Steam is water that has passed from the liquid phase to the gaseous phase. This process occurs when enough heat is applied to bring the water to its boiling point (i.e., enthalpy of vaporization). At this point, the hydrogen bonds keeping the H2O molecules joined together break down, allowing them to move more freely. These free molecules form steam.

Steam can be classified into two main types: dry steam and wet steam. These can be further divided into subtypes based on a variety of characteristics, such as quality (e.g., clean steam) and temperature (e.g., superheated steam). Since there are many types of steam and each type has distinct properties that make it suitable for different applications, some people may find it challenging to choose the one that best suits their needs. That’s why the experts at Electro-Steam have put together the following guide on the different types of steam. It outlines what they are, what benefits they offer, and what applications they are used in to help readers with the steam selection process. 

Dry Steam

Dry steam—also referred to as saturated steam—does not contain any water molecules in suspension. As a result, it holds almost no moisture (less than 0.5% commercially) and maintains a highly transparent appearance. It is produced by heating water in a pressure vessel or other closed chamber until it reaches vapor-liquid equilibrium. 

Benefits of Dry Steam

There are many benefits to using this type of steam. For example: 

  • It is eco-friendly. Dry steam vapor is often used as a green cleaning alternative. It can be utilized to clean and sanitize surfaces without the use of harsh chemicals.
  • It is less likely to cause corrosion. Due to its low moisture content, dry steam carries a smaller potential for corrosion.   
  • It is sanitary. Dry steam can easily penetrate beneath surfaces and spread to hard-to-reach places, making it highly effective for cleaning and sanitation operations.
  • It is safe. The pressure of dry steam is very low, which makes it much safer to use than pressurized hot water. 

Applications of Dry Steam

Dry steam finds use in a number of industrial and commercial applications. Typical facilities and locations where it is used for cleaning and sanitation operations include: 

  • Car washes
  • Commercial cleaning sites
  • Food processing plants
  • HVAC systems
  • Kitchens
  • Medical and pharmaceutical facilities
  • Wineries and breweries

Clean Steam

Clean steam is a broad term used to refer to steam that is suitable for use in applications with high sanitation requirements (e.g., medical and pharmaceutical processes). The steam is processed and produced such that it does not contain any additives or unwanted materials that can contaminate the surfaces it touches. It must be able to generate condensate the meets the US Pharmacopoeia specifications for purified water. 

Benefits of Clean Steam

This type of steam offers the following benefits:

  • It is suitable for sanitary environments. Due to its high purity level, clean steam is suitable for use in operations where it may come into contact with food, beverages, and other products that must remain uncontaminated. 
  • It prevents the growth of microbes. Clean steam can be used to destroy microbes on surfaces without leaving behind any contaminants. 

Applications of Clean Steam

The high purity level of clean steam makes it suitable for use in the following facilities:

  • Biopharma facilities
  • Patient care and treatment centers
  • Pharmaceutical and nutraceutical manufacturing plants

Superheated Steam

Superheated steam refers to steam that has been heated to a temperature greater than its vaporization point for the given pressure. As a result, it can cool slightly without condensing back into a liquid. 

Benefits of Superheated Steam

Superheated steam has many beneficial properties that make it suitable for different applications. For example: 

  • It is used in power generation operations due to its ability to carry large amounts of energy. 
  • It is used for food processing operations due to its high heat transfer efficiency.
  • It is used in biofilm disinfection operations due to its effectiveness at destroying microbes.

Applications of Superheated Steam

As indicated above, superheated steam is commonly used for the following applications: 

  • Food processing
  • Surface cleaning and sanitization

Learn More About Steam From the Experts at Electro-Steam

Want to learn more about the different types of steam and find the right steam source for your application? Ask the experts at Electro-Steam!  Equipped with over 60 years of steam equipment manufacturing experience, our team can answer and address any questions or concerns you may have. Additionally, if you need steam equipment, we’ve got you covered! We offer a range of high-performance steam generators and steam cleaning equipment suitable for use in a wide range of industries and applications. If none of those suit your needs, we can build a custom solution tailored to your exact requirements and restrictions. 

Contact us today for more information about our equipment catalog and customization capabilities.

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