Our Complete Guide to Steam Vapor Cleaning

Ever wonder how steam vapor cleaning became so popular? Why it works? Maybe even the costs to buy and own one? Well we cover all aspects of steam cleaning in this convenient, comprehensive guide to steam cleaning. 

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The History of Steam Cleaning

There is really nothing quite like knowing you’ve cleaned something so well that it’s virtually new. Unfortunately, this is so difficult to do most times. In today’s fast-paced society there is often little time to really dig deep into getting that stain out of the carpet, cleaning the toys in the baby’s room, or actually getting rid of all that bacteria in the kitchen. Check out our top 10 cleaning jobs that are made easy with a steam cleaner for more great uses for your steam cleaner.

In the 1960’s, Italian boiler manufacturers started to experiment with steam vapor as a means to clean tough stains, grease, and oil from trains, ships, engines, and power stations. Highly pressurized, low moisture steam has been embraced by Europeans for years until they really saw the potential.

Steam vapor cleaners were never popular in the United States until recently. Voltage standards between the USA and Europe made steam cleaners seemed impractical as they wouldn’t be able to produce enough steam at high pressure. Steam cleaners now are able to produce blisteringly hot steam, up to 330 degrees Fahrenheit by using the US standard 115 volts. Steam cleaning couldn’t become more popular at the right time as ecological cleaning methods are sought after by so many.

steam cleaning infographic

What is Steam Cleaning and How Does it Work?

bed bugs

Blast away nasty bed bugs with a steam cleaner

Steam vapor cleaning is done with a machine that uses nothing but tap water to create true steam, usually, around 250 degrees Fahrenheit to sanitize, clean, and deodorize without the use of any chemicals. Small vapor molecules penetrate the surface and rapidly expand to force out dirt and pretty much anything else that shouldn’t be there. It’s ability to kill dust mites, bed bugs, viruses, mold, fleas, and eggs is a huge bonus and make it ideal for allergy sufferers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t keep things from coming back into the same areas, so it’s best to repeat every 8-10 weeks to keep the pests at bay.

Steam vapor cleaning uses a “dry” steam vapor to clean various types of surfaces. The low moisture steam can be considered a mess-free way of cleaning as the steam leaves behind almost no moisture. Carpets can be dry in 10-15 minutes and there’s no need to wipe up or mop after cleaning hard surfaces unless there were heavily soiled areas in which the dirt has been loosened up. It’s recommended to use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the loose dirt after the carpet is completely dry.

Is Steam Cleaning Safe?

Operating a steam cleaner is as safe as running a vacuum cleaner. It just requires filling up a water reservoir, allowing the unit to heat up and pressurize, then selecting various attachments best suited for the job at hand. Yes, you can burn yourself with a steam cleaner, however, it would be difficult unless you were very careless. We recommend thoroughly reading the manufactures guidelines of the steam cleaner you own and make sure you understand how to use it.

Does Steam Cleaning Really Work?

Yes! With temperatures over 220 degrees, any bed bugs, mold, viruses, dust mites, bacteria, etc will be destroyed. Heavily soiled carpets will need vacuumed and possibly spot treated prior to steam cleaning. You will also want to use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to vacuum the area once the carpet is completely dry to pick up everything that has been loosened up.

There are many uses for a steam cleaner beyond what is considered normal. Grills, litter boxes, bird cages, golf clubs, kids toys and stuffed animals…. You get the idea here, nearly endless possibilities.

What NOT to Use Your Steam Cleaner On


It’s tempting to go crazy once you’ve figured out how great steam cleaning can be. However, there are some things you will certainly want to avoid cleaning.

  • Anything with water-based paint
  • Any paper products, cardboard, etc
  • Porous surfaces, brick, stucco, marble, etc
  • Delicate fabrics. Silk, velour upholstery
  • Thin plastics
  • Unsealed laminate floors
  • Electronics

Replace Chemicals with Steam

Steam cleaning’s huge advantage (other than doing an amazing job of course) is its ability to clean without the use of harmful chemicals. Think about your baby toys for a minute, these toys always end up in their mouth at some point so do you really want to use a Clorox wipe on that? How about chemical contact on your body throughout the day in your home? Chemicals are harmful to the planet and your body. Some of these chemicals are likely to produce eye, nose, and lung irritation, as well as cancer in some instances.

