Autumn is the time when garden furniture, and sometimes even bicycles, are usually given a thorough cleaning before being stowed away for the winter. And when it comes to in-depth cleaning of a house or apartment, a steam cleaner provides a head start. But what types of cleaners are best for which purposes. Which accessories are useful to have? And what should users watch out for when operating a steam cleaner? TÜV SÜD's product professional Markus Nohe gives valuable tips.
The first question prospective buyers should ask themselves is what the cleaner will be used for. Steam cleaners are versatile machines and can be used not only for cleaning hard surfaces such as tiles, windows or laminate floors, but also for tricky items such as tile grouting or tap fittings and for removing grease from hobs. A hand-held model is generally sufficient when a quick clean is all that's needed; if deep cleaning of larger areas is necessary, a higher-performance model with a larger water tank and higher wattage should be considered. Markus Nohe has some tips to make purchase decisions easier.
- The length of uninterrupted cleaning offered by a steam cleaner depends on the capacity of its water tank – which may range from a quarter of a litre to two litres or more in larger machines. Note that the tank should only be filled with water to the three-quarters mark, to leave plenty of room for the steam to develop.
- The warm-up time and steam pressure depend on the wattage; ratings may vary from 1,300 to 2,300 watts. Markus Nohe advises prospective purchasers, “The capacity of the water tank and the wattage should be in sensible relation to each other.” Filling the tank with hot water will shorten the warming-up period. The higher the steam pressure, the higher the speed of the steam as it exits the machine – and the higher its cleaning power.
- The volume of steam should be adjustable on the nozzle or the cleaner itself. According to TÜV SÜD’s product tester, Nohe, a "steam ready" display light is an essential feature as it tells users whether the cleaner is ready for use.
- Which accessories are useful to have? Extension tubes extend the operating range of the cleaner. A textile care nozzle enables the machine to be used for purposes such as steaming clothing, while a pencil-jet or angled nozzle delivers higher temperature and pressure in a concentrated area – an advantage in cleaning radiators, metal taps and fittings, tile grouting or aluminium car wheel rims. Triangular brushes are excellent for cleaning into corners. Hand nozzles with terry-towelling covers are designed for removing grease films and for cleaning smaller areas in kitchen and bathroom. Window and floor cleaners and wallpaper strippers are also available as accessories. Some steam cleaners can also be connected to a steam iron accessory.
- An essential question to ask the retailer before you buy is whether the steam cleaner is easy to descale. This procedure should be described clearly and in detail in the instruction manual.
Guides to quality for prospective purchasers seeking the right steam cleaner are the GS (Certified Safety) mark and the TÜV SÜD Octagon. Both confirm that the cleaner has been tested for safety and usability.
TÜV SÜD expert Markus Nohe advises on correct use:
- Before using your steam cleaner for the first time, read the instruction manual carefully and observe any safety warnings.
- Important: How far can the water tank be filled? If the tank is filled past the maximum level, the nozzle will only dispense water – not steam. Cleaning agents, petrol or thinners must never be placed in the water tank, as this may cause an explosion.
- For curtains or couches, test the steam cleaner first on a small hidden area of the textile to check whether the fabric is suitable for steam cleaning. Care should be taken with materials including waxed wooden floors, linoleum and non-colourfast textiles.
- Never use a steam cleaner with a damaged steam hose – this incurs the risk of burns, warn the TÜV SÜD experts. A damaged hose must always be replaced.
- Never direct the jet of steam directly at electrical devices or equipment containing electrical components. Note that this also applies to oven interiors.
Press-contact: Heidi Atzler