Steam Washing Machines
Steam powered cleaning... is it any good and worth the money?
Sounds brilliant to many people in the brochure, a washing machine that cleans using the power of steam and reduces the need for ironing, a true wonder. Marketing departments around the world say it is so.
But, is it really?
From the standpoint of a service engineer, not really. All it does is put another component in there for a feature that people will rarely use and, when it goes it will cost about £100 to swap out the steam generator, even if it is never used.
It also makes working on washing machines with a steam function harder as there is less space in the box.
For service engineers, there's little advantage.
We don't see any point really and, we feel with good reasons that we will explain although it seems that this particular fad seems to have died out with few washing machines with a steam function now available.
If you think about it then you are blasting your clothes with very hot vapour and, as we know all too well, many people do not read or follow the wash care labels on their clothes and damage them just by way of the normal washing process. We help but wonder how many items get ruined by the steam function on washing machines and tumble dryers that have this function.
We persistently see people wrecking their clothes using the wrong cycles for the wrong fabrics as well as the wrong detergents (then blaming their washing machine) just because people don't understand this stuff properly. Plus, most instruction manuals that are written are, will we say, poor as they are often sort of translations from wherever and start off badly written. This does not help at all in allowing people to have the correct knowledge.
People are well aware of the benefits of using steam to clean things like glass, tiles, sinks and a myriad of other things and, for that it can work well. But this is generated under pressure and blasted at pressure from a nozzle to a very specific area to get the cleaning and antibacterial effects.
Clothes are different as you can't subject many fabrics to the very high temperature of actual steam that gives this cleansing and antibacterial benefit.
Then you have the design of the drum on a washing machine to deal with, it simply is not possible to get a jet of steam like that onto clothing. The steam has to disperse into the drum leaving you with a drum full of hot misty water.
What you get in a washing machine or tumble dryer that uses steam is a lower temperature water vapour or mist much like that you would find in a steam shower.
It's sort of like dunking your clothes in very hot water.
It's not going to offer some kind of mystical cleaning properties like some marketing guru would have you believe.
A washing machine or tumble dryer with a steam function will usually offer you a steam refresh cycle and this can work, to a degree.
It is principally for clothes that you have had laying in a cupboard for a while and you want to freshen them up a bit before wearing them. The clue's in the name.
Yes, a steam function will do this but it isn't really cleaning as such.
Steam Makes Ironing Easy
Easy hit for the marketing guys given everyone knows that irons with steam make ironing clothes easier. And, that's true.
Thing is though, how much does it help when the clothes are sopping wet at the end of the cycle?
The answer, not much. If at all.
Dried clothes put into the machine on a steam cycle can or should get a lot of the stubborn creases out and, for some people that may be good enough but for shirts and so on it is unlikely to remove the need for ironing at all. It may reduce the effort required, no doubt about that but it is unlikely to get the results that are often being claimed.
Steam Making Sense
A steam function on a washing machine makes little sense to us other than for a very niche audience or those easily persuaded to part with their cash for limited functionality. It is an easy sell as, much like the old Zanussi Jetsystem, people can see the steam in the machine and assume that it must be doing something, usually exactly what the marketing people told you that it would. If you choose to believe them of course.
We very much doubt that it will live up to the marketing hype and will offer limited functionality but it will cost you considerably more for a steam equipped washing machine over a similar model without it.
We would argue that you would be better to look at getting the best washing machine that you can for the same money, which will likely be a better washing machine rather that paying for a function that doesn't do what most people think it will.
Where a steam function makes more sense is in a tumble dryer where there is more scope for refreshing clothes and reducing wrinkles making ironing easier or, in a small number of cases, removing the need for ironing.
In a washing machine though, a steam function seems a waste of time and money to us.
It is great for marketing people though.