Can Wood Floors Be Steam Cleaned?

Everyone wants an easier way to clean without giving up cleanliness. It's no wonder why people ask if wood floors can be steam cleaned, it's certainly easier than scrubbing with wood oil or moping around the house. Not every way of cleaning is best for everything in the house. Using a glass cleaner to scrub the tub doesn't make the most sense, right? So, is it the best idea to use a steam cleaner on hardwood floors?

Well, that's what we're going to get into today.  

The Problem with Steam Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

Steam cleaning is one of the best ways to get rid of dirt, stains, and all the other unsightly things that tarnish beautiful hardwood but it carries some risks with it. Here is a list of some of the damage done by using steam cleaners on a hardwood floor:

  • Steam is water. Water damaged hardwood floors. It can warp it, cause rot, and a host of other issues. While having sealed hardwood floors can help, you're still blowing very hot water at an organic material that responds to it in a negative way.
  • Water stains. This is more of an issue if the hardwood is worn in places but, even if you have a finish over the worn wood you can still reach it with the steam cleaner.
  • Damage the sub-flooring. Steam penetrates through finishing and so can warp the sub-flooring along with the hardwood. That's double the trouble while getting doubly clean.
  • More on finishing. Where the hardwood floor finishing is the thinnest is also where most dirt would be. See, it's worn because of all the foot traffic and hence the mess. So steam cleaning these areas does more damage as you'll be trying harder to get rid of the dirt. 
  • Warranties. If you have a warranty on your hardwood floor, be sure it allows for using steam cleaning. Not all of them do because of the issues noted above. They won't come in for a free resurfacing if you're the one who steamed it away.

Steam Cleaners for Hardwood Floors

You may be thinking to yourself, "well, surely there must be SOME steam cleaners appropriate for hardwood floors!" There are many brands and companies that claim they are safe to use on hardwood floors but, this isn't a compare and contrast piece. If you're set on using steam cleaning on hardwood floors, there are few tips and tricks to help mitigate the harm. 

  • Attach a thick cloth or microfiber around the steam cleaner head. This will help lessen the moisture penetrating the hardwood. 
  • Only use low and medium steam cleaning settings. The lower the setting the dryer the steam is, which is good for the wood. 
  • Change the rag around the steam cleaner when needed. It'll probably get dirty quickly, so just a quick wash and back on the steam cleaner. It may be an extra step but, it's better than paying for refinishing work.
  • Vacuum before steam cleaning your hardwood floors. It'll save time on using your steam cleaner and the less time you're shooting hot water at the wood, the better it is.

Follow these tips and you'll be able to have your steam and hardwood too. Just tread lightly, remember that no matter which way you clean it that steam cleaners aren't the best for hardwood floors.

Steam Cleaners and Faux-Hardwood

Wood Floor CareWhat if you have faux-hardwood floors, like laminate floors? Well, there are companies that make steam cleaners for them but they make stuff that is "safe" for everything. 

Whether laminate or engineered hardwood floors, remember that they are more delicate than real hardwood. It's the top layer that is the strongest, once you get past that it'll suffer the same fate as real woods. If you have laminate or engineered hardwood flooring, it's best to stay away from steam cleaning. The damage will happen much faster. 

What about vinyl flooring? Here is where steam cleaning shines! It is pretty much completely resistant to moisture. While it isn't hardwood flooring, if you're partial to steam cleaning, then this is the kind of floor you have nothing to worry about in that regard. 

Let's recap what we've learned here:

  • Steam cleaners pose a risk to real hardwood floors because of moisture, even harming the subflooring.
  • If you need to use a steam cleaner for hardwood floors, use them lightly and with precautions.
  • Engineered and laminate hardwood floors suffer the same fate but faster when being steam cleaned.
  • Vinyl hardwood flooring is safe to steam clean.

Keep your floors clean, absolutely, just not at the cost of their beauty or your wallet!