A steam mop works by using steam to clean floors. It uses heat from the steam to clean the floor, unlike regular mops, which will require you to use detergents and disinfectants. They are very efficient, but unfortunately, they can’t be used on all types of floors. So, the question here is, can you clean hardwood floors with steam mops?

First and foremost, steam mops are no good for cleaning wood because the extreme temperature change can deform the wood. However, sealed hardwood floors can withstand the pressure and heat from steam mops. 

The moisture will penetrate the wood surface and warp the wood. This will leave your floor with an unpleasant look. I understand that the idea of cleaning your floors without soap, chemicals, and water can be so tempting. However, you could do this and risk permanently damaging your beautiful wooden floors.

Do not use steam mops on wooden floors unless it is a sealed wooden floor.

It’s common knowledge that water is the enemy of wood floors. When it seeps into the wood, it causes permanent damage. The water will make the wood expand, discolor, and warp. A newly sealed wooden floor should not be cleaned with a lot of water because there might be weak spots on the seal that are compromised.

A scratch can allow water or moisture to pass through the seal and into the planks. And gradually, the wood will start to rot and produce some foul smell. 

Just imagine the damage you can do to your wood floors when cleaning with water; what about steam, which is much lighter than water. Steam, being lighter, will go through the planks much faster than water since water is denser. Ordinarily, the dirtiest sections of your floor are the extremely walked on. These are where the seal is prone to be worn out and most at threat for water damage. Unfortunately, these are likely the sections that you are generally hoping to clean. The glimmering finish on wood floors is more than just an aesthetic; it shields wood floors from soil and harm. When the seal gets worn out, your floor is likely to absorb water and stains.

How steam mops work

The steam mop heats water to over 200 degrees. The cloth at the bottom of the mop traps dirt and forces the steam through a cloth and onto the floor. These steam mops clean with hot water vapor.

So, when can you use steam mops on wooden floors?

Naturally, hardwood is an absorbent material, and when it gets into contact with water or moisture, it can cause warping, also make it twist and mold. As a known fact, a steam cleaner uses water that is heated to very hot steam to disinfect a floor. The steam vapour gets into the crevices and cracks to kill germs. This is something that a regular mop wouldn’t possibly do.

However, some steam cleaners are designed for hardwood flooring. Many companies claim to sell steam mops that are safe to use on hardwood. The manufacturers say that the cleaners have a function that wipes excess moisture as you clean, thereby absorbing the floor’s left water. Additionally, the floors must be well sealed for the machine tools to work properly on them.

Before using steam mops on your wooden floors, you need to test the floor’s seal protection thickness. Sprinkle some small amount of water on the surface; if it forms a bead, then the seal is completely intact, but if it spreads or seeps through, then the seal is damaged. This would mean that the seal would need to be reapplied.

So, we have noted that the steam mop can be used only on sealed hardwood floors. Although the seal’s quality can vary, some places on the floor might be water-resistant, while in other areas, the seal might be compromised. The thicker the seal, the more steam and moisture resistant it will be.

Problems that can be caused by using steam mops on hardwood floors

  • The harsh impact of steam on the floors: Being that steam is just vapors and is lighter than water; it can easily penetrate the wood. This will make it move down the wood boards’ side, attacking the floor from weak angles. The vapor will eventually condense and turn to liquid, which will damage the wood fibers.
  • The flooring warranty may be canceled if damaged it using the steam mop. Most hardwood floors will accompany a producer’s or a retailer’s guarantee. This will show how long the floor should last under normal use and ensures its replacement if the material flops because of structural issues. These vapor warranties frequently come with clear conditions about which acts will void their cover—read cautiously to decide whether steam cleaning is an appropriate action under your floor’s clearly stated warranty.
  • Wood joints: Sometimes the wood might be sealed perfectly against moisture penetration, but the planks’ seams might be weak. Even though the seams are usually sealed during the application of top sealers, when the wood expands and contracts with weather changes, the seal gets cracked and allows moisture to go through, thereby attacking the floor from underneath.

    An alternative way to clean your wooden floors is to sweep, vacuum, and dust mop frequently. Do this at least once a week or more regularly if you have pets. All-purpose cleaners and vinegar should never be used on floors as they both dull the floors’ finish.

How should you clean hardwood floors?

To clean hardwood floors, sweep, vacuum and mop regularly. You may want to it more often based on how dirty the hardwood may get. It is important not to use all-purpose cleaners or vinegar on your hardwood floors as they may dull and possibly even damage the hardwood floor. Mopping should be done with a minimal amount of water so the floor is not left wet and damp. It is important to clean up any water spills on hardwood floors immediately to avoid water damage.

Concluding Remarks

Remember to use your manufacturer’s suggested cleaner and very little water. Clean spills immediately they occur to avoid damage. Frequent dusting and wet cleaning will ensure your floors are squeaky clean, and they won’t need a thorough cleaning. Use steam mops that are designed for hardwood. Be cautious when using steam mops on sealed hardwood floors since the seal is not always 100% secured. As long as you stick to the cleaning instructions and use the right cleaners for your floor, they will maintain their shine and look as good as new.