Best steamer for Auto Detailing and Car wash

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Updated on:

June 6, 2023

101 How to choose best steam cleaner for cars and auto detailing

Car owners are seeing the value, and wanting their vehicles cleaned and detailed on a regular basis. Recycled water from some commercial car washes can have small dirt particles in it. These particles and potential debris in the car wash can scratch and damage the paint surface. Car, truck, van and RV owners want a consistent and effective solution. Commercial steam cleaners are the ideal method for cleaning and sanitizing any vehicle. They safely clean the exterior, remove tough stains from upholstery, remove engine grime, make hard surfaces look like new and sanitize the vehicle chemical free.

Key Takeaways:

  • Commercial steam cleaners safely clean and sanitize vehicles, removing tough stains and grime from the exterior, upholstery, engine, and hard surfaces.
  • Key areas include: Paint surface, glass, grill, engine area, tires, Interior components like seats, dashboard, air vents, and cup holders.
  • Recommended models: Fortador PRO Max, Fortador PRO, Fortador Volt Electra, Optima DMF.

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Applications for car steam cleaners

How To choose right detailing equipment for your car wash business

  1. Best overall Fortador PRO Max Car Wash steam cleaner with vacuum extractor
  2. Best heavy duty diesel powered steam cleaner Fortador PRO 
  3. Best fully electric steam cleaner with vacuum extraction Fortador Volt S Electra
  4. Well known Diesel powered steamer Optima DMF
  5. Honorable mention Diesel Powered mobile car wash steam cleaner Astra Idromatic
  6. Accessories for steam cleaners

1. How To choose best steam detailing equipment for your car wash business

Steam cleaners are the perfect machine for exterior and deep interior cleaning and detailing. With the proper attachments, car steam cleaners can clean any surface on the vehicle, including glass., car setas, vent system and perform engine steam cleaning. Check out the many cleaning capabilities of a steam cleaner for cars.

2. Car Exterior Steam Cleaning Applications

A steam cleaner with the right functionality is the best solution for chemical free car washing and detailing. Choosing a steamer that has foaming and detergent capabilities can make all the difference when those situations present themselves. Using a foam cannon to cover the car or truck starts the job out well, and provides the avenue for a clean vehicle. Below is a list of some of the key areas and applications that can be cleaned and sanitized with a car steamer.

  • Paint surface – Steam at a consistent pressure removes small dirt particles and debris while a microfiber cloth shines the surface. If there is pollen that has built up on the vehicle, the hot steam breaks it down for easy removal.
  • Sunroof and all glass surfaces- The glass on a car is the gateway to the outside. A car steamer effectively cleans the glass and surrounding areas.
  • Grill – Bugs and other debris get stuck in front grills. A steamer liquidates and blasts the particles away without haste.
  • Engine area and under the hood – Car steamers provide the right amount of steam at high temperature and pressure to remove dirt and grime from under the hood. You can use a cleaning agent or a degreaser for stubborn build up.
  • Truck beds – Truck beds can build up with leaves and other material in the corners. Just open up the tail gate and use a steam cleaner to force the large and small pieces of material out of the bed. This also removes any grease or grime that can be slip hazards.
  • Tires, wheel covers and wheel wells – Clean tires and wheels contribute to a great profile of a car or truck. A steamer will clean all three surfaces with ease.

3. Car Interior Steam Cleaning Applications

Many people just think of the seats and carpeting for interior car cleaning and detailing. Although those areas are key and are high profile, a steam cleaner is perfect for every part of the interior. There are accessories made especially for a car’s interior. Using an extractor to compliment the steamer makes for a great cleaning job and quicker drying time. Sanitization and disinfection are more important than ever. This is even more critical for commercial vehicles. The high temperature of the steam will kill viruses and bacteria that may be present. Check out all you can do and more.

