Steam Cleaners Buying Guide
have burst onto the scene in the past few years as a healthy and "green" alternative
to cleaning with chemicals, detergents, and other agents that can harm your body and our environment. Using only
water, the steam cleaner models that we carry can be used to deep clean and sanitize throughout your home.
If you are an allergy sufferer or you have children that suffer from allergies and chemical sensitivities, a steam cleaner is a healthy way to deep
clean a variety of surfaces without aggravating allergy symptoms. You and your family can live healthier
and breathe better by using a steam cleaner regularly.
Aside from price and budget considerations, the next big decision you need to make is in selecting a style of steam
cleaner. There are three basic styles available, and each are suited for different tasks and are available at different
As the most versatile type of steam cleaner, vapor steam cleaners generally provide longer run times and have
more features to enhance the overall effectiveness of steam cleaning in your home. A large percentage of vapor steam cleaners
have a similar body style as canister vacuum cleaners and move
freely across all types of smooth flooring. All come with a variety of accessories that gives you the ability to clean
and sanitize nearly any part of your home.
From the top of the line Ladybug steam cleaners to the popular
Vapamore Primo, steam cleaners
provide the best all around green cleaning experience, while making your home safer and healthier.
Steam Mops are lightweight and easy to use alternatives to canister style steam cleaners. Typically,
steam mops, much life their name suggests, are primarily used on smooth flooring like tile,
linoleum, sealed hardwood, and laminate flooring. If you have children,
they can play on the floor without the worry of getting chemicals on their hands, in their mouth, or in their
eyes. If you are looking for an economical way to keep your floors clean and sanitized, a steam mop is an ideal
Handheld steam cleaners are a quick and
easy way to steam surfaces throughout your home without the hassle of using a larger unit with longer heating times.
Though not ideally suited for floors, handheld vapor steam
cleaners work well in bathrooms, kitchens, and in other areas where you want to quickly sanitize or clean. Without
the tiresome work of scrubbing, these steam cleaners can remove mildew, grit, and deposits left over from hard
water in your bathroom. With the right attachment these steam cleaners can release wrinkles from your clothing,
and conveniently sanitize high use areas that are often overlooked, like the doorknobs or sink handles.
These vapor steam cleaners use about
5-10% of the water in the steam, so most surfaces are completely dry within minutes of
cleaning. You might also see this cleaning system called "dry" steam cleaning since it leaves behind so little moisture.
Residential units heat water up to temperatures between 150° and 300° Fahrenheit (66-149°
Celsius). For example, Reliable steam cleaners typically
have a steam tip temperature of 245° F. The hot steam kills dust mites, mold, mildew, viruses, and other allergens on contact as well as loosening
most dirt and grime. For heavy soil, you may need to pre-treat with a natural surfactant or cleaner. The steam begins
to evaporate almost as soon as it is on the surface so you will not be left with soaking wet floors, counters, windows
Vapor steam cleaning can be used on almost any hard or soft surface including: hardwood floors, counter tops,
bathrooms, windows, grout, tile, upholstered furniture, curtains, bed spreads, auto interiors, and
even stuffed animals. Most steam vapor cleaners come with a variety of attachments for different types of cleaning jobs.
Steam cleaners will
loosen dirt and baked-on mess. Some steam cleaners come with towels or bonnets that attach to the cleaning head that help retain
the steam heat and absorb loosened soil while cleaning. When steaming carpets or upholstered furniture, wait until the surface is dry (about 15 minutes) and then vacuum
with a HEPA vacuum cleaner to pick up all the dead dust mites and other dirt the steam cleaner loosened and pulled to the surface.
Advantages of Steam Cleaning
cleaners do not use detergent - just the power of steam to clean. Steam cleaners work so well because the heat from
the steam emulsifies the dirt and then the hot towel absorbs the soil.
Steam cleaning will definitely help with controlling dust mites. Dust mites die at 130° F and the
steam at the tip of most cleaners is usually over 200°. Steam cleaning does not prevent dust mites from coming back, so for consistent
results you should consider steam cleaning your mattress about every 8 weeks.
Origins of Steam Cleaners
cleaner technology was originally developed in
Italy about 15-20 years ago from the same heating technology found in espresso coffee machines. This is also why some of the
best steam cleaner brands available are Italian made!
Residential units heat water up by using an internal boiler system. Ladybug, Reliable, and Vapamore all use a boiler
method of creating steam for their cleaners. Take care to note that when considering a steam cleaner, make sure the
boiler tank is stainless steel. Stainless steel boilers are more resistant to corrosion and far surpass other metal
A newer way to heat the water is by using a "flash" heating method. Tankless water heaters have used this style
of heating for years, and some steam cleaner manufacturers, like Gruene Steam,
have adopted a similar method for creating steam water vapor. Though
this is found in smaller units, flash heating can still heat water to the temperatures necessary to kill microorganisms and effectively
sanitize throughout the home.
