Best Steam Cleaners for Car Detailing: Full Steam Ahead

Top 8 Best Steam Cleaners

best steam cleaners for car detailing full steam ahead

Every single gearhead reading this enjoys a clean car. Whether we take the time to actually remove life’s various and sundry detritus, well, that’s a different story. We all know people whose engine compartments are tidier than their passenger compartments.

Hoovering the carpets and seats only removes so much dirt, as those ads for commercial-grade steam cleaner rentals used to so graphically demonstrate. These days, portable steam cleaners abound, meaning those of us who decide to give our car a really good scrub needn’t venture to the Kroger across town that’s really scary after 4 pm.

Keep in mind these units can be used in the house, too, in case your other half is questioning your financial investment on one of these things. Dirt begone!

Table of Contents

1. Editor’s Choice: Bissell SpotClean ProHeat Portable

Sticking with a well-known name brand doesn’t always work (witness the near-useless belt sander lounging in your author’s tool box) but it is generally a safe bet. Bissell has been in the vacuum and steam-cleaning business approximately forever, or at least long enough that most of us can remember Rod Roddy describing the things as part of a showcase showdown.

This unit is about a foot square but only six inches wide, meaning it’s easy to plop on the seat while cleaning the interior of your beloved Lincoln Continental. Bissell’s heatwave technology helps maintain water temps during the cleaning process, meaning hot tap water is all that’s needed. A nattily-named HydroRinse feature cleans the hose after use to remove built-up crap which could cause a lingering odor. Three tools of varying size are included to ensure you can reach every nook and cranny.

Pros

  • Requires just hot tap water, different sized cleaning tools, post-clean rinsing

Cons

  • Weighs about nine pounds

Sticking with a well-known name brand doesn’t always work (witness the near-useless belt sander lounging in your author’s tool box) but it is generally a safe bet. Bissell has been in the vacuum and steam-cleaning business approximately forever, or at least long enough that most of us can remember Rod Roddy describing the things as part of a showcase showdown.

This unit is about a foot square but only six inches wide, meaning it’s easy to plop on the seat while cleaning the interior of your beloved Lincoln Continental. Bissell’s heatwave technology helps maintain water temps during the cleaning process, meaning hot tap water is all that’s needed. A nattily-named HydroRinse feature cleans the hose after use to remove built-up crap which could cause a lingering odor. Three tools of varying size are included to ensure you can reach every nook and cranny.

2. Low Buck Choice: Comforday Steam Multi Purpose Handheld Cleaner

If all you need is a quick fix ahead of selling a car on Craigslist or getting the remnants of last night’s party out of your parent’s Jag, this el cheapo steam cleaner might just do the trick. The listing says it includes nine pieces but, like that 390,982-piece socket set advertised at AutoZone, 75 percent of those pieces are small bits you’ll never use.

Also, the seller notes it works best on hard surfaces, though it does specifically list car seats as a cleanable item. Don’t expect it to perform the deep clean provided by more robust units like the Bissell listed above, however. Classified as a handheld pressurized steam cleaner, it’ll probably even de-wrinkle your slacks.

Pros

  • Very affordable, small size

Cons

  • Not the best for a deep carpet clean

If all you need is a quick fix ahead of selling a car on Craigslist or getting the remnants of last night’s party out of your parent’s Jag, this el cheapo steam cleaner might just do the trick. The listing says it includes nine pieces but, like that 390,982-piece socket set advertised at AutoZone, 75 percent of those pieces are small bits you’ll never use.

Also, the seller notes it works best on hard surfaces, though it does specifically list car seats as a cleanable item. Don’t expect it to perform the deep clean provided by more robust units like the Bissell listed above, however. Classified as a handheld pressurized steam cleaner, it’ll probably even de-wrinkle your slacks.

3. Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner

This behemoth weighs nearly 20 pounds and measures 16 inches square. What it lacks in portability, though, it more than makes up for in usefulness. A true steam cleaner that forces water into and out of itself, twin tanks separate clean and dirty water which makes the task of cleaning a lot simpler.

A retractable handle and dual wheels remind your author of those oversized rollerboard suitcases that people invariably try and stuff into the overhead compartment of a CRJ airplane. Motorized brushing heads does the scrubbing for you, negating the need to build yourself up like Popeye before cleaning the car.

Pros

  • A true steam cleaner, scrubs deep to lift and extract stains

Cons

  • Heavy, expensive

This behemoth weighs nearly 20 pounds and measures 16 inches square. What it lacks in portability, though, it more than makes up for in usefulness. A true steam cleaner that forces water into and out of itself, twin tanks separate clean and dirty water which makes the task of cleaning a lot simpler.

A retractable handle and dual wheels remind your author of those oversized rollerboard suitcases that people invariably try and stuff into the overhead compartment of a CRJ airplane. Motorized brushing heads does the scrubbing for you, negating the need to build yourself up like Popeye before cleaning the car.

4. McCulloch MC1230 Handheld Steam Cleaner

Similar in style but marginally more powerful than the cheap cleaner listed two units above, this unit will also do a good job of steam cleaning hard surface items and getting crud off the top layer of carpets. For a very deep clean of those rugs in the car, though, you’ll probably want to keep reading.

A lockable steam trigger allow you to continuously blast through the task at hand, while its 6 oz. water tank heats up in three minutes and provides up to 10 minutes of continuous steam, according to the seller. No fewer than eleven accessories and a 15-foot long cord ensures you should be able to reach every crevvie of the car.

Pros

  • Auto trigger, great for a quick fix

Cons

  • Not for comprehensive cleaning duties

Similar in style but marginally more powerful than the cheap cleaner listed two units above, this unit will also do a good job of steam cleaning hard surface items and getting crud off the top layer of carpets. For a very deep clean of those rugs in the car, though, you’ll probably want to keep reading.

A lockable steam trigger allow you to continuously blast through the task at hand, while its 6 oz. water tank heats up in three minutes and provides up to 10 minutes of continuous steam, according to the seller. No fewer than eleven accessories and a 15-foot long cord ensures you should be able to reach every crevvie of the car.

5. Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner

This steam cleaner is advertised as an efficient, ultra-reliable do-it-all cleaning and sanitation solution. Its sellers describe it as being designed for performance and ease of use to deliver the cleaning power of much larger professional units. It is designed to easily remove dirt, grease, and stains while killing 99.9 percent of bacteria.

A large capacity tank hold 54 oz of water (that’s 1.6L in Roman Catholic) providing nearly an hour of cleaning time. Its retractable handle and white cube shape gives it a look of an iMac or some prop from a futuristic movie. That water will be heated to 275 degrees F, by the way, so use caution around this thing to avoid burns.

Pros

  • Great reviews, lots of attachments, looks like it’s from the future

Cons

  • Cubic dimensions are bulky

This steam cleaner is advertised as an efficient, ultra-reliable do-it-all cleaning and sanitation solution. Its sellers describe it as being designed for performance and ease of use to deliver the cleaning power of much larger professional units. It is designed to easily remove dirt, grease, and stains while killing 99.9 percent of bacteria.

A large capacity tank hold 54 oz of water (that’s 1.6L in Roman Catholic) providing nearly an hour of cleaning time. Its retractable handle and white cube shape gives it a look of an iMac or some prop from a futuristic movie. That water will be heated to 275 degrees F, by the way, so use caution around this thing to avoid burns.

6. Homegear X100 Portable Professional Multi Purpose Steam Cleaner

Here we find a steam cleaner that packs an adjustable steam temperature and a 33 oz water tank. Its corrugated-style hose measures very nearly five feet in length, meaning the actual cleaning unit can remain outside the car while you go to town on those Dorito and Cheez-It messes on the dashboard.

