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How to clean windows with a steam cleaner

Anyone who has spent an afternoon patiently cleaning their windows with vinegar and newspapers has no doubt wondered if there might not be a better way to perform this decidedly unglamorous chore. Happily, there is a better way. Steaming is a more efficient window cleaning method that uses the power of an old, tried-and-true energy source.

Why should I steam my windows?

While requiring more in the way of tools than newspaper and vinegar, steam cleaning your windows has the advantage of being much more efficient and thorough. Steam cleaning removes grime and disinfects. It doesn’t rely on synthetic detergents that can seep into groundwater and is therefore better for the environment. Steaming windows also leaves no streaks, and when you finish, your arms won’t be nearly as sore.

Choose the right time to clean

First, consider the season and the temperature. Windows are more sensitive than they look and will crack if they encounter steam when too cold, so this is a job for spring, summer or fall. 

What kind of steamer do I need?

Like vacuums, steam cleaners for the home generally come in hand-held models and models with a separate canister and a wand or attachment. Hand-held models produce less robust steam, and though they can be operated with one hand, they can require a lot of effort if you have many windows to clean. Stretching to reach top corners of windows gets old quickly if you're lifting a hand-held steamer.

On the other hand, models with a canister that rolls on the floor offer thicker and steadier steam. These models often feature a long wand attachment perfect for reaching far corners. The wand is typically much lighter than a hand-held steamer. The downside of this option is that you're dragging the canister behind you, which can be awkward. Using a steamer with a canister outside presents extra challenges as you try to roll over different surfaces.

What attachments are helpful?

Most hand-held and canister steamers come with an assortment of attachments, including various head attachments that distribute the steam evenly over the glass in addition to tubes or hoses to deliver the steam from the canister. Some steam cleaners include the option to add detergent to your steam for cleaning particularly stubborn windows. A few also include a squeegee-style attachment with a thin rubber blade that scrapes dirt and grime away.

How to steam clean your windows

First, fill the tank of your steamer, and let the water heat to the correct temperature. This process can take around 10 minutes, depending on the model. Next, set your steamer on a low pressure setting. When holding the wand or hand-held steamer, press the button to start the steam flowing, and pass the attachment head (or hand-held steamer) back and forth across the width of the window. Work from the top of the window to the bottom.

After cleaning, a fine mist settles on your windows. Grab a microfiber cloth and wipe the moisture away, and admire the view from your newly cleaned windows.

Several steam cleaners have a squeegee attachment specifically designed for window cleaning. Use this attachment in the same way you would other steamers: Use wide horizontal strokes, and work from top to bottom. 

Best steam cleaners

Dupray Home Steam Cleaner 

This model offers variable steam pressure for maximum versatility. It heats steam up to 293 degrees.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Karcher SC 3 Portable Multipurpose Steam Cleaner

This steam cleaner heats up in just 40 seconds. It removes fingerprints and dirt from windows in a single pass.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Steamfast Deluxe Canister Steam Cleaner

This steamer heats up in 10 minutes and includes an extension wand and an attachment for windows.

Where to buy: Sold by Wayfair

Steamfast Multipurpose Steam Cleaner

This powerful canister model steam cleaner has a flexible hose and a 6-inch squeegee attachment that thoroughly cleans dirty windows.

Where to buy: Sold by Wayfair

DBTech Multipurpose Pressurized Bagless Hand-held Steamer

This inexpensive model from DBTech is versatile and handheld. It cleans sofas and carpets, and it has an attachment for windows.

Where to buy: Sold by Wayfair

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Robin Allday writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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