Steam Cleaners vs. Carpet Cleaners
have used or rented a commercial "steam cleaner" to clean your carpets. The type of commercial grade carpet cleaner that
is most commonly rented or hired out is not a vapor steam cleaner like those we've been discussing. It is
actually a hot water extraction machine. Hot water extractors use a
combination of hot water and detergent to clean carpets and other fabric surfaces.
In the process the carpeted surface is soaked or flooded
with water and detergent. Then it is sucked back up, much like a wet/dry vac. As much as 10-15% of the water can be
left behind, and this can takes hours or even days to dry.
Warm, wet conditions like these are the ideal environment for molds and
mildews to form, potentially making your situation worse than before you started. This underscores the inherent difference in cleaning
for appearances and cleaning for health. Most of us too often clean only for appearances but do little to actually deep
clean or sanitize our home. Using a hot water extractor will indeed make your carpets look better, but they cannot give you
the deep, healthy clean that only a true steam cleaner can provide.
Best Practice when Steam Cleaning Carpets
If you are using vapor steam cleaning on carpet, follow with a
HEPA vacuum cleaner after it is dry to remove the waste
that the vapor steam cleaner loosened and released during cleaning. While the
Reliable Tandem EV1 offers
the unique combination of being true HEPA vacuum cleaner and steam cleaner all in one appliance, most steam cleaners have no method other than cloths or
bonnets to extract debris.
Once soil is effectively loosened, a quality HEPA vacuum cleaner can put the finishing touches on your
carpeted floor. On hard surfaces, the steam vapor dries in as soon as a few seconds to a couple minutes. We recommend that you
experiment a bit with your steam cleaning. Steam cleaning is a new way to clean for most of us, and it can take some time, as well
as a little trial and error, to find the right combination of steam and accessories to clean your specific surface.
Steam Cleaning and Allergies
are submicron particles such as dust mites, dust mite waste, pollen, dander, and other allergens and irritants trapped
inside the pores of flooring and other hard-to-reach places of your home. Surface cleaners cannot extract these and many cleaners
cannot effectively neutralize and sanitize without a certain period of dwell time (time for the cleaner to soak).
However, vapor steam cleaners can pull and loosen debris and allergens, even those deep in the pores of even the hardest surfaces. The
hot steam penetrates and loosens or removes this soil through a process of "heat transfer." Much in the way extremely hot water can loosen
baked on debris in pans, so to does powerful steam lift debris without the use of detergents or cleaners.
As highlighted above, hot steam is lethal to dust mites. Tiny organisms such as dust mites and even mold have very little to protect
themselves from high temperatures. Dust mites absorb moisture and warmth directly through their skin, so high temperatures kills them instantly.
The cell walls of most microorganisms aren't strong enough to withstand extremely high temperatures, BUT there is a reason why microscopic life
is some of the most durable and earliest forms of life. Some types of mold, bacteria and viruses will are naturally more resistant or reside under a
To address this, Advanced Vapor Technologies developed the
Ladybug steam cleaners with TANCS. This
system goes beyond heat and actually crystallizes naturally
occurring minerals in tap water. These crystals, combined with the steam vapor work
together to kill resistant microorganisms. The crystals penetrate biofilms, weaken cell walls and give the heat a better chance to actually kill heat resistant
For allergy and asthma sufferers, effectively removing or neutralizing allergens can be a big relief, and steam cleaning is a safer and
healthier way to accomplish this.
Additionally, steam cleaners can kill bed bugs and help rid a home of bed bugs. While you will be very unlikely to actually see a bed bug out in the open during
the daylight hours, if you know where to look, you can find them. The steam is hot enough that the heat will kill bed bugs, their larvae and eggs. Finding them
is often the most difficult part, but once you do, disposing of them is easy.
Steam Cleaning - Why It's Better Than Detergents and Chemicals
with detergents and bleach has several disadvantages, including fumes and chemical vapors, hazardous residues, chemical burns and
irritation as well as disposal of potentially harmful product. By eliminating them, you can go a long way in improving your health.
The use of an effective home steam cleaner means no corrosive bleach, ammonia, or lye but instead, only water and
heat. By eliminating these chemicals, allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers reduce their exposture to these chemical irritants.
Steam cleaners provide an advantage in that they use no chemicals and can actually remove chemical residue left behind
from previous cleanings. Additionally, detergents only clean the surface, and all surfaces, hard and soft alike, are porous.
