man detailing car seat with steamer

Steamer or Extractor: Which One’s Better for Your Car?

People are spending more time in their cars than ever before. The average person in the United States spends nearly 11 hours inside their vehicle each week. And with this growing dependence on cars, people are also adapting their activities to suit their on-the-go lifestyles better.

A survey of 1,000 respondents even shows 70 percent eat and drink while driving. So it’s not surprising that several studies have found cars harbor more germs than the average toilets.

The good news is you’ve got more options for cleaning and disinfecting your vehicle than ever before. And among the most debated options are steam cleaners and extractors.

But which is better?

How Vapor Steam Cleaners Work

man using vapor steamer cleaner on car dashboard
Photo by Tanapat Pootthanon on Pixabay

Vapor steam cleaners work by heating water to produce steam. This steam often gets used to clean and disinfect surfaces. Vapor steam cleaners typically use between 7 bars and 12 bars of pressure, with an operating temperature between 175°F and 220°F.

How Carpet Extractors Work

Carpet extractors are also known as deep carpet cleaners. They work by spraying a cleaning solution onto the carpet and using powerful suction to remove the dirt, grime, and liquids. Traditional heated carpet extractors typically use between 50 psi and 500 psi of pressure, with an operating temperature between 120°F and 210°F.

What’s the Difference Between Carpet Extractors and Vapor Steamers?

 Both carpet extractors and vapor steamers can be used to clean and disinfect your car, but some critical differences between the two exist. Each has varying heat and moisture capabilities, providing a compelling argument for the better option.

A vapor steam cleaner uses a built-in boiler to produce dry steam, often used for surface-level cleanings and disinfecting. It is ideally suited for cleaning hard surfaces on vehicle interiors, but it can also do its job for exterior detailing. The dry steam contains 5-6 percent moisture, quickly evaporating and leaving surfaces clean and dry.

On the other hand, a carpet extractor has tank-based heating elements that preheat water to a temperature ideal for deep cleaning jobs. The fine mist escapes the sprayer head and releases raw vacuum power, making them a go-to for heavy-duty cleaning tasks. It’s best for removing stains and debris on vehicles caked in grime buildup on carpeting, upholstery, floor mats and other hard surfaces.

Is a Steam Cleaner Necessary for Auto Detailing?

Carpet extraction is often the standard method for car detailing services. It is a thorough and effective way to clean every nook and cranny of your vehicle. However, the process of detailing a car can be complex, and there are specific tasks that only vapor steam cleaners can provide.

For one, a vapor steam cleaner is excellent in providing more detail on sensitive material. It’s a safe way to clean carpets, painted surfaces, and glass. And using the right attachments can help in clearing ventilation and eliminate pesky buildup on compact spaces such as cup holders, air blowers, and gear shifts.

So while an auto detailing extractor can do an admirable job, a vapor steam cleaner is still a necessary part of the process to achieve that showroom-level cleanliness.

Interior Car Cleaning Jobs Best for Steam Cleaning

front part of car interior in deep brown leather
Photo by Luc van Loon on Unsplash

Every business needs to be well-versed in deciding whether to use a steamer or extractor. By knowing what each machine is capable of, choosing your car wash service can be much easier.

Is it OK to Steam Clean Car Engine?

You can steam clean your engine, but you must be very careful. It’s best to avoid using a steam cleaner on electronic components and wiring. But if you must, use only a small amount of steam and keep the steamer at a low setting. This way, you can avoid damaging your engine.

Can You Steam Clean Car Upholstery?

Vapor steam cleaners can clean surfaces. However, it might not be able to completely clear out all the dirt and grime from the surface in question. If you’re looking for a cleaner that can handle dirtier jobs, carpet extractors could be a better option.

Can You Steam Clean Car Carpet?

Steam is a great carpet cleaner, but it’s not the only tool you need. A machine that can extract water is necessary to remove all the dirt and grime from your carpets. A carpet extractor has a water tank that heats the water and releases it in a fine mist. The vacuum power then sucks up all the dirt, leaving your carpets clean and dry.

Can You Steam Clean Car Leather?

Leather is a delicate material, and using a steam cleaner is the best way to clean it. The steam will loosen the dirt and grime, making it easier to wipe away. Just use a soft cloth, so you don’t damage the leather.

Cleaning Your Vehicle’s Exterior

A vapor steam cleaner is an excellent choice for cleaning your vehicle’s exterior. The built-in pressure washer can quickly remove dirt, grime, and mud from your car’s surface. And the steam setting is perfect for cleaning delicate materials such as convertible tops and vinyl roofs.

When using a steam cleaner on your car’s exterior, be sure to use the correct attachment. The brush attachment can help loosen the dirt, while the steam nozzle can blast away stubborn grime. Be careful not to use too much pressure, or you might damage the paint.

The Best Machine for the Job

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between a steamer and an extractor. The best way to make a decision is to assess your specific needs. For example, a vapor steam cleaner is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a machine to tackle surface-level dirt. However, a carpet extractor is your best bet if you have to deal with a heavy-duty cleaning job.

Choosing the right car cleaning method is critical to getting the best results. When you’re looking to clean sensitive surfaces or clear out stubborn dirt and grime, the right machine can make all the difference. So be sure to do your research and choose the best option for your needs.

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