Steam Cleaner vs Carpet Cleaner

Carpet cleaners or carpet shampoo machines are often confused with steam cleaners. These carpet shampooers are used to clean entire rooms of carpet. You’ve often seen these used commercially when moving into a new apartment. Carpet cleaners use hot water and chemicals to treat and loosen dirt in the carpet and the vacuum portion of the machine immediately sucks up the dirty water and suds into its reservoir. This works very well for large areas where the entire area isn’t severely soiled. The downside to these machines is that the carpets are often left soaking wet and cannot be walked on for 1-3 days!

Steam cleaners, on the other hand, use steam with a very little percentage of the steam-containing water, so carpets are nearly dry when complete. Steam vapor cleaners also do not use chemicals and clean by blasting clean water into the areas and forcing the dirt loose with the expanding molecules. Steam cleaners are designed to spot clean carpets more so than cleaning the entire room. Steam vapor cleaners are also much more versatile. The same machine you use to clean your carpet can be used to clean your tile and grout, your kitchen, grill, and car. A carpet cleaner on the other hand, well that machine will do your carpet and that’s it.

Read more: Steam cleaners vs carpet cleaners

Important Features When Buying a Steam Cleaner

When buying a steam cleaner, there are a few features that will separate a good steam cleaner from a bad one. It’s important not to be consumed with marketing tactics or needless features and attachments you’ll never use. These four features will ensure you are making a good purchase.

Heat-Up Time

Heat up time is the time it takes for a steam cleaner to heat and pressurize the water that's been added to the reservoir. While this doesn’t affect the overall performance and ability to clean, it does play a big role in user experience and the time it takes to complete a job. A high-end steam cleaner will heat water for about 5 minutes while most will hover in the 7-15 minute range.

Continuous Refill

A steam cleaner with continuous refill means that the unit has two tanks, a boiler and a cold water tank. The benefit of this is that you can fill the cold water tank while working as the boiler has retained heat and still has some hot water left in the tank. Without this cold water reservoir, the unit would need to reheat the new water before you could restart your task, making your cleaning job take considerably longer to complete. For commercial use, the continuous refill is required.

Steam Pressure

Steam pressure affects the ability of the unit to clean consistently. Pressure and heat combined are what makes the steam while the higher the pressure, the quicker the steam will be made. If your unit’s pressure isn’t consistent, then the steam produced won’t be consistent either. Nothing can be more frustrating that your steam cleaner doing excellent one minute and then performing poorly the next.

Good quality steam cleaners will come with a pressure gauge to ensure your unit is maintaining steady pressure and in turn, producing good steam.

Steam Volume Control

Since steam cleaners can be used on many different types of surfaces, the ability to control the steam volume will help immensely in the overall ease of use. For example, cleaning a hard surface such as a countertop, you can turn the volume down so that there isn’t a lot of water left behind.

Costs to Own a Steam Cleaner

Steam cleaners come in various shapes, sizes, and targeted uses. Steam mops are great for quick jobs specifically on the floor and can be purchased for less than $100 in some cases. Check out our review of a top selling steam mop on amazon to see if a steam mop is for you.

A good multi-purpose steam cleaner, one with an array of attachments can cost anywhere from $200-$500 and can be expected to produce good results inside the home. For commercial use or tough, outdoor uses, these mid-level steam cleaners won’t be enough.

For the top of the line commercial steam cleaners, you can expect to pay $2000-$5000 for one. They will be the best performing, longest lasting steam cleaners money can buy. Ladybug steam cleaners feature hospital grade cleaning abilities and are marketed towards commercial users. Ladybug steam cleaners fall in at just about $2000 and are a great performing steam cleaner at that price point.

Since steam cleaners clean solely with steam. There are no additional costs for shampoo or chemicals. The only other expense would be electricity to run them and potentially some microfiber cloths, depending on if there's a steam mop attachment. You shouldn’t expect your steam cleaner use to surpass a few bucks a month.

There comes a time when things will break or need to be replaced. This will largely depend on the unit and the old saying “you get what you pay for” comes into play for sure. Buying a mid-level steam cleaner with a good warranty from the manufacturer should keep you worry free from spending additional cash just to keep the unit running.

What are some of the best steam cleaners available today?

For homemakers, cleaning the household is a war they wage every day to prevent dust, mold, mildew, and bacteria from remaining in the house. If they did not get rid of these things, they could be putting their families at risk to various health complications such as allergies, asthma, and other similar complications.

