In order to make money in the professional cleaning industry, your equipment should help you be both efficient and effective. When considering the addition of or conversion to a steam vapor cleaning system, begin by understanding the criteria you should be using to select a good steam vapor machine that will be a benefit to your business:
It should have both a reservoir and a boiler. This allows you to continuously fill the machine with water. You fill the reservoir with water, and the machine pumps the water from the reservoir into the boiler to heat it. The resulting steam vapor is then continuously available to clean with. You only have to pause in your work to refill the reservoir when you hear a warning beep. Depending upon the size of the reservoir and the boiler, you can work one to two hours between refills.
If the machine only has a boiler, which unfortunately is common among cheaper, smaller steam vapor systems, when you run out of water you must wait for the machine to cool off so it is safe to open the boiler cap (this could take as long as 20-30 minutes), refill it with water, turn it back on and wait for the water in the boiler to reheat. That could take about another 10 minutes.
Remember, the water in the boiler is under pressure, so if you don’t wait until the machine is cool to open the boiler cap the machine spits scalding hot water all over you as you try to unscrew the top, possibly causing 3rd degree burns.
The machine should reach a boiler temperature within the range of 280-310 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise you don’t get enough heat at the surface where you are working to get any cleaning done. Ideal surface temperature to clean with is 220 to 230 degrees. The hotter the water temperature, the dryer the steam, and the faster soil can be removed.
The machine should pull between 1500-1700 watts. Any lower and you don’t get the power to quickly heat the machine or maintain the heat. In the residential cleaning realm, any higher and you risk having to become familiar with where the circuit breakers are in your customers’ homes because you are constantly going to be tripping them.
In some of our older homes here in Charleston, we even have trouble with our 1700 watt machine and can’t use them in homes built before about 1950, even when renovated. We use only our 1500 watt machine in those homes and have to be careful not to plug the machine into circuits with a refrigerator; we are also careful not to plug our vacuum and the steam vapor cleaner into the same circuit at the same time.
The machine should have a way for you to control the temperature of the steam and the amount of steam pressure coming out of the hose. This feature is found on only more expensive steam vapor systems. Being able to control temperature and pressure is important for efficient cleaning. Low pressure/high temperature gives you the hottest steam vapor at the surface upon which you are working. This weakens the physical bonds that adhere dirt and stains to surfaces. At this level, typically more than 95 percent of the water leaving the appliance is converted into a superheated dry steam vapor which is also very effective at sanitizing.
At the other end of the spectrum is the high pressure/lower temperature. Turning up the pressure allows you to blow crud out of cracks and crevices that a scrub brush and chemicals could never reach, and that even high temperature,/low pressure steam vapor would have a hard time removing. This is a fantastic option to have in showers.
In considering how to carry and transport the machine from house to house, when we were looking at steam vapor machines we set our weight limit at 15 lbs empty.
We based this on the weight of our vacuums, since we knew what it was like to deal with carrying and transporting them. In our experience, it shouldn’t weigh more than 25 lbs full or your employees will never take it out of the car, and personally, a 25 lb machine is not something I would like to carry in and out of an average of three houses on a daily basis.
The heaviest ADVAP Ladybug, the Tekno 2350, weighs 13 lbs empty and 23 lbs filled with water in both the reservoir and the boiler. We have experience with our machines, so we know how to run them so the water level, and thus the weight, is low before we leave a job for our next house. This is another advantage to having a machine with both a reservoir and a boiler.
Many steam systems have a standard one year parts and labor warrantee with shipping included. The ADVAP Ladybug with TANCS has a three year warrantee on defective parts and an eight year warrantee on the boiler. On the rare occasion I was charged for shipping or labor, I was notified about it before I sent the unit back to the company so I could make an informed decision about whether to send it, and I was charged because it was a model over ten years old.
I can’t speak for any other steam vapor system, but the ADVAP Ladybugs require far less maintenance than any other piece of equipment we use. Regarding the actual machine, all we do is drain the boiler and reservoir once a month and check to make sure all parts and accessories are in good working order. This is the advantage of the TANCS system built into the Ladybugs. Tap water contains minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese) that have a tendency to build up in areas that contain water and form scale. TANCS keeps mineral scale from building up in the boiler, so you don’t have to descale the boiler with an acid cleaner every few days or weeks like other steam vapor systems. The ADVAP company is the ONLY steam vapor machine company that has this feature. This was a major reason we invested in the ADVAP machines, because the savings in time and labor from avoiding the descaling process was very important to us. The 2300s are especially maintenance free. All the accessories on all the steam vapor machines I looked at and tried are a heavy duty plastic, but they will break with rough treatment, like getting crushed between the top and bottom edges of the trunk or getting dropped. We do keep an inventory of the parts most likely to break. As with any piece of equipment, you learn as you go, but it really has been surprising how few big problems we have had.
Features that are really nice to have but are not necessary unless you care:
All steam vapor systems can clean, sanitize and deodorize, but only the ADVAP Ladybugs carry an USEPA Establishment Number as a device that disinfects surfaces. Ladybugs clean surfaces of a wide variety of pathogenic germs in seven seconds. In order to get that type of disinfection with another steam vapor system you would have to hold it to a surface over 45 seconds, which increases the risk of damaging the surface you are trying to disinfect. The TANCS system is also proven to be better at removing biofilm than regular dry steam vapor, which translates into faster cleaning. The Ladybug’s ability to disinfect is a very handy selling tool and has helped us develop a nice marketing relationship with a local hospital system.
Another big reason I chose the ADVAP Ladybug system is because the staff was able to answer all my geeky questions about how and why the system works. Everything you have read here I learned from them. I was very dissatisfied with the answers I got from other company reps, who I felt dodged my questions. I figured the service wouldn’t be much better. When I called or emailed ADVAP with questions or frustrations, they were very responsive with suggestions and techniques to try. The training videos that come with the Ladybugs are also great.
These are the criteria that we identified through extensive field testing of a variety of steam vapor systems as we sought to develop our Chemical Free Cleaning methodology. However, these criteria are independent of a methodology and are based on how you can measure the efficacy of the steam vapor cleaning system:
- does it remove soil?
- does it take more or less time to clean?
- does the machine work?
- is the machine reliable?
But above all, confirm for yourself that the machine you choose achieves the claims it makes BEFORE rolling it out as part of your cleaning system or methodology.