Before you can pick out the best steam cleaner for your home, you need to understand what exactly a steam cleaner machine is and the role that each feature plays.
As the name suggests, these are cleaning machines that use steam to clean surfaces. A basic variant of this cleaner uses a mopping action to wipe up dirt, while a steam vacuum cleaner uses a combination of both steam and suction.
Cleaning with a steam cleaner involves boiling water to create steam, which is then released onto the surface. Dirt, including tough grime, is loosened, and is then picked up by the suction force of the machine. There are also advanced variants of these machines that can release steam at high pressures to clean even tougher stains.
An important fact to keep in mind is that an ideal cleaner should be able to make and use steam, which means they boil water at temperatures above 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius (Centigrade).
Any machine that heats water to a lesser temperature will only make ‘hot air’. These work well on certain floor types, but, they are not ideal.
The Benefits of Having One
Although there are many benefits of having one in your home, here are 2 of the main ones:
- They are environmentally friendly because they only use water and no harmful chemicals for cleaning.
- They are not only effective cleaning machines, but can also disinfect surfaces. Steam is super-hot and can sterilize surfaces, killing bacteria, mold, viruses and even tough spores.
Picking a Good Steamer
In order to pick the best steam cleaner, you need to first make sure that it excels at creating/utilizing steam, and has an efficient vacuum with a powerful suction.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy one:
- How much water can I put in? – The amount of water it can take determines how much cleaning it can do each time you fill it. This also leads to the question of how heavy it will get. Usual ranges are between 0.1 to 0.5 gallons of capacity, and 10-20 minutes of run-time.
- How easy is it to put in the water? – Is the water tank detachable, or do I have to place the entire machine near a tap to fill it?
- How much time do I have to wait each time I put in water? – The water needs to boil, and this can take time depending on the power of the heater. Usual wait-times range from under a minute to 5 minutes.
- What is the suction power of the vacuum? – The higher the power, the more effective the cleaning. This also means a higher consumption of electricity because stronger pumps will consume more power. A suction power range is 50-100 CFM (cubic feet per minute). The overall power consumption of the unit depends on all its capabilities, and it is best to consult the dealer or manufacturer to find out.
- What will I be cleaning most of the time? – If you will be cleaning hardwood, you are better off picking a vacuum that keeps things dry. Wood can be damaged by too much heat or moisture. Features to control the heat or amount of steam used are very useful if you have a variety of surfaces to clean (Read: The Pros and Cons of Buying a Hardwood Floor Steam Cleaner).
- How expensive is it? How easy or difficult is it to get service and replacement parts? What does the warranty cover? These are basic questions to ask of any purchase, of course. You cannot go wrong thinking about them!
For Cleaning Carpet
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a steam cleaner for cleaning carpets. Using the wrong type of cleaner or technique can cause your carpets to re-soil a lot quicker and in some cases, it might even cause permanent damage.
One of the big issues faced with carpets is over-wetting. Prolonged wetness not only encourages mold to grow, but it can also the backing to separate.
For this reason, you want to pick one with a vacuum that’s strong enough to ideally remove enough water so that it completely dries within 12 hours. This will also make sure the cleaning solution is completely removed, stopping the carpet from re-soiling easily.
For Cleaning Wood Floors
Ideally, you want to avoid using a steam cleaner for wood floors since most cleaners will generate too much moisture. Over time, this can break down the adhesive on laminate wood floors and cause the edges to swell. The same rule applies to most hardwood floors, as it will absorb the moisture from the steamer over time and causes it to buckle.
There are however machines which are advertised as “safe for hardwood.”
These are what’s known as “dry” steam cleaners. They produce lower amount of steam but at much higher temperatures in order to keep the moisture level as low as possible. The higher the temperature, the less the moisture gets left behind.
If you choose to go down this route, make sure you read and re-read the manufaturer’s recommendations for use.
You also want to make sure that your floors are sealed, and that you do not use it over any spot that looks worn out.
For Cleaning Tile
Steam cleaners are perfect for kitchen and bathroom tiles. It’s quick, efficient, ecological, and it disinfects the entire floor with ease.
No cleaning solution is required. The hot steam and pressure alone is enough to reach deep down between tiles and remove built-up dirt and oil.
Just make sure to pick a high quality steamer (like a BISSELL) that’s able to reach higher temperatures with a decent pressure, unless of course your tiles are painted. In this case, you want to aim for a lower pressure machine in order to avoid damaging the paint.
Steam Cleaner vs Mop
A steam mop saves you the trouble of having to drag a bucket of water around with you as you clean your house.
They are lighter, slimmer, and easier to maneuver around as well as to store.
The biggest disadvantage is that there is no vacuum suction, dp you still need to sweep your floors with it in order to loosen the dirt and debris. Another disadvantage is that mop cloth gets dirty after using and needs to be changed every now and then.
In the end, whatever you decide to go with should match your needs. Consider your budget, your floor type, your available time, and whether or not it will be used as your primary cleaner.
Certain models come with specific attachments that allow you enhance the function of your cleaner and even adapt to various different surface types by using the additional heads. Pay attention to any attachments that either come with the machine, or can be purchased for it seperately. These attachments can greatly improve the versatility of your cleaner and allow you to clean more than just a single part of your home.
Hopefully the questions presented here will give you an idea of the important points to focus on before making a purchase.
Here are some recommended steam cleaners worth checking out: