SAN DIEGO — An industrial-grade dry vapor steam machine produces super-hot steam, typically above 300° F. This heated vapor has strong cleaning power but extremely low water content. Additionally, the steam will kill microorganisms on contact, so you are essentially sanitizing while you clean (a great fact for marketing).

The biggest benefit to the express customer is that the carpets and seats are virtually dry upon return. There are two reasons for this. First, the steam machine is only infusing moisture into the top of the carpet or cloth fibers. Second, the amount of water used is a fraction of what is used by an extractor.

Here’s how it works: The typical industrial steam machine will include a large, triangle-shaped nozzle over which a non-dyed towel is wrapped. As the technician moves the nozzle over the surface to be cleaned, the steam pushes through the towel and emulsifies dirt and grime, which is then caught by the towel. Steam is also a great way to quickly clean and sanitize leather seats.

The steam machine’s limitation is that it is not going to be good for deep cleaning or heavily-soiled carpets. In truth, the time it takes to process such carpets should really disqualify them from an express service. However, I know it’s hard to say no to these customers, so keep the hot-water extractor around.

Here’s another advantage of using steam for express carpet cleaning. Because the mats do not have to be removed to allow them to dry, the mats can be cleaned in place. Since the mats can be cleaned in place, the carpeting immediately underneath the mats does not have to be cleaned. I recommend that express carpet and mat cleaning services only include the mats and exposed carpeting around the mats. This makes a lot of sense in the express world because the carpeting under the mats is rarely in need of cleaning and is seldom seen by the customer. Since the carpets under the mats are not cleaned, they don’t have to be dried; so the mats can stay right where they belong. And, the customer no longer has to worry about reinstalling the wet mats that have been thrown in the trunk.

This section was pulled from Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s July feature, “New innovation in interior express detailing.” You can read this article in its entirety here.