steam cleaning disinfects

Do Steam Cleaners Disinfect? Sanitize, Kill Germs & Viruses

Is steam cleaning effective for killing viruses and other microbes?

Yes, steam is very effective at killing viruses and other germs and can be used to sanitize your home. One of the oldest known way to kill virus and microbial pathogens is the use of heat and it remains one of the most effective ways to kill Viruses, Bacteria, mites, germs and fleas.

Early humans discovered this without realising it when they used fire to cook for the first time which make meat edible that would otherwise be spoiled. Every time we cook in our kitchens, we are using this same principle to keep our food safe for our families.

In fact, the Center Of Disease Control And Prevention recommend steam as the preferred method for sterilizing critical medical and surgical instruments that are not damaged by heat [1], and new research from Stanford AIM Lab has highlighted that heat and steam is an effective sanitization method for COVID-19.

If you’re sanitizing to prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19, follow guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your physician, as it overrides any information in this guide –  Make sure that you follow their instructions on how to protect yourself against COVID-19 on their Coronavirus (COVID-19) page but also be aware that steam is a well known and viable way to sanitize.

How does steam kill viruses and Bacteria?

Moist heat destroys microorganisms by transferring heat through the cell wall causing irreversible denaturation of enzymes and structural proteins [2]. This makes, steam cleaning is an extremely effective but often overlooked proven way [3] to sanitize and disinfect surfaces from viruses.

Okay so why don’t we use it much then?

We do! In fact, industrial steam cleaners exist for cleaning hospitals which are effective alternatives for sanitization in hospitals. They have high efficacy against multi resistant superbugs that have become resistant to all other treatments. At steamcleanerpro, we believe that steam cleaning will eventually become more well known as the last remaining weapon against superbugs.

Steam is actually so good that it has even been proven to be just as effective a stopping an outbreak of extremely contagious gastroenteritis as traditional hospital cleaning chemicals in a hospital ward [4].

POLTI Sani System, hospital grade steam cleaner


Do Steam Cleaners Sanitize and Disinfect?

Steam cleaning kills germs

Heat is a well known way to kill viruses an bacteria. Steam cleaners disinfect and kill 99.9% of germs by emitting steam at above 212 °F (100°C). Viruses an bacteria begin to die in mass at a temperature between 175 °F and 212 °F (80-100°C).

The amount of germs that die increased with exposure time, so to kill the most germs, keep them in contact with steam for as long as possible. 3 mins of regular passes across the surface is long enough to get rid of germs, dust mites, mold, and viruses without using chemical sanitizers.

With the dangerous coronavirus COVID-19 spreading rapidly in our community, it is now extremely important to ensure your home is regularly sanitised and disinfected. And if you run a specialty Airbnb vacation rental in your home or drive an Uber, it is your utmost duty to ensure that the space is cleaned after every visit or every day to keep your customers safe. A steam cleaner is just perfect for this.

How Long Does Corona Virus Survive On A Surface?

How long the COVID Corona Virus survives depends on the temperature and material. New research from the CSIRO in Australia shows that the corona virus can last for extended periods on most surfaces. The time it can survive is directly related to how hot it is.

Infographic showing that the coronavirus survivability depends on different temperatures and surfaces

How To Use Steam Mops To Sanitizing Floors

You need a lot of steam to sanitise effectively, so you need a high capacity, constant flow steam mop or canister steam cleaner with a steam mop attachment.

The best way to do this is to break the room into areas in your mind then steam clean area by area to ensure that you cover all areas. Be sure to go slow ensure sufficient exposure time to heat by going slow or mopping back and forth before moving ahead.

Please be mindful that you will need to remove and sanitise the pads in hot water and bleach after each use. Make sure that you have enough replacement steam cleaner pads and immediately wash your hands after handling them.

The Best Steam Mop to Sanitize Viruses and Kill Germs on Floors

Our choice for the best steam mop for sanitizing viruses is the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop. It is a well liked and great quality steam mop that kills kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria.

