Cleaning your house often involves the basics – you wipe down surfaces, mop the floors, vacuum the rugs and change the sheets. Deep cleaning can mean hours of scrubbing and harsh chemicals, something many avoid doing often. But a steam cleaner makes this process quick, easy and green. Using only water, a steamer can remove dirt and kill germs on almost any surface in your home.

Cleaning the floor with a dry steam cleaner.
credit: DmitriMaruta/iStock/GettyImages
How To User A Steamer

How Steamers Work

Steamers heat water past the boiling point, creating steam that's pressurized and then released through an attachment. This process not only cleans the surface but also deep cleans, removing everything from mold and bacteria to allergens and dust mites.

There are three different types of steamers available: mop, handheld and canister. Steamers can be used to clean hard surfaces such as countertops, floors, windows and even bathroom fixtures.

How to Use a Steam Mop

A steam mop works well on most floors, including wood and tile. Floors should be swept or vacuumed before use. Some steam mops can freshen carpets with a special attachment. It's important to understand that these mops can't actually clean the carpet; they can only revive the look.

After assembling the mop, fill the tank with water and attach it to the mop. Attach a clean microfiber cloth to the bottom of the mop before plugging it in and turning on the unit. It may take several minutes for the mop to produce steam. Select your setting, which ranges from a quick dusting to deep clean, and mop in a forward-and-backward motion. To avoid trapping yourself in a corner, work backward through the room.

Make sure your microfiber cloth is always clean and ensure that water is in the tank. The mop won't produce steam without water. If you need to refill the tank, unplug the mop first. When finished mopping, empty the water tank before storage.

How to Use a Handheld Steamer

Handheld steamers are great for cleaning counters, windows and small, hard-to-reach places in your home. They come with numerous attachments, from a variety of brushes to a squeegee for windows.

Similar to a mop, handheld steamers have a water tank that should be filled before each use. Once filled, attach your water tank and selected accessory before plugging in the unit. When the steamer is fully heated and ready for use, point it towards the surface you'd like to clean, press the steam button – holding it for continuous steam if desired – and move the steamer back and forth slightly until the area is clean. Always make sure the steamer is pointed away from yourself, other people, plants or animals. Once steamed, wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth to remove loosened dirt or grime. If the surface is hot, wait until it has cooled before wiping dry.

Allow the steamer to cool completely before storage. Remove all accessories and empty the water tank before storing in a cool, dry location.

How to Use a Canister Steamer

Canisters can clean almost anything, from the treads of running shoes and golf clubs to outdoor grills and refrigerators. These units feature extension wands, a mop head, brushes and more.

Canisters also include a water tank that must be filled before each use. Fill the tank and attach the accessories before plugging in the unit. Similar to the other steamers, the canister may take several minutes to heat before steaming can begin.

When using the nozzle to clean, wait until the unit is ready and direct the nozzle to the appropriate area. Use a back-and-forth motion to clean, then wipe with a clean, dry cloth. Keep children and pets away from the unit when in use.

The mop attachment works just like the stick mop. Use a continuous back-and-forth motion to clean the area. If a significant amount of water remains on the floor after cleaning, allow time to air dry or use a fan to increase drying time.

Allow the canister to cool completely before draining the water and removing all attachments. Store in a cool, dry location.

Keep It Clean

Water can cause mineral buildup in the cleaner, but using distilled or demineralized water will minimize the deposits. Steamers should be cleaned regularly, often with white vinegar and distilled water. Instructions vary, so refer to your unit's manual for details.