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Steam Cleaner Buying Guide

Steam Cleaner Buying Guide

As people become more aware of and concerned about the effects of harsh chemicals on their indoor environment, they are searching for natural, chemical-free cleaning solutions. Steam cleaners are great, eco-friendly appliances for keeping your home, office, warehouse, or any other space sparkling clean - without the use of chemicals that may harm your indoor air quality and your overall health.

For easy accessibility to the topics in this article, use the list below:

About Steam Cleaning

Using ordinary tap water, vapor steam cleaners create a dry steam that is powerful enough to eliminate dirt, grime, viruses, bacteria, dust mites, flea eggs, biofilms, dander, and more in a matter of minutes and without the use of chemical cleaners. Steam cleaners are equipped with internal boilers or water tanks that heat water to temperatures as high as 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures this high, the water is transformed into steam. This powerful steam can then be used to penetrate microscopic pores on a variety of surfaces to destroy dirt, germs, and allergens. Plus, cleaning with steam allows you to sanitize and deodorize surfaces more quickly and effectively than liquid cleaning detergents.

Traditional deep cleaning systems combine chemical detergents with water to remove unwanted contaminants. Although the deep cleaner gets rid of the unwanted dirt and grime, it also adds something else to your indoor environment: chemicals and annoying wet spots. Part of the beauty of a dry vapor steam cleaning system is that it not only cleans your area without chemicals, it won't leave a long-lasting wet residue behind. Steam cleaning technology accomplishes this by using very little water to create the steam. This efficient cleaning process delivers a high-temperature mist that is only about 5 to 6 percent moisture, so any mist that is left behind dries within a few short minutes regardless of the surface cleaned.

Steam cleaners also reduce the risk of cross-contamination. With an ordinary sponge and liquid cleaning detergent, you risk transferring bacteria, germs, and other contaminants to other areas of your home while cleaning, which makes your cleaning efforts less effective. Many contaminants are also adept to survive in wet environments, making sanitization increasingly difficult. Since steam cleaners emulsify dirt and grime and eliminate odors, bacteria, viruses, germs, and more, there is no risk of transferring these contaminants to other surfaces because they cannot survive when exposed to the hot steam.

Steam Cleaner Applications

Versatile steam cleaning systems can be used to clean a wide variety of surfaces, including the following:

  • Vinyl tile or linoleum floors
  • Quarry slate, and ceramic tile as well as tile grout
  • Sealed hardwood floors
  • Smooth concrete floors
  • Wall-to-wall carpeting
  • Carpet spot cleaning and area rugs
  • Painted, paneled, and wallpapered walls and ceilings
  • Acoustical tile walls and ceilings
  • Wall and ceiling vents
  • Vinyl and synthetic upholstery
  • Cotton upholstery
  • Leather upholstery
  • Levelor, venetian, or horizontal blinds
  • Vertical blinds
  • Windows, mirrors, window screens
  • Window frames
  • Stovetops and ovens
  • Small kitchen appliances
  • Sinks, faucets, and drains
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Porcelain and chrome bathroom fixtures
  • Shower stalls and doors
  • Fiberglass
  • Exterior detailing and interior surface cleaning of buses, boats, cars, and RVs

In addition to tackling these cleaning jobs, you can use your steam cleaner for smaller jobs such as jewelry polishing, dusting plants, wax removal on hard floors, and cleaning sports equipment. Since steam cleaners use hot vapor to sanitize and deodorize surfaces, they are also useful tools for defrosting freezers, removing unwanted vegetation, and eliminating algae on decks and other exterior wood surfaces.

For tips and instructions on using your steam cleaner for these applications and others, read our steam cleaning tips article in our Knowledge Center.

Size and Efficiency

Ladybug XLT2300 Vapor Steam Cleaner

Whether you need to spot clean a stain on your rug or disinfect hard floors and bed frames in hospital rooms, there's a steam cleaner for the task. There are a wide variety of steam cleaners for the home and commercial steam cleaners currently available.

