How to choose a steam cleaner
- Why some steamers cost more than others?
- What’s the big difference between models?
- Who’ll teach me if I buy from TV, big box store or the web?
- How long should a steam cleaner last?
- What if I need service or supplies?
- Which features are essential?
- What benefits will I get?
Discover how to choose a steam cleaner wisely
You’re about to find out what actually determines value from someone who’s been a pioneer in the steam cleaner industry for more than 20 years.
Over the last 2 decades I’ve bought products and gathered information from every seller who’s ever marketed a steam cleaner. I have personally seen, owned and used every type of steam cleaner – everything from the “toys” to the “tanks” and the ones in between as they’ve come and gone. There are several reasons why some endure/perform and others don’t.
Before we go any further with how to choose a steam cleaner, I want to clarify what a true steam cleaner is and what it is not. It IS a power tool – a powerful replacement for harsh consumable/disposable chemicals and manual-labor-intensive gadgets. It cleans and disinfects nearly every surface in your home from floor to ceiling. It has several attachments that go beyond just floors.
A steam cleaner IS NOT a hot water/extraction carpet cleaner. Don’t get me wrong, a steam cleaner will do a great job on your carpets but not in the manner you may have used in the past. Carpet cleaning machines and floor polishers that claim to be steam cleaners are, in fact, not.
A true steam cleaner expels dry steam vapor and most do not provide suction like a vacuum. Instead, the moisture loosens the dirt, the pressure blasts it out of its hiding place and the heat kills the germs.
Then all the dirt, germs and moisture can be picked up in a towel. This may be done in a two-step process (spray and wipe) or cover the attachment with a cloth and make it a one-step process.
Now that we’re on the same page, let’s discuss how to choose a steam cleaner.
These features determine a steamer’s cost
Safety features – look for multiple independent mechanisms that assure your safety and that of your machine. Steamers function under pressure and you want peace of mind that yours is safe to use, especially around your kids. Extra safety features cost extra money.
Boiler tank material – high quality stainless steel is what lasts and it costs more than aluminum or low quality stainless steel. Just because it claims “stainless steel” don’t assume it’s high quality. Cheapy pay – cheapy get is very true here. Poor quality stainless tanks are actually worse than the aluminum but both are prone to pin holes that leak over time.
Wiring gauge – heavy duty is what works and lasts and it costs more than thinner wire. There will be considerable electrical current running through your steamer and you’ll want to be confident that its wiring is sufficient.
Switches – an instantly-on and instantly-off switch on the hose puts you safely in control. High quality multi-setting switches that adjust steam pressure output (letting you choose high, medium or low) is even better.
Heating units – mounted inside the tank work best and last longer. Units with this feature may cost more initially but offer longer lifespan over those with separate heating elements not protected inside the stainless steel tank.
Insulation type and amount – Heavy insulation surrounding the tank helps the water heat faster and keeps the heat in the tank, rather than transferring to the housing (you don’t want to get burned if you touch the housing.
Attachments – high quality, well-designed, durable attachments make a HUGE difference. Compare a lower price brand over a higher and even a novice can see and feel the difference. The quality of the results you will get is in the attachment and its intended application. Efficiently-designed and well-manufactured brushes mean you get your tasks finished quickly and easily. Poor quality or badly designed attachments will drive you crazy.
Unit size and weight – should be appropriate for your intended use. Bigger here is NOT always better! A huge machine that is not maneuverable will frustrate the homeowner who wants to go upstairs, downstairs, out to the car or to their daughter’s house. It also may be way too hot and actually melt the varnish on your cabinets, not just clean them. On the flip side…a steamer that’s too small will frustrate you to no end with wimpy pressure, wet steam and constant refilling. DO NOT underestimate the power and performance a mid-sized steam cleaner can provide.
