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About Dry Steam Cleaning & Car Washing

‘Dry’ Steam is water ‘super-heated’ in a sealed boiler enabling the water to be heated to temperatures above normal water boiling point. The molecular structure of water changes when it is turned into ‘super-heated’ steam creating 95% steam and only 5% water within the steam.

By far, the biggest advantage to using Dry Steam in vehicle cleaning is the eradication of waster water. Because the ‘dry’ steam comprises of only around 5% water and 95% steam, no waste water is produced leaving the ground free of waste water.

Many illegal hand Car Wash operations break The Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guidelines by letting untreated waste water into rainwater drains (see panel below)

Using Dry Steam for Car Washing totally eradicates the production of waste water enabling the operator to offer both mobile or static services without contravention of Pollution Prevention Guidelines.

The History of Steam

Steam has come a long way from its traditional associations with locomotives and the Industrial Revolution. Steam today is an integral and essential part of modern technology. Without it, our food, textile, chemical, medical, power, heating and transport industries could not exist or perform as they do.

Learn more about the History of Steam here

Car Washing - Labour Intensive

In any business time really is money. In conventional Hand Car Washing, the highest cost factor is the Labour. Many Hand Car Wash operations employ between 3 and 6 people due to the high labour factor of the different operations required to effectively clean a car, apply a finish (usually a liquid wax shampoo) and dry the vehicle.

With Dry Steam Car Washing a single operator can effectively clean and dry a car within the time that 2 or 3 operators would need to clean a car in the conventional way.

These are the 9 (yes nine!) stages a Conventional Hand Car Wash operation normally applies (note in red, the 3 high volume water applications)...

1. Pre-Rinse - the car is pre-rinsed using a pressure washer. This loosens off any loose dirt and ‘wets’ the car to safely apply the Traffic Film Remover detergent.

2. Application of Traffic Film Remover. Diluted TFR is applied (usually via a trigger sprayer) to the vehicle. Some operators only apply the TFR to the lower half of the vehicle as this is the area that attracts most dirt. TFR acts as a ‘de-magnetisers’ breaking down the attraction of road film (oils from vehicles, oil / petrol and diesel spillages) and environment fallout that is attracted to the vehicle.

Dry Steam has been used for many years in commercial and latterly, domestic cleaning....

The use of high pressure steam has many advantages over traditional cleaning methods and although Dry Steam can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks (ie Hospital, Kitchen, Hotel, Food Manufacturing etc) this information is centred on Dry Steam for Vehicle Cleaning. (If you require information on Dry Steam for Hygiene Cleaning as opposed to Vehicle Cleaning, please click here)

Why Is ‘Dry’ Steam

When water is heated in a boiler, it begins to absorb energy. Depending on the pressure in the boiler, the water will evaporate at a certain temperature to form steam. The steam contains a large quantity of stored energy which will eventually be transferred to the process or the space to be heated.

It can be generated at high pressures to give high steam temperatures. The higher the pressure, the higher the temperature. More heat energy is contained within high temperature steam so its potential to do work is greater.

Illegal Hand Car Wash... Even on disused Petrol Forecourts, Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guidelines are being broken by not using the Water Reclaim System on site.

Sites are being closed down throughout the UK for this reason alone.

Using Dry Steam eradicates the production of waste water as only 5% of water is produced and 95% steam.

Dry Steam for use in Car Washing enables the operator to offer both Mobile & Static Services without the fear of breaking Environmental Pollution Laws.

Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guidelines on Waste Water

Many illegal hand car wash operations break the Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Laws by running waste water (which usually includes non-biodegradable traffic film removers and shampoo’s) into rainwater drains.

Unlike if the waste water was being directed to ‘foul water’ drains, this untreated waste normally ends up in the water table either via the unusually inefficient rainwater drain or, in many cases through the Tarmac where no correct hard-standing concrete base is present. Many hand car wash operations are being closed down by Local Authorities and The Environment Agency for this single reason.

3. Application of Alloy Wheel Acid. Where Alloy Wheels are heavily stained in baked on brake dust, the most effective way to remove this dust is by using an industry standard acid. This breaks down the dust ready to be washed away by the high pressure washer.

