Taking toxic chemicals out of housecleaning is a noble effort, but one that can be difficult. Steam cleaners are a great solution for the all-important maintenance of carpet and upholstery, as well as for virtually any other heat-resistant surface you want to make sparkle.
With most steam cleaners, no detergents or other soaps are used to clean, just the steam from boiling water. Make sure to check out the product you'll be renting or buying first; some come with air-quality-reducing Volatile Organic Compounds or require their use for best results. You may want to choose a steam cleaner that relies only on heat for the results it promises.
Dust mite destruction
Most of us know that mattresses, pillows, carpets and upholstery are safe havens for dust mites. For most people, that won't mean much, but to people with dust mite allergies, it's a pretty scary thought. Steam cleaners can help by killing dust mites and making the allergens they produce less harmful. Some steam cleaners may also kill molds and fungi, as well as bacteria.
Traditional steam cleaners
These machines are mainly used only for floors. The process will make floors pretty wet, so they should only be used when enough drying time is available. This will vary for each product. Steam or heated water is sprayed on the floor surface, and brushes revolve, scrubbing the floor and collecting dirty water in a container.
Vapor steam cleaners
Water boiled in the tank produces a dry steam, which hits the surface and loosens dirt and stains. These steam cleaners can often be used on all heat-resistant surfaces and are less likely to require chemicals for operation, which makes them great for people with chemical sensitivities.
Of course, you don't always have to buy a steam cleaner. Many companies will bring their own equipment and do the job for you, usually for a substantial fee. Make sure that you request chemical-free cleaning, and get a firm quote before accepting any service. You can also rent equipment and do the cleaning yourself.
If you're going to buy, look for a steam cleaner that will heat up quickly, provide high temperatures and dry quickly. Some are combination machines, with a vacuum cleaner to suck up the dirt that has been loosened. Always vacuum after steam cleaning to get the best results. Also, make sure the machine is meant to do the jobs you want it for, such as wallpaper stripping, furniture cleaning or more. There's no point owning a steam cleaner you can't use.