steam cleaning the kitchen counter top with a handheld steam cleaner

7 Ways To Use Your Steam Cleaner Like A Pro

Are you looking for the one tool which can clean almost any surface in your home? Impossible, you say?

Well, let me introduce you to the humble steam cleaner. With multiple applications, incredible cleaning power, and no need for additional chemicals (for the most part), a steam cleaner will get your house cleaner than it has ever been before. From floors to countertops to windows and curtains, and even your car, a steam cleaner is the must-have appliance that you never realized you needed until now.

In This Article

How Do Steam Cleaners Work?

When you heat water enough, it becomes steam. So far, so simple. With a steam cleaner, not only is water heated until it becomes extra-hot steam, but it is also pressurized too. The combination is lethal… for dirt!

steam cleaner

Most steam cleaners come with at least one nozzle or attachment, and that can range from a simple nozzle to a scrubbing brush. As the steam is forced through the end, the vapor loosens the dirt while the heat kills bacteria, mold, mildew, allergens, bed bugs and more. Some steam cleaners suck the moisture back up while others work at such a high heat that the moisture evaporates quickly.

Steam cleaners can reach heats of over 245 °F (118 °C), which not only will neutralize bacteria and mold, but is also hot enough to kill the flu virus too. Say goodbye to dirt, stains, and that annoying flu virus.

Reasons To Use Steam Cleaners

Still not convinced? Well, let’s take a look at some undeniable reasons as to why you should go out and buy a steam cleaner.

  1. Say goodbye to the chemicals. Steam cleaners work at such a high heat that they sanitize and disinfect without the nasty (and often harmful) chemicals. No more irritations, stains, or funny smells.
  2. Steam cleaners disinfect naturally and effectively. Want rid of 99.9% of all bacteria and viruses? Get a steam cleaner. Now, we just need to work on that last 0.1%.
  3. High heat means a quick drying time. That is key for surfaces like hardwood, or any other materials which can be damaged by moisture. Use your steam cleaner and watch the moisture evaporate before your eyes.
  4. Steam cleaners clean deep. You can scrub that stain all you like, but are you getting to the root of the problem? Steam cleaners force steam deep into a stain, cleaning thoroughly.
  5. There really is nothing more effective at removing stuck-on grime than the high-heat of steam. Spills, gum, glue, wax, oils, and more cannot deal with steam.

What To Keep In Mind When Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaners are an appliance, and with all appliances, there are steps you can take to use the machine safely and effectively. Follow these simple tips to get the best out of your steam cleaner.

  • Unless your steam cleaner sucks the moisture back up, you will need to wipe the area after with a cloth. Steam will loosen the dirt, but it still needs to be removed.
  • Steam cleaners use scorching steam. Using gloves is highly recommended, and some protective goggles and clothing will protect you should you come into contact with the steam.
  • If you do get hit by steam, run the affected area under cold water for five minutes to cool it and prevent a more severe burn. Consult a medical professional if needed.
  • Steam cleaners need to warm up before use. If you are cleaning a small area, it may be best just to do it by hand.
  • The most important tip is always to follow the directions. Not all steam cleaners are built the same, so take the time to read the manual before using it.

Steam Cleaner Use Cases

So, what can you clean with a steam cleaner?

Related: 5 Best Commercial Steam Cleaners for Home and Business Use

Well, it is almost easier to ask what you cannot clean with a steam cleaner. To get started, here are seven uses for the newest addition to your home.

1. Steam Cleaning Your Mattress

white mattress 2

You probably have a sheet on your mattress and possible a protector under that. Some people even have multiple sheets but, no matter how protected your mattress is, dirt is still going to find its way through.

So, when was the last time that you cleaned your mattress? Do we need to go into the amount of sweat, dead skin, and mites that are stuck in there? No, best not to think about it and just get onto the cleaning.

Related: How to Clean Various Types of Mattress Toppers

Step By Step Instructions

Cleaning a mattress is a labor-intensive job unless you have a steam cleaner. With a steam cleaner, you can clean your mattress in only a few minutes. Here’s how:

  1. Prepare your mattress by removing everything. That includes sheets, pillows, mattress covers, and everything else.
  2. Sprinkle some baking soda over the mattress to soak up any odors. Let the powder sit for around 45 minutes.
  3. Vacuum the baking soda from the mattress.
  4. Use your steam cleaner as per the instructions.
  5. And you are done. Let the mattress dry for at least 4 hours before using it.
Steam cleaning a mattress with a steam cleaner.

How Often To Clean?

Every night, you are leaving some sweat and skin behind in your bed. This invites mites, bed bugs, mold, and more into your bed. If you have kids who wet the bed, this is only amplified.

Thankfully, it takes more than one night for this to build up and become a problem.

We recommend steam cleaning your mattress every two months.

It only takes a few minutes if you leave enough time for it to dry before bedtime.

Obviously, there are some signs that you may need to clean it more often. If there are visible stains, odors, bed bugs, or anything similar, then jump in there and steam clean the mattress.


