Vapor Steam Cleaning FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Vapor Steam Cleaning and Vapor Steam Cleaners

What is Vapor steam Cleaning?

A vapor steam cleaner often looks like a vacuum cleaner but there the resemblance ends. Vapor steam cleaning originated in Italy and uses true steam, usually 240 to 260 degrees Fahrenheit, in good residential machines. Vapor steam cleaning sanitizes, deep cleans, and deodorizes in one easy operation without using the chemicals found in supermarket cleaning materials. Of particular interest to allergy sufferers is that 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. You will notice the improvement in the freshness of the air around your home immediately.

Vapor steam cleaning can be used for a wide variety of difficult cleaning household tasks. Only tap water is used in vapor steam cleaning. No regular cleaning fluids are used in the vapor steam cleaning process, making it the most ecologically friendly, as well as the most effective cleaning system. It is the lack of chemicals which makes it particularly attractive as a cleaning method for allergy sufferers.


How does vapor steam cleaning work? Is it a Vacuum?

No, vapor steam cleaning is NOT a vacuum, although there are some products on the market which attempt to combine the two technologies. A vapor steam cleaner uses remarkably little water, less than a gallon of tap water in an hour’s worth of continuous cleaning.

All vapor steam cleaners use low moisture vapor which leaves almost no damp residue on the surface which has just been cleaned. For instance, a carpet will be completely dry in 15 minutes, leaving no possibility for mold spores to start proliferating in a damp environment. The heat of the vapor steam itself, plus a little light rubbing action does all the work. Moisture evaporates immediately after the vapor steam makes contact with a surface. Surfaces cleaned can either be hard (like countertops) or soft (like upholstery). No buckets, mops, sponges, or emptying out dirty water are needed. This is an almost ‘mess-free’ way of cleaning. We say ‘almost’ because we have found in our testing of machines and dislodging dirt from baked-on or ground-in areas, that naturally you need to wipe up the dislodged dirt particles with a towel on hard surfaces or vacuum a carpet subsequent to vapor cleaning.

We stress again that a vapor steam cleaner is NOT a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner uses a technology which 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, surprisingly less moisture than in the air we breathe. Hence the term ‘dry steam’. Many products that are being sold as ‘steam cleaners’ only use hot water and no steam at all is being used. The term ‘steam machine’ for these products is a complete misnomer. These ‘steam machines’ use gallons of water leaving a wet residue on the surfaces they clean. Usually carpets are left sopping wet, needing hours to dry off, an instant invitation and breeding ground for dust mites and mold. Vapor steam cleaning machines operate completely differently. They use only a miniscule amount of water to produce thousands of gallons of dry steam per hour.

The biggest area of contention is over which technology to use to clean carpets. Even with its disadvantages, most people will prefer hot water extraction units for cleaning very large dirty areas of carpet. Vapor steam cleaning of carpets is a slow process and 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.


What tasks can I use a vapor steam cleaner for?

Vapor steam cleaning does not clean everything and in fact there are some materials/surfaces to avoid. These would be very heat sensitive materials such as some silks (clothing and Persian rugs), velour, and the exterior paint-work of your car. We have also found that it may also take the shine off some (not all) vinyl flooring. Otherwise, the list of tasks that may be tackled by vapor steam cleaning is a long one.

Each multipurpose vapor steam cleaner comes with an array of special tools which are specially designed to tackle a number of your major cleaning headaches. Our list includes some cleaning problems you might otherwise just be abandoned because they are so difficult. It is the fastest and most environmentally safe cleaning method you will have ever used.


What are the specific applications for a vapor steam cleaning?

