Steam Cleaners

I am revisiting the possible purchase of a steam cleaner as one is on my short list of things to buy. I currently clean after polishing with either a solution of hot water and ammonia and a scrub with an old tooth brush or, more often, with pumice free GOOP and an old tooth brush when I clean my hands. I find that, when using GOOP, things get clean fast and my fingers are less likely to split. I have an old ultrasonic cleaner that is fairly anemic. I visited an old jewelry friend yesterday and he showed me his steam cleaner. He said that he would be lost without it. Looking at the archives, I donā€™t really find any current discussions about steam cleaners and I am hoping for some suggestions about what to buy. I donā€™t need a production model as my shop is a one at a time, one man shop. I also donā€™t have a lot of space, but I could probably install it over my sink. I am interested in an on-demand unit that doesnā€™t take a lot of time to start up. One that uses distilled water is fine. I realize that a better ultrasonic might also be needed. Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciatedā€¦Rob


Hi Rob,

my thoughts:

it is my understanding that one should not ask equipment to do more than it was designed to do, so, i try to polish in a way that removes all or most of the polish before i get to the ultrasonic.

And I primarily use the steamer to 1) blow off any little specks of compound that may remain (using a slower wetter flow) and 2) to quickly dry the piece so that there are no water marks (using a faster drier flow)ā€¦.by how i use the footpedalā€¦also, with the Reimers steamer you can set the overall pressure with a dial.

i originally purchased one of those Dragon Atmospheric On-Demand steamers because it does not have a steel tank (i wanted to avoid a rusting tank)ā€¦it gets its water supply from a gallon jug of distilled waterā€¦

i did not like the way it emitted steamā€¦there was a lack of control with the flowā€¦kind of like, i stepped on the pedal and it blew out a preset amount, at a preset pressureā€¦and it had a very wet/ droplet sprayā€¦

perhaps i was using it incorrectlyā€¦i returned itā€¦

i ended up buying a refurbished Reimerā€™s steamer from a friend of a friend for $500ā€¦

I called the manufacturer and by itā€™s serial number we determined that it was built in 1998ā€¦so it was about 15 years old when i got itā€¦(it is now 24 years old and still going strongā€¦)

at 15 years old, i was somewhat concerned about a rusted steel tankā€¦

i was trying to figure out if my steel tank, being old, would be a problem rust-wiseā€¦he said that their steamers last a very long time, and if maintained properly, he has seen them last 30 years and more easily.

the manufacturer was very helpful in telling me how to ā€œblow-downā€ the unitā€¦ie: open the drain valve, under pressure, to blow out the water from the tank and remove some of the rust build upā€¦how to modify/ add a down pipe to the drain pipe to blow it out down into a sink or sturdy bucketā€¦(i do a blow-out about once a week)

and he recommended some of the steamer additives availableā€¦water type plays a roleā€¦in mineral build up, etcā€¦

i asked if there were rustproof stainless steel tank versionsā€¦he said yes, but primarily for medical use and like $7000+ā€¦

i asked him, on a new unit, how long before the tank starts to rust, and he said pretty quicklyā€¦(i was belatedly wondering if i should have gotten a new oneā€¦

I consider my steamer an essential piece of equipmentā€¦

i recently saw another brand, that was new to meā€¦but i forget the nameā€¦

regarding ultrasonics, i have had several of the smaller 1 quart unitsā€¦i have one for pre-polish compounds, and one for final polish compoundsā€¦(started during my polishing issues period!)ā€¦(ie: compound suspended in ultrasonic solution and abrading surfaces during cavitationā€¦)

i am finding that replacements seem to only last s year or twoā€¦they do not seem to last as long as my first unit didā€¦

there is a test that you can do, using foil in the bottom of the tank in solution, to see if the cavitation is firing on all cylinders, or not (is cavitation the right word for the ultrasonic action?)ā€¦ie: if the foil doesnā€™t pit uniformly and evenly, then some of the thingies are not workingā€¦

i will try to find the test info and post it laterā€¦


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Hi again Rob,

here is a foil test post

and here is a good video (video says to run test for 1 minute, rather than 30 seconds as above post)

i believe there are multiple ā€œthingiesā€ under the tank, that cause the cavitationā€¦if one or more are not working, you will see areas on the foil that are not affected and remain smooth


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Hi Rob,
one thing that has confused me when i hear it is ā€œcleaning with a toothbrushā€ after polishingā€¦doesnā€™t this scratch the pieceā€¦?


