After you hear about how nicely a steam cleaner can tidy up a bathroom, you might consider trying one.
We discuss how to use a steam cleaner in the bathroom and what to look for in a good model, all while covering the various techniques step-by-step.
Steaming is an effective and chemical-free technique that is favored by parents when it comes to cleaning baths and kitchens and sanitizing problem areas.
Steam cleaners offer the cleansing power of heated and pressurized streams of hot vapor wherever stubborn clean ups abound.
Steaming with benefits
Over time, the grout lines in tile floors tend to become slimy and stained. As soap and other scum gets implanted in the porous material, it slowly solidifies and becomes harder to clean using traditional means. Energetic scouring along with strong detergents may not be enough to do the job right.
Steam cleaning can require more elbow grease, but it is certainly less costly and more convenient than replacing tile flooring. The technique also works fine on laminate floorboards when steam is judiciously applied via a mop accessory or steam mop like this one. Laminate floorboards can stand the chance spill, although too much moisture will damage the internal layers in the long run.
Be wary of using commercial carpet steamers in anything other than their intended application, particularly with laminate flooring in and near baths and kitchens. The high pressure streams produced by these units can seep past the edges of the boards and into their internal layers. Steam mops are a safer option in such cases, for the residual amounts of moisture will not affect laminates as readily as the ample amounts generated by industrial designs.
Steaming can be very useful elsewhere around the home, it works best on surfaces made of hard and moisture-resistant materials. Moldings, headboards, floorboards, mattresses and their box sets, lounge chairs and other upholstered furniture, seamed or cracked paneling, carpets and area rugs and so on, these are all prime candidates for the steam wand. Make sure you are aware of items that cannot be steam cleaned as well. Surfaces painted with water based paint should not be steam cleaned as well as electronics, paper products, thin plastics, and delicate fabrics.
Read our comprehensive guide to steam cleaning
Get rid of nasty bath scum
Builders typically specify tiled floors in wet areas that are likely to see a constant flow of foot traffic. But, damp rooms can still see a lot of unpleasant mold and mildew form if they are not constantly cleaned. Tiles may be individually impermeable to water and other liquids, but the grout between them is nowhere near as sturdy.
With heavy use, gunk that embeds into the pores will eventually harden and become difficult to restore with the usual techniques. Even vigorous scrubbing with bristle brushes and powerful chemical cleaners may prove inadequate. As times goes on, working on such flooring can become quite a chore.
Steam cleaners are great for handling these taxing jobs. New owners will often find themselves using their free time in the first few days to hunt for things that are safe with steam cleaning. Baths or kitchens are usually the first places to get the full treatment, for these are usually the most challenging to keep in shape.
Step-by-step steam cleaning
Steaming offers a full and deep clean that not just makes the bath look good and smell fine, it will also give you a bit more confidence in that it has been sanitized as well. We start from top to bottom in a common bathroom, as cleaning in general, works best starting at the top and working your way down.
A handheld steam cleaner will work great for most light duty tasks. Check out our handheld steam cleaner guide for more information on these super handy steam cleaners.
Dirty exhaust fan vent.
Use a handheld steamer or canister with extensions on the hose to reach up. Exhaust van vents might commonly slip your mind as something that needs cleaned. These suck up all sorts of things while trying to rid the bathroom of steam while you shower. Lint and pet hair are the major culprits. Combined with moisture during a shower, these will often time stick, and dry to the vent making it tough to clean.
How to Clean:
- Quickly wipe off any dust or stains along the edges.
- Spray quickly on the surfaces of the vent casing and fan blades, wiping off any caked grime that gets loosened by the steam.
- Be careful not to spray directly on any exposed part of the motor’s housing or electrical connections.
Window blinds and glass.
These can be steam-cleaned much the same way as any ceiling or wall fixture made of hardy materials. Use a handheld or a canister model with an extension hose attached. If your steam cleaner has a vacuum within the unit, the process is even more effective.
How to Clean:
Mirrors and light fixtures.
These can be steamed in much the same manner as other wall fixtures. A handheld steamer or canister with extensions on the hose is convenient for this job.
