/ Home & Energy

Is steam cleaner hype just a lot of hot air?

Everyone’s talking about steam cleaners right now, whether it’s about the way they make floors spotless or how they fight to kill off germs. But is the hype around steam cleaners justified by their performance?

In the last year, the steam cleaning market has boomed. But what’s getting everyone all steamed up? Are people tempted by the promise of cleaning without the elbow grease? Or is it the claims that steam cleaners can banish bacteria and make your home more hygienic?

From cleaning ovens to removing carpet stains, steam cleaners promise to take the effort out of cleaning a range of household grime. And by using steam, it means they can be effective without chemicals, saving you money on buying cleaning products.

All puff and no punch?

But having lab-tested 28 steam cleaners on sticky jam, soap scum, caked on mud and dried pasta sauce, only six became Best Buys. We found that some of the worst performing steam cleaners didn’t make cleaning any easier than if you’d done it by hand, with some models leaving water everywhere.

There are different types of steam cleaners and accessories, so it pays to make sure you choose the right one for the job you want to do.

So what of the claims that steam cleaners can effectively kill germs? Many manufacturers claim that their steam cleaners can remove 99% of harmful bacteria and, I must admit, the idea of killing all nasty bugs and making my home germ free is an enticing thought. Even more so as I live in a rented property where I’ve inherited most of the furniture; who knows how many dead skin cells remain from the previous owners? Yuck!

Banishing bacteria

But do steam cleaners really wipe out all bacteria? According to Allergy UK, there are a number of steam cleaners that efficiently reduce or remove allergens for the homes of those suffering from allergies and asthma.

And what happens if you miss spots, or don’t cover the area deeply enough? How much time do you need to spend on one spot? Is one minute, five minutes or ten minutes enough? Coupled with my inadequate cleaning abilities, I’m not sure I trust the power of steam enough to know for certain that all the germs are gone.

Having said that, after a quick online search for ‘bed bugs’, the gruesome facts and images I was faced with convinced me that anything’s worth a try! Have you been tempted to buy a steam cleaner? Or if you already own one, has it made the housework considerably easier?

Em says:
3 July 2012

I don’t have a steam cleaner, but I don’t see how squirting a few grams of steam at a cold surface is going to be effective at killing off much in the way of bacteria. Unless the surface itself is going to be heated to 60 degrees C or more, some of the bacteria are going to survive and will soon recolonize the area. Chlorine or “oxygen” bleach, or a detergent surface cleaner, where it is safe to use and leave some residue behind is going to be more effective.

In terms of steam cleaning your mattress, all you are doing is injecting water vapour deep into the fibres, which will condense and help to form ideal breeding conditions for all sorts of nasties, not only bugs, but moulds as well.


Neither chlorine bleach (based on sodium hypochlorite) or oxygen bleach (based on hydrogen peroxide) will leave an active residue. The first is converted to chlorine and salt, whereas the second becomes water and oxygen.

Steam is rather unpredictable because it is just condensed water droplets and can be well below boiling point.

Neither bleach nor steam will kill bacterial spores, but provided we keep our kitchens reasonably clean, be careful with uncooked meat etc and wash hands after using the toilet, there is no real need to wage war on bacteria or other microorganisms.

I completely agree that steam cleaning mattresses should not be steam cleaned for the reason you indicate, Em. Vacuuming and a protective cover designed for those who suffer from dust allergies is a good idea, whether or not you suffer for allergies. If any manufacturer of steam cleaners recommends them for mattresses or upholstery then someone needs to educate them.

My house is cleaner then yours ;-) says:
14 November 2013

Steam cleaners are GRREeeat! Mine does 350F, has many accessories and cleans everything it touches. I do windows, screens, Venetian blinds in a fraction of the time. My grout is like new and the ceramic floors are perfect with no water mark no white soap residue and they don’t stick when I walk on them.

Sinks, toilets and showers sparkle and are fun to clean now. Something I used to despise. Cleaning walls is a breeze with no rags or bucket to rinse. I had some kind of gunk outside my windows I could not clean no matter what I tried. The steam cleaner got rid of all that in minutes.

I could write pages of what my steam cleaner can do. My only regret is not knowing about those wonderful machines years earlier.


What brand are you using? I’m thinking of getting your brand of steam cleaner😄


Hi, What make of steam cleaner have you got?Im thinking of purchasing one and can’t decide which one to get.


To Caz re your query about steam cleaners. Did you get a reply to which steam cleaner the post “my house is cleaner than your house” had used, have you bought one, which is it and are you pleased with it? Any other advice please. The steamer I buy will be used mostly on quarry tiles.


Sue – You might like to look at a more recent Conversation about steam cleaners. The title is : “Are steam cleaners really better than a regular mop?” and it started on 13/11/13. There’s also another one called : “Have you joined the steam cleaning age?” dated 19/09/12. They include various users comments on particular models. Personally I don’t think there is one machine without a drawback but there are several that seem perform fairly well across a range of tasks. Happy steaming!

chris says:
9 July 2014


which steamer should i buy to clean my matters, I need a really hot steam.

many thanks


Please see the comment by Em at the top of this page. It is not a good idea to use a steam cleaner on a mattress.