Is a Steam Cleaner as Useful as the Internet Claims?

Is a Steam Cleaner as Useful as the Internet Claims?
Screenshot: Lifehacker / YouTube

Our esteemed editor-in-chief slacked me one day saying that many of her friends swear that a steam cleaner is the best cleaning tool. They claim that the steamer will clean basically everything — floors, walls, appliances, mattresses, toilets, windows — the list goes on and on.

Naturally, I felt the need — nay, obligation — to test out these claims. So I bought a reasonably priced model (just $40), read some safety information, and set out to determine whether the steam cleaner is the all-in-one cleaning saviour we’ve been praying for.

Before getting started, I learned not to use the steamer on any unsealed surfaces like wood plank floors or porous stone. I don’t have any of those surfaces in my apartment, but it is a rental and I would like my full security deposit back, so I erred on the side of caution. Also the claim of sanitizing walls seemed dubious; my research suggested the steamer would be great for removing old wallpaper, but could also remove the paint from your walls — so I avoided that test as well.

I tested several surfaces with the steam cleaner: my mattress, oven, backsplash, baseboard, toilet, grout, and a shirt. I had expected just one quick blast of steam to instantly brighten every surface, but this was not the case. Some surfaces were allegedly “sanitised” by the steam, but I couldn’t visually see them get any cleaner. On some surfaces, the effect seemed about the same as wiping them down with a damp cloth. But some tests — specifically the backsplash and the grout — were truly revolutionary: After just a few seconds of steaming, these surfaces shined line new, without the use of chemicals.

To see the full test, and learn a few more tips about proper use and attachments, check out the video below.

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