Car Steam Cleaner
Are you asking the right questions

What if I told you I can turn you from getting a car steam cleaner to getting a carpet cleaning machine?

Or maybe instead, I will turn you from one of these car steamers into getting a pressure washer.

Why would I want to turn you?

Do you even know the difference between these three very distinct machines and their distinct uses?

car steam cleaner

They all clean right?!

For whatever reason you have come looking for the best car steam cleaner. But do you know why you have formed the conclusion that a steamer is the right machine for you?

My guess is that you have seen one of the countless videos online that shows all the amazing features and benefits of these machines in cleaning and detailing a car.

These videos and the people making them do present a compelling argument as to the merits of these car steam cleaners.

But do they really work? (yes, they really work; but that's not the greater question)

And more importantly, is a car steamer really the most appropriate tool for you and your world?

Car Steam Cleaner:
Steamers, pressure washers, carpet cleaners?

One thing I have learned in my career as a professional auto detailer is just how any topic of cleaning and detailing your car is filled with loads of misleading information at best, down to outright false information at worst!

car steam cleaner versus pressure washer

Car Steam Cleaner:
What you will learn

  • Understanding the differences between these (3) machines
  • Decide which machine is the best fit for you
  • My professional recommendations

I will need to help you become a more informed car owner and consumer before you can decide which machine is the willing balance for you.

Car Steam Cleaners
Who's doing the talking?

I am amazed at the endless videos I have seen by "YouTube Detailers" (guys that have only learned how to talk the talk. Nothing more than that) and the manufacturers of these steam cleaners.

Endless promotion of car steam cleaners by showing how well they are at cleaning the many areas of your car.

"Steam cleaners for your car is a great idea and a very useful tool. I would never recommend one as a starting point though."

Any casual observation of these videos (regardless of who is producing the video) will have you believing these tools are the next best thing since sliced bread (worn-out saying, but still gets the point across).

A closer, or deep dive into these videos will reveal that in most cases these machines are simply shown cleaning dirt that is superficial at best, and appears to instantly and almost magically clean this dirt away through the use of super-heated steam vapor.

These videos also show most of these moments in isolation. Cleaning demonstrations that make a very compelling case as to why a car steam cleaner would be such a useful tool, but in the larger context of cleaning or detailing your car, prove to be very limiting.

Car Steam Cleaners:
The pros and cons

auto steam cleaner cleaning car floor mat

If you have ever seen any of my videos on my YouTube channel, you will likely be familiar with one of my favorite sayings, and a saying I apply to every area of life:

"Trade-off's. Everything has them!"

You trade one benefit for another benefit. You are looking for the what you consider the most "beneficial".

You look for that winning balance of features. Occasionally after weighing in on the features and benefits, the choice even seems obvious...if you are lucky.

Most times it is less obvious, and the unwanted benefits as to what that winning balance really is for you and your world.

Let me help you understand the things you likely don't know to factor in, and even things you don't even know you don't know.

Car Steam Cleaner Quick Facts:

Using car steam cleaner to steam clean car engine
  • Steam cleaners are not just for cars, so finding the best car steam cleaner may not actually be labeled, sold, or promoted as an actual car steam cleaner
  • One of the most unique benefits of any steam cleaner is the ability to turn basic water into a super-heated vapor that is effective at cleaning, disinfecting, and deodorizing (no chemicals needed)
  • I have tried many many steamers. In every case, every situation, using specific cleaners to either pre-treat or use in conjunction with these steam cleaners will ALWAYS produce better finished results
  • Steam cleaners use less water in the form of super-heated vapor, rather than a pressure washer that uses more water, and relies on super-pressure/super-concentrated (through various spray tips) water to do the cleaning
  • A hot water pressure washer is a completely different animal than a traditional steam cleaner (unless you are going into the professional pressure washing business, a hot water pressure washer system is not even an option for home use)
  • Many steam cleaners come with an assortment of accessories and tools that make these machines incredibly versatile cleaning and disinfecting machines
  • Steam cleaners only use super-heated water in the form of vapor to clean, but do not suction up the water like a carpet cleaning machine does (often referred to as carpet extractors)
  • Much of the time people associate steam cleaners with cleaning and degreasing their car engine (I can assure you there are better, more efficient ways to clean your car engine)
  • Not every steam cleaner will advertise the heat-level the machine produces (entry-level steamers typically don't list the temperature level, while the commercial steam cleaners all label the heat-levels of their machines)
  • Vapor steamers (due to using water only, and assortment of attachments/accessories) make them incredibly versatile in cleaning your car, home, garage, etc.

Top Rated Car Vapor Steamers:
Entry Level Steam Cleaners

Let me lay out my car steam cleaner reviews if you decide that a car steamer appears to be that winning balance for you and your world.

