Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The evolving popularity of the vapor steamer

February 1, 2012

One of the most innovative pieces of equipment introduced to the detail industry has been the vapor steamer. What's interesting is it was presented to the industry over 15 years ago but was not immediately embraced. Why? The normal reasons that new innovations are confronted with: "It's not the way we do things," and of course the more than common, "It's too expensive."

However, today the vapor steamer has become as major a part of the detailer's equipment arsenal as has the extractor. The vapor steamer is an excellent tool for cleaning hard surfaces such as leather and vinyl seats, dashboards, door panels, ashtrays, map pockets, the insides of glove boxes, center consoles and even windows. They are an absolute necessity for removing stains from carpets and fabric upholstery. Systems are available for as little as $100 and can go up to $1,400.

Companies primarily from Korea and most recently from China have been trying to get the American market to buy into the larger vapor steamer systems they claim will wash the car without water. The claim is true, very little water is used, but these large systems cost as much as $6,000 to $7,000 or more, and the process is not exactly as good as they claim. After steaming the vehicle with the vapor steamer, the worker still must wipe the car down to get it clean.

It seems to me that you would be better off using waterless wash chemical, which you spray on the car and wipe off for a clean shiny car. The chemical costs no more than $20 a gallon and does the same job as the vapor steamer.

While the concept has not caught on in the U.S., it seems to be gaining in popularity in many Third World countries.