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How To Sanitize Benches, Handles, Door Knobs And Other High Touch Areas

Steam must be dry superheated vapor phase steam to kill bugs effectively. It is essential that you do not use steam that is below 212 °F (100°C)

If your steam cleaner is spraying water and not gas like steam, this spray is below 212 °F and you are in danger of spreading the virus, or worse, aerosolizing it into the air around you.

For this reason do not use a small handheld steam cleaner as they often do not meet this requirement. You need a high capacity steam cleaner that emits superheated steam vapor like a canister steam cleaner.

We recommend only using a high quality steam cleaner that is capable of consistently putting out lots of high quality vapor steam above 212 °F.

Only canister style steam cleaners are capable of this because they have larger tanks than handheld steam cleaners and are often designed to emit higher pressure steam for longer durations. The higher the pressure, the hotter the superheated steam will be from the unit.

Be careful to not let the steam pressure decrease too much by steaming for too long. Keep the Steam hot and strong but pausing and letting the pressure build up as you go.


The Best Steam Cleaner To Sanitise Viruses and Kill Germs on High Touch Surfaces And Handles

To Sanitize viruses and germs effectively you need a steam cleaner that has the following features:

  • High operating pressure
  • Can put out lots of steam constantly for a long time
  • Operates at a high temperature

Some of our favorite models are perfect for this. We recommend the following units:

McCulloch MC1375 Canister Steam Cleaner

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Dupray Home Steam Cleaner

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Dupray Hill Injection Commercial Steam Cleaner

Get this unit if you are using it in a school, hotel, restaurant or other large commercial venue.

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Best Steam Cleaner for Disinfecting Carpet & Rugs

If you’re trying to clean your carpet or rugs, you can still use a steam mop or steam cleaner to heat treat. Steam penetrates the surface to the lower layers applying heat low down. It is an excellent way to disinfect carpet rugs and fabric that surface sprays cannot even come close to.

If you need to clean up vomit or other messes you may need something else that can extract the mess. One of the best picks for this is the BISSELL DeepClean Lift-Off Full Sized Carpet Cleaner, 66E1 that has the heatwave technology that helps maintain water temperature throughout the cleaning process. It ensures that you continue cleaning while killing germs without worrying that your water is cooling off.

Make sure that you use a disinfectant in conjunction with this to ensure sanitization of the area. If in doubt or, as mentioned above, also use your steam cleaner over the area after using the carpet cleaner.

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The Benefit Of Using Steam To Clean, Disinfect And Sanitize

There are many reasons why you should steam instead of chemicals. The following are some of the benefits you will enjoy:

  • You can clean almost anything using steam. This includes your bathroom, toilets, floors, carpets, microwaves laundry etc.
  • Steam cleaning doubles up as a way of sanitizing as well as getting rid of bedbugs and fleas.
  • Some chemicals that are used for disinfecting services may be harmful to people who suffer from allergies. Steam cleaning is friendly to people with asthma because it gets rid of dust mites and other allergens on the surface.
  • Cleaning with steam is safe for children and pets.
  • Cleaning with steam is 100% natural. This means that it is also environmentally friendly.
  • Chemical disinfectants an additional budget. Steam canisters use only water which means they are way cheaper than using chemicals.

You can read more about the benefits of using steam mops in an interesting article I recently wrote.

Chemical methods of disinfection and sanitization kill 99.9% of germs just the way a steam mop does. However, why would you use a chemical method when a more natural method is available and can get the same result?


You should take some precautions when you want to sanitize your floor using a steam mop. Some people prefer adding chemicals to their steam mops in order to get rid of germs more effectively. In fact, I have seen people adding vinegar in steam mops to get a more powerful cleaning solution.

There are a few problems you’ll encounter when you use this option.