  • Seats and upholstery – For deep clean of fabric seats and flooring, using a steamer in combination with an extractor ensures a clean surface. You can use steam on leather seats followed up with a microfiber cloth for a refreshed look. For stubborn stains, steamers with cleaning agent capabilities can easily be used for remove stains.
  • Dashboard – Dashboards are notorious for collecting dust, pollen and other particles. A steamer can clean the surfaces and crevices where the windshield meets the dash.
  • Cargo and trunk area – Car steamers remove the black marks that can happen from loading and unloading.
  • Air vents – Air vents can accumulate dust, pollen and bacteria. Hooking up a steam cleaner and propelling steam through the system cleans and sanitizes the vents. Passengers get fresh air.
  • Cup holders and consoles – It is hard to clean the hardened liquids and other build up in cup holders and consoles. A steam cleaner with the proper ends will eliminate the stains and sanitize the surface for more pleasant rides.
  • Door panels and kick plates- As passengers enter and exit vehicles, they can scuff door panels and kick plates. A car steamer will remove the scuff marks and restore the surfaces.
  • Children’s car and booster seats – Parents want a non-detergent and safe solution for car and booster seats. A car steamer is the best solution as it cleans and sanitizes the hard and soft surfaces of the seat.

Car detailing is a growing business. Using a car detailing steamer allows you to tackle any job. The right steam cleaner for cars can be used for any vehicle type and any surface on the vehicle. On the exterior of the vehicle, you can clean all areas including the paint coat, glass, tires, bumper and grill. Inside, a car steam cleaner will efficiently and effectively clean the seats, floor mats, ventilation system, the dash and much more. You can shampoo outside and in. Some car steamer systems can be used as extractors for tougher carpet and upholstery cleaning.

A car detailing steam cleaner will also sanitize the surfaces as it cleans. The CDC recommends two temperatures for sterilizing; 250 and 270-degrees Fahrenheit. Selecting a steamer for car cleaning capable of achieving and consistently maintaining these temperatures is key. The Fortador PRO Max and PRO  produce high pressure steam at 248 degrees to 284 degrees Fahrenheit. A remote steam cleaner for cars allows you to go where your customers are, and conveniently complete the work, thanks to long power cord.

Fortador’s line of steamers gives you many choices with meaningful options to choose the right steamer for your needs. You can use the steam cleaner for cars and for industrial or residential cleaning. The opportunities and needs are endless. The following information will give you the capabilities and suggestions on which one may best fit your needs. Contact us for a demonstration and to answer any questions.

Check out and review all the best steam cleaners for cars available to you. You will find that steam cleaners are the best solution for remote car wash and detailing services. You will be prepared for any cleaning job, and your customers will be happy.

Learn more about Complete list of detailing equipment and supplies

4. Top 5 Best Steam Cleaners for Auto detailing and Car wash

4.1. Fortador PRO Max - all-in-one best selling Steamer and Shampooer for car detailing and car washing

Multi purpose steam cleaner with vacuum shampooer for car wash and detailing

best steamer for auto detailing and car wash
2022 Best Auto detailing steamer Fortador PRO Max

The Fortador PRO Max is best multi purpose steam cleaner for high-volume detailing shops and car washes. This diesel-powered car detailing steamer is an all-in-one solution with high capabilities.

Steam pressure is a differentiating factor when considering a car detailing steam cleaner. The right pressure allows you to effectively remove dirt and grime, stains and debris. The PRO Max high steam pressure operates at 295 PSI. This pressure is well-suited for steam cleaning jobs of any variety.

This steam production makes this suited for a high-volume cleaning and sanitizing business. The PRO Max produces 363 pounds of continuous steam per hour. This steamer comes with three guns: 2xSteam guns and 1xDual Hose gun for shampooing and vacuum extraction.. The high level of steam production allows you to use all three guns simultaneously. This has obvious productivity and work efficiency benefits. The carbon steel boiler is built to last. Water tank with 6.6 gallons of water can be connected to tap water for continious use all day long

Some jobs require a detergent to effectively clean some stains from car seats and car matts. The Fortador PRO Max has the ability to deliver two different detergents at the same time. The detergent tanks hold 1.6 gallons of each detergent. The versatility and flexibility of this system has many advantages that you will realize on jobs in the field.  Adding cleaning power of eco-friendly chemicals makes detailing jobs much easier.

