Steam technology is nothing new. Whether it be the old steam-engine trains, tea kettles or clothes irons — we’ve been harnessing its power for some time. But lately, you’ll notice that home appliance makers are getting on board too. It’s the hot new innovation in washers, dryers, dishwashers and even ovens — but steam power is more than just a passing trend.
Considering the demand for more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly appliances these days, it makes sense that more and more appliance owners are turning to steam technology. It’s also one of the best ways to get something really clean, even sterilized, whether you’re loading up the dishwasher or tackling stubborn grass stains.
Steam power is pretty neat, and can be useful for all kinds of household tasks from cleaning to de-wrinkling and even cooking. But is it a priority feature in your next appliance? It may depend on what you need and when you need it. More after the jump:
Steam washers feature nozzles that release steam or heat water in the tub. This pre-treats stains and effectively dissolves detergent during the wash cycle. Steam dryers penetrate and moisten fabrics to help soften items and reduce wrinkles. The high temperature further sanitizes clothes and helps eliminate odors.
- Stain-Fighting Power — Steam washer cycles use higher temperatures and improved cleaning performance to pre-treat and dissolve tough stains.
- Less Energy, Less Water —Steam washing machines use less energy and less water than traditional models. Small amounts of water can create a lot of steam to fill up the tub and soak fabrics more thoroughly.
- Sterilization/Allergen Wash Cycles — When steam is added in the post-wash phase, higher temperatures sterilize clothes. Many models also feature allergen steam cycles to gently remove common household allergens like dust mites and pet dander.
- Soft, Wrinkle-Free Fabrics — Steam complements water in the tub to keep fabrics soft and remove hard wrinkles formed during the tumbling process.
- De-Wrinkle Cycle — Steam dryers refresh and relax wrinkles from dry clothing in the time it takes you to get ready. They can also help alleviate odor build-up and freshen up dry clothes that may hold lingering odors (like cigarette smoke).
Traditional dishwashers usually produce steam in the drying cycle as leftover water evaporates. But a steam dishwasher uses steam during the washing cycles. Now that detergent manufacturers have eliminated phosphates, conventional machines are less effective at breaking up debris and caked on grease. Steam dishwashers don’t use steam exclusively, but feature steam cycles and settings that vary slightly by manufacturer.
- Better Cleaning — The power of steam helps to loosen caked on food before normal wash cycles, eliminating the need to manually rinse dishes.
- Quieter and More Energy Efficient — Steam dishwashers are quieter and more energy-efficient than conventional models, but may take longer to get through the wash cycle.
- Softer on Fragile Dishes — Some models feature special settings that use steam to clean fragile dishes. Since steam doesn’t need force to clean, it’s great for fine china and glassware.
Steam ovens use super-heated steam to bake healthy, reduced fat meals that are also more moist and flavorful. Newer models also feature conventional dry baking.
- Healthy but Still Tasty — Steam ovens let you quickly make nutritional meals without drying them out, so you don’t need butter or sauce to make food more moist or flavorful.
- Cooks Fast, Replacing the Microwave — Reheat food with steam instead of the microwave. Leftovers taste like they did fresh out of the oven.
- Better for Bread Bakers — Steam is misted onto the dough in the beginning of the cycle to create a flaky brown crust on the outside, while staying moist on the inside.
Each manufacturer handles steam technology differently. So it’s important to research particular brand features before you decide if steam is for you. To get the straight facts on steam powered appliances, consult our appliance experts at AJMadison.com.