Steam cleaning is an effective way of cleaning your mattress, but that does not mean that you should not take some precautions. Follow these simple tips to protect your mattress:

  • There are some parts of your mattress which can be damaged by prolonged heat, especially any plastics or elastics. Clean quickly to minimize the heat contact, and use a medium heat setting.
  • Always check your mattress care guide before cleaning. It can contain valuable warnings and will also alert you to any voiding of your warranty.

2. Steam Cleaning Your Jewelry

necklace with rings

When you first got your jewelry, it shone and sparkled as much as you do. Over time, however, that same jewelry has probably lost its luster (hopefully, you have not).

When most people think about cleaning jewelry, they usually think about buying chemicals to soak the pieces or apply to them. A simple solution is to steam clean them (it is also cheaper than taking them to a professional to be cleaned).

Steam cleaning your jewelry means using zero chemicals.

This makes it safe. With chemicals, there is always the chance that you can damage a piece. You are also putting the jewelry against your skin. Harsh chemicals can cause a reaction.

Almost all jewelry can be steam cleaned (check with the manufacturer if you are unsure). Steam cleaning will get into the smallest reaches of your rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, much better than chemicals will.

3. Steam Cleaning Your Couch

big green and brown couch

Much like your bed, your couch puts up with a lot. You clean your clothes regularly, but probably not your couch. Why is that?

You know what, we are not even going to answer that, and we are definitely not going to delve into the dirt hidden in your couch. What we are going to do is help you to clean it with your steam cleaner.

Is Your Couch Steamer Proof?

Yes. Well, most likely, yes.

A lot of this will depend on the age and state of your couch. If the fabric is worn and thin, then there is a chance that the steam cleaner could do some harm as it cleans. If you are in doubt, use a mild setting to clean the couch and spend a little more time on it.

Step By Step Instructions

So, without further ado, here are our steps for getting your couch as clean as possible:

  1. Fill your steam cleaner with water and, while it is heating up, remove anything from your couch, such as the cover and cushions.
  2. If your couch is old or has thin fabrics, use a moderate heat setting; otherwise, use a high heat.
  3. Clean your couch using your steam cleaner’s directions, cleaning the cushions too, after removing the covers and machine-washing them.
  4. Repeat the clean if the couch is not clean enough.
  5. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours.
Steam cleaning a sofa with a steam cleaner.

Additional Info

The one thing to think about is how quickly you can get the couch dry. The quicker it dries, the better. Think about placing it in front of a fan or a window and place in the warmest part of the room if you can.

4. Steam Cleaning Your Curtains

Thick curtain

There is nowhere that dirt is safe from your steam cleaner, and that includes your curtains. They are not as high-traffic as your mattress or couch, but they do accumulate dirt. Thankfully, a steam cleaner can clean them in place. Here is how.

  1. Vacuum your curtains first to remove any dirt, dust, and larger debris. If you have tall curtains and need to use a ladder, then think about employing someone to hold the ladder for you.
  2. Shake them out to remove any stubborn dirt and dust that the vacuum may have missed. Make sure to keep your vacuum handy to vacuum the floor after shaking the curtains.
  3. Remove lint with a lint brush. These particles can stick the curtain even as you vacuum them.
  4. Use your steam cleaner to steam clean the curtains as they hang in place. You can go over any stubborn stains or areas more than once as needed.
  5. Deodorize if needed. Your steam cleaner should remove all of the odors but, if it does not, then think about using a deodorizing spray.
  6. Clean the windows with the steam cleaner too. As you are doing the curtains, you also can clean the windows. Use a low-heat setting or clean them by hand.
  7. Breathe. You can breathe and relax at a job well done, and you should let the curtains breathe too. Allow the curtains to dry loose before you tie them up.

5. Steam Cleaning Your Carpets & Rugs

rug close-up

Many floors are easy to clean. You can mop hardwood or tile (steam cleaning is more effective and quicker), but carpets are a different matter entirely. While vacuuming will remove the dust and debris, you are not really getting the fibers clean.

It is time for a steam clean.

  1. Remove furniture. Depending on how thorough your clean is, you may want to move or remove the furniture from the room.
  2. Vacuum your carpet / rug. Just like with your curtains, it makes it easier to remove as much dirt and dust as possible with your vacuum.
  3. Ready your steam cleaner. While you are performing the step, have the steam cleaner heating so that it is ready to go. You want the steam cleaner to heat to at least 220 °F (104 °C) so that it will eliminate dust mites, bacteria, and fleas.
  4. Add some natural cleaning power. To protect your carpet, you want to use a cleaner with a pH value below 10. Do you know what natural cleaner has that? Vinegar. That’s right, vinegar will often perform better than the recommended cleaners. Simply add the same amount of vinegar when cleaning solution is recommended and add something natural to the dirt-busting equation.
  5. Steam clean your carpet / rug. Use the steam cleaner as directed in the user guide, and steam again without chemicals if you used any the first time. Leaving any chemical on the carpet or rug can damage it and attract more dirt.
  6. Your carpet / rug needs time to dry once it has been steam-cleaned. Make sure to choose a time when the fibers can be left to dry before being walked on. Choose a warmer day when you can leave the windows open to allow the air to circulate.
  7. Speed is of the essence when you are done cleaning. The quicker you can dry your carpet or rug, the better it is for everyone involved. Leave the windows open to allow the air to circulate, and use a dehumidifier if you have one.
Steam cleaning carpet stains with Vapamore.

