How Long Does Steam Take to Kill Bacteria?

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If there is one thing that both children and adults can agree on, it’s the fact that germs are icky. And no one wants to get sick, so it’s important to know how long different types of disinfectants take to kill bacteria.

Steam is an excellent natural sanitizer. In only 3-4 minutes, a steam cleaner can kill 99.9% of bacteria, at a temperature of just 175+ F. Fortunately, your average steam cleaner will reach up to 250 F. 

Steam is known for its ability to clean and sterilize surfaces. But how long does steam take to kill bacteria and can a steam cleaner sanitize? Keep reading to learn all you need to know about using steam to kill bacteria!

So, in just a few minutes, you can sanitize an area with a steam cleaner! 

Picture of a steam cleaner being used to get rid of bacteria.

What Can a Steam Cleaner Get Rid of?

Steam cleaners can tackle a variety of bacteria and health hazards, such as: 

  • E. Coli. This is a common bacteria in the digestive tract, but it will have a toxic effect when ingested from food or inhaled in the air. Acute food poisoning symptoms will follow. Fortunately, this is one that a steam cleaner can promptly get rid of.  
  • Salmonella. Salmonella bacteria can cause fever chills, abdominal pain, and more. It’s also quite common, which is why it’s a good thing you can get rid of it with a steam cleaner! 
  • Staph bacteria. Staph infections are not only unpleasant, but they can also be fairly serious. Fortunately, you can heat-kill them in just a few minutes, with a steam cleaner! 
  • Surface mold. Steam cleaners may not be able to get deep into the pours of the floor but it is very effective cleaning grout. This means that some below surface mold may remain, but surface mold, and the harmful spores it releases, will be made short work of. 
  • Viruses. Steam cleaning is a great idea if someone in the household has recently been sick. Or, simply as a preventative measure, to help avoid you and your household becoming sick.  

Along with bacteria, a steam cleaner can also eliminate most of:  

  • Dust mites. Did you know that dust mites are real? These insect-like creatures feed on organic matter in the dust, such as dandruff. They are known to cause mild irritation to severe allergic reactions when they’re breathed in with the dust in the air. You can get rid of dust and dust mites both with a handy steam cleaner! 
  • Bed bugs. Unfortunately, bed bugs are not just the stuff of bedtime stories; they are also real. More fortunately, they are also susceptible to steam cleaning power! Steam clean your mattress, and most will be gotten rid of (if any remain, steam clean a few times more). 
  • Fleas. Did you know that you can kill fleas with a steam cleaner? The first steam-cleaning will kill the larvae and adults, as well as some of the eggs, leaving behind only some eggs and the unhatched, cocoon-protected pupae. The steam will stimulate the eggs and pupae to hatch, however. This means that you can catch them one of the next times, you’ll just need to do it 2-3 times a week (until all of them are gone, which takes about 2 months, usually). 
  • Allergens. There are many allergens and toxins that a good steam cleaning can make quick work of. As a result, you can enjoy fresher bedding, carpets, furniture, and air! 

If you’re looking for a quality high-pressure steam cleaner to sanitize your home I recommend you check out the models sold on Amazon. I suggest you read customer reviews to ensure you get the best one.

For example, the Comforday Multi-Purpose Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner has over 2,000 reviews and almost a five-star rating. I’m sure they’ve covered every possible question someone could have.

An Effective and Eco-Friendly Alternative to a Chemical Cleaner

As you might already know, most chemical cleaners contain toxic compounds, such as bleach, ammonia, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Direct or indirect exposure to these can cause symptoms ranging from irritation of the skin and eyes to chemical burns, to blindness. Some even contain compounds known to cause cancer! 

So, chemical cleaners will not only kill bacteria, but they can also harm us and our pets, and pollute the very air. A fantastic, eco-friendly alternative is the steam cleaner.

This functions almost solely on the power of steam, i.e. hot water. By reaching temperatures of 175+ F, it takes just minutes for a steam cleaner to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria. 

How to Use a Steam Cleaner

  1. Add fresh water to the reservoir. Before you start your steam cleaner, you’ll want to add fresh water to the reservoir. If the water is too low, it simply won’t work (and if it’s dirty, your steam cleaner will just have to work all the harder). 
  2. Choose your attachment. Steam cleaners come with various attachments, mostly different kinds of brushes, for various types of surfaces and materials (such as carpet vs furniture, etc). Use the most heavy-duty brushes on the carpet, since it’s made to stand up to some wear and tear (and will also likely be the dirtiest). Detail brushes are available for furniture, blinds, and more precise work. 
  3. Turn on the steam cleaner. Now, you can turn on your steam cleaner! 
  4. Use the steam cleaner to clean ceramic walls, grout, tile floor, carpet, couches, mattresses, you name it. There’s very little you can’t clean with a steam cleaner! 
  5. Repeat if necessary. You can get rid of a lot in just one go with a steam cleaner. This being said, some things, like fleas, will require more than one go-over. In fact, fleas will require steam cleaning a few times a week.


So, steam cleaning takes only 3-4 minutes to kill 99.9% of bacteria, and it also kills a lot more. This includes viruses, surface molds, dust mites, and more. Just make sure the temperature is at least 175 F and put the steam cleaner to work! 

Below is a helpful video about using a steam cleaner to kill bacteria in cars.

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