11 Surprising Things You Can Clean With a Clothes Steamer

steaming curtains

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Whether you have purchased a full-sized clothes steamer or have a travel-sized one tucked away, you probably aren't getting the most bang for your buck. While both are handy tools for removing wrinkles and stale odors from washable and dry-clean-only outfits, clothes steamers can do so much more around the house.

Tips for Using a Clothes Steamer

  • Check the temperature of the steam output. It must be 250 degrees F or above to sanitize surfaces.
  • Always use distilled water to prevent clogs and from leaving traces of minerals on surfaces.
  • If your steamer is sputtering, the vents are probably clogged. Clean them by adding a 50:50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water to the steamer. Run for the entire steaming cycle with the nozzle pointed into a sink. Add distilled water and run another cycle to flush the steamer. Repeat if necessary until sputtering stops.
  • Experiment with different nozzles—if you have them—for cleaning jobs.
  • Read fabric labels to avoid water-spotting or color bleeding and never use on delicate fabrics like silk.
  • Do not use on freshly painted surfaces, waxed and polished wood, musical instruments, and vintage finishes.

Steam Away Grease and Baked-On Food

Simply aim the nozzle of your clothes steamer toward a greasy pan or stovetop to loosen grease and baked-on food, making it much easier to wipe away with a microfiber cloth. This is particularly helpful on glass cooktops where abrasive cleaners can do damage.

Sanitize Solid Surfaces

If the steam output of your appliance reaches 250 degrees F, you can use it to sanitize solid surfaces like countertops, appliance handles, toilets, and sinks. No chemicals required!

sanitizing a countertop with a steamer
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Defrost a Freezer More Quickly

If you have a freezer that is not self-defrosting, use a clothes steamer to melt away any ice build-up more quickly. A few blasts of steam can also loosen up an ice maker that isn't working properly because it is jammed with too much ice.

Remove Labels, Stickers, and Wallpaper

A clothes steamer works wonders to help you remove labels from glass jars, stickers from windows, and wallpaper by melting the adhesive. Use it cautiously on anything that is made of particleboard and on unpainted surfaces. For stickers on fabric, follow up with a stain remover to get rid of the last bits of the adhesive.

removing a label with a steamer
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Refresh Drapes, Bedding, and Upholstery

You have probably used a clothes steamer to remove wrinkles from newly hung drapes or a new bed skirt. But that steam does a lot more than remove wrinkles, it also helps remove odors, dust, and even insects. When someone is ill and has spent a great deal of time on the sofa, use a clothes steamer to sanitize pillows and upholstery.

Tackle Carpet and Upholstery Stains

If you discover a ground-in stain on carpet, car seats or furniture upholstery, a blast of steam from a clothes steamer can help loosen it and make it much more simple to remove. Begin by holding the steamer at least six inches away from the stain and let it work for about 30 seconds. Blot the area with a clean white towel and repeat as needed until no more discoloration is transferred to the towel. You may still need to use a stain remover but the end results should be more successful.

Blast Away Mildew and Dirt on Grout

High temperatures and mildew don't go together, so use your clothes steamer to hit mildewed grout in tiled bathroom floors and shower enclosures. The steam will also help to loosen any dirt that has dulled the grout on floors in kitchens and mudrooms.

using a steamer on tile grout
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Loosen Soap Scum on Tiles and Shower Doors

Before you start to scrub, use some steam to help release soap scum from ceramic tile and natural stone walls, shower doors, and plumbing fixtures.

Make Windows and Mirrors Sparkle

Use steam to remove smudges and soil from windows and mirrors. Be sure to follow up with a lint-free microfiber cloth or squeegee to avoid streaks. You probably won't need to use any other cleaners.

cleaning windows with a clothes steamer
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Detail Your Car Inside and Out

No need to keep the clothes steamer inside only. When it's time to wash and clean your car, the steam is great for removing tough grime on hubcaps and bumpers. Use the steamer to remove stains on car upholstery, carpet, and floor mats. And don't forget to clean the windows and mirrors with steam to make them crystal clear.

Steam Away Germs on Toys

After any sniffles or even playdates, take a few minutes to give plastic toys and stuffed animals a good steam. The high temperatures will kill most viruses without harsh chemicals. Unfortunately, you should not use a clothes steamer on books, painted wooden toys, or any toy with paper decals.

Article Sources
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  1. Cleaning to Prevent the Flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.