  • Some chemicals will not be friendly to the material of your floor.
  • Adding some chemicals can going clog your machine and cause damage to its parts. Be especially careful not to add corrosive disinfectants in your steam mop.
  • Do not be tempted to overheat the water in the tank in order to kill germs more effectively. This can damage floorings such as those made of hardwood, bamboo, and laminate.

It is recommended that you use the right temperature as indicated by the manufacturer of the steam mop you are using. This is the right way to get the best out of the machine.

Something you should remember is that not all steam cleaners are made the same. Some of them will do a better job of killing germs than others. So, what is the best steam cleaner for disinfecting?



How do I disinfect with steam?

Most germs are very resilient. Applying steam for a short period may not get rid of them. For this reason, you must plug in your steam mop and allow it enough time to heat up to the right temperature that can kill germs and disinfect your house.

Heat up to the right temperature. Most top-rated steam cleaners produce steam at the temperature of up to 245℉ (118.333 ℃). This is hot enough to kill 99.9% of viruses, germs, dust mites, and even allergens.

Expose germs to hot water vapor for 3 minutes. This ensures even the toughest of the germs get denatured by the high temperatures. This way, you’ll disinfect the floor and get rid of most germs, allergens, mildew, and viruses. Steam also kills fleas and bedbugs on carpets and floors.

How hot should steam be to disinfect?

In order to get the best out of your steam mop or cleaner, you have to ensure that you heat water to boiling point before you start sanitizing your house.

Try to achieve a minimum of 212 °F for the most effective cleaning and sanitization. Most residential steam mops such as Shark, Bissell and HAAN models will heat water up to the temperature of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ensure that you are getting enough heat of at least 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 ℃). This way, you will kill microbes such as Staph, salmonella, and E. coli that are very notorious at causing diseases.

High temperatures will be capable of loosening in grime, most types of dirt and oils that are stuck on the surface. The cleaning process will get rid of mold, mildew, germs, and allergens to leave your floor disinfected.

Note that for you to get the best results, you have to use a steam mop at the right temperature. Just because you’re getting steam out of the jet doesn’t mean it will disinfect your floor. You have to heat the water to a recommended temperature so that it can kill germs and bacteria effectively.

Steam Mop vs Chemicals for Sanitization

Perhaps you’re wondering whether to choose steam cleaning or just go with chemicals to kill germs and disinfect your floor. Harsh chemicals are exactly what they are – harsh – but they still get the job done.

The problem today is that cleaning gets rid of germs but if you use chemicals you introduce another problem on the surface. For us who have kids and pets especially crawling ones, you’ll likely harm them when you use chemicals to sanitize and disinfect your floor.

Best Steam Mop for Disinfecting Sealed Floors

Steam mops will do well and will remain safe for wooden floorings but may not be the best for laminate or tile floors. To help you choose the best, check out my reviews of the best steam cleaners for different purposes.

I love and recommend the best steam mop for killing germs on your floor is the Bissell PowerFresh 1940. It kills 99.9% of germs.

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Best Steam Cleaner for Disinfecting Floors

What is the best steam mop for sanitizing a floor? I prefer the Bissell PowerFresh 1940. It is widely accepted as one of the best steam mops on the market. 

Looking For More Steam Cleaners?

There are 100s of steam cleaners and one for just about everybody. Check out some of my other posts on steam cleaners by clicking the links below:




[3] Bagattini, M., Buonocore, R., Giannouli, M., Mattiacci, D., Bellopede, R., Grimaldi, N., Nardone, A., Zarrilli, R. and Triassi, M., 2015. Effect of treatment with an overheated dry-saturated steam vapour disinfection system on multidrug and extensively drug-resistant nosocomial pathogens and comparison with sodium hypochlorite activity. BMC research notes8(1), p.551.

[4] Abernethy, M., Gillespie, E., Snook, K. and Stuart, R.L., 2013. Microfiber and steam for environmental cleaning during an outbreak. American journal of infection control41(11), pp.1134-1135.

Does steam cleaning disinfect? Here's a guide.

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