The upholstery steam cleaner is an amazing tool that wasn't developed by the auto detailing industry but has been embraced with great fervor my many detailing professionals and car enthusiasts alike.
The major benefit of these car steam cleaners or upholstery steamers is their ability to both clean and disinfect through the use of high-temperature water in the form of steam vapor.
These machines turn distilled water (the recommended choice in water for machines like these) into high temperature vapor that proves amazingly effective and efficient at cleaning, deodorizing, and disinfecting....all with simple water!
While these vapor steamers have this impressive ability to clean and sanitize with the use of water only, many professional detailers like myself use these steamers in conjunction with traditional cleaners to not only achieve better end results, but make these machines even more versatile in the tasks of detailing and cleaning.
Upholstery steam cleaners come in many configurations, just as they come in a variety levels of performance. Any steam cleaner you choose will have its own list of accessories for cleaning all kinds of materials, cleaning in all kinds of situations.
Since these vapor steam cleaners use only water as the cleaning agent, they are incredibly versatile.
Whether you are shopping for a top rated steam cleaner to use in your car, home, or garage, you will forever find ways in which to clean and disinfect through the use of the super-heated vapor steam these machines produce.
What you need to be mindful of can be reduced down to a single word:
This single word represents both the good and the bad of steam cleaners.
The super-heater water that is converted into steam is incredibly effective at cleaning and disinfecting, but super-heated vapor is not necessarily appropriate or suitable for every material you are trying to clean with your vapor steamer.
Every machine is different and every machine will heat the water to a different degree of heat.
Which means that you, and only you can determine if the upholstery steam cleaner you have chosen is suitable for use in any given situation.
An upholstery steam cleaner simply has no limitations as to its applications of use, and the environment of use:
Darren's Note: While the above bullet point list is very comprehensive, each situation is unique as to what you are trying to clean and/or disinfect. What you need to keep in mind regarding upholstery steam cleaners (a generalized term for vapor steam cleaners in general) are the following key points:
I will start with what I classify as professional and commercial grade steam cleaners since I am in the professional world of auto detailing.
I also realize that many hobbyists and driveway
detailers simply want the highest quality, or the best of anything
regardless of cost.
These upholstery steam cleaners have endless uses and are built to standards that meet the demanding use of business and commercial environments.
As you will be able to see, just as with any sector of life and business, that professional grade not only means better built, more features, more accessories, but also a higher cost of entry.
See my steam cleaner reviews below as my top picks for what are labeled as commercial steam cleaners:
Darren's Note: I have owned this upholstery steam cleaner for over 5 years and it continues to perform like it did when it was new. I not only use this extensively for detailing, but find endless uses for it around the house and garage.
Darren's Note: I would opt for this one if and when I had to replace my VX5000 due to more features and higher vapor operating temps.
Darren's Note: I have not tried this one professionally , but all indicators based on reviews and accessories suggest this would perform every bit as well as the VX5000 steam cleaner I use professionally
Just because a piece of equipment might be labeled as retail or home use, like a home upholstery steam cleaner, does not automatically make it "garbage".
Like many industries, auto detailing is not immune to up-selling the inexperienced into higher-priced equipment that is actually inappropriate for beginners or guys just starting out into the world of professional detailing.
These retail type upholstery steam cleaners are excellent pieces of equipment that have many of the features of the higher priced versions, deliver professional-like results, but do so with a fraction of the cost of commercial grade equipment.
Darren's Tip: I personally believe the Home Steam Cleaner review below, are what I consider the winning balance for most people. Regardless of your "position" as a detailer, home owner, car owner, car enthusiast, hobbyist, matters not.
Unless you have a need for the demands of a true commercial grade steamer, the following steam cleaners provide amazing results, versatility with accessories, and reasonably priced.
Darren's Note: I really like the price point of this steam cleaner whether you use it at home, for business, or commercial cleaning/disinfecting. Unless you plan on using this commercially for high-use needs, this retail grade steam cleaner represents great performance at a very affordable price point.
Darren's Note: Here is another excellent steam cleaner for home use that can also be used for businesses, detailers, or commercial use so long as you are not needing high-volume cleaning capabilities every day for years on end as would be the case for any commercial type of application.
Since there is no standardization when discussing carpet cleaning machines, vapor steamers, and an upholstery steam cleaner, much confusion exists as to exactly what you are truly looking for.
Ultimately you want something in your world less dirty than it currently is. This may be in your car, your home, or your garage, and will require the use of some type of "cleaning machine".
From car upholstery, home furnishings, carpeting, floor mats, etc., etc.
But carpet cleaning machines and vapor steam cleaners are different animals. What people are looking for, and the label they use in which to describe it can vary from person to person rather dramatically.