Superheated steam actually penetrates these pores, deep cleans and sanitizes by using heat transfer.
Another huge advantage of vapor steam cleaning is that the hot steam vapor is naturally sanitizing
without using any chemicals. The vapor destroys many mold spores, germs, viruses, dust mites, and bacteria.
It can be like a magical weapon in the war against germs when used in kitchens and bathrooms.
There are times when you will need to pre-treat with a surface cleaner, we recommend using a natural
one before using the steam cleaner if there is heavy soil present. The steam will boost the effectiveness
of the cleaner, and natural surfactants leave less residue and generally lack the chemicals you are trying to avoid.
Steam Cleaners - Important Features
The four primary features/functions to concentrate on when researching your new steam cleaner are continuous water refill, heat up time,
steam pressure, and the steam volume control. These four features really separate the great machines from the entry level steam
Continuous Refill - The continuous water refill feature means that you can add water to the unit while you are in the middle
of your steam cleaning job. These systems have two tanks, a reservoir for cold water and a boiler that actually converts the water
Without the reservoir, boiler style steam cleaners have to reheat before you can resume cleaning. Continuous fill steam cleaners
push cold water from the reservoir to the boiler for heating, and when the reservoir is empty an indicator light or audible alert
lets you know it's time to refill. Once you refilled, you can go right back to steam cleaning without any wait time since while you
fill, the boiler retained the heat and water it had inside of it. For commercial use, the water refill option is a necessity.
Heat-Up Time - Water heat-up time is another important feature. Most of the steam cleaner models that we offer heat up within
7-15 minutes. Some of the more advanced units can heat up the water in about five minutes. A faster heat-up time
means that you can tackle your cleaning job quicker and you can use your steam cleaner more often.
In reality, a few minutes here or there doesn't seem like much, but most people are so pressed for time and impatient that anything that delays
their goal can lead to many people not even trying to begin with. Besides, you won't find many people are going to volunteer
waiting time to clean or sanitize their home. Just remember to wait for the steam ready light on your machine to tell you when the
steam is at the optimal temperature and pressure to clean. Be patient and you will find better performance results.
Steam Pressure - Other features that are important have to do with the steam pressure generated by steam cleaners. There is a common
misunderstanding about steam cleaners, and too many people equate a higher steam pressure with better performance. While a higher
pressure does lend itself to a better quality steam, higher pressure is... highly overrated (bad pun, we know).
No, what is most important is consistent pressure. Pressure and heat inside the boiler work together to create steam. The higher the pressure,
the quicker steam will be produced. Consistent pressure means consistent performance, both in terms of steam production and volume of steam
available at the point of cleaning (the tip/nozzle/tool).
If the pressure swings wildly then you can expect the quality of steam being produced by your unit to vary widely as well. Better models come standard with a steam
pressure gauge for you to ensure that your steam cleaner is maintaining a good, steady pressure. Besides, the boilers in steam
cleaners are really low pressure boilers. So remember, a steam cleaner isn't a pressure washer. Consistency is the key.
Steam Volume Control - Most models have steam volume control on the handle, and this feature lends itself to a quicker and easier transition
when steam cleaning across a variety of surfaces. The ability to control the steam volume indirectly gives you control over several
things including the amount of steam coming out and the amount of moisture that will ultimately be left behind. This is a convenient
feature that adds to the overall ease of use.
Steam Cleaner Operation and Maintenance
a steam cleaner is not difficult, but there are some safety precautions and sound advice to keep in mind
before you get started. You should always read the owner's manual carefully before using one of these
machines. The hot steam that is released can cause damage to items and injury. Depending on the steam cleaner model that
you purchased, the steam temperature can be anywhere from 230 - 320° F.
If you have a doubt about cleaning
a type of fabric, you should do a test in an inconspicuous area. Be careful when you
are filling with water. You do not want to overfill the boiler or soak the electrical parts of the steam
Some units are designed so that should you overfill them, the water simply rolls off the exterior on the unit, but
be sure to use the included fill cups whenever possible. Never clean electronic appliances with steam, as this could be a safety hazard. Lastly, never put detergents,
perfumes, or any other chemicals in the water tank.
*Please note that when the steam generator heats up on these units, there is air that is trapped inside the unit.
When the steam ready light comes on, you must release this air
from the tip for a few seconds before the steam can flow from the steam
tip. Doing this also drains away any water that may have cooled in the lines since your last use, and in some cases, any leftover moisture
that may be left from when the unit was quality control tested before leaving the manufacturer. Always wait for the steam ready light for most effective use.
