How to utilize steam cleaning at a car wash business | Car wash steamers

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Updated on:

June 6, 2023

Best Car wash steamers | How to use steam cleaners at car wash to generate more profits

Steam cleaning has been getting a lot of popularity over the last decade, but people are still not familiar with car detailing as much as a regular car wash. They're used to having to go through a tunnel that will leave swirls on their cars and inside be barely cleaned. Steam cleaning is a cleaning method of getting rid of dirt and grime that doesn't use as much water as a regular car wash but also kills bacteria with its high temperature . For example, a Fortador cleaner is a steam machine that uses 20 Bar power to deep clean the car's interior, exterior, engine, and more by only utilizing a fraction of the boiling water needed to clean it with a cold pressure washer.

Key Takeaways:

  • Utilizing steam cleaning at a car wash business offers eco-friendly, effective cleaning with low water intake and high temperature to kill bacteria.
  • Steam cleaners can be used for a wide range of car detailing tasks, including cleaning interiors, windows, engines, and more.
  • When choosing a steam cleaner, consider factors such as cost, size, water tank capacity, and the specific needs of your business.

Best Steam Cleaners:

Fortador PRO Max with vacuum, Fortador PRO, Fortador Volt Electra with vacuum, Fortador Volt Mini.

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1. Benefits of using steam cleaners at a car wash

It has been proven that the heat from the steam kills 99% of the bacteria of the surface being treated. Since Covid started, people are trying to keep the places they spend time in the most clean and sanitized, like cars. Aside from dirt, there are tens of thousands if not more bacteria sitting on the surface of the cars, their interior, and the air vents that can't be cleaned by just wiping it down with a microfiber cloth.

1.1. Eco friendly

Implementing extra services that include steam cleaning can never hurt the business. One of the biggest pros of using steam to wash the car is that it has very low water intake, thus making it eco friendly. A Fortador steam cleaner only needs 3 galls of water to produce steam enough to clean a car's exterior and interior and .6 gal of diesel per hour consumption. The steam volume and the high temperature of the steamer is so strong that one won't need a lot of outside help to clean a car well. Look for steamers that come with two compartments for detergents that can be mixed in with the water used for cleaning the vehicle, making it easier for the consumer to clean.

1.2. What can be cleaned with steam?

The list of things that can be cleaned with a steam cleaner is extensive. For example, here are a few:

  • door jambs
  • floor mats
  • car interiors
  • cup holders
  • car windows
  • steering wheels
  • chairs
  • offices
  • couches

From cars, to motorcycles and vans, a steam cleaner will sure do the job that will leave your customer satisfied.

2. Services offered with a steamer at car wash

Steam cleaning has a different kind of a cleaning process. Because it's more in depth and considered a light makeup work, it takes longer to complete, and not everyone has time to wait. As a business owner, there are several things you can do to accommodate to your customers' needs. For starters, you can provide them with several packages of steam cleaning. Here's an example of a half detail interior package from Total Steam Detailing Miami,

  • Interior Cleaning And Sanitizing With Steam
  • Extra Vacuum With Crevice Tool
  • Shampoo Carpets
  • Leather Cleaned And Conditioned
  • Blow Out All Vents, Crevices And Dashboard Gauges
  • Glass Polished Inside & Out
  • Leather Conditioned
  • Engine bay cleaning
  • Clay bar treatment

2.1. Interior auto detailing

Interior car detailing with steam

The more extensive your options will be, the more flow of customers will come your way. Some people will have leather seats that don't necessarily require shampooing unless they're light color, so they will not be interested in the shampooing option but might like to get only their carpets shampooed and steam cleaned everything else. For people that only want to shampoo a certain stains or car seats, a stain removal shampoo service would work best.

For those who're just considered of keeping their car dirt free and bacteria free, a mini detail that includes vacuuming and using just steam inside the vehicle could be their best car cleaning solution.

If the customer wants an even more in depth job, consider adding ceramic coating to your services.

2.2. Exterior car detailing

Customers that are worried about the look of the vehicle's exterior, an option with a detailing of the wheels and the surface would be a great fit. Continuous wet steam and the use of an eco friendly soap is tough on the grime and the grease but easy on the paint, ensuring that the car's surfaces will only look better not worse after the detailing. Steam cleaning the car before doing any clay work or buffing the car will also make the process go a lot smoother than a regular pressure washer.

2.3. Engine detailing

Engine detailing

Finding a cleaning solution for the engine compartments can be tough. If the vehicle owner has never cleaned their car, the engine can be filled full of debris and dirt from the road. It is recommended that the engine bay of the car be cleaned at least twice a year. Steam cleaning the engine compartments with a degreaser will leave the owner satisfied and bring even more flow of business.

