How does steam vacuum cleaner work?

Modern Steam Vacs are the ultimate deep cleaning tools for carpets and bare floors. It can remove dirt, debris, stains, bacteria, and even some allergens. Another benefit of steam cleaners is that they are safe for humans and the environment. So, if you are looking for the perfect cleaning solution for your household, a steam vacuum is the device you need. However, it would be best to understand How does steam vacuum cleaner work before buying one. Therefore, this article will discuss everything there is to know about steam cleaners.

How does steam vacuum cleaner work?
Cleaning a carpet with a steam vacuum

How does steam vacuum cleaner work?

Almost all major vacuum brands produce a variety of steam vacs. Each product may have a unique physical appearance, but the basic working principle is still the same. According to the chemistry rule “Like Dissolve Like.” In the case of water, it is a polar solvent that can even dissolve some non-polar compounds. It is termed a universal solvent. So, how does a steam vacuum work?

When you turn on the vacuum, the heating rod becomes red hot. This rod quickly boils the water to produce steam within a few seconds. The pressurized steam loosens the dirt from the carpet fibers, dissolves the stains, and kills up to 99% of bacteria and allergens. Moreover, you can even put some cleaning reagents in the water to remove all polar and non-polar stains from the floor.

How to use a steam vacuum cleaner?

A steam vacuum cleaner is good for carpets as the steam can loosen the stains from thick carpet fibers. However, you can damage the carpet if you don’t steam clean the carpet properly. Here is the step-by-step guide about using a steam vac on the carpet:

  • Start by dry vacuuming the carpet. For this purpose, you can use the vacuum-only feature of your 2-in-1 vacuum or use another cleaner. 
  • Lift up the curtains from the carpet, cover the furniture and other non-cleaning things as the hot steam may damage or discolor them.
  • Fill the water reservoir of the steam vac with tap water, and put an approved detergent in the second tank.
  • Plug in the power cord, turn on the vacuum cleaner, and wait for at least one minute or till the steam light turns green.
  • Usually, you need to hold the steam button on the vacuum stick to release steam. However, some automatic vacs use motions sensors too. In that case, the forward motion of the vac releases steam, and the reverse motion toggles the quick-dry feature.
  • Start vacuuming from the farther corner of the room, and move slowly towards the other corner. 
  • Form straight lines of steam on the carpet and ensure that all the lines are overlapping to avoid missed spots.
  • Once the whole room is covered, turn on the fan and avoid stepping on the carpet for at least 30-minutes so that the carpet becomes completely dry.

Types of steam cleaners

  • Canister Steam Cleaners: Canister vacuums are the most powerful type in the world. Professionals usually use them for heavy-duty cleaning. You can use several attachments with the hose of a canister vacuum for cleaning various surfaces. Moreover, the canister vacuums are built to last, and their ventilation system keeps them from overheating even after hours of continuous use.
  • Steam Mops: The steam Mops type of vacuums use a special fiber cloth brush roller. This brush gently scrapes off the stains and dirt loosened by the hot pressurized steam. Moreover, this type of vacuum is often a 2-in-1, and you can also use it for dry vacuuming the room.
  • Handheld Steam Cleaners: Handheld steam vacuums are portable, efficient, and affordable devices. They use the same steaming mechanism to clean the spots where other vacs can’t reach. Moreover, the handheld steam vacs are useful for cleaning the car floors, carpets, furniture, and matts.

What can you clean with a steam vacuum?

Steam vacuums are one of the most effective devices for multiple surfaces. Here are a few examples of what you can clean with them:

  • Vehicle carpets
  • Kitchen appliances (not the cold fridge as the hot steam can damage it)
  • Countertops and sinks;
  • Shower/tub;
  • Bare floors
  • Glass and mirrors
  • Metal fixtures;
  • Tiles, such as porcelain and ceramic;
  • Carpets
  • Curtains
  • Mattresses 
  • Upholstery

Not recommended surfaces

  • Porous floorings like bamboo, hardwood, limestone, and cord
  • Cardboard and paper
  • Painted walls
  • Thin plastic
  • Velour Upholstery
  • Water-based paint

Frequently Asked Questions

Does steam cleaning remove odors?

When you use a steam vacuum cleaner, the steam permeates deeply to lift and remove every trace of dirt and odor. A pre-treatment that is formulated for use with the cleaning solution in the steam vacuum is recommended.

Does steam cleaning remove grease?

The hot steam breaks down grease and oil. It easily penetrates cracks between greasy dirt and surfaces to dislodge stubborn dirt particles.

Does steam vacuum disinfect?

Steam kills a large number of bacteria and viruses (at least 97%), thus being an excellent disinfectant.


The steam vacuum cleaner is an effective, powerful, and eco-friendly type of vacuum cleaner. It utilizes the dissolving power of hot water steam to remove stains from carpets and floors effectively. However, it is beneficial to understand how does steam vacuum cleaner work as it can guide you to use it well.

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