  • Killing of dust mites in bedding, upholstery, carpets, and clothing. Dust mites, fleas, and eggs are killed without the use of any chemicals or residue. Helps kill germs and viruses. Just think, a quick vapor steam of your bedding and dust mites are gone. You will still need to repeat the vapor steam cleaning frequently to keep dust mites at bay.
  • Killing of mold spores in bathrooms, basements, window encasements, and other damp areas where mold spores flourish. We have found that this is huge advantage of vapor steam cleaning however it will not eliminate the mold which is now ingrained into grout between tiles.
  • Steam cleaning clothes gets rid of both toxic dry cleaning fluids and wrinkles. Some vapor steam cleaners come with an optimal steam iron – a quantum improvement over a traditional 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.
  • Cleaning of bird-cages: Instant deep cleaning and sanitation. Useful for bird owners and pet store owners.
  • Car detailing: upholstery, carpet, infant seats, and engine wheels (do not use on body work, it is too hot). 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 Title: vinyl, marble, and smooth concrete quarry tile for removal of dirt and wax as well as grout cleaning. It is in the grout cleaning both on the floor and in the bathroom where you should notice the most improvements.
  • 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. You still need a surfactant of some kind. Vacuum again after using the vapor steam cleaner to pick up the additional dirt which has been loosened up during the vapor steam cleaning process. Do not vacuum until the carpet is dry, otherwise it will rust out your regular vacuum cleaner.
  • Wall paper stripping with a special attachment. Makes steaming off wall paper a breeze.
  • Cleaning of soiled paint-work: (do not over heat and use a thick towel on these surfaces). We think this is particularly useful in washing down a large area of grimy wall. This can give your present paint job on your walls at home a longer lease on life.
  • Cleaning ventilation systems: Vents, returns, and ductwork entries (which often accumulate tremendous dirt, pet hair, dust and allergens).
  • Glass door floor sliders for French windows. Look at the dirt in those sliders and you will see what we mean.
  • Golf club cleaning: It just whisks off the dirt here. Our golf clubs were never so clean.
  • Kitchen: the baked on grime and grease of stove-tops, oven hoods, and interiors. The cleaning and interior of microwaves. The accumulated hardened spilled foods and mildew at the bottom of refrigerators (this one is a real boon). The dust, grime, and pet hair on the underside of your refrigerator. Grimy bottoms of household pots and pans. Sanitizing of kitchen drains. Your kitchen contains more bacteria than any other area of the house (even the bathroom), so vapor steam cleaning provides total sanitization.
  • Bar-B-Q grill cleaning: Using a wire brush with vapor steam can actually clean the grill rack (the one with all that caked on crud).
  • 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 sinks. All the areas of the bathroom which harbor bacteria, germs, viruses, mold, and odors. Your bathroom will smell fresh and be completely sanitized. Vapor steam cleaning is very effective in bathrooms.
  • Wood paneling or decks and outdoor furniture: especially useful for not only the cleaning of dirt but also for mold removal.
  • Vehicle cleaning: RVs, decks, and trim of boats.
  • Metal Venetian blind cleaning: Just steam and wipe.
  • Mirrors and windows: Use the window attachment and windows sparkle without using soapy water.
  • Freshen up and sanitize children’s stuffed animals: (you would be shocked at how much bacteria they contain). Complete sanitation of the children’s nursery.
  • Jewelry cleaning: Sparkle and shine in moments.


I want to clean my carpets- What are my options?

Traditional hot water extraction machines versus vapor steam cleaning; the ‘steam cleaners’ you may be familiar with or seen used by a rug cleaning service are all based on water extraction. The ones that are truck mounted can cost up to $30,000! Home based systems are only a few hundred dollars and their performance is more often than not congruent with their price- Low price equals low performance.

The extraction units that are truck mounted can indeed do a good job on cleaning large areas of carpet although you still have the chemical residue problem. These hot water extraction units do not use steam, they pump large amounts of water through jets accompanied by chemical containing cleaning fluids onto your carpet. These machines agitate with some brushing action and then ‘extract’ most of the water and chemicals out of your carpet. The disadvantages of lower end water extraction systems, and indeed some of the more expensive ones, is that the soap and chemical residue is both harmful to the carpet and your health. Really 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. Results produced by lower end machines or cheap services are often indifferent, producing streaking and a great deal of dirt left behind which has only been redistributed, instead of cleaned. This is why your carpet seems to get dirty again so quickly.

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 for which it is superbly well qualified), you should first vacuum up all loose dirt. You then should pre-treat the area by spraying on some natural ecologically friendly pre-treater, or surfactant, as vapor steam alone will not take out all the stains. Then use a good quality vapor steam cleaner (the lower priced ones are simply not up to the task) over the carpeted area and gently rub with the toweling applicator to absorb dirt.

The last part of the process is to vacuum over the carpeted area, which will now have the carpet fibers opened up by the heat and more accessible for vacuuming. 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. If you use your vacuum cleaner while the carpet is still damp, you will rust it out – DON’T DO THIS. This method while tedious will give you the best results. You will probably end up only cleaning small areas of carpet at a time with this method. If you have an excessive amount of over-soiled carpet, you may need to use a professional service first then upkeep it with a high end vapor steam cleaner. The Lady Bug and the Vapor Jet 2400 are really the only vapor steam cleaners we see as being adequate for cleaning carpets.


