Powered by an electric boiler, steam cleaning is effective at “melting away” grease and oils and removing soils and dirt from heavy equipment and process parts.

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Electric steam cleaners can provide steam and cleaning solutions at 328°F (165°C).

Steam cleaning is a process that uses steam (low moisture vapor) generated in a boiler via hoses, nozzles or other accessories to clean. Boilers heat tap water to high pressure to produce steam that can be applied to cleanable surfaces. The primary component of steam is heat, which is powerful enough to soften and break the physical bond between dirt or stains that stick to various surfaces. As a result, the broken grease, soil or other substances can be easily wiped off with a mop or towel.

Steam is nearly 100 percent effective in cleaning surfaces faster and easier. With its extremely high temperature, it can thoroughly clean and, in many cases, sanitize or disinfect surfaces without the introduction of chemical solutions. The environmentally friendly cleaning process is widely used in:

  • Cleaning heavy equipment and process parts - as well as non-process applications such as automotive engines, restaurant equipment and laboratory cages - before maintenance and service.
  • Removing grease and oil from surfaces and hard-to-reach areas such as corners in the food processing industry.
  • Preparing and pretreating metal surfaces before phosphating, powder coating or painting.

Steam Cleaning vs. Pressure Washers

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Using steam, or low moisture vapor, generated in a boiler can allow a processor to clean process parts and equipment with tools such as this steam wand.

Steam cleaners consume much less water than pressure washers. For example, some electric boilers use only 0.21 gal/min (12.6 gal/hr) of water. When comparing this to the 3.5 gal/min (210 gal/hr) of water that a 4,000 psi pressure washer uses, it equates to almost four 55-gal drums of waste or runoff. So, to achieve similar results on a cleaning job, steam cleaning uses less water than a pressure washer.

Electric steam cleaning also produces less water and chemical runoff than pressure washers. During cleaning with a steam cleaner, if the chemical is not needed, the operator can close the valve on the chemical injection line. Once the valve is closed, only saturated steam is released by device to rinse and dry the surface. Steam is effective in cutting through grease or oil and usually does not leave any residue.

By contrast, pressure washers can leave an oily residue on surfaces. Also, with a pressure washer, a whole rinsing process is required. In addition, an exhaust fan might be needed in the cleaned area, which incurs additional operating costs. Towel-drying - common in some pressure-wash cleaning applications - can further delay the process.

Electric steam cleaners utilize high temperature steam and a chemical mix - both typically at 328°F (165°C) - to dissolve grease, grime and oils. Such high temperatures are effective at “melting away” grease and oils and removing soils and dirt. It also dissolves cleaning agents better if chemicals are added to the process. High temperature steam can effectively clean dirt, soil and grease accumulated in hard-to-reach corners, creases and other difficult areas. It does not splash or generate excessive water runoff, unlike what can happen with a pressure washer. Cold-water pressure washers use high pressures - 4,000 psi - to push away the dirt and grime.

To produce the steam needed for cleaning, in some applications, an electric boiler can be installed adjacent to an application so a separate boiler room is not required. This can provide operating savings. Multiple certifications and approvals ensure the electric steam boiler is safe to use. Electric steam boilers should be designed and constructed to Section I, Parts PMB and PEB of the ASME Boiler Code. They also should be inspected and registered by an inspector commissioned National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors. Finally, other credentials to look for on the boiler include a cULus listing to UL Standard 834 and a design compliant with ASME CSD-1 for Controls Safety Devices.

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