To steam or not to steam? That is indeed the question that consumers looking for new laundry appliances are asking themselves. Steam washers and dryers consume less water while adding more options and flexibility to doing laundry.

Steam is a useful cleaning tool that is penetrating yet gentle. It is an effective sanitizer as it reaches high temperatures in pressurized atmospheres. It rehydrates ground-in stains (i.e. dirt or mud) to effectively spot clean and deodorize. Steam also removes wrinkles, eliminating the need to iron.

This hot new trend is taking over laundry rooms everywhere, but are the benefits worth the extra cost? Read on to learn how steam works in your laundry and how it can work for you.

Steam Washer

You may think that steam washers cost more because of their ultra-high temperatures, but it is the exact opposite: steam washers use less power and water because after all, it doesn't take much water to produce a lot of steam. Steam washers don't need as much energy to heat as many litres of water as conventional models.

How it works: As water is loading into the wash tub, steam works with water to help soak fabrics more thoroughly, boosting stain removal. During the wash cycle, steam improves the cleaning power of the washer by increasing the temperature of the wash tub to activate the detergent. The detergent dissolves more effectively, which leads to better performance.

Go ahead - blow off some steam. Washers apply steam in different ways: some heat the water in the tub to directly create steam while other models utilize a steam generator to create steam in a separate compartment that is then released into the tub. Steam washers offer steam as an option to add to normal cycles as well as special steam cycles.

Bye-bye allergens and wrinkles! When steam is added after the wash cycle, it penetrates fabric to sterilize and soften clothing, removing hard wrinkles formed while the clothes tossed around in the tub. Steam is effective in removing dust, dirt and allergens (such pet dander) from clothing.

Steam off your stains. In addition to sanitizing and deodorizing in the washer, steam can also enhance stain removal. It breaks down the bonds of a stain on clothing, "loosening" the stain to make it easier to remove.

Steam Dryer

Basically, steam dryers are conventional dryers with a steam option. It may seem bizarre to use moisture (steam) to dry your clothes, but wait 'til you see what it can do!

No time to iron?

Steam reduces wrinkles in dry clothes by gently but effectively penetrating the fabric, resulting in soft, wrinkle-free laundry. The steam cycle can be run on its own, or will kick in after the end of a normal dry cycle to rid the load of any wrinkles that my have occurred after the load stopped moving.

No time to dry clean?

Steam effectively refreshes clothes without the use of liquid water or detergent and removes unwanted odours in a snap. One quick steam cycle and you'll be on your way, wrinkle-free and as fresh as a daisy!

Suffer from allergies?

Steam is a tried and true sanitizer thanks to its ultra-high temperature. It is extremely effective at removing allergens from clothing.

Doesn't the old "steam clothes in the shower" trick work just as well?

We've all done it - hung up a shirt or pants in the bathroom to steam while we take an extra-long, super-hot shower. But how well does it really work, really? Be honest - Nine times out of ten you iron the garment anyway, don't you? Same goes for throwing something wet in with the wrinkly item. It works, but it's not ideal. Steam dryers offer excellent results while consuming a limited amount of energy, plus you'll save even more money by cutting out your long, steamy showers.

Not all steam is created equal.

Well, the actual steam may be the same in all models, but the methods used to apply it are not. Some appliances use a stream of pure steam; some release a fine mist onto the clothes and let the heat in the dryer transform it into steam; some use a steam generator to produce pure steam that is then released onto the clothing. When purchasing a steam dryer, make sure that it incorporates the steam cycles that you prefer.

Is steam a dream?

It depends on your needs of course, but steam is indeed a dream if you wish to sanitize, soften, freshen or de-wrinkle your laundry with limited effort and energy consumption. Steam may add a little bit of time to your wash or dry cycles, but it ultimately adds more options and flexibility to doing your laundry while reducing your energy costs. It looks like it's full steam ahead for this hot laundry trend!