Does Steam Kill Viruses?

It’s that wonderful winter season yet again. And while this time of year does bring holiday gatherings, fun in the snow and tasty food, it’s also cold and flu season. We know how important it is to try to stay healthy, and maintain a safe environment for your family.

In the fight against bacteria, viruses and more, you’re probably searching for anything that will give you an edge. One intriguing tool you might be considering is steam. This water vapor is standard for disinfecting tools and surfaces in hospital operating rooms, so surely it must be good enough for your home and you might be wondering does steam kill viruses?

Today we’ll be clearing the air on using steam to kill viruses. While steam can be effective, it is just one tool in your anti-viral home arsenal.

Does Steam Really Kill Viruses? Yes.

According to The Centers for Disease Control, steam is “one of the most widely used and the most dependable forms of sterilization.” By exposing viruses to direct steam contact, the heat and pressure are able to penetrate and destroy the virus, bacteria, mold spores and other harmful particles.

However, before you start turning your house into a steam sauna, there is a little context you should understand.

First is the recognized effective temperature required for the steam to be effective. Standard temperatures generally fall between 250 °F and 270 °F. These temperatures must also be maintained for a sufficient amount of time. The CDC recommends between 4 minutes in a prevacuum sterilizer, or up to 30 minutes to achieve full sterilization.

Steam Cleaning to Kill Viruses

These conditions can be difficult and impractical to replicate in a home environment. Besides the expensive equipment needed, the results would likely not be consistent enough to be effective when using even the best household steam cleaners.

“As far as I know, the experiment has not been done or published,” says Dr. Cindy Prins, epidemiologist at the University of Florida, when asked about an at-home steam cleaning routines’ ability to kill viruses.

And even if your steam cleaner could maintain their high temperatures, there is not much agreement on just how long you would need to keep the steam in place. Steaming your hardwood or laminate vinyl floor planking for 30 minutes, for example, could easily cause more damage than it’s worth.

That is not to say that a great steam mop can’t help rid your home of viruses. But it just may not be exactly the way you think.

How Steam (Actually) Helps Kill Viruses

First, does a steam mop kill viruses? Sort of. While hot steam does kill viruses, as we’ve said, consistently doing it with home equipment is generally not practical.

However, it generally isn’t necessary to implement a steam cleaning routine to destroy nasty viruses in your home. And while we may want to try the latest and greatest tech, sometimes the basics are all we really need to stick to.

“A lot of viruses are not difficult to inactivate,” says Dr. Prins. “Soap and water, along with EPA-approved disinfectants will do the trick for your hands, as well as high-touch surfaces.”

does steam kill viruses

But hosing down your carpets and kitchen isn’t usually the best idea. However, your steam cleaner can still play an important role in disinfecting your home’s surfaces, and protecting your family’s well-being.

Your steam cleaner excels in lifting away stains, and penetrating dirt and other tough residues. This allows your disinfectant to reach all the surfaces that may have remained out of reach in your next cleaning step. This two-step method is ideal for cleaning everything from your bathroom tile to your common sitting areas, like your living room couch.

And if you’re looking for more ways to purify your home, an air purifier is a great addition for protecting your home’s air quality.

Does an Air Purifier Kill Viruses?

As we’ve seen with the question of using steam cleaning to kill viruses, this answer is also a little more complex.

Quality air filters use HEPA filtration, which trap up to 99.7% of particles like viruses, spores and more. However, unless the filter has an additional technology to kill the virus, like the Molekule purifier does, they may not “kill” the virus outright.

However, most viruses require something to attach to in order to travel and survive. These are usually respiratory droplets, dust particles, or other small particles trapped in an air purifier’s filter. So even though it may not kill the virus outright, it greatly reduces the virus’ survivability and ability to circulate.

Bottom Line

While steam cleaning can kill viruses, it isn’t likely you’ll be able to reliably produce those results at home. True steam sterilization requires both high temperature hot steam, and sufficient time and pressure to be effective.

But not to worry — steam cleaning isn’t usually necessary to eliminate common viruses. Simple soap and water, and disinfectants will clean most any surface in your home.

However, steam cleaning can still be an important aspect of your virus-fighting and home-cleaning arsenals. Steam mops and steam cleaners are perfect for penetrating surface grime and stains, allowing your soap and water or disinfectant to fully clean any areas that might have been covered up.

Great steam cleaners are just another tool in keeping your home environment fresh and healthy. For even more protection, consider bringing an air purifier into your home to reduce the circulation of virus-carrying particles. Wishing you a safe and healthy season, and year ahead!

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