6. Steam Cleaning The Interior Of Your Car

Seat cleaning with a steam cleaner

We wash the exterior of our cars regularly, but the interior is often forgotten about until garbage is piled up around your feet, and there is a funny smell that will not go away (well, hopefully not, but you get the point).

The solution, once again, is a steam cleaner. Here is how to use yours to clean the interior of your car effectively.

Car Interior Upholstery

Cleaning the seats is essential to removing odors from your car. Steam cleaners can be used to clean almost any seat material, including leather and suede. Most steam cleaners leave little moisture, and what moisture is left usually evaporates quickly.

Related: How To Clean Your Car Seats – The Complete DIY Guide

Use a microfiber or soft brush attachment for the best results.


You can steam-clean the interior and exterior of your car windows. By using no chemicals, you are usually left with a streak-free clean. Use a window attachment if you have one, and remove the moisture with a squeegee or microfiber cloth.

Cup Holders

It is hard to get into small spaces such as cupholders, and there is usually a sticky mess in there to boot. Use an attachment that focuses the steam to dislodge heavy stains.

Door Jambs And Trims

These areas are often missed, and the dirt and grime can build up quickly. This can cause doors to become stiff or not shut as easily. Use the same attachment as you used for the cupholders and blast the dirt away.

Consoles And Dashboards

If you spray from a distance, you are going to have enough heat to clean the console and dashboard, removing all of the dust, without moisture penetrating into the electronics.

Door Panels

Use a soft brush attachment to remove stains off of the soft and hard parts of the door interior. There are usually some oils around the handle, and steam cleaners are extremely effective at removing those oils.

Ventilation System

If you have any allergies, then these ventilation systems are probably not helping. Dust and dirt get inside, and allergens are always being blown around your car. A quick clean with a steam cleaner will keep you breathing easily.

“The Detail Geek” steam cleans a dirty car.

7. Steam Cleaning Grout And Tiles

modern kitchen countertop with tiles

An overlooked area, especially in the kitchen and bathroom (along with some floors) is grout lines. We usually do not even think about cleaning them until they are dark and grimy, and then go out and buy a grout whitener. Those chemicals are not really helping your grout, but a steam cleaner will.

How To Steam Clean Grout Lines

Steam cleaning your grout lines could not be easier. Choose an attachment with focuses the steam on a single point, and steam directly onto the grout line.

The dirt will lift from the grout like you would not believe and, when you have wiped the dirt away with a cloth, you will have grout lines which are as bright as they were on the very first day.

How To Steam Clean Tiles

When you are cleaning your grout lines, it is also the perfect time to clean your tiles. It does not matter if they are floor or wall tiles, the process is the same.

If you have a steam mop attachment, use that to steam clean the tiles. If you do not have the attachment, use a nozzle that will apply steam to a large area and then either mop up the dirt or wipe it up with a cloth.

What Not To Clean With a Steamer?

Steam cleaners are one of the most versatile tools out there and, while they can almost clean anything, there are some things which you should not tackle with them. Stay away from these areas:

  • Stay away from unsealed, polished, waxed, or freshly-painted surfaces. Walls can be steam cleaned, but the excessive heat can strip paint away.
  • While you can steam-clean curtains, delicate fabrics are a different matter. Stay away from delicates, colors that could run, and items which cannot take extreme heat.
  • If you are cleaning areas that contain paint, treated wood, paper, cardboard, or plywood, then be as brief as you can. Try not to linger, or you can do more damage than good. If you are ever unsure, clean a small hidden area first to see how the material reacts.
  • Be careful with antiques. Even a small dusting can damage them. The antique may have a shellac or varnish coating which can be stripped by a steam cleaner.
  • Be careful with laminate flooring. While the lamination process will protect the wood, high-pressure steam can get through the seams between the planks and get into the wood below.

Time Saving Tips

Now that you know a little about how to use your steam cleaner to clean just about everything, we have enough time to impart the last of our wisdom, and that is how to save yourself some time.


Here are our tips for maximizing efficiency:

  • Always plan your route. Know where you are starting and where you are ending, and always make sure that you have enough time to finish the job in one go.
  • If you are using cloth covers on your steaming tools, remove and clean them as soon as they become soiled, or you will only be spreading dirt from then on.
  • Think about which attachments you need for the job and have them all to hand before you start.
  • Clean before you clean. By vacuuming or sweeping most surfaces before you steam clean, you will more effectively clean and prolong the life of your steam cleaner.

Andrea Soke

Andrea has a background in economics and finance, but she's also passionate about gardening, sustainable living, and finding new ways to maintain a clean and orderly home. She believes in quality over quantity.