Steam is the gaseous form of water, created by heating water past its boiling point. This heat remains in the steam as it passes through a steam cleaner and into a stain, allowing the heat to be transferred to the soil or stain particles. Many stain particles are sensitive to heat and will begin to break down as they become hotter. This can cause adhesive components of a stain or soiled area to melt or otherwise lose their adhesion, allowing the remaining soil particles to be easily brushed or washed away. The heat can also kill a number of potentially harmful microbes, resulting in a more sterile surface that is much less likely to transfer illness.
Because steam is a form of water, it can be used to moisturize dried soil particles in order to break them up. The fine water particles that make up steam can penetrate deeper into stains and soiled areas than liquid water can, allowing it to moisturize deep inside the dried portions of the stain. As moisture penetrates into the drier parts of a soiled area it can cause expansion within the stain particles, leading to small cracks forming within them. These cracks allow even more moisture to penetrate the soil particles, resulting in the dried stains breaking up for easier cleaning.
Depending on the steam application method that is used, the steam can be under pressure when it encounters a stain or soiled area. This pressure can aid in the breaking up of soil particles and can also speed up the penetration of stains by the steam's moisture. The pressure exerted by some steam machines can also be sufficient to remove small portions of soil particles by itself as well.
Cleanup After Steam Cleaning
Though steam cleaning is useful in breaking up the adhesives that hold the dirt of soiled areas together and in moisturizing dried stains, steam is often used in conjunction with other cleaning materials in order to produce desired results. Loose soil particles may be wiped up with a towel or other cloth; a vacuum may be used to clean up areas that a towel could not get clean. Steam may also be used as an initial sanitizing or moisturizing component before dirty areas are scrubbed using brushes and other cleaners.