Like any other tool from any other industry, each tool represents unique features while deliver unique benefits.

Sometimes these features and benefits are very subtle, and you simply won't know what is the most perfect fir for you until you try one yourself.

I simply do my best to help you become as informed as possible.

McColluch Steam Cleaner

  • Entry level steam cleaner ("Entry-level", not "Inferior-level")
  • 2 year warranty
  • Long list of accessories which makes this steamer very versatile
  • Does not indicate or list its operating temperature of vapor heat the machine produces
  • Excellent Amazon reviews

PureClean Steam Cleaner

  • Entry level steamer ("Entry-level", not "Inferior-level")
  • 5 year warranty
  • Long list of accessories which makes this steamer very versatile
  • Does not indicate or list its operating temperature of vapor heat the machine produces
  • Excellent Amazon reviews
  • One of the exact steamers I use personally/professionally

Dupray NEAT Steam Cleaner

Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner Multipurpose Heavy Duty Steamer for Floors, Cars, Home Use and More

  • Entry level steamer ("Entry-level", not "Inferior-level")
  • 2 year warranty on machine, lifetime warranty on boiler
  • Long list of accessories which makes this steamer very versatile
  • Steam temperature: 275°
  • Excellent Amazon reviews
  • Another one of my personal/professional favorites

Car Steam Cleaners:
Entry level summary

Detailing car with car steam cleaner

I think anyone of the above "entry-level" steamers are likely to be the winning balance for most car owners and professional detailers.
While car steam cleaners are so incredibly versatile, (I never run out of things to clean and disinfect with these steamers) they are also limiting in their uses once you start using them.

I would hate to live without a quality steam cleaner, but they only represent part of my overall arsenal of car detailing equipment/tools.

I personally and professionally use a steamer to clean all areas of my car, as well as endless areas of my home and garage.

I truly love them, but also do not think most beginners (unless you have the budget) would likely want to start with one of these machines when compared to either a pressure washer or a carpet cleaning machine.

Some additional points to consider when shopping for, and considering the use of a top rated car steam cleaner:

  • The steam cleaners (regardless of machine) delivers cleaning power in the form of very hot, vapor steam: not all materials can handle hot vapor (every material you may want to clean will need to be verified first. Some materials are obvious, while others you may need to test to prevent damage)
  • Steam cleaners use minimal water in the form of vapor, but regardless of what you are using the car steam cleaner to clean, it will become wet and there will be water to be cleaned up, and/or allowed to dry
  • Like any other methods of cleaning, these machines are NOT a one-shot, cleans everything in every situation solution (car steam cleaners are not a "silver bullet" to all your cleaning/detailing challenges)
  • There is no shortage of bad information and misleading information regarding steamers of any kind, I love these machines and recommend them, but I also know their limitations and therefore I have realistic expectations for them
  • Since many car owners and professional detailers clean and detail the car engine, many people refer to this as steam cleaning an engine. This is outdated terminology that is also based on misinformation. Commercial steam cleaners that are part of pressure washers do exist, but these commercial type equipment/machines are not part of detailing in general and certainly not part of "home use" applications. If you really want to steam clean your car engine, you would indeed be required to use one of these car steam cleaners to do so (see below under pressure washers for more details)

Car Steam Cleaner:
Professional grade

Professional car steam cleaner

Now we are going to enter the world of professional grade car steam cleaners. And just like the steam cleaners above, these machines have endless uses for cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

As with any jump from "home use" to "professional grade" equipment and products, the cost raises dramatically as does the performance.

But only you can decide if the cost/benefit analysis pencils-out to be worth the additional investment.

While most people shopping for this level of performance are truly chasing durability and performance, I do know that sometimes a guy starting out in the business also looks to create a truly professional appearance in the form of high-end, commercial grade equipment to distinguish themselves from lesser competition who is unwilling to make the substantial investment these particular commercial grade car steam cleaners represent.

VX5000 Steam Cleaner

Vapor Systems VX5000 Steam Cleaner and Steam Mop

  • True professional grade
  • One of the exact car steam cleaners I use professionally
  • Long list of accessories
  • Keeps on going after 4 years of use and counting
  • Produces 240°-270° of superheated vapor

Sargent Commercial Steam Cleaner

Sargent Steam Cleaner Cleaning System

  • True professional grade
  • Long list of accessories
  • Excellent Amazon reviews
  • Produces 298° of superheated vapor

Car Steam Cleaner:
Steamer or Pressure Washer

Pressure washer used to detail car

I am now going to take you from a car steam cleaner into the world of pressure washers.

While this may not make sense to you in particular, I know there are some of you out there who have already weighed in on this very topic and trying to figure out which machine in particular to start with, or add to your current arsenal of detailing equipment.

