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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Steam Cleaning the Aircon

Steam Cleaner Detail Nozzle

Steam Cleaner Floor Mop

The Mother Ship

Six years ago, I bought a Karcher steam cleaner. It was one of the small ones because I had wanted to buy it to steam the wall-hung aircon unit in the bedroom. I had observed how the aircon technician serviced the aircon and I hit upon the idea that if I could shoot hot steam into the blower, I could keep my aircon sterilised of all pathogens (especially those that cause Legionnaire's Disease)... and resolve The Husband's sinus problem.

I didn't need a big unit, I thought. It's just a small aircon, I thought.

After one month, I so regretted. The very night after the aircon was steam cleaned, The Husband's sinus disappeared completely. I steam cleaned the aircon once a week, and saved $30 a month on servicing... and we breathed clean air every night for 6 years. Then, I discovered that the steam cleaner blasted oil off my stovetop... whitened grout lines in our rental apartments (where the tenant seemed to have NEVER cleaned house). I regretted I didn't buy the unit with the biggest tank because I ran out of steam before half my kitchen was done. So, I reverted to the good old scrub and soap technique for the kitchen.

Anyway, I was faithful to my puny Karcher for 6 years. Then, before X'mas 2010, it gave up its ghost. A Karcher is a good $500 plus and so I held back from buying one. After all, soap and scrub worked ok... and I decided that perhaps the aircon could be washed with a normal tea tree oil spray.

Last night, The Husband complained that his sinus was so bad that his throat was sore from swallowing the mucus produced by his nose. And Lazy Petunia felt immediately guilty. My nose could already detect the smell of fungal growth blowing from our bedroom aircon unit. It was no wonder that The Husband's nose went on strike!!

So, we rushed out to Harvey Norman and bought us a steam cleaner with double the capacity. The aircon was steamed 3 times, drenched with rosemary oil solution, steamed once more. The Husband can breathe again.

The unit went downstairs where I steam mopped the kitchen floor tiles. Oh! The smoothness! There was no trace of any stickiness and I didn't have to use any soap!! Whoooooo! Petunia was inspired. Steamed EVERYTHING... cackled and laughed like an old witch with a new broomstick. Steamed EVERYTHING!

I had so much fun asking The Daughter and The Husband to identify which grout line had been steamed... which tile had been steamed... and WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT DIRT that flew outta there!!??

Today... the kitchen. Tomorrow... the bathroom. And then... mwahahahaha... THE CAR!! Okay lah... maybe not the car.

Anyway, here's what I do to my aircon blower...

  • Remove cover, and filter panels.
  • Wash filter panels as per normal.
  • Attach the detail nozzle (see first picture at the top) to the spray gun and shoot high pressure steam into the exposed metal parts of the blower.
  • Fill a pump spray canister with 1l of water plus 30 drops of tea tree oil.
  • Spray into the exposed metal parts of the blower.
  • Wait 15 minutes for tea tree oil to kill the fungus.
  • Shoot high pressure steam into the blower again to rinse.
  • VoilĂ ! Clean air all night!


Anonymous said...

Wow, that Karcher Steam Cleaner, what a champ! So happy you bought a new one and that everyone can breathe again.

petunialee said...

Theanne - You bet!!

Blur Ting said...

It sounds like a cool device! You're having fun with this, aren't you? I bought the high pressure water jet recently and it was fun watching the stubborn algae fly off the patio floor! So I can understand your enthusiasm.

petunialee said...

Ting - You betcha I'm having fun!!

Malar said...

Sounds interesting and informative too! I was just wondering how to clean my house aircon and judge if it's clean enough......

petunialee said...

Malar - I think you'll love the steamer.

happily said...

i am curious. i have thought about using steam cleaning to clean the debris that is choking the evaporating coil within the wall mounted split a/c unit. Just one technical question.