How to Clean:
- On mirrors, use a clean cloth to gently lift off loose dust first.
- Spray the mirror’s surface as you wipe off discolorations with a clean sponge or cloth.
- With light fixtures, wipe off any dust first. Then along with quick bursts of steam aimed mostly at the bulbs and their bases, carefully wipe off any grime and other deposits that have been loosened by the quick steaming action.
- Do check that any lampshades and their mountings are made of metal or plastic or other hard materials and not thick paperboard, which are easily damaged by too much moisture.
New curtains are good for updating a bathroom look inexpensively, but most will show creases out of the package. A portable steam cleaner will be enough to smoothen every kink, whether the curtain is made of cloth or plastic. I recommend this handheld steamer from Amazon for quick easy tasks such as this.
You can also blast off the soap scum that tends to build up on these quite easily, making the shower curtain look new again.
How to Clean:
- Hang curtains from shower rods while the steam cleaner warms up. Let these to drape over the tub’s edge, in order for you to treat their entire surfaces.
- Hold the steam cleaner about 6 or so inches above the surface as you apply steam to any exposed creases.
- Move the steam cleaner slowly but continuously from the top on down along the length of the curtain.
Sinks and counter tops.
Lime scale and other hard-water deposits can also distress sinks and counters to no end, leaving grimy coats on fixtures as well as iffy brown spots surrounding drains. These are ideal places for putting your steamer through its first paces.
A handheld steamer is fine for a small job, but a bigger model will have the water volume to handle the sink areas of larger bathrooms and kitchens in one go.
How to Clean:
- First rinse off any visible dirt or gunk with water.
- Slowly pass jets of steams along the edges and seams and in between fixtures and exposed piping.
- As slime dissolves and built-up sludge loosens up, immediately washed these off and to a drain with a hose or bucket of water.
Fiberglass shower stalls and bath tubs.
Steamers are effective at dissolving soap scum and hard-water stains. The steam action not only works well on tile and porcelain flooring, it is also good for restoring the shine to faucet fixtures as well as screens and doors.
Scrub brushes work in tandem with forceful jets of steam and allow much stronger cleansing. You will want to use a canister model with hose extensions like this one to reach from the ceiling down to the floor.
How to Clean:
Tiled showers and floors.
Your steamer can be used to restore the grout lines between tiles, restoring their surfaces to spotless condition. With the proper accessory, you can stretch to most parts that are hard to access, such as behind and underneath the toilet or along the sides of a counter’s vanity.
It will be best to deploy a large canister-type steam cleaner here for its greater water capacity. You will be aiming huge loads of concentrated hot vapor at stained grout lines on the floor over an extended period of time.
To assist in dislodging stubborn gunk, you may have to use nylon-bristle and in the worst cases, metal brushes that attach to the head nozzle. To help lessen the effort, you could first power-wash the tiles before vigorously steaming then scrubbing them.
How to Clean:
- Prior to mounting any attachments, first blast the lines to loosen the hardest gunk.
- Steam from the top of wall tiles going down.
- Begin scrubbing with a nylon-bristle brush, as it will not readily harm grout even with strong scouring.
- Wire-bristle brushes should be used sparingly. As effective as these can be at scrubbing off stuff, the wire readily chips tile as well as grout surfaces.
- Do hose off clean areas every once in a while, so that any sludge that appears gets drained immediately. If you neglect to do this, the stuff will solidify later and complicate your work some more.
- With the toughest crusts and stains, the steaming will need to be supplemented by some hard scouring as well, since steam by itself will not resolve every problem.
- Once an area is done, allow the boiler enough of a pause to form more steam. The majority of consumer units also require cooling-off periods between refills.
Inside and outside toilets.
Lime and calcium scale build up can lead to urine waste being trapped and crystallized into brownish coats that can be very hard to reduce. A working steamer can assist in rendering these crystalline structures as you restore the toilet to a like-new appearance. With a steamer, you reach every part of a toilet, including the undersides.
How to Clean:
- Use your steamer’s angle nozzle to blast the insides of the bowl, particularly at the nasties lurking beneath the inside rim.
- Spray around the seat’s edges and the hinges under its lid, then use a hose or bucket of water to wash off any loosened debris into the bowl.
