Written By
Published Jul. 24, 2018

The fabric in your car can, over time, take a real beating. Think about it, the driver seat has your butt on it for hours at time, while sticky kids, hairy dogs and your grubby cousin who only showers once a week sit on the other seats. If that wasn’t bad enough, just think of the carpets and mats on the floor – who remembers to wipe their feet before getting into a car?

If you like taking care of your car, chances are you have all the tools and know how to deep clean the bodywork and paintwork so you can see your own face and even make your tires sparkle like black diamonds.

But what about the inside of the car? Sure, you tackle the surfaces with a good vacuum cleaner every now and then, but for a truly deep clean you really need to harness the awesome cleaning power of steam. In this product guide we go through the best steam cleaners for cars on the market today and help you choose the right one to help make your car’s fabrics shine.

The Best Steam Cleaners for Cars:

 

Few manufacturers are as well known in the steam cleaning industry as Bissell, and the Bissell Little Green Portable Spot and Stain Cleaner is the perfect example of why. This compact steam cleaner can spray and lift away stubborn and stuck-in dirt and stains. It’s great for all your fabric upholstery, including rugs, seats, and armrests. You can also use it for almost all your household steam cleaning needs.

This model features a 3-inch spot cleaning machine with a long onboard hose and precision tool that’s great for getting into those tough-to-reach spots under seats and in corners. In addition, it includes an 8-ounce trial size of Spot and Stain formula with added Febreeze to leave your car looking and smelling fresh.

It comes equipped with a 15-foot long power cord, which doesn’t plug into your car’s 12-volt power supply, so you’ll likely need an AC power extension cord to be able to operate this little cleaner effectively. It’s also bulkier than some other options on our list.

From one of the cheaper models to one of the more expensive, if you have your eye on this yellow dirt destroyer then know it’s going to set you back a few bucks. That’s big money to drop on a steam cleaner, so what are you getting?

Well Vapamore say that this model is the result of an exhaustive period of testing and research and frankly it shows. What we have here is a phenomenally powerful steam cleaner, with a lot of that power coming from the internal stainless steel tank/heater unit. Because of that ultra tough material, the machine can generate extremely powerful jets of steam, with temperatures topping 200 degrees.

In addition to that this model comes with some high-end accessories. We’re talking everything from multiple Nylon brushes to a high-pressure nozzle and even a tool specially designed for cleaning fabrics. As we outlined above this is not a cheap model by any means, it is however an extremely well designed and built tool with a laundry list of impressive features.

Key Features
  • 1.6 Liter Stainless Steel Boiler
  • Very Well Designed
  • Creates Powerful Steam Jets
  • Includes Big Accessory Set
Specification
  • Brand Vapamore
  • Model MR-100
  • Weight 20.5 Pounds

If you like accessory options that let you get a thorough and customized clean, the Homegear X300 Pro Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner is a great option. This compact little steam cleaner is equipped with a small round brush, a large round brush, a window brush, a high-pressure nozzle, two different floor brushes, extension tubes, and more to ensure you always have the right tool for the job.

This steam cleaner works great on your vehicle and all-around your home to give you an in-depth, chemical-free clean. Use it on upholstery, carpets, floors, grout, windows, tile, ovens, and more. It offers 39 minutes of uninterrupted steaming time thanks to its generous 50-ounce water tank capacity.

This unit can reach a maximum temperature of 107 degrees Celsius, which isn’t the hottest on the market but is still sufficient. However, it does take an annoyingly long time of 12 minutes to fully heat up and be ready to use. It also only comes with a 5-foot long AC power cord, which isn’t the best for cleaning your vehicles.

First off all before we get down into the features of the particular steam cleaner, just take a moment to take a look at it. Wow! Honestly, this may be one the nicest, most modern items we’ve ever reviewed here at Car Bibles. This looks like the Apple iCleaner.

Aside from its looks, it also has some very impressive features. Just as with our first heavy duty cleaner we looked at above, this model is kicking out 1500 watts of power. That is converted into steam that can be set as high as 132 Celsius – hot and powerful enough for true deep cleaning.

We also have a very impressive 54 Oz internal water tank, which can supply steam for up to 50 minutes of cleaning time. Add in a 6 foot / 2 meter hose, a 16.5 meter power cord and 18 pieces of kit for true versatility and this is a very impressive steam cleaner.

You are looking at a price tag of around 22 bucks, which is a lot yes – but you’re getting an awful lot of very good quality car steam cleaner for your money here.

Key Features
  • High Temperature Steam
  • Great Looks
  • Big Internal Water Capacity
  • 18 Piece Kit
Specification
  • Brand Dupray
  • Model DUP020WNA
  • Weight 9 Pounds

So far we’ve had models that are built for mobility, and models that were a mixture of mobility and power, but now, with our second entry from McCulloch we have a product that is all about the power. The first thing you will notice is that this is an upright, canister design of steam cleaner.

