Steam Cleaning Washing Machines: Benefits and Drawbacks

If you haven’t been appliance shopping in a few years, you’re in for a shock. In previous decades, there wasn’t a whole lot of differentiation in categories like washing machines. But today, you’ll encounter a dizzying number of features in any number of combinations.
One of the hottest new trends in washing machines is steam functionality. Curious about this new development? Here are the top benefits of washing machines with steam cleaning features, plus some drawbacks to consider.
In the market for a new washing machine? Upsie covers major appliances with 3- and 5-year extended appliance warranties. Make sure to grab one when it’s time to upgrade your old washer.

Steam May Help Get Your Clothes Cleaner

The first and most prominent advantage of steam cleaning is that your clothes will get cleaner when you use it, according to most manufacturers. For example, Electrolux claims that their Perfect Steam “gently lifts dirt and stains from fibers.” The thinking goes that steam is hotter than water (which is certainly true), and the added heat opens up the fibers in most fabrics even more.

Steam May Help Sanitize Your Clothes

In other settings including commercial cleaning, steam works as an extremely effective sterilizing agent. Using steam in a washing machine, then, could also help to sanitize your clothes, killing germs that would survive a normal wash cycle.
If you used a commercial steam cleaning tool on your clothes, you would certainly kill some germs. It’s less clear, though, if the steam cycle in most residential washers gets hot enough or intense enough to achieve the same effect.

Steam in the Spin or Dry Cycle Gets Rid of Wrinkles

Some modern washers aren’t just washers. They are all-in-one units that handle the washing and the drying. These machines use steam in the dry cycle to rid your clothes and sheets of wrinkles, which is another potential benefit of getting a washer or dryer (or all-in-one unit) with steam functionality.
If you’re someone who ends up spending a lot of time ironing, you could save much of that time with the right laundry machine.

Potential Energy Savings, But Look Closely at Ratings and Reviews

Another potential advantage of using a washer with steam cleaning functionality is energy savings. Depending on the model you choose, you might have an eco cycle you can choose. Even if not, using high-powered steam instead of hot water should — in theory — reduce the water needed for the cycle.
However, one potential drawback here is that not every model is an energy saver. Look for ratings, reviews, and concrete claims about using less water than a conventional washer. Consumer Reports found that quite a few of their review models used as much or even more water than the average non-steam model.

Watch Out for Your Time

Another potential drawback of many of these newer washing machines with steam cleaning cycles is time. Those that use less water often need more time in the cycle to get the clothes clean. Many consumers who upgrade from older-style models are surprised at the significant time difference.
Also, in most cases, the steam cleaning portions are optional add-ons to the normal wash cycle. If you choose to use them, your wash cycle gets even longer.
Some models, including the Electrolux model linked earlier, offer a quick cycle option (something like a 15- or 20-minute quick clean). But if the full cycle takes 90 minutes or longer, can the quick cycle really be doing much in terms of real cleaning?

Watch Out for Electricity Consumption

There’s another hidden cost to the longer run times that come with these newer washing machines. Not only can the cycle length be a drain on your laundry schedule, more time running also means more power consumption.
Higher power consumption costs you more on your electricity bill. There’s also the ecological cost of using more electricity to consider. Make sure the machine you choose finds a good balance of water use and power consumption.

Steam Cleaning or Not, Upsie Protects Your New Washing Machine

The decision to spring for steam cleaning features in your new washing machine is a personal one, coming down to whether you find the functionality worth the added cost. But either way, your new washing machine is an investment worth protecting.
Upsie offers simple, affordable extended warranty coverage for your major appliances, including washers and dryers. Choose between 3 years and 5 years of warranty coverage and get protected against defects, internal leaks, problems with heating or cooling and more.
Rates are much more affordable than plans offered by retailers, and Upsie provides unlimited in-home repair from certified technicians (up to the purchase price of your appliance). Upsie’s coverage is simple, straightforward and affordable. Got a new appliance? Get Upsie coverage now.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.