4. High Pressure Washing. The vehicle is then ‘washed’ using high pressure water.

5. Wash & Wax / Shampoo Application. This stage not only adds to the cleaning process with a firm application of a sponge or microfibre wash ‘mitt’ that actually ‘deep cleans’ the vehicle (that the TFR and Pressure Washers may leave behind) but also leaves a film of ‘wax’ (usually synthetic for economy reasons) to add a shine to the vehicle. This stage has to be applied as the TFR removes all unstable waxes and polished previously applied. This stage is effectively ‘re-dressing’ the vehicle paintwork.

6. High Pressure Rinsing. The vehicle is then ‘rinsed’ using high pressure water to remove excess shampoo.

7. Bodywork Drying. The vehicle is then dried using chamois leathers (and more latterly synthetic versions) and dry microfibre cloths. Door Jamb Drying. Any decent Hand Car Wash will dry inside the door jamb of the vehicle (this requires opening of all the doors and the boot compartment to carry this out)

8. Window Cleaning. TFR’s and Shampoo’s do not effectively (thoroughly) clean glass. Due to its molecular structure (of super heated sand!), the only effective way to clean  glass is with a specifically designed glass cleaning liquid. Although inexpensive, this process must be carried out or the risk of ‘streaks’ on the glass may occur.

9. Apply Tyre Dressing. Application of a synthetic tyre dressing is normally applied to give the car that ‘Showroom’ finish.

Conclusion.. Conventional Hand Car Washing is a time and labour intensive operation.

The Nine Stage of Conventional Hand Car Washing in Pictures (high water usage in red)...

1. Pre-rinse                 2. Apply TFR               3. Wheel Acid           4. Rinse                5. Shampoo                6 Rinse              7. Leather Dry       8. Windows       9. Dress Tyres

What Are The Key Advantages To Using Dry Steam For Vehicle Cleaning

1. Eradication of Waste Water

The Nine Stage of Conventional Hand Car Washing...

2. Time - Time Is Money...

The 3 Stages of Vehicle Cleaning Using Dry Steam...

There are only 3 stages of cleaning a vehicle using a Dry Steam System

1. Pre-rinse any loose deposits of dirt from the vehicle and clean the wheels

2. Apply the Super Heated Dry Steam (which includes a specially formulated chemical to clean and shine the vehicle surface in one application) cleaning ALL surfaces (including plastics, glass etc) and drying / buffing as you go with a Microfibre cloth

3. Apply Tyre Dressing

1. Pre-rinse any loose deposits of dirt from the

vehicle and clean the wheels

2. Apply the Super Heated Dry Steam & Wax

3. Apply Tyre Dressing

3. Cost Effectiveness In Use

The below table compares the equipment and chemicals needed to offer conventional Car Valeting versus Dry Steam Systems





Pressure Washer

Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Soil Extraction Machine (Soft Fabric Deep Cleaning)

Dry Steam Cleaning System with integral Detergent and Vacuum System for Soft Fabric Deep Cleaning



Traffic Film Remover

Wheel Acid

Wash n Wax / Shampoo

Glass Cleaner

Tyre Shine Dressing

Upholstery & Fabric Shampoo

Diesel (if using Hot Water Pressure Washer)

Wax Detergent

Tyre Shine Dressing

Upholstery & Fabric Detergent



Wheel Cleaning Brush


Chamois Leather

Microfibre Cloths

Tyre Dressing Applicator Brush

Tyre Dressing Applicator Brush

Microfibre Cloths

To offer a fair comparison, additional costs required to run a Conventional Car Wash including Water Recycling or Holding Systems have been excluded from the equation.

The ongoing costs of using a Dry Steam System are minimal compared to traditional vehicle washing.

The Chemical used in a Dry Steam System equate to approximately 5% of the Steam produced and the only other consumables are the Tyre Dressing and Microfibre Cloths.

Microfibre Cloths can be washed and re-used up to 200 times and are inexpensive to purchase.

Buy H3O Consumables here

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