Does the Steam Wash Cycle on Washing Machines Really Work?

Written by christie gross
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Does the Steam Wash Cycle on Washing Machines Really Work?
Steam wash cycles use less water to clean fabrics. (Andrew Olney/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The steam clean cycle on some washing machines allows you to wash dry-clean-only clothes at home in your regular washing machine. Although the steam wash cycle eliminates odours, it's not capable of removing tough stains. You're better off taking the item to a dry cleaner if stain removal is your goal. However, testers with the Good Housekeeping Research Institute determined that the steam wash cycle really does work well on most washing machines that offer the option.

How It Works

The steam wash cycle only relies on very hot steam and no washing powder to lift away odours and dirt from fabrics. The washer spins at extremely high rates of speed so that steam penetrates and sanitises each piece of laundry, inside and out. Despite its fast spinning action, most steam washing machines are gentle and safe to use on delicate fabrics, according to the GHRI.


Besides the cycle's deep cleaning power, removing items quickly once the cycle ends decrease wrinkles and eliminates the need for ironing. However, the cycle's overall cleaning power is usually based on load size. Certain washing machines perform better on small loads with as few as four items. Furthermore, the steam wash cycle often takes more time to complete compared with water only or water and steam cycles.

Ease of Use

The control settings for the steam clean cycle work like other most other control settings. Simply select the cycle you want the machine to run on and turn the washer on. In most cases, you don't have to select the load size or water temperature; the machine's sensors automatically do this for you. After the cycle ends, open the washer door to let the wash tub dry out and to discourage mould growth. Use a clean cloth to periodically wipe down the rubber gasket inside the washer, which gathers lint.


The steam wash cycle is typically only available on front load washing machines that are commonly more expensive than top load washers. Front load washing machines with this feature cost about £910 or more, depending on the brand you choose, at the time of this publication. In addition, due to the high rate of speed with which the cycle spins, the machine tends to vibrate and create a lot of noise. Installing the washing machine on top of a concrete slab helps with noise reduction.

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