Water Capacity – enough to keep you working without adding unmanageable weight. Refilling a unit that only holds a cup of water every 15 minutes will frustrate if you’re trying to clean a large house exclusively with steam. A steamer with ½ a gallon water capacity and the ability to refill without waiting for the unit to cool down will keep you working steadily and limit down time.
Established Company Do they provide service, free education and support to get you through the learning curve? If you buy a machine in a box and have to figure it out alone, your experience will be very different than if you bought from a knowledgeable, helpful, supportive team of people who actually use their own products and really know how to help you.
Wattage – the amount of electricity provided in wattage determines 2 things…the steam temperature and the amount of pressure. The lower the wattage, the lower the steam temperature and the wetter the steam. Higher wattage (in proportion with tank size) can produce dryer, more effective steam and more pressure. You’ll get your projects done faster with less wiping.
Heating capabilities – the hotter the temperature the dryer the steam. On this issue BEWARE! Every seller makes claims as to temperature inside the tank verses at the tip and almost no one can prove their numbers. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) and produces steam a bit below that point. Don’t stress over 290 vs 298 vs 305 degrees. Machines that produce a higher temperature will perform better and cost more.
Durability – Is it constructed to last? Housing options are plastic or metal. Plastic does not immediately indicate that it’s not as durable as metal. Metal can be much heavier and if banged into your walls or dropped on your tile can do considerable damage. Both plastic and metal housings can sustain scratches or dents so don’t make your decision on one or the other. It’s not a factor for durability. How well the whole unit – including the housing, interior, attachments and hoses – is made determines durability.
Engineering – Who built it and what do they know about steam cleaners? Have they been engineering and building their own steam cleaner products for a good long time or have they knocked off an expert’s design? Do they produce steam cleaners exclusively or a plethora of unrelated products? Are the “bugs” worked out of their design or are they still testing?
Choosing a steam cleaner
with top quality features will likely last 15-20 years and provide a very pleasant experience.
Skimping on any of the features is likely to cause dissatisfaction in the following areas:
- Replacing a poor quality steam cleaner several times in the same 15-20 year span
- Frustration when you experience diminished performance (wet or weak steam)
- Wasting time waiting for heat up or cool down
- Burning something (maybe you) because it didn’t come with an on/off switch
- Buying too small a unit (or too big a unit) for the application you intend
- Wishing you had tools or accessories that were not included
- Wishing you didn’t have to figure it all out on your own (couldn’t someone have warned me not to scratch my paint and melt my mini blinds?)
- Loosing time and money in the repair shop because the design still has flaws
- Getting little value from your investment because you didn’t think to use it in the thousands of ways a seasoned veteran knows it will perform
- Missing out on expert engineering because the manufacturer was not the designer
When making an investment
what’s most important to you?
A Sargent Steam Cleaner fits on the high side
of the scale in all these areas.
A hand-held model fits on the low end
in all these areas.
I have yet to find a company that sells anything at the lowest price
and offers the highest quality, service, support, features and education in their industry.
How To Choose A Steam Cleaner
Comparing Apples To Apples By Brand
We’ve talked about the “toys” the “tanks” and “tweens” but what does that actually mean? Learning how to choose a steam cleaner is easy when you break it down to basics. All steam cleaners produce steam and help eliminate harsh chemicals but not all are created equally.
There are 5 categories I want to identify so your comparisons will make sense. Put any feature (say price) up against steamers that straddle categories and it just won’t compare.
Understanding what the industry has to offer will make your buying decision easier. The following is a short list of a few steam cleaners by category, brands and price point.
I don’t recommend making your decision about how to choose a steam cleaner by price point alone. Be sure to re-read the list of features we went through previously so you get what’s important to you.
Obviously, I’d love you to choose a Sargent Steam Cleaner so I’m absolutely committed to providing you with the best price in our category. I’ll also give you the best service, quality, education, support and features available in any category! Buying from someone who asks you what you need and then helps you get only what you need will provide more value and actually cost you a lot less over time.