3. Which steam cleaner is best for your business?

When it comes to choosing the right steam cleaner for you and your business, there are things you have to consider: cost, efficiency, and compatibility. There is an extensive list of the best steam cleaners on the market that can fit according to the needs of their owner.

3.1. Cost

Some models of steam cleaners are priced higher than their competitors, but with the price also comes the quality of the job. Make sure to sit down and really think about how much a steam car wash will increase your revenue and which of the cleaners for car detailing would work for you.

3.2. Size of the commercial steam equipment

Market of steam cleaners has a variety of sizes. If you don't have enough space at your car wash, you might want to go with the Dupray Carmen Super Inox Steam Extractor that also comes with a vacuum. It has a steam volume of up to 7 bar/100 psi and weighs in at 66 pounds. If your space is bigger, getting a bigger steam cleaner will be best as most of them can connect more than one hose, adding an extra job for your staff or cutting down time on one vehicle.

3.3. Water tank size

Nobody wants their machine to not produce steam because the water tank ran out of liquid. If you know how many cars will be getting detailed, make sure to pick the steam cleaner that can be connected to a water hose for constant water flow.

4. Best steam cleaners for car washing

Fortador steam cleaners

The newer option on the market is the Fortador steam cleaners for cars. All of their line has a Lamborghini burner that makes them the most powerful to date. They also have the option to switch from dry steam (for the interior of the car and engine bay) to wet steam (exterior and wheels).

4.1. Fortador PRO Max steam cleaner with vacuum

Fortador PRO Max steam cleaner with vacuum

The bigger version from the Fortador line is the PRO Max steamer. Their updated version can produce steam at 20 bar/295 psi that is sure to help get rid of the stubborn dirt on hard surfaces. This model also comes with a built in vacuum that can be connected to the continuous steam to perform a shampoo interior detailing. This is the ideal version of steam cleaners for car cleaning that doesn't require any other equipment to do a complete detailing job. It is also a perfect option for a mobile business. The low water content from the steam cleaning process will leave very little water on the ground, which is such a crucial aspect in detailing cars in commercial and residential buildings.


  • Versatile all-in-one unit with Steam, Hot water or Detergent mode
  • Continuous steam flow at 20 bar / 295 PSI , Big tank 6.6 Gallon / 25L holding more water
  • Provides powerful steam sanitation and vacuum extraction
  • Innovative, convenient design
  • Steam control valve for each outlet
  • Comes with a variety of accessories and attachments, including three hoses


  • Unit is heavy at 440 lbs.
  • Large dimensions
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Our most expensive unit
Learn more about best vacuum steam cleaner for your business.

4.2. Fortador PRO steam cleaner

Fortador PRO steam cleaner for car wash

The PRO version has a cleaning power of 16 bar/235 psi and can connect up to 2 hoses that can be used simultaneously. The water tank holds 6.6 gal of water and about 4 gals of diesel which will make 25 working hours without refueling. The water can have a continuous fill to the tank by connecting a water hose to the steamer. At 175 lbs, this steamer is not too light to be rolled away by accident, yet not too heavy to be moved around the area on its four wheels with stoppers.


  • High level of cleaning power without harsh chemicals
  • Continuous Flow Steam, Big tank 6.6 Gallon / 25L holding more water
  • Includes hot water, detergent or sanitizing agent feature
  • Steam control valve for each outlet
  • Much lighter and more compact than competing machines across the market


  • No extraction capability
  • Diesel exhaust

4.3. Fortador Volt Electra steam cleaner with vacuum

Fortador Volt Electra steam cleaner with vacuum

The Volt Electra is one of the two electric steam cleaners that the company offers. This steam cleaner can reach up to 12 bar/175 psi maximum pressure. It can connect up to 2 hoses which will cut the time of auto detailing on a vehicle in half or add another car to the detailing. This is also a perfect cleaning solution for businesses who want to expand their services but don't want to break their bank. This 99lb mini steamer is sure to get rid of the tough dirt on any car.


  • Fully electric steam with a compact boiler
  • Best cleaning power on the market for fully electric units
  • All-in-one operation steam and vacuum extraction
  • 30-foot hose and 15-foot steam+vacuum extraction hose
  • Size and weight allow for easy transportation
  • 5500 watt heating element


  • Continuous usage time shorter than for diesel units
  • Produces less pressure
  • Can accommodate only one operator
  • Runs on 240V (dual phase) for heating element

4.4. Fortador Volt Mini steam cleaner

Fortador Volt Mini steam cleaner

Lastly, the Fortador Volt Mini is the smallest washing unit that the company has up to date. These are also the most portable steam cleaners for cars in the market. Only weighing 16.5lbs, this machine has a 100 psi/7 bar cleaning power, which is the strongest amongst the competitors on the market. It comes with a 15ft steam hose that has interchangeable accessories included, as well spray bottles for the chemicals to be stored in. It is truly a great alternative to getting a steam cleaner that is small, yet still efficient and so portable, you will be able to pick it up.