Maintaining your steam cleaner is a fairly easy process. Always switch off and unplug the steam cleaner before doing
anything to the unit. Every three months or after 15 uses, it is
a good idea to drain the boiler unit of any water. This advice is recommended for nearly all canister style steam cleaners. For less
expensive steam mops,
you should drain the tank(s) and allow them to dry after each use. You never want to store your steam cleaner in a cold place that
is likely to freeze or expose the unit to cold temperatures for long periods of time.
Occasionally, mineral scale can build up inside the boiler system. Some steam cleaners have built-in methods for eliminating or
removing scale (like the Reliable Pro EP1000 and
Ladybug steamers with TANCS) but in less
expensive models this is rarely the case. So what can be done to remove scale is to flush the system
with a mixture of water and baking soda. More on this can be found on our
steam cleaner maintenance page.
Lastly, stick with regular tap water. It's generally the least expensive and descaling costs little. If your water is particularly hard (has a lot of mineral content), you can mix your
tap water with 50% distilled water to reduce the overall mineral content. We recommend that you avoid softened water and here is why:
Traditional water softeners use ionized salt to remove/replace minerals found in hard water. Over time, the sodium (salt) from water
softeners can damage the boiler system and internal components, shortening the lifespan of your steam cleaner.
Here are some quick troubleshooting tips to go through before calling the manufacturer for help:
- Is there electricity supplied to the steam generator? Check the outlet with another appliance.
- Is the steam generator "ON" switch on and the light on?
- Is the steam ready light "ON" and/or is the beeper sounding?
- Is the no water light blinking because the tank is out of water?
- Is the pressure gauge showing a "ready" indicator?
- Is the flexible hose and the cleaning attachment correctly connected?
Other Factors to Consider
Like all appliances, different steam cleaners use different amounts of energy for operation. Typical steam cleaners can use anywhere
from 1000 to 1800 watts. (For comparison sake, a typical lamp uses about 60 watts, while a typical computer uses about 365 watts). Wattage will vary
widely depending on the heating system employed (boiler vs. flash) and the number of heating elements used in the boiler style systems.
All of our steam cleaners are relatively quiet, but they are going to make some noise. Most of these
units use technology and quality components to keep the noise level to a bare minimum. The steam pressure coming out of the tip of the
steam gun will sometimes make noise as the pressure is released, but aside from this all units are much quieter than any vacuum.
Easy to Use
Most steam cleaners are designed to be very user-friendly. They have very few moving parts that need maintenance. Almost all of these
machines come on casters (wheels) and are relatively light for better mobility.
For example, Ladybug Steam Cleaners feature fingertip controls, a flexible hose, low water light and noise indicators, a pressure gauge, and a splash-proof design. These
same features can also be found in several of the Reliable steam cleaners we carry as well.
Look for these steam cleaner features that will make your
cleaning regimen easier and faster:
- Fast heat-up time
- Continuous water refill ability
- Steam pressure control on the handle
- PSI - steam pressure gauge
- Boiler tank capacity
- Quality accessory kit
Residential steam cleaners are still a relatively new product in the U.S. marketplace. Like any
other home appliance (ie. dehumidifier or air purifier), some steam cleaner manufacturers make a better
product than others. A manufacturer's reputation and the experiences of past customers deserve consideration in your
decision. You should pay careful attention to product reviews and Achoo reviews that are posted by AchooAllergy.com staff
Certain manufacturers and products are highly respected in the industry for a
reason. The same sentiment goes for products which have garnered less respect. So whether it is a
review or award issued by a nationally recognized magazine or simply an excellent review from
someone just like you, it pays to do your research before buying a steam cleaner.
In general, we recommend looking for Italian or European made units. Often inexpensive Asian manufactured
steam cleaners use less durable plastic for the shell and inferior internal components. So yes, while you can certainly find
a $100 steam cleaner, don't expect the same performance or longevity as one that is Italian made or 3X the cost. Keep
this truism in mind - you get what you pay for.
For each steam cleaner, a warranty is listed at the bottom of the product page. Almost all of our steam cleaners come with a one year
limited warranty on the parts. A one year warranty is the industry standard. However, most of the boilers on these units are made
of stainless steel. The boiler warranties can range anywhere from 3 years to 8 years depending on the steam cleaner model. Most recently, Reliable
boilers have been upgraded to a full Limited Lifetime Warranty.
When researching the warranty, take into account what the warranty covers - parts, boiler, steam tank, the outer shell? Warranties are your insurance
policy against defect and malfunction, so it is prudent to take these into account when choosing a steam cleaner for your home. Most of
the steam cleaners that we sell can be returned and fixed by the manufacturer.