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Vapor Steam Cleaners

By HHI Staff

Vapor steam cleaners are versatile machines that offer the benefit of chemical-free cleaning. Using only water, the machines produce a dry, very hot steam which can be used to clean and sanitize household surfaces, appliances, floors, even upholstery. Fairly common appliances in Europe, vapor steam machines are relatively new to the U.S. market. 


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Vapor cleaners produce a steam with a maximum water content of 5-6% percent; this means surfaces being cleaned dry extremely fast. For this reason vapor cleaners are well suited to moisture-sensitive surfaces such as wood floors, upholstered furniture, mattresses and rugs.

A unique benefit of vapor cleaners is their ability to kill dust mites, mold, bacteria and viruses without chemicals. This is especially useful for those with allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivities.
Though machines vary by brand, all quality vapor steam cleaners are similar in design and function. The heart of the machine is a pressurized boiler where the water is heated, usually to within a range of 250-300 degrees. Steam is released through a hose and hand-held control nozzle; buttons or switches on the control nozzle let you vary the intensity of the steam. 

For effective cleaning and dirt removal, vapor cleaners depend on the use of tools which are attached to the end of the control nozzle. The machines come with various brushes and attachments for cleaning floors, upholstery, countertops, windows, grout and other applications. 

One difference between vapor steam cleaners is what is called a “continuous fill function.” The continuous fill feature lets you add water without having to turn the machine off or wait for the boiler to cool. Most boilers hold between two to three quarts of water which is adequate for one to two hours of cleaning time.

Guidelines and tips for those considering investing in a vapor steam cleaner include:

Advantages and Benefits
  • Chemical-free cleaning: Vapor machines work well on most surfaces without the need for soap or other cleaning solution.
  • Versatility: With various tools and attachments, vapor steam cleaners can be used to clean a wide variety of surfaces, including tile, stone, finished wood, ovens, appliances, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, area rugs and carpets, windows, mirrors, shower doors, upholstery and many fabrics. (Vapor cleaners may not be safe on vinyl or unfinished wood, certain kinds of leather or delicate fabrics. Spot testing is the best option when cleaning these surfaces and items.)
  • Sanitizing properties: Vapor steam penetrates porous materials and cracks and crevices of surfaces being cleaned. This makes vapor steam cleaners especially effective in destroying bacteria, mold, dust mites and other organisms on tile, bathroom fixtures, refrigerators, countertops, rugs, upholstered furniture, drapes and mattresses.
  • Cost: With prices ranging from $600 to $2000, high quality consumer grade vapor steam cleaners are expensive. Commercial machines can cost significantly more. Unfortunately, buying less expensive machines generally means sacrificing the usefulness and capabilities vapor steam cleaners have to offer. Steam temperature, safety features, boiler reliability and construction are likely to be inferior. For the most effective cleaning results and the longevity of the machine, investing in a high quality vapor steam cleaner is worthwhile.
  • Size: Vapor steam cleaners, especially those with stainless steel construction, are heavy. Machines filled to capacity with water are even heavier. Most vapor cleaners have castors and can be easily rolled, but can be difficult to carry up stairs or from location to location. 
What to Look For
  • Stainless Steel boiler: Look for machines with stainless steel boiler construction; a stainless steel boiler is superior to those made from aluminum or polycarbonate materials which are prone to rust and wear.
  • Maximum Water temperature: Boilers should heat water within a range of 250-300 degrees.
  • Pressure Gauge: A pressure gauge is important for two reasons.
  1. The PSI (pounds-per-square-inch) will tell you the intensity level of steam while cleaning; all machines require time to rebuild pressure after steam is released.
  2. The pressure gauge is also an important safety feature. Removing the boiler cap is extremely dangerous while the water in the boiler is under pressure. The pressure gauge is a critical tool to remind the user to wait until the pressure reaches zero before removing the cap.
  • Tools and Attachments: Bought separately, tools, attachments and cleaning brushes can be very expensive. Compare what kind and how many attachments are included with each machine. 

At minimum, vapor steam cleaners should include a large floor brush; extension poles; a brush large enough for upholstery and mattresses and round brushes for cleaning grout and similar surfaces.


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Vapor Steam Cleaners:  Created on February 1st, 2010.  Last Modified on February 28th, 2010


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