Is Steam Cleaning Green?

My husband thought it would be romantic to get me a steam cleaner for my last birthday. (Okay, okay. I may have planted the idea in his head.) I’d first heard of this miraculous cleaning contraption in Raising Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene. A woman wrote a testimonial about how great this thing was: It uses no chemicals—just steam—and kills germs and bacteria. It improves the air quality of your home and is essential for sufferers of allergies.

I would have rushed out to buy a steam cleaner right then and there, but she said she paid $400 for it! With a price tag that high, it would really never pay for itself. One of the advantages of the product is that is eliminates the need for cleaning potions.  Although the average family supposedly spends $600 a year on cleaning supplies, I’m sure I don’t spend even $20.

Anyway, years later I discovered that there are many steam cleaners for around $100—much more reasonable! They have nozzles for steam cleaning grout and attachments for mopping the floor, washing windows, and removing wall paper. I just had to have one.

I settled on the Wagner power steamer and cleaner (now on sale for only $75!). The verdict? I do enjoy using the steam cleaner once a week in the bathroom for the grout and floors–it completely removed some mold on the grout I hadn’t been able to get rid of, and it made the fifty +-year-old grout white again. I’ve tried out the various attachments on other cleaning adventures, and I’ve been impressed with the results.

However . . . I guess I feel a little guilty for justifying the steam cleaner as a green purchase! If you are a stickler for germ-killing (and I confess that I am not) or need to sterilize things for health reasons, the steam cleaner has to be better than chlorine bleach. For my cleaning needs, I could have survived using old fashioned ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda. But now that I own the steam cleaner, I will enjoy it and make good use of it.

Does anyone else have a steam cleaner? Do you recommend it—or not?


  1. I love the idea of the steam cleaner, and have vaguely considered getting one even though I have no carpet, which seems like where it would really come in handy. But I like the idea of using it occasionally on my wood floors and windows, and I also have a few area rugs — I wonder if it would be OK to use on those. I have only ever had those professionally cleaned by a green carpet company once. I am not a germ-phobe, but I like the idea of getting rid of mold and grout without bleach!

  2. Betsy, I don’t have any carpet, either. I do have one area rug, and I have never steam cleaned it. It actually had not occurred to me! I used it to mop the hardwood floors once . . . I don’t usually mop the floors at all. I think this goes along with your post from a couple months ago about being lazy & green.

    I tried cleaning the windows with the steam cleaner, but I had to go back to vinegar and newspaper, just because most of my windows are mullioned, so the window attachment didn’t work for it. It would work well with every other type of window, though.

  3. Hmm, after reading the reviews, if I could really use this to clean my laminate and hardwood floors, get spots off the carpets and furniture, and clean my kitchen appliances–then I might actually start cleaning the house myself again instead of paying someone $75 a pop to do it for me. Rebecca, have you tried it on furniture or your (painted) walls?

  4. Larisa, I haven’t tried it on walls or furniture. I have dark upholstery on my furniture so I don’t have any noticeable spots. Now that you mention it, though, I am curious about trying it on my couch. . . . I also haven’t tried it on walls.

    I will say that it motivates me to clean! I used to spot clean the bathroom as needed. Now I clean it thoroughly every Monday because I have the steam cleaner!

  5. i love my steam cleaner. it was under 100 and i only use it on tile, wood, and linoleum. i wish it had attachments to blast and sanitize surfaces and refresh garments…i’m more than a little envious!

    my baby is crawling and i love to be able to clean quickly without chemicals–and not have to wait for the floor to dry.

  6. “Now I clean it thoroughly every Monday because I have the steam cleaner!”

    You may have just sold me a steam cleaner.

  7. I’ve been wanting a steam cleaner since I saw the steam cleaner mop infomercial. That one has terrible reviews and the other steam mops don’t have great reviews either so I haven’t wanted to spend the money to try one. The Wagner one mentioned looks great and has good reviews on Amazon plus I like that it can do more than just floors (and $75 is not a bad price)! Is this the best one or does anyone else have a different one that you recommend? We have mostly hardwood floors (sealed) – has anyone used their steamer frequently on hardwoods and is it really ok? Or would you recommend just steam cleaning hardwoods once in a while?

    I also have hard water and I’m starting to get some hard water stains around our faucets that I’m having trouble cleaning. Any idea if the steam cleaner would work on that – or does anyone else have any other advice for green options to remove hard water stains? Thanks!!

  8. I have the Shark steam cleaner, and I love it. My house has tile floors in the kitchen and bathrooms, and wood in all of the other living spaces. I steam mop the kitchen every other day (between a dog, two cats, a messy toddler, and a hubby who doesn’t seem to take much notice of what he tracks in, our floors get bad fast). Before I had the steam mop, that floor (light-colored tiles…what were we thinking…?) was a constant source of grief, and mopping required getting down on my knees with a scrub brush and bucket. So, I only mopped maybe once a month, if that.

    I use it on my wood floors maybe once every other week.

    My only complaint with it is that the washable pads have started to wear through in spots, and I have only had the thing for a few months.

    I recently started putting a drop or two of lavender essential oil into the water reservoir with each fill up. It gives the room a pleasant smell that lingers when I’ve finished mopping.

  9. Nicole, you can buy distilled water by the gallon and use it in a steam cleaner if you’re worried about hard water. It’s supposed to be safe for hard wood floors. I’ve used it on mine!

    Dorothy, can you make your own washable pads with an old towel or something?

  10. It sounds like it’s a lot healthier than chemicals (even ‘green’ chemicals, I’d think), and over time it’d save money (and I’m thinking our house would be a lot cleaner), so YES– it’s green to me! I’d never heard of one before (how sad) and I think I’m sold after reading the above comments!

    Toss the guilt aside and enjoy your clean home!

  11. Ok, now I really want one of these! I can think of all kinds of things I could use this for… and I am a lazy cleaner too!

  12. We just bought one about a month ago and love it. I believe it is green. It kills germs with the hot steam. And ours was only around $70 too. That cost is so worth having clean floors for my child to crawl around on.

  13. I have a Shark that does just the floors. I wish I hadn’t gotten their cheapest model. It does a good job on the hardwood floors but it doesn’t get food off of the kitchen floor. I have to scrub that off. My mom has the version that is a bit bigger and has no problems at all.

  14. I have a Shark Steam Mop (low frills) that I got on Black Friday Special for $36 and I think it’s amazing. I don’t have kids, but I do have pets. The cat is picky about her box and if we get too busy to clean it out every single day she will go on the floor and the dog won’t go to the bathroom if it’s raining (he’ll go outside, but he will only stand there). I normally support bacteria’s role in our ecosystem, but not poo bacteria. Considering that it gets my floors VERY clean and I didn’t spend that much and I eliminated chemicals from the equation (I was using Swiffer pads with the intent of making my own reusable pads and soaking them in a solution when the container I had ran out, so I count the time and money saved by switching as well) I think it’s a good buy.

  15. I use the Shark Steam Cleaner, I think its great!

  16. If this machine can clean shower stalls (we have laminate ), then I am sold! Definitely, my least favorite cleaning chore!

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