I hope to clear the air on this topic…
Steam cleaning is often referred to as hot-water pressure washing. But it’s just actually a misnomer since power wash contractors don’t actually want to get the water above the 212 deg threshold as it will vaporize, turn to steam, and lose all density. Therefore the maximum pressure that is achievable with steam is approximately 300 psi (pounds per square inch) as opposed to 3500 psi. That’s about 1/10 of the operating pressure- thereby greatly reducing it cleaning effectiveness.
However, some people actually clean with steam. Actual steam cleaning is the process you would want to use on carpets, upholstery, and other sensitive materials (like even car engines) since the surface can’t withstand the cleaning pressure/force/agitation.
With that said, there are many contractors who like to “pitch” their services as completely enviro friendly with no need for “harsh detergents” etc. To be quite frank, it’s just a marketing angle that really says the following:
1- “we cut corners by not using chemicals” (therefore this is as clean as it comes…)
2- “we don’t have EPA required vacuums on our trucks to reclaim the water since we don’t use harsh chemicals” (which is either ignorance or non-compliance of the The Clean Water Act of 1972)
3- “our steam cleaners are better than the competition since they produce steam” (when they are in fact actually the same hot-water power washers)
Just to expand on that third point… Our hot-water power washers are made by Hydrotek, arguably America’s best manufacturer of power washers. They have a steam function, we just rarely turn the thermostat up that temperature unless we clean more delicate. It’s just not as effective as really hot-water.
The moment that water turns from 212 deg to 213 it loses a dramatic amount of it’s cleaning force.
The best contractors are going to have a complete knowledge of how to effectively use the proper cleaning agents and tools in conjunction to get an optimum clean while having an environmentally conscience practice. We do this by using vacuums that reclaim the water, filter it and reuse it in the wash cycle (known as a closed loop system). That’s the way the big guys roll 😉