The Fortador PRO Max multi purpose steam cleaner comes with an extractor. The extractor is very effective for deep cleaning seats and upholstery. The extractor provides a penetrating clean and breaks down the proteins in the stains for effective removal. You will also spend considerably less effort in the cleaning process using an extractor. Using an extractor also decreases the drying time so the customer can get back in his or her car and drive sooner.

Shampooing interior car or truck surfaces is often necessary. The PRO Max has a shampooer that works hand in hand with the extractor. Using a commercial-grade and safe detergent can remove oil stains on floor mats and other tarnishes that have marked up the interior.

For surface preparation and dirt removal, the PRO Max comes with a wet-dry vacuum. With any car interior steam cleaning job, vacuuming is recommended as the initial step. You will not have to worry about separate pieces of equipment as the PRO Max has you prepared for a 100% complete job.

Cost of operation is a consideration in purchasing a heavy duty car detailing steamer. Fuel consumption is the primary focus in this area. The PRO Max stands out here verses the competition. In one working hour, the PRO Max uses 0.15 gallons of fuel to produce the steam you need. The Optima DMF uses 0.6 gallons of fuel per working hour. These variable cost savings can add up. In an eight-hour shift, the PRO Plus will only use 1.26 gallons of fuel while the Optima DMF will use over 5 gallons, or over four times as much.

The Fortador PRO Max comes standard with a 7-inch touch screen that provides all the operating information to keep productivity high. You can easily monitor water, detergent and diesel fuel levels. The steamer’s key operating measures, such as boiler pressure, burner adjustment, filter cleaning and hour meter are always in sight. Interact with the screen to control your steamer.

Transport the Fortador PRO Max with the cargo slider. The commercial-grade slider easily mounts in your van and is specifically designed for Fortador steamers.

4.2. Fortador PRO - heavy duty steamer for car detailing and car wash

Heavy duty steam cleaner for cars that makes all you need

commercial steamer for car washing
Heavy duty car steamer Fortador PRO 

The Fortador PRO heavy duty steam cleaner for car detailing is another great choice. This high pressure steamer has the same boiler and Lamborghini diesel burner as the PRO Max. This gives you the highest quality continuous steam pressure and the temperature you need. You will get the three-gun capability (up to 3xSteam guns) and flexibility. You get the same advanced touch screen with the key operating displays that match the PRO Plus. You and your team stay working and in control.

With the PRO line, including the PRO , your team’s productivity will stay high. The water tank holds approximately 6.5 gallons of water. Steam cleaner can be connected to tap water for continious use. The diesel tank holds about 4 gallons of fuel. With the high level of fuel efficiency compared to the Optima DMF, you get about 40 working hours without re-fueling. You get the same ability as the Pro Max to add detergent or sanitizing agent with one 1.6 gallon tank.

If you already have a separate vacuum, extractor and shampooer, the PRO  will complete your car steam cleaner system. The steamer will be the primary cleaning tool in your business. You get the same steamer performance in volume, pressure, continuous steam and temperature as the PRO Max.

Residential and commercial sanitation are a growing business. The PRO can be advantageous for these types of jobs. The heavy duty steamer Fortador PRO  is half the size and about half the weight of the PRO Max, but equipped with same size water tank 6.6 gallons. The PRO  weighs 175 pounds. It can easily be brought on site for effective and efficient cleaning and sanitizing jobs. You will get the same professional design and extraordinary results with either choice.

Transport the PRO  with the cargo slider. The commercial-grade slider easily mounts in your van and is specifically designed for Fortador steamers.