For apartments or small homes, a steam mop is a great solution. These compact steam cleaners are ideal for cleaning, sanitizing, and deodorizing multiple surfaces in smaller areas and for light spot cleaning. Most steam mops are lightweight, produce steam within seconds, and feature easily maneuverable cleaning heads. For example, the Reliable T1 Steam Mop weighs just eight pounds, produces hot steam vapor up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit within 20 seconds, and provides up to 30 minutes of continuous steam cleaning power. The Steamboy's 180-degree swivel head allows you to clean and sanitize tough-to-reach places on sealed hardwoods, tile, and even carpet. Some models include water filters, such as the Bissell Steam Mop, and have enhancements that visually indicate when it's time to change your filter.

For larger homes, a more robust steam cleaning system will help keep your environment sparkling clean and chemical-free. Featuring high-capacity boilers that can hold 2 liters or more of water, these cleaning systems produce germ-killing steam up to 298 degrees Fahrenheit and provide users with uninterrupted steam cleaning power for longer periods of time. For example, the Reliable Enviromate E3 provides up to two hours of continuous steam while the popular Ladybug steam cleaners feature a continuous steam capability because they have a separate cold water reservoir in addition to the boiler. This allows you to refill the tank without turning the machine off or risking steam burns, giving you endless cleaning time and power.

Many residential vapor steam cleaning systems also come with more cleaning accessories than steam mops to help you tackle a variety of cleaning jobs. The Vapamore MR-100 comes with a nylon grout brush, a jet nozzle attachment, a 2-in-1 attachment for cleaning windows or steaming clothes, a detail nozzle, a powerful floor cleaning head, and much more. Like most comparable steam cleaning systems, the Vapamore MR-100's accessories can be conveniently stored onboard the appliance.

Industrial and commercial settings, like restaurants, hotels, and hospitals, typically require more steam cleaning power than residential settings. Designed to withstand heavy use, commercial steam cleaners feature highly durable construction. The Eurosteam ES2100, for example, comes equipped with a completely stainless steel outer body, a steel-cabled unit hose with industrial cover, a surgically welded 3-liter boiler, copper tubing, and brass-threaded fittings to ensure effective cleaning and user safety. The Eurosteam ES2100 also allows users to adjust the cleaning temperature between 185 and 245 degrees Fahrenheit.

For even more effective cleaning, many of our customers choose the Ladybug XLT 2300 with TANCS. TANCS stands for Thermo Accelerated Nano Crystal Sanitation and is an EPA-certified disinfection system. Ladybug steam cleaners with TANCS go beyond sanitizing and deodorizing - these steam cleaners can actually disinfect your surfaces, eliminating harmful MRSA bacteria, E. coli bacteria, staphylococcus aureus bacteria, canine parvovirus, and many more harmful contaminants in 7 seconds or less. All of the Ladybug steam cleaner models featuring TANCS technology are great for use in both commercial and residential environments.

Cost and Considerations

As with any appliance purchase, cost and performance features are critical considerations. Steam cleaners are no different. These cleaning devices are available in a range of prices, from under $100 to more than $2,000. Steam cleaners also vary widely - from basic steam mops like the HAAN FS-20, which is designed for light cleaning jobs, to the Eurosteam ES1900, which comes with a variety of attachments for tackling heavy-duty applications, such as degreasing walls and floors in commercial kitchens and sanitizing equipment in hospital settings. Consider the following questions to help you decide which steam cleaner best suits your cleaning needs and budget:

  • How large is the area that you need to clean?
  • How long do you need continuous cleaning power?
  • Do you require additional attachments for your cleaning applications, such as a window cleaner, jet nozzle, or a grout cleaner?
  • What special features do you need?
  • Do you need a steam cleaner capable of disinfection?
  • Do you need a steam cleaner to help reduce the allergy and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) symptoms of members of your household or office?
  • What is your budget?
  • Is maintenance a primary concern?

These questions will help you narrow down your selection of steam cleaners. If you would like to speak with one of our knowledgeable air treatment specialists to help determine the best steam cleaning solution to fit your needs, give us a call at 1-800-934-9194.

Special Features

The benefits of steam cleaning don't end with sparkling sanitized floors, countertops, and fixtures. In fact, there are a wide variety of user-friendly special features available with today's steam cleaners. Many come with features that make steam cleaning even easier, such as fingertip controls on the steam gun so that you can easily adjust the amount of steam delivered to surfaces and convenient indicator lights that let you know when the steam cleaner is ready for use or needs additional water.

Some steam mops, like many HAAN models, were designed with ergonomics in mind. This HAAN steam cleaner features a non-slip handle to reduce hand and wrist stress, plus with a full tank of water, it only weighs four pounds.

