Where Does The Dirt Go When You Steam Clean?

If you’ve recently purchased a steam cleaner, you may wonder if you can really get rid of dirt using only hot water. After all, cleaning your home without chemicals seems too good to be true. You may also wonder: if a steam cleaner does remove dirt, where does it go?

This article will tell you once and for all if steam cleaning removes dirt and where that dirt goes when you steam clean. You’ll also discover how a steam cleaner works, what it’s capable of, and what items and surfaces you can and cannot clean with a steam cleaner.

Where Does The Dirt Go When You Steam Clean

Does Steam Cleaning Remove Dirt?

Steam cleaners don’t remove dirt from surfaces. Instead, they loosen the dirt so you can easily remove it with a cloth or vacuum. If you’re using a steam cleaner with a mop attachment, the mop head will remove the dirt from the area as you go.

Where Does The Dirt Go When You Steam Clean?

As a former housekeeper who has used steam cleaners often throughout her career, I can tell you that the dirt doesn’t go anywhere. Instead, steam cleaners use hot water to loosen dirt from all types of surfaces, making it easier to clean it up with a cloth or vacuum cleaner.

How A Steam Cleaner Works

A steam cleaner uses heat and water to create a low-moisture vapor that can loosen dirt and kill allergens like mold and dust mites, as well as harmful bacteria like staph and strep.

This vapor can even break down grease and oil, making it easier for you to wipe them clean. Steam cleaners are quiet and mess-free, so you can use them almost anywhere.

What Can You Clean With Your Steam Cleaner?

When people think about using steam cleaners, they tend to consider the usual suspects, like their kitchen floor and countertops or their carpet and sofa.

These areas are a good place to start, but there are so many other things that would benefit from steam cleaning. Hard-to-reach areas and appliances that collect a lot of grime, like the ones listed below, are ideal candidates for steam cleaning, but it’s not an exhaustive list.

Look around your home and let your creativity guide your cleaning.

what you can safely steam clean

Ceiling Fans

Using your steam cleaner’s hose attachment, you can remove the dirt from your ceiling fan blades. Just use it as you would on any other surface and gently wipe the dirt off with a soft cloth.


This is another job for the hose attachment. Steam cleaning your curtains will break down dust particles in the fabric, kill any bacteria on them, freshen the fabric, and remove wrinkles.

Just make sure the material isn’t too delicate to be steamed.

BBQ Grills

You probably wouldn’t think of using your steam cleaner on your grill, but steaming is a great way to remove all the grease and stuck-on food particles from your grill rack.

Just steam it like you would any other surface and wipe the loosened dirt off with a cloth. 

Pet Cages

Cleaning pet cages with a steam cleaner is ideal because it doesn’t involve any chemicals, so it is safe for your pet.

Using steam to clean cages loosens dirt and grime, removes odor, and kills the bacteria that build up between cleanings.

Wipe it down with a clean cloth after steaming, then replace your pet’s bedding and accessories and return them to their fresh, clean home.

Patio Furniture

You already use your steamer on your couch and chairs inside, so it makes perfect sense that you can also use it to clean your patio furniture.

Steam cleaning makes it easy to remove dirt that your dog may have dragged around (it also works well for removing fleas from carpets). It also makes it simple to get bird poop and the bacteria that goes with it out of your outdoor furniture.

Vehicle Upholstery

If your car has cloth upholstery, you can clean it quickly and efficiently using a steam cleaner. Just fill up your steamer, grab an extension cord, and get to work.

In no time, you’ll be able to get out all those nasty stains and odors that your kids and pets leave behind, leaving you with a nice, clean vehicle.


Grout between tiles is notoriously hard to clean. There’s not much space to get in there and scrub, so lots of dirt gets trapped between tiles.

Steam cleaning loosens that grime so you can easily wipe it away without using a lot of elbow grease.

What Should You Not Steam Clean?

Now that we talked about everything you can clean with a steam cleaner let’s take a look at what you shouldn’t steam clean.

surfaces not to steam clean

Painted Surfaces

Walls and furniture that are painted with water-based paint, should not be steam cleaned. The heat and water combination can make the paint bubble and peel.

Delicate Fabric

Delicate fabrics like silk and wool shouldn’t be steam cleaned. The moisture could leave marks on the material or shrink the item you’re trying to clean.

Unsealed Surfaces

You should never steam clean unsealed surfaces like unsealed hardwood floors, vinyl floors, marble, concrete, or natural stone. Using steam can cause pressure inside these surfaces and cause them to crack.

Flooring With Gaps or Cracks

Although using your steam cleaner on sealed hardwood floors is okay, you shouldn’t use it on parquet flooring. The steam can get into the cracks and cause the wood to swell.


Do Steam Cleaners Leave Surfaces Wet?

Since steam cleaners only emit 5% moisture, they will leave surfaces damp but not wet. If you’re cleaning material like curtains or carpet, it will take about 15 minutes to dry. If you’re cleaning a hard surface like tile floors or countertops, it will dry almost instantly.

Does Steam Cleaning Remove Stains?

Steam cleaning can remove most stains from many surfaces, but some stains are either permanent or will need chemicals to get them out. For example, if you get bleach on your favorite dress, that bleach will bond with the fibers instantly, so you won’t be able to remove it.

Does Steam Cleaning Disinfect?

Yes, steam cleaning can disinfect almost any surface, eliminating both allergens and harmful bacteria. If you want to be sure that the surface has been sterilized, you’ll need to hold the steamer in place for 10 minutes. That’s not very practical for large surfaces like floors, but it can provide peace of mind with small items like teddy bears or pillows that can’t go in the washing machine.

Does Steam Cleaning Remove Odors?

Yes. Since steam cleaning is 99% effective at eliminating allergens and bacteria, it also removes the odors those contaminants leave behind. This makes steam cleaning an excellent way to refresh old furniture without using harsh chemicals.


Steam cleaners effectively destroy allergens, kill bacteria, and loosen dirt by using hot water. Although steam cleaning breaks down the dirt, it doesn’t remove the particles from surfaces, so you’ll have to clean the area with a cloth or vacuum.

The cleaning power of steam makes it easy to clean stuck-on dirt and grime from surfaces like:

  • Carpet
  • Indoor and Outdoor Furniture
  • Curtains
  • Counter Tops
  • Pet Cages

Make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions before using your steam cleaner on certain surfaces or delicate materials, so you don’t ruin them, and be sure to clean your pads regularly.

Shauna Stone