How a Steam Cleaner Works
A steam cleaner uses "dry" vapor steam to clean, sanitize/disinfect, and remove most stains and buildup. The machines are ideal for hard surfaces, like sealed floors and tile and grout, and spot cleaning of softer materials, like carpets and upholstery.
Since the machines generate temperatures of up to 360ºF, they kill fungus, mold, bacteria, and other allergens. The devices generally use low pressure levels of up to 150 psi.
Water in a steam cleaner is heated in a boiler, which converts the liquid to vapor that exits the machine via a nozzle. The steam loosens dirt on hard surfaces and in soft fibers, so it can be wiped or vacuumed. The vapor in a steam cleaner contains about 5% water, which is drier than the air we breathe. Some steam cleaners work with cleaning solutions and detergents. Others include vacuums.
The boiler does what the name implies: boils water and turns it into steam. Boilers are subjected to extreme heat and pressure, so top-grade versions of this component are made of stainless steel. One key feature is a replaceable heating element, which means customers can have a single low-cost heating rod replaced instead of the entire costly boiler. Industrial-grade steam cleaners sport boilers of up to 14 liters.
Some residential and most commercial grade steam cleaners include a non-pressurized refill tank that allows the operator to add water to the machine while it's still running. For systems without a refill tank, the operator must depressurize the system, add water to the boiler, and wait up to 20 minutes for the water to heat.
Some industrial steam cleaners include a direct water feed that connects the machine to a water outlet and refills the boiler as needed. (Automatic refill systems can also be refilled manually if a water line is not available.)
These tanks hold and dispense cleaning chemicals. Some steam cleaning machines include simple handle controls that allow the operator to control the detergent and steam flow while cleaning. Industrial steam cleaners can have detergent tanks in excess of 20 liters.
Steam cleaners can also be equipped with vacuums that empty their contents automatically into extraction tanks of up to 35 liters.
Steam vacuum cleaners can boost productivity dramatically since they allow users to clean and extract without the use of towels. Non-vacuum steam cleaners require the use of a towel to wipe the moisture and residue left behind.
Steam cleaners usually include a collection of brushes in various shapes and sizes with and without towel clips; small detail brushes; squeegees for glass and mirrors; microfiber towels; plungers for sink drains.
Tips for Using a Steam Cleaner
- Never try to steam clean surfaces made of pressed paper, cardboard or surfaces painted with non-enamel paint.
- For waxed floors, use low pressure. Clip a clean towel over a large rectangular brush and work fast. The process will melt a thin layer of dirty wax and leave behind what looks like a freshly waxed floor.
- For unwaxed vinyl floors, work fast and do not allow heat to build up as it can soften the vinyl and affect the texture.
- For tile floors, scrub briskly using a brush with no towel. Wipe up the mess immediately with a loose towel. Do no let an area dry before wiping up. If your steam cleaner has a vacuum, steam first and vacuum dry.
- For grout, use a small detail brush and wipe up as you clean. Dirt within tight grout may be pre-sprayed with an alkaline cleaner. Let the solution sit several minutes before cleaning.
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