How To Choose A Steam Cleaner
Why Some Steam Cleaners Offer More Than Others – What To Look For – What To Avoid – How To Really Get Your Money’s Worth
I am frequently asked how to choose a steam cleaner and why some steamers cost more than others. You’ve seen the inexpensive ones on TV, in department stores and all over the internet so what’s the big difference? I’m sure you want to know if it’s really worth it to pay more money. You’re about to find out what actually determines value from someone who’s been a pioneer in the steam cleaner industry for 20 years.
Over the last 2 decades I’ve bought products and gathered information from every seller who’s ever marketed a steam cleaner. I have personally seen, owned and used every type of steam cleaner – everything from the “toys” to the “tanks” and the ones in between as they’ve come and gone. There are several reasons why some endure/perform and others don’t.
Before we go any further with how to choose a steam cleaner, I want to clarify what a true steam cleaner is and what it is not. It’s a power tool – a powerful replacement for harsh consumable/disposable chemicals and manual-labor-intensive gadgets. It cleans and disinfects nearly every surface in your home from floor to ceiling. It has several attachments that go beyond just floors.
It IS NOT a hot water/extraction carpet cleaner. Don’t get me wrong, a Sargent Steam Cleaner will do a great job on your carpets but not in the manner you may have used in the past. Carpet cleaning machines and floor polishers that claim to be steam cleaners are, in fact, not.
A true steam cleaner expels dry steam vapor and most do not provide suction like a vacuum. Instead, the moisture loosens the dirt, the pressure blasts it out of its hiding place and the heat kills the germs.
Then all the dirt, germs and moisture can be picked up in a towel. This may be done in a two-step process (spray and wipe) or cover the attachment with a cloth and make it a one-step process.
Now that we’re on the same page, let’s discuss how to buy a steamer and what you should spend on it.
The following is a list of features that determine a steamer’s cost
Safety features - look for multiple independent mechanisms that assure your safety and that of your machine. Steamers function under pressure and you want peace of mind that yours is safe to use, especially around your kids. Extra safety features cost extra money.
Boiler tank material – high quality stainless steel is what lasts and it costs more than aluminum or low quality stainless steel. Just because it claims “stainless steel” don’t assume it’s high quality. Cheapy pay – cheapy get is very true here. Poor quality stainless tanks are actually worse than the aluminum but both are prone to pin holes that leak over time.
Wiring gauge – heavy duty is what works and lasts and it costs more than thinner wire. There will be considerable electrical current running through your steamer and you’ll want to be confident that its wiring is sufficient.
Switches – an instantly-on and instantly-off switch on the hose puts you safely in control. High quality multi-setting switches that adjust steam pressure output (letting you choose high, medium or low) is even better.
Insulation type and amount – Heavy insulation surrounding the tank helps the water heat faster and keeps the heat in the tank, rather than transferring to the housing (you don’t want to get burned if you touch the housing.)
Attachments - high quality, well-designed, durable attachments make a HUGE difference. Compare a lower price brand over a higher and even a novice can see and feel the difference. The quality of the results you will get is in the attachment and its intended application. Efficiently-designed and well-manufactured brushes mean you get your tasks finished quickly and easily. Poor quality or badly designed attachments will drive you crazy.
Heating units - mounted inside the tank work best and last longer. Units with this feature may cost more initially but offer longer lifespan over those with separate heating elements not protected inside the stainless steel tank.
Unit size and weight – it should be appropriate to your intended use. Bigger here is NOT always better! A huge machine that is not maneuverable will frustrate the homeowner who wants to take their machine upstairs, downstairs, out to the car or to their daughter’s house. It also may be way too hot and actually melt the varnish on your cabinets, not just clean them. On the flip side…a steamer that’s too small will frustrate you to no end with wimpy pressure, wet steam and constant refilling. DO NOT underestimate the power and performance a mid-sized steam cleaner can provide.
Water Capacity - enough to keep you working without adding unmanageable weight. Refilling a unit that only holds a cup of water every 15 minutes will frustrate if you’re trying to clean a large house exclusively with steam. A steamer with ½ a gallon water capacity and the ability to refill without waiting for the unit to cool down will keep you working steadily and limit down time.
