In a front load washer, the combination of steam and water can make a difference in the quality of the job your washing machine does. Steam works with the water while the washer goes through its cycles to help keep the clothes in there soft and free of wrinkles. LG was the first company to make a steam cleaning front load washer available for purchase. In doing so the company explained how adding steam during the various washing stages can help with your front load washer do the best job it possibly can to get your clothes clean. There are 3 stages to a typical washing cycle: the pre-wash phase, the washing phase, and the post-wash phase. Adding steam to the washer tub at these different times offers different advantages over using just water alone.
Adding steam into the dry clothes while the water is loading into the washing tub helps to open up the threads of the fabrics, allowing the water to soak in more thoroughly. If steam is added during the washing phase of your washing cycle, the steam increases the temperature of the water in the washing tub. This helps improve the cleaning power of the water and detergent mix both simply because the water is hotter, and because the steam will help to better dissolve and activate the detergent allowing it to work the best. If steam is added during the post wash phase while the clothes are draining, it helps to sterilize the clothes, and also helps to soften the clothes and break up any hard folded wrinkles that were formed while the clothes were tumbling around in the washing tub of your front load steam cleaning washer. This is useful because when some fabrics get hot and wet, their properties change dramatically from when they are relatively cool and dry. These changes, although allowing the fabrics to get cleaned better, can also make them harder and more wrinkle prone. Adding the steam at this time helps to counteract that.
There are multiple ways to add steam into the mix of water and clothes in the washing tub. Some models will heat the water that is already in the washing tub to create steam in this fashion. There are other models that create the steam in a separate compartment and then inject the steam into the washing tub via a nozzle to release pure steam directly into the washing tub. There is some debate as to which method actually produces the best results, and there are some pros and cons to each. The generally accepted rule of thumb is that if you're trying to get your clothes as clean as possible, the hotter the better.
One thing to note is that steam washing machine have the options to add steam to the various stages of the washing cycle, it isn't an automatic. Creating steam takes time to heat water to near boiling temperatures to produce steam, meaning that using steam cycles can increase both the energy consumed and the time it takes to run a load through a steam cleaning washing machine. By allowing users to choose to only use the steam cleaning options when needed, these steam cleaning front load washers can still reap the efficiency benefits of their simpler, non-steam incorporating, front load washer models.
Some companies claim that another benefit of using the special cycles on their steam cleaning washers can help people with severe allergies. This is done by using an extra steam only phase during the washing cycle with very high temperatures to help to break up allergens bound up in the fabrics.
The one major caveat of these new front loading steam cleaning washers is that they can be somewhat more expensive than a similarly sized front load washer, and are significantly more expensive than a top loading washer. If getting out tough stains is an issue, then perhaps the added cost of a steam cleaning front load washer is worth while.