A great question we always receive from a person who has never used steam before is “Can it damage anything”. The short answer is YES. But……..if you have the correct technique, use the correct attachment, and know what you are working on, then the chances of damage diminish considerably, almost to nothing.
There is a fine line between being too careful about cleaning with steam, where you will not be effective and be disappointed in the machine. Then there is the aggressive user who does not know how steam can affect a surface is aggression, especially with a good commercial, high heat and pressure Chief Steamer, can possibly damage a surface.
Cleaning with heat, especially steam, will always accelerate the process. Introducing agitation with a brush attachment, maybe a little cleaner, and moving slow along the surface will make quick work of most cleaning tasks.
Some guys are too aggressive and they may damage a leather seat by removing dye, or being aggressive on a headliner and either scratching it or having it sag. On certain plastics (mostly on older vehicles), if you are too aggressive the surface may turn white or remove lettering on a turn signal lever or window switch. But that is usually the extent of any damage that someone may do. Of course, you never want to see ANY damage and having good technique will almost eliminate these issues
On the other hand we have had guys say they have used steam before and thought it was a useless tool. Of course i wanted to know why he thought that way, when thousands of others think differently. Its mainly technique again. Some of these steamer videos of other machines and manufacturers simply show the user spraying steam on a dirty panel such as as seat or carpet and quickly wiping and thinking that is all you need to do to get the surface clean. For the people who believe this and try to use a steamer in that fashion, you will have little success and be unhappy with the machine. And that is generally unfair to the machine. Its poor technique and poor training.
The key to using steam is finding the correct attachment and actually “scrubbing” the surface the way you normal would do with a scrub brush. By “trapping” the steam against the surface this will enhance the cleaning as the extremely hot vapor will release the dirt much faster. Then, simply wipe up and you have a perfectly clean surface in less time with little or no chemicals. And by knowing how to use the correct attachment and using the steamer correctly, there will be little chance of damage.
Look at some of our interior videos using the Chief steamer here