Luckily, several inventions have been developed to battle these hazards, especially on your carpets, one of which being steam cleaners. Steam cleaners help sanitize, clean, and kill viruses, mildew, bacteria, and other harmful things in your furnishings, may they be the carpet, flooring, or even the curtains.

Since there are now many steam cleaners on the market promising to help you get rid of the grime and dust in your favorite carpets and other furnishings, it can be difficult to pick the one that will work best for you. Despite these promises, you have to consider several factors such as price, quality, and cleaning power.

What to look for in a good steam cleaner?

With the variety of steam cleaners on the market, what should you look for in a good steam cleaner?

  • Wattage: Steam cleaners vary in terms on the quality of the steam (whether it is dry or wet) and how effective it will be. It’s a rule that if it has a higher wattage and tank size, it will produce a more effective, powerful, and drier steam, which can help you clean with ease.
  • Heating power: To produce drier steam, the steam cleaner has to be capable of higher temperatures. If it can produce higher temperatures, it will be an efficient cleaning machine, but it will cost you more.
  • Water capacity: How much water can you put in it without carrying excess weight?
  • Safety features: Since steam cleaners produce heat and pressure, it should have safety features that allow you and your family to use it without problems.
  • Switches: Is it easy to turn off and on?
  • Brand: Good steam cleaners should have quality customer service, instruction guides, and a tech team that will help you handle or repair your steam cleaner.
  • Durable: You are investing some money for your steam cleaner, so it has to work to last and you don’t have to keep replacing its parts ever so often.

How to choose the best steam cleaner?

When picking the best steam cleaner, there are many factors that can help you choose the best steam cleaner from the list:

  • Type of Steam Cleaner: Steam cleaners come in three types, fitting a specific surface and varying in cleaning power: cylinder steam, steam mop, and handheld.
  • Price: This factor depends on what type of steam cleaner you are picking. For steam mops, the price range should be around $50 to $150. Handheld steam cleaners go around $30 to $60. Finally, cylinder steam cleaners are around $80 to $280. Of course, price doesn’t guarantee that the quality of the steam cleaner, so still check reviews about them.
  • Availability: Steam cleaners are not usually in stock in supermarkets. Research the brand name or model and call your local store to see if they have it. Some brands may only be available online.
  • Variety of accessories: Like other appliances, steam cleaners can clean other surfaces aside from carpets. Consider what you want to steam clean and check if the steam cleaner you will get has the appropriate accessory. Some steam cleaners have a vast assortment of accessories. These are great all purpose steam cleaners
  • Steaming time: Double check how long the machine can produce steam, as this will tell you how often you will need to refill the tank with water.

Best Multi Purpose Steam Cleaners

McCulloch MC1275 Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner


Quick Summary:

  • 18 extra attachments
  • 48oz water tank
  • 1 year limited warranty

If you want a very powerful steam cleaner that can also clean items like grills and even your entire garage, you should take a look at McCulloch MC1275 Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner!

Features of the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner

  • Steam Lock Switch –Push the steam lock switch and the steam will come out consistently without stopping.
  • Powerful Jet Nozzle – The jet nozzle function can focus on the place you want the steam to target and help get rid of dirt more efficiently.
  • Attachment Functions – You can clean your floors, whether sealed or wooden or laminate, with ease with this attachment.
  • 48 Ounce Water Tank – This steam cleaner can hold 48 ounces of water, allowing the machine to create steam for up to 45 minutes.
  • Scrub pad attachment – It can be used for these types of cleaning needs.
  • Utility Brushes Included – Used for other surfaces.
  • Full package: Included in the system is a carrying handle, a steam jet nozzle, 2 extension wands, a mop head, 2 microfiber pads, a water funnel, a measuring cup, a squeegee, a triangle brush, 5 nylon utility brushes, a brass utility brush, and a scrub pad.

Benefits of the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner

Users remarked that the steam it created lasted for a long time - up to 2 hours. Users have also remarked that it was able to clean up organic build-ups and darkened grout without harming the surface.

Some users who used the steam cleaner on their car wheels said that it was able to clean brake dust and other chemicals on the wheels. Satisfied users have also said that they love the fact they did not have to use chemicals that can be dangerous to their health.