Hi again,
regarding my statement about the ultrasonics not lasting as long as before, it is mainly that the heater becomes inconsistent and hard to get up to tempuratureā€¦like i set it to 65-79 degrees, and it stalks at 45 degreesā€¦


I use a really well worn tooth brush. It doesnā€™t seem to be a problem, even on a high polish. Thanks for all of your information. I may be looking for a solution to a problem that I donā€™t have, since what I have been doing has worked for a long time. Happy Holidaysā€¦Rob


Hi again,

here is a 12 year old video that talks about reimers steamersā€¦this looks like the model i haveā€¦


Julie, I also use a toothbrush. I buy one of the very soft baby tooth brushes and use it on a tile for many days each time I brush my teeth my regular brush. The baby soft one works very well and doesnā€™t leave any scratches. Just break it in scrubbing a tile for a few weeks.

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Do you have a air compressor? I was bemoaning the lack of a steam cleaner one day. I did the usual scrub with the baby tooth brush on a piece then rinsed it. I needed to package it and get it in the mail asap. So I went out into the garage where Dan (my husband) has his air compressor. I used it to blow off all the remaining water. I saw little bits of yuck come off the piece from places I couldnā€™t see. I tried it again on another piece. Works like a charm. One good thing about it is no need to work about the thermal shock and what stones can or canā€™t be used with a steam cleaner.

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Hi Aggie,

the air compressor concept sounds interesting!ā€¦does Dans have a handle/ gun type/ airbrush type nozzleā€¦?

if the pieve were to come directly out of a hot ultrasonic bath (to loosen up/ remove compound) and was blown off while still wet, that sounds like it would work!


I have two air compressors, one dedicated to my engraving operation and the other to blow up whatever needs blowing up. I do use it to blow water off or out of jewelry pieces from time to time, but I have never noticed if it removes polishing dirt. I will look closer next time. I forgot to mention, when I was discussing using a tooth brush, it is usually between tripoli and rouge. My rouge polishing is just a quick kiss and cleans up with whatever cleaner I might be using.

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Julie, I use these at about a dollar each. I keep one with each polishing media ā€˜kitā€™ of compound, bristle wheels, etc. in little plastic containers:

The finest compounds I use are 0.1 micron Luxor orange, and Picasso blue, which seems even finer, and the brushes do not leave any scratches.

I write the compound used on each bamboo handle so they donā€™t get mixed up, to avoid accidental cross-contamination.

Neil A


Hi Neil!
Happy Holidays!

ok, great! I use Picasso Blue as well. I will order some!


Julie, I used the gun like handle. It has the most concentrated stream of air. Hang onto your piece it will jump out of your hand from the pressure.

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Following is a link to pictures of the setup and results of this test on my ultra sonic cleaner after running for 5 minutesā€¦Rob

Hi Rob,

(i believe we have the same ultrasonic unitsā€¦one of mine keeps stalling out a 45 degrees instead of the 65 degrees as set

Interestingā€¦i think you might have gotten holes (bad sample) due to longer test time of 5 minutes, versus shorter test time of 1 minuteā€¦

Perhaps try test again for the shorter amount of time- 1 minute instead of 5 minutes.

foil should have uniform fine dimplingā€¦if smooth sections are apparent, I believe that indicates that that particular coverage areas ā€œthingeysā€ are not working at optimumā€¦

see video link belowā€¦at around the 2:40minute mark for samples of foil dimpling (good sample) and holes (bad sample)

There were no holes after one minute. I checked as it went along. This cleaner has never done a great job. It was low cost entry level model and I guess that you get what you pay for. Thanksā€¦Rob

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Hi Rob,

it is hard to see the overall uniformity of coverageā€¦and size/ height/ strength of your dimplesā€¦do they look ā€œstrongā€ like in the video?

Do you set your heat up to at least 65 degrees? I find that the heat is pivotalā€¦

my ā€œbadā€ unit is only about 2 years oldā€¦have been thinking of getting a new oneā€¦but am just using the other one I have for both compoundsā€¦



Let me go back and reread the directions and do it againā€¦Rob

Retest with new solution at 20 degrees C. Foil was as flat as I could get it to start. Picture is of the results at 1 minuteā€¦Rob