On more robust steam cleaning systems, such as those offered by Ladybug, easy-to-read pressure gauges are often included to help users maintain their optimal cleaning pressure. Another great feature to look for is a locking system for all attachments. Securely locked attachments and tubes prevent accidental burns during the cleaning process.

Maintenance and Lifespan

Keeping your steam cleaner in top-performing condition is relatively simple and will lengthen the life of the machine. While maintenance requirements can differ slightly depending on your steam cleaning model, the majority of steam cleaners are designed for use with regular tap water. This means that if you live in an area with excessively hard water, it is a good idea to fill your steam cleaner's tank with 50% of water from your home and 50% distilled water. This protects your system from developing hard water mineral deposits, which can reduce cleaning effectiveness. Additionally, unless specified by the manufacturer, steam cleaners are not typically designed to work with perfume, detergents, or other additives. In other words, don't try to give the steam an extra boost - just let the heat work naturally to clean your environment.

Most steam mops require users to empty any remaining water from the water tank after each use and allow the tank to completely dry. Any soiled mop pads should be gently washed and dried, and the surface of the steam mop should be wiped clean periodically to remove any dirt or debris. Additionally, if your steam mop has a water filter, change it as necessary. For example, the Bissell Steam Mop Deluxe has a convenient filter indicator that changes color when the water filter needs to be changed.

For larger steam cleaning systems that contain boilers, we recommend draining the water every two to four weeks and allowing the boiler to dry completely before adding fresh water. Some models like the Reliable Enviromate E5 come with a descaling solution that should be periodically added to the boiler to prevent unwanted scale from accumulating in your boiler. If you choose a Ladybug steam cleaner with TANCS technology, you get an extra level of protection for your boiler because the TANCS process naturally prevents the formation of scale.

With regular use and proper maintenance, your residential steam cleaner should last about five years and an industrial steam cleaner will last about eight years. To ensure that you get that most out of your steam cleaner and that you properly maintain the specific device, always consult the owner's manual before performing any maintenance.

Health-Intentional Cleaning

Having outdoor allergies can be exceptionally uncomfortable during peak times for those allergens. However, indoor allergies to dust mites, fleas, dust, and other indoor allergens add an entirely new host of problems, especially if you have difficulty removing them from your home. Cleaning with steam can help get rid of these annoying allergens without the use of toxic chemicals.

For example, the traditional method for eliminating dust mites in your home is to wash the contaminated item in hot water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit or treat the area with a tannic acid solution. This type of treatment may prove difficult for surfaces such as carpet, mattresses, sofas, and other areas where dust mites are normally found. Steam cleaners, on the other hand, can deliver hot steam vapor with temperatures in excess of 180 degrees Fahrenheit to many upholstered surfaces safely without damage. The dry steam eliminates the dust mites, fleas, and other allergens, leaving only a fine mist that dries in a matter of minutes.

Additionally, cleaning with steam doesn't leave behind pungent odors that may irritate you if you suffer from multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or harm your indoor air quality. Steam cleaning also promotes a sanitary, healthy environment for everyone in it.

Safety Precautions

It might be a scary thought to clean your home with hot steam vapor that reaches temperatures of 245 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. Therefore, it is important to compare safety features in steam cleaner models to ensure that you get the right protection. Look for the following safety features:

  • Automatic Overheat Shut-Off: This safety enhancement will automatically turn your steam cleaner off if temperatures are too high for safe operation.
  • Child Safety Locks: These locks, usually found on the steam cleaner handles, prevent children from accidentally turning the appliance on and releasing steam.
  • Non-Pressurized Boiler: Whether your steam cleaner allows for continuous refills while the machine is in operation or if it must cool before you add more water, a non-pressurized boiler prevents hot steam from exiting the water nozzle and protects you from potential steam burns.
  • Low Water Indicators: Indicator lights or audible alerts are great precautions to protect your steam cleaner from damage caused by operation without water.

Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when operating your steam cleaning system to ensure that you remain safe from accidental steam burns or damage the product while cleaning.

Still Have Questions?

For more information on a specific steam cleaner or any of our other products that can improve your indoor air, review our extensive product listings and visit our Knowledge Center. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact one of our air treatment specialists toll-free at 1-800-934-9194. We want to help make your indoor environment healthy and comfortable.

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