On the one hand, that provides a little extra mobility for what is a pretty large product. The handle and the oversize wheels make it easy to move around. It frankly needs that ease of movement mainly to help you lug around the huge 64 Oz. internal water tank. That tank makes this bad boy very heavy, but it also gives it phenomenal spraying endurance of up to 120 minutes (2 hours!)

It’s also spraying out high quality steam here too, with an incredible pressure of up to 58psi. With the wide-ranging accessories kit you can attach a Nylon brush head for real deep cleaning on the vehicle interior, or go with the nozzle for direct steam powerful enough to lift caked on dirt and grime from just about surface.

Again, it’s not cheap with a price tag of about 200 bucks. Again however you are getting an awful lot of high quality steam cleaner for your money.

Key Features
  • Upright Design for Mobility
  • Up to 58 PSI Water Pressure
  • 64-Ounce Water Tank
  • 23 Accessories
  • 18 Foot Power Cord
Specification
  • Brand McCulloch
  • Model MC1385
  • Weight 13 Pounds

The first thing that jumps out about this steam cleaner has to be its resemblance to a traditional, pull along vacuum cleaner. That is no accident, and has been done to mirror the mobility and stability of those types of vacuum cleaners. Again, it also means that a fairly big tank can be squeezed inside, this time of 1.5-liter capacity for up to 45 minutes of steam run time.

In addition, you get a nice 18 piece accessory kit that also includes a wallpaper stripper accessory, something that you don’t often see bundled with steam cleaners too often. It also boasts a very useful 16-foot power cord, and the company offers a very impressive 5 year warranty.

With a price tag of just a little over 100 bucks, this is a heavy duty car steam cleaner from the cheaper end of the price range, and it is a more basic model with, for example, a little less accurate control of steam volume.

Key Features
  • Up To 45 Minutes of Steam
  • 16 Foot Power Cord
  • 5-Year Warranty
  • Great Value for Money
Specification
  • Brand Pure Enrichment
  • Model PEROLSTM
  • Weight 15.65 Pounds

This is one of products on our list that comes in at less than 100 bucks (though this model is only under by few dollars). That makes it less than half the price of some others on this list, so just what are you losing by going for a budget option?

Certainly not speed, or control. In terms of the former, a full tank of water is heated up and ready to go in about 5 minutes, making this one of the faster steam cleaners on the list – though it should be noted it also has one of the smaller tanks for a heavy duty style model.

Control is also nice and easy, with a handy button control mounted right on the handle. You are missing on endurance, with this smaller tank delivering steam for less total time than the larger, more premium models. The accompanying accessory pack is also a little light on variety compared to the higher quality models. Still, it will deliver a lot of good, deep cleaning steam whilst making a smaller dent on your credit card than many others.

Key Features
  • Long 8-Foot Steam Hose
  • Fast Water Heating
  • Easy Control
Specification
  • Brand Wagner Spraytech
  • Model 282201
  • Weight 16.4 Pounds

The cheapest non-handheld model on the list, and it’s pretty obvious that this is something of a basic model. It is for example lacking in the kind of control you would see on more premium models. Yes, it also comes with an 11 piece accessory kit, but this is not the versatility of tools you would see on even a slightly more expensive model of cleaner.

On the other hand, this tool has a 45 Oz. internal water tank for a total steam production time of up to 45 Minutes. It also has a 1500-watt heating unit that can generate a good head of steam to tackle deep cleaning. It’s also nice and small and compact, with a built in set of wheels for mobility.

To sum up then, whilst you are missing a few of the bells and whistles you would expect on a more premium model, you are getting a product that will certainly be useful in deep-cleaning your car with a price tag of well under 100 bucks.

Key Features
  • 45-Ounce Water Tank
  • 1500-Watt Heater Element
  • 15 Piece Accessory Set
  • Continuous Lock Trigger
Specification
  • Brand Steamfast
  • Model SF-370WH
  • Weight 8.42 Pounds

Effortlessly cut through the grease and dirt in your car’s interior with the power of steam. This impressive steam cleaner has a high-powered boiler that can generate 54 psi steam. It has a 1,500-watt motor and a 1.58-quart water tank. This gives you up to 45 minutes of cleaning time with one full tank. You’ll appreciate how lightweight the machine is at 7.7 pounds. You’ll have plenty of maneuverability thanks to the eight-foot power cable and 5.6-foot hose length. A standout feature of this steam cleaner is the variety of included attachments and accessories. It comes with two extension tubes, brush floor cleaner, floor tool swivel adapter, mini nylon brush, straight adapter, large nylon brush, towel bonnet, funnel, and jet nozzle attachment.

A potential drawback of this steam cleaner is that you have to wait for the steam to build up for it to spray at the promised pressure. Otherwise, it will eject hot water and not steam. However, you still get the same cleaning power from the hot water as you would steam.

Best Steam Cleaners for Cars Buying Guide

Looking at that list then and it is quite clear there is some variation in tools from one end of the price spectrum compared to tools from the other end. In this section we’re going to go over some of the features to look out for when shopping for your next automotive steam cleaner.

What’s more, we’ll also take a look at how to best use your new steam cleaner, as well as answer some of the most frequently asked question about these extremely useful tools.