Are chemicals used in the vapor steam cleaning process?

Absolutely NO chemicals are used in vapor steam cleaning. We do need to stress that we still advise using a natural surfactant on heavily soiled and stained carpeting. Also, some bathrooms may need some extra surfactant help. Vapor steam cleaning is best used in tiling bath surrounds, not fiber glass. Our testing of residential vapor steam cleaners showed us that you will find steam alone will not be sufficient for these kinds of cleaning challenges. However, you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of tasks for which steam is not only adequate but far surpasses regular cleaning.


Where does the water of a vapor steam cleaner go?

The water is put into a special boiler. The better grade vapor steam cleaning systems allow for continuous refill of water without allowing the system to cool down between fills. The less expensive vapor steam systems have a heat sensitive safety cap which do not allow you to refill the system until it has cooled down. These boilers fast heat the water, which is discharged as ‘dry steam’ which contains 6% water. This way carpets and floors dry quickly with little moist residue and are fully dry in a matter of minutes. Lower priced units can leave quite a bit of water behind.


How much pressure does a vapor steam cleaner generate?

Surprisingly, vapor steam cleaners operate at low pressures, usually 50 to 60 psi. The better machines allow you to vary the pressure and regulate the steam, as more delicate tasks need less pressure.

A nice feature is fingertip controls of the steam pressure. The low pressure feature is important in getting the job done without making a mess and spraying particulates all over the place. This was a big criticism we had of lower priced units – they seemed to create as much mess as they cleaned.


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 up amazingly fast and the dry steam penetrates the pores of surfaces. We never saw our kitchen countertops so clean as when using one of these cleaners. 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. Vapor steam cleaning is a cleaning process that does not leave a residual from a supermarket cleaning fluid, so surfaces are left cleaner.


So where does the dirt end up?

This depends on the task at hand. During carpet or floor cleaning, a removable towel is used on the end of an applicator. This absorbs a great deal of surface dirt. Other surfaces need wiping with an absorbent towel or cloth. Our better vapor steam cleaners come with videos and other training aids to help you figure out the most effective way to tackle each task.


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

The all pervasive dust mite lives in our mattresses, blankets, pillows, upholstered furniture, carpets, and even clothing. The usual method of getting rid of dust mites is to wash all bedding once weekly in hot water over 140 degrees. Very few allergy sufferers adhere to this regimen and end sleeping with dust mite infected bedding. 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 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 cleaning treatment of choice for MCS sufferers. It is the only cleaning system that is truly effective without the use of chemicals. Vapor steam naturally sanitizes while cleaning and removing odors. No MCS sufferer should be without one of these machines. Even if you do not suffer from multiple chemical sensitivities, you will appreciate a cleaner smelling house.


I hear vapor steam cleaning originated in Europe?

It originated in Italy by manufacturers of Espresso coffee machines. It has been used in Europe successfully for years but only recently has been introduced to North America. Vapor Steam Cleaning products needed to be adapted to our electrical system and meet American and Underwriters Laboratories safety standards before they could be used in this country.


Are Vapor Steam Cleaners used commercially?

Very much so, but do please remember that the vapor steam cleaners currently sold on Allergy Buyers Club are for residential use only. The ones featured on our site, with the possible exception of the Vapor Jet 2400, are not designed for the daily pummeling and challenges of commercial use. We can special order commercial machines for you. Commercial uses include nursing homes, hospitals, stores, commercial kitchens, offices, schools and clean room facilities.


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. A commercial machine by contrast can have an internal temperature between 360 degrees to 410 degrees.
  • 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 system.
  • Maintenance record of the machine and ability to get spare parts, repairs.
  • Length of warranty on boiler and other parts. It is usually 3 years on a good residential machine and 5 years on a commercial 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 up stairs.
  • 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 available. Size of the cleaning brushes. Most commercial grade or better machines have bigger sized tools which allow for the cleaning to be done faster.
  • Quality of toweling covers and whether they can be attached and removed easily.
  • Number of steam outlets in more expensive machines.

Where can I find more details about particular vapor steam products?

Click on this link for Vapor Steam Cleaners.You will find a wide selection of machines accompanied by reviews and ratings. Just a note of caution, do not expect a cheap dollar vapor steam cleaner to do as thorough a job cleaning as the more expense models. Our best multipurpose vapor steam machines are VaporJet, Lady Bug, and Whitewing steam cleaners.