Clean a Car with Steam

Conventional methods for cleaning the exterior of a vehicle—such as pressure washing or handwashing—require gallons and gallons of water, yet you’ll still need separate tools and supplies to clean the interior (unless you’re you’re this person). With today’s widespread water shortages and the tightening regulations, or if you’re simply running a mobile car wash business and can’t bring hundreds of gallons of water with you to the job, “steam car wash” is quickly becoming the new standard for smart, efficient, and profitable car wash and detailing.

Using “dry” vapor steam produced by the Optima Steamer, a practiced operator can clean the exterior of a typical passenger car with as little as 1 gallon of water and can do it in as little as 15 minutes (obviously, your results may vary).

Not only is steam car wash a way to conserve water and bypass regulations, but because “dry” vapor steam uses a small amount of water to produce big, powerful, sanitizing effects, the Optima Steamer can be used on interiors, too, and can replace tons of the expensive and toxic chemicals you’ve been using. So with the Optima Steamer, you’ll be able to offer exterior and interior cleaning at any mobile location (which means you can offer convenience-based services at a premium), saving time by using a single washing tool (which means saving money on each job performed), reducing your reliance on specialty chemicals and supplies ($), and delivering results better than you were able to produce without the Optima, allowing you to offer your customers higher level services and making repeat customers out of all of them ($$$).


So, what differences are there in using the Optima Steamer in place of traditional washing techniques? How can steam clean a car? What techniques should you use? What should you be cautious of? Below are some insights we’ve collected from our customers who’ve made “Steam Car Wash” a thing and have worked best for most people. This info is not to be viewed as the Steam Car Wash Bible, but merely a starting point. As should be expected with professional, commercial cleaning equipment–especially the Optima Steamer, which produces high-heat, pressurized water–all situations should first be tested to make sure that no damage occurs.

Start in sections roughly the size of a quarter panel, work from top to bottom, and wipe from side-to-side as you apply steam at an angle in the direction of your “wiping-motion”.

Break down the dirt by spraying the steam directly onto the section you are cleaning — this “pre-rinse” is your first step — collecting dirt and grime in small water droplets as the steam builds up on the car’s surface. The vapor-steam separates dirt from the clear coat and/or wax. Steam does not harm a car’s clear-coat and actually rejuvenates wax. On a second pass — the “detailing-finish” — wipe in the same direction that you apply steam to take away dirt and grime as it is lifted from the car surface. Be sure to get the most out of your microfiber towel by folding it into fourths. This gives you eight surfaces to your towel when you use both sides.

The same technique can be used for all parts of the vehicle’s exterior, chrome, wheel rims, glass windows, headlights and taillights.

You can even remove the toughest build-up on the entire engine compartment and undercarriage of a vehicle as well. Watch as the heavy grease and oil on this 10 year old engine pan was removed effectively by adjusting the moisture control valve which increased the moisture content in the steam. The result is a clean oil pan with minimal runoff no need for chemical cleaners.

Recommended exterior cleaning accessories:

Steam is safe on all parts of the interior of a vehicle as well. Steam lifts dirt out of carpets, upholstery and leather, all while revitalizing these delicate materials in the process.

As with exterior cleaning, you’re going to continue working in sections. When using a standard nozzle, keep the nozzle 1 to 2 inches* from the surface of the carpeted material. Keep the nozzle moving at an even pace, slowing down on spots to target more stubborn stains and grime build-up.

* As synthetic materials found in carpet and upholstery vary by vehicle manufacturer, please test on a discrete area of the interior to find the ideal distance to keep the nozzle tip from the cleaning surface.

Recommended interior cleaning accessories:

    A1OptimaSteamer is your best resource for steam washing and cleaning solutions. We pledge a green future of the cleaning industry.


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