How to Use a Steam Cleaner the Right Way

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how to use a steam cleaner

Steam cleaning furniture, carpets, and rugs can bring new life to fabrics and upholstery. Unlike shampooing, steaming can be done quickly and with minimal drying times afterward. Plus, it offers virtually the same benefits as traditional shampooing.

However, not everyone is astute at using a steam cleaner. So, want to learn how to embrace the power of steam? Keep on reading to learn how to use a steam cleaner in your home.

Key Takeaways:

For carpets and furniture, it’s always best to vacuum first, hold your steam cleaner about six inches from the surfaces, keep it moving, and then let the surfaces dry completely. For delicate fabrics, try dusting them first, then repeat the same process.

You can also use a steam cleaner on grout, windows, tiles, hardwood, laminate, kitchen appliances, metal, mirrors, and ceramics. Never steam-clean silk, aged leather, rubber, houseplants, unfinished wood, embroidery, water-based paint, or paper.

Why Should I Steam Clean in the First Place?

It might be tempting to forego steam cleaning all together for shampooing. But, steam cleaning has a lot of benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Steaming is incredibly eco-friendly and usually involves no industrial chemicals.
  • The temperature of the steam can sanitize the treated areas.
  • Steam evaporates quickly, so drying times are short.
  • Steam can travel into hard-to-reach places, making easy work of trapped dirt and debris
  • Steaming uses heat and moisture, so waxes and syrups dissolve with ease.
  • Steaming drapes can help keep it wrinkle-free
  • Because they only need water to clean, running a steam cleaner is cheap.
  • Insects like dust mites and bed bugs, including their larva, are killed when steaming.
  • Steam can lift stains from carpets, furniture, and other household upholstery.
  • Combined with essential oils, steaming can infuse pleasant scents into fabrics.

What Type of Steam Cleaner Should I Buy and Use?

The two most common types of steam cleaners available on the market for buyers are “cool steam” and “dry steam” systems. A cool steam cleaning machine creates the steam without boiling water. These tend to run colder and hold more moisture than dry steam machines. These machines are great at hard-to-treat stains.

A dry steam system makes steam from boiling water at incredibly high temperatures. Because of how hot these cleaners run, the steam they produce contains less water than cold steamers. Also, they’re better at eliminating odors and disinfecting surfaces.

Regardless of whatever steam cleaner system you land on, know a few key things before buying. Below are some items to consider when purchasing a steam cleaner:

  • If you are steam cleaner large areas, look for a system with a suitably sized water reservoir.
  • Battery-powered cleaners make cleaning car upholstery easy.
  • Look for a steam cleaner that has interchangeable nozzles.
  • Steam cleaners with automatic shut-off switches help prevent accidental injury or household fires.

Shop with these criteria in mind, and you’ll be rewarded with a steam cleaner perfect for your needs.

How Do I Steam Clean My Carpets and Furniture?

steam cleaning a carpet

Steam cleaning your carpets and furniture will help them stay fresh and conditioned for days afterward. For best results, do the following steps:

  1. Vacuum whatever carpet or piece of furniture you wish to steam clean.
  2. Hold the steamer six inches above the carpet or item of furniture.
  3. Start steaming in sweeping motions, left-to-right, or up-and-down.
  4. Move quickly, making sure not to rest the steamer on one spot for too long.
  5. Allow the area to completely dry.
  6. Only repeat the process if necessary.

Dry steam systems work best for treating carpets and furniture. Most of these cleaners will come with an upholstery attachment to use, as well.

How Do I Steam Clean Drapery and Other Delicate Fabrics?

Steaming such thin and fragile fabrics can be tricky. But if done correctly, it produces incredible results. Here’s how to steam clean drapery and other delicate fabrics:

  1. Before steam cleaning these delicate fabrics, dust the materials.
  2. Place the steamer six to eight inches away from the material.
  3. Gently steam the piece of drapery or fabric, making sure not to make direct contact with it.
  4. If wrinkled, steam over the affected areas and gently pull to release the wrinkle.
  5. Allow the materials to completely dry before storing or hanging.

It may take a few attempts to get the material wrinkle free, but slow and steady wins the race. However, don’t repeat the steaming process unless trying to remove wrinkles. These delicate fabrics can absorb too much moisture, and mold or water stain.

How Do I Steam Clean Ceramics, Floors, and Other Things Around the Home?

steam cleaning hardwood floors

Steam is an effective all-natural cleaning agent that’s usable throughout the home. Consider using a steam cleaner to treat things like the following:

  • Ceramics
  • Tiles
  • Grout
  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • Hardwood flooring
  • Laminate flooring
  • VInyl flooring
  • Metals
  • Lawn equipment
  • Grills and fire pits
  • Golf clubs
  • Kitchen appliances

Steaming windows and mirrors, too, will leave them streak free. However, make sure to wipe dry with a suitable rage or towel. For metals, ceramics, and flooring, steaming them can help remove stubborn dirt and grime. Steaming kids toys and kitchen gadgets is a great way to disinfect them naturally.

Be careful when steaming hardwood and laminate floors. Excess heat and moisture can cause warping and peeling. It’s best to steam them quickly and cautiously. Steam a corner of the flooring as a test to make sure no damage will be done.

If you only want to steam clean flooring, it might be a good idea to get a steam mop instead of the more versatile steam cleaner. A steam mop might be cheaper and is specialized on flooring. We recently published an article where we tried to find the best steam mop of 2021.

What Shouldn’t I Steam?

No matter what you intend to steam, test it out on a small area to make sure the steam does not affect the material. But as a rule of thumb, don’t steam clean these materials below:

  • Silks
  • Paper products
  • Embroidery
  • Aged leather
  • Synthetic houseplants
  • Unfinished woods
  • Anything coated with a water-based paint
  • Rubbers

Other Things to Keep in Mind When Using a Steam Cleaner

man ready to steam clean the place

Even though steaming has many benefits, it’s not always the best nor perfect solution. Below are a few things to keep in mind when deciding to steam or not:

  • Steamed surfaces should still be wiped clean to remove any residual debris and grim.
  • Consider wearing protective gloves and eyewear when dealing with a lot of steam
  • Steam can burn unprotected skin in the blink of an eye, so make sure you’re focused on the steamer.
  • Some stuck-on dirt and stains may need scrubbing after steaming.
  • Always read your steamer’s instructions before using it.

Embrace the Power of Steam

When done right, steam cleaning can make quick work of stubborn stains, stuck on grime, and off-putting smells. It can even help get rid of irritating skin vermin like bed bugs and dust mites. Instead of always reaching for harsh chemical cleaners, consider using a steam cleaner.

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Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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