View From Afar: Getting All Steamed Up!

View From Afar: Getting All Steamed Up!

Vapor steam as a cleaning agent has caused lots of controversy and has strong supporters as well as equally vocal detractors. Just to lay out my own position, I have worked with vapor steam now for a number of years and tend to fall between the two camps.

One of the problems with the reputation of steam vapor is that it has been and still is over-hyped. In a way, it is like the “Internet Bubble” that was promoted as the wonder solution for everything and when it was found lacking, the bubble burst. Similarly with vapor steam, because of the highly exaggerated claims that cannot possibly be achieved, the system’s many excellent features are discounted also.

The types of steam vapor machines available are as follows:

HANDHELD: For the professional, these are useless (toys, at best).

DOMESTIC: Go for top of the line! Make sure it has a variable pressure control. Some of the newer models have the excellent added feature of allowing you to add water at any point without having to stop working while it heats up.

INDUSTRIAL: These have much higher steam pressure and are usually used for heavier work like cleaning the inside of very greasy commercial ovens and industrial machinery .

I have two vapor steam cleaning machines. My Karcher 1500 is a high-end domestic model. However, it is more than adequate for most jobs. The water takes about ten minutes to heat up to 150c and the steam pressure can be altered from 3.2 to 5.7 bars.

My other machine is a Ghibli Vapor Vacuum. Both the temperature and steam pressure numbers are about the same as the Karcher. The main extras that the Ghibli has are the built-in wet-vac, a larger water tank, and a detergent feed option. It is, in general, a more commercial type of machine.

I have used steam vapor as an added tool for carpet and upholstery cleaning, floor polishing, and general cleaning. I have found that in each one of these fields, steam vapor performs certain tasks better, quicker, or more efficiently.


For example, in carpet cleaning, steam vapor is excellent at removing chewing gum. With a cloth attached to its steam nozzle head, it can clean carpet side panels. Furthermore, steam vapor is outstanding for stain removal and sanitizing carpets. [
However, as a “stand-alone” method of cleaning carpets, it is much too slow and does
not clean any better than the more conventional methods. ]

In floor polishing, I have used it combined with a small amount of stripper for
cleaning difficult to reach areas. The steam vapor seems to boost the stripper for cleaning dirt out from under shelves as well as for cleaning grout (though only in small
areas, as it is a bit too slow to use on large areas of grout).

For general cleaning, steam vapor is wonderful for “detail work”, again, giving access into crevices, edges, etc. Additionally, it wonderfully brings stainless steel back up “clean and shiny”. As with most tools, there are dangers. For example: the paint or thin plastic coating that is often used to cover and protect metal can bubble if you leave the steam vapor aimed at the same spot for too long. Using steam vapor is mainly a common sense type of thing. I have also found it woks great for keeping my other carpet and floor cleaning
equipment clean. That alone almost makes its purchase worthwhile! :o)

I recently got a chance to quote a job for sanitizing the galleys on a cruise ship. The
galleys where, by and large, in good shape. The problem they had was with things like
cleaning out the edges between stainless steel trims (you this find on dish washers, ovens), cleaning behind handles, cleaning out the channels on ridged surfaces, etc. The
ship’s Director of Catering was blown away by the results and wanted us to start ASAP.
The problems came of course from the ship’s Director of Finance, who, in these recession biting times, does not want to pay out any money! The negotiations continue…

As I wrote in one of my recent postings, I have started a new side to my business with
an anti-allergen service (aimed at people with asthma, allergies or eczema) in which my
vapor steam machine plays a major part. I use it together with a HEPA vacuum cleaner
and a natural Boron spray liquid that neutralizes the dust mite’s feces (the element that
does all of the health damage). In conclusion, I think that a vapor steam machine is a very useful addition to anyone’s carpet cleaning arsonal. I am also sure, with the ingenuity shown by members of this and other forums, when vapor steam finds more general acceptance, other applications will be discovered for the system.

Harvey Fish