What is Steam Cleaning?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Steam cleaning is a deep cleaning process that combines the use of chemicals and a high-pressure blast of hot water and steam to remove dirt and grime from different materials and surfaces. While the process of steam cleaning is usually thought to be for cleaning carpeting only, the same process can also be employed to clean jewelry, bathroom tile, and brick. Various types of cleaners are employed for the task of cleaning with steam, depending on the specific application.

Steam cleaning is a form of deep carpet cleaning.
Steam cleaning is a form of deep carpet cleaning.

When it comes to cleaning carpeting, steam cleaning is a deep cleaning process that helps to dislodge dirt and grime that has ground into the fibers of the carpet. In order to remove the dirt, the cleaner uses a mixture of hot water and some type of cleaning agent. The mixture is routed through high-pressure jets that allow the steamy water to permeate the fibers of the carpeting and loosen the grime. As the detergent dislodges the dirt, the cleaner uses a strong vacuum to retrieve the now dirty water and excess detergent. The end result is a carpet that is clean and will dry in a matter of minutes in most climates.

Steam cleaning can be employed to clean jewelry.
Steam cleaning can be employed to clean jewelry.

Along with steam cleaning carpeting, jewelers make use of steam systems to remove film and buildup from the surface of gemstones. Machines used in this type of cleaning action vary from smaller handheld devices that allow for precision work to larger devices capable of cleaning large quantities of gems at one time. In both cases, the steam cleaning equipment uses high-pressure steam and a cleaning agent to gently remove any dirt or residue from the gemstone, making the stones ready for installation in a setting.

In recent years, steam cleaning of walls and other surfaces around the home has become possible with the use of hand held devices. While not employing quite as much pressure as cleaning devices for carpets or gemstones, these devices do make use of detergents and hot water to create a steamy stream that can loosen grime from countertops in the kitchen. Cleaners of this type can easily handle dried food, grease stains, and even wine or fruit juice stains. In the bathroom these hand held steam cleaners can loosen and remove soap scum from tile, bathtubs and sinks. Cleaning the toilet with steam with these devices is thought to eliminate more germs from the home.

Steam cleaning devices can be employed with many types of cleaning around the home. Today, cleaners using the power of steam can be purchased reasonably and kept on hand to handle many common housecleaning chores. In the case of steam cleaning machines for cleaning carpets, it is also possible to rent cleaners inexpensively from supermarkets, drugstores, and other retail outlets.

Steam cleaning a carpet may help get rid of odors associated with pet stains.
Steam cleaning a carpet may help get rid of odors associated with pet stains.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I would not steam clean once a month, because mold spores that live naturally in our air would most certainly settle into that moist environment. Once every six months would be the most I would try it.


How often should people steam clean the carpets, bedding and other furniture in their homes?

I have heard it is great for killing dust mites, so it helps people who have allergies. I would like to do this at least once a month, as I suffer from bad allergies.

Does anyone know if steam cleaning that often is too much? Would this damage the fibers of the fabric or cause staining?

I am sure the chemicals used in the steam cleaner are pretty harsh, so any guidelines would be great. On that note, does anyone know of any cleanser for your steam cleaner that is better for those want a more natural product?


When considering steam cleaning for your home, do you think it is best to have a professional service come in and do it, or should you just rent a steam cleaner and try it yourself?

I have noticed steam cleaners for rent at the grocery store available as day rentals for only $25. This seems like a great deal, but only if it actually works. I am concerned that for such a low price, when compared to professional services, that it won’t get the job done.

Does anyone have experience using an inexpensive rental on his or her carpets? Does it really get the grime out?

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