Steam washer & dryer - hype or not?

cloud9oneJune 29, 2011

Hi everyone!

I've searched forum, and the answers are 1-2 years old, so I thought I'd give another try. From goodhousekeeping they are saying steam ones are better, but I don't know if they are twice-the-cost better?

Does steam cleaners work better? And does using steam imply you have to use hot water cycle? If that's the case, what benefit do I get if using cold cycle most of the time?

I also don't understand the steam dryer. My current dryer has a tumble cycle, which will tumble at an interval after clothes are dry to reduce wrinkles. That works for me. I use a garment steamer to refresh clothes as I doubt I'd go to the laundry room just to freshing out a few wrinkles.

With that said, are there any benefits that I can reap from steam washer/dryer? What is the best out there for non-steam front loaders? Obviously I am looking at something that is efficient and cleans well.

Thank you all in advance,


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I've got a Kenmore with steam and it seems to work OK. It does what it is supposed to do - ie: shoot steam. What I think it is good for is to help when using cold or warm water. This is what the manual says:

"By using a hot steam spray from above and cooler water below, fabrics get the cleaning benefits of a super hot wash, without the energy usage or potential damage to fabrics."

My guess is you can get a "pseudo-profile wash" with steam and use less energy. I've used it in place of the stain cycle and it seems to help get stains out.

Ours definitely wasn't double. We ended up with the Kenmore 4044 (with steam) that was just a little more than the 4027 (without steam).

As for the dryer, we skipped steam as the only ones that would fit in our laundry area were the Kenmore/LG and you had to manually add water to them. So I can't comment there.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 9:46PM
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In my opinion, steam is nothing more than a gimmick. Let's take a look at Kenmore's claim that "By using a hot steam spray from above and cooler water below, fabrics get the cleaning benefits of a super hot wash, without the energy usage or potential damage to fabrics." Can someone explain the physics involved, because it makes no sense to me. If your clothes are soaked and submerged in cold water, how is a little bit of surface steam going to do anything to affect the garment's temperature or improve cleaning? You have a huge thermal mass of cold water that will quickly suck any heat out of any steam that is generated. The cold water itself that is contained in the garments will encounter the steam and quickly neutralize any temperature benefit. If the steam actually did do something and heat the surface of the fabric to the point where it will have the same effect as a "hot" wash, then the potential of damage to fabrics is there as well.

This sounds like a bogus claim. What am I missing?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:21PM
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I have it on both washer & dryer & it's a gimmick. I totally agree with the poster above, what effect is a little steam going to have on a mass of cold wet clothing.

In the dryer, at least on my model (Whirlpool Duet), it's not even really steam. It just sprays water & then the dryer dries it. I used to do the same thing with a cheap spray bottle & it worked just as well.

I love the Duet pair, I just don't think the steam adds anything.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 11:56PM
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Pretty sure on the Kenmore and LG's the steam comes from the nozzle at the top of the drum gasket that sprays the wash with water. So it wouldn't have to blanket the whole wash, just what comes in contact with the steam.

Not sure how long it works or if it does much but it seems to help when using Warm washes. It was only another $50-100 (I forget) when we bought the pair so I figured "What the heck"...

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 9:07AM
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You would need a steam engine in order to have any meaningful impact on a cold, wet piece of clothing. The area that comes into contact with the steam will need to be heated to 120-140F in order to get the cleaning benefits of "hot" water. If your fabric is soaked in 85F "cold" water, the steam would need to instantly increase the temperature of all the fibers it comes into contact with by 35F-55F. That's expecting a very dramatic temperature change in only a few seconds, if that. Intuitively this feels impossible with the type of steam generator contained in a washing machine.

I would challenge Kenmore and anyone else to produce statistics, test results or facts pertaining to how steam improves cleaning in this manner. I just don't believe it.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 12:01PM
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I'm not sure and certainly can't do a steam/no steam test as I don't have the time. I would imagine it's going throughout most of the wash cycle so there could be some heating benefit over, say 10-20 minutes.

I look at it like the steamer I use to take the wrinkles out of clothes. 1 minute with the steamer and I can get most wrinkles out. Immediately afterwards I can touch the fabric fine so I know it's not heating it to 212F. If I hold my hand, say 6" to 1' above the steam wand I will get burnt from the vapors so they do carry heat some distance.

Dono - I have it, use it sometimes and it appears to work well. At $50-100 it was worth it. Any more than that and I'd say no. If it was a choice between steam and an onboard heater, I'd go with the heater.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 1:15PM
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