Two cleaning pads are included but more than a couple of users report that this machine benefits from extra steam cleaning liquid if one is trying to remove a rancid stain from a cloth surface (think milk spilled in the back of the car or something). Most customers seemed to use this on hard surfaces like removing rust from the inside of a dishwasher.

Pros

  • Lengthy cleaning hose, powerful motor

Cons

  • Works better on hard surfaces

Here we find a steam cleaner that packs an adjustable steam temperature and a 33 oz water tank. Its corrugated-style hose measures very nearly five feet in length, meaning the actual cleaning unit can remain outside the car while you go to town on those Dorito and Cheez-It messes on the dashboard.

Two cleaning pads are included but more than a couple of users report that this machine benefits from extra steam cleaning liquid if one is trying to remove a rancid stain from a cloth surface (think milk spilled in the back of the car or something). Most customers seemed to use this on hard surfaces like removing rust from the inside of a dishwasher.

7. McCulloch MC1375 Canister Steam System

Here’s an option from a manufacturer already profiled in this post. This time, they are offering a more robust steam cleaner, one that’s definitely not handheld but certainly is equipped to get rid of dirt and grime. Its water tank is a healthy 48 oz, fully heating up in under 12 minutes according to the seller.

Twenty cleaning accessories are included although, like all good retailers, it is also recommended to buy a couple of extra items - replacement microfiber scrubbing pads in this case. Said to provide about 90 minutes of continuous steam, only the most ardent of car detailers will run out of actual steam before running out of steam themselves.

Pros

  • Long cleaning time, large water canister

Cons

  • Not cheap

Here’s an option from a manufacturer already profiled in this post. This time, they are offering a more robust steam cleaner, one that’s definitely not handheld but certainly is equipped to get rid of dirt and grime. Its water tank is a healthy 48 oz, fully heating up in under 12 minutes according to the seller.

Twenty cleaning accessories are included although, like all good retailers, it is also recommended to buy a couple of extra items - replacement microfiber scrubbing pads in this case. Said to provide about 90 minutes of continuous steam, only the most ardent of car detailers will run out of actual steam before running out of steam themselves.

8. AutoRight C900054.M Red SteamMachine

This reasonably priced steam cleaner makes no bones about its intended use, placing the word ‘auto’ right in its name. The SteamMachine (a great marketing flourish) uses pressurized, 290 F high-temperature steam to loosen and dissolve dirt, cut grease and grime, and disinfect your vehicle. The seller asserts that this steamer is versatile and can be used for a wide variety of car cleaning projects.

Speaking specifically to gearheads, the authors of the listing say that buyers can clean soft vehicle surfaces like leather and cloth upholstery while also tackling hard surfaces such as dashboards and windows. Eleven accessories should provide a tool for just about every job. Its 40oz boiler tank and 1500w heating element provides up to 45 minutes of steady cleaning.

Pros

  • Built and marketed specifically for car cleaning, large capacity boiling tank

Cons

  • Middling customer reviews

This reasonably priced steam cleaner makes no bones about its intended use, placing the word ‘auto’ right in its name. The SteamMachine (a great marketing flourish) uses pressurized, 290 F high-temperature steam to loosen and dissolve dirt, cut grease and grime, and disinfect your vehicle. The seller asserts that this steamer is versatile and can be used for a wide variety of car cleaning projects.

Speaking specifically to gearheads, the authors of the listing say that buyers can clean soft vehicle surfaces like leather and cloth upholstery while also tackling hard surfaces such as dashboards and windows. Eleven accessories should provide a tool for just about every job. Its 40oz boiler tank and 1500w heating element provides up to 45 minutes of steady cleaning.

FAQs

Which steam cleaner is best for car detailing?

Although you may have your personal preferences about which brand is the best, a few steam cleaners that have received a good number of positive reviews from Amazon users are listed below:

Wagner Spraytech ( Buy here!)

This comes with 18 useful accessories and weighs around 6.08 Kilograms.

