There is unfortunately a significant amount of incorrect (and possibly dangerous) information available on the internet at the moment as to the best ways to disinfect household surfaces that may have been exposed to coronavirus.
For example, many websites make vague claims that a particular cleaning product will kill “99.9% of germs” and therefore will be effective against coronavirus.
Unfortunately, this is simply not true since ‘germs’ generally refer to bacteria, whereas the coronavirus is an RNA virus – products that will easily kill bacteria such as E. coli are frequently unable to effectively kill viruses.
For this reason, and due to popular demand, our expert cleaning product testers have teamed up with renowned molecular biologist Dr Tim Molloy to provide a critical scientific overview of the home cleaning products (including steam cleaners for soft surfaces such as carpets, clothes, and soft furniture, cleaning solutions for hard surfaces such as floors and tabletops, and skin/hand washes) that have actually been scientifically shown to properly disinfect household surfaces from viruses, including coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2.
We have also endeavored to include full citations throughout our reviews so you can investigate the primary data further if you wish.
How long does coronavirus stay on household surfaces?
The major source of viral particles that lead to infection are respiratory droplets – tiny liquid particles containing viruses that are ejected when an infected individual sneezes or coughs.
These droplets can then be passed to common household surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, furniture, carpet, clothes, or other everyday objects from a carriers hands.
The latest research on coronavirus, as well as similar research done on the related SARS-CoV-1, has shown that coronavirus remained viable for at least 3 hours in the air, up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, and up to 4-8 hours on copper and cardboard.
While these are worryingly long periods of time, viable viral particles do steadily die off throughout these durations, with only around only 0.01% viable virus remaining at the end of each period.
So what does this all mean?
If you live, work, or frequent a place you think may have had exposure to an individual with coronavirus, you must clean exposed surfaces with the appropriate cleaners to minimize the chance of transmission!
The WHO and CDC have general recommendations for disinfect these areas and we’ve specially selected the best steam cleaners, disinfecting solutions, hand washes, and air purifiers to enable you properly protect yourselves at home.
Best Steam Cleaners for Inactivating Coronavirus and other viruses from Carpets, Clothes, and Furniture
Steam cleaners are an excellent method to disinfect soft surfaces since they are both highly effective at killing viruses and bacteria and also inexpensive for regular use since they only require water and electricity to run.
HOWEVER, not all units are able to produce the pressure and temperature required for proper sterilization.
We’ve therefore reviewed, tested, and rated dozen of steam cleaners and selected the best specifically for quickly disinfecting soft furnishings such as carpet, furniture, and clothes:
Best Steam Cleaner for Sterilizing Carpets or Other Large Areas – Steamfast SF-370 Canister Cleaner
- MAXIMUM PORTABILITY — Designed for ease of use with a 15-foot power cord with integrated cord wrap, wheels, carrying handle, and a 6. 5-foot hose that provides added reach for those hard to get to places
- 15 VERSATILE ACCESSORIES — Equipped for steam cleaning jobs in and around your home including mop pads, utility brushes, jet nozzle, squeegee, scrub tools, fill cup, and more
- LARGE CAPACITY TANK — The 48-ounce water tank heats up in 8 minutes and provides up to 45 minutes of steam
- CHEMICAL-FREE CLEANING — Naturally deep clean without the use of harsh chemicals using hot, pressured steam to eliminate grease, grime, and stains from a wide range of surfaces including ceramic tile, grout, granite, sealed wood flooring, laminate, appliances, grills, autos, and more
- SUPERIOR SUPPORT — When you choose a Steamfast product, you’re investing in superior performance and design that will deliver total satisfaction. If not, we’ll replace it, for 2 years. Supported by a customer service team based in Andover, KS
Thermal inactivation (killing with heat) is one of most effective ways to kill viruses. Different viruses have different sensitivities to heat, and coronavirus is particularly susceptible to high heat.
Steam cleaners and sterilizers are therefore an excellent way of effectively sterilizing soft surfaces and furnishings.
The Steamfast SF-370 Canister Cleaner is our pick for if you need to sterilize large areas such as carpets or multiple pieces of furniture, since it has a very large 48-ounce tank which it is able to heat to 212°F (100°C; well above the 133°F (56°C) recommended for deactivating coronavirus using its powerful 1500W heater in just 8 minutes.
Importantly, it also has a better steam output compared to most other comparable units, generating steam at a respectable 26 g/min rate.
Exposing a surface for just a few minutes to temperatures this high is sufficient to inactivate almost all viruses, including coronavirus, that may be present in droplets deposited from infected individuals.
Apart from its excellent hot steam sterilization capability, we also highly rated its design that allows it to be easily moved between areas of your house, coming with a 15-foot (5m) power cable that retracts into the body, decent quality wheels so you don’t have to carry it around, and a well-insulated 6.5-foot (64”/ 2m) hose.
Another bonus is that it ships with 15 attachments as standard so as well as being great for soft surfaces it can also be used for hard surfaces such as tile, wood, plastic, and metal.
These include separate scrubbing and sponge pads, a corner tool, and squeegee. Importantly it comes with a brass utility brush which is perfect for delivering ultra-hot steam to metal surfaces.
Best Steam Cleaner for Sterilizing Clothes and Curtains – Jiffy J-2 Garment Steamer
- 1300 watt solid brass heating element (120 volt for North America use only…not for export)
- High-impact plastic outer housing for durability
- Quick two minute heat-up time.6 inches wide plastic steam head.Cord Plug: NEMA 5-15
- 1.5 Hour steam time per filling. Water Capacity: 3/4 galloon / 2.84 litres. Fusible link with automatic shut-off for safety
- Made in the USA
A major point of coronavirus exposure for many people will not be soft furnishings and carpets (which require an infected individual to physically visit your home), but the collection of virus-containing respiratory droplets on their clothes when outside the home.