  • Easy to use and transport
  • Inox 304 Stainless Steel Boiler
  • 1650 watt heating element
  • Fortador quality construction, long power cord
  • Higher pressure than steam cleaners of similar size
  • Comes with a variety of tools for different applications, including steam mop
  • Dry steam mode or Hot water injection, Detergent fogger included
  • Exclusive Fortador support provided with purchase
  • Free shipping


  • Doesn't have sufficient steam pressure for heavy-duty industrial jobs, so it's  unsuitable for professional car detailing and similar high-pressure industrial applications
  • Tough jobs may take a long time because of low pressure compare to diesel powered units
  • Only one person at a time can operate the machine

4.5. Optima steamer

Optima steamer

The optima steamer has been around since 2004 and might be the cheaper option to get that also has a line of steamers that operate with diesel or without it. The steamer connects up to 2 hoses has a pressure of 138 psi. It is a compact size steamer that can be moved around and can be connected to a water source that will provide constant water flow.


  • Lightweight
  • Available with a good assortment of tools, although most must be purchased as add-ons
  • Heats quickly within 3-5 minutes
  • Has good steam control


  • Boiler has a 35% smaller capacity
  • Maximum psi of 137.5, meaning jobs will take longer to finish
  • Made in Asia
  • No built-in vacuum
  • Is about 2.5 times less fuel-efficient than the Fortador PRO Line

4.6.McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner with 18 Accessories

McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner with 18 Accessories

Another canister steam cleaner that is easy to use is the McCulloch MC1275. Equipped with a nice variety of accessories, homeowners can clean many different types of surfaces, including ceramic tile and appliances.  Its control base, which holds the boiler is sleep and compact. This machine is also quite mobile as it has wheels along with a 15.7-foot power cord and a 10-foot hose, giving it a longer reach than other comparable units. The compact size allows you to easily clean in small spaces. Users have indicated that the steam, which only reaches a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, appears to lose heat after 15 minutes of usage, making it less effective.

One of the more impressive features is the variety of attachments that include a water funnel, squeegee, triangle brush, nylon and brass brushes, a floor mop, telescoping want, multi-length adjustable hoses, and more.  However, switching between the pieces is difficult due to their low quality, making them jam easily.


  • Lots of included attachments
  • Great mobility
  • Longer cords and hoses than similar units
  • Lightweight at 10 lbs.
  • Two-year limited warranty


  • Attachments are poor quality
  • Low steam temperature, which often decreases during use
  • Low pressure of only 43 PSI

4.7. Wagner Spraytech 0282014 915e On-Demand Steam Cleaner

Wagner Spraytech 0282014 915e On-Demand Steam Cleaner

For people looking for inexpensive steam cleaners that are easy to use, your choices are limited. Wagner advertises this versatile steam cleaner as the ideal tool for removing wallpaper without chemicals, yet as with other units of relatively the same size,  the Sprayteach 0282014 915e has its drawbacks. For one, the manufacturer does not list the pressure at which the unit produces steam, which has a maximum temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Wagner claims that this unit will clean 20% faster than other heavy-duty units, but without stated pressure, that claim is difficult to assess. Some users have indicated that the unit is ineffective at removing mildew.

Nevertheless, this unit has some nifty features, including two steam modes and an indicator light that advises users that the machine is ready. Slightly heavier than other small machines at 13 lbs., the  Sprayteach 0282014 915e remains light enough to use on stairs and other small areas.


  • Lots of included attachments
  • Built-in orange light will turns off when the steamer is ready for use


  • Cord may be short in length
  • No water level indicator
  • Slow to heat at nine minutes
  • One-Year limited warranty
Learn more about full set of tools, chemicals and equipment for mobile detailing business.

5. Accessories and Auto detailing chemicals

auto detailing chemicals

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.

With detailing also comes the right tools to help make sure the job is done right. A business owner will need microfiber cloths, chemicals, and additional makeup tools to bring more business in. Ceramic coating has been getting quite popular the last couple of years, and it can be applied for the car interior and exterior. Having one of your staff learn these techniques can help expand your business even more.

About the Authors

Sabrina Tretyakova
In the world of cleanliness and hygiene, Sabrina Tretyakova stands as a beacon of expertise and dedication. As an ISSA-certified cleaning technician, Sabrina brings a wealth of knowledge and three years of unwavering commitment to her profession. Having served a staggering 1,200 clients
Sergey "Serg" Paskevich
Panama-based detailing pro, proud owner of Car Care Performance Detailing studio in Panama-City. Specializing in Paint Correction, Ceramic Coating, and comprehensive Car Detailing services

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