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Considering getting a steam cleaner


Hello all,

I have been considering getting a steam cleaner for a while now but
have a hard time justifying it due to my sporadic need (I only do
jewelry as a hobby so far, I am a professional gem cutter) and the
high cost and relatively large size and weight of the cleaners.

It is still a purchase that I am considering but one of my clients
told me that his teacher who had been smithing for years "hated"
steam cleaners and only used compressed air from an air compressor.
Since I already have a large one of these on hand I would like to
ask you guys what you think about this. Will an air compressor do an
adequate job of substituting a steam cleaner after Ultra Sonic

John Dyer


I think the heat from the steam actually dries off the water to be
crystal clean. Air compressor would take longer and will not get all
the dirt from under stones even after ultrasonic.

Best Russ


You could try a small cheap Cappuccino Machine. You can use the milk
steamer for jewelry. That’s what I used to start out with. You’ll
find it works great for small jobs of for infrequent use.


John -

The ones with modest cost (less than $300) will die an early death
with constant use; but they are too expensive for intermittent use.
The heavy-duty (expensive) units work really well, but you’ve REALLY
got to need one to justify the $1000+ it will cost. If you were
doing repair work where the customer is sitting in the shop waiting
on the work and willing to pay a premium for same-day service, then
I’d say it might be justified.

I do well enough with an ultrasonic, toothbrush and compressed air.
Cuts down on my energy use, too! If I have something that’s really
grody, I leave it in the lye solution overnight (I’m talking hollow
chains, rings with baked on crud, etc. No delicate stuff, of

Having gotten screwed by the manufacturer on my first/last steamer,
I realized that it wasn’t worth the price I had paid.

best regards,
Kelley Dragon

teacher who had been smithing for years "hated" steam cleaners and
only used compressed air 

Well, John, save your hatred for those who are capable of hating you

Steam isn’t just pressure, it’s hot and wet - even though it’s
called “dry steam”, it’s still wet. Ours (which is indespensible in
our situation) runs at 80 psi. There is no substitute for steam,
really. But that doesn’t mean you have to have it, either. I could
easily see somebody making silver bezel-set jewelry getting fine
results with compressed air. I made a whole lot of jewelry before I
even knew there WERE steam cleaners.

We do much work that has hidden cavities, tiny holes, many nooks and
crannies that no hand tools can reach, and ultrasonic loosens things
but that’s all - it still needs to be blasted away.

Bottom line - my advice would be to buy steam if you really think you
need it and the cost isn’t a hardship (hah!) - otherwise see how the
air works for you, and other methods. Much depends on what sort of
jewelry you are making. Pierced and domed silver sheet earrings
really don’t require it - you’ll use it for everything if you get
one, though. Oh, yeah - as others have said, steam costs $1000 or
something. Cheap steamers are generally a way of separating you from
your money. And all the tools suppliers have a used section - I
looked at Otto Frei just now and they don’t have a steamer, but check
them all (Gesswein, I. Shor, Otto Frei, Rio Grande, and others…)

Will an air compressor do an adequate job of substituting a steam
cleaner after Ultra Sonic cleaning? 

On the one hand, no. It won’t clean off the left over dirt and
finger prints, but on the plus side it won’t damage those stones that
can’t take heat. And a steamer dries jewelry.

I have both a huge air compressor that’s always on and a 220v
steamer. I use the steamer for cleaning jewelry and the compressor
for running my GraverMax.


I am confused. How is it that steam cleaning won’t damage stones
that are sensitive to heat? Isn’t the steam from a steam cleaner,


We're currently having terrible problems with our steam cleaner at
work - it's got yet another fault that needs fixing - we must send
it away 3 times a year. The real problem is just how much we need
it! Otherwise, we'd throw it away. 

I don’t have any experience with compressed air, but I’m guessing
that the water content of the steam is important in removing dirt,
not just the force of the blast.If you do get a steamer, see if it’s
possible to get something old and simple - after all, it’s a boiler
tank and a valve - why does it need to be so over-designed?



Thanks for the feedback on this so far.

I actually have one of the REALLY cheap and not so impressive steam
cleaners and a capuccino machine too. What I am thinking about is a
more professional one.

My main question though is in relation to using a large heavy duty
air compressor in comparison to a mid range priced professional
steam cleaner. I have the air compressor already.

Anyone else have experience with this? Or can you tell me why a
steam cleaner is better than highly compressed air? Or maybe it

I am not really trying to prove any point, except maybe to myself so
as to not waste money on a steam cleaner if what I have will work
just as well.

John Dyer



Good question. A $1000 purchase is a major deal to me. I don’t know
about compressed air but I bought my junior steam cleaner about 20
years ago. It holds 2 gallons of water. I paid about $850 for it. I
steam only about 15 items a day. I like it very much but upkeep on it
has been rather costly. The solenoid has gone out several times and
the pressure relief valve once, the fill valve and blow-down valve
once. With the periodic upkeep of the rubber washers, glass tubes,
and blow-down powder, I am certain I have purchased the steamer a
second time. However, when it expires completely, I will purchase

Dale Pavatte
Diamonds For You
Decherd, Tennessee

after all, it's a boiler tank and a valve - why does it need to be
so over-designed? 

Because a steam boiler is also known as a bomb if it is not properly

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts



There is a damned good reason serious shops have real steam cleaner,
they work really well. I have a toy coffee machine and compressed air
but sure do miss a proper steam cleaner.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing


Jamie -

When I took thermodynamics, we did a lot of classwork on steam -
temperature, pressure, volume of steam to water, etc. I don’t
remember it all, but it helps me appreciate just how much power there
is in steam.

In order to produce the volume and pressure an
industrial/professional steamer can deliver, it must also have
heavy-duty hardware such as the tank, valves, safety devices, etc. It
HAS to be ‘over-designed’ to be safe in a shop environment. There’s
got to be a feedback mechanism to prevent runaway overheating. The
uncontrolled release of steam in a shop environment could be deadly.

The ‘steam’ we are used to dealing with in the kitchen is kid stuff
to what these machines can produce.

Kelley Dragon


Hello John, For jewelry cleaning purposes, there is not much
comparison between a compressor and an 80lbs. of pressure steamer.
Get the steamer. Have fun.

Tom Arnold


I have wondered whether one of the house cleaning steam cleaners
could be cross purposed to cleaning jewelry. The one I am thinking
of is the Ladybug Vapor Steam Cleaner. One of the attachments is a
small nozzle spray. I have never used a steam cleaner so I don’t know
if it is a feasable idea. It says that it can be refilled without
waiting for it to cool.

Ardetta in Michigan

Or can you tell me why a steam cleaner is better than highly
compressed air? Or maybe it isn't? 

Steam is better than just air. When using steam you get the action
of compressed air combined with the wetting action of steam to clean

Think of it this way… Imagine using a dry paper towel (or dry
compressed air) to wipe a dirty surface. You’ll remove the large
loose things, but there will be a film remaining on the surface. If
you wet the paper towel you’ll have greater success in removing
material that a dry wipe won’t remove.

Additionally, the warmth of the steam makes grease, oils, and other
sticky things easier to remove.

I realize the idea above is simplistic, but it’s how I picture it.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Alliance, OH