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What is Steam Cleaning and How Does it Work?

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Table of Content
April 18, 2024

Steam cleaning combines the cleaning power of a jet of steam and high temperature. It is done with a machine (steam cleaner) that heats water to a high temperature, producing steam. This steam is then directed out of the machine at high pressure.

The hot steam helps to loosen dirt, grime, and stains on various surfaces such as floors, carpets, and upholstery. After the steam has broken down the dirt, it must be manually removed with a mop, cloth, or vacuum. This method is effective for sanitizing surfaces, as the high heat can kill most bacteria and allergens.

You can employ steam cleaning for hard surfaces, upholstered furniture, windows and other areas of your home. Here are some of the most important things to know about steam cleaning.

Here is how steam cleaning works in short:

  1. Heat Water: Fill the steam cleaner's water tank with water, which the cleaner then heats up.
  2. Release Steam: Operate the steam cleaner to release steam in controlled bursts. High pressure inside the cleaner allows for faster and more powerful steam release.
  3. Deep Clean Fabrics: Use the steam cleaner on carpets and rugs to penetrate deep into the fabric, breaking down and dissolving dirt and other impurities.
  4. Clean Hard Surfaces and Upholstery: Apply steam cleaning to hard surfaces and upholstered furniture to effectively clean and disinfect them.
  5. Manage Dirt and Debris: After steam cleaning, the dirt breaks down but remains on the surface, requiring removal with a mop, vacuum, or cloth.

Read our blog on can you steam clean a mattress to learn more about steam cleaning upholstery.

The alternative to buying a steam cleaner

If you don't wish to purchase the tool, you can always acquire steam cleaning services. The majority of cleaning companies provide a good service that involves cleaning stains, dust and grime from various services with a steam cleaner.

You can contact a cleaning company and have them visit at your convenience. The benefits of booking a steam cleaning service are many. Experts will get rid of dirt and other pollutants from your floors in your bathroom and any other room. This cleaning method can quickly refresh your home with ease.

The benefits of steam cleaners

Steam cleaning is an effective way to clean because it provides many benefits. Here are some of the main ones:

  • An eco-friendly way to clean - one of the major benefits of steam cleaning is that it doesn't require detergents and chemicals. It also requires less water compared to other methods of cleaning your home, which is particularly handy when it comes to lowering costs for end of tenancy cleaning.
  • A great way to disinfect - hot steam is the ideal way to remove bacteria and allergens from various surfaces.
  • It is fast - you don't need to do any scrubbing or spend hours with the mop. When you steam clean, you are dealing with the dirt and debris in a flash.
  • It is a versatile method - you can clean so many things with steam. It is suited to many types of flooring in your home, for every room, including upholstery and even clothes.
  • It is easy - steam cleaning requires very little effort. You can easily deal with the matter at hand in seconds, making the whole process smooth and effortless.
  • You save money - because you don't need to overspend on detergents and other cleaning materials, you can save money. All you need to do is fill up the water tank and you are good to go.

What can you steam clean?

Steam cleaning is versatile but it does have its ideal applications. Steam cleaners are great for:

Laminate and parquet floors

It is best if you first remove the surface dust and debris from this kind of flooring with a vacuum cleaner. You can then proceed to steam clean the area, putting the recommended lowest setting. Move the steam cleaner from side to side quickly.

Don't release too much steam but only enough to clean dirt and other debris from the floor. If there is any stubborn stain or part of the floor that is more difficult to clean, use other methods. Do not oversaturate the surfaces.

Ceramic tiles

Steam cleaning can leave your ceramic tiles looking like new in a few simple steps. First, you should attach a cloth to the nozzle, making it more suited and effective for tiles. Move the nozzle from side to side in overlapping strips. Make sure to remove and rinse the cloth when it gets dirty.

Here is a more comprehensive list of what can you steam clean:

  1. Floors: Steam cleaners effectively sanitize and remove dirt from various floor types, enhancing cleanliness and appearance.
  2. Cleaning Grout: Target grout lines with steam to dissolve built-up dirt and mold, restoring the original color and preventing decay.
  3. Unsealed Floors: Avoid using steam cleaners on unsealed floors to prevent damage like warping or swelling.
  4. Small Appliances: Use a steam cleaner to sanitize and remove accumulated grime from small kitchen appliances.
  5. Walls: A steam cleaner can remove dirt and sanitize walls, though caution is needed with water-sensitive paints or coverings.
  6. Bathrooms: Steam cleaning kills bacteria and mold in bathrooms, effectively cleaning tiles, showers, and fixtures.
  7. Carpet: Refresh and sanitize carpets by lifting dirt and allergens without the use of harsh chemicals.
  8. Ceramic Tiles: Steam clean ceramic tiles to remove grime and restore shine without damaging the surface.
  9. Kitchen: Steam cleaners provide a chemical-free way to sanitize and clean kitchen surfaces, including countertops and stovetops.
  10. Sink Faucets: Remove lime scale and soap scum from sink faucets with steam for a spotless finish.
  11. Sliding Door Tracks: Clear out debris and dirt from sliding door tracks with a steam cleaner for smoother operation.
  12. Windows: Use steam to clean windows for a streak-free shine and remove accumulated dust and fingerprints.
  13. Disinfect Countertops: Steam cleaning countertops kills germs and removes stains without the need for chemical cleaners.
  14. Ovens: Remove baked-on food and grease from ovens with steam, making this tough cleaning task easier and more effective.
  15. Baseboards: Clean baseboards with steam to remove dust and scuffs while sanitizing the area.
  16. Car Interiors: Deep clean and deodorize car interiors, including upholstery and dashboard, with a steam cleaner.
  17. Door and Window Glass: Achieve a clear, streak-free clean on glass surfaces using steam.
  18. Toilet: Sanitize and clean the entire toilet area with steam to eliminate bacteria and odors effectively.
  19. Dishwasher: Steam clean your dishwasher to remove grease and limescale, enhancing efficiency and hygiene.
  20. Garden Tools: Disinfect and remove dirt from garden tools with steam to maintain them in good condition.
  21. Refrigerator: Clean and sanitize the interior of refrigerators with steam to remove food residues and odors.
  22. Cleaning General: Steam cleaners provide a versatile solution for cleaning and sanitizing almost any household surface effectively.