4.3. Fortador Volt Electra - fully electric all-in-one cleaning steamer and shampooer

Great Solution to perform steam cleaning for garage use or small shops

full electric steam cleaner high performance
High performance electric steam cleaner Fortador Volt Electra

The Fortador Volt Electra can be a great solution for smaller car shops, detailing studios or car enthusiasts who want to have their own steamer for car detailing. This is still an all-in-one car detailing steam cleaner that gives you the capability to completely steam clean a car inside and out. The Volt Electra comes with the same built-in commercial grade vacuum and extractor as the PRO Max. This professional wet-dry equipment lets you combine extraction, steam and detergent technology in the same package.

The main difference with the Volt Electra is the source of power. As the name suggests, the Volt Electra is powered by electricity. This can be convenient for residential cleaning jobs by simply plugging in the steamer inside the home without fumes.

You get the same high quality steam as the PRO line. It delivers the steam at a lower than PRO Line, but still very effective 175 PSI. Feel confident as the Volt Electra’s system, powered by electricity, delivers over heated steam at a higher pressure than many diesel fuel-powered steamers on the market. The boiler is made of the same high-quality carbon steel as the PRO Max and the PRO . Special heating elements are designed for years of use.

The 7-inch display screen shows you all the operating information you need. Monitor and react to water and detergent levels, boiler pressure, hour counter and more.

The heating method is slower than the diesel-engine steamers. If you plan to steam clean and sanitize on larger jobs that require continuous use, this can be limiting. The Volt Electra compensates for this using ECO system for maximizing efficiency of water heating to deliver a constant steam flow rate. If you are cleaning one to two cars per day, the Volt Electra is a perfect fit. Contact us to talk about your needs and to determine model is best.

The Volt Electra lets to use only one gun continuously. With a net weight of 99 pounds, you can easily transport this powerful steam cleaner. Effortlessly load in your van, maneuver and steer this steamer around a garage and residential homes.  

4.4. Diesel powered steam cleaner for cars Optima DMF

opima DMF in blue color
Steam cleaner Optima DMF

The Optima DMF is a diesel-powered steamer that can be good for mobile detailing. The Optima DMF is capable of cleaning most stains, contaminants, debris and surfaces. For certain situations and cleaning jobs, steam pressure capabilities will make a difference. The Optima DMF steamer delivers steam at a maximum of 123 PSI. This is less than Fortador Pro Max which operates up to 235 PSI. If you are on a mobile detailing job site without enough pressure to do the job efficiently, this could be limiting.

This is a popular steamer available in four different colors. Capabilities and functionality matter in commercial steamers. The Optima DMF does a good job with steam cleaning. The quality of the steam, moisture factor and wetness level are good. The Optima DMF is lacking detergent-cleaning capabilities. There are certain stains and soil that will require a detergent or cleaning agent to completely remove them from the surface.

Many car detailers will smartly vacuum the interior surfaces in the vehicle before steam cleaning. This removes debris and allows the steam to more effectively do its job. The Optima DMF does not have a vacuum. It can be advantageous to have an all-in-one machine that includes a vacuum, especially for remote work. Not having to haul additional equipment allows for jobs to be completed more efficiently.  

Cost of ownership is a key factor in purchasing capital equipment. The Optima DMF consumes more fuel than the Fortador PRO or PRO Max. The Fortador models consume .15 gallons per working hour while the Optima DMF consumes .6 gallons per working hour. The savings from the significantly higher level of fuel efficiency of the Fortador models will be realized on your first job, and will add up over time.

The more efficiencies you can bring to your process, the more profitable your business can be. Especially on mobile cleaning job sites where water sources can be limited, working hours per tank can make a difference. The Fortador PRO achieves 25 working hours per tank while the Optima DMF realizes 10 working hours per tank. Steamer technicians will spend less time refilling tanks and more time cleaning customer vehicles and buildings.