PurSteam ( Buy here!)

A steam cleaner with 9 attachments for different purposes, this piece of equipment weighs around 2.37 Kilograms.

Is steam cleaning good for cars?

Yes. In fact, it’s the best treatment that you can give to your car without harming its exterior or interior. Some noteworthy advantages of steam cleaning are:

For Exterior

Paint Protection

Using harsh chemicals to wash your car can be harmful to its color in the long run, especially if you are using hard-bristled brushes for cleaning. When you apply steam with pressure, the heat loosens the stubborn debris and the pressure removes those particles without leaving any scratch marks or damaging the paint.

Easy Residue Removal

Steam cleaning eliminates the use of chemicals and hard brushes merely to get rid of dirt and grime that the exterior of the car gets covered with over time. This not only maintains the finish of the vehicle’s body but also keeps it hygienic and environment-friendly.

Streak-Free Windows

If hard chemicals are not properly washed away from window glasses, the panes get streaky and look pretty nasty. With steam cleaning, no such elements are left behind as the heat and pressure clear them off leaving streak-free windows.

For Interior

Narrow/Small Area Reachability

Steam pressure allows you to clean the areas of the interior of your car that are not easily reachable.

Easy on Fabrics

A good-quality steam cleaner sprays as low as 5 percent of water while cleaning. This dries the fabric almost instantly after the process is complete. Furthermore, the smaller percentage of water doesn’t harm the quality of the leather that your car seats may have.

No Odors and Stains

The heat that steam cleaning dissipates cleanses your car and disinfects it from harmful bacteria and other microscopic organisms that are responsible for bad odor and stains. As a result, you get a clean and hygienic interior for safe long journeys.

Are steam cleaners good for car seats?

Yes, they are, as long as you are using one from a reputed brand. A quality car steamer uses as less as 5 percent of water to generate steam. If you rub the seats with a soft microfiber cloth while steam cleaning, they last comparatively longer as such an insignificant amount of fluid reduces the chances of leather getting damaged to almost nil.

What is a good car steamer?

Choosing a good steam cleaner for your car could be a challenging task, especially when there is a wide range of options available in the market. Regardless of the brand you pick, some important factors that make a car steamer good include:

Tank Capacity

Because steam cleaners use water, the capacity of the tank must be taken seriously. A cleaner with a smaller water tank will require frequent refilling and you will end up wasting more time than saving it. Therefore, you must choose a cleaner that can hold a good quantity of water so you can use the piece of equipment for longer durations uninterruptedly.

Accessories

You must always check which accessories are in the box of the cleaner you are planning to buy. Some important attachments that you should look for are nozzles, additional cleaning heads, extender hose(es), etc.

Special Accessories

Although you don’t need any harsh chemicals with steam cleaners, there might be instances when bleaches or other cleaning solutions become mandatory to get rid of stubborn stains and grimes. Therefore, it would be good if the steam cleaner that you buy also allows you to use such substances to get rid of those unwanted foreign elements.

Portability

Unless you are buying for commercial purposes or a service station, choose a steam cleaner that is portable so it is easy to carry and move around, and also consumes less power than heavy-duty car steamers.

Price

A car steamer is an important product, alright. However, make sure not to go for something too expensive. A wise approach would be to assess the number of times you’ll use the piece of equipment in a month, check your budget, and then invest your funds in it accordingly.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits and operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: MariaNikiforova / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

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 2 comments
  • Orange260z Orange260z on Dec 01, 2021

    Please correct this advertorial - items #1 & 3 are NOT steam cleaners, they are spot cleaners. They have a place in any enthusiast's detailing arsenal (ie for washing carpets or fabric upholstery) but should not be used for leather, headliners, dashboards,etc as you could with a steamer.

  • RHD RHD on Jun 29, 2022

    If journalism were a specialty butcher shop, this type of shilling article would be the equivalent of generic hot dogs.

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