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Vapor Steam Cleaning FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Vapor Steam Cleaning and Vapor Steam Cleaners

What is vapor steam cleaning?

Vapor steam cleaning originated in Italy and uses true steam, usually 240 to 260 degrees Fahrenheit, to sanitize, deep clean, and deodorize in one easy operation without using chemicals. The heat of the steam penetrates the pores of any material being cleaned, so that the dry steam instantly kills dust mites, viruses, molds, and fungi.

Only tap water is used in vapor steam cleaning. No regular cleaning fluids are used, making it the most ecologically friendly and most effective cleaning system. It is the lack of chemicals that makes it particularly attractive as a cleaning method for allergy sufferers.

How does vapor steam cleaning work?

All vapor steam cleaners use low moisture vapor, which leaves almost no damp residue on the surface that has just been cleaned. The heat of the vapor steam itself, plus a light rubbing action does all the work. Moisture evaporates immediately after the vapor steam makes contact with surfaces. This is almost a “mess-free” way of cleaning. We say almost because we have found that you need to wipe up the dislodged dirt particles with a towel on hard surfaces or vacuum a carpet after vapor cleaning.

We stress that a vapor steam cleaner is NOT a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner uses a technology that pulls dirt from carpets into a dust bag. A vapor steam cleaner will loosen dirt in carpet fibers which rise to the surface where it is absorbed usually by a towel fixed onto an attachment. Using a vacuum cleaner after vapor cleaning will allow your vacuum to penetrate more deeply after the vapor steam has loosened the fibers.

What is ‘Dry’ Steam Vapor steaming, and how does it differ from the steam cleaners I have seen around?

Dry vapor steam cleaning machines produce both a high temperature, and a low moisture vapor. The vapor steam contains only 5% to 6% water, hence the term “dry steam.” Many products that are being sold as “steam cleaners” only use hot water with no steam used. These “steam machines” use gallons of water leaving a wet residue on the surfaces they clean. Usually carpets are left sopping wet, which becomes a breeding ground for dust mites and mold.

What surfaces should I avoid?

Vapor steam cleaning does not clean everything. In fact, there are some materials/surfaces to avoid: heat sensitive materials (silks, clothing, and Persian rugs,) velour, and the exterior paintwork of your car. We have also found that it may also take the shine off some vinyl flooring.

What are the specific applications for vapor steam cleaning?

  • Killing of dust mites in bedding, upholstery, carpets, and clothing. Dust mites, fleas, and eggs are killed without any chemicals or residue.
  • Killing of mold spores in bathrooms, basements, window encasements, and other damp areas. We have found that this is a huge advantage of vapor steam cleaning, yet this doesn’t eliminate the mold, it just reduces it.
  • Steam cleaning clothes gets rid of both dry-cleaning fluids and wrinkles. Some vapor steam cleaners come with an optimal steam iron.
  • Disinfects and cleans cat litter boxes and pet odor areas. It provides instant deep cleaning and sanitation. Particularly useful for veterinarians and pet breeders. Useful for bird owners and pet store owners as it can be used to clean and disinfect cages.
  • Car detailing including upholstery, carpet, infant seats, and engine wheels. You can also degrease the car engine and car tools without solvents or toxic fumes. Brake dust can also be removed from car wheels.
  • Cleaning Tile including vinyl, marble, and smooth concrete quarry tile for removal of dirt and wax, as well as grout cleaning.
  • Carpets. You must first vacuum and pre-spot with a natural, non-toxic pre-treater. Natural solvents are useful in pretreatment of carpets with stains and heavy soiling. We have found vapor steam alone will not remove all stains on carpets. Vacuum again after using the vapor steam cleaner to pick up the additional dirt that has been loosened up during the vapor steam cleaning process. Do not vacuum until the carpet is dry, otherwise it can damage your vacuum.
  • Wallpaper stripping with a special attachment. Makes steaming off wallpaper a breeze.
  • Cleaning of soiled paintwork: (Warning: Do not overheat and use a thick towel on these surfaces.) This is particularly useful in washing down a large area of grimy wall. This can even extend the life of your current paint job on your walls at home.
  • Cleaning ventilation systems, including vents, returns, and ductwork entries, which often accumulate tremendous dirt, pet hair, dust, and allergens.
  • Glass door floor sliders for French windows.
  • Golf club cleaning.
  • Kitchen including baked-on grime and grease of stove tops, oven hoods, and interiors. The accumulated hardened spilled foods and mildew at the bottom of refrigerators and microwaves. The dust, grime, and pet hair on the underside of your refrigerator. Sanitizing kitchen drains.
  • Hospitals who are concerned with maintaining a clean, germ and virus-free environment. The sanitation applications in a hospital environment are endless.
  • Bathroom/kitchen sinks and faucets. Using a wire brush attachment, clean the grout surrounding the sinks. All areas of the bathroom that harbor bacteria, germs, viruses, mold, and odors.
  • Wood paneling or decks and outdoor furniture. This is especially useful not only for the cleaning of dirt but also for mold removal.
  • Vehicle cleaning including RVs, decks, and the trim of boats.
  • Metal Venetian blind cleaning.
  • Mirrors and windows. Use the window attachment and your windows will sparkle without using soapy water, which causes streaks.
  • Freshen up and sanitize children’s stuffed animals. Complete sanitation of the children’s nursery.
  • Jewelry cleaning.

