With regular use any steam cleaner will require some regular care and maintenance. Cleaning and caring for you steam cleaner will vary by model, but in general, steam cleaner maintenance itself is simple and an easy way to protect your investment.
Caring for your Steam Cleaner
Starting out and moving inward, remember to wash the cloths, bonnets, or towels you use with your steam cleaner. It's preferable to wash them in hot water without the use of fabric softener. While drying, avoid using dryer sheets. Dryer sheets contain chemicals and fragrances that when heated are then absorbed by the clothes you are drying, and with steam cleaning, you are trying to remove chemicals.
In addition to this, fabric softeners and the chemicals in dryer sheets can reduce to absorbency of the cloths by clogging the tiny pores in the material.
Attachments and the vapor steam cleaner or steam mop itself can be periodically wiped down to remove any debris that may on the exterior or stuck in bristles. Check for signs of wear and replace attachments as needed. You'll find that the smaller bristle brushes (both nylon and brass), tend to wear the most from use.
After using a steam mop, it is generally recommended that you drain the tank between uses. This is generally a simple process that takes little time since most units have smaller reservoirs and are lightweight. Some, like Reliable steam mops, have a water tank that can be removed and easily emptied.
Larger, canister style models will often have a drain plug to make this process easier, but once all the water has been drained, allow the steam mop to air dry before sealing the system back up and storing. With larger steam cleaners, draining does not have to be done as frequently. Every 2-4 weeks you should drain your larger or canister style steam cleaner. Nearly all have drain plugs and come with fitted tools to remove the plug.
Key Steam Cleaner Maintenance Tip - Removing Scale
Removing hard water scale is often the most common and overlooking aspect of steam cleaner maintenance. Because it often involves a part of the steam cleaner you cannot see (the boiler), it is that much more important to remember. Minerals are found in nearly all kinds of water, but in a traditional boiler system steam cleaner, as the water is heated and converted to steam those minerals can be left behind and form a scale of mineral deposits in the boiler tank.
Unless you are using a Ladybug steam cleaner with the TANCS option, at some point your steam cleaner will likely develop this mineral scale in the boiler system. Ladybug steam cleaners with TANCS are largely exempt from this since the naturally occurring minerals found in tap water are actually utilized by their antimicrobial system and play a key role in the TANCs system being the only EPA registered disinfectant that is NOT a chemical.
So for other canister steam cleaners, you will likely have to remove the scale from their internal systems to keep them functioning at their full capacity. Build up can eventually impeded the flow of water and steam through the system and lead to premature failure of your steam cleaner. This, however, isn't as difficult as it sounds.
Some steam cleaners come with descaling agents, and there are a variety of descalers out there for use in steam cleaners, humidifiers and other home appliances where water is vaporized. But whether you are using a descaler you purchased or making your own from simple baking soda and water, cleaning is the same.
- Mix your purchased descaler or mix 1 1/2 oz. of baking soda with one quart of clean water.
- Fill the empty tank with this mix.
- Seal the unit and turn the steam cleaner on so that it begins heating.
- Allow the unit to heat up and stay warm for 1-2 hours.
- After this period of time, use the steam cleaner for about a minute, unplug and allow the unit to cool for 3-4 hours.
- Once cooled, remove the drain plug and empty the tanks.
- Flush or rinse clean water through the system, put the drain plug back in, and you're all set!
Aside from descaling the boiler system, there is very little in terms of steam cleaner maintenance. There are, however, a few helpful tips you want to keep in mind.
Except when you are descaling, do NOT put anything other than water in the tank.
Not only does this defeat the primary purpose of steam cleaning (in avoiding chemical cleaners), but you can possibly damage your steam cleaner. For many steamers, you may also be voiding your warranty in the process.
If you have water softener system, find another source of water for your steam cleaner.
Water softeners use an ion exchange process that replaces calcium and magnesium minerals in your water for sodium. Sodium in a steam cleaner system can significantly shorten the lifespan of boiler system and internal components of a steam cleaner.
While doing any maintenance or cleaning, make sure the unit has sufficiently cooled!
While this may seem self explanatory, it is worth repeating if it saves you from getting burned. Steam cleaners heat water well in excess of 200° F with some internal temperatures nearing or surpassing 300° F. So take care when cleaning or changing attachments.
As you become better acquainted with using a steam cleaner or steam mop, you'll find that the things we've outlined above become second nature. With proper use and a small amount of care, quality steam cleaners should provide you with a minimum of 5-8 years of reliable service.
If you found these steam cleaner maintenance tips handy, visit one of these more in-depth articles to learn more about steam cleaners and steam cleaning in your home.