By Ande Waggener
If chemical-free cleaning is important to you, you either already own a steam cleaner or you’re planning to get one. Either way, you’re bound to be asking, “What are ways to use a steam cleaner?”
It’s truly astounding how many ways you can use a steam cleaner to clean and disinfect your home and rid your home of nasty pests like fleas and bed bugs. I’m going to list 61 of them below. Before I do, however, let’s take a look at some general tips for using a steam cleaner effectively and safely.
Steam Cleaning Tips
Before you use your steam cleaner in any way at all, you need some steam cleaning basics under your belt. Keep these steam cleaning do’s and don’ts in mind.
1. DO practice safety first. Be aware that a steam cleaner emits very hot steam. It’s wise to wear shoes when using a steam cleaner so you don’t accidentally shoot steam at your bare feet.
2. DO use distilled water in your steam cleaner if you have particularly hard water. This will avoid mineral build-ups in the machine.
3. DO vacuum or sweep before you steam clean floors so you don’t turn dirt into hot mud.
4. DO place towels under your cleaning area. When steam hits cooler surfaces, it quickly condenses into liquid water. Be careful not to drip water onto other items when you’re steam cleaning.
5. DO plan your steam cleaning. Dragging a steam cleaner from place to place is a little more complicated than wandering around with a spray bottle of cleaning solution. Think through what you need to clean and create an organized plan that requires minimal moving of the machine.
1. DON’T get careless with the steaming wand. Steam will keep coming out even after you release the trigger. Be aware of where the wand is aimed.
2. DON’T use a steam cleaner on surfaces that can’t stand up to heat and moisture. Check the instructions that came with your cleaner and resources like this article to see what can stand up to steam. If you have doubts about something, don’t steam clean it.
3. DON’T put your steam cleaner away with water in it. Empty the water tank and clean the machine so it’s ready to use next time.
4. DON’T apply too much pressure in one spot for a long time when you’re cleaning. Keep the steam cleaning wand or attachment moving in slow, even strokes. This is especially important when you’re cleaning fabrics. Leaving the steam cleaning wand in one spot will saturate fabric with moisture instead of just letting the steam get the cleaning done.
61 Ways to Use a Steam Cleaner
In the Kitchen
Although you can’t see bacteria and viruses, they can wreak some serious havoc on your health. You want them out of your home, especially out of the area where you prepare food. A steam cleaner will do this for you. The molecules of hot water vapor get into the pores of surfaces and expand to force all dirt and bacteria to the surface. These molecules are so hot they can extract and kill pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. So let’s get to steam cleaning a kitchen. Use your steam cleaner to clean and sanitize:
- Trash bins
- Cutting boards
- Cabinet surfaces and interiors (if you have painted cabinets, test for color-fastness. Don't use a steam cleaner on anything made of cardboard or anything covered with water-based paint.)
- Large appliance surfaces
- Small and large appliance interiors (A steam cleaner is especially good at attacking the nooks and crannies of a dishwater or the vent cover of a fridge.)
- Water and ice dispensers
- Range hoods
The bacteria and viruses you were after in the kitchen want to live in the bathroom too. Mold and mildew also want to join the party. A steam cleaner will wipe out these gate crashers. It’s one of the best tools to help you have a sparkling bathroom. When you steam clean a bathroom, you can clean and remove germs, mold, mildew, and/or fungus from:
- Toilet bowls (Steaming also removes mineral deposits.)
- Toilet exteriors, including the hard-to-reach crevices where the toilet meets the floor
- Shower doors
- Shower curtains
- Tub jets
- Tiles and grout
- Fiberglass tubs or showers (A steam cleaner is a great way to remove soap scum form these surfaces.)
On Fabrics and Textiles
Have you ever seen those little particles floating in streams of light in your home? Those particles are not your friend. They’re a combination of dust, pollen, and the waste matter of dust mites. Ugh. Even when your house looks clean, all of your fabric and textile surfaces can be home to dust mites that are filling your home with these allergens. To battle these interlopers, grab your steam cleaner and get ready to steam clean upholstery and all the other surfaces where allergens want to collect. After testing for colorfastness, use your steamer on:
- Upholstered furniture
- Carpets (Although steam cleaning will kill allergens in carpet, it doesn't do the best overall carpet cleaning job. A carpet cleaning machine is a better tool for this.)
- Curtains (Not only will a steam cleaner remove dust and dust mites from curtains, but it can also remove wrinkles.)
- Fabric wall hangings
- Pet beds (Steam will also kill fleas, their eggs, and their larvae)
On Glass and Mirrors
Are you tired of leaving streaks when you clean windows and mirrors? Cleaning with a steamer will avoid those bothersome streaks. Just remember that when glass goes from cold to hot abruptly, it can break. So it’s best not to steam clean a glass window on a very cold day. (Note: in the next photo below, you’ll see snow outside the window … this was not an ideal day to clean a window … we just did a quick swipe as a demonstration photo.) To clean glass surfaces, clean in even stripes from top to bottom. You can use a steam cleaner to clean these surfaces:
- Glass partitions
- Glass shower doors
Around the Rest of the House
A steam cleaner has many household tricks up its sleeve. You can clean and/or disinfect
- Filters and grates
- Ceiling fan paddles
- Silk plants
- Litter boxes
- Pet cages
- High chairs
- Children's and pet's toys
Help prevent colds or keep them from spreading by steaming:
- Cabinet handles
You can also use a steam cleaner in DIY decorating wall prep:
- Remove wallpaper
- Clean candle smoke stains or mildew from walls before repainting. (Just be sure to cover your attachment with a cloth to filter the steam so it doesn't damage the walls.)
In the Garage and Outside
A steam cleaner can clean all sorts of outdoor items:
- Garden tools
- Car chrome
- Car interiors
- Car engines
- Tire rims
- Golf clubs
- Trash cans
- Patio Furniture
The above list of 61 ways to use a steam cleaner is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure you can come up with more ways to use a steam cleaner. All you have to do is look around for dirty surfaces that might be breeding grounds for germs, dust mites, or mold, be sure the surface is heat- and moisture-tolerant, and then go for it.
Have you found some other creative uses for your steam cleaner? Please share them.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener