Optima Steam Cleaner vs. Vapor Chief 125

So, you are thinking about purchasing an Optima diesel powered steam cleaner?


Before you make that very important decision, please read a little more about the new way of car washing and why we think the Chief Steamer 125 is the best option for interior and exterior car cleaning.

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Here are some comparisons

New ways to clean a car- first there was waterless products More and more detailers have gone to waterless or polymer type of products to wash the car not only for water savings, but for effectiveness. This is a fact. Just a few short years ago, many detailers would cringe at the idea of washing a car in this fashion. But is not only accepted now, it’s almost commonplace. We have used Optimum No Rinse for years and it’s a fantastic product. However, this waterless product, as well as all the others, cannot reasonably clean the exterior fully if the car is extremely dirty. In most cases,  you really need a little more wetness and pressure and some rinsing ability to aid in getting the car clean and keeping the time frame to accomplish this, as short as possible. If you cannot use a pressure washer or garden hose, a steam cleaner is a reasonable option in addition to using a waterless product. We stress that you do need something “IN ADDITION” to the waterless product to make the process effective and efficient.

Why use a steam cleaner to wash the car? Lets get a few things straight. We are the biggest proponents of steam for auto detailing use out there. We have been using steam as long as anyone to clean the interior of a car and we pioneered the use of a steam cleaner in auto detailing. Some un-reputable and untruthful steam cleaner companies will tell you that steam will do a better job in less time than the conventional way of washing. This is generally an UNTRUE statement. On filthy cars, the best and most expensive steamer will still not be able to rinse a car and get caked on dirt off the surface the way a pressure washer, or even a garden hose can. If you want to move over to steam washing a car because you heard it was faster or more effective, we hate to tell you its sometimes not the case. But with the correct machine and the correct technique, and most importantly, a great waterless wash product, it can be just as effective However, if you are forced to use steam because you do not have a floor drain in your shop, you cannot wash outside, there are water runoff laws in your area, there is a drought situation, etc, etc, then you have to look into steam to wash the exterior of the car.    

Waterless product combined with steam to clean the exterior of a car So we all should agree that combining a steam cleaner with a waterless product is the best way to go to accomplish this. But what kind of steam cleaner can do this? A cheap little steamer has no place anywhere near the exterior of a car. It just won’t work. I am sure you may have figured that out by now. I still always laugh at videos where guys try to show a little bitty steam cleaner trying to get a car clean. We agree that won’t work and we need a better steamer to clean the exterior. But what kind of steamer is the best at doing this?    Which steamer to buy to clean the exterior as well as the interior? We have tried many steamers on the outside of a car. My thinking was always high pressure is always better. It sure helps, but a dry vapor steamer; even at a higher pressure is still not perfect. You need some wetness and water volume to help do a little rinsing on the exterior. It would also help if the water less wash product could also be incorporated with the steam to ‘spray” it on the car and use that method to actually “wash” the car.