Things to be Aware Of

Users have remarked that this machine’s steam lacks the pressure necessary to clean efficiently, especially if the buildup is very heavy. The temperature is also a criticism of this machine due to its ability to make steam quickly.

There were also users who said that the machine is too noisy to use. With regards to durability, some users have commented that the attachments are not too durable as they could not withstand heat and would break after one use.

Bottom Line

McCulloch has been in the industry for more than a decade, creating the best steam cleaning products one could ever want in their home. If you want a powerful, durable, and effective steam cleaner that will last you years, invest in a McCulloch!

Wagner 915 1,500-Watt On-Demand Power Steamer and Cleaner

wagner 915 steam cleaner

Quick Summary:

  • Great for wallpaper removal
  • 8ft long steam hose
  • 1 year limited warranty

For people looking for inexpensive steam cleaners, the choices are quite limited because there is always a question when it comes to their quality and power. However, there are some good choices in the market that are both cheap and durable to use with the same cleaning power of heavy duty steam cleaners.

If you are looking for these qualities, why not get yourself a Wagner 915 1,500-Watt-On-Demand Power Steamer and Cleaner?

Features of the Wagner 915 1,500-Watt On-Demand Power Steamer and Cleaner

  • Two modes of steam power: If you want to modify how the steam will go out from the machine and make it suited for your use, you only have to push a button and it will release the steam either continuously or intermittently.
  • 120-volt powered machine: This power steam cleaner has the capacity to help you clean any surface and even help you remove wallpaper and other hard to clean stains.
  • 20% Faster Cleaning than other steam cleaners: This power steamer can clean and remove wallpaper faster than non-pressurized steam cleaners.
  • Included: When you buy this power cleaner, you will also get a window squeegee, a floor-cleaning brush and cloth, two extension tubes, a measuring cup and fill funnel, utility brushes, and the user manual.

Benefits of the Wagner 915 1,500-Watt On-Demand Power Steamer and Cleaner

One reported that the machine was very easy to fill up and prepare for use. Users also said that this machine is very lightweight, allowing them to clean areas like stairs and other various surfaces. The attachments were also a plus for many users because they were able to clean a variety of areas easily.

Things to be Aware Of

Users commented that the size is too big and too cumbersome to use every day. Users also cited that this machine heats up very slowly, making them unable to clean quickly.

Some users remarked that it actually did not clean areas like their grilles, wheels, and other areas where it promises it can clean. Another said that the machine had actually stopped working after a few uses, and one even added that they only got to use it for 15 seconds.

Bottom Line

If you want to clean your home in the most efficient way possible with fewer complications, a power steamer is your best bet. With the Wagner 915, you not only get a safe steam cleaner, but you will also get a powerful cleaning machine that can replace all other cleaning machines you have in your home.

ProduTrend Miracle Steam Electric Handheld Steam Cleaner with Various Attachments


Quick Summary:

  • Great for quick jobs
  • Various attachments
  • Weights only 4.2lbs

Luckily for those looking to buy a small steam cleaner, there is a product that will solve your worries: the ProduTrend Miracle Steam Electric Handheld Steam Cleaner with Various Attachments.

Features of the ProduTrend Miracle Steam Electric Handheld Steam Cleaner with Various Attachments

  • This steam cleaner can clean stains, bacteria and dirt from almost any surface thanks to its numerous add-ons and accessories, whether those stains are on your kitchen floor, your couch, or your fixtures.
  • To use this steam cleaner, users would only have to fill in 175 ml of clean water in its tank and wait a few minutes to use. You can also attach the available cleaning accessories included in the system depending on what type of stain or surface you are cleaning and then just press a button to start cleaning.
  • This steam cleaner will save you time and money, as it would no longer require you to use soaps and chemicals to clean surfaces.
  • This machine is also lightweight and portable, allowing users to bring it wherever they want.

Benefits of the ProduTrend Miracle Steam Electric Handheld Steam Cleaner with Various Attachments

Users reported that they love the fact this machine heats up faster than their steam mops or garment steamer, letting them clean clothes and other surfaces with ease. There were also no leaks in the machine, ensuring that users would not be scalded by hot water. Users also said that they did not have to worry about carrying a very heavy-looking machine to clean stains.

