A steamer is a device that uses the steam from heated water (under pressure) to pump through a hose. When it leaves the hose, it can be used to clean certain surfaces with. The advantage of using steam is the relative high temperature that can help to loosen up dirt and certain chemicals.
What is a steam cleaner
When water is heated to a high temperature, it will start to boil. The steam coming from this can be pumped through a hose and used to clean a surface. The temperature of the steam can vary because the pressure plays a big part in when the water will start to boil. The steam has a relative high temperature and a high evaporation rate. This gives the user the possibility to use a liquid that is very hot (loosen up grime, grease difficult spots and kill bacteria) but won’t leave a soaking wet material after use. A large part of the moisture in the steam will evaporate. The amount of liquid used is also lower, because the steam is a combination of water particles with air. The device generally uses electricity to heat up the water. The resulting steam can either be pressurized in a container, or directly pumped into a hose for distribution.
Advantages of using a steam cleaner
When using warm liquids, the temperature is often limited by the temperature that the user can handle when coming into contact with the liquid. Therefore it will rarely surpass a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees celcius. This temperature is not high enough to fully loosen up certain spots and grime without the aid of cleaning chemicals. It will also not be high enough to kill biological life (such as bacteria) without the aid of chemical cleaning liquids. Steam can have temperatures that varies between 70 and 100 degrees (depending on the pressure used by the device). The spray of steam leaving the nozzle will quickly cool down, not damaging of melting the surface it is sprayed on. The level of moisture it will leave will also be lower because the steam is largely water particles with lots of air. A steam cleaner will require less chemicals to clean and will have more effect on biological matter without the need for harsh chemicals.
Because a large part of the steam evaporates easily, there will also be much less residue on glass when cleaning windows. Because steam contains very little contaminants and minerals, the risk of water spots is decreased greatly.
Downside of a steam cleaner
The level of result largely depends on the temperature and amount of steam the device can give out. This means that cheap steam cleaners will be much less effective than the more expensive models. Steam also has a limited effect on certain types of grime, which will still result in the need for chemical cleaners. Other problems might be caused by the quick increase of relative humidity from the steam, leaving a very moist air inside the air. The resulting condensation that can come from this can cause mildew and mold in areas that can be very difficult to reach. The level of cleaning is a big part of discussion due to getting very mixed results when using a steam cleaner. Many detailers have proven that only the very top of the surface gets cleaned because the steam quicly cools down and looses effect. Making steam very ineffective for cleaning seats. Other detailers have shown that steam can be very effective in cleaning mold from textile, or removing nicotine stains from interior parts.
Cleaning cars with steam
There is a large debat on cleaning cars with steam. This can either be done by spraying steam on the surface and wiping the condensation from the surface. Or it can be pumped into a piece of cloth that gets warm and moist, rubbing this over the paint would clean the dirt from the surface.
The largest discussion revolving both techniques is the limitation on lubrication. Steam sprayed on the surface will cause the steam to quickly cool down and cause condensation on the surface. When wiping this condensation, the small amount of water on the surface will act as a carrier from the dirt particles. Many details compare this technique with simply spraying water on the surface (without cleaning agents) and simply wiping the water off. The problem with this is the amount of lubrication of the water without any cleaning agents, which has been proven time and time again to be to little to prevent marring or swirls.
When rubbing the heated cloth over the surface, the steam will make the cloth moist and warm. The heat would loosen up dirt and grime while the moist will act as a carrier for the dirt particles. Also in this situation there is a large discussion whether the level of lubrication is enough to prevent marring and or swirls.
Most industrial steam cleaners are fairly large device that consume a large amount of electricity. Is would be debatable if the amount you save on cleaning liquids outweighs the cost of the power it consumes, but the chemical free approach does attract the more eco-friendly detailers. Some consumer friendly models can be used, but if the device is used on a daily basis, many will opt for a larger steam generator. The cost for this equipment ranges from over 100 euro for a commercial model, or over 1000 euro for a professional and industrial model. Some larger models can even be petrol powered to be capable of offering much higher volumes of steam under a higher pressure.