If you still have any questions about how to choose a steam cleaner, call me. Call 1-800-SGT-STEAM. I’m very happy to share my knowledge of this industry with you. I’ll ask you a ton of questions about what your needs and concerns are and I’ll be very honest with you about what to purchase. If we determine my products do not meet your needs, I will recommend one that does.
That’s my promise
Now that you know how to choose a steam cleaner - Shop for a Sargent Steam Cleaner here
More Frequently Asked Questions
Where does the dirt go?
The dissolved dirt is absorbed into a cleaning cloth or a paper towel.
Where does the dirt go when I don’t use a cloth, like flower arrangements and plants?
The dust is blasted off when the pressurized steam hits it. Dust is trapped in the steam molecules and drops to the next horizontal surface, so start at the top and work your way down.
What kind of chemicals do I use in it?
NONE! No chemicals are ever needed again. Ordinary tap water is all you ever put in your Sargent Steam cleaning system. This will save you money, save your health (some of that cleaning chemical stuff is really toxic) and save the environment.
Visit our Why you should clean with a steamer page to learn more about this topic.
Does it vacuum up the dirty water?
No. A Sargent Steam Cleaner doesn’t suck. The cleaning cloth picks up what little moisture is created. A vacuum and a Sargent, like your washer and dryer, look alike but perform very different tasks. A vacuum inhales, to pick up loose dirt. The Sargent exhales steam vapor to dissolve bonded dirt.
How long will I clean before I need to refill?
The two quarts of water in your Sargent Steam cleaner will last from one to two hours.
How can it be gentle enough to clean live plants and tough enough to degrease my oven?
Temperature is controlled by distance from the surface you’re cleaning so hold the nozzle 4-6 inches away from items that are not heat resistant – like live plants. Heat resistant surfaces like your oven can be touched directly to melt right through the grease quickly. Control the steam output with buttons on the handle to use low or medium pressure as well as full pressure for a quick blast.
How hot does it get?
The water is heated to 300 degrees, which is past boiling and more than hot enough to dissolve even the most burnt on messes and completely sanitize anything it touches. A study done by Dr. Richard A. Robison, Ph.D. Director of Microbiology at Brigham Young University says “Sargent Steam represents extremely rapid kill rate which cannot be duplicated by chemical disinfectants.”
How much does it weigh?
12 pounds empty and 15 with a full tank of water. It’s on wheels so it follows you around as you clean like a canister vacuum cleaner and the hose in your hand weighs less than a pound.
How much pressure does it have?
You get the benefit of 52 pounds of pressure and until you see what you can do with that kind of force, you won’t believe it! That’s enough pressure to force all the dirt out of even the tiniest hiding place.
Does it clean carpets?
Yes, and so much more. It does a beautiful job on carpets without the need for chemicals that can cause health problems and stick to carpet fibers to attract more dirt. Spot cleaning with your Sargent Steam cleaner can keep your carpets looking new and smelling fresh any time you want. It’s a must for pet owners. Say goodbye to expensive professional services!
What kind of warranty does it have?
2 years on defective parts overall and 5 years on the stainless steel boiler tank.
To view our guaranty in detail, click the Guaranty tab on this page.
Where do I get it repaired?
Our repair center is in our corporate headquarters at 3131 East 3300 South in Salt Lake City, Utah . Call 1-800-748-7832 to speak to a repair technician about any problems you experience. Not much can go wrong with your BRZ2 Sargent Steam cleaning system that cannot be fixed quickly and inexpensively. In most cases, we offer same day service. Contact us when repairs are needed.
Where do the parts go in the cart?
Watch a video to see how to get your steamer out of the box and into your cart (optional) seamlessly.
Can I get technical support when I need it?
Yes. Dial 1-800-SGT-STEAM any time you have questions or problems. A real live person will help you with anything you need. A complete instruction book and how-to video come with your Sargent Steam cleaning system. Contact us when technical support is needed.