Steam Cleaning in Engine Room?

Any experience using steam to clean in the Engine Room? Low-Speed diesel engine room is fitted with several steam supply points, for example in the purifier room. Is using steam a practical way to clean in a diesel E/R?

They’ve used it on a couple of boats I’ve been on, worked fantastic, just was hotter than balls afterwards until the ventilation caught up. Especially good for greasy deck plates too where it can cake up


steam cleaned a few bilges in the past with good results.

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I’ve done and have seen it done on several vessels.

The best way that I have seen involves a portable (as long as you have a crane) Steam Cleaner Unit. Basically, a power washer with a small boiler built into it. These worked great to clean the bilges and get the years of build up off of the deck plates and frames.

The biggest problem that we had was the amount of grounds that showed up afterwards. Now that was fun but at least it was clean.


There is no question that it works but the cheap and very effective high pressure washers available at every homestore offer a much safer, easier to manage alternative and are less prone to damage equipment.

Unless your machinery spaces are real shit-holes that need a one time intervention(which is best done by contractors in the yard) an unlicensed guy with a soogee bucket and brush is the best choice for routine cleaning. Even a little high pressure washer can be a nuisance and damage electrical equipment and paint.


When I did that we worked in a hot fog for two hours and when it cleared all the crap that was in the bilge was now on the overhead. Don’t use too much pressure.


Back when I played yard dog for a while we had a gas free company come in to prep an engine room to swap from a set of ALCO 16 or 20’s to a set of 3516 D’s.
These guys brought in steam generators and the whole 9 yards, they were more expensive than the pressure washer guys we usually used but in certain applications saved money as the steam really seemed to help cut down on the oil seeping out of the steel in the bilges after the initial gas free and cut down on re-cleaning.
Boat had been built in 1952 and had been running the whole time.
Encountered plenty of other fascinating issues on that project though, including that burning diesel for 50 years through the same exhaust will cause it to pick up enough radiation to set off the scrap metal guys detectors.

But this is probably beyond the scope of OP’s question.

I’d be concerned mostly about releasing magic blue smoke from things that should be retaining it. That’s probably a operator issue as much as anything.


Blue? I think its more chartreuse. What do I have to break to see the blue smoke?

Ha Ha Emrobu… nice to see some humor this morning!! Steam ok i guess but u gotta have ventilation and hugamundo’s point about crap on the overhead …

If you have a fire detection system that uses photo ionization sensors you will be getting fire alarms during the process.

Thanks for the responses, found it helpful and interesting.

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Pressure washers work. Just think ahead of time about water you’ll be putting in the bilge and what you can do with it. A lot of paint chips etc will play havoc with your OWS unless you have good pre-filtration. Or you can hold it for shore side discharge

pressure washing is a best way to clean it. the operation can be performed by a car wash equipment like a pressure washer.

I’ve used steam cleaners a lot (never straight from the boiler though) and they work really well (especially the gas-powered commercial units). You kinda get a feel for which system is better (steam or pressure) but on the really dirty jobs, I sometimes use a combination of both… pressurized boiling water. Of course, you have to be careful but it does get the job done.

Here’s an article I co-wrote about the differences between the two methods:

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