The Optima DMF is easy to transport with an empty weight of 191 pounds. This light weight machine is easy to maneuver around corners and turns. You will appreciate this in buildings with tighter spaces. The body being made of polypropylene and polyethylene. These plastic materials are durable, but could start to show wear and tear in high volume shops.

Manufacturing sites are important to some steam cleaner purchasers. The Optima DMF is made in Asia. Fortador produces its line of steamers to the highest engineering standards in Europe. Fortador’s hardware is designed to last for years. With an engine powered by Lamborghini, you can expect quality. Quality manufacturing can result in less down time and higher productivity for your team.

The steam cleaner Optima DMF comes with basic levels of technology. It has an automatic alarm that will alert you when the fuel becomes short. The controls of the steamer are traditional knob and dial-based. The Fortador steamers have an advanced 7-inch digital touch screen to control the steamers, monitor fluid levels and operating readings.

4.5. Diesel powered pressurized steam cleaner for car wash and detailing Astra Idromatic.

astra idromatic steamer
Steam cleaner Astra Idromatic

The Astra Idromatic is a commercial steamer that produces steam to 130.5 PSI. This PSI is acceptable for most jobs, but can be limiting for certain situations. With mobile work, you never quite know what soil and stain type you will be presented with. Arriving on site with a steamer with higher PSI capabilities than the 130.5 PSI, can be a better choice over the long run.

The Astra steamer is not an all-in-one machine. With no vacuum, you will have to purchase, maintain and transport an additional piece of equipment. This can add to inefficiencies on job sites and be more cumbersome for technicians.

On larger jobs, it may be better to have more than one steam technician cleaning at the same time. This is especially relevant on larger steam cleaning jobs like motor homes or buildings. The Astra Idromatic has only one steam connection, which means only one technician can work at a time. The Fortador line has multiple connections for steam and detergent so two technicians can clean simultaneously.

The steam cleaner Astra Idromatic does not offer detergent-cleaning capabilities. The machine’s single water tank does not give users the option of using a detergent. Although steam as a single agent can be very effective in many jobs, there are times you will miss a detergent.

Portability and maneuverability are important in a mobile steam cleaning business. The Astra Idromatic steamer weighs 286 pounds. This is considerably heavier than other steamer models in the category. This extra weight can make a difference with loading, unloading and moving between rooms on job sites. The heavier weight will be most noticed on carpeted services.

Diesel fuel usage goes way up with the Astra Idromatic. The Fortador PRO uses .15 gallons of fuel per working hour. The Astra Idromatic uses about 7x as much fuel per working hour. The Astra Idromatic has a 5.28-gallon diesel tank.

The body of the Astra Idromatic is made of polypropylene and polyethylene. This hard plastic can take some bumps and hits, but may show wear and weaken over time.

The Astra Idromatic has audio and visual alerts on the control panel to diagnose errors. This can be effective is many instances. If you are used to using touch screens and digital controls in other parts of your life, you may miss this technology on the Astra Idromatic steamer.

5. Accessories for steam cleaners

steam cleaner accessories
Steam cleaner hoses and accessories

Every Fortador steamer comes with the accessories you need to do complete clean and sanitize jobs. These accessories include high pressure washing guns, jet nozzle, hoses, detergent containers, vacuum hoses and much more.

We are ready to help you determine the best steam cleaner for your needs. We have financing options to get you going when you are ready.

About the Authors

Lev Tretyakov
With over 25 years in the industry, I bring extensive sales expertise in heavy equipment across diverse sectors. Pioneered the first CAD/CAM school in CIS countries. Proud owner of Miami's premier auto detailing hub, Totaal Steam Detailing, hailed as the finest in Miami-Dade by Google.
Kris Traczynski
As the visionary behind Fortador Steamers, I've revolutionized the cleaning landscape across both the USA and Europe. With a profound understanding of the cleaning industry, I've fostered expertise that sets new standards. My journey is one of innovation, commitment, and a relentless pursuit of exce

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