I want to clean my carpet. What are my options?

The biggest area of contention is over what technology should be used to clean carpets. Even with its disadvantages, most people will prefer hot water extraction units for cleaning very large, dirty areas of the carpet. Vapor steam cleaning of carpets is a slow process and is best used for the upkeep of new or lightly soiled carpets. If you have allergies and want to use vapor steam cleaning for your carpets, you would be best advised to take a small area of carpet each week rather than tackle all the carpet in one fell swoop.

The extraction units that are truck mounted can indeed do a good job at cleaning larger areas of carpet, although you still have the chemical residue problem. These hot water extraction units agitate with some brushing action, and then “extract” most of the water and chemicals out of your carpet. The disadvantages are that the soap and chemical residue are both harmful to the carpet and your health. Damp carpet is a breeding ground for mold and dust mites. However, extraction units have been traditionally the most efficient way to clean a large area of dirty carpeting.

In comparison, our testing of vapor steam cleaners on carpets has seemed to be rather a laborious process, but it provides some advantages. In using a vapor steam cleaner to clean your heavily soiled carpet, as opposed to killing dust mites in your carpets, you should first vacuum up all loose dirt. You then should pre-treat the area; then use a good quality vapor steam cleaner over the carpeted area and gently rub with the towel applicator to absorb dirt.

The last part of the process is to vacuum over the carpeted area. You should leave it to dry for a few minutes (15 to 20) before using a HEPA vacuum cleaner to collect dead dust mites and extra loosened dirt. This method, while tedious, will give you the best results. If you have an excessive amount of over-soiled carpet, the Lady Bug and the Vapor Jet 2400 are the vapor steam cleaners we deem adequate for cleaning carpets.

Where does the water of a vapor steam cleaner go?

The water is put into a particular boiler. The better-grade vapor steam cleaning systems allow for continuous water refill without allowing the system to cool down between fills. The less expensive vapor steam systems have a heat-sensitive safety cap that does not allow you to refill the system until it has cooled down.

What is the improvement over just scrubbing away with abrasive, soap or other cleaners?

Vapor steam is faster, cleaner, and more effective than regular cleaning methods. Dirt is loosened and the dry steam penetrates the pores of surfaces. Vapor steam cleaning appeals to those who want to get their house REALLY clean. It is also a natural sanitizer – great around pet and nursery areas.

I have allergies to dust mites and molds. Why is vapor steam cleaning helpful?

Dust mites live in our mattresses, blankets, pillows, upholstered furniture, carpets, and clothing. The usual method of removing dust mites is to wash all bedding once weekly in hot water over 140 degrees. Other areas are even more difficult to control, and costly sprays and powders need frequent applications.

The heat of the vapor steam cleaner kills the dust mites on contact. Just run the cleaner over your bedding, carpets, and chairs, and dust mites are killed instantly, with no wet residue. However, after you have used the vapor steam cleaner, you should use a good HEPA vacuum to vacuum up any dirt and dead mite particles left behind. Mold spores, such as those found around your windows or in your basement, are also killed on contact. There is no toxic residue after vapor steaming, which is healthy for everyone, even those members of the family who do not have allergies.

What about Chemical Sensitivities? Does Vapor Steam Cleaning Help?

It is the only cleaning system that is truly effective without using chemicals. Vapor steam naturally sanitizes while cleaning and removing odors. No MCS sufferer should be without one of these machines.

What are the features that I can look for to distinguish between Vapor steam Cleaning Models?

These are the features of vapor steam cleaners that are important or cause machines to rise in price.

  • Actual temperature of the steam. Residential units generally use steam between 240 and 260 degrees. Avoid anything less.
  • Boiler and other parts made out of stainless steel to prevent rusting.
  • No safety caps on refilling water, versus having safety caps, versus the ability to refill water continuously.
  • Holding water tank capacity.
  • Ability to regulate the steam outflow.
  • Ability to regulate the steam temperature.
  • Low-pressure systems are better than high-pressure systems.
  • Maintenance record of the machine and ability to get spare parts/repairs.
  • Length of warranty on boiler and other parts. (Usually, 3 years on a good residential machine.)
  • Weight of the machine (filled with water.) Needs to be light enough for easy maneuverability in a residential multi-floor environment.
  • Good handle for easy lifting upstairs.
  • Castors that allow for easy maneuverability.
  • Length of the power cord for continuous cleaning without moving the machine (and cooling down the vapor steam.)
  • The accessories included for special cleaning tasks and optional accessories are available. Size of the cleaning brushes. Most commercial grade or better machines have bigger-sized tools, allowing the cleaning to be done faster.
  • Quality of towel covers and whether they can be attached and removed easily.
  • Number of steam outlets.

Where can I find more details about vapor steam products?

Visit our Vapor Steam Cleaners page, where you will find a wide selection of machines accompanied by reviews and ratings. Our best multipurpose vapor steam machines are VaporJet, Lady Bug, and Whitewing steam cleaners.

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