How Does Steam Cleaning Work?

There is little more frustrating than a tough stain on your carpet or couch that simply won’t come out. You can take a mop to it, a vacuum, any number of cleaning sprays and products, and a good whack of elbow grease, but it could still survive all your efforts. In this case, steam cleaning may be the answer.

Steam cleaning is something that is often mentioned but not fully understood. As a cleaning method, it can be highly effective. The premise is as it sounds – using steam vapour to dislodge dirt and gunk from surfaces. The technology is so effective that it’s considered a form of deep cleaning, but it does have various benefits and drawbacks associated with it that need to be considered.

The global market for steam cleaners was $3.3 billion in 2022, and is projected to grow substantially in future years. This increased demand is a testament to the usefulness of such systems, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, there continues to be some confusion/reluctance to adopt steam cleaning practices.

In our latest article, we’ll examine how steam cleaning works, the science behind it, and how it can keep your premises hygienic and shining. We’ll explore the pros and cons of using a steam cleaner, and the benefits of hiring a commercial cleaning company like Vanguard to deep clean your premises.


What Is The Science Behind Steam Cleaning?

Ever wondered how soap is so effective at getting rid of bacteria? Surprisingly, it doesn’t actually kill the pathogens itself, but instead acts as an adhesive to them. As outlined by Pfizer, soap molecules have two different ends, one of which is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and one of which is hydrophobic (repelled by water).

The hydrophobic end, being repulsed by water, attaches itself to fatty oils and grease found on the surface of bacteria and viruses, while the hydrophilic end attaches itself to water when you wash your hands. The overall result is that soap grabs onto bacteria and drags it off your hands when you rinse them. As the water goes down the drain, the soap surrounds the pathogens and stops them from attaching to anything else, hence neutralizing them. The key point here is that soap doesn’t kill bacteria – it dislodges it instead.

The same principle is put into practice by steam cleaning. The dampness of the steam vapour dilutes the problem area with water, while the high heat helps to break down the sticky tendencies of the dirt, both of which act to help loosen tough stains and grime. This makes it much easier to deal with troublesome and dug-in filth.


How Does Steam Cleaning Work?

How Does Steam Cleaning Work?

Steam cleaners work by heating water to high temperatures – usually around 93°C to 148°C – which creates a pressurized burst of steam. This is then directed through some kind of attachment, such as a nozzle or brush, which allows you to aim the vapour at specific areas. Depending on the type of your model, you may need to hold the burst on certain areas for longer to ensure it gets enough spray intensity.

Due to the high heat of the steam, cleaned surfaces dry very quickly, which makes for a highly convenient way to clean and a great way to kill bacteria and mould. However, because steam cleaning dislodges rather than sucks up, most of the grime will simply linger if left unattended. As a result, additional cleaning is required after using a steam cleaner. A mop, vacuum, or a simple cloth can all be used to remove the dirt and provide the finishing touches.


Pros & Cons Of Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning offers several benefits that make it a useful form of cleaning.

#1 – Highly Effective & Sanitary

Not only does steam cleaning dislodge grime, but the high temperatures involved also sanitize the area from harmful bacteria and viruses – up to a whopping 99.99% of germs. Such a versatile cleaning method is perfect for sensitive areas or those that accumulate dirt quickly. Regular deep cleans will prevent the build-up of gunk and kill any outbreaks of pathogens, therefore becoming an easy way to kill two birds with one stone.

#2 – Uses Water Only

Steam cleaning accomplishes all of this by using one thing – water. No chemicals or specialist cleaning compounds are involved, and as these can cause a whole host of problems such as harmful exposure or triggered allergies, avoiding them is highly beneficial. For premises that involve food preparation or house vulnerable individuals, this can make an important difference and distinguish steam cleaning as the optimal cleaning method.

#3 – Eco-Friendly

Due to the water-only nature of steam cleaning, it’s more eco-friendly than many other types of cleaning. In addition, while water is central to the process, less volume is used than other, more traditional types of cleaning. For example, pouring several kettles of boiling water into a mop bucket to wash your floor could be more wasteful in terms of energy and water than a quick steam clean and sweep.

With that being said, steam cleaning has a number of drawbacks that may give you pause for concern.

#1 – Versatile To An Extent

While steam cleaners are highly effective on a range of surfaces and equipment, they can also cause damage to some materials. The moisture content in the steam can damage sealed floors, painted walls, and glazed tiles, whereas it will seep into electricals and ruin their wiring. As a result, steam cleaning cannot tackle everything, especially in certain environments with lots of electricals/machinery such as offices or some factories. For more information on what floors could be harmed by steam cleaning, read our article on different floors types and how best to clean them.

#2 – Hardware Limitations

The actual hardware of steam cleaners will eventually encounter problems, as all machinery does. Your steam cleaner may break down and need parts replacing, which could rack up an expensive bill. At the same time, different models of steam cleaners have different limitations. Their water tanks have different capacities, hence requiring more or less frequent refills, while some models will require a longer spray time to fully dislodge all dirt.

Finally, steam cleaners don’t work instantly – they need time to heat up, a bit like a kettle, which could take anywhere from thirty seconds to several minutes. This usually won’t be a problem, but could become an annoyance if you keep switching the appliance on and off. All of these limitations are important points to consider when investing in a steam cleaner.

#3 – Health & Safety Concerns

Due to the hot temperature of the released vapour, steam cleaning equipment can pose a significant danger. It will badly burn skin, and can result in serious eye damage if exposed. It’s essential to take the necessary precautions and wear proper PPE to avoid harm to the operator or nearby individuals.


Why You Should Trust Vanguard To Deep Clean Your Premises

Steam cleaning is an invaluable tool when aiming to deep clean your premises, but with some significant limitations, and a high price tag to first purchase, it can be difficult for businesses to properly make use of this equipment. Turning to a professional cleaning company like Vanguard Cleaning can make the process far easier.

Not only do we already have the best steam cleaning models at our disposal, but we also possess the necessary PPE and additional apparatus to ensure a safe and thorough deep clean. Our staff are experts at what they do, and are extensively trained with processes accredited by the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc). This means they know and can work around the limitations of steam cleaning, ensuring your surfaces and electricals are protected whilst applying the substantial benefits wherever else.

As part and parcel of our enhanced deep cleaning services, we tailor make our services to your site, ensuring your hygiene-related issues are addressed at their source. Whether aiming to pass an infection control audit from the CQC, or looking to sanitise your office space with a one-off deep clean, Vanguard have you covered.  You can rest assured that no matter the size, complexity, or sensitivity of your premises, we provide the same exceptional service regardless.

Steam cleaning is an important staple of what we offer, but our services include a variety of other options including regular cleaning, washroom services, and window wiping. To learn more and receive an entirely free, no obligation quote, reach out to our professional team today.