Steam Cleaner Guide

A steam cleaner is a very powerful tool in your cleaning arsenal. A steam cleaner can quickly penetrate fabric surfaces with powerfully hot water, and then quickly vacuum it back out. You can use a steam cleaner on most any fabric surface. I strongly recommend buying a steam cleaner to help you in cleaning smoke odor from your home.

The Power of Heat

The high heat associated with steam cleaning creates powerful cleaning in a few different ways.

Firstly, the heat helps loosen and penetrate stubborn materials. Things like grease and nicotine stains react and release much more easily when exposed to high heats.

Secondly, the heat can kill off bacteria, mold, and other allergens within the fabrics.

Heavy Lifting

One of my favorite aspects of steam cleaners is that they do very powerful cleaning with very little effort from the user. The user simply pulls the steam cleaner slowly across the surface. As the steam cleaner passes the surface, it does a few things.

  1. Super heated steam, mixed with any soaps or cleaning agents, are pushed out and penetrate the surface. The heat loosens dirt, dust, and stains which are then absorbed by the water.
  2. Moving scrub brushes pass over the moist material and help work it in.
  3. The moisture is then vacuumed from the surface, taking the dirt and dust with it.

Worth Regular Usage

Steam cleaning surfaces such as carpets and fabric furniture can have a very profound impact on the overall air quality in your home, and I recommend doing it once or twice a year.


To use a steam cleaner, you fill a reservoir with water and soap. The steam cleaner feeds from this, and vacuums the user water into a separate reservoir. Throughout your steam cleaning work, you will need to stop to empty the dirty water and re-fill the clean.

Cleaning Routine

I’ve standardized on this routing after experimenting with a few different processes.

  1. A first pass using a mixture of water, soap, and vinegar. You should choose a soap product based on your specific needs. There are soaps available to kill pet dander if you are worried about pet allergies, for example. Mix the water and soap following the directions on the soap container, and add to it about 1/2 cup of vinegar. This pass will really work in the soap and vinegar into the carpet or furniture and start it working on cleaning it. I work a little bit quicker during this pass. I certainly want to pick up most of the moisture, soap, and vinegar from the carpet. However, I also want to leave a little bit of it behind to work in a bit for the second pass.
  2. A second pass with water and vinegar only. In this pass I don’t use soap. A rinse pass is always recommended, and I trust that to mean that some amount of soap and vinegar has been left behind. This pass will reheat what it there and pull out the remaining soap. It also adds a second passing of vinegar for any particularly large deposits which might not have been fully worked away. I am mush slower and more methodical on this pass.
  3. Finally, I do a last rinse pass with just water. By now, I trust the soap and vinegar will have done what they are going to do. This pass is about removing as much of the now dirty water from the carpet. When working through this step, you will find that the water you are dumping out of the steam cleaner is much cleaner than it was during the first pass, but you are still getting some amount of dirt out.

Recommended Carpet Steam Cleaners

The Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer FH50150 is a fantastic steam cleaner, and my main recommendation if you are primarily interested in cleaning carpets. It does a wonderful job of cleaning whilst remaining very affordable. It’s primary intent is for cleaning carpets, but features attachments which can be used on furniture or stairs. While these attachments work great for furniture and do work well on stairs, it can be a bit clunky hauling the full unit up and down stairs as you clean them. At the time of writing, it carried a 4.5 rating based on 10,400 reviews, so I feel confident that many others share my strong opinion about this steam cleaner. If you are planning to buy a steam cleaner to clean carpets, do yourself a favor and buy this one.

Non-carpet Steam Cleaners

You can go with something much more portable if your focus is not on carpets but rather solely on furniture or other fabrics. In this class I recommend the Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner. This unit packs similar cleaning power as the Hover Power Scub Deluxe while coming in a smaller and more portable form factor. Like the Hover Power Scrub Deluxe, it comes with a lot of very positive reviews and feedback on amazon, which helps me feel assured that my positive experiences with it are common place.


I cannot recommend a stream cleaner enough. You can use a steam cleaner to clean nicotine and tar buildup from your carpet and furniture. However, the benefits go far beyond that. Steam cleaning can vastly improve the appearance of fabrics. Regular steam cleaning in the air also contributes to much improved air quality.