Features to Consider When Buying Steam Cleaners for Cars

Mobility – You’ll have to make a trade off between mobility and power. So if you want a very mobile device, go for a handheld version. That way you can bring the unit right into the car with you so you have the power right there in your hand. It may also be easier to get the steam into tighter corners of the car interior.

Water Tank Size – The size of the tank will generally dictate the length of time that steam will be produced. Bear in mind though that water is quite heavy, so a large tank is going to make the cleaner itself heavier, especially when full. On the other hand, a larger tank is going to provide steam for a longer time, making it better suited to deep cleans through the entire vehicle.

Steam Power – It’s all about the steam power! Freestanding, heavy-duty cleaners will have 1500 watt heating elements to generate nice, hot steam. Handheld versions will have less power however. This goes back to that trade off between power and mobility we mentioned above.

Accessories – Check out the difference between the higher end (and more expensive) products and the more basic ones, and one of the big standouts is in terms of accessories the cleaner comes with. We’re talking both quality and variety of tools here by the way. The better cleaners will in general not only have better tools but also more of them, and they can really help you to get the most out of your new steam cleaner.

Steam Cleaners for Cars

Benefits of Using Steam Cleaners for Cars

Why invest the cash in a steam cleaner? Well, they can have a number of benefits, including:

  • Chemical Free. You don’t; have to add any cleaning agents to the water inside the cleaner. All you are using is the power of steam, which can be far less abrasive on many surfaces compared to some harsh cleaning products.
  • Because of the above, it is also a cheap option. Yes, you have to buy the steam cleaner in the first place. But once you’ve bought it, there is no more outlay. The machine runs on water alone, one of the cheapest things out there!
  • Multi-Use. You will have seen in the descriptions of many of these items that they have the power and accessories for all manner of tasks – from stripping wallpaper to cleaning grout and floors.
  • Easy to Use. Fill the tool, plug it in, wait for steam and clean. These tolls are both simple and effective!
  • Steamed Hams. Finally, and not many people know this, you can also use a car steam cleaner to make that most famous Albany delicacy, Steamed Hams.

Types of Steam Cleaner for Cars

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of steam cleaner, and we have examples of both on the list above.

Handheld – These models are all about mobility. They weigh about 4 or 5 pounds and are designed to be very easy to use. They sacrifice power and endurance to deliver convenience. They also tend to heat up quicker, as they have smaller water tanks. That makes them very useful for quick spot cleans if you notice patches of staining.

Heavy Duty – These models are about the power and the endurance. As bigger models, they pack in larger capacity water tanks and more powerful motors. That means they can generate powerful steam for deep cleaning action, and can continue to produce it for prolonged periods, cutting back on the water refills and saving you time. The downside to this is that they can be bulky, heavy and harder to move around – though if they are mounted on wheels that will certainly help.

How to Steam Clean a Car

The primary use of the steam cleaner is to tackle the vehicle upholstery, which is a pretty straightforward process. Some tips to ensure a good clean are:

  • Prep – Use a vacuum cleaner to remove as much surface dirt and debris
  • Pre-Treat – Get in there with a good leather conditioner or upholstery cleaner to start breaking down stains and dirt before you fire up the steam cleaner.
  • Clean a Small Section at a Time – Really work the steam into the material for a deep cleaning action
  • Allow to Dry – The last tip is to make sure all the upholstery and fabrics are left to dry thoroughly if possible, so leave the doors or windows open and park the vehicle somewhere warm if you can for easy drying action.
car Steam Cleaners

Car Steam Cleaner FAQ:

Q: What is a steam cleaner for cars?

It is a cleaning device. It generates a continuous flow of steam for a deep cleaning action on things like fabric and upholstery.

Q: How does a steam cleaner work?

It has an internal water tank, a heater and a pump. The heater unit raises the water temperature to produce steam, which is pumped out the device via the hose. Steam is a very effective cleaning agent for fabrics and upholstery.

Q: Where does the water of a steam cleaner for cars go?

Steam is concentrated hot water, so it is not going make surfaces as wet as some people fear. Much of it will be lost to evaporation, but of course some will also be found on the surface layers of upholstery and fabrics. This will also evaporate over time, leaving a clean and dry surface behind.

Q: Where does the dirt end up?

Some will be lifted away with the steam – either blasted off or carried away during evaporation. Much more however will be picked up by brush attachments and cleaning cloths, so it’s important to ensure you are getting as good quality accessories as possible.

Our Top Pick 

We said it right up there in its initial review, but the McCulloch MC1275 simply ticked all the boxes we were looking for. Power, duration and mobility are all combined here in a very well designed, very well constructed machine.

What’s more, with a price tag of just a touch over 100 bucks, this is not a product you need to sell a kidney for. In fact, since it comes with 18 high quality, extremely useful accessories it can be used for a number of cleaning jobs in and around the home too, making it even better value overall.

Sources:

  1. How to Clean Upholstery – Wikihow
  2. Benefits of Steam Cleaning – ServiceMasterClean

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