Get listed in the Spick and Span Directory

Carpet Cleaning Issues - Carpet construction, upholstery cleaning, stain removal, equipment, events, etc.

Steam guns - what not to do with them

Posted by Alan_Kennedy (Alan_Kennedy), 22 December 2003
I've just bought a small steam gun for stain removal. Any advice on what it can do, or more importantly, anything you should not do with it?


Posted by Robert_O (Robert_O), 22 December 2003
Hi Alan

Take care on heat sensitive materials like Polypropylene, Acrylic velours, or polyesters, or generally synthetics. Using hot steam can burst open the twist, and reset the memory of fibres.  Steer clear from jetting down into a carpet or fabric, but try to jet across to minimise the amount of moisture penitrating the backings. Excercise extreme caution on dyed materials as 100 degrees of hot steam can quickly remove dyes within the fibres as effectively as it can remove the stain.

Often you find with the steam guns that they are a wet steam rather than dry, and the pressure is basically all or nothing. This makes them very easy to overwet if you are not careful. The larger steam units have a greater control of the output pressure using 'dry steam' which makes it far safer and controlable in use.

These steamers can be great for chewing gum removal.

I hope that helps


Robert Olifent
Posted by Derek (Derek Bolton), 22 December 2003

The 'man from Nottingham' is right... the small steam gun has limited uses (one being chewing gum removal)

If you are serious then go for the larger steam generators which, as Robert has said, gives you far more control.

Steam generators can be a useful bit of kit to have but do need a great deal of practice to get the best out of them.

Posted by Alan_Kennedy (Alan_Kennedy), 23 December 2003
Robert & Derek

Thanks for your advice. Much appreciated!


Posted by Caesar (Caesar), 27 December 2003
Go to the Ics bulletin board and search under Paul Brown...He has derived numerous uses for his...Email him a gewm of an individual on so many items ...
Posted by Ian_G. (Ian_Gourlay), 28 December 2003
So are you saying that all these people with home steam cleaners are damaging their carpets.
Posted by Robert_O (Robert_O), 28 December 2003
Hi Ian

I think that most well seasoned professional cleaning technicians within the industry understand that whilst heat is an effective source of energy to utilise within the cleaning process, it can cause damage if used inappropriately. Heat is only one in the list of armoury that we have at our disposal, along with Mechanical action, Chemical action and digestion, and even 'time' (dwell time of the cleaning agent). If we are aware that one source of energy i.e heat could potentially damage what we are cleaning then we are able to consider other energies within the cleaning pie to compensate for heat (or vica versa).

All I can do is to give you an outline of some of the experiences I have seen along my travels, and hope that this may help others steer clear of these hazards.

1.  Heat distortion on Pile fabric acrylic velour suites (Dralons).
2.  Burst twist of pile fibres using localised steam in removing gum.
3.  Breakdown of carpet latex adhesive holding the primary backing to the secondary backing.
4. Lines left in Polypropylene fibres with excessive heat resetting the memory of these heat sensitive fibres.
5. Distortion of cotton velour curtains and loss of lustre with steam cleaning unit.
6.  Distortion of synthetic velour curtains with steam cleaning unit.
6. Dyes taken out. and loss of colour on carpet, Upholstery, and curtains using steam.
7. Shrinkage of fabrics with steam heat, (and for that matter hot water extraction as well).
8. Cellosic Browning where incorrect angle of the steamer in use, has jetted directly in to the backing Hessian.

This should not be seen as purely singling out steamers, as many of these problems can occur with other cleaning systems as well. But as with any thing if someone does not understand the chemistry of cleaning and fibres, along with the appropriate cleaning techniques then they are leaving themselves wide open for problems.

I appreciate that many people will use these steam systems and have no problems, and at the end of the day it is not the equipment that should be blamed, as it certainly is a useful piece of kit. It is down to the operator to possess the knowledge in how to use, where to use and when to use, and most importantly: WHEN NOT TO USE!!!

I hope that helps to clarify my former posting for you.


Robert Olifent

Posted by Derek (Derek Bolton), 29 December 2003
Hi Guys

Robert has highlighted the reasons why I am always hesitant when referring to the use of steam.

I use steam, for stain removal, cleaning curtains in fact most of the bits and pieces that Robert has warned us about. The difference is that I have practiced techniques at home in the workshop
My steam unit has a control switch so that the amount of steam used can be restricted to the amount I wish to use... the small steam unit mentioned at the beginning of this thread doesn't have a control unit and tends to be saturated steam!

Posted by woodman (woodman), 29 December 2003
I use steam guns for stain removal but mainly I use mine in shops and hard floors to remove gum and any other unkown black marks on the floors.

Steam cleaning is becoming more popular as people strive to use less chemical and more natural to clean but at the moment the training is just  not there in the correct usage of the equipment.

Posted by Mike_Boxall (Mike_Boxall), 29 December 2003
It's interesting reading all the risks associated with using steam on carpets and I certainly wouldn't disagree with any of these theories. However, we sell 100's of steam guns mainly for chewing gum removal and I have yet to hear of a single problem as a direct result of using them.
I have to admit that the majority of them are for use on severly soiled carpets (particularly in schools and pubs) and it may well be that people accept the lesser of 2 evils - nothing looks worse than a carpet covered in gum spots!
When you consider that traditional freezer sprays rip the fibres from the backing AND it's backbreaking work, it's no surprise that steaqm cleaners are so popular.
Once you master the technique, there is absolutely no faster way of removing lots of gum spots than with a steam gun and citrus gel. As Robert said, the trick is to use the steam across the surface and literally 'peel' it off, before getting rid of the final tacky residue with the citrus gel.
With regard to the domestic machines people buy from high street retailers which claim to 'clean' carpets, quite frankly, they're being ripped off!
Recently, I was in Currys having a look at the Polti machines and one of the assistants started to 'sell' me one. He said about using it for carpets and I asked 'where does the dirt go'. His reply was 'it just evaporates' Roll Eyes
Posted by Mike_Boxall (Mike_Boxall), 29 December 2003

I once spilt a drink on a brand new suit and the only way I could get rid of the water mark (other than having it dry cleaned) was to 'mist' the area with a steam gun. I suspect it could be used in the same way on water marks on curtains and upholstery (subject to testing, of course Wink )


This page is a thread posted to the cleanitup forum at and archived here for reference. To jump to the archive index please follow this link.