaning. Outside of that, spend the extra $5 for the better alternative.