Steam vapor cleaning has other advantages aside from its ease of use and minimal environmental impact.

“One of the key advantages of steam vapor is that it can be used on surfaces that many chemical disinfectants can’t be used on,” says Tanner.

It works well on soft and porous surfaces. For example, using a traditional disinfectant on an upholstered chair gums up the fabric. Bleach changes the color of the seat cushion over time. But steam cleaning is compatible with most fabrics and penetrates deeply to truly clean.

Steam vapor cleaning also works well for degreasing stoves and other kitchen equipment.

“Water is the No. 1 solvent on the planet,” says Allen P. Rathey, president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc., in Boise, Idaho. “So when you’re using water and heating it up into steam, now you’re converting that into a degreasing agent as well. … That relatively low-moisture moist heat has the ability to dissolve soils rapidly on surfaces, including oily soils and grease, which typically require a lot of chemicals.”

HOTT Associates Inc., based in Cleveland, uses its two steam machines more for specialty cleaning than routine maintenance. The main application is in apartment complexes, either for post-construction or clean-up between tenants.

“One area where we often use steam is pre-occupancy cleans, where either the tile is old and needs a good cleaning, or the installer did not do a nice job and left as much grout as tile,” says Brian Schindler, vice president and partner for HOTT Associates.

Some jobs require a combination of cleaning methods, with pressure washing or another method before steam vapor.

“When you scrub the floor with your rotary floor machine and remove the first layer and a half of dirt, you’re not always certain what’s under that,” says Schindler. “So sometimes you end up doing both.”

Hicks, who’s also the director of environmental services at a hospital in the Midwest, finds steam cleaning works especially well for items with nooks and crannies that are hard to reach with a towel, such as metal hospital beds.

Steam vapor is also great at cleaning an often forgotten area.
“I’m a stickler about elevator tracks,” says Hicks. The recessed tracks are hard to clean with a vacuum, but steam vapor creates a shiny, finished look. “That’s one of the ways I judge the cleaning program in some of the buildings I go into.”

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