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.
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.
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.