I speak from experience not just as a professional detailer, but also as a person who has trained many "I wanna-be" a professional detailers.

I personally wish I had this information when I was first starting out in my career and now do my best to help people like yourself when presented with this very challenge to be more fully informed.

Car Pressure Washer:
How to pressure washers work

pressure washer to clean and detail car engine

Pressure washers are not complex machines. Pressure washers have a water pump that is run by electricity or a gas powered engine.

A water supply is connected to a pressure washer. The water pump within the pressure washer pumps this water at an accelerated rate to the wand or gun of the pressure washer.

The gun or wand will have a tip or nozzle attached which both restricts the flow of the accelerated water, while also concentrating the accelerated water into a desired spray pattern.

Most pressure washers come with various nozzle tips that range from an extremely concentrated stream of water that has zero "fan" pattern to it, to tips that create a very wide fan pattern.

This nozzle tips are generally rated from a zero (no fan pattern at all) to 45° fan pattern for a wide spray pattern of water.

  • Pressure washers are completely different animals than car steam cleaners
  • The main benefit or feature of a pressure washer is the ability to use less water in the form of very concentrated and pressurized spray patterns that help in the cleaning process
  • Think about the difference between "volume" of water versus "pressure" of water (a home garden hose is more about volume, while a pressure washer is more about concentrated, pressurized water)
  • Pressure washers have different tips or nozzles that can concentrate the water stream into a wide spray pattern, down to a solid stream of highly-pressurized water
  • Most pressure washers have external reservoir tanks you can add detergents and cleaners which then inject into the water supply so you are now cleaning with pressurized water along with some for of soap/detergent/degreaser
  • When it comes to cleaning a car engine, many people confuse a steam cleaner with a pressure washer (you can actually have both, but these multi-part systems are reserved for commercial pressure washing businesses. There would be a separate boiler to heat the water that is then run through a separate pressure washer system)
  • As noted in the car steam cleaner section at the beginning, if you truly wanted the use of superheated water as part of any cleaning and detailing moment, you would have to opt for a car steam cleaner instead of a pressure washer. And that would be your trad-off)
  • I professionally use pressure washers specifically for washing cars, engine detailing, detailing door jambs, wheel wells, tire and wheel cleaning

Westinghouse Electric Pressure Washer

Westinghouse ePX3000 Electric Pressure Washer 2030 Max PSI 1.76 Max gal/min with Anti-Tipping Technology, Soap Tank and 4-Nozzle Set

  • Westinghouse makes numerous pressure washers ( I am an overall fan of their pressure washers)
  • This particular model represents the winning balance for most detailers and driveway detailers
  • Numerous nozzle tips for that perfect spray pattern

Car Steam Cleaner
Steamer versus Carpet Cleaning Machine

Hoover carpet cleaning machine

Another area of confusion is understanding the difference between a carpet cleaning machine and a car steam cleaner.

While both of them can be used to clean carpet, a carpet cleaning machine is severely limited when compared to a true car steam cleaner.

Steam cleaners have many attachments and can handle many different types of cleaning jobs from your car, house, to garage.

A carpet cleaning machine would prove more efficient (and effective based on your expectations and the cleaning demands of your situation), carpet cleaning machines are just that:

Cleaning carpeting and fabric upholstery regardless of whether this be in your house or car.

  • The exact carpet cleaning machine I use for both cars and home use
  • Compact, effective, the winning balance for most home and car applications
  • Excellent Amazon reviews

Car Steam Cleaner vs. Carpet Cleaner
Quick Facts

Use this checklist to quickly see the winning benefits of each machine, and help you formulate a decision suited to your needs and wants:

  • Carpet cleaners like the one just above are mostly designed for smaller, specific areas (as opposed to having the carpeting of your entire home cleaned)
  • Because these type of carpet cleaning machines are compact, makes them ideal for auto detailing or for home use
  • Many people prefer this type of machine for cleaning fabric upholstery and carpeting over a car steam cleaner due to the fact that this type of machine sucks-up (extracts) the dirty cleaning solution simultaneously (a car steam cleaner requires you to manually mop up the dirty solution with a separate cloth)
  • Because you can see the dirty water solution being sucked up while cleaning, many people like this visual indicator that their carpeting and cloth upholstery is getting "cleaner" than if they were to use a car steam cleaner
  • As I have stated before: I like having all three forms of cleaning equipment as a professional detailer. This allows me to match up the perfect tool based on the requirement so f the specific detailing job

Car Steam Cleaner Summary

Pure steamer used as car steam cleaner

By this point you will be more educated and informed than most "professional" detailers I come across in my travels!

You should now also be in a position to make a much more informed decision when it comes to a car steam cleaner, pressure washer, or a carpet cleaning machine.

I wish you much success in your cleaning and detailing efforts!


Darren Priest