The diesel machines- are they the best choice? Many detailers have bought into the idea that diesel machines, including the Optima steam cleaner are the best to clean the exterior. They sure look good in videos. The steam looks amazing and it just keeps coming. The way they show it, it seems all you need to do is spray steam on a car and wipe down and just like magic the car is clean in no time. It sure looks that way, but let’s examine what’s going on The myth that hot steam will remove the dirt from a car is incorrect. A pressure washer at over 2000 PSI will still not do this. Dirt has a chemical bond to the paint surface that needs both agitation and a cleaner to remove it. Even hot steam just sprayed on a surface will not fully remove dirt and contaminants. As well, when you view the videos and see the user simply spraying steam and wiping dirt off the car will do 2 bad things. It will leave scratches behind and it will be streaky. You still are not able to pull all the dirt off the surface without a cleaner. You need a waterless product in combination with the steam. You will not see this effect in their videos, but you will see it if you purchase the unit and use it in the way they show That is not to say that the diesel steamers are poor machines. They are actually excellent machines that produce high volumes of steam at an excellent temperature and in continued fashion. They never seem to give up. They are well made and will certainly help in getting the car clean. The reason why they can produce such great steam as the fast heating action of diesel and a large boiler. Nobody now even questions the amount of steam that a diesel machine can produce. But again, the question should be asked………   “Do I really need a diesel steam cleaner”? In our opinion, the answer is a resounding NO! As we stated, the diesel machine is a great machine. However, there are drawbacks to anything that you should be aware of. We already mentioned the Pro’s of this machine. But what about the Cons? Glad you asked The diesel machine is large. Most diesel steam cleaners are that gigantic. They are very heavy, and difficult to move around. Sure it has wheels, but how are you getting it off your truck? Remember, they are heavy, and remember that its “diesel”. You cannot run it “inside” your truck. It has to be in open air. Also remember that is cannot be used indoors. So shop use is not going to happen. I have not met a fire inspector yet that allows diesel or propane to be used indoors if it is not vented. So, assuming you want it for mobile use; you have to be able to load and unload it every time you want to use it. It will take up room in your truck that you may not have or want to give up As well, the diesel although powerful on the exterior, is almost too powerful for use inside the vehicle. Sure the steam volume can be adjusted from wet to dry, but even in dry mode it can be far too wet on interior surfaces and create much wipe up which actually “slows” you down. The diesel steamer also does not have brushes for use on the interior. Sure, we see the videos where they simply spray steam on a seat or a carpet or a dash and magically the surface comes clean. But anyone who has used steamers before and any detailer at all knows that dirt does not come off by spraying steam on a surface. You need agitation and the ability to “trap” the hot steam on the surface to keep the steam as hot as possible and to ‘scrub” the surface to remove and lift the dirt. The diesel steamers do not have brush attachments that will help scrub. So please beware that simply spraying steam on a surface will not get it clean. And if the surface gets too wet before its fully clean, you have made more work for yourself and the added wetness is not what you signed up for in using a steamer Our opinion is that the diesel machine Is not a good interior machine at all. In essence, the diesel machine is realistically an exterior machine only. And now look at the cost. We cannot quote an exact price of a diesel steamer as they have a few choices, but we are sure you already know the approximate cost of one if you are doing your research.   What are you really looking for and what do you really need? We think we know what you want. You want a steamer that can clean both the inside and the outside of the car. You only want to buy one machine, not an exterior only steamer and an interior only steamer. You want the machine to be 120 volts. Sure, a 240 volt machine can be made somewhat more powerful. But that adds to the cost and not everyone has a 240 volt electric source. We have spoken to enough people over the years to know that you want a 120 volt machine if at all possible. You want high pressure but you do not need super high pressure. It’s just not necessary. And those that try to do this can compromise safety of the machine if special heavy duty components are not used. And these special components add to the cost. Remember, this is hot scalding steam and the more pressure the more dangerous it becomes. We know that a combination of heat, pressure and rinsing, along with the waterless product will be able to get the exterior of a car clean   Introducing the Chief Steamer 125  car wash steam cleaner  To correctly clean the exterior of a car with steam you don’t need tons of steam or pressure. Don’t get me wrong, a little bitty steamer still won’t work but you don’t need a diesel in most cases. If you are detailing cars and NOT trying to run a car wash, the diesel is not needed. I can clean an average dirty car, even with some salt or heavy dirt with a Chief Steamer 125. I use the steam and pressure to blow dirt out of cracks and crevices first. I blow the steam under maximum pressure out of door moldings, door handles, mirrors, emblems. Between lights and the body, etc. What you really want, and need, is the steam and pressure to do is get the dirt from a tight area and move it and disperse it into a flat body area where your waterless product can do the rest. We also have an “injection” feature that introduces a cleaner of your choice into the steam hose and gives you the volume and rinsing that you sometimes need on a dirty car. The Chief Steamer 125 has a fabulous injection system. This is where you get the added volume and rinsing action. It has more than enough pressure at 125 and we have a perfect complement of brushes and attachments that will get both the exterior and interior clean with only one machine and it’s a standard 120 volts. It’s not the volume of the diesel, but please believe us that you do not need that kind of volume if you have the correct technique (which we show in our videos) It’s smaller and more compact than the diesel. It actually has “more” pressure than the diesel, although less steam volume. We made it to be able to clean both the interior and exterior. Its 120 volt electric. It’s extremely portable and of course, the most important thing is the price. We will not give it to you here, but you will be extremely happy with what we can sell this machine for. No machine is absolutely perfect. There are always some pros and cons to every piece of equipment. But we do know how to effectively clean cars and we certainly know steam technology as much as ANYONE else out there who are selling steam cleaners. We pioneered the use of steamer for car detailing and we hope we have opened your eyes with this article. We do think this is a great steamer for a detailer that needs to clean cars without tons of water.

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