By Tania Moffat
Do you remember those carpet steam cleaners you could rent from the local grocery store? Watching the steamy hot water shoot into the carpet fibres only to be sucked back up along with the dirt at the same ferocity fascinated me as a child.
When someone mentions steam cleaning, this is typically what comes to mind. While it’s called steam cleaning, it is more accurately hot water cleaning. A dry steam cleaner, on the other hand, uses hot vapour to lift the dirt, which can then be extracted with a vacuum or simply wiped away.
Hot Water vs Steam
Those rental carpet cleaners, operate a little like a pressure washer, blowing dirt away with force. They cleaned up some debris but also pushed a lot of it under the carpet. Stains also often required chemical cleaners to remove them and fragrance to cover bad smells.
Dry steam cleaners are useful for cleaning both the interior and exterior of cars. Because steam is not abrasive, it is an ideal way to lift dirt, especially on high-end or specialty vehicles. Operating at a temperature of 100 C, the units sanitize as well as clean.
Moneer Korban, CEO of KDetail Plus, imports and distributes the Twist Eco Car Wash dry steam cleaner in the U.S. and Canada. “We have three units that have been designed to wash cars. They are equipped with 30-foot hoses and provide continuous, strong even pressure. The units are available in several configurations to provide maximum benefits to any garage or shop application. We can accommodate one to four-bay washes,” he says of their product.
According to Korban, the Twist Eco Car Wash system can significantly reduce cleaning time, “Regular washes require you to rinse, wash with soap, rinse again and then dry the vehicle. With the Twist Eco Car Wash, users spray the car with the steam gun in one hand and wipe it with a microfiber towel in the other.” And, the same unit cleans inside and outside the vehicle.
“On the interior steam sanitizes and deodorizes as it cleans. It dissolves resistant stains and eliminates odours such as smoke from your vehicle without the use of chemicals. The steam is used with an extractor on the interior – hot steam is injected into the material and vacuumed out simultaneously. It is the high temperature and instant drying elements of this method that kills insects, many bacteria, fungi and mites that cause allergic reactions,” Korban adds.
Another great feature of dry steam is that it can be used to clean and deodorize car heating and air conditioning vents while not harming electronics. It is also an excellent degreaser for the engine compartment and wheels.
Steam is a very eco-friendly cleaner; it does not require the use of harsh chemicals and uses less than 10 per cent of the water needed to clean cars normally. Systems can clean a single car with only two litres of water!
Steamericas, an American-based company, also offers commercial and industrial-grade steam generators. “The Optima generator offers continued steam without losing pressure, even with multiple users over extended periods of use. Our customers love it; they tell us that they never run out of steam,” says Yujin Anderson, general manager at Steamericas.
Other benefits Anderson mentions, is the ability to wash cars in cold weather. “We have a client in Yellowknife, and he loves that he can wash cars in his cold shop and not have issues with freezing.”
Randy Lowen, is an Optima distributor working at Flexo Products Ltd. in Ontario. He states,” The machines are ideal for locations where water usage is an issue. Units use less than a gallon of water for a full exterior wash.”
Dry steam cleaning is still a relatively niche system, but it works well wherever it can be used. The technology is entirely green and is sure to develop further as sustainable cleaning solutions become more sought after.
Tania Moffat is a freelance writer, editor, publisher and photographer. She has worked in the publishing industry for the last 15 years on a wide variety of B2B and consumer publications, both in print and online.