- After you are finished, just flush everything.
Vinyl or linoleum floors.
Use the steamer’s cloth mop attachment if any, or else a dedicated steam mop, when steaming vinyl or linoleum flooring. Regular canister-type models will have mop brush attachments that are useful for scrubbing such surfaces. Gentler-acting mop designs rely on steam heads that are shrouded by microfiber pads.
You should first test the technique on some small and hidden portion of the flooring. If the tiles start curling at their edges, or if unexpected discolorations appear, shift back to your normal methods of cleaning.
How to Clean:
- For especially grimy areas, keep the mop head centered on the problem for some eight seconds, so as to allow the hot vapors to release stubborn dirt.
- First vacuum and wipe off any debris on a surface, before applying the mop’s pad to lift off unnoticed dust.
- Rinse pads after every cleaning to prevent inadvertent transfers of calcium and other deposits.
- Ensure that the microfibers are clear of scratchy debris before continuing on new areas.
What to look for
Large nozzles. A smaller nozzle will need to be passed across the same area more often, which can lead to you tiring out and eventually skipping areas. A larger business end will ensure this occurs less frequently.
High-pressurized steam. The majority of steamers will not only produce water vapor with a temperature of about 200°F and higher, their output pressures will reach 45-58 psi as well. More forceful and hotter jets will allow you work faster across most surfaces.
Tank volume. Models that feature larger tanks will have greater water capacity and can therefore produce more steam for a longer period of time. With more steam on tap, you will be able spend more of your day actually steaming instead of constantly refilling the tank and waiting for the water to reach boiling temperature.
On demand control. Some designs incorporate a locking toggle on their wand handle that will enable an uninterrupted jet of steam, without you having to push a trigger constantly.
Conveniences. Extended-length electrical cords and hoses as well as extension sections will make you more confident of reaching most parts of any room.
Price. Industrial models are generally more economical to run over the years and typically come with longer manufacturer warranties as well. But, these units can be far more expensive to start with.
Types of Steam Cleaners
The most effective steamers are typically canister-type units that comprise a base unit plus accessories for cleaning various surfaces. Look for packages that include a wide variety, i.e. angled as well as straight nozzles, longer wands, triangular brushes for handling wall corners, nylon-bristle and brass utility brushes, extension hose sections, and mop accessories.
A large canister unit like McCulloch’s MC1385 Deluxe Canister ought to be your first choice if you have a large residence to maintain, for these have the capacity to handle every steam cleaning task. Their larger boilers offer greater water capacity that translates to less frequent refilling, which provides for longer steam cleaning sessions.
You might want to select a more compact model for use in a smaller household, such as Dupray’s HOME Steam Cleaner. These low-profile units offer mostly the same quality of pressurized steam but with less water capacity. They are also easier to move up and down stairways and landings, which can be an advantage in multi-floor apartments.
Lightweight and portable steamers like Vapamore’s MR-75 Portable Hand Held Steam Cleaner are the easiest to carry around. These small but capable units can deal with most household cleaning jobs that do not involve large sections of flooring and walls. The best ones produce hot pressurized vapors at pressures of up to 45 PSI, which is enough for most tasks.
Handheld steamers can generate the initial head of steam much quicker than larger models, even with the boiler full and powered up from scratch. Conversely, the issue with these small designs is their equally small tank volumes, which contain enough water for just 10 minutes or so of steaming action at a time.
When working the largest jobs with consumer-grade units, users will find themselves waiting for the housing to cool off before they can safely refill the tank with water. They will have to pause again as yet another load of water is heated to produce more steam, before they can resume the job.
Do note that although most steamers will produce highly-pressurized vapors with temperatures reaching 200°F, not all floor steam cleaners are meant for use on tile floors.
Steam cleaning a bathroom can be a long yet satisfying task once complete. Bathrooms are commonly some of the most dirty areas in the home. While cleaning them is no easy task, we aim to make things easier by outlining how a steam cleaner can really ease the burden and at the same time, provide a cleaner bathroom than if you were to use more traditional methods.
If we have left something out, or have some tips and tricks that you've found, please leave a comment below!