Do Steam Cleaners Disinfect? Sanitize, Kill Germs, Bacteria & Viruses!

Disinfect Steam Cleaners

Are you running out of disinfectants, too? Time to start disinfecting surfaces at home, like door knobs, without chemicals!

Keeping your home clean and your family safe from bacteria, diseases like COVID-19, and other viruses is probably very high on your priority list these days. While many chemical cleaners are able to remove most bacteria from surfaces, they pose their own challenges of causing other health problems and being harmful to the environment.

Cleaning with steam is a powerful alternative. You can remove harmful viruses and bacteria from many surfaces without the need for chemical cleaners or sanitizers. Read on to learn all about it!

Top 5 Steamers to Sanitize Surfaces

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Why is Steam an Effective Sanitizer?

Super hot steam can make your carpets, hard floors, showers, appliances, and other surfaces clean, but does it also kill germs of all kinds? When used correctly, the answer is yes.

By using a steam cleaner, you can kill up to 99.9% of germs, leaving a wide variety of the surfaces in your home disinfected and safe. However, if you want to disinfect with steam, it is essential to use your steamer correctly. The steam needs to be at a temperature of at least 212 F (100°C) and needs to stay in contact with the surface you’re cleaning for at least three minutes.

The reason why steam can be such an effective disinfectant is that the intense heat breaks apart the enzymes and proteins found in bacteria and viruses (just like cooking food!). This is why  hospitals often use steam as a means of sanitizing surfaces and the protective gear that doctors and nurses wear.

Stanford AIM Lab explains that hot steam is effective to sanitize COVID-19. Your efforts to sanitize against COVID-19, follow the guidance by the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

What are the Benefits of Cleaning with Steam?

Disinfect Kitchen With Steam Cleaner
Disinfect your kitchen with steam.

Once you learn more about steam cleaning, it is hard to go back to other cleaning the old way. Aside from being so effective and removing up to 99.9% of germs, there are many other reasons you’ll want to look at using steam as your preferred cleaning approach not only for your home but also your car.

First of all, steam you can use steam to clean most surfaces, even carpets. Many people only think of using it to clean their floors, but in reality, you can use it to sanitize doorknobs, kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures and showers, mattresses, windows, children’s toys, pet products, vehicle interiors, and more.

Another big reason to consider doing things this way is that steam is just water and thus safe and natural.

Many of the cleaning products at the grocery store contain harmful chemicals! These chemicals pose risks for our health as well as the health of our environment. And, as you know, they can be dangerous to young children or pets if they happen to ingest them. If you switch to cleaning with steam, you can eliminate these health and safety concerns entirely.

Steam also helps you remove dust mites and other allergens from your home, which can be a literal sigh of relief for anyone suffering from asthma or allergies. Dust mites are most typically found on carpets, furniture, and bedding, which are all surfaces that you can clean using a steam cleaner.

Finally, steam cleaning also saves you money in the long run. Buying chemical cleaning products gets expensive over time, especially since there are different products you need to purchase for each of the different areas in your home. After you invest in a quality steam cleaner, all you need is tap water and some electricity.

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Using Steam to Sanitize Your Floors

Our floors see a lot of traffic. We unintentionally bring in bacteria and dirt from outside, which can easily get tracked around our homes. Using a steam cleaner to remove these harmful substances from your floors is important.

There are different steam cleaners designed for use on hard floors or carpets. Both operate with the same goal though, removing bacteria to provide clean surfaces that will promote the health and safety of the people in your home.

For cleaning hard floor surfaces, such as laminate or tile, you’ll need a steam mop or a steam cleaner that comes with a mop attachment. When cleaning your floors, remember that you want to provide sufficient time for the steam to disinfect, not simply wipe down, your surfaces.

It is important not to just push the mop over your floors and call it done because it looks clean. Take your time and mop slowly, especially over higher traffic areas.

When using a carpet steamer, you also need to make sure to work your way across your carpet slowly. Give the machine time to heat up and clean the floors beneath it.

Best Steam Mop to Sanitize and Kill Germs & Viruses on Floors

For floors, it is great to use a steam mop. The #1 model on our mop top list is this one:

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Sanitize Other Surfaces with Steam

Steam is a very effective way to clean floors, but you can use for so much more than that. Nearly any surface in your home can benefit from regular steam cleaning. Some of the different surfaces you can clean include:

  • Door knobs
  • Windows
  • Stove tops and ovens
  • Microwaves
  • Sinks and countertops
  • Toilets
  • Showers and bathtubs
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Mattresses
  • Children’s toys
  • Baby bottles
  • Pet products
  • Vehicle interiors
  • Patio furniture

To see a few of the many ways the surfaces in your home can benefit from steam cleaning, take a couple of minutes to watch the video below from Labient. It provides a nice visual of how effective steam cleaning can be at removing grime and dirt from a variety of household surfaces.

When you’re using steam to clean these or other surfaces in your home, you need to ensure that it is hot enough to disinfect. Steam must reach temperature of at least 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be sure to check the manual for the steam cleaner you have or are looking at to confirm it will get hot enough. Many models, especially smaller handheld options, do not get hot enough to disinfect.

When cleaning your home, you also want to make sure that the steam cleaner has sufficient pressure. This may mean you need to pause periodically as you are cleaning to allow the pressure in the cleaner to build up more.

