Can You Steam Clean Finished Wood Flooring?
A fundamental rule in caring for hardwood floors is to keep them dry. Yet on TV, there are commercials for steam cleaners made to use on them. And if you search the Web, you’ll find numerous manufacturers claiming that their steam cleaners won’t hurt finished wood floors.
Steam is a form of water, but with all this advertising, it’s understandable if consumers come to believe that it’s alright to use steam on finished hardwood.
But don’t be fooled. Even if the H20 is in its steam state, the adage holds true—water and wood don’t mix.
The Damage Done
Steam cleaner manufacturers are able to get away with declaring their products are safe on finished wood flooring because the damage isn’t always immediately apparent. The floors are cleaned, and there’s no sign of a problem.
But over time and repeated cleanings, the wood will absorb moisture from the steam—even if the wood is finished, be it solid or engineered. As the floor boards absorb this moisture, they swell. And since the boards have nowhere to go but up, they begin to pop up and buckle.
And the more you use a steam cleaner, the more damaging each use becomes. Finish doesn’t keep out all moisture, but it helps. However, steam cleaners wear down the finish—causing it to peel, whiten, and cloud—leaving your hardwood floors more vulnerable than ever to water damage.
Listen to the Right Sources
Rather than pay attention to steam cleaner ads, go by the recommendations of the flooring and finish manufacturers. All of them advise against water on finished wood flooring. And in response to the proliferation of steam cleaners claiming to work on hardwood floors, many have begun to specifically mention steam cleaning as something to avoid in the literature they provide consumers.
Your hardwood flooring is an important investment and is a central element of your home’s character and beauty, protect it by not exposing it to harmful heat and moisture.