Handheld steamers

jerzeegirlMarch 8, 2013

I want to buy a handheld steamer, mostly to clean grout and countertops, and am trying to decide on which one to get.

There appear to be two types: some seem to have a hard wand and nozzle; others have a tube like a vacuum cleaner. Both types have attachments for different uses. I saw one at Costco that I like but it looks like it might be difficult to carry around.

Do any of you use these steamers and, if so, what are your preferences?

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I have a "full-sized" Ladybug steamer, so not a hand held model.

Even with its extra power I don't find it makes cleaning (shower stall) grout or countertops any easier. There are some things that it does do well (steam clean an oven for instance, w/o chemicals). But as for the whole grout, mineral spots, countertop/faucet cleaning thing: in my experience that doesn't work better or easier than spray cleaners (even homemade ones) and a clean cloth.

What's missing from the steam-clean pitch is that steam doesn't really clean anything (nor at the temps achieved by consumer steamers, does it "sanitize" anything - though it will give you a painful burn if you aim it at your hand). The best it can do is moisten the surface to make it easier to wipe off. But vinegar and water spray does that, too. For instance, you can steam your toilet bowl and the outsides all you want, but you still have to wipe them down to remove any dirt. If you've got to do that, why not just spray with a non-toxic cleaner, wipe 'em and be done with it?
I don't have any tile or linoleum floors so I can't speak for its efficacy in those cases. Still even if "steams off" or loosens the gunk you're still going to be just smearing it around on the cloth on the wand until you change it. In that way it's no different than a regular wet mop, except you can't stick the head in a bucket of hot water and clean it off, you have to remove the cloth head and reattach another clean one.

My best advice is to ask around among your friends until you turn up smeone with a steamer and go and see it working before you buy one.

My own steamer is a high-wattage model that cost well over $1,000 (though I didn't pay that as I hunted down an open box unit). It generates high temp steam and a lot of it for a long time. A small hand held model would, I think, be even less effective.

I totally believed the ads and video promotions, to my regret.

My 'Bug does a excellent job of oven cleaning. (Though I have to point out that many here have said cleaning ovens with steam is a bad idea because of the risk to the oven's electronics. Fortunately my old commercial range has no electronics, so I'm good, but YMMV.) I also use it for steaming off the crud from my bunny cages. I use it to steam off paint when I'm stripping wooden windows before re-glazing and painting. And I use it during the summer when I wash my three-coat plaster walls which can take the application of steam. Of course it would be a disaster if used on sheetrock.

The steamers are also sold as fabric, curtain and upholstery cleaners. You may have had that professionally down. But the Pro equipment has an extractor nozzle which both generates steam and then sucks the vapor off into a waste cannister removng some dirt. Home steamers only generate steam, so nothing really gets clean, even if the wrinkles go away.



    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 6:39PM
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Thanks so much for your very thorough answer. Makes me think that maybe I don't want a handheld steamer after all. I have a Shark steamer for my floors which I find very effective (and strangely I have never found a mop that I like as much as I like the steamer) but maybe I will just stick with that and not worry about the handheld.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 9:23PM
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