Since these tiny droplets can persist in the air for at least 30 minutes after a person coughs or sneezes, it is easy for exposure to occur simply by walking through an area previously transited by a sick individual who may have coughed or sneezed.
Steam cleaning your clothes immediately after returning home from an area that infected individuals may have been is therefore (along which washing hands) an excellent way to ameliorate the risks of exposure via this route.
Like other types of steam cleaners, for a clothing/garment steam cleaner the amount of sustained heat it can output is crucial to its ability to effectively kill viruses.
For example, exposure to 167°F (75°C) was effective at rendering the SARS coronavirus non-infectious 3-times faster than exposure to 133°F (56°C).
A steam cleaner that outputs a little bit higher temperature and pressure than your average unit will therefore be significantly more effective at properly disinfecting soft surfaces, particularly clothes which can be harder to clean than other more durable soft surfaces.
The Jiffy J-2 Garment Steamer is our top pick of a steam cleaner specifically for sterilizing garments and clothes.
Like other high-quality steamers suitable for steam sterilization, it has a high wattage heating element (1300W) capable of generating steam at sufficient temperatures and pressures to successfully inactivate viruses as well as bacteria.
We also loved the fact that it comes with a very wide (6”) steam head so multiple clothes can be steamed quickly and efficiently, as well as ¾ gallon (2.8 litre) water tank which is larger than most other clothes steamers.
Also unlike other clothes steamers we tested, it is floor standing, so you don’t have to carry around a heavy piece of equipment which quickly becomes tiresome if doing multiple clothes.
Jiffy has been around for 80 years and produces a large range of commercial-grade clothes steamers which are by far the preferred option for dry cleaning businesses the world over.
They produce top-quality steamers made in the USA, and you get both great after-care as well as an excellent warranty (2 years). This steamer is therefore our top pick for sterilizing clothes.
NOTE: While most garments/materials are fine for steaming, including wool, silk, cotton, and linen are fine for steaming, others are not, including anything that may have soft plastics or suede.
Make sure you read the care instructions of the garment before steaming.
Best Steam Cleaner for Sterilizing Furniture, Pillows/Cushions or Deep Soft Surfaces – McCulloch MC1275
- CHEMICAL-FREE CLEANING — Naturally deep clean without the use of harsh chemicals using hot, pressured steam to eliminate grease, grime, and stains from a wide range of surfaces including ceramic tile, grout, granite, sealed wood flooring, laminate, appliances, grills, autos, and more.
- 20 VERSATILE ACCESSORIES — Equipped for steam cleaning jobs in and around your home including a floor mop, mop pads, nylon brushes, brass brush, angled nozzle, scrub pad, scraper, squeegee, and more.
- LARGE CAPACITY TANK — The 48-ounce water tank heats up in under 12 minutes and provides up to 90 minutes of steam. Blast away dirt and grime with on-demand variable steam control, optional steam lock for continuous steam, and 58 PSI steam pressure.
- GREATER REACH — Extra-long 18-foot power cord and 10-foot steam hose provide added maneuverability and reach for those hard to get to places.
- SUPERIOR SUPPORT — When you choose a McCulloch product, you’re investing in superior performance and design that will deliver total satisfaction. If not, we’ll replace it, for 2 years. Supported by a customer service team based in Andover, KS.
The immediate environment of the coronavirus has a major influence on the effectiveness of heat sterilization.
For example, studies on SARS-CoV coronavirus that while it is possible to inactivate at temperatures as low as 140°F (60°C) if you’re able to maintain that temperature for 30min (obviously not possible for steam cleaning furniture), the density of the viruses immediate environment and therefore penetration of the heat is crucial to determining whether it is effective or not.
High pressure steam cleaners are therefore strongly recommended if you have deeper soft surfaces such as long weave carpet or ultrasoft cushions/pillows, to ensure that penetration into these soft surfaces is adequately achieved.
Our top pick if you require deep steam cleaning is the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner.
Like the Steamfast SF-370 reviewed above, it has a large 48-ounce tank suitable for large rooms or whole houses, but the difference is the high pressure steam this unit produces.
It tops the already high output of the Steamfast (which is able to generate 26 g/min with its 1500W heater/motor) and pumps out a whopping 33-37 g/min from its large tank which is pressurized to 43 psi.
This is high enough to get high temperature steam top penetrate an inch or more into soft furnishings, ensuring a rigorous viral inactivation on deep soft surfaces such as pillows, blankets, and thick carpet.
In addition to its large tank, hot (212°F (100°C)) steam, and high pressure, it has a 1500W heater capable of heating the entire tank in just 8 minutes, and generating enough steam for 45min of usage which is sufficient to sterilize large areas.
Finally, it comes with even more accessories than the Steamfast.
Packing in 18 in total including a triangle brush perfect for getting into corners, a squeegee for hard surfaces, a boiler cap, and steam jet nozzle, which is the perfect head for high pressure sterilization of small areas.
While a bit more expensive than the other models, it is well worth it for a professional-level steam cleaner capable of deactivating viruses even in deep soft furnishings.
So there you have it, the best steam cleaners to disinfect your clothes, carpet, and furniture. Hopefully we can help keep you safe in these difficult times.
Don’t forget to check out our other expert scientific reviews of coronavirus sterilizing products for hard surfaces such as floors and tabletops, and disinfectants skin/hand washes.
Check out our guides below for more steam cleaning tips!: