If you already own a steam cleaner and are happily cleaning your kitchen or bathroom then the question of how a steam cleaner works or needing a steam cleaner buying guide has probably never crossed your mind.
However, when it comes to buying either your first or a replacement steam cleaner, being able to answer that very question is a great way to ensure you buy the right cleaner for you and your home.
Now it’s not rocket science that we’re talking here. How a steam cleaner works is pretty simple. After everything is set up, simply add water into the tank and switch it on. That water is then fed into a boiler which heats it to between 115C and 155C and which produces a low atmospheric steam that is forced down an extraction tube, through a selected accessory nozzle that is attached to the tube, and out onto your greasy, grimy surface that you want to clean.
Everything is simple so far and probably nothing that you didn’t already know. But, the real key to how a steam cleaner works – and more importantly, how well it works, are the individual components contained within the cleaner itself.
In this small steam cleaner buying guide, we take a look at each of the basic components and give a pointer or two as to what you should be looking at when deciding what to buy. In a later article, we’ll explore some of the components of the more expensive steam cleaners you can buy.
Each steam cleaner has a water storage tank that, not surprisingly, stores the water from a tank. For most home based steam cleaners, this tank will have a storage capacity of between 0.5 litres and an upper 2.0 litres. There are some cases where this range can be extended both up and down (for instance, hand held steamers can have a little less capacity). The capacity of the water tank contributes to two potential properties of the steam cleaner: the boil time and the steam time.
The greater the capacity of the water tank the more energy is required to bring the water inside to boil when full. How long this boil time is depends on the power output of your boiler. Naturally, the amount of water the cleaner can store and boil between refills, the greater the steam time available when the cleaner is in use.
You will need to juggle these two properties when you’re looking for a steam cleaner to buy. If you plan to only use your steam cleaner for small jobs that can be completed on one tank of water, then boil time loses some of its importance (unless you’re impatient to get started!). However, if you envisage a top to bottom clean each time you use your cleaner which will require re-fills and re-boils, then boil time becomes more important.
The boiler is the heart of the steam cleaner. Its function is to take the water from the tank and heat it to the point that the water boils and turns into steam vapour. This steam is then expelled through the tubes connected to the boiler and out onto what you are trying to clean.
The average power output of most steam cleaner boilers falls into the range of 900 and 1600 Watts. The power output of the boiler helps determine the boil time of the steam cleaner and is dependent on the amount of water contained within the steam cleaners water tank. Naturally, less water in the tank and a high Wattage boiler will see a low boil time and vice versa.
Don’t bog yourself down in studying the power output of the boiler on each steam cleaner. The boil time of the steamer, mentioned above, is ultimately all that matters and is a culmination of factors including the power output of the boiler
Steam Cleaner Accessories
As long as there is a way to get the steam produced by the boiler to where you want to clean, then you have a steam cleaner. However, all that you’ll have is a tube and nozzle that emits steam and although you’ll be able to use it in a general fashion to clean, it could be better.
All steam cleaners come with a variety of accessories that can be attached and which help in performing specific jobs. So for instance, you might have a squeegee that connects to the tube carrying the steam that can be used on windows. Or you might have a detail nozzle that directs the steam from the cleaner into a small focused area and which could allow you to clean the grout between tiles, for instance.
No matter that job you can imagine, there will be a tool which can be attached to the steam cleaner that can improve your ability to do that job. Many of these accessories are supplied when you purchase your cleaner and many others can be purchased separately.
Think about the different types of jobs you’ll be wanting your steam cleaner to tackle. Some cleaners are focused on particular rooms within the house like a kitchen and bathroom cleaner while others are more general. Once you know why you want a steamer, have a glance through the supplied accessories to check if it has the tools that you’ll need. Although not the be all and end all, buying a steam cleaner with the tools you’ll need already supplied, could save you a little money in the long run.
What you’ve read here are the important aspects of a steam cleaner that’ll you need to consider before purchase. In the next part of our steam cleaner buying guide, we’ll take a look at some of the extra’s that the higher end steam cleaners come equipped with.