At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
A steam washer is a machine that uses steam instead of water to clean clothing and other fabrics. Steam is often a forgotten cleaning tool, but it can have very positive effects on fabrics when it comes to cleaning. Steam is gentle, and works with water to make clothing softer to reduce wrinkles.
Manufacturers have introduced several steam washer models for use in the home. Among other benefits, steam washers use less power and require less water than traditional washers. It takes a small amount of water to produce a large amount of steam; therefore, steam washers may use less energy during the cleaning cycle.
Steam washers have various methods of adding steam to the washing cycle. Some machines utilize the water in the tub to directly make steam. Other models create steam in an entirely different compartment, using a special tool to generate the steam. This tool then shoots the steam through a tube into a nozzle, which releases the steam into the laundry tub. To determine which type of steam washer will be most effective, research which models will best meet your specific needs.
A steam washer works using the same three cycles that a non-steam washer does, but using steam can have a greater impact. The pre-wash stage is when water fills the washtub. As this happens, the combination of steam and water can more completely saturate the fabrics.
The washing phase is when the detergent is added, or automatically drained, into the washtub. When steam is added to this process, the temperature in the machine increases, which enhances cleaning power. The addition of steam can also better dissolve the detergent, giving the fabrics a more effective wash.
A steam washer may also improve the post-washing process. Once again, the addition of steam can increase the temperature inside the machine, helping to better sterilize the fabrics. It is also during this process that steam can help to reduce wrinkles by softening the fabric.
There are also certain steam washer models that can help to reduce allergens in clothing and fabric. This occurs because the steam can increase the washing temperature, better breaking apart allergens. A number of different manufacturers sell machines they claim are effective in reducing allergens.