What surfaces should not be steam cleaned?

Do not use steam cleaning on vapour-sensitive materials like paper, silk, leather, water-based paint and fabrics that do not tolerate moisture. Never use steam cleaning on bamboo, marble, masonry, stucco and other porous surfaces. Avoid using steam cleaning on unsealed floors as well.

What is the disadvantage of steam cleaning?

Here are some of the main disadvantages and cons of using steam cleaners:

  1. Effectiveness on Tough Stains: While steam cleaners can outperform dry cleaners, they may not effectively remove deep, stubborn stains.
  2. Not for Regular Use: Frequent steam cleaning can unnecessarily wear out carpets.
  3. Unsuitable Surfaces: Avoid using steam cleaners on unsealed floors, plastics, laminate flooring, cold windows, unglazed tile, water-based painted surfaces, and delicate materials to prevent damage.
  4. Higher Initial Costs: Steam cleaning equipment is generally more expensive than simple mops and buckets due to higher manufacturing costs.
  5. Safety Hazards: The steam generated is extremely hot, posing potential burn risks; proper handling and awareness are crucial.
  6. Increased Cleaning Frequency: Steam cleaning might require more frequent use compared to traditional methods, as it primarily cleans the surface level and may not reach deeply ingrained dirt.
  7. Long Drying Times for Carpets: After steam cleaning carpets, drying can take up to 24 hours, which could be inconvenient in high-traffic areas.

Steam cleaning, though superior to dry cleaning in some aspects, has its limitations and potential drawbacks. While effective for occasional use, regular steam cleaning can lead to premature wear on carpets and is not suited for every surface. It is not advisable for unsealed floors, plastic, laminate flooring, cold windows, unglazed tile, surfaces painted with water-based paint, or delicate materials as it can cause warping, melting, or swelling.

Additionally, steam cleaning equipment typically carries a higher initial cost than traditional cleaning methods. Despite only needing water to operate, the upfront investment can be significant. Another concern is safety; the steam reaches very high temperatures, posing a burn hazard if not handled correctly.

Furthermore, steam cleaning may require more frequent sessions to maintain cleanliness as it primarily cleans surfaces without reaching ingrained dirt. Lastly, when used on carpets, steam cleaning can result in long drying times, which may be inconvenient in busy environments, although it effectively sanitizes and refreshes the carpet

Improve the cleaning power of your steam cleaner with these tips

cleaner using steam cleaner to clean car upholstery
  • Add warm/hot water to your water tank when starting your steam cleaning session. That way you don't need to wait as much for the water to heat up.
  • Vacuum your floors before steam cleaning. Removing dirt and other solid materials from the surfaces before you are about to steam clean increases the effectiveness of steam cleaning.
  • Try cleaning without chemicals. The heat alone is usually enough to take care of every bit of bacteria in the various areas you steam clean.
  • Remove clutter from the area. It is best to clear as much space as possible so that you can freely move your steam cleaner around.

Things to look for when buying a steam cleaner

Steam cleaners are different, so you should consider a few basic things about them.

  • Cleaning functions - make sure you get the right tool for the cleaning tasks you require.
  • Heat-up time - be aware of how long it takes for the water to heat up.
  • Size of the tank - the larger the tank, the more cleaning you can do before having to refill and wait for it to warm up again. Some devices have an additional tank for extended cleaning of various surfaces.
  • Temperature - the hotter steam cleaners release drier vapour, which means less chance of damaging the surface and better sanitisation against bacteria.
  • Cost - set a budget and stick to it. You don't want to overspend on a cleaning tool when you can be smart about it and get one for a price.

Steam cleaning is a fantastic way to deal with dirt and all sorts of bacteria with only the power of water. You'd be surprised how effective the method is whether you are using a tool on your own or have booked professional services.


Where does the dirt go when you steam clean?

The high temperature of the vapour makes it so that the solid particles are broken down and can be removed with a hoover later.

Is steam cleaning a good way to clean?

Yes, due to the temperature of steam cleaning it easily loosens dirt and grime, which makes it much easier to just wipe them away. It also has the benefit of sanitizing the cleaned surfaces which can eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria and germs.

Where does the dirt go when you steam clean?

When steam cleaning, the dirt breaks down but remains in place. You should follow up with a mop, vacuum, or cloth to remove it.

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