What is Vapor Steam Cleaning?

O. Wallace

Vapor steam cleaning uses dry steam to loosen and disinfect almost any surface. Although the machine itself looks just like a regular vacuum, it does not use suction to clean, but rather, water heated to a high internal temperature in a boiler that produces true steam. The traditional method differs from vapor steam cleaning in that the former uses hot water and suction extraction to remove dirt from carpeting and upholstery instead of steam.

Industrial grade vapor steam cleaners can be rented from hardware stores.
Industrial grade vapor steam cleaners can be rented from hardware stores.

This cleaning method is said to have originated in Italy, and was designed by the makers of espresso coffee machines. Using an internal boiler, water is heated to an internal temperature of 150° to 300°F (66° to 149°C), depending on the model. The benefit of vapor steam cleaning is that it can use tap water alone — and no harsh cleansers or chemicals. This makes it very environmentally friendly, as well as safe for people with sensitivities to harsh chemicals. Due to its ability to kill and remove allergens from surfaces, it comes highly recommended for allergy sufferers.

Vapor steam cleaning can destroy mildew and other types of mold.
Vapor steam cleaning can destroy mildew and other types of mold.

The dry steam that is produced is very low in moisture content — usually around 6% water. The extremely hot steam kills dust mites, mold, viruses and fungi on contact and begins to evaporate almost immediately on the surface. The surface usually will be dry within 15 minutes, before mold can begin to take hold. With traditional steam cleaners, carpeting and upholstery can end up sopping wet, which creates an environment in that is hospitable to all the mold and fungus that the user had hoped to get rid of in the first place.

People who use steam to clean carpet or upholstery should follow up with a vacuum to catch the dirt that has been loosened from the fibers. For this reason, it makes vacuuming much more effective.

Vapor steam cleaning can be used to clean more than just carpeting and upholstery. It can be used on virtually any hard or soft surface, including grout, tile, windows, stuffed animals, and auto interiors. The material or surface should be tested for its sensitivity to heat before the machine is used, however. Different attachments can be used for crevice cleaning and those hard to reach areas. Depending on how much a shopper wants to spend, there are models with digital temperature controls and microprocessors to maintain proper temperature and steam as well as aluminum and stainless steel boilers.

One benefit of vapor steam cleaning is that it can use tap water alone.
One benefit of vapor steam cleaning is that it can use tap water alone.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahSon-- Using a vapor steam cleaner on some of the stuffed animals my kids have worked pretty good for me. Like you said, they don't look like they are brand new, but the improvement was significant.

I think there are many advantages to using a vapor steam cleaner, and have even one to get wrinkles out of curtains and drapes as they are hanging.

If you use this on your carpets, knowing they will be dry within 15 minutes is wonderful. Your carpet will also last longer because it isn't getting sopped with water every time you clean your carpets.


Has anyone ever used vapor steam cleaning for stuffed animals, and how did it work?

My daughter has some favorite stuffed animals that have seen better days, but there is no way she wants to get rid of them. Sometimes I cringe when I think about how dirty these stuffed animals are that she is carrying around with her.

I have tried spot cleaning them but that doesn't really do a thorough job. I don't expect to get them looking like new, but would like for them to look much better and be cleaner than they are now.


@honeybees-- Once you try the vapor steam cleaning I don't think you will go back to anything else. The first time I had this done by a company who came to my house and cleaned my carpets.

This seemed a little pricey to me so I looked into buying my own carpet steam cleaning machine. I found one on sale and have saved myself a lot of money by doing it myself.

Both of my kids have allergies so I clean my carpets more than the average person probably does. Having my own cleaner makes this so much easier and I don't feel like I have to use half my paycheck to get it done. I also like the fact that the vapor steam cleaner does such an effective job of getting rid of the allergens.


When I want to clean my carpets I usually rent a carpet steam cleaner but I haven't been all that happy with the results. The next time I need to have this done I am going to look into using a vapor steamer.

With using a traditional steam cleaner I feel like my carpet doesn't completely dry out for a couple of days. Now I wonder how many more germs and bacteria I am creating by using this method to clean my carpets.


What brand makes the best carpet steam cleaner? I have a home cleaning service and I am considering investing in a steam cleaner. A lot of clients ask if I have access to one and I could expand my business a lot if I could offer this service.

So if I am going to make the investment I want to get the best one possible. As far as price, quality and functionality, what are the top brands? Does anyone have experience buying one of these that they could maybe share?


How much does it usually cost to rent a carpet steam cleaner? I had a party at my house last weekend and a guest spilled an entire bottle of wine all over a white carpet I have in my living room. There is now a huge stain and I am at a loss to figure out how to get rid of it.

A friend of mine recommended steam cleaning and I am willing to give it a try if it does not cost too much money.


Vapor steam cleaning is great for getting mildew out of a shower. I bought a house recently and one of the bathrooms was in terrible shape. There was mold everywhere in the shower. The tile underneath was nice but I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get it clean, more work than a can of scrubbing bubbles could handle.

I rented a steam cleaner with an attachment that helped me to focus the steam and I made surprisingly short work of the job. It took less than an hour and it looks great now. It was so much easier than trying to scrub all that stuff off with a scratch pad and elbow grease.

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