When you start blasting the steam, did you have to take care of the pressure or at least the angle of the stream of steam? Wouldn't it bend the extremely pliable aluminium fins?

Also, when you starting steaming, did it cause the dirt to be driven even further inside the evaporator coil? I am concerned that doing so will compound the problem! Perhaps in the short run, the portion of the coil closest to us is clean but how about the part that is nested deep within?

If this works, i would really like to give it a try too. Fancy paying $200 just to overhaul the evaporator coil for chemical wash! I got a system 3, no way i am paying so much!

Petunia Lee said...

Happily - The steam pressure doesn't hurt the pliable aluminum fins. However, it is a strain to hold the nozzle up for such extended periods of time. Sometimes, the hand is not careful and the nozzle hits against the fins. That's not good.

The gunk that is on a VERY dirty machine risks choking the condensation drainage pipe after a good steam blast. This is especially so if the drainage system has multiple bends. I have 10 units and only one is susceptible to chokage. It doesn't help that this is one of the 2 units that are used every night. I attach a wet vacuum cleaner at the end of the drainage pipe (the end that discharges the condensed water) and suck out all the gunk. It is really gratifying to see all the gunk in the wet vacuum waste container.

Recently, I have evolved a low tech (and even more effective way) of cleaning that particular aircon. I use a powerful water gun ... the very simple sort that kids bring to the swimming pool, that works like a big syringe. I boil a pail of water and work fast to refill and shoot hot boiling water into the aluminum fins. Shoot gently because the pressure here is much higher than steam pressure.

You dun even need a steamer for this. Just a $5 water gun with a big reservoir will do.

Hope this helps.

ET said...

Hi Petunia,
I am gonna try your steam cleaning method for the air con units. You mentioned that you used tea tree oil and rosemary oil - which one is better ?

ET said...

Hi Petunia
I am gonna try your steam cleaning method - my kids seem to have sinus every morning when they wake up. You mentioned tea tree oil and rosemary oil - which is better ?

Petunia Lee said...

ET - Tea tree oil is better.

Lh Khoo said...

Just curious how do you catch the dirty water from steam cleaning?

Petunia Lee said...

Lh Khoo - The aircon produces water condensed from the air every time you switch it on. This water is routed into your drainage system. The steam condensate you spray into the machine takes the same route.

In my house, all the aircon drainage is routed to a water collection spot. I designed it that way. The water the aircon produces is pure distilled water. I collect all of it and use it to wash clothes and mop the floor.

I don't collect the steam condensate from washing the aircon. It has bits of grey fungus floating in it that comes from cleaning the aircon.

Rudi said...

Hi Petunia,

You mentioned that there was a period of time when you just used tea tree oil, but your husband still had sinus problems. That would mean that tea tree oil actually doesn't really contribute a lot. Did you ever try to just use the steam cleaner without the oil step and you husband's problem still went away? I'm asking cause I'm considering skipping the oil step ^^ Thanks.

Petunia Lee said...

Yep... It works with just steam.

Anonymous said...

what particular model of karcher steam cleaner are you using, thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Petunia, do you remove the casing of the blower before u steam? How do you clean the roller in the blower? I also did cleaning the blower however I find that it is hard to clean the roller.

Thank you.


Petunia Lee said...

Hi Jen... I don;t understand which part is the roller. I just remove the cover and the filter and shoot straight into the metal slats.

Petunia Lee said...

I don't remember what model. I put a picture up above. I don't think they have this model anymore. There is probably a lookalike.

rainbox said...

Hi, can the steamer really clean the thick dust sticking to the blade of the blower? I had a hard time cleaning the blower

Petunia Lee said...

I actually do not quite understand your question Rainbox. Thus far, I have not encountered thick dust. It is wet inside the blower so I don't have issue with dust. I have issue with thick jelly like sheets of mould. The steamer + the wet vacuum that I attach to the other end of the drainage pipe does effectively remove even the thickest sheets of mould.