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Disinfecting With Steam FAQs

How hot does steam need to be to disinfect?

To truly disinfect and sanitize surfaces, steam needs to reach a minimum temperature of 212 F (100°C). This is the temperature where the steam will be able to break up viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing agents like staph, E. coli, or salmonella.

What do you need to do to disinfect with steam?

Kill Germs In Car With Steam Cleaner

If you’re going to use a steam cleaner with the goal of sanitizing your home, there are a few important things you need to do. First, you need to make sure that the steam coming from your cleaner is at least 212 degrees. Check your product’s manual to confirm that the cleaner is capable of producing steam at these higher temperatures.

Before beginning to clean, it will also be important to provide you cleaner with sufficient time to heat up. Even if your steam cleaner can get up to temperatures as high as 300 degrees, if you don’t give it time to warm up, it won’t be effective. Check with your specific manual, but most steam mops will need around 10 minutes to reach a high enough temperature.

If you want to truly disinfect surfaces in your home using steam, it is essential to remember that surfaces are exposed to the steam for three minutes. This is the amount of time that it will take for the steam to be able to break up, or denature, bacteria, viruses, mildew, or allergens that may be hiding in your home. If you don’t expose surfaces for the full three minutes, it is possible that your surfaces will look clean, but still be harboring germs.

What can I clean using a steam cleaner?

Steam is a powerful and effective cleaner that can be used on a wide range of surfaces in your home. Nearly any surface that is not heat sensitive can be cleaned using steam. Some of the ways you may find steam cleaning beneficial include using steam to clean hard floors, carpets, kitchen appliances, windows, bathroom fixtures, bathtubs and toilets, sinks and countertops, children’s toys, or mattresses.

Steam also offers other applications not related to cleaning. These include cleaning jewelry, thawing frozen pipes, and defrosting freezers, and even guns.

Can I use steam to sanitize any surface in my home?

While steam can be used to clean a wide variety of surfaces, there are some surfaces you will not want to use steam to clean. Avoid using steam on materials that are sensitive to heat and could be damaged by steam. These include thin plastics, unsealed porous materials like marble, waxed wood, very delicate fabrics, and anything that has been painted with a water-based paint.

If you use steam to clean these types of materials, the heat may damage them or allow water to get absorbed where it should not.

Can you add chemicals to a steam cleaner?

Before adding chemicals to a steam cleaner, be sure to check the cleaner’s manual. Some products are designed to allow you to use a cleaner in addition to the hot steam, while others are not. Chemicals could potentially damage different parts of your steam cleaner.

You will also want to be careful when selecting a chemical to use and think about the different surfaces where you plan to use it. Depending on the flooring type or surface you plan to clean with a chemical, some chemical cleaners may be too abrasive and cause damage.

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What to Look for When Selecting a Steam Cleaner

Disinfect Upholstery
Kill dust mites and disinfect upholstery.

When selecting a steam cleaner, there are a variety of factors and features you’ll want to consider. Once you start shopping for steam cleaners, you’ll quickly realize how many different options there are out there, so knowing what to look for is essential.

First, you’ll need to think about which surfaces in your home you are planning to steam clean. There are different types of cleaners designed for different surfaces. For example, carpet steam cleaners are designed and work very differently from steam cleaners you’d use on a hard floor.

If you’ll be looking to clean other, non-flooring, surfaces in your home like door knobs, counter tops, appliances, or mattresses, you will want to look for a steam cleaner that comes with accessories that will allow you to clean these items. You’ll find many products that come with an accessory kit with items such as a long steam hose, a mop head, a scraper, small brushes, window tools, and microfiber cloths.

Next, be sure to pay attention to the power and temperature settings of each steam cleaner you look at. You want to be sure to find a product that dispenses steam that is at least 212 F since this is the temperature where steam is hot enough to disinfect surfaces. Additionally, finding a product that has 1,000 watts or more of power will help ensure that the steam comes out with enough power to remove stuck on messes.

Paying attention to how long each steam cleaner you’re considering takes to heat up is also important. You don’t want to start cleaning until the machine has fully heated the water as it may not be hot enough to remove viruses and bacteria from surfaces, so it is important to look for products that take minimal time to get hot.

If you can, try to find a cleaner with continuous steam capabilities. Products that come with this feature keep the water hot enough to use even right after you refill it. This can cut out some of the wait time that you’d otherwise experience each time you fill up the tank.

Likewise, look for models that have a large water tank capacity. This can help reduce how frequently you’ll have to pause cleaning to refill it.

You will also want to look at the prices of the different products you’re considering. Price should definitely not be the only feature guiding your decision; you’ll first want to ensure you purchase a quality product that will meet your cleaning needs. However, price could be helpful in making a decision between two similar options.


McCulloch MC1385 Deluxe


Ease of use











  • Durable
  • Quick heat-up, high temperature
  • Easy to use
  • 2 year warranty
  • Many accessories


  • Not ideal for surfaces that need heavy scrubbing. Use an ordinary scrubber first in such a case.

The Dupray Neat is the most popular steam cleaner at this time, and has been for a while. It currently leads our steam cleaner top list and is affordable at the same time. For more elaborate cleaning purposes outside of your home, check our top list for commercial steam cleaners instead.


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