Does Steam Cleaning Actually Work, and Why?

For many of us, a trusty old vacuum cleaner and good old elbow grease may be the tricks to a thoroughly clean home, concepts tried, true and enduring through time. But just because we’re used to something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the most efficient way of going about keeping our homes – and vehicles, while we’re at it – clean.

Steam cleaning is neither a novel nor a new concept, in practice for decades in commercial settings and in both Europe and the USA. But with an increased awareness of the environmental footprint we leave with our consumer choices, as well as a heightened understanding of how our purchasing decisions can directly correlate to our health and wellbeing, steam cleaning stands out as a highly attractive application to incorporate into our household repertoires.

How does it work?

steam cleaning

Water poured into an in-built reservoir of your cleaner is heated up to roughly 300°F, until you have pressurized, low-moisture steam pumped out through the extractors, cooling to roughly 215-230°F. These molecules of water vapor seep into the pores of a surface, expanding and loosening dirt, grime and grease, forcing out pathogens and allergens, the high temperature neutralizing them. Because the moisture content of the steam is so low (lower than the air around us), residual condensation isn’t left soaking up your upholstery, carpets or floors – you won’t have to worry about moisture damage to your furniture or low-pile carpets, the steam evaporating almost immediately.

This is different from the working concepts of vacuum cleaners and deep steam cleaners, which use suction for dirt removal. Now, although you may have to use a vacuum cleaner or microfiber cloth to follow up after steam cleaning, to remove all that loosened dirt and grime, steam cleaning arguably does a much more thorough job of getting at deeply-set dirt and neutralizing allergens a round of hoovering can’t come close to pulling off.

But that’s not the only benefits steam cleaning has to offer.

Chemical-free cleaning

The internet is rife with alarming reports of the plethora of toxins typical cleaning solutions come with. For anything from floor scrubbers to window cleaners to the solution you use to swipe away caked up grease in your ovens and grills, commercial cleaners are often spiked with all manner of harmful chemicals, from ammonia, chlorine and sodium hydroxide to 2-Butoxyethanol, which has been linked to kidney and lever disorders and narcosis. Consider the chemical residues of these solutions left over on the floors your children and pets play on, or lingering on the countertops you’re making a sandwich on, and it’s frightening to think of how much detrimental toxins can inadvertently find their way into our bodies.

This entire dilemma can be avoided with steam cleaning, because all you’ll be using to clean, technically, is steam. High-pressure, low moisture vapor molecules penetrate the microscopic pores of a variety of surfaces, from sealed hardwood floors to the upholstery of armchairs and car seats to ceramic surfaces, and clean from within, the molecules expanding and forcing out dirt and grime, much more effectively and thoroughly than the suctioning action of a powerful vacuum cleaner can. Steam cleaning can melt away the layers of dried grease in your oven or crusting up your barbecue grills in a jiffy, or sanitize and deodorize every tile and ceramic surface in your bathroom, a wipe-down with a microfiber cloth or a pass with your vacuum cleaner all you’ll need afterwards to give every surface of your home that satisfying sparkle – all without the use of any harmful chemicals.

Not only does this give you the peace of mind that you’re not inadvertently poisoning yourself and your family with the slow and prolonged exposure to commercial toxins, there’s also the compelling environmental advantages. Fewer chemicals used in the household mean fewer chemicals washing down our drains and leaking into the environment and polluting our ecosystems.

And another major plus? We get to save a pretty penny on cleaning supplies, since the only resource we’ll need comes out of the tap.

Eliminating pathogens and allergens

living room

Chemical-exclusive cleaning isn’t the only major health benefit steam cleaning offers. In the same way that steam particles force out dirt from the pores of a multitude of surfaces, it also forces out many of the common pathogens and allergens that manage to insidiously root themselves into the miniscule pores of tiled floors or cling, microscopic, to the fibers of our mattresses, quilts and upholstery. From pathogens like bacteria, mold and viruses to allergens like dust mites, steam cleaning can not only effectively remove these disease-causing microbial organisms, but also kill them. This thoroughly sanitizes and decontaminates your home, getting at not just the visible layers of mold and dirt you’ll be able to see disappearing off your curtains, bedding, carpets and floors as you vacuum after a steam cleaning session, but also taking care of all those nasties invisible to the naked eye. This is a blessing if you or a family member is prone to allergies – in fact, keeping exposure to allergens and pathogens on the down-low goes a long way in preventing allergies from manifesting in the first place.

stuffed toy

Steam cleaning is also extremely beneficial for a household with small kids, not just because you’re ensuring all the surfaces your little one plays on are chemical-free and hypoallergenic, but also because the same method can be used to de-contaminate, sanitize and deodorize the biggest offenders in the germ breeding department – toys. From plushies to your child’s favorite blanket, a good steam cleaning session can tease out all the nasties likely to cause you or your little one irritation, leaving every aspect of your home – not to mention the car and your baby’s stroller and car-seat – clean as a whistle and child-friendly to boot.

Note that…

Steam cleaners can come with a bunch of different attachments, to tailor them to the use they’re going to be put to. A good, versatile cleaner can heat up a tank of water to pressurized steam in 10 minutes or less, and can be usable anywhere from cleaning out grouts to complete car detailing, the stubborn stains in the kitchen or bathroom or the deep pile carpets losing their color because of all that dust. Avoid using your steam cleaner on unsealed hardwood floors (sealed floors will handle it fine) or any surface or material which might be temperature sensitive and prone to warping or damage from heat exposure. If you’re unsure, contact the manufacturer or check out the fine print to see if there are any cautionary warnings against steam cleaning or high temperature exposure of a particular item or surface.

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