There are many names, labels, and terms used when people go in search of the best upholstery steam cleaner or home carpet extractor:
Knowing the difference will help you in deciding what is the best machine for you. And understanding the difference will allow me to break down the features and benefits of the two major types of these cleaning machines.
Once again we have the never-ending problem of different terms to describe different machines.
What you may be labeling and looking for, may not actually be what the industry uses to label the same type of machine.
While you may be looking to clean your car upholstery and thought that a top rated upholstery steam cleaner was the best fit, you may actually realize what you are looking for is not what you are calling it, and may not actually do what you need it to do.
Below are my list of home use, detail use, carpet spot cleaning machines. These machines are great for smaller carpet cleaning jobs around the house.
And do to their compact size are perfectly suited for use in detailing cars when you have cloth upholstery and carpet floor mats.
Regardless of the type of steamer you choose from, steamers offer benefits that cannot be had by other equipment and chemicals:
While many people go looking for the best upholstery steam cleaner for many reasons, experience has taught me that one of the most over-looked benefits of using a steam cleaner is the ability to deliver a more Eco-friendly cleaning environment and cleaning experience.
These steam cleaners transform basic water (distilled water is the recommended water to be used in all these steamers) into hot water vapor that provides what can be labeled as a "Kill Shot" to unwanted pathogens, bacteria, grease, grime, and other molds, mildew, etc.
Unlike liquid chemicals that can be harmful, caustic, or damaging to yourself as the user, or to materials you are using them on, steamers provide chemical free cleaning many people embrace with great enthusiasm.
traditional chemicals used in the sanitation, disinfecting, and deodorizing duties all require dwell time to prove their effectiveness. Dwell time means that the chemical product must remain wet on the surface being treated for a certain periods of time based on your cleaning/sanitizing requirements.
Despite the upholstery steam cleaners on this page having the ability to transform basic water into pathogen killing heated vapor, many people like myself also want or need additional cleaning power to enhance their efforts.
Most situations of cleaning are largely based on the cleaning of visible dirt and grime, along with the microscopic world of germs, viruses, and pathogens.
"Darren, I get the value of these steamers but I would like to retain an Eco-friendly way of cleaning, but also enhance my efforts with dedicated chemical cleaners. What would you do?"
I am asked this frequently, and as a professional detailer I situations that can require one, or require all needs of "cleaning":
Darren's Note: For general cleaning, I mix this to a solution of 10:1 (this mans one part concentrate mixed with 10 equal parts water). Since this is a concentrate, you can mix as per instructions on labeling, or custom dilute based on your needs and experience.
Makes a great way to "enhance" the cleaning abilities of your choice in the best upholstery steam cleaner as a pre-spotter/cleaner.
Darren's Note: This very popular and top rated degreaser from Chemical Guys is a popular degreaser among the detailing and car enthusiast community.
Can be used full strength or diluted way down to fit your cleaning or degreasing requirements.
This is not the Eco-friendly product like Simple Green, but not the "hot", caustic degreasers you can have elsewhere. This is what I call the balance between heavy duty while remaining relatively safe, and the more eco-friendly Simple Green cleaner above that is also effective, but not as strong as this product.
Life is messy. Life is dirty. Life is a jungle in many ways.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting anything in this thing called life, finding the right combination of equipment and cleaners is the largest part of the battle.
Most people don't really consider the type of cloth you may want to clean. Your cleaning challenges will vary regardless of the exact model of upholstery steam cleaner chosen, along with any added cleaner/degreaser you are using.
But like everywhere else in life; nothing is created equally and you will need to apply some critical thinking to find that winning balance in order for you to realize your desired outcome.
Darren's Note: I remember growing up in the world of auto detailing over 3 decades ago, before the introduction of micro-fiber to the world of cosmetic car care and auto detailing.
All us professionals and enthusiasts were still using and clinging to the belief that a baby diaper was the ultimate cloth to use when detailing.
Those days are long gone!!
There simply is no better cloth in my opinion than the winning features of a micro-fiber (as a side not: micro-fiber cloth come in an almost endless variety of weaves, density, thickness, weight, colors, etc.)
These Kirkland micro-fiber cloths are my "go-to" cloths for at least 80% of my detailing tasks. These cloths are the wining balance of quality and cost.
I simply use a virgin cloth for the most sensitive or delicate tasks of cleaning and detailing, then bump them down to dirtier cleaning and detailing tasks as they become more and more "used".
At this point you should come to some new, or at a minimum updated conclusions and answers as to the difference between a steam cleaner and a carpet cleaning machine.
based on your specific needs and the conditions in which you need cleaning power, one of these type of cleaning machines will determine which type of specific machine you will require:
By reviewing my list of recommendations of steam cleaners, you can
determine which model represents that winning balance of performance,
features, and price point.
I wish you much success in your cleaning and detailing efforts to make your world cleaner and more germ free!