Things to be Aware Of

Users said that this unit is unable to clean tile grout and other tough stains despite its promise that it can clean almost anything. Another reported that they took a while to clean the oven and there have been instances the steam cleaner running out of water as they were cleaning. Some reported that the buttons of this machine are very hard to use, disabling them from using the steam continuously and causing them to develop thumb cramps.

Bottom Line

Although this little steam cleaner is new on the market, one must not immediately judge it too harshly as it may have something hidden up its sleeves. This little product from ProduTrend promises to help you clean without having to use chemicals and to clean as efficiently as possible without breaking a sweat.

Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner

steamfast sf 370

Quick Summary:

  • 45oz water tank
  • Powerfull 1500w motor
  • 1 year warranty

If you are looking for a powerful and heavy-duty steam cleaner which is cheap and practical, the Steamfast SF-370 Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner is the steam cleaner to look at. We've posted the user manual so you can skim through it before purchase.

Features of the Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner

  • This steam cleaner can clean any sealed flooring surface from wood and tile to laminate as well as other surfaces that need cleaning.
  • A 1500-watt motor is in this cleaner, ensuring that it will clean any stain and bacteria with ease.
  • It also has a large 45-ounce water tank that enables users to clean for 45 minutes with a continuous steam.
  • Users can also enjoy the steam-on-demand trigger with continuous steam locking switch.
  • Included in the package are the following attachments: extension wands, a mop head, microfiber pads, a jet nozzle, a squeegee, a scrub tool, a corner tool, nylon utility brushes, and brass utility brushes, great for many, many uses.

Benefits of the Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner

Users have said that this steam cleaner is actually very good, as it is made from high quality components and it is very solid, despite the fact it is made from plastic. The performance of this steam cleaner is also excellent because they were able to get the pressure they needed to clean even the toughest messes easily.

Users have also raved about the lock on-button, which allows them to use the machine continuously without having to depress the steam button manually. The customer service for this company is also commendable due to its efficiency.

Things to be Aware Of

Users reported that the machine is not very sturdy, as some reported broken parts almost immediately after use and the components were not really assembled well. Users even said they could not stop the steam from pouring out constantly due to problems with the steam button.

Users have also commented that there are no possible repairs or replacements that can be done if something breaks. Some users have also complained against the customer service of SteamFast because they did not reply to their emails when they needed assistance or replacement.

Bottom Line

Looking for a heavy duty steam cleaner for the home can be tedious, and given the prices of heavy duty steamers, many would be tempted to settle for something less. With the SteamFast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner, you can clean with the pressure you need for any type of stain without spending too much money!

PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner

Pureclean XL attachments

Quick Summary:

  • 48oz water tank
  • Powerfull 1500w motor
  • 5 year warranty

The PureClean XL steam cleaner is offers a wide variety of attachments to tackle just about any cleaning task your home might offer. We particularly like the 5 year warranty, one of the best warranty offers we've found to date on a steam cleaner.

Features of the PureClean XL

  • Large capacity. With lots of water on hand, more of your time can be used to clean things instead of attending to tank refills.
  • Extended hose. The extra length along with the long power cord will allow you to reach the corners of most rooms.
  • Flow-control switch. Continuous steaming can be readily set and released as required.
  • Useful accessories. Attachments enable users to handle a range of cleaning tasks.
  • Long cord. The 16-foot cord has enough length to reach most parts of larger rooms around the home.
  • Handle organizer. The arrangement works nicely for securing the hose and moving the unit around.

Benefits of the PureClean XL Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner

The PureClean XL is a rolling canister style steam cleaner which features a 16 foot long cord which is most handy for getting the unit around the house without unplugging it. Last thing you want to do after building up steam is to unplug it!

Speaking of building up steam, this unit can pressurize and get steam going from it's 48 oz water tank in about 12 minutes, which is pretty good for a unit of this size. This should last for a good 45-50 minutes of continuous steaming.

Things to be Aware Of

You'll want to note that there are always seems to be a downside to even good products. This one has a few design flaws that need addressed. 

The PureClean XL doesn't signal you when things are heated up and ready and also lacks a water level gauge in case you wondered when it was time for a refill. You'll have to wait for the steam to run out in this case. 

Bottom Line

This is a fantastic steam cleaner for most jobs around the home. With it's long reach, quick heat up time, and solid active steam time, you should have no issue with getting the job done quickly. 

The 5 year warranty is one of the better warranties I've seen and should ease most concerns you may have with the steam cleaner. 

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