Wattage - the amount of electricity provided in wattage determines 2 things…the steam temperature and the amount of pressure. The lower the wattage, the lower the steam temperature and the wetter the steam. Higher wattage (in proportion with tank size) can produce dryer, more effective steam and more pressure. You’ll get your projects done faster with less wiping.
Heating capabilities – the hotter the temperature the dryer the steam. On this issue BEWARE! Every seller makes claims as to heat inside the tank verses at the tip and almost no one can prove their numbers. Water boils at 210 degrees and produces steam at that point. Don’t stress over 290 vs 298 vs 305 degrees. The number you need is at least 210 degrees. Machines that produce a higher temperature will cost more.
Durability - Is it constructed to last? Housing options are plastic or metal. Plastic does not immediately indicate that it’s not as durable as metal. Metal can be much heavier and if banged into your walls or dropped on your tile can do considerable damage. Both plastic and metal housings can sustain scratches or dents so don’t make your decision on one or the other. It’s not a factor for durability. How the whole unit – including the housing, interior, attachments and hoses – are made determines durability.
Engineering – who built it and what do they know about steamers? Have they been engineering and building their own steam cleaner products for a good long time or have they knocked off an expert’s design? Do they produce steam cleaners exclusively or a plethora of unrelated products? Are the “bugs” worked out of their design or are they still testing?
If all these features are top quality, your machine is likely to last 15-20 years and provide a pleasant experience as you use it.
Skimping on any of the features is likely to cause dissatisfaction in the following areas:
- Replacing your unit several times in the same 15-20 year span
- Frustration when you experience diminished performance (wet or weak steam)
- Wasting time waiting for heat up or cool down
- Buying too small a unit (or too big a unit) for the application you intend
- Wishing you had tools or accessories that were not included with your unit
- Wishing you didn’t have to figure it all out on your own (couldn’t someone have warned me how not to scratch my paint and melt my mini blinds?)
- Loosing time and money in the repair shop because the design still has flaws
- Getting little value from your investment because you didn’t think to use it in the thousands of ways it will perform
- Missing out on the expert’s design because the manufacturer was not the designer
So I’ll ask you, when looking to make an investment, what’s most important to you?
A Sargent Steam machine fits on the high side of the scale in all these areas. A hand-held model fits on the low end of the scale in all these areas. I have yet to find a steamer that offers the lowest price and the highest quality, service, support, features or education.
When buying a steam cleaner, make sure the company provides service, education and free support because there is a learning curve when you’re new to steaming.
how to buy a steam cleaner
If you buy a machine in a box and have to figure it out alone, your experience will be very different than if you bought from a knowledgeable, helpful, supportive team of people who actually use their own products and really know what they’re doing. You’ve got dirt and you want to steam it out. We can walk you through any project.
Buying from someone who asks you what you need and then helps you get only what you need will actually cost you a lot less over time. One size does not fit all.
How To Choose A Steam Cleaner – Comparing Apples To Apples By Brand
We’ve talked about the “toys” the “tanks” and “tweens” but what does that actually mean? Learning how to buy a steam cleaner is easy when you break it down to basics. There are 5 categories I want to clarify so your comparisons will make sense. Put any feature (say price) up against steamers that straddle categories and it just won’t compare.
I don’t recommend making your decision about how to buy a steam cleaner by price point alone. Be sure to re-read the list of features we went through previously so you get what’s important to you.
All steam machines produce steam and help eliminate harsh chemicals. Obviously, I’d love you to choose a Sargent Steam cleaner so I’m absolutely committed to providing you with the best price in our category. I’ll also give you the best service, quality, education, support and features available in any category!
If you still have any questions about how to choose a steam cleaner, call me. I’m very happy to share my knowledge of this industry with you. Call 800-SGT-STEA(M) 800-748-7832. I’ll ask you a ton of questions about what your needs and concerns are and I’ll be very honest with you about what to purchase. If we determine my products do not meet your needs, I will recommend one that does.
That’s my promise.
Now you know how to choose a steam cleaner Shop for a Sargent Steam Cleaner here